[This post was first published in March 2019 on Nomadic Thunker]
“What? You travelled solo? Why? You don’t have friends? How did your parents let you?”
“It’s incredible that you travel so much. Now is the time, you know. Once you have a family of your own, you’re not going to get to do anything!”
Over the years, wisdom has prevailed and I have gotten better at ignoring assumption laden statements. However, I also realise that inherent in them are biases stemming from the outmoded ways of our social conditioning.
So, instead of slapping my forehead over mindless aspersions, I have for the past three years (at least) begun sharing counter-perspectives by showcasing folks who straddle previously considered incompatible domains such as travelling without quitting one’s job and travelling as a woman — solo or otherwise — while excelling professionally with the goal of offering comfort to anyone who has been convinced that they ‘must’ choose between two domains they care enough about.
Moms who Travel
In this fourth edition of continuing to offer counter-perspectives, I present before you ‘Wonder Moms on Wanderlust’. Come, meet the moms who travel.
Let’s smash this idea that parenthood and travel are incompatible, shall we?
After all, like the jet-setting kids in this post, I too — once upon a time — had miles under my belt before I blew out candles on my first birthday cake!
Deepa (38) and Shlok (8) | Bengaluru
I am a single mom and together with my son, Shlok, we’re on Mission #100countries before he turns 18, giving us about 10 years to see the remaining 65 countries.
I conceived Shlok in Sri Lanka when I was on a backpacking trip across Asia. So we’ve been travel companions ever since he was in my womb!
There is always a learning from every trip; mostly it’s me realizing that Shlok is still just a kid. For instance, I took him to Zero Point in Sikkim’s Yumtang Valley when he was just 5. He was unable to breathe at the altitude of 15,300 feet and I thought I lost him. This taught me to differentiate between places that are and aren’t kid-friendly!
From Shlok I’ve learnt that I don’t need to see everything. It’s okay to not go into the Louvre. Yeah, imagine going to Paris and not seeing it because my son wouldn’t take one more museum.
I now involve him actively in the planning. I decide where to go and he decides how to explore the city.
How many of us who travel now ponder on how we should have started traveling earlier? Shlok can convert currencies in his head, bargain, read maps, pitch a tent, understand accents, use sign language to communicate, hitchhike, love, laugh and live. We end up traveling once every two months for a week clubbed with public holidays, long weekends, exam preparation time.
Less is more; especially abroad. All you need is your currency, passport and phone — that’s enough. We carry three pairs of clothes — one breezy, one rugged and one warm. Just two pairs of footwear — one open, one close along with toiletries and medicines. Yeah, your Instagram posts will have same clothes, but the background behind each will be different.
Couchsurfing has been incredibly helpful and I prefer staying with families who have kids the same age as Shlok.
Where to next?
North and Western Africa (Morocco, Tunisia, Egypt, Mauritania, Senegal and Gambia) in April. But before that a skiing trip to Gulmarg in Kashmir and one diving course in Andaman.
Deepa in the digital world: Instagram
Deenaz Raisinghani (34) and Arianna (4) | Jaipur
When mothers were buying cribs and strollers for their children, I was actually planning a solo travel experience and I promised myself that I would backpack across one country with my daughter before she turns 2.
Arianna started travelling with my husband and I when she was three months old, and took her first international trip at seven months to Bhutan (2015).
When I was confident in my ability to handle her alone, I stayed back in Germany exploring Hamburg, Cologne and Frankfurt with my Arianna — post our family backpacking trip across Europe. What I learnt from that experience was about reading accommodation reviews prior to booking them. Arianna was too young to even notice but we were actually in a semi-red-light area during one of our stays.
We try to travel as often as we can depending on her school holidays and the spouse’s leave plan, since I work remotely. I have a great support system in the form of a travel addicted husband (an army officer) and wonderfully supportive parents.
We try to plan at least 4–5 road trips annually, even if it is to the next state. Internationally, our current budgets don’t allow us to take more than two overseas trips per year. As life members of the Hostelling International community, we have been comfortably travelling as backpackers.
