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2016: The Year we Learned how to Travel with a Baby

After having a baby in late 2015, I had serious doubts about our future ability to travel. Silly, right? After all, with 5 continents, 57 countries and countless destinations under our belts, we’re hardly rookies when it comes to roaming the globe.

Simply put though. Motherhood left me reeling.

At least at first.

With a newborn, simple activities that I’d always taken for granted, like sitting in a cafe, grocery shopping or eating out at a restaurant, suddenly felt like insurmountable tasks. Add the months of sleepless nights into the picture, and just about everything felt darn near impossible.

I just could not wrap my head around how we could possibly get on a plane and explore a brand new place, when I could hardly even make it to the mall without having a minor panic attack.

Like all things in life though, with time and practice, things got easier, and by the time Naia was 5 months old, we felt almost ready to attempt a trip with our extra piece of VERY important baggage.

And so, for Naia’s first passport stamp, we chose the quick 2 hour flight over to Osaka and the Kansai region of Japan. And lo and behold, despite our fears and misgivings, we not only survived, but had a wonderful time introducing our little one to a world much wider than the one she had known thus far.


March: Kobe, Kyoto and Nara
In March, we finally visited Imperial Kyoto, and wondered why we’d waited so darn long to visit. Because to say we adored Kyoto is an understatement. Sure, it has atmospheric streets, gorgeous temples, a long history, and amazing food, but the thing I appreciated most was how calm and tranquil I felt in the city.

Upon landing, we headed straight to Kobe, to fulfill a long dreamt wish to try Kobe Beef at it’s source, before setting out to explore as much of Kyoto as we could in a few days. The never-ending red torii gates of Fushimi-Inari Shrine, traditional streets and machiya houses of Gion, and the glittering Kinkakuji Temple only whetted our desire to visit the city again as soon as possible.

A quick stop in the ancient capital city of Nara, with its free-roaming deer, and a visit to the massive Todai-ji Temple cemented our great impression of the area.

Fortunately (for her nervous parents), our newest world wanderer handled her first trip like a true travel veteran. Long bus and train rides, unfamiliar experiences, random Japanese strangers talking to her, and even a new place to sleep? She hardly even blinked an eye.

April: A Korean Road Trip
In April, my little sis came to meet her niece for the first time, and Agri successfully ran his very first marathon under Gyeongju’s magical cherry blossoms. Afterwards, we took the opportunity to road trip around some previously unexplored parts of the peninsula. We wandered through Suncheon Bay’s acres and acres of coastal wetlands, sampled gourmet bibimbap in Jeonju and admired the view from Yeosu’s Hyangiram Hermitage.

As for our little one? In some ways, road tripping with Naia was easier than traveling by plane, because we could stop whenever we needed to, and had a sort of “home away from home” in the form of our car. A lesson we would put to good use on our most ambitious adventure to come.

June – August: France, Italy, Albania and Greece
In summertime, my misgivings about family travel were firmly put to rest after we successfully spent 3 consecutive months on the road, traveling between Italy, France, Albania, Greece and back again.

Our goals were to spend lots of quality time with Nonna Vjollca, introduce Naia to her extended Albanian family, attend the wedding of two of our closest friends, relax on the beach, eat amazing food, and maybe even explore someplace new.

Amazingly, we were able to accomplish all that and more. Along the way, our little one figured out how to stand on her own (Rome), hike up a mountain (Cinque Terre), climb up stairs with support (Chiano della Foiana), eat lemons (Durres) and figs (Salerno), and swim in the sea (Albania and Greece).

It wasn’t all easy (more on THAT in our next post), but Naia proved yet again, that she was born to travel. In fact, she seemed to enjoy the constant movement, strange people, and unfamiliar environments even more than the tried and true.

November: Seoraksan
In November, fall colour was peaking all over the country, and we took full advantage of that fact, with a short 1 night getaway near Seorak Mountain, with Naia’s 할아버지, who was in town visiting from Canada.

