We are heading into uncharted territory

So, we are off to China. Never been there, don’t speak Mandarin. No worries.

The more foreboding uncharted territory is ‘traveling with toddler’. We’ve not really done it before…

We left our home in Perth in May 2009 to drive around Australia. Snowy was 2 1/4. So, kind-of an old toddler. In nappies, yes, and very committed to his dummy, true, but also pretty good at walking and talking, using a spoon, and all that.

Snowy in Western Australia, June 2009

He was still breast-feeding enthusiastically, but never let it interfere with joining in with the big kids, and wouldn’t do it in public!

Snowy in Western Australia, June 2009

Also, we’ve just spent 7 months in SE Asia with Baby Boy. He learnt to crawl in Singapore last November, and started to walk in Bali a fortnight before we returned to Perth.

So, what’s the problem?

It’s the bit between 15 months and 2 1/4. Now, I’ve only raised 4 other kids, but I’m pretty sure I remember that age being a bit loud and messy. I’m pretty sure there’s a strong likelihood of some assertiveness and some checking out where the boundaries are. I seem to remember high energy, rapid language learning, total lack of personal safety, disbelief in stuff like gravity. Hours spend watching workmen, trucks, dogs…. The story reading, oh so many stories to read aloud, recite by heart, point at each page of in detail…dream about. Opinions, questions, frustrations, endless snacks and drinks and trips to the loo. And all the ‘I do it myself….’

Oh independence, how selectively I crave thee in mine offspring!


Maybe it’s a good thing, Bare with me, I have a theory. My theory is that there are some efficiencies that can be exploited here.

For example, when you have a sitting or crawling baby, you must watch them constantly, otherwise they eat weird stuff and fall out windows.

Also, when you have a young child of any age in Asia, you must watch them constantly, otherwise they eat weird stuff and fall out windows. (We’ve found much of Asia to be unbaby-safe )

So, why not do both at once? I mean, if I’m going to be glued to the baby for many months, I might as well be glued to the baby and travel around a bit too. Why spend 24 months doing close-call monitoring, when 12 months would do? Serving the sentences concurrently, so to speak.

So, is having a toddler in China going to be a good thing? He will certainly have questions, that’s appropriate. He’ll want to put everything in his mouth, again, if its dinner time, this is a good thing.

He’ll be leaning language rapidly, this could be a VERY good thing.

Fascination with modes of transport may also come in handy, we plan to move around a bit. Wanting to walk everywhere, ok, so it can be a bit slow, but he’s getting heavy, I don’t mind the odd break from my baby sling. And train rides are much more fun with enthusiastic company.

And doing things himself? If I have the patience and space for him to feed himself, that would be great, If I have nowhere to be, it doesn’t matter if a five minute walk takes forty, and that he examines every dodgy piece of litter on the path. And if he makes a mess of his clothes, who cares? No one’s going to see us again, and people already think backpackers are feral.

I’ll just have to balance keeping him safe and fed with letting him explore the world at toddler speed.

Please remind me of this if I have a winge in a few months’ time!

I make it sound like being glued to the baby is a hassle, a drain, and a real chore. It can be, when you have a list to do a mile long, and are stressed and frustrated. I remember when Snowy was this age, he and I spent three hours a day in the car taking the other children here and there. He was one frustrated child! No wonder he walked and talked late….

But when we are traveling, we don’t have a very long list. The stuff on the list is all of ‘eat breakfast lunch, dinner, go for a walk, read a bit, write a bit, chat a bit, wash a few pairs of jocks and have an early night’

Still, it might be a challenge, I can’t see him sleeping in his sling for hours on long drives like he used to. Maybe we’ll stick to trains so he can do this.

(actually a few of my kids like to do that)

So, its unchartered territory, for us. I suppose if we weren’t optimistic, we wouldn’t be going…

I know plenty of people have managed just fine, please share any suggestions you have about traveling with a toddler (other than not to!)


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12 Responses to We are heading into uncharted territory

  1. Bron August 22, 2012 at 6:18 pm #

    I love your updates so much as i sit here in cold Melbourne with some horrible tonsilitis type thing!
    I adore that pics of Meena and BB on the train, she is so devine that girl x
    BB is the spitting image of Tintin too! woody is eleven months today and ate his first chicken poo today- well he sucked n it and spat it out……his other fav place is the toilet….you will all do great, he will be great and he will be 2 before you know it! Enjoy x
    Bron recently posted..Wordless Wednesday- My three best creations.My Profile

  2. Jen Tasker August 22, 2012 at 7:06 pm #

    That pic of Meena and Baby Boy is just gorgeous – surely there’s a photo contest out there you can enter that into!

    As for traveling with Toddlers, particularly in China, just let the Chinese take care of him! Especially when you’re on trains, etc. They absolutely love children, they are going to be fascinated beyond belief with your awesome crew (no doubt you’ve experienced this already) and they’ll eat BB up.

    I think you’re theory is spot on – why not do all those things when traveling! I did a lot of plane traveling with both our kids when they were 2 1/2 – 4 1/2 (Syd) and 6 months – 2 1/2 (John) – it was back and forth & up and down across the States. My mom had given me advice, which I now share, which is that the plane ride was not a chance for me to watch a movie or read a book, but rather to spend quality time with the kids and entertain them. So if I got to do something “for myself” then that was a bonus. But how that possibly translates to 24/7 traveling I’m not quite sure!

    My kids were incredibly well-behaved, and quite charming (if I do say so myself) and I found the flight attendants were often taking John and carrying him, or walking him, up and down the aisle for me. He loved it, they loved it, and I loved it. So I guess that brings me back to my first point – let the Chinese take care of him!