Exposing kids to different routines, time-zones, cultures and people makes them more accepting and empathetic. Arianna keeps reminding us of particular instances or people she met. Travelling young also helps them develop immunity and exposes the palate to a lot more tastes.
There are three things that I often tell moms to take care of during travelling with their kids: eating, sleeping and pooping schedule.
Read a lot of parenting blogs, travel blogs and research the destinations including the accommodation.
Always carry a baby carrier and/or baby stroller as it will save your arms while travelling.
Where to next?
Goa for Arianna’s birthday next month followed by a trip across Spain and Portugal.
Dilnavaz Munshi (39) and Kiah (4) | Mumbai
My husband knows that I am not big on gifts but I do get cranky without a good vacation. Thankfully he is equally keen and we are blessed with a kid who isn’t fussy in new places.
Technically the first time my husband, Gaurav, and I traveled ‘with’ Kiah was to Narkanda and Tirthan valley in Himachal Pradesh in 2014 — while she was still inside of me! When she was 6 months old, we travelled to Kamshet. We were careful to pick an accommodation with proper hygiene standards. There was access to a lake a short walk away and Kiah was able to experience dipping her feet in it (she hated it!)
The motivation was to introduce her to the outdoors and include the mini version of ourselves in one of the things we love best — travel.
We travel as often as our jobs allow us and are able to take off once every 2 or 3 months. We prefer travel centred around nature, wildlife and history. It is an even more enabling factor that on vacation, Gaurav is more than an equal partner in child care. My vacation is not reduced to ” just parenting in a new place” (a common meme).
At 4, Kiah knows that hermit crabs live in abandoned seashells (Uran), windmills were used to make flour (Holland), and using elephants for joy rides is cruel (Kerala). Kiah may or may not remember the details of all these trips, but it all adds to the little person she is and to the adult she will become. Why should the child remember every detail of the trip for it to be considered worthwhile?
A car seat is on top of our necessities and we preferred a baby wearing carrier over a stroller. It provides so much freedom, whether it is trains or mountains that you are climbing.
Kiah was a picky eater. So when she was smaller, we packed a small cooker along. Now we carry several fruits for the day.
Where to next?
The Thar desert. We will be exploring Jaisalmer and Jodhpur for 5 days and looking forward to meeting camels in their natural habitat and hopefully spotting the migratory Demoiselle Cranes.
Madhu (35) and Saadhvika (4) + Adhvik (4 months) | Oslo, Norway
The biggest lesson we’ve learned is to get out often, learn on our own what we can or can’t do, and take what others say with a pinch of salt.
When I’d posted my pregnancy photo on Facebook few weeks before our daughter was born, several people on my ‘Friends List’ commented that our ‘exotic’ travel days were over.
Saadhvika was 40 days ‘old’ when we took our first road trip to a beautiful town in Western Norway, for the weekend and my parents were with us. Our first trip as a family of four was to Spain when Adhvik was 2.5 months old. It was just us this time. As an adult I don’t remember every experience in detail, so why should we expect that from a child?
We emphasise on enjoying the outdoors and doing things together. We talk about bad days and bad incidents together and see how we can better manage it or move past it. Our days are never packed during travel and we respect Saadhvika’s opinion when it’s reasonable.
My husband is very good at engaging the kids by inventing new games. This works like a charm during hikes and day-long city walks.
With sick children, it is important to know when to seek help. Fever/ cough/cold lasting more than the usual time frame needs a quick follow up at the hospital/ER. With Adhvik, we had to be in the ER in Italy and France as he had developed mild bronchitis.
Usually cranky kids can be handled, if we are not ‘hangry’.
We have several packing checklists on Google Keep curated by both me and my husband.
We carry a hand baggage each for a week-long trip; one check-in and up to two hand baggage for a trip lasting two weeks or more.
We save for long term travel by having a separate travel fund which we do not use for the regular travels.
I have recently started contacting family travel bloggers which seems to be very helpful in planning.
