What’s it like long term travelling with an infant or toddler

We were Digital Nomads for most of our daughter’s first year – Flash visited 19 countries before he first birthday!

We were lucky to be back in our home country when the pandemic struck in 2020, and are mindful parts of our current life that will be harder when we hit the road again, but here is our experience travelling with an infant.

The younger they are, the easier it is!

Perhaps not at the extremes, but we found it much easier travelling with a 4 month old than a 9 month old (crawling), and now that we travel with a 2 year old it’s way harder again (running around, demanding engagement, toilet training!).

At any age, kids add a lot more planning and luggage, and cramp your lifestyle – especially if you don’t have family / friends / babysitters to help out. When the baby can be strapped to you, or rest in a pram, that’s a lot simpler than a lunchtime nap that needs to be orchestrated.

In 2012 we turned down tickets to SNL because we already had house seats to see a friend of ours conducting Newsies on Broadway … in 2022 we’ll be stuck at home spending most Saturday nights negotiating bedtime snacks with a 3-year-old.

So don’t delay 🙂

Some key challenges with an infant:

  • Feeding. If you can exclusively breastfeed, that’s easier than researching formulas in every country, but not everyone can (we couldn’t – and hybrid feeding is worst of all but we persevered)
  • Milestones. We went overseas a week after her 4 month vaccinations, supported by our doctors. It was suggested we ‘not encourage’ her learning to crawl, and she did it anyway at 8 months and walked at 11 months so didn’t miss out.
  • Medical. We did paediatric first aid training when we were pregnant, and were always mindful of things like emergency phone numbers in different countries. But it’s my biggest fear – major incident in a country where I don’t speak the language.
  • Diapers. Again, researching brands in different countries. Being stationary of late we could also choose cloth / reusable nappies which we prefer – but washing every (other) day is hard when travelling- so it depends on your length of stay as a DN.
  • Sleep! We travel (even today) with a pair of portable blackout blinds. We own a pop-up travel cot – I loved it, but my beautiful wife didn’t so it didn’t get used much before it was outgrown.
  • Routine. Kids need and love routine, like “Bath-Book-Bottle-Bed”. Create some that aren’t specific to a single bedroom or house.

Toddler Time

Even though we’re travelling less at the moment, our routine is even stricter because at 2 years old Flash has a nap in the middle of the day (and we quite like that break, alone or as a couple) and rolls into dinner time around 5.30/6pm. That means every day is broken into “what are we doing in the morning” and “what are we doing in the afternoon”.

Thankfully, she’s a great kid who sleeps, eats, and (mostly) uses the toilet. We also have our schedule around who wakes up with her, or bathes her, or puts her to bed etc on various days – that fits around work commitments and allows things like a guilt-free sleep in.

Some key challenges with a toddler (in addition to the above, most of which continue):

  • Daycare. Being trapped in paradise, our life looks fairly suburban and pedestrian. I’m working full-time (part WFH, part at client locations) and my beautiful wife is working part-time (also a mix). So Flash is in daycare 3 days a week. How do we do that as Digital Nomads? Probably by working less, and also juggling hours (so I might work more nights).
  • Socialising. Flash has daycare friends, cousins, and neighbours. She is also (thank goodness) great at making pick-up friends at the park or pool. She learns so much watching other kids, so I wonder what she’ll miss if we’re travelling abroad so much more.
  • Family is probably another concern, but not one I really have. Absolutely if you have parents etc who can help with child-raising, life without that will be hard. We don’t have that in a significant way, but future travel plans (as with our past choices) include being with family most Christmases.
  • Toys and Books. You don’t want to accumulate too many of these … but also too few is tough. We go through phases of “these 3 books every night!” but it normally evolves or rotates after a week or two … only owning a handful of books would be tough for me to read each night.

What the future holds for us

We haven’t yet had to travel – short term or long term – with older kids, but as the world emerges from the pandemic our mind naturally turns to what the future holds.

Looking ahead, school is definitely our biggest influencer. I’m all for homeschooling and eventually boarding school because (1) I can afford to wind down my work in a few years, to properly home school (and the programs and support networks I’ve researched so far have impressed me), and (2) Attending Boarding School was one of the best decisions of my life.

Not every digital nomad parent is in the same position. I started following many DN families when we were first trying to get pregnant (it took us almost 6 years) – almost all of them settled back home when the kids hit school, or at least middle school. That … kinda depressed me, because as a kid I would have loved to have travelled more and spent more time with my family (instead of living the childhood that made boarding school my salvation).

So I get it. The life is much easier when they’re younger and you can be more carefree. But I do want to push through that barrier, and Covid having taken 2 years away from our plans has forced us to choose somewhat – don’t become nomads again, or do so and roll straight into homeschooling the early years at least.

No doubt the many other bulletpoint headings continue to apply, and maybe get even harder (socialising, family, medical) as kids get older.

Still, every decision in life has consequences – in our specific situation, especially regarding work (self-employed consultant) and finances (on track to FIRE in a few years) the consequences of giving our kid/s “this provincial life” seem worse than taking a chance and wandering the world together.

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