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Babies are Made for Traveling

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I am a very lucky traveler, a very,very lucky traveler.

The gamble was put forth: Chaya and I decided to have a baby 11 months ago, we decided to have a baby with whom we would continue our travels with.

But what if our baby does not like traveling?

This was a dangerous question. This was the largest obstacle in our plans. What if Petra does not take to traveling well? What would we do? Both of our lives have been formed around traveling.

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Payson, Arizona, Southwest USA, North America
Wednesday, November 4, 2009
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I travel for work, I travel for this website, I travel to keep myself alive. I sometimes feel like a fish that must continuously move forward in order to continue pushing water into its gills, that I  must travel to keep breathing.

Chaya has also been traveling for a long time. She went to a traveling university, she studied international education, she seems to like nothing more than walking around a place just looking at people. It is in her blood.

“An important thing for parents to do is figure out who their children are rather than trying to make them something else,” I paraphrase the wise words of a friend.

Who is Petra? I call her a traveling baby, but what if she does not live up to the title. What if she does not like traveling?

Hiking in Arizona with a baby

Hiking in Arizona with a baby

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Petra was being prepared for her first flight. Her mother, Chaya, was nervous. She talked about the depressurizing effect that air travel could have on an infants inner ear, she was afraid that Petra may scream for the entire time between lift off and landing.

She was scared. I was scared, too. This was a test.

“Ah, Petra will probably just fall right to sleep on the airplane . . . like her daddy,” I reassured my wife with no feeling of reassurance to back myself up with.

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I waited apprehensively at the Phoenix airport for my small family to arrive. I was excited to see them again, I was excited to find out how Petra took her first flight.

Could we keep traveling with a baby? This was the first test — the first of many.

I saw my wife and baby enter the airport terminal.

“How was it? How did she do? Did Petra do well on the plane?” I asked my wife in rapid succession when I met her.

“Petra did very well,” was my wife’s reply, “she was smiling and talking to people and sleeping the whole time.”

I am a lucky traveler.

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Babies are made for traveling

Babies are made for traveling

Petra likes to move. It is my impression that all babies are inherently pre-programed for the traveling life. For the lower 90% of human existence on the planet, we were travelers. We followed the game trails, animal herds, the seasons. We were hunters, we were pastorialists.

Babies are programed to travel. There is a reason why the walking motion puts a baby to sleep, there is a reason why infants like to be rocked in their cradles. If a baby goes colic in the night the primary action of a parent is to walk around with the infant cradled in their arms. It is this bouncing motion — the thump, thump, thump of footsteps — the walking motion that soothes an infants wailing soul.

Something deep down in the human psyche craves motion, something in us triggers a feeling of relaxation when in travel. Humans are still migratory animals, humans crave the distance between point A and B, the distance of travel.

I find human culture to be 99% driven by biology. I do not heed the suggestion that our actions are determined by culture — that we somehow learn to be human — rather, it seems as if culture is the cloak that we place over our inherent urges, impulses, needs, desires, emotions — instincts. Culture is perhaps driven by biological impulse.

Across a global spectrum, the rudiments of most culture are the same. Cultural differentiation is all so often is reduced to such impertinences as “do these people shake hands or do they bow?” All culture is ultimately the same. It is my impression that all culture mimics the basic biological parameters of the human species.

Babies are made to migrate, made to be carried while walking long distances, are made to travel.

I have been standing by these words for a long time, though I have not yet had the opportunity to observe them in action. I am now watching Petra — Petra is living up to her biological pedigree, Petra is traveling well.

So far so good.

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Chaya and I  have been driving back and forth across Arizona with Petra tied into her car seat in the back seat of the Subaru. Regardless of her mood, when the car starts rumbling into motion Petra falls into sleep — well, usually. Like clockwork, usually.

The vibrations of motion —  the up, down, up, down bouncing of footsteps or the rumbling of a car on the Open Road — seem to put babies to sleep. Traveling seems to hypnotize a baby into a relaxed state. I once read that this was a reaction to prehistoric travel across the savannas of Africa, where mothers would walk long distances with babies in their arms. It makes sense.

So much about the instincts of babies seem to make sense. Petra knows what she is doing, and she hasn’t learned it from me.

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So far so good. There seems to be few things that Petra hates more than a stand still thrown into a string of motion. Petra hates red lights, she hates stop signs, she hates it when daddy tries to set her down so he can work on the computer. She likes to move, she likes to go. Her eyes are bright, her countenance curious, and her face is alert. She talks in gurgles, chirps, squeaks, and coos to old ladies in grocery stores. She like to be held facing outwards when carried.

The traveling is not easy on her — she cries a little each night seemingly to tell us how hard her day was — but she is taking it well.  She goes for walks in the woods, takes long car trips with a snooze, and during her first flight was easy on the ears of her fellow passengers.

So far so good. Petra is taking to traveling well. Perhaps babies are predisposed for travel.

Nature or nurture travel debate

Vagabond Journey on traveling with a baby
[seriesposts orderby=date name=”travel baby” ]

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Filed under: Petra Hendele Adara Shepard, Travel With Family

About the Author:

Wade Shepard is the founder and editor of Vagabond Journey. He has been traveling the world since 1999, through 76 countries. He is the author of the book, Ghost Cities of China, and contributes to Forbes, The Diplomat, the South China Morning Post, and other publications. has written 3048 posts on Vagabond Journey. Contact the author.

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Wade Shepard is currently in: Polis, Republic of CyprusMap