BabyM first experienced swimming at 9 months old in Seattle in August. M and I carried him into the pool and he looked around bewildered. Within a few minutes he got a bit cold so BabyM and I curled up in towels near the pool. That’s when M decided it was time to dive in on the other side of the pool and swam towards us. Screaming and crying insued and would not be calmed until we were safely inside. For two weeks afterwards BabyM hated bath time and anything else involving water. However, he had to endure us picnicking by the pool, and watching his older cousins play in the pool. Finally he stuck his feet in a puddle of water next to the pool and plopped down splashing and giggling.
Don’t take me out of the puddle!
Can we go swimming?
The next time we took him into the pool was at twilight with the pool lights on. He was calm as he took it all in, splashed a bit and decided pools were okay. After that he wanted to be in the pool any time we were close to it!
We attended three baby swimming classes with BabyM while we were in Germany in September. Since BabyM enjoyed swimming so much we were eager to get him back in the water. While I expected any chance to play with him in the pool to be fun, I was surprised at how much I learned in the classes! The basic premise is that you can teach young babies how to float on their backs and how to roll onto their backs if anything should happen. During the lessons the babies are exposed to different water scenarios; getting splashed, floating, rolling onto their backs and even diving. Even more exciting was that after the 45 minute classes, BabyM would sleep for longer stretches at night!
We visited a friend who had a baby pool set up in their backyard and realized we needed to get BabyM a pool of his own. The more time we can splash the better! Of course, that pool is now being used as a toy box in our Airbnb in Lisbon.
Baby pool or toy box?
We tried to take BabyM on a walk along the Pacific Ocean at Redondo beach in February but he complained about the wind so he barely even glimpsed the ocean before we left. A week later we wandered along the beach in La Jolla where it was less windy and he slept most of the way. However, the first time we brought him to the Ocean with the intention of going into the water was in Portugal when he was just under 11 months old.
Running after waves in the sand is exhausting!
As usual, first the beach was terrifying for BabyM. Then he took a nap and had a snack and all of a sudden the sand was interesting enough to distract him from his fears. Before long he was watching a boy about a year older playing with a toy cement truck at the waters edge. Then BabyM found his own feet in the water as the waves crashed onto the beach, and just like that he forgot to be scared.
When we lived in California, M and I would go on bike rides when we had some free time. Both of us would also frequently bike into work. So, it’s no surprise that after having BabyM we were interested in continuing the biking trips. As I looked into biking with a baby, I came across numerous requirements before BabyM would be fit to biking. One notable requirement was that BabyM be at least a year old.
Now, one of the things we have come to realize in the last year, is that what is considered safe and normal in one country is not in another. Car seats approved for use in Europe and the US are different. Biking is another area of disagreement with Americans thinking the baby needs to be at least a year old, whereas Germans are happy to start biking much earlier. For the trip we borrowed a bike trailer from M’s cousin. It came with a styrofoam insert for babies younger than a year. He giggled the first time he took a ride in it and fell asleep in it easily, unlike when he’s in his car seat.
BabyM napping in the trailer during a lunch break.
We chose a route along the Rhine river between Bingen and Bad Breisig which is just north of Koblenz. The route was flat and famous for the sheer number of castles. We biked for three days for about two hours a day, leaving us plenty of time to explore the small towns along the way. I borrowed M’s mom’s electric bike and pulled the trailer, while M carried a backpack and the bike saddle bags. Each time we went up a small incline I was able to whiz right by him with the aid of the battery pack!
BabyM, J and a castle
Stopping to lather on the sunscreen.
Ooooh! Pretty castle!
Bike path is right along the river bank.
Every night we would look at the weather, and it would inform us of an impending thunderstorm the next day. After much worrying, it only ever rained on us as we rode the one mile to the train station the day we went back to M’s home town.
Bike break on a playground!
In the end, our verdict is that bike trips with babies are entirely possible.
