This weeks interview come from Kalli Hiller of PortableProfessionals.com. She blogs about their travels as a family of three with an infant, as well as how to sustain a nomadic lifestyle. Read more of her adventures at the blog, or find her on facebook.
What was your travel style like before you had children?
My husband and I traveled for three years nonstop before having children. We lived for 1-3 months in each country before moving on to the next, usually choosing an apartment in just one city to stay in. Our style was, and is, low-key: we go to the gym, grocery shop, and hang out with friends much as we would if we were back in the States. We lived in 5 continents and 27 countries this way, all funded through internet business.
What ages were your children when you started travelling with them?
Our son was born on the road. We found out we were expecting in Guadeloupe, a French-speaking island in the Caribbean. We had to decide where we wanted to have him. For a variety of reasons, we chose Mexico. He was born at a hospital in Mexico City. Looking back, that was a very scary time with a lot of unknowns. It turned out just fine though. We’d do it again. Our child knows nothing but this lifestyle.
Why did you decide that exposing your children to travel was important?
Because travel is necessary for my sanity, and my child needs a sane mom.
Although I believe there will be many other benefits—from gaining an understanding of how the world works, to growing in compassion and tolerance, to becoming more confident and gaining life skills—right now Ryder is just a baby, and he doesn’t need much more than his mom and dad and milk right now. Overall, I hope that it will lead him to being a free thinker.
What is your travel style now that you travel with children? How did it change from before you were a parent?
Ryder’s not even a year old yet, so we’re still exploring this one. He’s been to four countries and six US states so far though, and to be honest our style hasn’t changed too much. We like slow travel, we’re in no hurry, and we need a place to work with internet since we fund our travels with internet businesses. We like to meet locals and make connections with people no matter where we are, and in some ways that’s easier now with a baby because people will come up and talk to you more often. I just get up earlier and go to bed earlier than I used to, but that’s unrelated to travel. Just part of the package deal of being a parent!
What has been the most difficult thing about travelling with children?
In New Zealand we lived out of a somewhat non-spacious campervan. Doing the campervan thing has its benefits with a baby: for example, babies love riding in cars and he got to do a lot of this from day to day. At night, though, he woke up easier because we were all in such a small space. Here in Tahiti, we only have a scooter, which you can’t take a baby on, so I’ve ended up having to walk much more than I would have previously. Those things are just part of the experience though—that kind of difficulty is more than made up for how much more fun having a baby along is—so really the hardest part is the fact that the baby is growing up away from family. Skype helps but it still falls short. However, most Americans these days aren’t going to be living very close to family anyway. Learning to build long distance relationships is part of most extended families these days.
What has been the most rewarding part of travelling with children?
I like traveling with our baby better than I did traveling as a couple. And I love couple travel! For me it’s because travel can be an essentially selfish thing—the sights you see, the journey you take, while very personally rewarding, can be somewhat inward-focused. Having a child means getting to share those experiences with someone else, and watching them grow and be positively influenced by travel is exciting. Ryder’s still just a baby, but I think one effect of travel already is that he’s very comfortable being held and interacting with strangers.
What is your favourite travel memory of travelling as a family?
So far the best has been to watch people from all different cultural backgrounds interact with our baby. I like watching him study their faces and have him hear different languages and accents; and having him see people of a variety of ethnic backgrounds. The Indian owner of the restaurant in Greymouth, New Zealand snapping and grinning at him; the Mexican ranch owner carrying Ryder around the streets of Miguel de Allende; the French-speaking Tahitian mothers saying “Coucou!” to him and asking to hold him. Ryder just basks in that kind of attention.
What tips would you offer parents when it comes to travel with children?
My biggest tip would be just to do it and do it often. The difficulties are very overstated by people in my experience, and the more and the earlier you do it the easier it will be.
Also, try to choose family-friendly accommodation. If it’s too quiet, you might get some complaining neighbors when your baby is adjusting (read: crying uncontrollably) to a new place. Shared bathrooms are really no longer ideal with a baby.
Are there certain destination or holiday types you would recommend for parents travelling with children?
We’ve really enjoyed New Zealand with a baby. We just drove for hours while looking out the window at stunning vistas as Ryder napped in the seat next to us. There’s so much outdoors/adventure stuff to do here, I’m sure we’ll be back when our kids are older so they can do the bungy jumping and jet boating with us. This time around, we just handed the baby off to an employee while we did our adventure sports—they were very obliging.
And finally – what are you upcoming travel plans?
We’re planning on traveling indefinitely. Although we’ve been known to change countries on a whim, we are planning Tahiti—New Caledonia—Vanuatu—Australia for the next 6 months. We’ll have gotten to know the South Pacific at that point. After that it’s hard to say, but one thing is certain: meeting with other traveling families is paramount to us, because we want Ryder to have friends who live like him.