On the road: What I’ve learnt from 4 months travelling full-time with a toddler

In the last year, I’ve become well-versed in the art of making crazy decisions with my husband. The decision to rent out our house and move in with our parents. Crazy. The choice for my husband Eric to quit his full-time job and chase his entrepreneurial goals. Pretty risky considering he was the primary income earner. The decision to sell almost everything we own and buy one-way plane tickets around the globe. Not your average life choice.

Oh, and did I mention that we have a toddler? Yep, we bring a tiny, irrational, ridiculously cute bundle of energy with us wherever we wander. We are the Dare List Family: slow-travelling, time-poor digital nomads, playground-hunting experts, toddler chasers and in-flight entertainers.

We left Australia in mid-March 2017, on a round-the-world trip for the next few years … how long exactly, who knows? We’re following our noses and seeing where this adventure takes us.

In the first four months of our trip (mostly spent in South-East Asia) we’ve had some incredible highs and some pretty hard moments too. Here are a few lessons I’ve learned about travelling with a toddler.

1. Lower your expectations

Before you book that ticket overseas, tell yourself one thing over and over. This will be a fantastic trip, but it won’t be the same trip you made as a single, carefree 20-year-old. Travelling with a toddler means you have to forgo late drinks at the bar or overnight trips into remote canyons. Practice saying this: “Let’s come back and do this in X years”. Ubud/Bangkok/London will always be there.

2. You know that rainy day fund? Have a tech repair fund, too!

We took out travel insurance before we left, assuming the worst case scenario – luggage getting lost or stolen. What we didn’t predict was that our major pieces of technology – two laptops, two mobile phones, an iPad and a Drone would break in the first four months. At one point, it felt like a real boycott. Be prepared, because little hands and changing locations have a way of creating some real moments of chaos.

3. Get used to swings and roundabouts

Travelling with a toddler will come with swings and roundabouts. In Asia, our dollar went further, and we could afford more spacious accommodation with room for Leo to play indoors – especially important in the wet season. But we ate out almost every night there, and found the food was generally very sugary and unhealthy.

A note on eating out: In many parts of Asia, eating out is a lot cheaper and more feasible than trying to make wholesome meals in your under-equipped hotel or Airbnb kitchenette. In Bali, Malaysia, and Thailand, we only had home-cooked meals four times in three months! We ate out almost every night, which took a toll and sometimes had us pulling our hair out. Anyone who’s had a miserable experience in a restaurant with a toddler can relate.

Home cooking is a lot simpler in Europe, and healthy ingredients are easy to find, but the AUD exchange rate makes cost of living skyrocket, which means smaller types of accommodation and fewer ‘tourist’ experiences outside normal living expenses.

Swings and roundabouts … See what I mean?

4. Some days will just suck wherever you are

Travelling and working ‘full time’ (albeit with flexible working hours when you work for yourself) is similar to living at home. You have good days and bad days, even in the most picturesque locations in the world. We find that planning a few quiet days after flying between countries is vital for all of us to settle and adjust. Which leads me to the next thing I learnt …

5. Toddlers travel sloooow – be okay with that

Full-time travel differs from a holiday in that we’re not tourists every day – our aim is to stay in a location for 4-6 weeks and experience life as ‘a local’. Our style of travel is unrushed, and a typical morning will find us waking up slowly, eating a long breakfast together, taking a leisurely walk into the local village (punctuated by regular breaks where Leo squats down to look at ants, spider’s webs, rocks or his own shoes.) Being in a rush simply isn’t practical, especially when you don’t have a car, so we leave lots of time to travel between destinations. This includes getting to the airport early, though we’ve had to sprint to the gate a few times!

There have been some huge changes in this little man over the past few weeks. I've noticed that he is taking big leaps in his autonomy, wanting to assert his opinion and voicing his feelings. He has been fascinated with sad and what that emotion looks like on characters in books and on his own face. Yesterday he told daddy he didn't want to go for a swim in the pool, and because swimming is one of his favourite things, we knew this was a big decision for him. We're focusing on encouraging Leo to make good choices (eg. When he wants to throw his car off the 20th story balcony). And with all this new independence has come a renewed sense of connection and affection. He has started asking for cuddles and nestling in, which is so sweet for a energy ball who barely stops running. He loves us to cradle him in our arms and call him our baby. Thing is, he won't be our baby much longer 😭 #fridayreflections #theygrowupsofast #almost2

A post shared by Grace, Eric + Leo (@darelist.family) on

 

6. Sometimes we all just need space

Spending all our time together as a family is a dream come true, but the flipside is that we all need space, Leo included. Luckily, he loves playing imaginary games (usually dramatic ones involving cars and fire engines ‘getting stuck’) and can entertain himself for an hour or more.

Eric goes for long runs, and I hop in the pool with a book, or listen to a podcast with headphones in. Self-care is so important as a parent, and travel doesn’t change that, in fact it is probably more important since you rarely get a break!

7. Grandparents are the best!

Leaving our extended families to travel full-time has given me a renewed appreciation for Leo’s grandparents. The value of those relationships has been emphasised by distance, and we make an effort to connect regularly on Skype. They sing Leo songs and read books, and we screen capture videos to play back to him later.

Travelling with a toddler is definitely crazy, but also wonderful, unforgettable and life-changing. I wouldn’t trade these experiences for anything!

 

Follow the Dare List Family’s global adventures on their blog and on Instagram

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