I have wanderlust, constantly craving new adventures, new places to explore. I look at a world map and I see possibilities. When my daughter Rachel was born, my husband Rafael and I vowed to turn her into an adventurer. We wanted to show her the world.
Rachel went on her first plane trip when she was five months old. That is such an easy age to travel with a child. They’re so portable, even if all the stuff you normally lug around with a baby is not. The first step is to jettison half the stuff and just travel with the basics. You can wash clothes in a sink, buy diapers anywhere, and if you breastfeed, you don’t ever have to worry about running out of food!
When she was 2, we took her to Ireland. Rafael ran a marathon in Dublin and Rachel and I cheered him on at a couple spots. The rest of the time, we hung out in a pub (it was raining, of course) and chatted with the other families. At this age, children are also very easy. We had a backpack filled with activities for her. If we were in a restaurant, the car, a pub, or anywhere else that we wanted her content and engaged, we would pull something out of it. There were small toys, picture books, Play-doh, crayons and paper, a stuffed animal and simple games we could play; all there to keep her happy while we enjoyed a meal or a drink.
We always stay at Bed and Breakfasts or small Inns. They are great for children. Many of them have animals to pet, a yard to play in and cookies available to snack on. Often there is a living room with movies and games. Large hotels and resorts will not give you that homey feeling. As Rachel got older, she would take the camera and go off to explore the property wherever we were staying, while her father and I relaxed over a glass of wine. Perfect ending to a day.
At 4 years old, we went to Scotland. Her bag of toys started to include card games, watercolors (they dry before you even leave the restaurant) and movies to watch. If you have a camera like the Olympus Stylus Tough, which can handle being dropped and submerged in water, give it to your child. They’ll love it. It’s not like it used to be. I remember coming back from a trip to Spain and realizing that we had put the same roll of film in the camera twice. Not the best way to immortalize those moments. Digital is so much easier!
When Rachel was 6, we went to Argentina to see the penguins and Iguazu Falls. She was a seasoned traveler by then. She knew how to behave in a restaurant, how to occupy herself on long car rides and she loved seeing all the new sights. Who wouldn’t want to see penguins?
By the time she was 7, we were taking a big trip every year, with a couple smaller ones in between. She watched bears feed on salmon in Alaska, swam with dolphins in Hawaii, soaked in thermal pools in Iceland and went tidal bore rafting in Nova Scotia. She camped in the Amazon, scampered around Machu Picchu and snorkeled in Galapagos. She is a true explorer. At age 15, her bag of toys has been whittled down to a cell phone, a lap top and maybe a deck of cards. She loves being in charge of one of the cameras, and takes amazing pictures. She is worldly, inquisitive, accepting of others and up for a challenge. I believe that much of that is because she has seen some of the world, knows people are basically the same everywhere, and has explored and embraced their differences. She has survived the rigors of sometimes harrowing adventures and has learned to adapt. What a great gift to give to your child.
To afford to do all this takes planning. We are not rich. We just made it our priority to travel. There are always places to go that don’t cost as much. Peru, Argentina and Ecuador are amazingly affordable, while Alaska, Hawaii and (for Americans) almost anywhere in Europe and Asia will require more saving. I have needed a new kitchen since we moved into our house 18 years ago. The problem is that as soon as I have money saved, I think of a great trip we could take instead. Who needs a new kitchen, anyway? Let’s explore!