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What does parenthood mean for the traveling lifestyle?

I was never completely sold on the idea of motherhood. Even as a kid, while other girls would lovingly rock their baby dolls to sleep or feed them tea, I’d throw mine out the window. “Run!” I’d holler at my little brother as we tore barefoot down the muddy path behind our house, frantic to put as much distance between ourselves and the evil cabbage patch kids that lay in crumpled heaps across the backyard. “They’re gonna kill us!”

Now, more than 20 years later, I’m still running from babies; only this time it’s the thought of growing one inside of me. Although I like kids, I love travel. And try as I might, I just can’t imagine how those two things could ever go together.

Because travel to me is about 2am skinnydips and shots of strange, fizzy cocktails. It’s about hitching rides in the backs of pickup trucks and buses crammed with sweaty bodies and noisy livestock. It’s about quiet sunsets and long train rides with a good book. It’s about setting off each morning without a plan and then getting hopelessly, exhilaratingly lost. Travel is about freedom.

Babies, on the other hand, are anything but. Babies are like that high-maintenance friend you make the mistake of inviting to Bangkok, who spends the trip whining about the food and crying about the heat, only she’s your kid, so you can’t just abandon her in a Starbucks for the afternoon. Babies require routines and regular sleep cycles and nourishment not found in beer and unidentified street food. In short, babies are a total travel buzz kill.

And yet, I’ve always assumed I’d one day have one. I figured that eventually the day would come when I’d want a baby so bad I’d be willing to give up my freedom and trade climbs up Machu Picchu and Kilimanjaro for trips to Legoland and Cinderella’s castle. But I just turned 30 and have hit the age when there’s no more pushing motherhood off into “someday,” as in, “I’ll have kids someday when I’m done traveling.” Someday is here (or darn close), and I’m not ready to give it all up. So now what?

A few weeks ago, I was discussing my dilemma with my friend Tom. We were driving to Area 51 to go camping for the weekend when I said something to the effect of, “Why do I keep agonizing over this? For everyone else the decision to have kids just seems so easy.” What he said surprised me.

“For you it’s a bigger sacrifice. You’re like, .01% of the population.” He went on to explain that if I chose to have kids, l would be giving up a lot more than the average person. “Their lives don’t change that much after they have kids. They’ll still be living in the same town, working in the same job, hanging out with mostly the same friends that they’ve had for years. If anything, a baby will add to their life, not take away. ”

I’d never thought of it that way, but he was right. If I chose to have kids, life as I knew it would be over. I’d have to put off moving to China to study Mandarin, and I’d need to postpone joining the Peace Corps. And my plan to save up for a ride on the Trans-Siberian Railway would likely take a backseat to saving for sleep-away camp and swimming lessons.

So while it would seem that the obvious choice would be to take the path not strewn with dirty diapers and mushed animal crackers, a part of me wonders if maybe I’d be wrong to do that. One of the things I love most about travel is that when you’re on the road, every day brims with the possibility of adventure. What if, by abstaining from parenthood, I end up missing out on the greatest adventure of all?

Family + Kids


About The Author

Reannon Muth

Reannon Muth is a part-time writer and full-time travel addict. Over the last decade, she's backpacked through Asia and Central America and lived in five countries, in Disney World and on a cruise ship. Some of her talents include being able to fall asleep anywhere and eat almost anything. She currently lives in Las Vegas.You can read about all of her adventures (abroad and at home) on her blog, Taken by the Wind.

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  • Iris Ellis Brister

    This was a good article my opinion is children are a gift from God not a sacrifice parenthood is a beautiful thing like anything it has it’s benefits and it’s negative moments but everything is always worth it in the end traveling can’t be a person’s only life that gets old in time but raising a child is always an adventure trust me I’m a mother of five and it’s been an still is amazing

    • Jessica Rodriguez

      Very well said

  • Róisín O’Donovan

    being a parent is not for everyone so you shouldn’t feel guilty for not having/wanting kids. however if you do have kids instead of travel coming to an end it can change, instead of drinks at 2am you might go swimming at the crack of dawn and learning mandarin might just be part of their education as well as yours!