The mountain and nearby Naksan Temple did not disappoint with a full array of dazzling fall colour.

Despite my very real fears and reservations about traveling with a hyper little monster, 2016 turned out to be our 2nd biggest year of travel to date. We spent a full 3.5 months on the road, and filled Naia’s passport with stamps from 5 different countries.

In 2016, I learned that not only is family travel totally possible, it doesn’t have to slow you down one little bit.

How was your 2016? Did you travel? What did you learn?

READ MORE:  Hamdeok Beach Break on Jeju Island (with Kids)
35 Comments Post a comment
  1. You’re doing great! Don’t worry, it’ll get easier as she gets older.

    December 30, 2016
    • Yes, I can see that it’s already getting easier day by day. But is it wrong that I can’t wait for the day when she’s old enough to not need supervision at all when traveling? 😉

      December 31, 2016
  2. What a great year you had – even without a baby, that would have been a good travel year. Naia is absolutely adorable and you guys have adjusted to parenthood with aplomb. Happy New Year to you all (and thanks again for your help with one of my own travel stops this past year)!

    January 1, 2017
    • I was super surprised to realize we’d spent so much time on the road! In truth though, some parts of it were easier than being on our own in Seoul because we had family help…especially in Italy. Boy oh boy do you wish the grandparents lived nearby once you have a little one. 😉 Definitely looking forward to traveling with Naia again soon…now that she’s getting super-interactive with the world! Happy new year to you and your family Lex, and best wishes for 2017. Hope you get back to Korea one day so we can meet in person! 😀

      January 4, 2017
  3. Awww! Such a fantastic year! You guys make amazing parents and Bora an awesome aunt. I really don’t understand what you’d been afraid of. Haha! We couldn’t visit the Golden Pavilion in Japan. Looks beautiful! 🙁 I love the pic of Naia with her great grand dad and your dad! Super cute! Happy New year to all! And thanks for being such a fantastic friend & agony aunt, Shells!

    January 2, 2017
    • What!? Didn’t visit Kinkakuji? I think that calls for a girls trip back to Kyoto next year. 😉 So glad we found each other in this great wide world (and blogosphere). Here’s to an amazing 2017. See ya soon. <3

      January 4, 2017
      • Me 2! Meet ya soon! The sun’s come back in Gotham city! Hehe. 🙂

        January 4, 2017
  4. It’s pretty crazy how daunting even simple tasks can feel with a newborn but it’s great to realize everything is still possible. I think Jae-oo is still realizing that we can do anything we want if we just want it bad enough. Sure, there might be a tantrum here or there or even a boo-boo, but that would happen at home too. You did SO much traveling this year. It’s awesome!

    January 2, 2017
    • Here I thought I was all independent and stuff, and then Naia came along, and going just about anywhere felt so challenging. I remember the first time we had to put her in the carrier…I think by the end we were swearing and sweating. Haha. But you’re right…anything is possible if we want it bad enough…happy new year Hallie. Here’s to a bunch of new adventures in 2017! <3

      January 4, 2017
  5. Kirsty Mac: My sister will absolutely love this post! She has always wanted to take her son on her travels. I will send her the link. Wonderful post.

    January 3, 2017
    • Traveling with children is definitely challenging and more tiring, but rewarding in it’s way. We’re looking forward to more travels with our little one. 🙂

      January 4, 2017
  6. Just what we needed before starting our own family 🙂 we love to travel but having a baby seems to be difficult but you guys proves that it’s something that can work on 🙂

    January 3, 2017
    • Traveling with a baby is definitely a whole other ballgame and changes with the age. Our trip when she was 5 months old was significantly different than the one we took with her at 8-10 months. We’ve got a trip to Dubai coming up in January, and this one should be super interesting. Now she’s 15 months old, and SO active and interactive. It should be both more tiring and more fun at the same time. Hope we survive! 🙂

      January 4, 2017
  7. Lindsay @ The Neverending Wanderlust #

    How fantastic 🙂 So glad that you didn’t let your fears keep you from traveling and you found just how awesome it can be to travel with a little one. My parents traveled around quite a bit when I was young and the memories I have of those times are truly wonderful. Big kudos to you and best wishes for a fabulous 2017!

