Why travel with a baby, many ask. Too young to remember the trip and necessitating a host of adjustments to an adult itinerary; the work required to take them along will outweigh the benefits. So, at least, goes the travel advice on many of the websites I consulted before embarking on our journey.
Many of those sites went on to recommend waiting to travel internationally until children are older and can “benefit” from the trip. Some suggest leaving young children and babies with relatives and enjoying exotic vacations as a couple. These options, however, were not for us. In part because our trip is intended for our daughter to meet her Romanian side of her family and for her relatives in Romania to finally meet her. Familial obligations aside, I still had no desire to embark on a summer-long journey without my daughter.
As much as traveling with a small child presents additional challenges and restrictions, it also provides our family with a chance to spend some much desired quality time together, away from a work schedule, and with little to do but discover parts of the world otherwise unavailable to us together; as a family of three. And there is the issue of her still nursing, still waking up and requiring her parents’ comfort at night, and still needing us in a very real and tangible way.
Because I know that she won’t remember much of this journey later, I’m motivated to record and capture as much of this trip to someday share with her. Words jotted down in a travel journal, images captured and collected in a digital album, train stubs and postcards and mementos serving as tactile proof of a journey enjoyed. She may not remember the stops but she will have stories and images to make up the narrative fabric of her childhood.
And while our daughter may not remember this trip when she’s older, that’s not to say that the journey won’t shape her. How do you quantify the value of exploring the great outdoors from the vantage point of a hiking carrier strapped to her papa’s back? How do you assess the benefits of breathing in the fresh air, taking winding paths to beautiful waterfalls, meeting new people, making new friends, trying new foods, and simply enjoying all that the world beyond our backyard has to offer? (As I write this, we’re in the Smoky Mountains, where we took our baby hiking carrier on its inaugural hike to the beautiful Minihaha Falls near Lake Labun, Georgia).
Our daughter my not remember this trip but this trip is shaping and impacting her in more ways that we can likely understand. Moreover, we hope that what she’ll gather from travel at a young age is the value of moving beyond cultural lines and geographic borders to appreciating the myriad of people and cultures making up the colorful fabric of our global community. That early travel will instill in her a curiosity about the world and a desire to continue exploring long after she’s outgrown her baby carrier.
About Ruxandra Looft
Ruxandra Looft is a writer and editor based in Des Moines, Iowa. Originally from Romania, she’s called Germany, Austria, and Canada her home before settling in the Midwest. She holds a PhD in German and Comparative Literature and writes about parenthood, academia, and life on two wheels on her blog Simply Bike. Find more of her writing on her website and on Twitter @Simply Bike.