“A mind that is stretched by a new experience can never go back to its old dimensions.”Oliver Wendell Holmes
Travel and adventure have always been two of my biggest passions. I grew up in a family who took travel and adventure seriously and was so thankful when I met my hubby and learned that he too loved the idea of hoping on a plane or in the car to explore new places.
Life before Gracie was full of “vacations” as I now call them. We’d pack our bags and we’d go wherever. These vacations were near or far- plane rides, car rides, train rides. One Columbus Day weekend years ago, our flight to New Orleans was cancelled due to a hurricane so instead we hopped on a flight to Colorado and visited friends who live in Snowmass/Aspen! These vacations were full of early morning flights and late night festivities. Breakfast in bed and slow wake ups. Frequent change of scenery and spontaneous galavanting. Aimless wandering and unplanned fun. Most often being fully present and returning home feeling inspired, rejuvenated, and centered.
This was one of my biggest fears during my pregnancy – the fear of change and the fear of losing out on these adventures and the freedom to do so. How will this change our relationship when this was such a big part of who we are? How can this parenting adventure take over the ski days and European trips?
If you’ve been here for a while you know my daughter was born 6 months before the start of the pandemic. Her first time on a plane was when she was about 2 months old and man oh man. This was when said “vacation” turned into what I call a “trip.” A trip is a vacation with children and if you’ve traveled with children you know what I’m talking about. Try stuffing your car seat into a car seat bag while slightly hungover at the security checkpoint with a baby strapped to your chest. That basically sums up our first flying adventure with her, hence why I call it a trip. The preparation it takes to pack up a baby is no joke – not to mention the change in schedule, the travel alone, the lack of sleep, and oh yeah the amount of baby gear!
During this first trip my expectations were dragged through the mud – before we even boarded the plane. I knew I would have to adopt a new mindset in order to keep our passions alive with a baby added to the #sousasquad. I knew for her to embrace being flexible and adaptable – I too had to be flexible and go with the flow. We don’t travel with our babies to have those late nights, but instead we trade them in for rising with the sun early mornings. Here’s why we travel with our babies:
1.) Traveling enhances developmental milestones as it exposes your littles to different sights, scenes, smells, food, faces, and languages which can be shaped starting at birth. The most rapid brain development occurs in the first five years of a child’s life, and especially in the first three, which is why surrounding children from birth to about three years old with people, places, and food that are different than their “normal” which helps normalize those experiences and helps them expand on developmental milestones.
2.) Traveling helps build confidence and character as the experiences that occur while journeying are likely different than those that occur during your day to day life at home. While traveling most often children are trying new things – maybe overcoming fears or opening up new possibilities. Think about how traveling has helped you build confidence, find new pieces of yourself, and create character. Now imagine this as the building blocks for your child’s sponge like mind.
3.) Traveling teaches children to be flexible and adaptable as it encourages them to be more adaptable to changing situations and be more flexible in their habits. These attributes help when it comes to switching up the daily routine, sleeping schedules, food preferences, and more! As we know life can bring about many situations where you may have to “roll with the punches” and traveling can help introduce these simple routine changes that can pay dividends as the years go on.
4.) Traveling creates memories and experiences that you and your children will remember your entire life. It isn’t always easy to prepare and pack, to schlep and trek, to have early morning wake ups and exhausted breakdowns. However the memories that are created on these adventures may be some of your favorite. The stories of my childhood adventures are some that are still shared at the round table on holidays and I know they have shaped who I am today and my love for adventure.
5.) Traveling sparks curiosity and helps children discover their interests by exposing them to new and different things. I have always loved that traveling can really open your eyes to different environments, cultures, foods, history, and experiences. Letting your child discover new places and people will also give them access to more options on how to enjoy their life, especially as they get older and form their own preferences, hobbies, and skills. For example my daughter may never remember cross country skiing in Aspen, but this exposed her to something different that may help her identify that as a hobby as she gets older and experiences more!
She won’t remember the first time she got on that plane. She won’t remember her face when we dunked her toes into the Pacific Ocean in Cabo San Lucas. She won’t remember the views from the tops of the beautiful snow filled peaks of Aspen. My husband and I however – we’ll never forget it. We don’t travel with our babies to come back feeling rejuvenated, but instead to build character, to create memories, to share stories, and to yield flexible and adaptable children. Gone are the days of aimless wandering, slow wake ups, and late night festivities. Not only have I accepted it, but I’ve embraced it. The smile on her face as she experiences new things is worth it for us, and what she gets out of these journeys will be with her for her entire life. So if you’re afraid to book the trip or hop in the car for a long drive – don’t be! Embrace the chaos, enjoy the memories, and know that the moments from these adventures will follow you throughout your lifetime.
Anthony Bourdain said it best when he said, ‘Travel isn’t always pretty. It isn’t always comfortable. Sometimes it hurts, it even breaks your heart. But that’s OK. The journey changes you; it should change you. It leaves marks on your memory, on your consciousness, on your heart, and on your body. You take something with you. Hopefully, you leave something good behind.”
Where have you adventured with your babies!?