Walking On Travels- When Kids Don’t Dampen Wanderlust
Sometimes, we have the good fortune to meet some really amazing people. And sometimes those amazing people are the kind who don’t make excuses for anything, but really, truly take the bull by the horns. Keryn Means and her family have been traveling since the babies were, well, babies. She inspires parents world-wide to not give up on travel because of having kids; but the opposite, to relish the travel lifestyle with them. Keryn talks a lot about traveling with babies and toddlers, places to go that are super kid friendly, Travel Tips Tuesday, and the inspirational meanings and gifts that travel has bestowed upon her young family. You will find her joyfully over at her informative, yet inspirational travel blog; and here, answering some tough questions, with some surprisingly unexpected answers.
Friends, allow me to make the introductions. It is my pleasure and delight to acquaint you with the ever-lovely, ever-honest and daring Keryn Means from WalkingOnTravels.com.
Gabi: When did you come up with this crazy idea to travel while pregnant and after? Everything and everyone told you not to, but you did. What did you discover?
Keryn: When I was pregnant with my son Dek I put my life on hold. I was terrified. Travel wasn’t what freaked me out, it was really the whole pregnancy package. I had been dreading giving birth for as long as I could remember. I was sure it would be the most horrific event of my life. My pregnancy started out rough like many women; lots of nausea, fatigue and just all around out of sorts. I kick myself now for not taking a trip during my 2nd trimester when I actually started feeling better. I was working full-time. I didn’t allow myself a break. I headed into my 3rd trimester even more exhausted and stressed about the upcoming birth. Happily giving birth was not the traumatic experience I had been dreading. Obviously I was willing to do it again since I am now pregnant with little boy #2.
With this second baby on the way I was determined not to slow down our travels. I knew what to expect in the coming months. As long as I continued to have a healthy pregnancy I expected to be able to hit the road whenever I wanted to. Sure there were hiccups along the way and my body told me to take it easy much more than it normally does. Honestly having a toddler traveling with me was helpful. We both had to take naps each day. I could have just sat around for 9 months waiting for our new little guy to arrive. That might have been easier, but mentally I would have been going out of my mind. I had gotten into the habit of taking day trips, heading out for the weekend to explore somewhere new and hopping on a plane every few months. Just because I was pregnant I knew I didn’t have to stop doing what I love. I just had to pay attention to what my body told me. With that in mind it was easy to let go of any anxiety and keep on traveling.
Gabi: We hit to road in a pop-up trailer across the US when my eldest Dahnya was 2 1/2 months old. Kobi just got laid off and we said, “Now what?…. Let’s travel!” Everyone told us all about germs, cold, dangers… how that it’s irresponsible to travel with such a fragile, young child. But, Keryn, you did it too? How did you face the criticisms of others and did it impact your free spirit?
Keryn: We started out our travels with baby by visiting family on the east coast. No one really bat an eye on that one because our entire family lives out there. They wanted to meet the baby. They didn’t care that we were about to bring an infant on a plane. They just wanted to hold the new addition to our family. Heading to Hawaii wasn’t much of a leap either since the flight was the same amount of time. It was still technically “US soil.”
When we announced that we were all going to China on one of my business trips that’s when the hands shot up with something to say. What about vaccines? Food for the baby? What if he got hurt, sick, etc.? I generally just took each question as it came, gave them a reasonable, sometimes made up, answer to ease their minds and moved on. After all, it’s our lives and our child. How would they stop us?
I also have this personality quirk when it comes to travel. If you tell me I can’t do something, you are challenging me to figure it out and conquer that hurtle and prove you wrong. My spirit thrives on that kind of stuff. So all of the worried questions just motivated me to make it happen. Even now people are telling me that I should wait to see what kind of traveler my second child will be. I’m not really sure what this means. How will I know what kind of traveler he is unless we travel with him? No matter what his life will include 6 hour flights to and from the east coast, whether he is a great traveler or not. We’ll figure it out no matter how the little man takes to the air, car rides and other travel challenges.
Gabi: Clearly, you must be rich. All of us travelers are, in fact. How can you afford this lifestyle?
Keryn: I was raised to be frugal and a saver. At a very young age I was taught to put 10% in a savings account and 10% went to the poor. Let me tell you, when your allowance is only 10 cents per week this is some very interesting math. I felt like a millionaire when my allowance was raised to a quarter. This all carried forward into my adult life. Even though we don’t live barebones I still look at all aspect of our spending to see where we can cut back. When I got married I looked at every way we could get out of unnecessary debt as soon we possible; credit cards, car payments, etc. We would be living within our means and not beyond. I’ve also made travel our number one priority. Every monetary gift we have been given gets put into a savings account for travel. Any major purchase we make I look at from every angle and then see how I can negotiate the price down or buy it used to save us even more. I also look at each purchase to determine if it is even necessary. Is it enough for a plane ticket? That purchase better be worth it if it’s going to stop me from going somewhere.
