Perception of an Infant and Traveling —
I am now watching my three month old baby, Petra, adjust to the traveling life. She stays in a hotel in Payson, Arizona for three nights a week and then travels to another location for the remaining four days — sometimes Phoenix, sometimes Flagstaff, sometimes Sedona, sometimes Jerome. She is doing really well, but her parents are careful to keep their situations and circumstances as controlled and calm as possible. Visual and auditory stimulation is like crack for a baby: a little feels good, too much breaks them down.
Saturday, November 28, 2009
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Petra seems to be taking in the world in rampant doses that I can hardly comprehend. The intensity of her perceptive abilities seem sharp. One moment of walking around a town she is all wide eyed and excited to see what she can see, then next she has her little face plunged into my chest and has dropped off into an over stimulation induced slumber. Sometimes she is all giggling and trying to talk to every person in sight as her mother and I proudly carry her through a public place, sometimes she suddenly breaks down into wails and tears. This world seems to wear Petra out quickly, we try to keep its doses short and very sweet.
But very often Petra seems to respond to overstimulation with snores. In the cities, through towns, on airplanes, and in cars Petra reacts to the stimulation with sleep (with a big sigh of relief from her parents). Perhaps infants are programed with such kill switches from humanity’s more migratory beginnings.
Being a baby seems to be akin to walking through the streets of Calcutta for the first time raised to the 100th power. I can remember my first moments of being in India. The wild traffic alone — people hanging off of the sides of buses, people almost being ran over, run down, or seemingly being killed at every turn — is enough to make any foreigner grit their teeth in over stimulation. This is not even to mention the wild costumes of religions devotees, naked people bathing in the streets, men crapping in plain sight, livestock ambling through the streets, monkeys jumping from rooftop to rooftop, people forming crowds around me if a tattoo happens to make itself visible, a funeral procession almost running me over, the entire rapid strobe light of visual and auditory stimulation of India.
India is good action for the traveler, being a baby seems to be good action too.
On my first taxi ride in India — as I rode from the airport into Calcutta — I can remember that I feel asleep, like Petra does now.
I find it interesting in India how hostels and hotels become refuges for foreigners. I have heard at least one story of a traveler flying all the way to India, taking a single look around, and then retreating to the airport and buying a plane ticket to take them right back home. The environmental stimulation is high in India, you either learn how to ride it and love it fully, or you break down and go home.
I do not want Petra to break down like some unprepared India traveler. I want her to be able to take the world in with gentle doses. So we all walk slow.
As I look at Petra riding waves of stimulation over a world that is all brand spanking new I can only think of my first days of traveling in India.
“I have been there too, sweet girl, you are doing well.”
Vagabond Journey series on traveling with an infant
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