Meaningful Travel: 7 Lessons my Toddler has Taught me in his 2½ Years of Travel

I’ve always loved traveling. I think I got bit by the travel bug early in my childhood when we visited Disney World for my 6th birthday. Ever since then I kept asking my parents where we would be going next and I secretly hoped it was a far away land like those I read about on my Grimm Brother’s fairytale collection.  As I got older I always found a way to travel or even better live somewhere abroad for longer periods of time. I signed up for every single school trip even if it meant going to a nature reserve I didn’t particularly care about, went on every outing offered by my Model UN team and went to a YMCA camp in Alabama when I was a tween (that, my friends, was a great cultural experience).  After traveling all over the US and most of the beach towns in Mexico I was craving for more.

As a teenager I studied abroad in West Vancouver and as soon as I got back I told my mom I wanted to move to Canada. That didn’t happen so I had to look for a new excuse to travel again. When I started college I signed up for a program where a year of study abroad was mandatory (yay!) and ended up moving to Clermont-Ferrand, France.  A small university town located in the midst of the volcanic region of Auvergne. Of course I back-packed all over Europe and slept in the best and worst conditions a hostel can offer a girl traveling by herself trying to visit as many countries with as little money possible. A three-month internship in Brussels later, I came back to Mexico longing for even more.

Fast-forward a few years later, I finish college, move to DC for my dream job, meet the love of my life, quit my dream job and move to Germany. I then started what I didn’t know at the time was my dream-life. I got to travel all over Europe, (again), but this time with my best friend by my side, and actually staying in hotels!

We then decided to add to our little family of two and made a baby in Germany who was manufactured with American and Mexican parts in Bangkok. As I held Evan in my arms I thought my life as a globetrotting woman had ended. I thought having a baby meant giving everything up, even worse, giving myself up. I learned that wasn’t the case. Evan has taught me so much about life and about myself and in his mere two years and a half of life he has taught me to see things under a different light.

This little man has over 10 stamps in his passport and about 70,000 air miles under his belt. As he keeps growing he teaches me that there is more to see that what the bare eyes can absorb and traveling, no matter what the circumstances are, is always enriching and fulfilling.

These are a few lessons my dear Evan has taught me about travel

1. You don’t need a schedule.

When I first started traveling by myself, I used to obsess and maniacally set up a schedule of the landmarks I was going to see, in which order and at what time of day to get the best view. Evan has taught me that naptime, play time and lunchtime can be done anywhere, anytime as long as you are enjoying what you are seeing. He has taught me that it takes time to actually appreciate everything and take it all in. I remember getting a bit annoyed when my then  18 month-old kept staring at a train at a museum for over 3 minutes, I thought he should see all the other things the museum had to offer but I later found out that all he wanted was to go back to that train and admire it. So observe, take a deep breath, take your time and let everything just sink in.

2. Taste everything.

At least once. Evan will eat most anything. And probably spit it out, but at least will put everything in his mouth and keep in what he really likes. I must confess I’m not very daring when it comes to trying new foods. I’m not saying go ahead and get the most exotic meal on the menu (no, I don’t really want to eat fried bird bones) but at least be willing to try everything once. I recently discovered I really really like pickled Japanese food! I was so scared of trying all the sides when I was playing safe and ordering teriyaki chicken or a simple roll that I always left the sides for my husband to eat. I later discovered everything I had been missing.

3. Cherish the little things

Evan gets excited about the simplest of things. He will be so joyful as he rides on a train, airplane, tuk-tuk or an elephant.  As I get anxious about the long plane ride ahead, Evan starts jumping up and down and looking at the airplanes outside the window. He loves to feel the breeze on his face as we ride on an open-aired boat or bus and doesn’t even think twice about running towards a statue and standing in awe of its size. Above all, he loves having mom, dad and baby Josh with him and will enjoy every second spent as a family.

4. Esteem Nature.

Evan appreciates nature as he stops and acknowledges things we usually take for granted such as the little flowers on the sidewalk or the sounds of the chirping birds. What we see as just another giraffe at the zoo, Evan sees as a majestic animal that deserves to be admired.  He appreciates the little miracles of God’s creation as he sees a butterfly fly out of its cocoon or the waves of the ocean hit the rocks. What had become just another island to us, for Evan was a brand new adventure land to explore.

5. Interact with the locals.

His beaming smile always draws people in and he never leaves a place without making a new friend. Thanks to him we usually end up with the best inside scoop and travel trips and our experience is totally transformed as we see things from a different perspective.  Learning about a new culture and truly being immersed in the local life has been so enriching and mind-opening.

6. Only carry the essentials.

Every time I start packing for a new trip a little man comes into scene and removes half the stuff I’ve already packed. I usually have to hide the suitcase from him and pack in the stealth of my room. Nevertheless, he always makes sure he has his favorite blanket and pillow alongside a Sippy cup, a book and his favorite car in his backpack. He doesn’t care about clothes, diapers or shoes but always puts his dearest belongings in his own carry-on. A few times I’ve realized I’ve forgotten something at home, but Evan doesn’t fret. I’ve had to find “alternatives” to his usual snacks or toys and Evan will happily try new things and find new things to entertain himself with.

