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.
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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.
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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.
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?