10 Reckless Travel “Dos” Before You Have Kids
You're only young and carefree... once. Before you head off into the wonderful world of motherhood, here are some reckless travel "dos".
Having kids doesn’t mean that you can never travel again, but it sure does mean you’ll be travelling a whole lot more differently.
Travelling with a kid in tow is a prodigious achievement all on its own. The ironic imperative of having to plan ahead is bottlenecked by the anticipation of spontaneous frayed temperaments and unforeseen toilet pit stops. Your one most important travel bag is now the first aid kit, something which, once upon a time, used to refer to less than three items carelessly stuffed into the back of your purse. Everything becomes so child-oriented that even your customary travel snack stash of Cheetos and Coke have somehow evolved over the years into Fruit Loops and juice boxes. While travelling mistakes of the past used to encompass being ripped off at tourist joints and falling prey to dishonest cab drivers, the single biggest mistake you can ever make now is to hope that this holiday will finally grant you the much-needed me time you have been fantasizing about since your water broke.
Don’t get me wrong, this is not to say that we should all regret our kids or refrain from even having them if we harbour an inner wanderlust (and which new millennial doesn’t?) – children inject a certain element of magic and symmetry into life that can hardly be substituted by any other experience in this world. But it also doesn’t mean that you won’t find yourself pining for that period of carefree singlehood every once in a while – even if it’s within your deepest, most unspoken subconscious. Once you’ve gotten a taste of just how much work goes into travelling with a child (as opposed to taking on the road solo), I wonder if you’ll find yourself hugging your knees to your chest in the corner of the bed at night, weeping to yourself in exasperation – just why didn’t we strike this off the list before they came along?
If you have ever had the pleasure of travelling with a child, read on and see if any of the following ten points resonate with you – or tell me, perhaps, if I have gotten it all figured out wrong.
1. Don’t Plan
Let’s face it: the notion of travelling without a plan is way more romanticized sans kids. Impulsive decisions and last minute changes are so much more exhilarating when you don’t have to face about a thousand questions about why we’re not going to the Lourve anymore – or worse, disappointment that we aren’t going to the Lourve anymore.
Couchsurf. Or pull off that irresponsibly liberating thing of not sorting out your accommodation before arrival – who cares? Paratroop through cities you have never heard of until the day you arrived, turbo-tourist your way through itineraries, skip a return flight, do an impromptu holiday extension: the list of being repulsively irresponsible is endless when you travel as a single, carefree individual.
2. Live On Nothing But Unhealthy Junk and Street Food
So you’ve spent the last decade or so trying to convince your kid about the evils of sugars and too-much-fried-stuff. Enter said city that you’d foolishly picked to visit with the kids. Everywhere you turn, the streets are paved with endless trails of aromatic local eats, from fiery bowls of noodles to a smorgasbord of meaty delights served up in bite-sized pieces – it’s like a walking buffet sent from hell to torment your soul and challenge every word you ever spoke to your child about healthy eating. Even you are so tempted you start salivating through your nostrils, but the last thing you want to do is come across as an utter hypocrite because you delivered a sermon on the detriment of bad fats just two nights ago.
While an occasional bite in between meals will still be approved by even the most conservative parenting experts, I’m afraid the extreme slob-fest type of pigging out (which continues to remain an exclusive privilege to the childless and free) won’t. Nary a hope is left of voluntarily starving yourself the entire day for that big exotic local dinner at night. Someone’s not going to be too pleased if you disrupt their eating routine – home land or not.
Which then leaves you with nothing but a tired, over-hashed fantasy of living on a profusion of juicy grilled meat skewers and fried ice cream for seven straight days– had you chosen to come up here on your own.
3. Don’t Sleep
Ever bought plane tickets for at least a hundred dollars cheaper just because it departs in the wee hours of the night? Ever arrived in a city at a godforsaken time between twilight and dawn, slept for an hour or so, and then jumped right into Day One’s Itinerary, exhausted but somewhat fully charged?
Guess what ? This is not something you want to – or can– pull off with a bunch of kids in tow.
Because sometimes, you pick a destination and all you picture yourself doing for the entire stretch is being knocked out on that $300/night bed you scrimped for 6 months to pay; vowing to be conscious only for the sole purpose of food, TV, and the occasional massage.
Travelling with a kid? You’ll thank your lucky stars if they even let you sleep past seven each morning.
5. Getting Down and Dirty with the Local Night Life
Everyone’s got an inner untamed alter ego that we need to let out every once in a while, but even the most hedonistic of us wouldn’t want to be caught dead by a kid while at it – especially if said kid is one of your own.