Where to next?
New Zealand for five weeks
Deepti Gadekar (39) and Ira (9) | Singapore
After a few trips of carrying the whole house and the kitchen sink, we realised that kids possibly don’t need half the stuff we take along.
We’ve been traveling with Ira since she was three months old when we visited our ancestral village temple in Goa. Our travel day was a lot of work! But we realised that we can continue to explore new places, albeit with a little more planning.
Over the years we’ve gone up in a hot air balloon at Cappadocia when she was 3, climbed an active volcano at 5, cycled in Chiang Mai, undertaken road trips in India, home/village stays in Russia and Laos.
Ira was 3 years old when we visited the Roman ruins in Turkey and 4 when we explored Russia. We were asked why do this when she wouldn’t remember it. But isn’t it true for everything we do with kids? Like reading to them, taking them to weddings or going to a pre-school, for that matter. But we read to them anyway. Because the experience contributes to their perspective and personality. It’s the same with travel. It helps them get out of their comfort zone (a great skill to learn early in life).
A challenge which kicked in when Ira got a little older (4–5 years) was keeping her engaged. So, in Luang Prabang, we signed up for a weaving workshop where she made her own woven silk mat. In Chiang Mai, we did a day long cycling tour across the town stopping at temples and wet markets, so she didn’t get “templed out”!
Make a list of things you cannot do without. Add to that a favourite dry snack as a backup from home. We’ve also realised doodle pads and crayons go a long way in making flight and train journeys (and even dinners) more peaceful
Home stays work great for us — saves money and gives us an insight into local culture and food.
Just like grown-ups, packing layers of clothing works great for kids too.
Where to next?
China for the historic Beijing and Xi’an as well as to see the pandas at Chengdu.
Tanushree Desai (36) and Mayra (2) | Konstanz, Germany
Travel helps kids adapt and build resilience as they are put through challenging situations quite organically.
Together with Mayra and my husband, Sandee, I have been extensively backpacking around Europe since past one year, keeping our base at Konstanz (Germany). So far, we have been to 17 countries!
Our first travel together as a family was to Dubai, when Mayra was just 4 months old. The motivation behind the trip was to break away from the routine and start travelling while she was young. We’ve wanted to introduce her to the world of books and travel and have gotten lucky to have survived close to 40+ flights till date. Mayra is an incredible travel partner, and loves it more, when we are on the move.
We travel on an average for about 5–7 days every month. Staying in Germany has helped us considerably in travelling within Europe. Our budget is based on what we are able to cut down from our monthly expenses. Our minimalist lifestyle helps us organize our lives and save much more than we have ever had in the past despite having child-related expenses.
Extreme weather conditions have played a spoiler on various occasions. The only way we could overcome them, was to indulge into indoor activities.
Fix up the count and size of the bags, that can be comfortably carried and managed with, irrespective of number of days and level of difficulty of travel. Minimalism has helped us in very unexpected ways to ease the entire process.
Count the pram/ stroller (when the baby isn’t walking as yet ) and the baby as one of the luggage. Because it’s you who would need to carry both.
We make peace with phone photographs and have kicked the DSLR out of the way for now.
Where to next?
Denmark, Norway and Iceland over 3 weeks in April/May
To the moms who want to travel
That’s six parents with some serious wanderlust, folks!
And more specifically, six moms who travel …because they want to.
And want their kids to too.
In composing this post and bringing their voices together, I couldn’t help but notice now each one of them attributed to travel the role of a teacher. The ability to recognise this quality of travel can only come from having experienced it first-hand. To want to pass that legacy on to one’s kids — as early as possible — is as trailblazing as it can get.
This post is Volume IV of a series on Indians who didn’t quit their jobs to travel:
10 Indians Who Did Not Quit Their Job To Travel [Vol. I]
12 Indians Who Did Not Quit Their Job To Travel [Vol. II]
11 Indian Women Who Travel (Without Quitting Their Job), and
Wonder Moms on Wanderlust: Meet the Moms who Travel