Welcome to the June edition of Authentic Parenting Blog Carnival: Vacation and Travel.
This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Authentic Parenting Blog Carnival hosted by The Positive Parenting Connection and Authentic Parenting. This month our participants are sharing ideas, inspiration and information on travel and vacations! Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.
I could write a book or two about travelling; however, aware of my audience, I shall attempt to be brief!
The travelling bug
I have been described as a ‘roamer’ and a gypsy because of how much travelling I do. Indeed, I cannot sit still for long and love to explore. Perhaps this is why my son is so active, and why I married a fell runner and climber! I caught the travelling bug after completing a gap year at the age of 18, where I lived in Nepal, teaching Tibetan refugee children. This was a life-changing experience, which has greatly influenced my life choices. When I met Rich, my future husband, we pursued our shared love of mountaineering and travelling by escaping to the mountains of Wales, Scotland and France as often as possible. On graduating, disenchanted by a stressful job in London, I moved to Vietnam to teach English in Hanoi. Living in Vietnam gave me the opportunity to travel a lot in South East Asia. Richard joined me as part of his sabbatical from IBM, where we travelled together round Vietnam, China, Nepal and Tibet, before returning to the UK, where we shortly after got married, spending our honeymoon in Kenya and Zanzibar.
The link between travelling and attachment parenting
Travelling and living abroad has taught me a huge amount about myself and the world around me. It has made me a far more open person. Each of my travelling experience has been a great eye opener and hugely rewarding. I always return home aware of how massively privileged we are, intent to live a simpler, greener life; the more I travel the more environmentally and socially responsible I become. When our son was born, therefore, we naturally and gently fitted into an attachment, continuum, green style of parenting, in part influenced by our many travels, our growing environmental consciousness and the gentle ways of parenting evidenced whilst in Asia and Africa.
On my return to the UK in 2008 after sixteen months in Asia I was shocked by the number of babies I heard crying, the amount of material goods surrounding children, how cooped up they were, how prevalent pushchairs, dummies, bottles, cots, specialist ‘baby’ foods and baby-training manuals and disposable nappies were. These are all indicators of a very different style of parenting, one which separates children from their parents as well as from wider society, a concept alien to me.
On our recent trip to Bali baby-wearing, breastfeeding, bed-sharing and full involvement of children in everyday life were normalised behaviours. I felt far more accepted in this culture in the way I am choosing to bring up Ewan than in my own; in fact the only time I felt uncomfortable breastfeeding a two year old was in a cafe in a popular expat area, where a European man and his daughter openly stared at me!
A mother’s body
Travelling with a child is made easier because we bed-share, practise sustained breastfeeding and baby-wear. My body is the only security and comfort Ewan really needs. This greatly reduces any anxiety we have in immersing Ewan in unfamiliar environments, often in remote areas off the beaten track, and has the added bonus of trimming down the amount of luggage we have to cart around with us. Also, we don’t have to worry about Ewan not eating new foods, he just nurses more. The immunological benefits of breast milk also mean Ewan is very rarely ill when away, equalling more peace of mind. He is taken almost everywhere we go, carried in a sling, which we believe is THE essential travel accessory.
How a child has enriched our travelling experiences
Ewan has deeply enriched our travelling experiences. He is a focal point for local people, who are more friendly and welcoming because of him. He breaks the ice and attracts attention with his beaming smile, blond hair and blue eyes, but in general this attention is to our benefit, as we have often experienced an enhanced level of service because of having a small child in tow, often in areas where few foreign babies are seen. This was especially the case in our recent trip to Bali where we were treated with great affection and warmth, Ewan always the centre of attention, doted on by everyone, even teenage boys, who thought nothing of picking him up to show him something exciting or comfort him. Staying at an ashram we were treated like members of an extended family, Ewan adored by our hosts who delighted in his every smile. We couldn’t help but stand out with our white skin and Western appearance, but instead of being stared at or ripped off, we were welcomed with open arms.
