What is an ‘adventure mom?’ I am truly not certain, but to me it means pushing myself out of my comfort zone and just going for it. The comfort zone of motherhood is especially easy to stay in when it means something so simple as getting a decent night’s rest or knowing where you can pump, and being sure there’s a spot you can zip away to if your baby is screaming her head off. When you step out of that place of comfort you might lose those things, or not, but one thing is for sure—you’ll be gaining a positive experience for you and your family.
Since our daughter, Priscilla, was nearly brand new, we’ve been taking her on road trips. My fiance’s parents live a few hours drive away and we first visited when she was only six weeks old. Somehow, Seth encouraged me to go camping with him around that same time so he could climb Devil’s Tower. I’ll preface by saying that we were in KOA cabins, but it was still much more rustic than I’d ever want to be, even without a baby. If you’ve ever washed out pump parts at a campground bathroom then you know what I’m talking about.
What made that trip worth it? The bragging rights are up there, but seeing Priscilla gaze at the stars, head back in wonder wins. We brought along her bassinet but one night she just wanted to be with us. We slept all snuggled in a full sized bed: me, Seth, Priscilla, and our dog. Seth had forgotten that the campground didn’t provide sheets (I was too tired to be mad) so we slept on polyester blankets Seth bought at the gift shop, and I used our Boppy as a pillow.
I’ve learned that being an adventure mom just means going for it, and that confidence in this department is more of a fake it until you make it kind of thing. Traveling with a baby has taught me that people are mostly good, and that the great majority of them actually love babies. In the most unsuspecting places, I’ve found goodness: like the luggage attendant at La Guardia who insisted on helping me with my bags or the plain-faced business man who helped me put my cumbersome travel diaper backpack on.
My three biggest tips for traveling with a baby while not losing your sanity aren’t particularly profound, but I’ve found that they’ve been most helpful for me:
Be flexible. In travel (and life sometimes) no matter how much we prepare, something challenging can still happen. I’m not the most flexible person, but I long for my daughter to be. So I aim to teach by example. If I can keep it together, model joy over frustration, and learn to go with the flow, she’ll adopt that as the norm.
Find humor in chaos. In New York one night on a recent trip, we pushed it to the edge with bedtime in the name of getting a treat from the ice cream truck. Worth it? Yes. Chaotic? Yes. Priscilla screamed the 15-minute walk home. Some babies have a quiet cry, mine does not. I could try and run with her in the carrier, get overwhelmed, or just go with it. We flew too close to the sun, I can find humor in it now.
Prioritize rest. I do everything I can to ensure that Priscilla and I rest well during trips, especially as we’re doing more activities and sightseeing during the day. I take sleep seriously. Priscilla needs her sleep after busy, exciting, new experiences. To me, this means taking our bulky (but trusty) sound machine, a fresh sheet from home (many inns and hotels provide cribs, and if they don’t—ask, usually Air BnBs have a Pack n’ Play hook up), stay in our bedtime routine, and ensuring at least one nap is at “home” during the day.
I long to travel to many places, and have had the opportunity to, but the actual air travel part takes a lot of mental energy to get through. I grew up traveling, it was part of our family culture, and I long to expose Priscilla to different corners of the world and cultures. We’ve been on two flights now, and I’m just getting my sea legs as a traveling mom. I also love being home and in my routine. It’s no surprise then that my daughter also thrives on her routine, sleeps best in her own crib in her own room, and loves being at home. And yet, I still want and long for travel for her even if she is just a baby.
I had an epiphany around her six month mark. We were planning a trip to the Black Hills again and Seth asked me honestly if I wanted to go. I paused, thought about it, and declared, “Yes—I want to be an adventure mom. I want to be a mom who says ‘yes!’” The world is big, often scary, and sometimes downright mean, but it is also marvelous, fun, chalk full of decent people, and worth risking the sometimes bad for the mostly good. In all its complexity, I want to expose Priscilla to it, and most of all, I don’t want her to be afraid of people or places that don’t seem familiar.