June 2010 marked a very important time for me. For one, I finished my first semester of university studies. My GPA was above 6. I also used K-Rudd’s stimulus package to buy discount Jetstar flights to Japan.
My parents didn’t want me to go. My mother begged me to reconsider. She asked me if she could come along.
“No.” I insisted.
I needed to do this on my own.
My parents thought I needed to “wait until I had friends who wanted to travel with me.” I realised I’d probably be waiting forever, and the thought of being overseas in someone else’s pocket when I just want to be left alone, is probably not advisable for a friendship.
So I went. 20 year old me hopped on a plane and went to Tokyo.
When I got off the plane, I had to catch a train to Minowa station. I had a print-out from Google Maps of where my hostel was in relation to the train station.
I knew, based on the map, that my hostel was across from a McDonald’s.
I looked left. McDonald’s. I looked right. McDonald’s.
As I stood there deliberating, my map print out melted beneath the rain. Uh-oh.
I knew hailing a cab down was going to cost me and I was pretty poor, but the rain was getting heavy so I did.
I arrived safely at the backpacker hostel and climbed into bed. The next morning, I took a photo.
Every day, I walked and walked and walked. I got off at many places, including the Central Business District and Akihabara. I had a red wine in Shibuya so I could get free internet. I sat upstairs in McDonald’s eating a sundae while everyone smoked inside. I went to Disneyland, which involved catching a train. I drank Coke out of a circular bottle.
If I had advice for any other young people wanting to travel, I would say, don’t delay. Get out there and do it. Many countries are safe to travel to independently. You will be more likely to regret the chances you didn’t take, as opposed to the money you spent.
It’s very interesting how people predict what your life will be like after having children.
The hypotheses start when you tell people you want a baby.
Smugly, they’ll say, “No more sleep ins for you!” This one never bothered me because I seem to be incapable of sleeping past 5:30am at the absolute latest – which frustrates me, but it is what it is.
Or – “Do you really think you’ll be able to study/work/exercise with a baby?” as well as my all-time favourite, “Kiss the travel life goodbye.”
Now, to be fair, my lone travel-style pre-Boy was particularly feral. I would plan it all on the fly, trudge 5km from train station to Air BnB carrying broken luggage in a non-English-speaking country, roll the dice on $7 a night accommodation in New Delhi, do 32 hour Greyhound bus trips from one American state to the next, eating nothing but service station food for days on end….
I get that it will not be like that again. That’s probably for the best.
But this travel life with a baby in tow, is a new challenge in itself.
When we boarded the plane to our first tame destination – Queenstown, New Zealand, it was all seeming to go fine. He boarded the plane without much more than a grizzle, ate a yoghurt, drank a bottle, and then passed out to sleep.
Then, 30 minutes later, the air crew made an announcement that was LOUD AF.
Toddler awake, let the adventure wriggling begin!
We tried all the usual tricks – singing, playing, cuddles, seeing if he would listen to music on the entertainment system….
Then the lady in front of us, who looked oddly like Tove Lo, started rolling her eyes…
So we sang a little louder.
Then we arrived!
Carrying a 13kg toddler through the airport was hard, but we eventually picked up the pram and made our way to the vehicle pick up.
Except, there were no vehicles. Just a phone on the wall.
“Oh, it’s always one of these!” my wife said sarcastically, and she’s right.
In my quest to get the best bang for my buck as our ‘family organiser’, I usually choose services that occasionally inconvenience us in some small way. Still, they provided a little mini bus for us that took us to pick our car up…..
It wasn’t all bad.
During our holiday, we met real New Zealand sheep, drank in an ice bar, walked a LOT, did Park Run in Queenstown, went on a gondola, did a 4 hour round trip to Te Anau to ride swan boats, ate a cheese board in a cheesery (didn’t know this was a word?)……
We had the time of our lives.
When our trip finally came to a close, our flight was changed so we had to do Queenstown-Auckland, Auckland-Brisbane. It was a long day but he slept on some of the flight back. I tried to watch a documentary and contended with little fat fingers that kept trying to pull my earphones out of the socket…..
Well, I guess you can’t have it all.
We landed in Brisbane, completely satisfied but tired from the travel time. As we passed through customs, I declared the food items I wanted to bring home (such as a wheel of Brie cheese).
It was then I realised that I’d left a day-old lunch inside my Bento box.
Needless to say, the customs worker (who looked oddly like Cher), was not at all impressed.
What can I say? I believe in love after love…. and travel after babies!
When I first fell pregnant, I received so much well-meaning advice. Some people couldn’t seem to accept that when I said a particular idea wasn’t really for us, it didn’t mean it was a bad idea.
