baby packed, will travel
Before we started dating, got hitched, and made our parents happy by giving them a grandson to spoil — in what seems like another lifetime, but actually was only 7-8 years ago — we both took long backpacking trips through South America. S started her trip in Ecuador — where our paths crossed briefly for the first time — armed with a return ticket from Buenos Aires and eight unstructured months in which to explore the continent. D’s trip likewise took him from Ecuador to Argentina over the course of five months the following year. An entire life crammed comfortably into a backpack, and few concerns other than how best to stretch a limited budget and where to swap books so as to always have some good reading material…Having just returned from our first tourist trip with Munchkin, it’s hard not to feel some nostalgia for those carefree travel days.
When we got married three years ago, we made a pledge to celebrate our life of travel together with a trip to mark every anniversary. The first year, we made a month-long jaunt through the Indian Ocean, stopping in Madagascar, Reunion, and the Seychelles, on a deferred honeymoon of sorts. The next year, our anniversary fell in the middle of six weeks of home leave, during which we road-tripped around California and visited friends and family in seven other states. Now, with a three-months-old in tow, we scaled back our ambitions and planned a four-day trip to Romania to mark the occasion.
We packed the car full, bringing one medium-sized suitcase for our belongings and filling the rest of the trunk and much of the backseat area with Munchkin’s things. This being our first trip as a family of three, we did not know what to pack and what to leave behind, and erred on the side of bringing too much stuff. There were a few items we likely could have done without, and it’s probably fair to say that S packed too many cute baby outfits, but mostly we were pleased with our foresight at the things we did bring, which included Munchkin’s rock-n-play, his books – in Russian and English, monkey bouncing chair, stroller, and the various odds and ends that surfaced when needed out of the depths of S’s Mary Poppins-esque diaper bag.
Munchkin was a trooper and, with the exception of a minor meltdown occasioned by a diaper blowout, handled the five-hour drive to Bucovina like a champ. He remained in good spirits until we finished unpacking the car, but 7-8pm is his witching hour, and he made it clear in no uncertain terms that he was displeased with us for uprooting him from his familiar surroundings and routine. The boutique hotel where we stayed had an excellent restaurant and we asked for our dinner to be brought to our room, taking turns eating while trying to get Munchkin to fall asleep.
We spent three nights in Bucovina, and though we managed to see a lot, the focus of this trip for us was learning how to balance our wanderlust with Munchkin’s needs. At this age, he is still small enough that we were able to spend an entire day out and about, driving between various destinations of cultural interest. However, we also quickly realized that if we wanted to avoid running ourselves ragged to the point where the vacation would no longer be fun we needed to cut down our agenda to a manageable level. That meant axing our planned side trip to hike in the Carpathian Mountains in favor of massages and an evening sipping wine with a book in one hand while rocking Munchkin to sleep with the other.