The first thing that comes to mind when traveling, or really, doing anything with babies is stuff. Babies have a surprising amount of it, and they don’t make any effort to help carry it. Not only are you concerned with how to pack it all, but then you have to worry about how to carry all of your stuff, the baby stuff and last but certainly not the lightest, the baby himself! We have toys, books, a travel crib, a stroller, a car seat and somehow we were still traveling by train until a week ago when we got a car to go into the Alps.
Baby proofed hotel room! No cords! Only sharp corners…
Naptime. in the background is the car seat straped onto the stroller for easy transportation, a giant pile of laundry, and toys everywhere.
Then, there is the constant baby proofing. I’m sure it’s annoying enough to baby proof your own home, but we’re staying with our parents, or with friends, or in hotel rooms which means not only a change of scenery but changing “danger zones” where all the fun cords and sharp corners call out to our curious son. Then again, there are also many ways in which we can contain him.
Playing at a nearby park!
Playing with the kitchen set, in the plastic bin it came in!
Bath time in the kitchen sink.
Traveling is also a bit slower. Babies need nap-time regularly, and we’ve found that if we abide by the nap-time “rules” we can still do and see much of what we’d have done pre-baby. Planning around nap-time is essential! There is no point in sitting down for a meal, if nap-time is in 15 minutes. Instead, it is time to prepare for sleeping. However, BabyM loves to nap while being carried, so we can often have him nap on the go while we are out walking.
Then, there are the usual chores, doing laundry, grocery shopping, cleaning, packing, planning future travels that keep us just as busy as playing with the baby!
Here is a look at what traveling looks like these days.
6:10am Wake up to BabyM rolling around and cooing. Pretend I can still sleep a bit more.
6:45am Finally give up on sleeping. We get up, play with BabyM and start packing our ridiculous amount of stuff into bags.
7:50am Breakfast! BabyM spends most of it dropping spoons from his high hair and eating a few puffs.
8:40am We are back in our room where BabyM has nursed to sleep and is napping on our bed. We finish the last minute packing, brush our teeth and M packs the car while I sit with BabyM and prepare the directions for our drive.
9:10am M brings the car seat up to the room and we attempt to keep BabyM asleep during the transfer. We get him buckled in while still asleep, but he wakes up before getting to the car.
9:20am We are on the road again! M is driving, I’m sitting in the backseat with BabyM and work on a blog post while entertaining BabyM.
10:20am We are in the parking lot getting ready for the Klamm. (A really pretty type of hike along the side of a river in Tirol, more on that later!)
12:45pm We are back down from the Klamm, BabyM is napping in his carrier, we search for a bakery and buy a variety of cakes from the region to bring to our friends place.
1:40pm We are on the road again! I tried to nurse him before we left but he was too distracted. BabyM is cheerful and playing with my for the first hour and then loses it and we stop so I can feed him, and this time he actually eats.
3:20pm We arrive at our friends place, 5 minutes after BabyM finally fell asleep. I’m not sure why people say babies always fall asleep in cars, ours hates the car! At some point after arriving we start a load of laundry.
4:45pm We go with our friends to the BBQ next door. There are at least 10 kids running around that BabyM watches with open mouthed fascination.
5:45pm I retreat to our friends place to feed BabyM, make bottle of formula (last meal of the day, in an attempt to get him to sleep a bit longer…) hang up our laundry to dry and go back to the festivities.
8:15pm I come back and get myself and BabyM ready for bed.
8:30pm I feed BabyM to sleep.
8:45pm BabyM is passed out and I work on a blog post time, finally check email and remember how far behind I am as it continues to pile up.
9:30pm BabyM wakes up screaming, like clockwork, 45 minutes after falling asleep, as has been routine for the last week. I get him back to sleep quickly.
10:30pm I finally go to bed myself. Of course I still wake up to feed BabyM throughout the night as well, but I try not to look at the clock anymore as that tends to stress me out and wake me up even more.
