10 September 2012

An ambulatory education: Seven things I wish I'd known before traveling the world with a child

ein: Humor is universal, even when there exists an absolute language barrier. Be surprised at it, roll its sweetness around on your tongue, then pass it on.

deux: In every locale, there has been at least one kind stranger who opens a door, helps lift a stroller, offers to give up a seat on the bus, or entertains my wailing child with a silly face. It doesn't happen every time I need it but definitely more often than I expect it to.

tre: People in all the places we've been raise their children with diapers, formula, baby food, and other basic necessities, which makes forgetting a staple less upsetting, more fixable. 

neljä: Even if you're pregnant and/or nauseated, or the pickiest eater in town, don't let the local cuisine stop you from going somewhere. Get to a supermarket; most people in the world eat crackers, dried fruit, or whatever else is on your not-so-big "consumables" list. I'm a huge supporter of eating locally when in a new place, but some situations just call for crackers and seltzer water.

penki: Our kid's been on a lot of planes. And, by a lot, I mean something like thirty flights in his seventeen months. On some flights, I've gotten close to pressing the call button to ask for a divorce, a drink, a parachute, a parental rights waiver, and a notary. On others, I want to tap every passenger and flight crew on the shoulder and say Did you SEE how good my kid was, DIDYOUDIDYOUDIDYOU? Most sky-high experiences fall into the second category, thankfully. But it's easy to lose perspective, and confidence, when things don't go smoothly. Hang in there. Flying with a child is marvelously empowering; it will make you stronger, more patient, and more likely to laugh it off, whatever it may be (your lap infant peeing through his diaper, his pants, and your husband's pants, for example).

seši: Public transit in cities is often user-friendly; once you've traversed a few different systems, you'll get it. Tip: Check for a separate, handicap-friendly door if your buggy or pram is looking a little wide for the opening. They (almost) always exist. Don't freak out. Been there; it doesn't work. Ask.

zeven: Most restaurants nowadays are fairly kid-friendly. I mean, be smart about it; don't go to the 5-star with a jacket policy, candles, and audibly clinking silverware as the only background noise. But just because you're toting one or more littles around doesn't mean you're relegated to fast food and themed restaurants.

Synopsis: don't let your fear stop you. If you sit down to think about all the reasons why your family is better off at home than getting on a plane, you will probably come up with a long list of NOs. Travel is an irreplaceable experience, no matter where you go. So, instead, say yes; each time you do, your no list might just get shorter. And shorter and shorter and shorter.

Bon voyage!