Traveling with a Baby the Journey So Far

I recently spoke about these experiences at a travelers meet here in the city hosted by an enterprising travel company called F5 Escapes which along with group tours for families and individuals specializes in travel for women. They always seem to have a list of compelling tours for women planned in their dossier. It was also exciting to hear other stories at this #JustGo event from other women travelers on their journeys and travel experiences.

It is true that I expected to have traveled as much as I could before my baby was born and then probably stay in one place and ‘ settle down’. But the truth is that since he was born we have traveled more and much further. So far since my kid, we have managed to tick 7 countries from our list and have actually lived in 4 of these countries for a couple of months. Not bad for a 2 and half year old rt? Now the next milestone we have is when my toddler will start school and as friends with good intentions tell me that once the kid starts school we will have to put away our suitcases for the next 10 or more years. This of course remains to be seen.

You will need  a lot of enthusiasm as you will in evidently end up chasing a toddler around an airport.

We gave birth to a born traveler who happens to be more at ease and amicable on the road than anywhere else, home seems to be the last place he wants to be in. We aren’t strangers to long haul flights, sleeping at airports and making the best of the available food though I do follow some basic rules like always keep three things handy eats, entertainment and enthusiasm. You will need the last one a lot as you will in evidently end up chasing a toddler around an airport.

It has been our experience that kids adapt fast and sometimes better than adults and we experienced this first hand as my then 9 month old baby fell in love with noodles in Singapore, waddled in his thick fleece jacket with us around China and charmed many locals, hmphrrd like a hippo in Kenya and trekked with us in South Africa at Cape Point. Traveling with my kid has been quite different from traveling solo or as a couple as our first thought before we travel to a new destination is his well being.

Young ones are sturdy they managed the difficult trip down the birth canal didn’t they.

The reactions from different people in these various countries have also been very welcoming. We have posed for umpteen photos with strangers in China, have always managed to get special service at restaurants as my kid managed to charm waitresses and sometimes cooks. Have had staff at hotels give us small gifts for the kid and many interesting conversations with locals. We have had some small scares on the road too like being stuck on the road with four consecutive flat tires in Kenya, being pulled aside by the authorities at the airport because the kid was running a slight temperature, falling sick in China even after ensuring that he ate only hygienic food. Our positive experiences out weigh any small bumps we might have on the road. I would quite wholeheartedly recommend that families travel with young children beyond theme parks, you never know what adventures you might run into.

At an airport in China when traveling alone with my kid
At an airport in China when traveling alone with my kid
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A Kenya Safari Fit For A Toddler

Planning to go on a Kenya safari with a toddler did make me question our sanity and whether it was the right choice for us. There were numerous questions that crossed my mind such as safety, illness that could come up during the trip, food that my little one could eat, costs involved and many such criteria.

Our planning for this trip to Kenya revolved more around these issues than anything to do with tickets, etc. We spoke to people we knew who had lived in Kenya with their kids, scored various reviews and received a good amount of advice. Finally we decided to go ahead and book our tickets for Kenya because after all, they have children in Kenya too.

The day before the trip my little one got a slight temperature but it quickly went away. Still, it managed to give us a scare at the airport in Kenya where they measure the temperature of alighting passengers through some high tech gadgets.

Finally we decided to go ahead and book our tickets for Kenya because after all, they have children in Kenya too.

Once we landed we boarded a safari jeep, which would be our home for the next three days as we explored in Kenya. We had chosen to hire an entire jeep as opposed to sharing it with other tourists in order to be in control of our time and decide when we went on a safari and when we rested.

Our first stop was Lake Naivasha, which was the most beautiful but eerie looking lake I have ever seen. While taking a boat ride around the lake, the whole expanse of it hit me. It was a bit chilly in the evenings and since I was traveling with a toddler I was prepared with enough clothes to last us for a few months.

Lake Naivasha had many hippos and that gave me a bit of a scare as hippos are known to be territorial and can easily attack if anyone crosses their territory. Hence, whenever the guide insisted that we take a closer look, I flatly refused and relied only on the ability of our zoom lens. The resulting pictures are a treasure–never before in my life had I seen so much wildlife out in the open, all seemingly without a care. By the end of the boat ride, my toddler had learnt how to grunt like a hippo with quite some flourish.

One trick the tour guide did was getting an eagle to swoop and take fish from his hand as he made a whistling sound.  He said it was safe, but the mama instincts in me did not want to experiment with this. Also, I firmly believe that wildlife should be respected and when people go on safaris, the rules that need to be followed are the ones that the animals make.

By evening on the first day, we reached our lodge at Lake Nakuru. My son refused to get into the comfortable room and bed, which was what we adults needed after a long and dusty day on the road. To him, the end of the day signaled that the day of fun in the safari jeep was over.

Kenya and India have a slight time difference but how do you explain this to a two-and-a-half year old who promptly got up at 3:30 am Kenya time and started bawling to go out? He was so loud that a Masai, who was keeping watch outside, came to our window to inquire if something had happened to the child. After a packet of biscuits and some of his favorite stories, we finally got him to go back to sleep.

When day broke, we pushed aside the curtains in the lodge to find the most spectacular view of the safari park dotted with herds of animals. Lake Nakuru is known to be a haven for flamingoes and that is just what we found on the safari drive we took after a lovely breakfast at the lodge. We learnt a lot on this safari, including that my child loves cornflakes and can never have enough of it.

The African grasslands is a great equalizer, and I felt like I was just another animal in this landscape as the animals allowed us to enter their part of the world.

Words cannot describe the experience of the safari, the open top jeep and the bliss we experienced while seeing this piece of paradise tucked away in this corner of the world. In all of the safaris we have embarked on before, the animals looked at us through thick forests and shrubs. But, the African grasslands is a great equalizer, and I felt like I was just another animal in this landscape as the animals allowed us to enter their part of the world.

Wherever we went with our kid we received warmth, compassion and friendliness which put aside many of the fears we had when we embarked on this trip. This is not to say that we did not have bumps on the road, as well.

Published first on Pink Pangea