Just baby and me

Outdoor Kids

By Melynda Harrison

As I am driving to the Bozeman airport at 4:30 in the morning, squinting in the dark for a driveway to a house where I’m dropping one of my dogs off, I’m starting to wonder if I’m little crazy. Do people travel to the other end of the globe pregnant and toting a one-year-old? Is this a smart idea?

But it is too late. Tickets are purchased, cabañas are booked and my huge duffel bag is weighting down the back of the truck with Anders’ travel cot, board books, diapers and wipes, tot-friendly food and a change or two of clothing for me.

Anders

Anders takes a snooze

Before baby, I strolled along the Great Wall of China, rafted class IV and V rapids on the Rio Chiriqui Viejo in Panama, donned a headscarf in Turkish mosques, climbed the highest peaks in California, walked off an airplane in another country with no plans and no reservations—but this trip would be different. And why not? My life was different.

This South American adventure would be a scaled down version of my life. I had given up so many of the activities that make me who I am in order to appease a new little person. No more living just for Melynda; now Anders’ needs had to come first. At 34 years old, it was a rough transition, and though I’ll have to give up my nomination for “Mom of the Year” for saying so, I occasionally resented my son for everything he had stripped from me.

Argentina is a long way from Bozeman. It’s even longer when flying from 45 degrees north to 42 degrees south while sharing a seat with an active little boy, but Anders and I made it to Bariloche without any sleep (for me), but without angering any other passengers or getting dirty looks. We rented a car, we found our cabaña, we ate meals and took naps on a regular schedule.

Melynda and Anders

Throwing rocks

I wanted to do big hikes in the Andes, to salsa dance until four a.m. in Buenos Aires. Driving ten hours to the coast to see penguins seemed like a great idea until I considered my travel partner. Instead we hung out by lakes picking up rocks one at a time to throw in the water. I took short hikes through forests of Alerces, practically running with Anders in the backpack, knowing that I had two hours before his tolerance gave out and the complaining started.

In retrospect our Argentine travels take on a rosier glow than when we were there. A lot of trips are like that; they get better in our minds as the frustrations and discomforts of real life travel fade away and the photos of smiling faces on the trail take a more prominent position in our memories.

I discovered that traveling with someone on the edge of toddlerhood opens new doors that aren’t there for a solo traveler or a couple. Everywhere Anders and I went, Argentines wanted to talk to him, hold him, kiss him. Those people are baby crazy in way Americans certainly are not. My rubio-headed boy with the mejillas grandes was the center of attention wherever we went and I found myself talking to people all day—people who would have passed me by otherwise. When he made a sound that was mistaken for “hola” the spectators went nuts.

Anders also helped me slow down and look at the Patagonian landscape more closely. We’d spend an hour sitting by a stream playing with rocks, feeling the orange-yellow lichen, sniffing wildflowers and collecting dandelion tufts. At the botanical gardens in Buenos Aires we walked around at the pace of someone who is two feet, seven inches tall, stopping every thirty seconds to observe something tiny, or shiny, or otherwise fascinating.

I got to see Argentina through someone else’s eyes. The perspective wasn’t as big, as crazy or as fast paced as it would have been if I was alone, but the details were amazing. Now I just have to incorporate that insight into our life back home.

Many thanks to Heidi Ahrens of OutdoorBabyNetwork.com for submitting Melynda’s essay to us.

Got a toddler travel tale of your own? Share it with us below!

Last modified: January 14, 2018

6 Responses to :
Just baby and me

  1. Having had a baby girl in the summer of 2010 I found myself missing the wilds of Ontario, Canada. I write for several outdoor publications and am the author of two wilderness cookbooks so you can imagine how confined I must have felt having to stay near the home base.This summer, our family decided to venture out on a wilderness canoe trip with our ten year old boy and fifteen month old baby girl. The destination was to be a somewhat remote lake in Algonquin Provincial Park. Now, there are some who would argue that Algonquin isn’t true wilderness but I feel that if I am a good day of travel or more from the nearest car, I have absolutely no cellular service or other contact with the outside world, and there are definite dangers, it is wild enough for me.

    We had done this trip just before I got pregnant. It was a good six hours of travel by water and trail from the access point to our camp—a pristine sand beach in the Canadian Shield. I figured that having a toddler along would add an hour to the trip. Wrong! How little did I know and ten hours later we reached our lake. Portages (that’s where you have to carry the canoe between lakes) had to be tripled and one was 2, 170 metres that steadily incline without accounting for the extra trips back and forth.

    Then there was the rain. Of course, my husband is legendary for having rainy camping trips. Our ten year old took it in stride; after all, he’s used to it and has been doing these types of trips since he was four years old. I expected the baby to be miserable but she seemed to love being under the batwing shaped tarp playing with various bits of gear. Knowing how wet our excursions can be we had purchased some rain gear for her. That can make a huge difference when it comes to whether or not the little campers are comfortable or not. We base-camped for 3 nights and had a wonderful time. She saw her first rainbow, she had her first taste of fresh speckled trout, and she even got her first leech. The trip out was better planned and we stopped halfway and camped at another lake.

    Would I take our darling toddler into the wilderness again? Most definitely. Would I choose or recommend the same route? Absolutely not. While my husband and I are experienced outdoorsy types we hadn’t anticipated how much work a toddler would be. Until she’s four we will have to look closely at the trips we want to do and be judicious when it comes to planning. Hindsight is twenty-twenty and this long of a travel day is too long for someone as young as our baby girl.

    In all, it was a great adventure and we really did enjoy her first trip to the area. We are headed back to Algonquin Provincial Park in a few weeks to take in the beautiful fall colors of the sugar maple canopy.

  2. Melynda Harrison says:

    I also ramble on and on about my adventures with little ones at http://www.travelingmel.com 😉

  3. Melynda Harrison says:

    @Laurie- Sounds like you could write a piece about your adventures with a babe in the woods!

  4. Ann says:

    We are planning a South America trip this spring! We’ll be bringing our little ones with us too!

    We really want them to learn Spanish because not only will it benefit them but the language is a passion of mine!

    Did you give your child any language learning before trips? Any suggestions? For the our 6 yr old we’ve been using an educational software, its from the company Help Me 2 Learn. It’s been a great start!

    But still looking for other suggestions!

  5. Shesails.net says:

    Thanks so much for writing about this, Mel. I’m not a mom yet, but I’d like to be someday, and having an adventuresome lifestyle myself (mine on the water) I often have fleeting thoughts about how realistic combining the two can be. It’s always encouraging to hear stories of women successfully integrating motherhood with adventure (the non-motherhood kind)!

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