  • Katka Lapelosová

    I’ve often thought about this myself. No, motherhood is not an easy step in anyone’s life. But I think travel with children is definitely a possibility, if you make it a priority. It’s a new journey where you discover how you can still explore the world with a little one in-tow. Perhaps you won’t go dancing all night at some swanky french club, but seeing your child look up at the Eiffel Tower with the same sense of awe you had on your first trip to Paris will be an amazing feeling. Plus, you’ll be surprised how baby/kid friendly the rest of the world can be. Sweden has Paternity leave, for heaven’s sake!

    • Mark LaBonte

      Just don’t plan to bring a stroller up the eiffel tower…it sucks. And Europe ain’t kid friendly- don’t expect a highchair or booster seat anywhere. Haha- not to be a wet blanket!

    • Gavin Shelton

      Most of my most amazing childhood memories revolve around early travel experiences with my parents. Nothing like wandering around Napoleon’s summer home when you’re 7, wondering why a guy not much taller than I was had such extravagant digs.

    • Katka Lapelosová

      You’ve been Mark? Every time I go to Europe I’m in awe of the way people and places are so kid-friendly. But I’d never bring a baby up to the Eiffel tower, too windy!

  • Jesse Cree

    “Giving up a lot more than the average person” – “You’re like,.01 of the population” – “their lives don’t change as much” – right. Because all those other women who don’t travel must have so little to sacrifice. It’s not like they have to compromise their daily independence, their own life goals, their educational pursuits or their career aspirations.

    The article itself was well-written, but I found the message rankled. A 2003 US census found that 19% of women elected to be childfree – so electing not to have children is hardly abnormal – and this article seemed to imply that other “average” women don’t have to make hard decisions or negotiate massive parts of their lifestyles and identities in order to have children.

    /end rant.

  • Alanna Tyler

    I don’t think it has to be one or the other. I am hoping with creativity I’ll learn to adapt my traveling lifestyle to children. There are tons of bloggers writing about how they travel with their families and educate their kids on the road. I think it is a wonderful experience to see the world and understand it better from a young age.

  • Kebka Rosa

    Thanks for this. My feelings exactly. I also just hit 30 and the someday is knocking at my door. Three years left, maybe four. Not enough time. I need four lifetimes, a bigger credit card limit and a longer fertility cycle. I can’t decide which experience I would regret giving up less: children or the experience of actually seeing this amazing world I am here for only a blink of an eye to see. I met a woman once at a bbq, she strolled in with her two year old son walking on his own next to her. The two did not say anything to each other but instead went independently greeting everyone. Her son perched himself on a chair and talked to a couple that were sitting by the fire. She explained they had just come from spending four months in Goa. Just the two of them. I was mesmerized. How could a single woman with a 1.5 year old go and live in India for four months like it was routine? She is my hero. I would love that to be me, but the nagging realistic voice in my head says “don’t count on it.” *sigh*.

  • Family On A Bike

    Wow! It’s easy to see these things as irreconcilable and incompatible but that is not how it has to be. Go check out the stories of families around the world doing the most extraordinary kinds of travel with a diversity as rich, varied, entertaining, life changing, mission serving, hedonistic, educational or adventurous as you can possibly imagine. The limitation is not in the world and how things are but in the parent and their imagination, courage and spirit of adventure.

  • Cherrie Stevens

    If you’re lucky you have a long life…… I had my kids at a time when travel was not an option for a working class girl BUT we did what we could introducing our kids to camping, house exchange and any other fun thing we could think up…….. at 50 I found myself without a partner and started travelling mostly with my daughter who was then a late teenager… great great experience….. seeing the world through her eyes and sharing my life wisdom with her. I haven’t finished travelling yet and I’m nearly 65 so 15 years of great travel experience when I never had to think I should be doing something else! I’m now a grandma and love seeing the world anew through the eyes of a young child and that’s what you get when you have a child… the world comes to you new every day if you open to it….. so my advice would be if you really want a child… do it… you are resourceful and have a world view that would enhance a childs life. So reach inside and trust your own intuition on this one. Best wishes.

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