    January 4, 2017
    • That’s what I hope…that she’ll have fond memories of a childhood spent exploring the world. One of my most profound childhood memories is also of travel – to Hawaii and to Korea for the first time when I was about 10. I think it’ll only get easier and more fun to travel with her from now. 🙂

      January 10, 2017
  8. WOW! That’s incredible that you were able to travel that much with your child. That’s a testament to your travel skills. I really think you’re child with learn a great deal by travel so often and being so young…props to you and your husband!

    January 6, 2017
    • We lucked out with a pretty mellow baby…so travelling with her has not been overly difficult. She doesn’t even cry on take off or landing, so can’t really complain. It is definitely much more tiring, but so worth it. I do hope the things she learns traveling, serve her in the future.

      January 10, 2017
  9. That’s an amazing year! When I was a first-time mom, hubby and I can’t even manage to eat well in a restaurant. We mostly end up eating food at home. Hubby and I brought our Firstborn to Tokyo on his first birthday. We didn’t even explore much since we just stayed most of our stay at Disneyland and at the hotel (Hilton also inside the Disneyland complex). We’re so lame, hahahaha!

    But yours is unbelievably exciting and the little one has already collected several stamps in her passport.Definitely, it will become easier. These days, I let the kids manage their way through security and immigration. I see their progress in these immigration lines.

    January 6, 2017
    • Haha that sounds like a perfect first trip. Sometimes I wish we’d done something a bit easier, but in the end it all turned out ok. 🙂 Europe was actually easier than staying home in some ways, cuz hubby has a lot of family living there, so there was family support (which we don’t really have here). I can’t WAIT for the day that our little one can drag her own suitcase and go through immigration herself. 😉

      January 12, 2017
  10. Wow! You had such a busy year with the little one. I always worry that if I have a child my wandering days will be over, but you’re doing great~ definitely inspirational. Kyoto is my favorite city in Japan, what a cool first trip for your little one 😉

    January 6, 2017
    • Kyoto is so amazing, isn’t it? Such a tranquil vibe. I can’t believe we waited so long to visit, but will definitely head back as soon as we possibly can. I really loved it there. Definitely having a child doesn’t have to stop your wandering, and there are a few perks – like passing through airport lines faster, and getting special treatment in a lot of places. It almost makes up for the complete lack of sleep and downtime on flights. Almost… 😉

      January 12, 2017
  11. I love that you’re still traveling with a child! I see more and more people doing this and I find it so inspirational! So many people make it seem like you have to choose either a life of travel or have kids, but having both is impossible. When we decide to have kids we want to follow in your footsteps and still travel, although I’m sure it comes with a few challenges we will learn to get used to it!

    January 7, 2017
    • You guys are seasoned travellers, so adding a little one to the mix will be no problem for you, albeit a little more tiring (and a bit slower sometimes). Oh, and of course, more expensive. Haha. Travel is definitely more challenging with Naia, but rewarding in a different way. Perhaps the most interesting thing, for me anyway – is just how extraverted she is. I’m a complete introvert, but because she’s always smiling and talking to basically everyone we meet on the road, she forces me out of my comfort zone. 🙂

      January 12, 2017
  12. I enjoyed reading this, having a baby isn’t a hindrance in traveling. You had an amazing year. Are you hiring a travel nanny? Hehe. Your baby is so adorable!

    January 7, 2017
  13. Wha! Your baby has traveled so much in the past year, I wonder if she remembers any of it?! Of course she doesn’t, but I bet she’ll really appreciate your efforts in the future. There are a lot of families on the road with babies and I bet you could learn from each other through your insightful posts.

