In January, we packed up two bags and set off for Italy. We both love to travel so this didn't seem too wild for us, except this time we traded in the suitcases for rucksacks and they were accompanied by a folding pushchair, filled with our six-month-old baby. Backpacking Italy with a baby the done thing amongst our friends.
Horror spread across their faces as we explained with a casual flair that we were flying to Milan and hopping on a train to take in five Italian cities, in ten days.
We aren't worriers. No doubt if we were, that would have held us back and stopped us from enjoying this memorable trip. But we found the travel easy, we enjoyed planes and trains, taxies and a gondola. My boy charmed everyone he met and turned six months in Venice, a story I will regurgitate more than once I'm sure.
If there is one thing Europeans do very well, it's family. I've stood on the tube in London and known that it's inappropriate to make eye contact with anyone ever! Them's just the rules, but not so on a packed train in Rome or a water taxi in Venice. People helped us onboard, offered us directions in torrential rain storms and plied our baby full of breadsticks. It was happiness and goodness all in one trip.
On our return from Italy, I didn't feel exhausted from lugging around a bag AND a pushchair AND a child. I felt refreshed and rejuvenated from the whole experience. So I thought I'd share a few lessons I have learned while backpacking with a baby.
You always need less than you think you do
From the starter portions of pasta, to the minimal clothing and sparsely furnished apartments. There is truth in living with less.
I first noticed this in our accommodation, opting for apartments booked hastily online, thinking this would be an easier choice with a baby in tow. All our accommodation was of a great standard. Everything you needed and none of the extras. By the end of the trip, it dawned on me how much time and space that freed up. With none of those additions from home we were forced to operate differently, it pushed us together instead of pulling our attention elsewhere.
Due to carrying my clothing and half of my babies clothes on my back, I was forced to really pair back my choices. I put together an easily foldable uniform that worked well together and managed with one pair of shoes. All of a sudden I understood those capsule wardrobe articles I've been flipping though for ten years and I've started listing over half my wardrobe for auction.
Babies/Children do not need "STUFF". They just need you
I hold my hands up. I have the expensive travel system that cost half the price of my car. I freeze in fear when my child wants to eat near it. For a small human, he has a wardrobe of clothing that looks like a high-end store and I have two, huge, plastic tubs full of clothing he has either never worn or lightly touched, just begging me to do something with it. The pressure to live up to people's expectations is always high but the pressure you feel or indeed, I felt when I became a Mother was huge. I wanted the best for him and that directly translated to high priced items.
Forced to live out of a bag and on the move, we had to switch things up. I purchased a lightweight stroller, second hand, for the princely sum of £10. It has been well loved but has plenty of life left in it. It traveled miles, it kept him comfortable and kept us on the move. It provided him shelter from rainstorms and transported him around some of the most historic spots on the globe. I didn't need my ridiculously beautiful, ridiculously expensive travel system to travel.He also didn't need his stylish wardrobe as he spent most days cuddled up in onesies, the kind you get in packs of three and in our house are exclusively kept for sleep. He was warm, he was comfy and I realised the world wouldn't end because his bib didn't match.
All parents deserve recognition, 1000 Facebook likes and a whole load of Insta love. Don't stay in the virtual realm too long. Never forget to watch what is going on under your nose and what is beyond your doorstep.