Few mamas travel as much as I do with my kid; she’s not even 2.5 and has just arrived in her 8th country: Thailand. We are definitely not counting them like badges of honor in a dusty old passport (I have 33 countries – Read ’em and weep), but suffice it to say, we travel a lot.
I was already well seasoned in solo travel before I had my daughter, but something was missing.
It’s all a process like anything else. First you vacation at an all-inclusive and that gets you a little hot to see the world. Then comes the backpacking days – you travel the world in dirty hippie format, seeing as much as possible for as cheap as possible. Eventually you ditch the backpack for an all-wheel drive, start staying in Airbnbs and thinking about splitting your time between a rich home country and some place with a killer beach. Now you are an expat, but still on the outside – still forced to hang with other foreigners and watch from the sidelines. I spent years trying to get out of that bubble and never quite nailed it.
‘Till I had a baby.
Now we go local. Kids are like the secret knock at a Manhattan speakeasy circa 1997 (back when New York was cool). We still stay in Airbnbs and guest houses, but only ones operated by locals and mostly in homes where the host lives. We daycare, which is an automatic intro to the parents in whatever place we are living (it’s actually really easy to find a local or mixed daycare – just ask your host).
Almost all tourism is geared towards singles or couples who day drink and since that does not fit us, we are almost forced to hangout with locals (the horror) ’cause they are the ones doing the things we want to do. And it is the most glorious travel of my life. It’s “Paris, First Class, international” (little View From The Top reference for ya there). The best part, is it’s almost effortless. Luna strikes the conversations, gets the attention, opens all the doors. She’s like that cute kid in Jerry McGuire.
We got upgraded to a better room in Tulum at a locally owned hostel when she was 3 months, and somehow managed to eat at the only Mexican joints in town that are all hidden from tourists because the manager, a mom, introduced me to all her friends. In Colombia I got all the good food recos from the part-time nanny we hired online. I have had countless rows on planes given to us for free. Mayan women in Chiapas taught me how to wrap my baby in the longest fabric ever and explained to me how to protect my c-section incision. Ladies in the street, whom I met. In. The. Street.
Recently in Bali we got the best recommendation on the only restaurant with a kids playground by foreign woman who married a Balinese man ten years ago and has never looked back. And we also got invited to go to a five year ceremony at one of the biggest and most famous Hindu temples in Bali with my friend’s Sumi, and his wife, Putu – tourists are not allowed in usually. I met him as a tour guide but since we are the same age with daughter’s a year apart, it wasn’t long before we were invited over to his place and became good friends.
When people talk about showing their kids the world, this is what they are envisioning. At least it’s what I envision. Anyone can get drunk off single-use plastic by a pool, but learning how other mamas live, cook, take care of and enjoy their babies is priceless. These experiences not only help me as a parent to feel supported and secure when traveling with a kid – need a pediatrician? Daycare’s got that number no problem. Need a child size Robocop helmut? Gede, the man you rented a moto from just bought one for his son and can show you the shop. I could go on for pages. But also, this is the stuff that I am passing on to my kid – all these local experiences are teaching her about our differences but also similarities in the world. That community is all around us that the village is the world and that we are all basically the same.
The last two years of travel with my daughter has hands down created the most meaningful memories for me. And I have many binders filled with amazing mama friends all over the world too.
Anna Von Frances can be found on Instagram and Facebook and Youtube @TravelMamaAnnaVon
Sign Up for her newsletter for tips, tricks and discounts for traveling mamas here: www.travelmamaannavon.com
Get your copy of:
THE REBEL MAMA’S HANDBOOK FOR (COOL) MOMS