In her book You Won’t Remember This – travel with babies author and travel writer Sandy Bennett-Haber rounded up a collection of short stories about all facets of traveling with a baby – the good, the bad and the ugly. Here, Sandy shares with us what it’s like to transition from adventurous solo traveler to globetrotting mom who explores the world with her children.
Watching Trainspotting 2 was tough on me. I am mum to two small boys and I live in Edinburgh. Apart from the boys and Edinburgh our lives in no way resemble the damaged characters in the film. But it sent me into a sad-mummy place.
My reaction to T2 comes up in conversation with a newlywed type – whose come-back is:
‘I don’t want to have children if it changes how I feel about movies.’
This said in a slightly humorous-exaggerated way. But the fear of the known-unknowns of parenthood lurks behind the humor.
I respond to the movie comment with a small smile – the smile those of us on the front-line reserve for the innocents yet to step into the trenches. Around us is the general hubbub of a travel industry networking night. The conversation moves on and I let it. I am not the interrogative type. I am the smile politely and write about it later type.
At home though I imagine asking him how he felt about a child potentially changing travel for him.
As a solo traveler I was free to have no plans. Sometimes I did not know where my bed would be the next day, or what country I would be in. A rooftop mattress in Jerusalem? Or an overnight bus ride across Turkey, hmm let me see. Shall I cram myself into a taxi with a bunch of strangers and head off to the Dead Sea after breakfast? Oh, OK why not. Will we be back by 11.30am for lunch and a nap? No – that was never a question. These days however it comes into my thinking.
People without small children don’t know how early a day can start. If you see a mummy looking haggard by 11am you should know she has been awake since 5.30, out and about since 9. She has been having adventures, solving problems and chasing rogue socks, and is in need of a cup of tea and a sit down – and she probably won’t get more than a sandwich crust whilst standing on a Lego block, covered in porridge.
I make parenthood sound appealing don’t I?
I see the fear in his eyes, and do my bit for the survival of the species by gently reminding him that he is a wanderluster. And as such he – like any traveler worth the ink of the stamps in their passport – should know that there is good fear and bad fear. Good fear tells you when something is going to put you or your loved ones in real danger – Unless you are an adventurer of the Aaron Ralston ilk, you listen to the good fear.
Bad fear however – like the fear of change – well, nobody who wears the badge of a true traveler would ever let that stop them.
If you love travel because it challenges you, because it opens you up to new experiences, because you meet amazing people, because it is a doorway to possibilities you can’t even imagine yet – then parenthood is just one more great messy, unexpected and exhilarating adventure.
Of course that is an oversimplification. The reasons for or against starting a family are many, varied and quite frankly none of anyone’s business. But I do believe travelers have an edge on adapting to the changes that having a child throws at you.
Having reminded him he is fearless to the threat of change, I see the cogs of his mind click to the next inevitable question:
‘Is it possible to enjoy travel to its fullest with kids?’
My answer is honest and irritating.
‘Yes of course you can enjoy travel to the full with children, but you won’t get exactly the same high you get now.’
When you travel with a child your horizon automatically shifts – the length of a day is different, you are more aware of the temperature, the path beneath your feet has a different quality and people view you differently.
Nothing shows you the drama of a steep street in San Francisco like walking down it pushing a pram, nothing keeps the scent of volcanic mud in your mind so strongly as knowing your son first started to crawl in a park in Rotorua, nothing tests your ingenuity like juggling airport security with two infant children at their bedtime.
Which brings me to one of my key points about travel in general – imaginary me might be sloshing her drink around at this point – the thing to remember is not to be romantic about travel. When we are at home planning a trip at the kitchen table, or at our desk daydreaming about where we would rather be, we edit out the uncomfortable realities of travel. The delayed flights that haunted your last trip get forgotten when you are looking at the photos of new horizons. The horror moments traveling with children tend to get seared into your brain… but so too do the good things.
I was a relative latecomer to travel addiction – but when it came it was a gnawing longing for change and adventure that was with me for life – and becoming a parent might have changed how I feel watching some movies, but it has not changed my wanderlust.
Do you travel with your family? Share your story in the comments!