“He won’t remember any memories from this trip. Are you sure about traveling to Europe is a good idea?”, I asked my husband as we were toying around the idea of planning our first vacation post delivery.
Both my husband and I have the immense love for exploring different places. The major reason behind our love for traveling is the magical power of new experiences. These experiences not only open our mind & soul to new ways of living but also help us in growing as well-rounded and balanced individuals.
So, within seconds of saying what I said, I realized what I was saying was irrelevant. Traveling for us was never about what we will remember, but about how our trip will change us as an individual and help build a stronger relationship with ourselves. As a parent, when you start answering the bigger questions like: How will traveling help you in strengthening your bond as a family? Or, what will the experience teach my kid? Then you realize that a trip is the best gift that you can give to your kid at any age.
As we started discussing more, we realized that inspite of my immense love for traveling I had the reservations about this particular travel plan. And, I absolutely understood why.
Every parent knows how difficult it is to travel with a toddler. But, the challenge is multi-fold if it is the first long distance air-travel of your toddler and the mother has to make it all alone. My husband was on a month-long training programme in Germany. And, the vacation deprived soul of mine was pleading to join him for a holiday in Europe.
At first, I was sceptical about the whole idea. But when my husband pushed me to focus on the learning and confidence that it will bestow upon me as a mother and as a woman, I couldn’t stop myself but to agree to this terrifying yet exciting idea.
And then it began. I started prepping myself for so-far the greatest challenge of motherhood – to take my 1 year old son on his first air trip to Europe, all alone.
Like so many valuable learning lessons in life, travelling with children is so worth it – even if it’s not easy. There is a reason why they say,“You don’t take vacations with kids, you take trips. Because when you travel with your young ones, the moments of rest don’t exist. Packing and planning can consume as much time as the travel itself. Plus, you need to bid goodbye to peaceful sleep or any schedules.
I read many blogs to get myself acquainted with the challenges that I could expect during the travel. I also joined multiple Facebook travel groups, where moms share their experiences & challenges to warn & prepare other moms.
And after a successful travel, here is the core of my learning:
1. Traveling with a toddler is a very “DIFFERENT” experience
Travelling was an essential part of my relationship with my husband for the years we had before we became parents. From an adventurous safari to spontaneous road trips to exotic resort stays, each and every vacation was a lifetime experience. But, having similar expectations from the coming trips would have been unrealistic.
One of the critical things that I learned, was that my plans might need adjustment and changes at any moment.
I had to completely bid goodbye to normal sleep and maintain calm when my toddler would announce the wake-up time – it could be 2 AM or 5 AM. I didn’t have any time to be frustrated when my completely planned day would be burnt to ashes when my son would refuse to leave my lap.
Although this was so different from the way I used to travel earlier with my husband, it helped me to learn so many important life skills like adaptability and empathy.
2. You might not feel Rested but surely will feel Rejuvenated
After my first travel with my toddler, I would like to tell you that trips with a toddler may not be “vacation” in the traditional sense of the word, but its definitely fulfilling. I was very tired after the trip, but when I see all the effort has helped my 1-year-old son in becoming more independent after the travel – I feel more satisfied than ever.
When he felt challenged by sitting still on airplanes, I know he was learning patience. When he had a severe cold before the trip, I knew he would learn how to adapt himself to the new atmosphere. Even when he was nervous to try something outside of his comfort zone, I knew he was getting bolder and braver.
3. Strike off the word “EMBARRASSMENT” from your dictionary and never hesitate to ask for help
I couldn’t stress enough on this particular point. All my online resources and mom community also focused on this one key aspect. We, moms, stress ourselves so much only because we want to be perceived as perfect moms. We are scared of all the what-if scenarios that could lead to embarrassment.
What if my baby starts crying on the flight?
What if I am not carrying enough diapers?
Or, What if I don’t have food when the toddler wants it?
Or, What if I am not carrying clothes, shoes etc. as per the weather?
It is important to spend enough time on planning the travel to ensure a smooth travel. Please ensure that you are carrying enough baby toiletries(Don’t use hotel toiletries for baby) and have packed all essential items (like diapers, medicines with prescription, food, clothes, wipes, shoes, lightweight stroller, favorite toys etc.)
But it is much more important, that you learn to never feel embarrassed during any situation and never hesitate to ask for help. Seek help from anyone and everyone – airlines staff members or co-passengers. You’ll be surprised at how helpful people are when it comes to mothers traveling with small kids.
What this trip taught us?
As I entered motherhood, my priorities had changed. I quit work and became a stay at home mom. But, this trip made me meet my older self – the one who was independent and wanted to follow her dreams & ambitions.
Traveling 6000 kms and staying alone with my son for a week, made me realize that I have to minimize my dependencies and take charge of my life.
I need to be more confident than ever because I need my son to remember me as an independent woman.
Even though my son is too young to remember the details, I believe each experience would have given him a frame of reference that will live in his subconscious for a lifetime.
But for now, the time I watch his eyes light up & the tight hug I get whenever we see the pictures of our travel, the success of our trip is validated and the jar of motivation for the next trip gets another drop.
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