As a single twenty-something in Vietnam my experience varied greatly; I was felt sorry for and puzzled over, precisely because I didn’t have a family (if you are a female of twenty six but not yet married there must be something seriously wrong with you). So although an oddity in Asia, being a ‘rich’ Western family travelling in remote areas, we were ‘strange’ but still conformed to local standards, normal in the sense of being married with a child, so were more accepted and therefore cared for.
In Barcelona we also noted that eating out with children late in the evening was the norm, culturally acceptable and widely practised, very different from our experience in London when we were asked to leave a restaurant at seven o’clock, once the waiter realised I wasn’t carrying a bag on my back but a baby. Here other diners want to eat in peace, away from any reminders of their children, separated and tucked up in bed with a baby-minder. Trudging to another restaurant we promised our hosts that Ewan would be well-behaved (translate this as ‘keeping quiet’), so we were allowed to eat there.
This illustrates how cultural attitudes have such an impact on the presence of children in public spaces. I love to travel to areas where children are totally accepted, no matter what time it is or where we are. I believe the acceptability (or otherwise) of children reveals a lot about the values of that society.
Becoming a family has not stopped us pursuing our hobbies or exploring in any way. Ewan has fitted into our lifestyles as much as we have into his. Ewan has also deeply enriched our travelling experiences. Becoming a mum has inspired us to travel even more, in order to broaden Ewan’s experiences, open his eyes to other ways of living, introducing him to our beautiful world in an exciting, adventurous and gentle way.
After our recent trip to Bali we are now planning an extended trip with Ewan, of between one and six months long, within the next five years. This is a long-term plan, as it will involve a lot of saving and planning. This will provide Ewan a huge amount he could never gain in a classroom. I am very excited about exploring more of our world with my son, for I am seeing life anew through the curious, innocent and questioning eyes of a child.
I feel privileged to have an adventurous husband who accompanies us on exciting trips both in the UK and abroad. Not many under twos think wild camping in the woods in the rain, awaking at dawn to sunrise at 3000 metres after calmly sleeping for hours in the sling, trekking through tropical rice-fields or eating a camp-cooked meal metres away from puffins, are ‘normal’ experiences, yet Ewan does. He takes them in his stride, happy as long as his parents are close by.
So as we venture into his third year of life we look forward to many more life-enhancing trips in wild, remote and exotic places with our son, close to nature and close to each other. I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Please return to this blog for more travel adventure stories with our son!
Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:
- Traveling with a Sick Child — Jennifer at Hybrid Rasta Mama shares her tips and tricks for traveling with a sick child based on firsthand experience.
- Educational Travel | Pennsylvania, New Mexico &; Louisiana — That Mama Gretchen relives three childhood trips while outlining a plan for future homeschooling adventures.
- Babymoon: A Cruise in Europe — Bianca from The Pierogie Mama writes about the babymoon that she and her husband took to Europe, via a week long cruise through the Western Mediterranean..
- Travelling with our little one — Stoneageparent describes what travelling means to her family, exploring the link between attachment parenting and travelling
- I Just Can’t Do It — aNonyMous at Radical Ramblings describes the nightmare it is trying to travel with her daughter, and how for the moment day-trips to local areas will have to suffice.
- Carnival: Travel and Vacation — Macgyvermama rounds out her “Travel Light with Babies and Kids” series with some juicy tips on how to travel light and stress free with your moving and grooving Toddler!
- Traveling: Adventure, Nature, Family — Brenna at Almost All The Truth shares her hopes and fears for her Great Summer Camping Road Trip with her three small children.
- Frustration Free Flying with Kids — Based on her extensive experience flying with her family, Laura at Authentic Parenting shares tips on how to make the trip fun for you and your children.
- 12 Awesome Toys To Bring Along When Traveling With Children – Ariadne over at Positive Parenting Connection is sharing about toys her children love and playful ways to use them that make travel with children more fun and less stressful for the whole family.