the adventures of a tiny globetrotter
Munchkin marked the midway point of his first year during our trip through the Balkans. He has been to six countries now in as many months of his hereto brief but exciting life, and next month we’ll add another couple of stamps to his passport.
The first time we took him traveling, Munchkin was three months old. We went for an extended weekend drive to see the painted monasteries in Romania, and though we had a great time, our agenda definitely revolved around keeping him happy. He needed to eat and sleep every couple of hours, which is why a driving tour made sense. The days were manageable, but nights were a bit painful, and we specifically chose to stay at a guesthouse with a restaurant so that we could have dinner brought to our room.
Now that another three months have passed, Munchkin reached what many consider to be the ideal traveling age. He was not yet independently mobile, but he could go much lengthier stretches without becoming cranky with hunger, exhaustion, or both, allowing us greater flexibility to structure our days. We took him swimming and hiking, he explored caves and ancient cities with us, and even took in a dressage performance. He proved to be such a good traveler that, with the exception of the kind of late night partying we used to do when we were younger and single, we did not limit our travels on his behalf.
Of course, having three extra pairs of hands helped. S’s parents and sister joined us for the two weeks we spent in Croatia, and they were always happy to hold and entertain Munchkin, not only keeping him occupied but also giving us a break so that we could enjoy our vacation. In fact, S’s family did such a great job amusing and engaging our tiny traveler that we overstretched his boundaries during the first week, with predictable consequences.
At home, we were used to putting him down for a nap every three hours, but on the road, his naps lacked regularity. He stayed up longer between them and slept less each time he did close eyes. Moreover, with everyone wanting to eat dinner as a family, Munchkin’s bedtime got pushed back and his resiliency began to show cracks. After two consecutive nights during which he woke up screaming at 4am and remained disconsolate until we brought him to our bed, we decided to reign in his schedule. We ate dinner in shifts two nights in a row and then switched to earlier meal times so that we could eat as a family and still ensure that Munchkin got a full night of sleep.
As the trip progressed, we learned to make other small adjustments. After ill-timed phone calls twice cut short his sleep, we started unplugging the phones in our hotel rooms as soon as we checked in. We also frequently set up his foldable crib in the bathroom so that he could sleep undisturbed while we were in the room. In Slovenia, where we spent a week just the three of us after S’s family flew back home, we made sure to intersperse our excursions with downtime, even when out hiking. Munchkin used to love his car seat, but now he complained about being confined. Once he would start getting antsy, either in his seat or carrier, the only way to make him stop fussing would be to let him crawl around some grassy spot to stretch his legs.
Although we kept up a pretty fast pace, traveling with the little man also taught us to slow down sometimes and appreciate activities that we would have previously skipped in our travels. Splashing around in the hotel pool, watching in quiet fascination as he came face-to-face with a horse, squealing with delight as he played with the leaves on some shrub, Munchkin derived so much enjoyment from the simple things in life that the joy of watching him play frequently turned the most mundane activities into the highlight of our day.
He won’t remember it, of course, but judging by his happy, smiling face — when we took him swimming, when we fed him fruits and veggies straight off our plates, when we sped around the Adriatic Sea in a motorboat — Munchkin had the time of his life on this trip.