I brought my
little girl on her first airplane when she was just shy of 6 weeks old. I know
there are some who would scoff at that, but honestly—if it hadn't been for fear
of others' reactions, we might have gotten on that plane even sooner.
By her first birthday,
she had already taken four big out-of-state trips. Living in Alaska, that means
spending roughly six to 12 hours on airplanes and in airports, almost always
accounting for at least one layover. One of those trips came abruptly and
unexpectedly just five days after we had returned home from three months spent
traveling. That was the only time I hesitated, and even then, only because I was
tired and desperately wanted to do laundry. But ultimately, we got on that
plane. Because it was one more opportunity to take my girl someplace she had
never been before.
navigated every single one of those flights on my own, just me and my daughter. In
the early days, before she could walk, it involved me wearing her on my
front, her car seat on my back and a bag over each shoulder.
definitely a sight.
I have friends
who struggle to understand my passion for traveling with my child. They don't get why I would take on all the extra work
involved to make those trips happen; to them traveling with a
toddler just sounds miserable. But for my part, I love it—even more so because
my girl seems to love it as well.
Travel can expose kids to a view of the world (and the people within that world) they won't ever get from their own backyard.
I have at
least one big trip planned out for us every year from now until the day she
decides she's done being my travel buddy (a day that will hopefully never
come). I've already been contemplating getting her a passport but am forcing
myself to wait, not because there isn't anything to be gained by
taking a toddler out of country (because there is always something to be gained by travel) but because I am by no
means rich, and these trips are something we sacrifice for in other ways. Less
stuff, more experiences. So I'm forcing myself to save the best (and most
expensive, in terms of airfare) travel locales on my list until she is at least
old enough to remember the trips.
like age 6.
to me to show her the world and share with her my own innate wanderlust. I
truly believe there is so much to be gained from travel; exposing
children to different cultures and areas of the world can shape them into more
compassionate, open-minded and even intelligent people. Sure, they may
experience that travel differently than an adult would, and it's possible they
won't appreciate it in the same way, but I absolutely believe there is still
Travel can spark areas of the brain that otherwise remain
stagnant. It can ignite ideas and passions that might not otherwise have ever
been. Perhaps most importantly, it can expose kids to a view of the world (and
the people within that world) they won't ever get from their own backyard. So
taking my girl on these adventures is absolutely one of my parenting
I get that
it's not for everyone. For some parents, a real vacation is leaving the
kids at home—which is a perfectly acceptable way to feel! If traveling with
kids isn't your thing, don't do it. But I think it's important to remember that
just because it's not for you, doesn't mean it's not right for someone else. I
get that some people may look at the way I plan to travel with my girl and
think that it is more about feeding my soul than hers, but that couldn't be
further from the truth. Because let's be real, traveling with kids is absolutely
more work. It's just that in my mind, it's worth the effort.
So far, our
adventures have been tame; simply because toddlers are still pretty big on
their routines and basic comforts. Our biggest trip was to Hawaii just a month
shy of her second birthday.
I had a friend warn me that it would be miserable, that diapers and sandy beaches don't mix and that toddler tears destroy any
chance of reading peacefully in the sun. But we had an amazing time, and I was
so glad I had refused to heed those words.
traveling is different for me now. I can't just fly by the seat of my pants
like I used to. I can't stay out all night and sleep in as late as I want, or
curl up on a lounge chair and read for hours on end. And I have to evaluate the
safety of our adventures a little more closely; scaling the side of a mountain
can't happen with a toddler on my back. But all those things are worth
sacrificing for the wonder I see in my child's eyes when she is experiencing
something, or someplace, new for the first time.
A few weeks
ago, it dawned on me that I hadn't given the same focus to sharing our home
state with her as I have to taking her out of it. I've always been a girl who
loves road trips myself, but as a single mom, long road trips are a little
harder with young children, just because you can't exactly entertain your kid
while driving. So up to now, we had never gone anywhere that had us in the car
for more than two hours.
particular weekend, the sun was out and shining after weeks of rain, and we had
nothing on our calendar to hold us back. So, I asked my girl (now 2 and a half)
if she wanted to go on an adventure; she emphatically replied with, "Yes!
We left town
at 10 a.m. and didn't return until almost 11 that night. We
traveled more than 300 miles, stopping an estimated 15 or so times—not for
potty breaks or toddler meltdowns, mind you, but because there were things we
wanted to get out and see. My only rule was that we head to places my daughter
had never before been, and we stop at a few locations that were new to us both.
Over that long
day trip, we explored, hiked, visited animal conservation centers, ate
at tiny little diner pit stops, and every single time we got back in the car,
my little girl cheerfully called out, "What's next, Mommy?!?"
So, yeah, my
toddler totally has the wanderlust gene. And she might just be my little soul
mate traveler, willing to go wherever the wind takes her. It's an incredible
thing to witness, and one of my favorite parts of parenting so far.