What Babies Teach Us About Travel

By Abi King | Family Travel

Jan 24
Exploring new horizons in Oman

The horizon over the harbour in Muscat, Oman

What is it that makes us want to explore?

What is it that makes us want to explore new horizons? To look into the unknown, the half known, the semi known and the dreams and to stride on forwards, desperate, hoping, excited to find out?

The more time I spend on this earth, the more I see that question shifting. It’s no longer what makes us want to explore more but, far more often, what is it that holds us back?

You may have missed it, but last November I gave birth to my beautiful, wonderful baby daughter – and like many a new parent, I’ve found myself staggering between half-sleep and new dreams, seeing so much of the normal, the routine and the everyday with new, if rather bloodshot, eyes.

I’ve also spent a lot more time around babies.

My baby, my family’s babies, my friends and their babies and babies of strangers and random passers by.

Babies, it seems, beget babies. Through medical appointments, fluorescent sensory classes and smalltalk from people in the street, walking around town with a baby simply makes babies appear.

And, my, those babies do not hold back from exploring.

Maldives Islands from the Sky

A different point of view gives a different point of view…Flying over the Maldives.

Living In The Moment Vs Planning Ahead…Vs Doing Neither

It is perhaps a well worn observation that children know how to live in the moment much better than us adults do. That they bounce, fearless, from one activity to another. Up a tree, down a slope, into conversation, striking up friendships despite adult-flavoured barriers like etiquette, religion, and understanding each other’s words.

But my new discovery is just how much young babies have their eyes on the horizon.

I’ve heard many a word about how all that babies do is just eat, sleep and feed (plus, well, complete the other end of that equation.)

But that’s simply not true. They see. They listen. They explore.

Every single day is spent trying something new and trying to make sense of the world they find themselves in.

Light. Dark. Patterns. People. A sense of self. A sense of touch. Reaching, falling, startling…

Red Tsingy Rock Formation in Madagascar

Blazing red rock horizons in Madagascar

Learning Isn’t Learnt

Right from the get go, we humans are primed to learn and primed to explore.

So, what is it, then, as adults that holds us back?

A sense of fear, perhaps, well laced with responsibility.

2017 is the first year I’ve run my fingers down the spine of an atlas and paused over decisions of safety I’d never considered before.

Immunisations? My daughter’s too young. Cyclone season? Too wet, too windy, too risky.

Ski slopes? Well…alright, there’s some physio to get through first.

But…

But…

Responding to Responsibility

It’s far too easy, I think, as adults to stay and stray away from the path of challenge once we find a comfortable, passable rhythm that gets us by. Responsibility is one thing. But even the word itself implies the need for a response.

Before we know it, the days, the weeks, those years pass and fade away and while children around us blossom, learn languages, skills and fill souls with excitement in their eyes, we risk becoming leaden burdens of try-nothingness, an energy-sapping slump to the natural way of life.

Or so it sometimes seems to me within the dark small hours of the night.

And so.

Tired as a I may be as I navigate this new, melted, reshifted world view.

It’s time to pull out my five senses. And start looking at that horizon.

What do you think? What holds adults back?

And while I have your attention, where’s best to travel with baby?

Thanks for listening,

Abi

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About the Author

Abigail King is an award-winning writer and author who swapped a successful career as a hospital doctor for a life on the road. With over 60 countries under her belt, she's worked for Lonely Planet, the BBC, National Geographic Traveller and more. She is passionate about sustainable tourism and was invited to speak on the subject at the EU-China High Level summit at the UNESCO Headquarters in Paris.Here she writes about food, travel and history and she invites you to pull up a chair and relax. Let's travel more and think more. Welcome!

  • Congratulations on your new little person!! You will be travelling with her soon enough. Children don’t hold you back, in fact, they broaden your horizons. My friend went to Bali with her 6-month-old. We got a dog a few months ago and now we see dogs everywhere we go. We have made many new friends since we got the dog. It’s funny how that works. We have also found a great dog sitter for when we travel!Enjoy every minute with your little sweetie.

    • Abi King says:

      Thank you! What a lovely perspective – and Bali, ah, swoon! One day! You’re right, it is interesting how you start to tune in on different things around you as life goes by. Great to hear that dogs boost friendships, too. Maybe once I’ve got the hang of parenting (!) I’ll have a stable enough lifestyle to consider pets…

  • Nancy says:

    Excellent article! As an adult, a sense of responsibility holds met me back. As a parent, it is safety. This hasn’t stopped me from travelling too much. With kids, we started with a 6-hour flight to a family-friendly resort on Maui – it was fantastic.

    • Abi King says:

      Ah, that’s fantastic! It’s actually so uplifting to read a sensible yet inspiring take on this… Not “do nothing” nor “throw caution to the wind!” I think I’ll gear up to a 5-6 hour flight to the States. It’s a big boost to hear that your starter flight of a similar length went well! I’ll keep you posted….!

  • Chloe Braithwaite says:

    This is an absolutely fantastic article, and inspiring to boot. Thank you for your insight.

    I think far too often, we tell ourselves we’ll do it another day. Sometimes, it’s just a simple, I’ll do it after I do X. For me, it’s procrastination and perfectionism, the worst combination. Nothing is ever good enough, so it never gets done. When it comes to travel, itineraries are never complete, budgets will never be met, and there’s never enough funds. So I deal with it later, when my mood swings from pessimistic to pragmatic to optimistic.

    I think the goal in life, for people with my particular affliction, is to aim for done, not perfect. It’s been my motto for the last three months, and I’ve made leaps and strides where once I would stare down at empty pages of my travel diary.

    Perhaps taking a more simple view of the world is another way to move ourselves forward, much like the children I have around me. I want, I get, I have. There’s nothing wrong with putting your wants first sometimes – though this is easier for me, as I don’t have children.

    Thanks again!

    • Abi King says:

      Thanks so much for the thoughtful comment – and apologies for the delay. I have actually been travelling – with baby – and I’ve been thinking about all of this once again.

      I agree with you, it’s so easy to over-complicate things. Back home, I realised I could get myself into a whirlwind of thought over simple things like timing naps, snacks, outfits for Rosa and so on…

      Once we made the decision and hit the road, a lot of that faff (for want of a better word) went away. And whether it was coincidence or not, she slept better too. In fact, the most memorable phrase from my 10 days in Louisiana was “what a happy baby!” from people walking past us in the street/on the streetcar/ on the plane etc

      But having seized the day with regards to travel, I notice I’ve slipped up a bit with writing – waiting until I am awake enough (ha!) or have enough time (double ha!) etc etc

      Your comment has reminded me to just, well, get on with it. I made myself write everyday before I had a baby – perhaps it’s time to reinstate that rule again now.

      Then it becomes easier – and I get on with things I can look back and be proud of (because, let’s face it, being up to date with the shredding etc is never going to set my heart on fire!)

      So…thanks so much for the comment – I really, really appreciate it.

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