7. Know when to stop and relax.

I’ve always had the tendency to put more on my plate than I can handle. I have a very busy schedule all the time and rarely give myself time to stop and wind down. The same happens when I travel. I want to see every single thing on the tourist guides and will walk until my feet are sore and I’ve seen the last statue on the book. Evan has taught me that even the most exciting places will still be there tomorrow and that it’s important to take a break and recharge our batteries.

What have your children taught you about travel?

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18 thoughts on “Meaningful Travel: 7 Lessons my Toddler has Taught me in his 2½ Years of Travel

  1. What fun post for me to read, and cute pics! We have so many common lessons learned from our children – in life and in travel. And thank you for pointing me to (kind of funny since I’m working on a post about only having three bags for our upcoming journey to Laos!).

    • Three bags! For the four of you??? You are my hero!!!!! I’m still learning as I go but I have fun (and get very tired) every time we travel with the kids!

      • Ok, it will turn out to be 4 check-in bags after all because one of them was over 50lbs. I feel like there is so much to learn with every move, somehow they’re all different (climate, environment and activities, kids’ age and interests). One thing is for sure, it’s never easy! Just packed out today so it will be several weeks of suitcase living. Will post soon about packing but I almost want to wait to see how it plays out. Perhaps it will need to be a series.

  2. Thank you for participating in our Family Travel Friday blog hop. I really like #2 Taste Everything. I think we forget that if we don’t like something we taste, we can always spit it out! I will remind my children about this and teach them to do it discreetly 🙂 I also like your tip about cherishing the little things. Often trips are cram packed with must sees that we don’t allow time to really enjoy our favorites.

    Thanks again!

    • Hi Theresa! THanks for the blog hop. I think it’s a really fun way to see other traveling families. Regarding the tasting new things, he still spits stuff out,he’s just two after all. but I’ve sometimes had to take a big gulp of food I didn’t like and wash it down with a lot of water. At least I’ve been trying many new things I didn’t dare touch before.

  3. This was such a sweet post and helpful for me to read. I’ve often wondered about the effect having children would have on my life (even before signing up for the FS life) but it sounds like your little boys haven’t prevented you from seeing the world and experiencing the things you want — if anything, they have opened your eyes to more.

    • Ni Natasha. Of course traveling with kids is sometimes a bit more challenging than doing it by ourselves. We cannot enjoy watching 5 movies back-to-back on a long-haul flight like we used to but we have learned to stop and enjoy every step of our journeys. Being a mom is the biggest blessing that has been granted to me and I wouldn’t change it for anything, except maybe some real sticky rice and mango? Just kidding, it does have an effect on your life but one you will never regret!

  4. I think you have described perfectly how having a child can change the way you travel – for the better! Sure it may be challenging sometimes and you may have to slow down and you certainly won’t see everything in the guide book but travel becomes so much more meaningful when you slow down, appreciate a place and make connections with the people that live there.

    • Hi Lisa! Thanks for dropping by! And I couldn’t agree more! Traveling with my boys has been one of the most eye-opening and fulfilling experiences. I look forward to seeing them grow appreciative of their surroundings and enriched by the many cultures they experience!

    • Hi Paige. I’ve found the boys to be a great asset to get to know about the best spots to visit. In South East Asia kids are just loved with devotion so I always get a swarm of wanna-be baby sitters every time we go to a restaurant, yay! I can actually eat my dinner without Josh trying to steal the fork from my hand.

  5. I love this post! What great lessons and such cute photos! Your kids sound like wonderful little travelers-which is probably because of the great example you and your husband provide!

    • Thanks Dani! I am very grateful they are good little travelers. Evan of course sometimes has terrible twos moments and Josh is still getting used to traveling on a plane but overall they enjoy being out and about as much as we do….

  6. Great observations! Our travels have become even more meaningful since our children came along. Having children helps me appreciate the world in a whole new way.

    • HI Allison! Thanks for your comments! And yeah, we have learned so many things while traveling with our boys, including the art of changing a diaper almost anywhere! =P

  7. This is wonderful and I love that your little guy has already taught you so much at such a young age. The pictures are adorable! I’m so like you in wanting to see everything too. My kids have taught me to slow down and be patient during all these years of travel. I love seeing everything through their eyes. I hope your Paris planning has gone well. Sorry, I was on vacation when I answered your FB question. Safe travels!

    • Hi Mary! I tried booking the apartment but the dates didn’t work out. We ended up booking a hotel. Thanks for the info though, I will keep it in mind for net time. This vacation came together in less than a month so we are just doing as much as we can from here. Thanks for your comments. I love traveling with my little man and I can’t wait to see how Josh reacts to everything he will see!

  8. Pingback: {KualaLumpur} A few Petro-Sights | Stumble Abroad

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