10 lessons learnt from 10 years of life and travels with Shahaar
Your child’s birthday is always a reason to celebrate and feel happy about… To me some years are more of a milestone than others, I have a thing for numbers. On Shahaar’s 7th birthday, I wrote a secret poem for him– my first and last poem to date – which I only shared with my best friend. That was before my travel blogging days when I kept such sentiments to myself. As opposed to now when I share my everyday thoughts with the world! Okay, maybe not every thought, but mostly everything related to travelling as a family and few personal life posts 🙂 Today my baby boy turns 10!! So you can imagine I cannot let such a milestone to slip by without reflecting upon it on our family travel blog 😀 UPDATE: Added another lesson at the end from life and travels with Shahaar as he turns 11 today
On that introduction, and keeping to the theme of Selims Raasta – here are ten life lessons I have learnt from travelling (literally and metaphorically) up and down the road of life as a parent. I hope it can help to shed preconceived notions that one can’t travel anywhere in the world with children, how it can be easy and fun, how one can enjoy ‘adult’ sightseeing whilst travelling with kids, how important it is to expose children to nature, and the joys of family travel with little ones, whilst they are still young and want to travel with you!
Start them young and it just gets easier
You always hear people say we will wait to travel till the kids are older. They fear how difficult it will be with crying babies, changing nappies, adjusting to different sleep time, the list goes on…we had our first opportunity to travel internationally with Shahaar when he turned 8 weeks old. He got his first set of vaccination and we were off the next day to Switzerland where we spent an amazing holiday in the Swiss Alps with dear friends. We took Shahaar to Bangladesh when he was 4 months, travelled to Sunderbans mangrove forests by boat and to other parts of the country that same trip. I travelled through 4 states in USA when he was 10 months and did our first 10 days camping roadtrip driving from London to Scotland just after he turned one.
What made it easy?
Maybe it helped that Shahaar was the golden baby, he was very easygoing from day 1, he went to everyone and was happy to chill out on his rocker. He was content to just go with the flow as it was ‘normal’ to him to have changes every few weeks(he moved houses 8 times before age of 3.) Food – not an issue for 6 months as just breastfed. Sleep – took naps during the day when he did! Yes, you have to think of a few extra things – dipaers and extra clothes – but I honestly found the key was to RELAX (mentally) and letting the baby be an extension to your travels. Perhaps I was a little sleep deprived? As long as not stressed, it didn’t matter 🙂 And it got easier over time!
Easier to do some things when travelling with little ones!
We find it easier to go on long hikes (babies don’t whine as much as older kids do) and have peaceful long meals (if timed right and eat when the baby is sleeping). In some ways it’s easier with babies as they take long naps. During those times it’s easier to sightsee at museums or still have long drawn out meals at restaurants. Babies and little ones also don’t have expectations from travels – give them open space, fresh air, water bodies, and they tend to be happy.
Cheaper to travel when they are babies and when there was 1!
This is by the most important lessons we have learnt! Age 2 is the key…do lots of travelling before that whilst airfare is still for family of 2. Most attractions kids are still free, hotels don’t charge extra. We managed to squeeze in Eiffel Tower 7 days before Shahaar turned 3, a very early age to start charging in my opinion. And let’s not forget meals..gone are the days when we didn’t have to pay for four people when we eat out. Travel more whilst there is only one kid!
Importance of experiencing all elements of nature
Ashique and I have an ingrained love for nature, wildlife, the greater outdoors, all our travels pre kids were based around this and we are both passionate about conservation and sustainability. Needless to say this is very much a part of our family life and travels as well 🙂 It gives me so much pleasure to see that reflected back in the children’s temperament, hobbies, art, and their knowledge, understanding and compassion for all living creatures. You really will NEVER go wrong exposing your children to the wonders of nature, be it in your backyard, local park, national parks and around the world.