    If you do the trains, which are great in China, there are three classes (or at least there used to be). Crazy class (hard seats and tonnes of people), second class and first class. I never traveled first class – but I’m pretty sure it was four beds (two bunks) with a door you closed off to the rest of the train. Second class, which is what I always traveled (if it was overnight), was six beds (three bunks high) to a section, but they were open to the rest of the train, so people were walking up and down.

    I only ever traveled with one or two other people, so we’d only have half the beds, tops, but it was generally a rule that whoever had the bottom bed was expected to share it as a seating area for the entire berth during non-sleeping hours.

    Cattle/crazy class I traveled for train rides under 6 hours. There’s no assigned seats, they usually overbook so there’s people standing and in the aisles, and chickens ride free, of course!

  3. Travel with Bender (Erin) August 22, 2012 at 9:35 pm #

    We had to invest in a stroller with our 2 year old, as missing day sleeps was no fun for anyone and now he can sleep in the stroller and we can keep travelling :)
    I am afraid my tips stop there. I am equally frustrated with most of your points including my son’s new phrase “I don’t want to.”
    Learning with you – oh and isn’t potty training fun on the road hahaha.

  4. Jennifer Pearce August 23, 2012 at 11:45 am #

    Thank you Jill for this post! I’ll be enjoying the responses as well, since we are at about the same stage with Aysia. :) Our family loves the sleeper train travel as well, so much. We just had our first experience with it on a hard sleeper train, from Dong Hoi to Hanoi. Loved the Phong Nha caves, by the way, and the surrounding countryside. Thank you so much for telling us about them. I love those pics of baby boy, especially the one on the bus/train with the monks in the front. We miss you guys, and can’t wait to read all about your adventures in China.

  5. Lisa Wood August 23, 2012 at 3:04 pm #

    I think travelling and raising kids is way easier than living in one place and raising kids!!! Mind you our youngest is 7. But I reckon you will be having so much fun that it wont be any issues at all :)
    Travelling with kids is the best education they can ever get, imagine them learning a second language ~ so handy in todays world.
    Imagine the memories they are creating, and the close relationship that they will all have. Sure beats staying put! I so cant wait to we head to Perth and then to Thailand. I reckon that kids learn and adapt far easier than us adults, and soon you will be enjoying many more ways of travelling in China.
    Lisa Wood recently posted..Centenary Park Clemont :: Means Fun For Kids!My Profile

  6. Cas August 23, 2012 at 10:07 pm #

    We travelled around the world for 3mths with a 2yr old and loved it! Such a wonderful age. Small enough to pick up and run if need be, and large enough to express their wonder in all they see around them. As far as I’m concerned, the crawling stage is the worst to travel in, walking and learning to talk is awesome. Have fun!

  7. arelyn August 24, 2012 at 3:48 am #

    My youngest is the same age as your youngest so we’re doing the same thing except we’re in India. I second the sleeper trains assuming your special lady can use the sleeper bunks. The ones in India are small. It’s a bit like sleeping on a couch.

    Good luck and keep us posted. I love following your journey!

  8. arelyn August 24, 2012 at 3:55 am #

    Oh and potty training! We’ve been having great luck with doing it the local way. My BB goes about half or fully naked and we have a tiny plastic potty which we keep near him. If he goes on the marble floor, no problem. It’s easy to clean. If he actually tells us he has to go or tries to do it himslef awesome! If we can get the potty to him halfway we call it close enough and he get’s to help pour it into the squatter potty and flush it. There is nothing greater than flushing a squatter potty in his opinion. No need for candy bribery. :)

  9. Deb @ Bright and Precious August 26, 2012 at 7:18 pm #

    You are so clever to re-frame the challenge. I love that you re-frame every challenge, actually. But I love that you are honest (and humorous) about your challenges. I totally hear you about this age. I’m in the thick of it with my 21 month old as we speak. It’s a huge developmental stage. And personally, the thought of ever doing it again makes me shudder. Of course, I’m still raw and I’m fully aware I lack optimism! So I’m sorry about that. And as a result I have NO tips (sorry again) – but just take it day by day. You have plenty of extra hands for his mobility (that will speed up and gain momentum!). Looking forward to see how it all unfolds.

    PS I forgot to say in your previous Ubud post that that is the most gorgeous pic of the little Balinese girl kissing Baby Boy.
    Deb @ Bright and Precious recently posted..The Blossom TreeMy Profile

    • Jill August 30, 2012 at 11:10 pm #

      Oh thanks Deb! I’ve got to laught about it, if i didnt I’d smack…seriously.

      Baby Boy’s been kissed so much he thinks its normal, he keeps kissing ladies who pick him up!!

  10. Danielle (Bubs on the Move) August 31, 2012 at 7:31 pm #

    I have now travelled with two toddlers and can say emphatically that the best thing about it is the way they engage the locals. Okay, my nearly two year old engages locals by giving them whack at the moment, however he does it with a smile and it is meant to be affectionate. Thankfully most people understand that, and open up to us in ways they otherwise wouldn’t. My main tip would be ensuring your own accommodation is safe – and then hang on for dear life when you are out and about.
    Danielle (Bubs on the Move) recently posted..Shaylee Strawberry Farm – Friday PhotoMy Profile

  11. Maria September 4, 2012 at 6:41 pm #

    This is such an awesome post. And this is my favorite part:

    “Oh independence, how selectively I crave thee in mine offspring!”

    Also the pictures. Thank you!
    Maria recently posted..Journal of a nomad through VaastelandMy Profile

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