Aanavi turned 13 months yesterday… And in these 13 months, she has spent a a couple of weeks in Johannesburg; a week in Seychelles and two in Cape Town; five weeks in London; seven in India; a few days in Madikwe and now we are in Namibia for two weeks and off to Europe thereafter. Her first trip on a plane was to London when she was 8 weeks old!
In her short life so far, she has spent about 5 months away from home.
The mum-guilt that I spoke about before was back again last night before I left… But Aanavi reassured me today, by being a happy traveller despite two flights and barely any sleep, that as always my guilt was unfounded.
Is it fair to her though – the constant adjusting, new places, a different cot (or no cot), changing routines, weird and wonderful food choices, different people and no Dad half the time?
I don’t know if it’s fair but I do know that she’s not being hindered by any of it. Rather than wondering about ‘adaptation issues’, I thought about what she’s gaining from all of these experiences:
1. She’s learnt to be flexible with her needs and routine.
2. She eats a variety of foods and flavours!
3. Aanavi is learning lots of new skills and words very quickly; learning she wouldn’t normally be exposed to if we didn’t travel as much. She shows recognition of safari animals and notices little and big things from birds to butterflies; her fine motor skills are pretty amazing from practicing things like opening the airplane table all by herself and the pincer grip she’s developing using crayons to draw while I am working. She can actually identify 5 different shapes (circle, square, rectangle, triangle and heart) because the only book I can fit into my diaper bag is Spot’s Touch and Feel Shapes! She’s read it hundreds of times.
4. She is SUPER friendly towards everyone because she’s so used to people! She has learnt to greet and smile at almost everyone she meets. She’s even mastered a little ‘royal wave’.
5. She never watches TV because we just aren’t home long enough to get into it and I don’t travel with an iPad. There is little to no screen time in her life.
6. She can swim in the sea and in pools.
7. She has developed a very cool sense of curiosity towards nature, people, animals and life in general. I love watching her watch the world in wonder.
Here’s what I have gained in the process:
1. My greatest achievement has been learning to let go. I used to sweat the small stuff with what time she has to sleep and has to eat and has to do everything! Now, as long as she’s happy, healthy and having fun whilst still getting enough sleep and nutritious food, I’m relaxed.
2. I’ve gained flexibility with her flexibility.
3. I don’t have to think twice about a spontaneous holiday or a crazy work trip to rural Namibia. My travel bug doesn’t have to be cured :)
4. I am learning how to be a different kind of mum everyday – some days I’m a nutritionist trying to count how many measures of calcium, iron and protein she’s had, other times I’m a clown and entertainer, a storyteller and a comforter, some days I’m Tiger mum and others I’m Dolphin. Sometimes I Helicopter and sometimes I’m an Elephant mum (can you believe all of these terms actually exist!?)! My knowledge on theories of childhood, parenting and nutrition amazes even me sometimes because I’m forever reading, doing and now writing about it too! 😄
5. I’ve gained inspiration from travelling with Aanavi for a massive career change! Watch this space… #adventuRams :)
So, top tips for travelling?
- Make a list. I have a generic packing list for both Aanavi and I which I can easily adapt depending on our destination. I then just pack to my checklist and have never forgotten or run out of anything.
- Take a little bit of home with you. Pack things that Baby will be familiar with and finds comfort in. We take Aanavi’s little baby bear with us everywhere, her favourite bath toys, a ball and whatever toy/book she’s into at that point. I pack the same blanket, she knows and loves her pram and I take her bowl and spoons from home too.
- Be flexible with yours and Baby’s needs during your trip. Don’t feel forced into sticking to a rigid routine if it’s not working while you’re away. Learn to listen to your baby’s body and teach him/her to listen to it too.
- Have a diaper bag packed and ready-to-go at all times with nappies, wipes, cream, snacks, a water cup, a change of clothes and other essentials.
- Invest in a lightweight travel stroller that can recline flat and a light blanket that you can hang over to block light/the world of distractions out when you want to push Baby to sleep.
- Spend time carefully choosing the right baby carrier. We tried Stokke, a Mama’s and Papa’s one but have found ErgoBaby to be absolutely super on the back and shoulders, as well as easy to put on with various different carrying positions.
- Have some easy-to-pack toys in your hand-luggage. I recently discovered kinetic sand! Very cool handbag toy. That and the Fisher-Price talking lunch box, a pair of singing keys and plastic sunglasses. That’s when Aanavi’s good to go!
- Did I mention little nibbles? Pack snacks – lots of them!
- Hand and face wipes as well as the chubby cocoa butter stick for babies. Every wipe makes her skin drier in this weather so we replenish with cocoa butter. We also have an Oh Lief sunblock stick permanently in the bag.
- Dress Baby in a buttoned grow when travelling. Not all planes have a changing station, most restaurants/cafes don’t either. You don’t have time or space to be taking off and putting on clothes. Always easier to just pop buttons open and do the necessary bum wipes. 💩 Added bonus – they’re warm, which is important on planes as they have central cooling systems… and you’re not worried about lost socks on the flight.
Wishing you and your children travels filled with happy adventure and zestful curiousity!