It had been almost a year, when, in the middle of the night, we excitedly welcomed our little son to the World. Our family had expanded. And I have become, apart from being a mother of two daughters a mother of a son.
There are so many things I could review and evaluate, how the first year with Yuri enriched us, but I would like to focus on one question I get all the time:
He was celebrating his first birthday on the border of the Himalayas, in Bhutan. During his first year, he traveled several continents and has more stamps in his passport than some people in their whole life.
He spent his first night abroad in Dubai, when 3 months old. He dipped his foot into the Indian Ocean in Bali for the first time. A few months later, he went around all the amusement parks in Florida and built a sand castle with me on the beach in the Dominican Republic.
He took his first steps in a hotel room in Austria; and a few days ago he checked out Reclining Buddha in Bangkok, Thailand where he received blessings from a local monk.
I understand that for some people, who don’t travel as much as we do, it is too much. But traveling belongs to our family, our lifestyle and our kind of business.
Even when I was nine, Willy Fog was my greatest hero and my favorite song had in its chorus: “My boots are stray, no magic can stop them.” Travelling is in my blood, it’s a part of me.
So I travel and my children travel with me. For this reason, we have so many experiences and I guess I could write several books about it. :)) Due to this, I believe I can answer your most frequent questions in this blog post.
Before he had even celebrated his first birthday, our son had flown with thirteen different aircrafts, from a little plane that was the size of a bus to the biggest passenger aircraft in the World, the A380. Our experiences are fairly wide.
The most frequent worry and the question is: How does the little one manage such a long journey on the plane?
We use economy class for shorter distances (2-3 hours), where the whole entertainment consists of a few blueberries, three children books, and breastfeeding.
When the excitement faded off, my breast served as a sleep prop, or we started to “examine” the seat in front of us. It’s quite nice to spend some mindful time together, as there’s no real escape there. No other option. :)
Product photos in an advert brochure are interesting material to go through. It also pays to pay careful attention to the safety instructions card, I’d say for at least for 10 minutes, especially if you have a baby boy, who loves planes :).
At some moments it’s tiring because you just can’t stare out of the window or sleep like any of the other passengers, even if you would really like to.
But to be honest, if you are a mother, have a think. When was the last time you were just staring out of a window or slept during the day? And when all the entertainment gets boring, daddy has plenty new comments to the safety instructions card and another ten minutes are gone.
I would say, that traveling on the plane with a small baby is much easier than with an older child because it just sleeps most of the time. During shorter flights, I have found that when the baby fell asleep in a sling before getting on board, it stayed asleep, sometimes even for two hours. During longer flights, you just have to simply adapt to the current situation.
Prepare yourself in advance, when you travel during the day, you will look for an entertainment for the little wriggler all the time. Take advantage of the plane being a new environment, and walk with the baby to show him or her the new things around. Small children love discovering :). Keep patient and constantly look for new subjects of interest.
If you fly during the night, your baby will probably sleep through the whole thing. You may get a cot for your child. Take full advantage, and when the baby sleeps, definitely go and sleep too.
I have to be honest, our first journey to Bali with our son looked like we wanted to move the whole house to the other side of the World. Of course, we had to have three carrying wrap slings, a pile of cloth diapers, a bathing bucket, many packs of wet tissues, other packs of disposable diapers and clothes of few sizes, just in case our baby would grow up extremely quickly over following two months!
The result was – four suitcases for the 5 family members; two suitcases for our little one.( Although, the reality was that Yuri spent 90% of the time only wearing a diaper or being naked… :D
A few months later, when traveling to Florida, I decided to challenge myself and pack everything into two suitcases, max. We wanted to rent a sport’s car and it would be impossible to fit in it with more luggage.
Surprisingly it wasn’t too difficult, and at the end, I found that we hadn’t used about one-third of the things anyway. Next challenge would be one suitcase … :D.
My packing strategy: To sort things on my bed and then reduce the number of things of the same kind.
In most of the cases, we book private accommodation via Airbnb. And the most important criteria for choosing a property is that there has to be a WASHING MACHINE. The result is that instead of 12 pairs of tracksuit bottoms you can only pack four, and instead of 10 T-shirts you only take five :). You can take half the amount you need!
Traveling with an infant is great. He or she doesn’t care about how you spend your time when traveling as long as he or she is with you.
It will be completely different in two or three years time when you need to become a professional hunter of children playgrounds, zoos, and animals. At this phase, you don’t have to deal with this! :)
I managed to fully breast feed for the first 6-8 months. But then came a period, when our little one wanted to try another food in larger and larger amounts. All food was too appealing to him to leave it alone. This phase caught us when we were traveling around Florida.
We found out very soon that in order to stop being consistently disturbed during our meals, we had to put Yuri into a children‘s chair and give him his own food. When traveling, we had a problem that one accommodation had a children’s chair, but another one didn’t. So despite my minimalist spirit, I decided to buy another thing to the house…. Travel high chair.
Since then, we never leave our house without it. It’s useful at grandma’s and grandpa’s, for feeding at the airport, on a train, or anywhere, we just happen to be.
If you think it’s totally useless, try to feed a fidgeting little monkey with blueberry puree on your lap…. You geometrically increase the number of your and its clothes in the suitcase.
Another great discovery for me was a fruit-puree pouch. Initially, it seemed like a twisted form of dining. But only until I realized, I could feed our little monkey even during a wild ride on a rocky path in the middle of wild in the Dominican Republic, without having it all over my clothes. I started to love them as much as Yuri.
We always have few little boxes with blueberries, sliced apple or other finger fruit which takes him a long time to finish. That gives him entertainment for another few minutes.