2015 has been the year of changing plans. As a good friend of ours says: “A plan is just a list of things that won’t happen.” That has certainly been true for us this year!
We started the year with a plan to move to Munich where I had a job lined up and ended up cutting our trip to Morocco short and moving to Berlin for M to take a job. The job is with a small firm that a larger international company just bought out and while there was promise of M being moved down to Munich in the near future, there was no definitive timeline.
Since we decided that there wasn’t enough excitement and uncertainty in our lives we decided to start a family and I promptly got pregnant. Further complicating things, my body doesn’t seem to appreciate this pregnancy thing very much and I quickly succumbed to almost three full months of constant “morning” sickness. It was, of course, during these months that the tutoring and course review job I have through an online startup picked up and I struggled to teach some physics between trips to the bathroom. Needless to say, I took a long pause in my German learning activities while coping!
“Hiking” while pregnant.
The change in work and city plans resulted in some stress around the fact that without my job I didn’t have a visa to live in Germany. We oscillated between plans of me hiding from the German winter in Vietnam and the Philippians for a few months in order to be able to renew my Schengen Visa entry and simply pushing up our wedding date. Eventually, with the new knowledge of the baby on the way, we settled this with a courthouse wedding, attended by our parents and two of my siblings. Through this whole experience we have learned a lot about jumping through various governmental hoops, but the end result is that I can now legally live in Germany and am married to the person I was planning to marry!
As I was finally getting over the worst of the sickness, M’s company finally announced a timeline for moving him down to Munich. Instead of a few months, such a move was going to be over a year out. As we had been living in temporary housing (with a friend, then a furnished sublet) in anticipation of a move, we finally started looking for apartments. As luck would have it, a friend was moving out of his rent-controlled place and we were able to take it over. Of course, finding the apartment turned out to be the easiest part of the whole moving ordeal. While we know that I have trouble with kitchen appliances in Germany, moving and furnishing an apartment can teach you a lot about the differences between countries and cultures. Perhaps that is a rant discussion for another post…
You’re only officially moved in when you have a BBQ…
We’re still working on that part of the plan. Germany has some incredible parental leave and vacation policies that will likely allow us to do a bit of traveling. This time, with an infant in tow!
I had generally expected the question of how I was financing my travels to come up. I mean, I’ve been a professional student for years, making roughly a living wage. What I wasn’t expecting was who would do the asking and how quickly my hard-core savings would be called “luck”! Let’s get this straight, while luck plays a role in my ability to travel (as I was born into a wealthy and stable country, have a wonderful family, and had no major health problems or catastrophic accidents), the fact that I saved up a significant chunk of money was due to my choices and determination to travel long-term post graduation.
We touched on the money aspect ever so slightly when we spoke about selling everything and moving our remaining possessions into my parents basement. But building our savings started long before that. In fact, I entirely attribute my ability to travel to my habit of tracking my spending. And no, I don’t mean with mint or some other app, I mean personally writing down every cent that I spent every day. When I first started writing down every purchase, I was shocked at how many monetary transactions I made every day! But doing this can quickly show where you’re spending your money and can highlight areas where you can limit your spending to increase your savings. However, my ranting on the financial benefits of tracking your spending and budgeting is not the purpose of this post!
As I mentioned, I have a habit of tracking my spending. Furthermore, I should probably call this “habit” what it is; an addiction. When we first started our trip, I had planned to abandon this habit for the first time and failed. Prior to our trip, I had only tracked my own spending, but as we started the trip our finances became too intertwined and I quickly (i.e. immediately) started tracking everything. As a result, my love of spreadsheets can highlight just how affordable travel can be, especially if you choose your countries wisely! Here is the breakdown from our Southeast Asia trip:
Note that flights are not included. This was done purposely because flights are a whole different type of expense. With patience and flexibility flights can generally be found cheaply but with them, so much depends on where you are coming from! In the following are a few notes specific to each country, as well as a favorite picture from each!
