This one is for all you parents out there…
Today I’m happy to be interviewing Liliia deCos, who has a great blog about her family’s travels around the world with their baby in tow. Her blog serves as an inspiration for all the parents out there who might feel like they are unable to travel with their children.
You can read more about her family’s adventures at https://bringbabyabroad.wordpress.com/
You can also follow their adventures on Instagram @backpacking_baby
Hi, Liliia! Thank you so much for speaking with me today. I really enjoy reading about your family’s adventures on your blog. Tell me a little more about yourself and what your blog is about.
What inspired you to start writing this blog?
While there is no shortage of travel blogs we had a lot of trouble finding information on traveling with a baby in less common destinations. While there were several reasons Myanmar was the catalyst for us to start a blog. We researched the medical situation, baby food and other essentials availability and we only found online questions and comments saying that you should never go with a baby to Myanmar and even comments like “they are likely to die because the local baby death rate is so high?!?!?” We needed to change this fear mongering in the world. Our baby loved Myanmar as much as all the locals loved her, and unless you let your baby play with dead animals in the street with local kids, the local rates of anything don’t apply! This was the catalyst but we had been planning to make one since our baby was born. The reasons being everyone telling us our life would be over once we had a baby, as we proved them wrong the comments turned into, “wait until 3, 6, 12, 16, etc months, at this point it’s impossible.” Well she is now 16 months old and it is only getting better!
You’ve been on some amazing adventures with a baby in tow. Where have you traveled as a family?
First trip was at 6 weeks to Tallinn by boat from Finland (where she was born), 7 weeks was first flight to Hungary, after many more trips around Europe our most memorable was at 16 weeks camping for 7 days in Norway and hiking to Trolltunga, where she was the youngest to ever make it to the top (read about it on our blog)! After 3 month old we took a 2-month break before starting the 1-year trip we are still on! Starting from Ukraine we took the Trans-Sib to Vladivostok, then down to Hong Kong and all Southeast Asia for 6 months, then to Central Asia for 3 months and Iran for a month and now we are in Armenia heading slowly by land/sea to Ukraine.
Which destination was your favorite?
Hard to pick a favorite since each country has varying pros and cons, however a baby related favorite was Tajikistan. Traveling through the Wakhan valley and Pamir highway without any reservations was an amazing experience because of natural beauty and amazing people alone. In each village people would run out of their houses to see us, well, mostly the baby ☺ They would ask us to wait to get fresh milk from their cow or the neighborhood cow and insist we come in for tea, which usually led to dinner and an overnight stay.
Any tips for parents who might want to bring their children abroad with them?
Kids are everywhere, every country cares greatly for their children and there will be no lack of medical services, playgrounds, childcare, etc. Traveling with a child allows you an “in” into local culture, they will help start a conversation in the park, give you celebrity status in countries where your child has different features than the locals, and even get you to the front of long customs lines ☺. As parents know kids will complain at first as to any change in their routine, ride it out and like with everything they will adjust and quickly love it, even long bus rides looking out the window. Lastly don’t listen to anyone’s advice unless they have personal experience, not sure why people fear something they know nothing about, but if they tell you how horrible their child was on a trip to the supermarket it doesn’t relate to a longer travel where your baby/child adjusts to what you are doing.
What does packing for an international trip with a baby look like?
The biggest advice is don’t pack much!! There are babies and baby stuff everywhere. Only bring emergency or medical supplies that you should always have with you, everything from food to diapers to powders, creams, etc, you can pick up if/when you need it. Also only one to two toys, kids are so stimulated from the travelling and everyone is interacting with them, they don’t need an entourage of toys. Pack cheap light plastic toys, you will definitely lose something in a hotel room when checking out, so buy cheap toys and light toys for carrying. Lastly ditch the stroller if you are leaving the “west”, roads and sidewalks, if they exist, will be unreliable, and few countries actually have handicap ramps.
What is a typical day like when traveling with a baby?
Wake up earlier than you wanted, show half hour of educational puppets on the laptop to get a little extra sleep, then after breakfast do whatever is planned, from beach day to sightseeing to hiking. Our baby takes a midday nap from 1-3 hours so we plan around that. If sightseeing we will take a midday break in a park or nice restaurant where she can sleep on the booth or her own chair. If hiking she sleeps in the baby carrier while we walk, beach days are easy for everyone ☺. We aren’t strict parents for bed time, but she usually goes to bed between 7-11pm.After bed time we may go out for a couple drinks to meet locals if we have the energy, sleep then repeat ☺
We try to plan bus rides for over night or during her mid day nap so it’s easier on all of us. The hardest is if we want a day off from sightseeing or being adventurous our baby/toddler is getting bored. She is adapted to life on the road and she loves being outside and shaking strangers hands, and sharing her or others toys with local kids. This forces us to get out but also keeps us from writing our blog….
What is the hardest part about traveling with a baby?