And of course, breastfeed as much as you can! It’s the best drink and food for any journey, always available, anywhere, anytime, even 100 meters from the beach. :D
When I first visited Asia, for the initial few hours, I also felt like I was going to end up three weeks fast – not eating anything and wasn’t going to put anything uncooked into my mouth. And I was without children then.
I have no specific advice for this. In my case, I just got used to the food issue over a time. If am not sure, I only eat peeled fruits, cooked vegetables, and bottled water. I do it the same way with the child as I do myself. Usually, I and Yuri eat the same things.
Our pediatrician also recommended I take probiotics before going to Asia. They automatically go to breast milk and then increase the resistance of the digestive system of the baby.
If you are concerned about the hygiene, take more baby food with you. Ready meals in the increase the volume of your luggage but they will make you feel more at ease :).
We always take few ready fruit purees in and I know that I can rely on local fruit that can be peeled. But mostly the hygiene is fine and Yuri eats meat, soups or rice with us.
Yuri sleeps in bed with us, so that makes traveling a lot easier, as we don’t need a child bed and he sleeps wherever my breasts and I are. He doesn’t seem to be nervous of a new environment because my breasts always look the same :D.
The only problem is when there are only small beds in the room. At home, our bed is 260 cm wide. You don’t happen to find such a bed in many places; Little children just love sleeping across the whole bed, and there’s hardly any space left for us…, usually about 20 centimeters.
We have learned when booking the accommodation to look at the size of the bed, and the possibility of separate beds. Daddy can sleep in a different bed to Yuri and me. And Yuri sleeps on the side by the wall so he can’t fall off.
When in Austria, they gave us a bed barrier for our bed in a hotel. (In most of the hotels you get a crib.) When you book via Airbnb, you can either sleep in one bed or put the cot as a requirement in the search.
During the day Yuri sleeps wherever he feels like it…..
If possible, ask for two single beds - two Queen size rather than one King size. You will sleep a lot more comfortably.
“Hello, baby!” That’s what you hear from smiling locals with hundred times a day. Well, they don’t actually greet you but your little celebrity. Mostly Asians love children and a white baby is something totally exotic to them.
Prepare yourself for alot more attention and instant supply of smiles, greetings and different gestures to entertain your little one. You will brighten the faces of women but men too.
You will feel like somebody who brings a lot of joy to other people and will definitely miss that when you return. :)
You will probably come across a situation where the locals want to touch your prince or princess or take a picture with him or her. If you don’t want them to, it can be a great assertiveness and patience practice, to say polite and kind NO.
People wanted to touch Yuri's hands and palms and tried to shake them, and I wasn't very keen on that due for hygienic reasons. He‘s a small baby with his hands in his mouth all the time. So when I saw this was going to happen, I put my fingers into his palms and he started holding them, so no space for anyone else‘s hands. :)
In restaurants, you may experience an unexpected service, when the staff may ask you whether you would like them to carry your baby around so you can peacefully finish your meal.
We refused this kind of offer at the beginning, being a little afraid, but over a time we gave in and Yuri had the opportunity to visit some restaurant kitchens and enjoy the attention from the whole staff and we had a nice unexpected bonus – eating in peace.
He got the most of the attention in Asia, but surprisingly we were also receiving constant smiles and interest in the USA or the Dominican Republic. Just the physical contact attempts were lower there. :)
I won’t lie, we had experienced many moments on our travels, when I just felt like packing my stuff and wanted to escape back home.
When a cockroach ran over our four-month-old Yuri in bed in Bali, and when we were chasing a huge spider in our bedroom, or when I had the honor of being face to face with a bedbug in an American motel. That really made me almost scream and feel full of self-pity.
My maternal soul wanted to pack the case and get out when I listened to my friend’s story about her trouble with Dengue fever, which she got from a mosquito 500m from where we lived in Bali.
This resulted in spreading a repellent over all uncovered parts of our bodies in every tropical destination, we visited ever since.
Traveling is a big step out of a comfort zone, even without a child, especially when you travel to culturally and climatically different countries. Everything is different. It looks beautiful, dreamy and romantic on the pictures, but the reality is that it can take you by surprise with rawness and…. well the reality. :D
Weather, hygiene, your accommodation, wild traffic, food, insect, tropical illnesses, time shift… Even without kids, there are things that you have to get used to and it doesn’t happen over night.
I had to get over some things in my head first and see them clearly and more rationally. For example, the probability of dying of Dengue fever in the Dominican Republic is almost a thousand times lower than dying of the consequence of smog in our very industrial nearby city in the Czech republic (or other parts of Europe) in February.
And why did I even think, there was bad hygiene, where did I get this idea from?
I had also had to accommodate to the Indonesian rhythm and learned the mastery of concentration on the present moment while riding the motorbike with Yuri as a local woman on Bali’s roads.
Travelling puts you in situations, where you just can’t stick to your normal standards and you have to adapt.
It doesn’t matter if you are an experienced traveller, or you travel once a year, traveling with a baby brings you completely new challenges, opens new fears and worries, shows you some situations from a side you would not have seen otherwise.
The intentions of the previous few paragraphs definitely weren’t to put you off traveling with an infant. It is just simply to prepare you for the emotions, which can arise and for you to acknowledge you may face some challenges as well.
He who is prepared is never surprised. :D
At the end, I would like to add that every child is different, as well as every family and its rhythms. What works for us, doesn’t have to or won’t work for you. Everyone’s experiences of traveling are different as well as everyone’s experience of life. That’s the beauty and diversity. :)