I’m trying very hard to instil a love of travel into my daughter. My parents did it for me and I just want to pay it forward. They brought me all around the world to see different cultures that I feel that I have a very unique perspective because of it.
Right now, Athena is four years old and has been to six countries and I’m working hard to bring her to more. And so far, she seems to be enjoying it very much. Every time we start a new adventure, she gets so excited. When we return, she never stops talking about it.
It’s pretty cool too to think that this will prepare her to have a more worldly view of things and to realise that there are so many things in the world to experience and see. The younger you start, the more influence it has on the mind and personality.
And don’t think that a child is ever too young to start traveling. She may not remember every single detail of the trips that she has gone on, but she will remember the overall experience and that would already mean a deep influence in her.
And the thing about traveling with a little kid (or kids), is that there really is no trouble at all. The kid will do her thing. When she’s hungry, she’ll eat. When she’s tired, she’ll sleep. And when she’s up, she just wants to have fun.
As parents, we are the ones who need to adjust. And being adults, it shouldn’t be that difficult. We may not be able to go coffeeshop-hopping in Amsterdam or hitchhiking with strangers, but most experiences would still be the same.
The first thing that you need to keep in mind is timing. My wife and I need to be familiar with when Athena wakes up in the morning, when she gets hungry, when she starts dozing off in the afternoon and her bedtime at night.
Then we can plan our days much easily because we know when we are ready to go out and when we need to stop for food or rest. As long as we don’t go against her schedule, things will go smoothly.
Basically, traveling with a child means easy traveling where we don’t try to fit in as many sights and attractions as we can into our holidays (which was what I used to do all the time!). It’s actually nice because our holidays have now become very relaxing.
Also, always travel prepared. What that means is that traveling light might become almost impossible (goodbye backpacking days!). I feel more at ease knowing that we have enough milk bottles, diapers and emergency medicine in the luggage. But don’t be too excessive!
And never ever leave your stroller behind when you travel. I’ve tried those baby body harnesses where you carry your kid either at the front on your chest or your back. It may be easy and convenient, but you’ll only feel that way for the first few hours.
In my experience, pushing a stroller on the bumpy roads of Saigon where the sidewalks are almost non-existent is still a thousand times more favourable than a sack of potatoes hanging on your body as you walk around a city the whole day.
Another pointer is to make sure to intersperse activities that are children-centric. For example, see if the city you are visiting has a children’s theatre that you bring your child. Try to find something unique to the local culture and you can’t find back home.
Or it can even be as simple as visiting a local playground. Museum after museum can get pretty boring for a toddler. Athena enjoys playgrounds and it’s really interesting to see how she interacts with the local children, who sometimes don’t speak the same language.
And always be mindful of how different the weather is going to be at the place you visit compared to home. If it’s some place cold, you won’t go wrong if you are slightly over-prepared. Warm climates, on the other hand, are obviously much easier to prepare for.
Eating properly is another thing that you have to think about. I’m not talking about avoiding all street food and just eating in fancy restaurants. Wherever you choose to eat, just make sure where you eat looks clean and decent enough.
And remember, variety is always good for your child. Try to feed her all kinds of different local dishes that taste different that what she is used to. She will slowly start to develop an adaptable palate and not be so fussy.
But it’s very important to make sure the daily food intake is always balanced. Good nutrition for a growing child cannot be put on hold just because you’re on holiday. Make sure she drinks enough liquids and take vegetables and fruits.
And last but least, never ever forget to have fun and cherish your time as a family together. Ever since my wife and I had Athena in our lives, we can’t imagine going anywhere without her. The experience is just simply too blissful.
I will always remember Athena’s face when she touched snow for the first time in Pennsylvania, how excited she got when she hand fed a really tame kangaroo who also let her pet it in Sydney, and when she went snorkeling in the open seas off the islands of Java.
And when Athena grows up, I hope that she will start being excited to go on her own adventures, to experience the world and to broaden her mind even more. All I want to do is to plant the seed in her.
Zan Azlee is a multimedia journalist, writer and filmmaker. He specialises in solo-journalism and often reports from conflict zones around the world. He usually succeeds in staying safe and coming home unharmed to his daughter, Athena Azlee, and wife, Jasmine Abu Bakar, by screaming like a little girl whenever he is faced with danger. Follow his exploits at FatBidin.com.