Gabi: Keryn, how long do your trips typically last? Does blogging take away from your travel experiences? How do you find the balance?
Keryn: Our trips can be anywhere from 1 day up to 2-3 weeks long. My husband is lucky enough to really love his job. He is also blessed with a generous amount of vacation time, something many people can not boast in the USA. I maximize his vacation time whenever possible. We travel a lot around national holidays so we can use one less precious vacation day. Before I left my office job we would add on a side trip to any business trips I took to Asia. Those trips were a great opportunity for our family and really launched us into our travels in Asia. Now that I am not tied to a 9-5pm schedule I will often leave earlier on a trip with our son and have my husband meet us a little later so he can spread out his vacation time a little more. This way of traveling can be more stressful since I have to travel alone with our son (soon to be sons), but it is the easiest way to keep our travel dream alive and maximize our time and money spent on the trip.
I don’t feel like blogging takes away from my travel experience. In a lot of ways it actually enhances it. I enjoy writing about things that we see and sharing it with the world. It’s my version of a journal in some ways. I do find myself photographing things I might not have in the past or going to explore a sight I might not have thought about visiting before, but again, these aren’t bad things in my mind. It is expanding my travels in ways I never thought possible, just like traveling with my son has.
Gabi: Don’t you ever have enough of traveling? It can get pretty exhausting, especially with kids, no?
Keryn: Enough of travel? Never! We have so much more to see.
Gabi: Where do you plan to go next?
Keryn: Our next big trip is to Europe this fall. I have 4 friends that live in 4 different countries that I have been dying to visit. All but one has enough room for us to stay with them. This will save us a lot of money and makes the trip possible. I am hoping to spend a month hopping around with the kids and my husband will meet up with us halfway through. I’ve taken one toddler on a long-haul flight by myself, but traveling with 2 kids under 3 years old could create some very interesting travelers tales.
Gabi: What’s on your world travel bucket list?
Keryn: We don’t really have a proper bucket list. I have been dying to see the Greek Islands and Buenos Aires for years, but other trips and opportunities have popped up that throw those spots on the back burner. We kind of just see how we are feeling, what our budget looks like, what can fit in that budget and then go for it.
Gabi: What advantages and disadvantages do you see in the nomadic family choice ?
Keryn: We are not a nomadic family, but parts of our lives are similar to those on the road full time. I think leaving behind extended family would be the hardest part. We live 3000 miles from my son’s grandparents, aunts and uncles. It’s hard knowing that our son will not have the same relationship with these people that his cousins, who live locally, do. We also don’t get the family support while raising our kids. The upside of living this far away is that we get to see a different part of the country. It’s a whole other world on the west coast from what my husband and I grew up with. It also has made us stronger as individuals and parents. We are able to raise our son without being under the family microscope most of the year.
I think nomadic families have the advantage of getting to develop and be the people they want to be. They aren’t beholden to a corporation (usually), family members or social norms they might have been raised in. These families can really explore what it means to be a family. They get to travel the world and see something new all the time. It isn’t just mom and dad bringing the kids to the same familiar haunts over and over again. Sure there is value in that, but it’s the parents teaching the kids all of the time. When the whole family finds something new the kids have a chance to teach their parents. That can be a very powerful thing.
Gabi: Wow, Keryn. I never thought of it this way, but yes, as a nomadic family, we do have the honor of disconnecting from all the social norms that have limited us. It is just us on the road, and just us determine what is right for us. That freedom lets us decide everything from how to use our time each and every day, what to teach the kids, where to go, how to structure a family life, and family dynamics that work for us. I love that you shined that light on it for me Keryn!
Gabi: What have you found the world gives your child in terms of academics, moral development, character development….? What has the road given you as a couple?
Keryn: I love when we travel. It is the one time I know that nothing will stand in our way. There are no lawns to mow, household chores to take care of or errands to run. My husband and I have our best conversations when we are traveling. We are both finally relaxed enough to tackle bigger things that are coming up in life, chat about our future plans and what we would like to do for our next trip. We are fairly relaxed when it comes to our son. As long as he is safe he is free to wander and explore. He doesn’t have to be glued to my side at all times. If he eats a little dirt, well there is fiber in there somewhere right? This independence shines through in his personality as he is unafraid to try new things and meet new people. He’s always curious, which I love.
Gabi: What about friends? How does travel impact your ability and your son’s to connect with others?