    January 8, 2017
  14. I could relate! The first time I traveled with my son was when he was 5 months old (just like your daughter) from Seoul to LA with a Tokyo stopover. I don’t know how I survived that flight but we did ~ and I’m glad to see your blog again because I’m currently doing our itinerary for a trip to Japan in the spring which includes Kyoto.

    January 8, 2017
  15. I’m so relieved to read this because I hear from some women that you can’t travel with a baby — when in fact you can. It sounds like Naia travels better than most adults I know lol. Your 2016 sounds like an epic adventure. I’ll be sure to go through your Japan posts because I think that’s where we travel to next.

    January 8, 2017
  16. Omg, an Albanian Asian baby!?! She will grow up so beautifully and with such loving parents who are exposing her to the world at such a young age, what a blessing! It seems like you really put in some miles this year! That snapshot with your hubby showing off your daughter to marathon workers is just so cute! And yes, kyoto is on EVERYONE’s list! I must go soon!

    January 9, 2017
  17. Props to you and your hubby!! It’s so refreshing to see parents travel with their babies and I think it will be so amazing for your daughter to look back on her childhood full of global adventures. I know one of my best friends plans to have a baby this year and she also loves to travel, so it will be interesting to see how she does it. I surely will be taking notes so I can have some tips for the distant future when I too travel with my kids.

    January 9, 2017
  18. Wow, what an amazing first trip for your wee one! Your daughter is so lucky to be exposed to our beautiful planet from such a young age. And you guys are so inspirational for showing people that they don’t need to choose between children and travel! I am visiting Kyoto this month and your photos look amazing. Thanks for sharing!

    January 9, 2017
  19. Not gonna lie, I’m a little jealous of all your travels! Ten months in and I’m still trying to figure out how to get out the house on time (never my strong point anyway!), with just the right amount of stuff packed, and the least amount of tears possible. I’d be interested to read any practical tips or advice you have for traveling with a baby – like how you get them to nap and eat during the day when the big, wide world is just so interesting…

    January 13, 2017
    • Oh Rosanna…I’m really sorry to tell you that we don’t do much. I think it depends so much on the character of the baby, and she’s just always been a good sleeper. She even fell asleep in daddy’s arms on the dance floor of a wedding last week, just cuz she was tired. We didn’t have to do a thing.

      If I did have to a tip, it would be to create the conditions that your little one can fall asleep in as much as possible when you’re on the road. It definitely slows down your travel, but when it was her afternoon nap time, we would make sure we were in the hotel room, so she could sleep and not out and about. Or if we WERE out, we would put her in the stroller around that time, and remove as much outside stimulus as possible. Lower the sunshade as much as possible and walk around in a quiet area kind of thing. And though it may seem counterintuitive, our red eye flight was actually the easiest one cuz she just slept naturally for most of it. WE were exhausted, but she was ok.

      This is all of course what happened when she was 9-11 months old, and not mobile. We’re headed to Dubai tomorrow night, and she’s now 15 months old and walking all over the place, much more curious and into absolutely everything. In truth, I’m a bit concerned about what’s gonna happen – but it’s another overnight flight, so that may save us. Good luck and I hope you get out on a trip soon!! (I say just take a short haul somewhere and see what happens. You just never know how they’re gonna react until you do it). 🙂

      January 18, 2017
      • Yeah, character has so much to do with it. I do sometimes wish I had a petite little girl instead of the Hulk, then at least that way it would be easier to carry him around and shush him to sleep. He’s always wanted to be on the move, and now that he’s mobile he just won’t stop! Maybe that means he’ll make a great traveler? Hope your current travels are working out without too much difficulty.

        January 28, 2017
        • I have to say that flying with her was a bit more difficult this time around, because she was so curious about everything around her. And damn Emirates keeps their big screens on ALL NIGHT LONG. (Just slit my wrists already – never flying them again if I can help it). Our flights were overnight, so at some point she just fell asleep from tiredness thank god, but I’m not sure how it would’ve gone in the daytimes. The actually being in destinations part was great though – tiring, but lots of fun. I bet your little guy would be a great traveler!

          February 1, 2017

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