by Samantha Runkel of HeyTerra Travel
Before the kids, my husband and I were travelers. Let me rephrase that, he was a traveler, and I merely followed him from country to country. We’d met on an expedition ship while visiting Antarctica; I was a musician at the time, he was a photographer on a round-the-world trip. We became instant friends, I invited myself on his round-the-world trip and eventually moved to Germany, where he was from. The rest, they say, is history.
Today, my husband is still a photographer and we still travel avidly, but with one small caveat- it’s with our two small children in tow.
We didn’t let having kids stop us from the fulfilling work of documenting remote landscapes and communities around the world. In fact, traveling with our kids has enhanced the experience rather than deterred from it. There’s no better global ambassador than a child. We’ve watched our kids make friends on playgrounds from Myanmar to Malta, all without speaking a common language. We witnessed our daughter, now six years old, get her first tooth as an infant on a road trip across Japan, practice climbing stairs up city temples in Indonesia, take her first wobbly steps in the Namibian desert. And because our kids have been with us out in the world, it’s opened doors to connections and perceptions we never would have had otherwise.
And though combining traveling and parenting is far from the easiest, we’ve learned to adapt a few philosophies that make both not only only possible, but exceptional.
One of them is babywearing.
Logistically, babywearing is my number one tip when advising parents who plan to travel with their baby or toddler. Travel is oftentimes easier before they start walking on their own and developing all of the independence a toddler has. There’s nothing like chasing your curious two-year old across the very off-limits grounds of Drottningholm Palace in Stockholm and getting a crushing yet silent headshake from the security guards (not speaking from experience, of course).
Considering the layout of cities around the world, using a baby carrier is also generally the most logical option. Many cities across Europe have hefty cobblestone streets and underground public transportation that makes it difficult to jimmy strollers around. When traveling farther afield like southeast Asia or Africa, sidewalks are either nonexistent or in repair.
With air travel, carriers, slings and wraps allow you to be hands-free while organizing the rest of your luggage and if you have other children, getting yourself and them through security and across the airport terminal. If traveling solo with kids, which I do frequently, it’s a life-saver. On the plane, it is a multipurpose travel hack— parents can simultaneously calm and soothe baby, allows for a little walk around the plane, and moms can discreetly nurse in them.
And it’s no wonder: as a travel family, we’ve seen mothers and fathers carrying their babies in myriad different ways around the world. It’s both practical logistically and a way to keep close to baby (there’s nothing better than having an excuse to be close to our babies!). From an evolutionary perspective, humans are a “carrying” species— we have always kept our babies close, taking them along to forage for food, as opposed to a “parking” species, such as wolves, which hides their young in dens or elsewhere while going out to search for food. Early humans, at least half a million years ago, began making carriers, constructed from animal skins, plants, and leather cords to strap babies to the chests of their caregivers.
We’ve seen incredibly constructed slings in the far regions of Myanmar, beautiful woven rebozos across the African continent, modern structured carriers in Japan, and ingenious back-carries amongst the Nenet people of Siberian Russia.
We’ve embodied this practical philosophy, too- it makes our life easier and allows us to do the things we did before having kids- which is to explore, document and share this beautiful world we live in.