Take attachment parenting, for instance. Some families love bed-sharing, co-sleeping, and baby-wearing. For me, the idea of having my child attached to me day and night makes me anxious. Therefore, we’ve never used any of these strategies.
Horses for courses.
“Sleep when the baby sleeps” was another gem that also made no sense to me.
So – will the baby study when I study, or work while I work? How do I find time to do my tasks if I’m sleeping every time I catch 40 minutes?
I do want to share the best advice I was given, though, in the hope that someone else can use it.
Save up nappies/wipes and other consumables in the year before you have a baby.
8 months in and we still haven’t used all of our packets of wipes and we only ran out of nappies after a couple of months.
Save up your baby’s 1st birthday items in the months before their birthday.
This saved us going out and buying packs of Batman plates, cups, and accessories all at once. Very useful.
Buy an umbrella stroller for overseas trips.
Use Gumtree/Ebay/Buy swap sell for baby brand name clothes.
You spend so little and get so much!
Take time out for yourself.
Whatever that looks like – it’s absolutely essential.
Most of the advice is chump change in the grand scheme of things, but these were my three most valuable pieces.
Before we had S, Natalie and I both said that our child would fit into our lives, as much as possible.
For us, that means dinners out, running events, furthering our respective careers, and travelling.
Pre-baby, my style of travel was haphazard. I have run away from a crazy driver in India, walked 5km up and down cobbled roads in Armenia with 20kg of luggage, and partied with strangers in Las Vegas.
We are NOT this haphazard with a baby. A simple weekend takes a lot of planning, but it is a LOT of fun. With a bunch of checklists, an excellent time can be had.
At times, though, you just mess it up. Monumentally.
For Easter, we decided to cocoon ourselves as a family. Recovering from birth has been a rough ride and the idea of some time in a peaceful place appealed – so we booked a BnB not far from Brisbane, but away from the hustle and bustle.
Our little boy was yet to meet a farm animal. So…. being in a secluded area… we thought we would take him to a farm.
We found a ‘farm rescue’ online and booked 3 x tickets – one ‘unemployed’ (yes, that’s the baby ticket) and two ‘student tickets.’ Let’s not talk about why we have student cards.
Once we got there, the conversation went something like this.
“Does the baby have closed in shoes?”
“…. he doesn’t walk, but yes.”
“But you’re wearing thongs.”
So, my wife, in her infinite wisdom, had turned up to a farm, in thongs.
No thongs, no entry. No worries! Mate…
So…. I started the farm tour, baby in tow, sans wife. She went back to the BnB to get shoes (an hours’ round trip)…….
Far from being a tame petting farm as I thought it may be, it was a bit of a bush walk.
Bush walks are just fine, but I can admit that carrying a 9kg child with some incline gets old pretty fast.
As a side note, a sanded stump is actually a great place to breastfeed a baby. Nice and stable. Better than the seats in some of the parenting rooms I have used in shopping centres.
Fortunately, he is the chillest babe you will ever meet, so none of this bothered him.
When Natalie got back, she told me she’d bogged the car in the parking lot. When I finished rolling my eyes, I passed S to her so my arms could have a break. I thought that having a sit would be a great idea.
I got bitten by ants. So many ants.
After that, we decided to bail, because the hill to the sheep enclosure was beyond us by this point.
All was not wasted, though. He saw animals. We told him great stories about what we were looking at. The cuddles were great, and the smiles. He loved our commentary.
And like always, he was just pleased to be there. Such a happy baby.
As we drove back to the accommodation, we realised that I had failed to book the whole weekend and we were meant to be checking out.
Thank goodness for gracious hosts who let us stay the extra night at a discounted rate.
As we walked up the stairs to our room, we laughed and laughed. We messed up, we under-estimated the activity, one of us arrived in thongs, and I screwed up our booking.
But you know what? It was all completely okay.
If our holiday had been perfect from start to finish, we wouldn’t be sitting here laughing right now. S would still be yet to see a cow, a pig, a chicken, a duck….
We had fun, we made memories, we did something new…. but most importantly… we laughed. And laughed and laughed and laughed and swore, and then laughed again.
I am SO glad we did it. And I am thankful for the recommendation.
There is a lesson in all of this.
Chaos is more fun than perfection. You can do anything with children if you accept that. If you really want something, you’ll go up and down the hills, through the mud, under the fence…. whatever it takes.
This is a lesson I needed, as I approach my first big deadline with a tiny human.
I hope that as our little boy grows in this crazy adventure called life, he maintains our sense of fun and resilience.