Friday, February 12, 2010

Top 10 Ways Raising a Baby is like Travelling

As I type this entry, I realize I run the risk of sounding like an aging, paunchy former quarterback, reliving his high school glory days. This Sunday, Valentine's Day, marks the three year anniversary of our departure for our round the world trip. Three years (how is that possible?) since we left and we kicked off this blog. In some ways, it all still feels so immediate and relevant. In other ways, our life is so settled and changed that gallivanting around the world seems like a distant experience. Maybe some of these things help keep it closer even as it does grow more distant with time.

Leaving for our 7 month trip

Starting our adventure in parenting

In no particular order:

1. Different bathroom priorities.

In Bolivia and Eastern Europe, it was finding bathrooms you didn't have to pay for. In other places, it was just some basic--and fairly broadly defined--level of hygiene. Now it's about changing tables. Better yet, changing tables in the men's and women's room. Couch to sit on for nursing gets extra bonus points (go, Nordstrom!).

2. Different eating requirements

While travelling, it was often about finding food that wouldn't come back to haunt us later. Now, it's about high chairs, relatively friendly (or at least understanding) wait staff, and-oddly, and increasingly--some kinds of kids options. Stella eats enough now, that it's not even always enough to just feed her off of our plates!

3. Regular language barriers.

In Budapest, a nice woman who spoke Hungarian and German tried to help give us directions. Until after we were finished talking, I thought she was asking us for directions. Now, I get to interpret Stella's mouth rubbing: could mean she wants water, could be food, could be milk, could be soothie, could be something I can never quite figure out. And then there's the incredibly high-pitched squeal that we're trying hard to keep from meaning anything to discourage her from continuing making that noise.

4. Everything takes longer than expected.

In India, we'd rush to make a bus only to spend the next 2 hours circling around town picking up other passengers. Things are getting easier as Stella gets older, but everything takes me longer. Responding to emails. Getting to the post office. Going to the grocery store. Getting out the door.

5. Lots more regular exposure to bodily fluids.

Particulary in India, I could hardly turn around without seeing a man urinating on the street. Before Stella started eating real food, the diapers weren't so bad, but now they are pretty stinky and gross. And I got thrown up on three times during one particular illness.

6. Irregular sleeping patterns.

In Turkey and Egypt, it was night buses that made Tyler cranky and miserable. And, of course, there was just the jet lag from moving across time zones. Now it's Stella's occasional still-too-frequent middle of the night wakings that make us both a little crazy.

7. Harder to maintain usual grooming standards.

In the last year, I managed to get my haircut two times, and Tyler regular gets a little mountain-man-esque between trips to the barbershop. Not so different from our days in Tasmania and Kenya.

8. More opportunities to be present.

I'm a list-maker. I'm generally thinking ahead, thinking of what needs to be done, when we'll get certain things accomplished. This has it positive sides, but it also means that I can get so caught up in thinking ahead that I don't enjoy the moment I'm in. Travelling can often give you an opportunity to take stock, and see your world with new eyes. Stella forces me to slow down and be. To slow down and appreciate little things--the view outside the front window, the sound of the neighbor's dog barking, birds eating in the lawn.

9. More interactions with strangers/locals

Coming home from the trip, I remember feeling a little sad that we'd have less opportunity to talk to random people. Sure, part of it is just being out and about less and having a close circle of friends that we already don't get to see often enough--it just is less of a necessity and opportunity in life at home. But being pregnant and having a baby changes that. Stella will stare people down, and people are often just drawn to smile at babies, looking for a reaction. And people with babies will often at least exchange names, ages and a little bit of commiseration. It's nice to have that little connection with people.

10. Increasing savviness as time goes on

By the time Tyler and I were in Egypt, we were hip to the usual scams, not afraid to fight the crowds at the train station to try and buy tickets on our own rather than get stuck in some kind of tour or package deal. We knew what to look for in a hostel, a restaurant, how we wanted to spend our time. While Stella's ever changing, I do feel like I keep gaining confidence and comfort in my role as a parent. I'm learning her personality and needs and wants, and my own way of parenting. I still have days when my patience wears thin and I'm frustrated by not being able to be as efficient and productive as I might like, but it's easier and easier to get things done, have fun and spend quality time together.

Adventures still to come....

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