13 January 2020
Read Time: 7.6 mins
Yes, yes. The logistics of travel change markedly when you have a tiny human in tow.
But in the same way that travel itself changes your perspective, travelling with children and family travel is an opportunity – and invitation – to see the world in a different way. Through a fresh set of eyes.
And just like solo travel, it can change your perspective on general life situations, too.
In the name of self-reflection and new year sentiments, here are just some of the life lessons I’ve learned from travelling with a child.
Don’t sweat the small stuff.
A toddler cares naught for the small, niggly stressors that can set us big people so off kilter. In fact, part of their job description is to be the source of some of those stressors. But, the lesson from the front lines of parenting while travelling is to remain unruffled. Particularly over the inconsequential, insignificant ‘issues’ we’ve become accustomed to complaining about in modern life. As I tell my toddler regularly: “stop, take a deep breath and look at it again”. Is that thing you’re freaking out over really such a big deal?
On the flip side, be prepared for the irrational whims of toddler tantrums over the smallest of things.
Seeing beauty in unexpected places.
There will be times where everything feels like it’s going wrong. Or the destination hasn’t quite lived up to the promise. Or you’re stuck in transit staring at an ugly airport wall and you have to entertain a restless child. Your ability to find the diamond in the rough, whatever your view will serve equally well on the road as when you’re back in your day-to-day.
Noticing little details and appreciating the beauty in simplicity.
I’ve always been quite an astute observer. But my ability to notice details that I would have overlooked in the hurry of ‘getting places’ has increased exponentially. Seeing colours, details and features through a set of wide, tiny eyes is one of the most fun things you can do. Especially while experiencing new cultures and destinations. Even the simple act of getting down to a little person's level is like looking at the world anew.
Everything becomes oversized, hypercoloured and exciting. Powers of imagination long dulled by the realities of adult life are reawakened on a long plane journey or hours-long roadtrip. Making games from everyday experiences can be a test for creativity and storytelling, that will serve you well in all areas of your life.
Go with the flow.
Schedules and routines are great. But if you become too emotionally tied to them, it’s only going to hurt more when your mini-hurricane throws a spanner in the works. Or, flights are cancelled, or someone gets sick. One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned is to prepare and plan, but also be flexible enough to ride the current if things go off course. As long as you are safe, healthy and together, there’s a way to get through most things. It’s all an adventure after all.
Slow down and appreciate the moment.
This one can hit like a tonne of bricks when travelling with a child. Logistically speaking, hopping from one location to the next will only make for a stressful travel experience. Picking a home base from which to explore is the most logical way to travel with kids.
But there’s also a beautiful kernel of life truth wrapped up in this enforced slowing: take it easy and slow down. The go-go-go of your former travel life may be gone but it doesn’t mean the experience will lose significance. There’s beauty (and calm) in slow, considered appreciation of where you are at any given moment.
Lower your expectations.
This isn’t about lowering standards. It’s about understanding limits – both yours and your little person’s.
When you take your little mini out of their usual routine, they have more stimulation than most adults can handle (plane trips, road trips, exciting new sights and sounds) and expect them to still maintain the same level of behaviour and patience you’re just setting yourself up for failure. The daily nap may not be as long as usual, their behaviour may be more challenging and the concept of ‘holidays’ will be different. But, if you’ve made the choice to continue pushing travel boundaries by adventuring with a child, this is the cost.
And hopefully the pay off is an adventurous, creative and resilient human that can interact with anyone, anywhere. The nap can wait.
The world is a magical place full of wonderful humans.
Turn on the news or scroll through social media and you’d be forgiven for thinking that the world is an ugly place full of bad people doing terrible things. Of course, it’s not true. But sometimes it takes exploring new horizons with a little wanderer to fully appreciate how magical the world truly is, and can be.
Crying babies on planes aside, people all over the world love mini-adventurers. They are such an example of our shared humanity; the universal experiences that cross cultural boundaries and transcend language. Watching a stranger's face light up when they see a child's joy and excitement is so heartwarming. Simple interactions become warmer and more meaningful. People invite you to share their homes and experiences more readily, making for a much more rich experience.
Seeing the glass half full is a powerful choice.
Once you understand that the only real choice we have in life is how we react to things, it’s hard to be negative. In challenging moments – of which there are many when you travel with a toddler – choosing to see the silver lining is a great antidote to stress. Optimism begets optimism after all.
Fear can be transformed into excitement.
For the longest time, I’ve been terrified of the vagaries of flying. Turbulence, little bumps, slight shifts in altitude and the sudden unexpected banking. It all set my pulse racing, clammy palms clutching the seat rest. Visions of plummeting planes and aircrash investigations flashed before me. But I'm a stubborn and commited adventurer so not flying is not an option.
Now, in an attempt soothe my son’s fear, I’ve had to reframe it for him. The little bumps are like the plane hiccuping. Turbulence from bursting through the clouds is like Yankee Doodle riding Macaroni from his nursery rhymes. Flying like a birdee is a fun adventure… And aside from a change in perspective, I’m actually just too busy plying him with food and activities to be afraid.
It’s a good lesson to take into daily life too. Flipping the script on fear is easy if you embrace the feeling and see it as a potential positive rather than a threat.
Home is not only a physical place.
Home really is where the heart is. Make your home wherever you find yourself and fill it with joy, laughter and fun as much as you can.