As travelers with itchy feet, my husband and I always wondered if we’d be able to travel as much, once we have a baby. We soon discovered that we didn’t really have to stop exploring – in fact, we now have one more traveler on our team!
We have traveled with our daughter ever since she was 3 months old: we rode a hot air balloon in Turkey, climbed a volcano in East Java, slept under a starlit sky in Maharashtra and stayed on a farm in Coorg – the daughter thankfully and clearly, has itchy feet too!
Recently, my husband took up a job that involved him traveling for long periods of time. That sadly meant a lot of ‘away’ time from him. And the daughter, now 6, and I had two ways of dealing with it – sulk over how lonely it gets when he’s away (we did that a lot initially) or get out and explore!
That’s how the daughter and I started traveling by ourselves. And I soon realized that traveling with my daughter did a whole lot of good to our bonding.
On our trip to Penang – our first trip to another country just mom & daughter, my mind was full of questions!
- Will I be able to manage her alone 24 x 7 without a breather? (I am a hands-on mom most of the time but on this 4-day trip, there would be no one else to engage her but me).
• Who will, for example, watch the luggage while I take her to the toilet?
• Will it be safe?
During this trip (and a few more after that), I discovered answers to a lot of these questions and more.
I realized that a woman holidaying by herself with a young child is something that is not viewed as ‘usual’. We got a whole bunch of reactions to our mother-daughter trips. Some wondered why I would want to venture out alone with a young child. ‘Why couldn’t you just wait for the next time, when your husband could’ve come too?’ is a question I heard every now and then. But for the most part, people were encouraging – although with an element of surprise and wonder. It made me realize how society perceives the role of a man when it comes to traveling.
Since ‘a man traveling with you’ is perceived as a mark of safety by people around you, on such trips I was very conscious of people noticing that it was just my daughter and I. I have often pretended that my husband is waiting for us at some place. For instance, while traveling on an inter-city bus to Malacca recently, I made fake calls to make them believe that someone was waiting for us at the other end. I found this a bit tricky with my daughter there because we never ever ‘say a lie’ when we’re with her.
These trips have also taught me to be far more patient as a parent (a virtue I am still learning!) because I am both the good cop and the bad cop.
Needless to say, these travels have made interesting impressions on our daughter too. I found her getting a lot more responsible. She would offer to hold our bag while I pull out money to pay, pick up after herself in the hotel room or walk back without asking to be carried – (after all, there weren’t 2 grown-ups around like there usually were, one to carry the backpack and another to carry her!).
Traveling as a family to McLeodganj when she was 3, she traveled with us on an overnight train, used the train toilet and had breakfast at a small ‘dhaaba’ near the railway station – such breaks from the comforts of ‘familiar daily routine’ perhaps contribute to making her adaptable.
Traveling also exposes her to the experience that culture, languages, and beliefs are different across countries and even across states in India. She observed that in Turkey the car driver sits on the left-hand side, that a temple offering in Bali is very different from those at temples in Mumbai and that not everyone speaks the same language as she does (but she conversed with them anyway!).
Traveling with my daughter has got me a bagful of fond memories – her first hot air balloon ride when she was 3 where she was so thrilled to be up in the air with the clouds, sleeping in a tent at a campsite after watching a starlit sky, our stay at a coffee plantation where she was more thrilled about seeing a pineapple bush than the featured coffee pods – she has helped me rediscover the joys of celebrating the simple things in life. As we plan our next adventure, we’re also creating beautiful memories that will last me a lifetime.