I’ll admit it. We were too confident. We over-committed. Last summer, we took our then 17-month-old son on an international voyage. Did I mention that I was in my third trimester of pregnancy? And a record-setting heat wave was sweeping through Europe at the time? Now, I see these influencer travel families on Instagram and I think, “Yeah, we can totally do that! Babywearing makes everything possible!” Maybe some people can pull that ish off, but not us, even while babywearing. Well, I mean, I guess we did, but whoa. I needed a vacation from my vacation. >insert privilege check here<
The summer before, we had gone on a 4,000-mile road trip across the western United States, mostly camping and exploring our gorgeous National Parks. After that, we felt like we could do anything! Rookie parent mistake. James slept in his carseat 101% of the time we were on the road, and he was easy to pop in our beco carrier and bebop around with. Fast-forward a few months, and we were in the throes of planning a two-week trip to London and Paris. If we could drive that far with a baby, we could do anything, right?! Wrong. Since my husband and I are both teachers and are lucky enough to have a significant amount of time off together, we decided early on that we would dedicate a lot of our family’s resources to travel and experiences. While this is still one of our top values, our trip across seas taught us a LOT.
Lessons Learned While Traveling Out of Our Comfort Zones
We had traveled internationally as a couple, and had spent plenty of time roughing it together in the mountains of Colorado and beyond, so we thought we knew what we were getting ourselves into. Like most parents, we believe that if we just bring our kids along for the ride, they too, will learn to love what we love. I still whole-heartedly believe in this, but I also learned that budding toddlers have opinions of their own and aren’t afraid to voice them, whenever and wherever they feel like it. Like, under the infamous inverted pyramid of the Louvre. The acoustics in that museum lobby are GOOD-I know this because James tested them with his ultimate lung power. The biggest lesson we learned was to hold our little guy close by babywearing, especially in moments like these. It made all of us feel better, albeit, sweatier.
One of the most beautiful aspects of travel is that it forces us out of our comfort zones-I find this essential to growth as a human person. And man, did we find ourselves out of our comfort zones time and time again on this trip. The London neighborhood our AirBnB was in was a little too loud and boisterous for us, my high school-level French (shockingly) did not get us very far in France, and just physically, it was HOT. We knew we would be babywearing for most of the trip, so we didn’t even fly out with a stroller, we just bought a cheap umbrella stroller in London. We had all the gear: a little pop-up tent to keep James contained when we were staying at places without a pack-n’-play, baby melatonin (for obvious reasons), and our carrier that could pack down well. I figured we may or may not use all of the above, but I couldn’t have anticipated the physical and emotional value of that little carrier. That carrier helped us perfect THE ART OF THE BABYWEARING SCHLEP.
To fully appricate what I am saying here, let’s first look at the definition of ‘schlep.’
haul or carry (something heavy or awkward).
"she schlepped her groceries home"
- a tedious or difficult journey.
We experienced this word in each of its forms. We schlepped our stuff across 3 countries; the trip itself was a schlep. Now, we try to be as minimal as possible when we travel, but there is a stark reality of 3 people going transcontinental in terms of stuff. We each rolled a suitcase and wore a backpack and one of us, usually my husband, wore James. I had a stowaway of my own, who took up her own real estate, although I still wore James a lot when I was pregnant. Considering the streets we walked were uneven at best, and those umbrella strollers are too low and clunky to really navigate well, the carrier made the journey so much smoother-it helped us to contain US. Furthermore, as we explored places unfamiliar to us, sans luggage, the sense of closeness through babywearing was comforting. I can speak for myself and my husband, but we loved that James was on us and not able to reach out and grab (too many) unknown items, he wasn’t getting fried under the unrelenting sun in a stroller, and most importantly, he was safe. I would like to think that he felt the same way-in environments of new sounds and smells, at least he knew we were right there, too.Onto the next babywearing adventure! We can do it, right?! James is game. And now that Eva is earthside, we will get her on board.