Having a baby!!! It’s not sarcasm; the truth is being a parent takes patience and work. However whether you are walking around ancient temples in Cambodia or the park by your house you have to deal with the same issues.
In some countries however there are additional stresses due to the baby, for example in Iran and Myanmar the culture is to touch, rub and kiss babies on the face and even lips. While it is a sweet gesture, even the butcher in the bazaar runs out to rub her cheek with his bloody hands… rubbing lipstick off and/or looking like an asshole blocking and pushing away clearly unsanitary hands can be frustrating. Also the celebrity status in places like these can get annoying like I assume it would for any celebrity. In the markets or temples/sights we have lines of people wanting photos, this makes it hard to see or do anything, and since we are nice people we feel horrible telling someone who has been waiting, sorry we can’t sit here all day for photos yelling no kissing!! No kissing!!
Lastly and also country related is that many cultures know what’s “best” and “have” to tell you what you should do with your baby. For example in many countries you shave babies head so hair grows in better, feeding babies only rice until 2 years old, giving babies soda and sweets before real food since they like it, that you have to put a jacket and hat on your baby even if it is 35 degrees Celsius, and many more things so plainly wrong and you have to nicely tell them to basically leave you alone we aren’t going to put a jacket on our sweating baby…
What was the most surprising thing about your travels with your child?
Every country people have weird things regarding childcare and how to raise a baby as described in the last answer. This also then makes you realize some of the things your culture does regarding child rearing is strange as well. For example being Ukrainian we fear open windows or moving air around our babies as they will get sick, and then in Finland they recommend putting your baby to sleep outside when it is up to -10 degrees Celsius. While both are a bit extreme to us now we learn from these surprising things.
Another surprising thing is our babies’ and likely all babies’ resilience. After long travel days we are so exhausted, arguing over nothing because we are hungry an tired and then there comes baby, with huge smile and my phone in hand that had fallen to the bus floor without me realizing. Giggles, smiles and hands up asking for a hug…
Most memorable moment on the road?
All the “firsts” of your baby with the amazing settings and culture of being abroad. First steps in Astana Kazakhstan’s huge center, playing football with the local kids in Imam square in Esfahan (Iran), learning to put her hand out to shake when someone says salam in Kirgizstan. First time swimming in crystal clear waters in Thailand. First naked outdoor bath photos surrounded by elephants, etc, etc.
Any challenges you had to overcome?
Fears installed from our own cultures. Three day horse trekking with a baby, renting a motorbike to cross Vietnam with baby, elephant riding, multiday hiking, leaving child with a dive center while diving, etc. all absurd right!!! But then when you see babies on horses everyday in some cultures, motorbikes in others, and shared parenting in others you overcome these fears and free yourself to have a great time with baby on board.
What is different about traveling with a baby?
Free upgrades in most hotels because you have a baby, front of lines even after saying no thanks many times. Free gifts and food for baby at most restaurants (sadly most of it is bad for baby but we “help” her with unhealthy gifts). Only negative is going out late night and partying. If we meet other travelers they are usually hesitant to even invite us out late or even for a beer, well because we have a baby of course…. This is a bit sad but when we do go out late it leads to hangover days with Lia jumping on us wanting to go out and us feeling like bad parents. We learn from this and now choose the right times, like a home stay with many kids, so we can let her play with them while we sleep in.
What would you say to other parents who might be hesitant to travel with their children?
Do a test run, go camping near your home, be a tourist in a city nearby, and make sure you do it for the length of time you’re considering traveling. I say this because as mentioned before kids hate their first flight, and love their 3rd, hate the first bus ride and love the 2nd. Hate water/baths, love swimming after a couple days on the beach, etc.
Most important is to never listen to others advice, even your own parents, unless they have personal experience with what you are planning. In most cultures it is considered the right thing and kind/good to be over protective with children. This family/friend “advice” is going be given regardless so others can feel they did what their culture expect of them. However by reading this, our blog, and others experiences who have actually traveled with kids you can have a referenced point of view that hopefully gives you the confidence needed to make your adventures with baby a reality.
Any destinations you’re hoping to visit?
Our dream is to buy and later sell a boat/yacht to sail the south pacific islands and the Caribbean nations. From meeting others who have done this it isn’t as expensive or impossible as it sounds, but we’ll still need to save some before this dream becomes a reality.
What are your plans for the future? Any adventures on the horizon?
Our next big trip is starting next march to Southern and Eastern Africa! We hope to get from South Africa up to Kenya or Ethiopia including some middle African countries and Madagascar. We are still in initial planning stage and may change our plans according to safety considerations of each country in mind.
Anything more you would like to mention?
It was a great pleasure to answer these questions, even with writing our blog it’s great to have some time to reflect on our own life. I thank you for letting us share our lives and hope this encourages others to realize how easy, amazing and fun it is to travel with your kid(s). If anyone has any questions please feel free to reach out!