The last time I booked a big trip away, even before that, when I started talking about it, people thought I was crazy. ‘You’re brave’ was a regular response to me excitedly telling people about my planned agenda followed by, ‘By yourself???’ My parents genuinely thought I had a screw loose!
You might think it had something to do with where I was planning on going. And, yes, that was part of it. You may also think it was because I was travelling as a single female. Which also factored in to it. But mostly it was because I am a single mother. And I was choosing to take my eighteen month old son on his first major travel adventure for seven weeks by myself!
I think there is a certain line of thinking that you should do all this ‘kind of stuff’ when you are single, or coupled and childless. Followed by settling down when you have children. But then life essentially becomes limited. The ‘I can’t’ or ‘I shouldn’t’ become greater than the ‘I cans’ and ‘I coulds’.
You see for me, life didn’t stop when my son came along; in fact I have become even more conscious that life is for living and having no regrets. Truly living life to the fullest with my gorgeous little man. And showing him the beautiful world we live in is a passion for me.
So I booked our tickets – and eeeek, I was so excited! This wasn’t going to be the first time we flew, we had warmed up with a couple of short European flights before he turned 1. Then we did our first long haul flight to NYC together when he was 16 months old which, for me, is like going home as I had lived there for 8 years, so all good so far.
Our itinerary was relatively simple (compared to the ones I had done before my son), which was a conscious thought. I didn’t want to feel rushed or stressed at trying to see too much with my little guy and I certainly didn’t want to be dragging him around grizzling and over-tired, it wouldn’t have been fair.
Here it was – Japan, Bali and Sri Lanka! OK, maybe now you can see why people thought I had lost the plot! However they are all places I had never been before, which is an essential part of planning a big trip for me, and also places that are very culturally different. I would have loved to have added China and Vietnam, but considering what was right for my son and what was too much made a lot of those big decisions easy for me.
In the run up to departure day I was constantly asked, ‘How do you think he’ll deal with the flights?’, ‘How do you think he’ll cope with the different food?’ ‘What about jet lag?’ People who know me know I don’t tend to panic about a lot of things. And I’m not known for getting really stressed. Allegedly, I always look like I’ve got my shit together… even if that may not always be the case!By nature I’m a highly organised person (I couldn’t run a business and have a toddler by myself if I wasn’t), but these kind of things didn’t really weigh on my mind. That’s not to say that my sons welfare and nutrition aren’t important, because of course they are my priority, but that all of those things are a moment, a passing period of time that we would deal with whatever happened.
If the flights were awful, we would get there. They would be over. And we’d have plenty of unscheduled time to relax. If he didn’t like certain foods, we’d try other types. There were times in Sri Lanka where he ate french fries for dinner 3 days running, having never had them in his life before. Because curries didn’t take his fancy. And he’d had enough fresh fruit to start up a greengrocers!) Jet lag, hey, we all get that. And, more often than not, we were on the same schedule of being awake for a couple of hours during the wee hours and then napping together in the afternoon.
I realise this makes me sound so relaxed and fly by the seat of my pants. And in lots of ways I am, but in a lot of ways I’m not, especially in my everyday life! As I said above, my life with my son is very organised. I run a business where I have clients arriving at their scheduled times. My childcare during the day is good. And I’m lucky that it works very well.
My son is now at an age where he is dropping his naps (Oh, how I miss that hour of checking lots off my to do list!), but if he hasn’t slept around lunch time, I wouldn’t let him have a late afternoon nap. This is the case for a lot of mums I know as they don’t want their children up until midnight. But for me it really is important as I have clients arriving soon after he goes to sleep. And I don’t have childcare in the evenings when I work.
Luckily he’s always been a great sleeper at night. Once he’s asleep by 7pm he’s gone until 6.30/7am the next morning. (I know I’m going to be shot down by the sleep gods above – who’ve blessed me thus far – for writing that down in black and white!) This has allowed me to work without event in the evenings for the last year or so. It is also the reason why I decided I was able to work in the evenings. It does mean, however, that I am always conscious of timings for dinner, bath and bed so that we run to schedule.
So being able to chill out and take whatever comes my way when travelling with my son is actually something I really love. To be able to let go of a schedule, that is generally quite strict when I’m working, is liberating. It works well for my little guy too. He is adaptable and as long as I am with him by his side when we explore unknown places, he’s a happy chappy.
Now I know that there are people out there that will say what’s the point, he won’t remember it. My parents were definitely these people. And you’re right, he won’t remember the specifics of it. However what my son will remember is happiness, contentment, his constant and stable loving parent always being there and happy. Let’s not forget; this is something I wanted to do because travel lights up my soul, inspires and drives me to achieve whatever I set my heart on!
At a point in his life where he was paying more attention to the world around him, I wanted to him to see things he wasn’t used to and people that didn’t look like him.
I wrote a small personal photo and picture blog for my close friends and family while I was away (as I don’t share a lot of photos of my little guy on social media). Many were shocked at how easily he adapted. How he was always smiling/laughing no matter where we went and that we were both so relaxed
It wasn’t all perfect by any means and there were certainly challenging points. Lugging a suitcase around while pushing a buggy in a metro station with no elevators. A stint of dysentery type illness with a toddler by yourself in foreign lands! But again, it passed (quite literally) and it didn’t spoil our trip. The pros by far outweighed the cons.
Climbing up mountains with an 18 month old on my back in rather warm temperatures definitely improved my cardiovascular health. And my little man was happy as long as he could get down and have a run around and play at the top of the mountain!
In my mind travel shouldn’t be limited to a time and a place in your life. And age shouldn’t deter a decision to travel, only maybe adapt it slightly.
Happy travels folks!