My husband and I just got back from a month long trip to visit his extended family in the Balkans… with our infant daughter. We questioned our desire to take such a long trip to such a culturally distant place with a five month old. Eventually, we put our fears aside and repeated what became our mantra: they have babies there, too!
We couldn’t be more thrilled with the experience. There is no word in the dictionary to describe how rad-tastical-times-infinity-one-million our trip was. That part of the world is magical, the people are uniquely hospitable and our daughter was so infant-y delicious I could cry just thinking about it.
Want to take your own international trip with your kid(s) in tow? Here are some things to think about before planning your first transatlantic/cross-cultural/far far away adventure with baby.
Invest in a soft structured carrier and get ready to use it… a lot!
Regardless of your baby’s size, you will not want to hold her the entire trip. Also, lugging a stroller or even pushing one down potholed gravel streets is not always feasible. After hearing great things about the ERGO baby carrier, we bought one. We carried our kid everywhere in that thing — on buses, through archeological sites, to street-side cafés where we sipped raki and Turkish coffee — and she loved every minute of it.
If you’re not experts already, practice co-parenting.
If you, your partner, or another caregiver have a majority share of the baby responsibilities at home, you’ll want to practice sharing those responsibilities in preparation for your trip. This is a vacation, after all, and if Dad gets stuck changing all the diapers, just like he does at home, he’s gonna be pissed. Make sure you each get alone time, and one-on-one time with your baby.
If you get the opportunity, leave the kid with someone you trust and take a few minutes for just the two of you. Be sure to take turns wearing your baby! Strategize about who will wear her and for how long before venturing out for the day. Most importantly, check in regularly with your partner to be certain you’re both on the same page and not feeling burdened. After a month of equally sharing the responsibility for our daughter’s care, my husband and I got into a very smooth co-parenting rhythm that continues today.
Be prepared for cultural differences in parenting styles.
While most Offbeat parents are used to some level of criticism of their parenting style, that criticism can be even more pronounced when visiting a foreign country. It’s important that you and your partner remain united and firm in your beliefs. My daughter is exclusively breastfed and while we were assured that public breastfeeding was perfectly okay in the countries we were visiting, we weren’t aware that exclusive breastfeeding past 4 months of age is unusual. So it’s no wonder why everywhere we went people were trying to feed our baby. Our refusal was often met with stern questioning but we held strong… until we didn’t.
What will you do when a stranger asks to hold your baby while you eat? What you think you might do and what actually happens may be vastly different.
Pick your battles and give in for the joy of the experience.
If you want to have a good time while enjoying another culture, you will need to pick your battles and let the rest of it go. Learn as much as you can about the place you’re visiting to avoid making judgment calls at the last minute; decisions made in haste can often be regrettable. Do you absolutely want your child in a car seat while driving? Will you tolerate an establishment or household that allows smoking inside? What will you do when a stranger asks to hold your baby while you eat? What you think you might do and what actually happens may be vastly different. And that’s okay. For us, we caved on the food. To the absolute delight of her Great Aunt and cousins, we gave our baby daughter a pinky’s worth of whipped cream on her 6 month birthday. And no one died.
So, what are you waiting for, Offbeat Travelers? Don’t let parenthood keep you from planning fantastical journeys to undiscovered destinations. Prepare as much as you can, as much as you want, but remember that wherever you go, they have babies there, too!