Keryn: I have been blessed with a very friendly little guy. He makes friends wherever he goes. He has charmed ladies in foreign countries, smiled away frowns on the faces of grumpy business men on transcontinental flights, and tried to share food and toys with little ones wherever he goes. I am pretty outgoing as well so our personalities have opened up a lot of doors. I have a habit of leaning over to the table next to me at a restaurant and asking them what they are eating. This usually gets a conversation going. We met our good friends from London this way when we were all traveling through Venice. We ended up visiting them later that year. My son has no problem saddling up to a table and checking out what they are eating. We may not all speak the same language, but he opens doors we might be hesitant to take or would normally be closed to us.
Gabi: Ok, Keryn, the technical sides of traveling with the very young…Do you carry laptops and technology to keep up when we travel? Do you carry a backpack? Suitcase with wheels? Do you travel with baby stroller or child backpack?
Keryn: We are a technology-filled, suitcase traveling family. I take my laptop most places and definitely a camera or two. We usually have our baby carrier with us, although as my son has gotten older it sometimes gets left behind. We also bring a very cheap umbrella stroller on most trips, especially overseas. It’s a luggage rack, kid nap zone, and get us there quick machine when toddler legs are too tired to walk and mom and dad’s arms are too soar to carry 30lbs any further. If the stroller breaks we can toss it and not feel bad at all. In fact, I bought the stroller for our first trip to China. I didn’t want to risk breaking our nicer, more expensive stroller. That cheap umbrella stroller has now been to China twice, Japan, Canada, Hawaii, and back and forth across the USA countless times.
Gabi: People are always asking me for resources regarding ‘how to’. Do you have any articles about how to pack with young kids?
Keryn: Here are two great articles: Baby Bag Must Haves and Don’t Leave Home Without It.
Gabi: And, what about schooling? Unschooling? World schooling? Do you have a cirriculumn?
Keryn: My son is too young for any proper schooling yet. We look at every trip as a learning experience though. He may not be learning history and math, but he is being exposed to new things like volcanoes, the ocean, fish, ancient temples, exotic flowers and the foods of the world. His vocabulary explodes every time we go somewhere new. His palate is expanded as we taste our way through cities. He can’t help but learn every time we step out the front door. Toddlers are sponges to what is around them. I just wish I could learn at the rate he does.
Gabi: Keryn, what has been your family’s favorite place to far?
Keryn: Our family has been to so many amazing places, it is hard to pick just one that we love. My husband was thrilled when we finally got to go to Japan last spring. It had been on his Top 5 list for quite a while. He loves anything to do with feudal Japan. Checking out a few castles and some old samurai armor was right up his alley. We all love Japanese food as well. We were definitely exposed to a few things we had never tasted, but all of it was amazing.
I think my son would also say Japan just because he discovered rocks while there. Gravel paths were everywhere. He was in rock heaven. He also loved being on the Big Island of Hawaii. He has no fear when it comes to water and dove right in.
As for me, I loved eating my way through Singapore and Italy. My husband never got to go to Singapore with me since it was a business trip and he had deadlines at his own job that kept him home. I am hoping to take him there in the next 2 years.
We want to do a little tour around Australia, stopping off to visit a friend along the way, with a few side trips into Asia. No firm plans yet, just a lot of dreaming so far. I have to focus on our trip to Europe this fall before I move onto the next big adventure.
Gabi: And regrets you have on the road? Anything you would do differently?
Keryn: No regrets. I think early on we packed a lot more than we needed to, but with each trip we get a little better, shave a little more off the top and travel a little lighter. I’m still amazed that when my son started traveling with us we didn’t add any extra bags except for a diaper bag the first 2 trips. Even that went away after a while as we just incorporated his stuff into one of our backpacks. If anyone still needs to pare down their belongs it is me. One day I will learn that I only wear one pair of shoes when we travel, not 3-5.
Gabi: Any advice you would give to families considering world travel?
Keryn: If you want to travel the world with your family do not hesitate. If you have the dream than you can make it happen. The hardest step is always the first step out the door. If you can get you and your kids to the grocery store, you can travel the world. The grocery store adventure will probably end up being much harder than walking along the Great Wall of China or splashing through the waters of Hawaii.
Wow. Can you say that with me? Like my energy healer and dear friend Noga would say, “Wow! Wow! Wow!” ( I miss her! and her family…)
So, friends, I’m off to grab Kobi and make a baby, quick! That way, we can tell you all about how to travel the world with babies too. Keryn was sweet enough to write this article for us a few months ago, when she was still pregnant. Now, she and her family, with a new lovely bundle of joy, continue to travel and inspire others at their blog WalkingonTravels.com. Highly, highly recommended.
Any questions you may have for how to travel with little little ones? Any crazy stories of you dancing on tables while this pregnant? Do tell, do tell. Keryn would be honored to answer away; I’ll just laugh.
Love you fully. So, connect with us. Your footprints mean the world to me. And you know what would help us sooo much? If you can click Share with friends on FaceBook. We are working hard to get 500 likes by the end of July. Can you help us out?