If you’re dreaming of glorious, rollicking nights ranging anywhere from gritty to glitzy, club-hopping after sunsets and sliding around on soap-sudded dance floors, it’s probably best to get it all out of your system now. All-night fests aren’t exactly something you want to explain to (nor set as an example for) an inquisitive seven-year-old – even if you’re planning to sneak out of the room after they’re fast asleep.
By the way, don’t sneak out of the room after they’re fast asleep.
6. Travel Off the Beaten Path
Under-the-radar destinations are always an exciting possibility to consider: escaping the endless crowd, steering away from familiarity, and let’s not forget that infinite sense of discovery. If you’re an earnest traveller, you’ll know the feeling of wanting to get down and dirty on the roads less travelled.
This feeling, however, is somewhat irresponsible to harbour when you have little ones in tow. You do not want to drag a kid 5,000km up Mt. Kilimanjaro because the altitude change may (literally) kill them; neither will you want to subject them to a sixteen-day frills-free camping trek with minimal to zero amenities because, let’s face it, even you are cringing your way through at times.
Just remember: what constitutes as a smashing travel experience for you may just translate to a psychological scarred childhood for them; so don’t expect them to hold the same warm feelings for extreme misadventures as you do.
7. Get Long-distance Bucket List Travels Out of the Way
Know what’s worse than sitting through a twelve-hour flight?
Sitting through a twelve-hour flight with three kids in tow.
To further add to Point #6, it isn’t just travelling off the beaten path that you should seek to fulfill before becoming a parent. Even the common road can be just as tedious if it’s nine thousand miles away from home and you’ve got your hands tied up with Young Master Attitude, Little Miss Crankypots, and Captain Poopypants.
Throw in a couple of transit stops, and you just scored yourself a twelve-hour stretch that you never want to live through, ever again.
Except that you will, on that wretched, soul-crushing flight back.
8. Traipse On the Dangerous
Imagine the mess you’d leave behind if you were to, touch wood, meet with a fatal accident while living out your life’s dream of hiking the Appalachian Trail; and as a tragic result, leave behind a house mortgage that’s not fully paid for, a colossal travel loan that was taken to finance your martyred expedition, a spouse, three kids, and another one on the way.
It’s brutal, but life is indeed as such: When no one else is dependent on you, it’s just sad if you die. But when you have a whole family reliant on you for daily survival, it’s modern-day debauchery.
9. Indulge in the Luxury of Being Able to Bring Every Single Gadget and Electronic Device You’ve Ever Owned
When chasing down the Northern lights, setting up your gear and getting your shutter speed right is definitely more achievable when you don’t have to multi-task for 1a.m. feeding time. It’s time to face the truth: the human brain is just not programmed to effectively manage two fully-equipped DSLR kits, a tripod, and a diaper bag at the same time.
Instead of being able to pack every single serum bottle and lotion tube that once played a critical role in your nightly beauty regime– together with carefully planned OOTDs which used to be the highlight of your single travelling days– you now find that travel toys and activity items hold more importance in the realm of luggage space as compared to your anti-ageing night moisturizer and complementary masks – after all, surely, the most effective and direct way to slow down ageing is a stress-free, tantrum-less holiday, no matter what that cream says it can do for you.
10. Underpack on Necessities
“I’ll get it when we get there’ just doesn’t cut it in a world where wet wipes are the next most important thing on your packing list after ‘Passports’. It is almost radical to wing it on milk formula and diaper cream – contrary to a distant, long gone past where even toiletry essentials like toothpaste and shampoo can be left to the minute after the last minute. Even the thought of better savings in neighbouring countries do nothing to dissuade you from stocking up: after all, the last situation you want to find yourself battling is one where the diapers run out.
Underpacking on medical supplies also becomes a thing of the past: it’s not just the customary Tylenol, band aids, and bug spray that make up your travel first aid kit no more. Make way for antiseptic wipes, motion sickness tablets, thermometers, lotions, sanitizers, sterilizers, pill crushers if your little nomad isn’t too keen on swallowing, and more.
I guess the bottom line is that, at the end of the day, when you’re the only kid you have to take care of while travelling, you find yourself with little more room to explore the extremes: Overpack. Underpack. Sleep. Don’t sleep. Party like a rock star. Live like a dead fish. Life feels a little more radical, spontaneous, brash, even; and the list of possibilities to completely and utterly destroy yourself is endless.
And the best part of it all? You don’t even have to feel guilty about it when that happens.