One of the goals of our blog is to authentically inspire anyone who is attracted to creating a richer life for themselves and thier family. Miro and I continue to share our experiences living on the road in hopes that others may identify with our experiences, become fearless in their own lives and recognize the countless benefits children of all ages receive through travel. Through our lifestyle I have found a beautiful community online of other families who equally agree that the travel lifestyle is one of the biggest gifts they can give to their children. Some traveling families have been criticized however, because others believe travel is wasted on very young children. My experiences traveling with Miro started when he was 10 years old. He’s grown leaps and bounds in the last four years and I’m certain he would be as worldly, sensitive and compassionate if he had grown up in the United States, living a conventional life. But is travel wasted on babies and toddlers? I am certain it is not.
Below is a guest post by a mother traveling with her very young son. Aimee shares with us how her son has integrated his travel experiences through his vision of the world. I think this post is very telling. At the end of Aimee’s story, you’ll find links to other families who share their thoughts about the value of travel with young children.
A guest post by Aimee Chan from SuitcasesAndStrollers.com
Why A Travel Bucket List
My son took his first flight at 3 weeks old. It was only from Sydney to Melbourne, but it was a daunting prospect for me. I was a new, sleep-deprived mother and had no idea what I was doing. My workaholic husband was suddenly unavailable to make the airport drop off. So with mother-in-law in tow, baby and I set off to take the flight on our own.
I remember the ordeal of going from carpark to the shuttle bus to the terminal with child, stroller and all the luggage full of baby paraphernalia seemed like climbing Everest.
Fast forward three years and yesterday, while driving the streets of Singapore, my son pointed out the window and said, “Che ze, mummy.” Che ze means “car” in Mandarin. I don’t speak Mandarin.
How far we have come from the days when a baby capsule seat on the plane seemed the critical breaking point to a good trip or a disaster. These days, my son’s passport has been stamped in multiple countries across several continents. And with each step we get just a little bit bolder, a little bit braver.
Sometimes this doesn’t always pay off. Like the time when we decided to fly to Tokyo for a friend’s fortieth. Again, my workaholic husband couldn’t make it. But emboldened by several successful “single parent” travel experiences, I was confident a flight to Japan would be a breeze. Wrong.
The first mistake was flying into Narita because I had never heard of Haneda. The second was to trying to save the money on my husband’s ticket by having the two-year-old child on my knee for six hours to Narita, then another 2 hours on the bus to Tokyo. The third was presuming that the famously outstanding service of the national carrier where we live would live up to its reputation. It didn’t.
Or on our most recent trip to Ho Chi Minh – a destination I quickly realised was not at all appropriate for a three-year-old. I’ve been before, many times, so I envisaged my child loving crawling through the Cu Chi Tunnels. (He loves tunnels at home in the playground.) In reality, the tunnels were spooky (he had to be brought back out) and the gun fire from the rifle range, for him, petrifying.
At those moments, in the Reunification Palace when my toddler is having a meltdown because the humidity is just too much, I wonder what I am doing. Why this drive to fill a bucket list of exotic destinations, most of which he will never remember in adulthood? Why can’t I just be happy with a weekend at home?
This is why. The other day while watching Mary Poppins he heard the tune “Let’s Go Fly A Kite” and turned to me and said, “Like we did, mummy, in Malaysia?”
Instantly, I’m back on a windswept beach, in the rain, running after our makeshift kite. I’m wet, I’m cold, my husband is frustrated and cranky that our kite is dying. But our son is screaming with joy and laughter. Afterwards, soaking wet, he sat at the bar and drank juice out of cocktail glasses with the other kids. He practically collapsed into bed with exhaustion, but he was so happy.
Or when we went to Stellanbosch in South Africa to visit wineries. My husband wanted to try the new tourist tram which I though was tacky and ridiculous. Certainly not my idea of sophisticated wine tasting. But when I saw our son shout with glee at every stop and wave at every passing car, I suddenly understood why we needed to be on that tram, in that place, at that time.
Recently on a trip to Melbourne, Australia, we were driving down a particular street when my son, unprompted, said, “That’s where I took the tram with daddy.” I thought he was referring to South Africa and was confused. But then I realised. Six months earlier he had indeed taken a very short tram ride with my husband at that very place. Two stops, in fact. But clearly the experience – away from home and the familiar – had stayed with him long after we adults had forgotten.
Those Everest moments will continue to follow us. There will be more tantrums at tourist attractions. There will be more jet-lagged, sleep-deprived, long-haul economy flights. And it’s true that, a few months on, I’m not sure my boy even remembers where Melbourne is.
We have a velociraptor at home that I bought him as a reward at an airport on another single parent journey somewhere. He doesn’t know where we got it (and neither do I) but that dinosaur has such a strong emotional association for him that he always reminds me “You bought this for me, mummy”.
He may not covet a full passport like I do, but my son is retaining experiences of different cultures, people, places and things from all over the world.
And it’s because of the memories and those Mary Poppins flashbacks that I keep filling my travel bucket list, faster than I can empty it.
Aimee Chan is a writer and magazine editor who has been published in international mastheads such as CNN, Harper’s BAZAAR, ELLE, Cosmopolitan, suitcases&strollers and The Weekend Australian. Her work has taken her all over the world from Bhutan to Vietnam, Cambodia to Hong Kong.