Kids can enjoy history, ruins and sightseeing too
There are many ways of getting kids interested in history and culture. It helps when your 3 year old is obsessed with knights! Castles and amphitheatres become quite popular! It helps to talk about history from before – before we went to Verona we talked about Romeo and Juliet. Before we went to Eiffel Tower or any of the Museums in Paris, we built it up so that they can enjoy it (in small chunks of time). We did the same for temples in Thailand and Souks of Morocco. Exposing them to history from a young age allowed us to enjoy all this whilst travelling with little ones.
Exposure to different aspects in life – teaching and learning about adaptability
We are lucky that the children have such a dual heritage where they get to enjoy freedom and ‘luxury’ – in terms of safety and comfort – in the western world having grown up in UK. But at the same time they have been to Bangladesh several times and enjoyed the chaotic and crazy experiences of riding a motorbike, fishing with local fishermen in ponds, and just learning and appreciating how people in other parts of the world live. We never shied from exposing them to all aspects of travels and this in turn has made them very adaptable. They are able to use various kinds of public toilets (or deal with lack of) and stay/travel in different conditions – dealing with heat, cold, mosquitoes and pretty much being able to sleep anywhere!
Teaching responsibility, independence and letting go
Teaching kids about survival skills when travelling and giving them the independence as they grow older can sometimes be hard as a parent! Shedding part of that protective motherly nature and letting Shahaar use a Swiss Army knife, explore on his own, teaching about safety on a boat, hooking bait when fishing – all lessons that are crucial in helping him to become his own independent self and a seasoned traveller.
Learning about the literal meaning of Circle of Life
I found out I was to become a mother and lost my own mother within a span of a few months. I already wrote a post about this as a Memoir to Ammu, but here I just wanted to add how carrying Shahaar during those heartbreaking months helped to bring meaning to life again. One of the realizations I had when Shahaar was born, was how no one else loves you as much as a mother does. But it’s also nice to know, for now, I am also the love of Shahaar’s life 🙂
Reliving your childhood memories and sharing new experiences with your children
This is now one of the best part of travelling with the kids! They are at an age where I remember travelling with my parents and it’s great seeing them experience new things, trying out hobbies, going through phases that I myself went through. Finding out in Morocco that Shahaar loves ‘Lassi’ too and sharing love for Star Wars. There are some things we exposed him too young (which he didn’t enjoy) – white water rafting at age 5…Proud moment when the kids finished their first long hike -7k in Black Forest and even prouder to have done the 20k Tongariro Hike with them in New Zealand. The travel memories are endless!
In the blink of an eye, they grow up! Enjoy these precious time whilst they are still children 🙂
UPDATE: Shahaar turns 11 today, I am the mother of a tween now! So much has changed in this one year…we have left our home in England, lived in New Zealand for a year, travelled in a campervan around Australia for 2 months and have now moved to Bangladesh for…awhile 🙂 Here’s a new lesson added to my life and travel lessons with Shahaar (and Shama)
Trust your parenting instincts and do what feels right for your family, children really are more resilient than you might think!
We have been in Bangladesh for one month now and in Shahaar’s own words – it’s been a fun one month with so many friends and family around. I cannot count the number of times we have been told it will be hard for the kids, they will find it difficult to adjust and even more disapproval that we took them out from their comfort zone twice – once when we left England to go to New Zealand and now again from NZ to Bangladesh. It hasn’t been a bed of roses, I won’t lie…life in Dhaka is intense and filled with it’s own…issues. But so far it feels right, for us, as a family. I am happy to say, the kids have been adjusting great, loving all the company, enjoying the luxury of Dhaka life, but at the same time adjusting to the heat, mozzies, traffic, pollution, language barrier, different food and all the other things that comes in the package of good and bad of Dhaka life. As we felt they would…children are resilient! Ashique and I are thankful for the good friends and family all around that are helping to make this big move here after 12 years abroad go smoothly….and as always, ever so proud of our two young adventurers 🙂