“We knew that we would be traveling slower with Petra, and this is what traveling slower means,” my wife spoke as we paid up another ante on our room in Antigua. We had intended to leave on this morning, but as 11:30 came around to find us still packing bags and titmousing the baby. This was a little to late to start out on the 7 to 9 hour ride to Rio Dulce, discretion kicked in — we stayed put in Antigua.
Traveling with a baby is vastly more difficult than traveling any other way that I have ever known, but I would not go as far as to stay that it is difficult. No, traveling with a baby is not difficult, it just requires changes in strategy.
I must adapted my strategy to meet my circumstances if I want my plot to remain the same.
It is only where I try to keep my strategies unchanged that I find that my plot is challenged. I have been told that a baby changes everything, that my life would change drastically when Petra arrived — that I would not be able to travel anymore. This would be true if I tried to bull my way through life, if I continued to travel just as I did before with a baby.
But I don’t.
The parameters of life now has a new shape, I must adjust the size of my peg to fit into it. The possibilities for doing this are endless, there is always something new to try to get it right. It does take effort, it takes time to develop new strategies, to always be coming up with new ways, new ideas, and respect the fact that it is the goal at the end of the line that I want, the path I take to get there is irrelevant — to get there I need to travel on many different paths.
I am trying these paths now. Some lead me to where I want to go, some peter out in the woods, and some are so full of brambles and briars that they are not worth the pain of the journey.
Chaya and I are use to waking up in the morning, throwing our things into our packs, and making for the door — out to a new town, a new country, a new place. We tried to leave Antigua like this. It did not work. It took us from 7:30 to 11:30 to get our things in order, feed everybody, and devise an exit strategy. By the time we were ready to leave, it was too late.
We realized that doing 7 hours of bus time in the middle of the day would not be good for the baby. What is comfortable for Chaya and I is not always comfortable for our baby. Petra likes to be awake all day long, she seldom naps, she wants to be out playing, meeting people, and looking at things. Being trapped within the physical confines of public transport is not what she wants to do.
We need to travel on Petra time: we need to leave places in the early morning, before wake up time, or in the evening, at bed time. It is best to match the public transport hours to bedtime. Travel time is something that I would only occasionally give thought to. I would normally just leave places at my leisure, walk to a bus station, and hop on the next bus out. Now I need to plan.
I never really liked planning too much — it is part of the work of traveling — but now I must put in the effort if I want to keep traveling. I must plan well or go home.
This is a major change in our travel strategy, we must plan for the baby, good departure times, good arrival times, and price. We need to calculate the travel time between places and try to leave at the best time for Petra. We also need to keep long journeys to a minimum:
A two hour bus ride during the day is alright, five hours is too much, more than this is gruesome.
We were looking at our longest ride in public transport yet as we calculated the travel time between Antigua to Rio Dulce, in the far east of Guatemala. We opted to make this jump in a single go, and then get settled in rather than travel for a couple hours each day for three days.
Finding rooms and setting up bases is also more of a challenge with a baby. We have an whole new set of parameters now for our accommodation needs that extend beyond price. I must now really check out the rooms — make sure there are screens on the windows, that the sheets are not too gross, that the door can be locked well, and private bathrooms help out a lot — as a sink in a community bathroom is not the best place for Petra to diaper free herself.
We also live in our rooms a little more now, so the basic comforts of selecting a hotel are something new that I think about. Each place we go now becomes a home, rather than just a base for transition. I never before gave a care if my hotel rooms were unlivable, as I just slept in them. Now I really live in my rooms and in the hotels, my family does too, and we want to enjoy our stays. The human kennels that I have grown use to staying in now do not match my changes in circumstance.
I now travel from home to home, not place to place. I want good homes for my family.
We also stay in places longer: 4 days to three months seems to be our new parameters. 4 days seems to be the minimum: the first day is the work day — we travel, find a home, food, figure out transportation — the second and third days are to enjoy, the fourth is to prepare to go again.
My work/ sleep schedule has also changed. I use to wake up very early in the morning, and do my website work then. Now I have found it vastly easier to work at night — when the baby and wife are sleeping. This gives me the better part of the daylight hours for being a husband, a dad, as well as a traveler.
For the most part, traveling with a baby has not been too bad. It is more difficult than traveling alone, but I would not say that it could be classified as a difficult thing to do: it is a challenge, but is not so challenging that thoughts of going home arise too often.
I know that if I don’t bull my way through rough trails, but stop for a moment and look for easier ways around obstacles, that traveling with a family is possible. If we continually alter our strategies to meet our ever changing circumstances, I have the impression that we can keep the plot the same:
We can perpetually travel as a family.