As Thailand was the first country we visited, we were in vacation mode when we first arrived. What I mean by that is that we frequently had delicious and fruity cocktails with dinner, because we could. We also rarely ate street food, opting for restaurants (with curry!) as we slowly adjusted to life on the road. However, as any long term traveler knows, this is not sustainable behavior. I do think this is part of the reason that the food column is substantially higher in Thailand than in any other country (except Singapore, which is in its own expensive category)!
We also did several activities such as scuba diving, white water rafting and rock climbing with a guide. So much fun!
I mean, honestly, when you’re sitting here, taking in this sunset, are you really NOT going to order a delicious fruity cocktail served out of a pineapple?
To be fair, we didn’t give Malaysia much of a chance. We high-tailed it out of there to Singapore where we stayed while M prepared for his interview. Our per day transportation cost was rather high considering that transportation here was relatively cheap. We were just moving almost every day. However, I did find my favorite curry of the whole trip on Tioman Island. My curry addiction most certainly fueled some of the food costs in both Thailand and Malaysia. You can easily get cheaper street foods… just none of them are as delicious as CURRY!
We expected Singapore to be expensive. We just didn’t expect to spend as much time there as we did. On the other hand, it was a good base as M finished his interview prep. However, even the hostels were expensive, and while we did eat at some wonderful and cheap restaurants we also treated ourselves to drinks with views such as the one below.
Marina Bay Sands light and water show.
Cambodia was definitely one of the cheaper countries. It probably would be near the same cost per day as Vietnam if it weren’t for our short stay as well as the entrance fees to Angor Wat being relatively high. But Angor Wat is simply stunning!
We spoke a little bit about our surprise at the costs in Myanmar at the time given that they were significantly higher than the guidebook and websites had led us to believe. However, this had to do primarily with hotels and fees to the various regions we were visiting. Since most of the attractions are to simply see the country, the (lack of) activity fees kept the overall price fairly consistent with the other countries we visited.
We seemed to have unintentionally saved the cheapest country for last. If you have ever spent money without making money for months and watched your savings balance drop, you know how much of a relief it is to see that balance dropping more slowly. We did a lot of tours in Vietnam, but we were still able to stick to a reasonable budget. By this time we were eating significantly more street food. M may have become completely addicted to the Vietnamese sandwiches (and will still immediately start drooling if you mention a particular sandwich lady from Hoi An).
All in all, our costs for traveling through Southeast Asia were cheaper than what we would have spent to live in either the US or Germany! While I know many people who spend hundreds or thousands of dollars on a two-week vacation, it’s all about the choices you make, from the location of the vacation, to where you stay, and what you do that dictate how much money you will end up spending. These are choices, not luck! We just happen to make pretty good choices, if I do say so myself! 😉
Six months ago we packed up everything into a rental car with the plan on traveling for an undefined period of time. Now, we are settling into our new, albeit somewhat temporary home, at a wonderful friend’s apartment in Berlin. We cut our trip to Morocco short in order to fly back to Germany so that M could start a brand new job on February 2nd. In our typical style, we flew into an airport near Dusseldorf, rented a car and drove halfway across Germany to M’s parents to pack up some belongings before continuing the rest of the way across Germany to Berlin. M drove, as I don’t drive in snow, nor am I terribly skilled at driving manual transmission vehicles, and I especially don’t do the combination of the two. Don’t believe me? I’m sure my parents would be happy to tell you about that time they thought I should get some experience driving in snow, two hours away from home on a mountain road. I managed to pop not one, but two tires…luckily M grew up driving on snowy country roads and we arrived in Berlin without incident.
So how did we get to this point, where we are making a new start in a new city? The short version is that we haven’t just been traveling these past few months. Instead we have juggled visiting friends and family with applying and interviewing for jobs. M recently received a few offers and has chosen one that he couldn’t possibly be more excited about. Unfortunately we have become used to academic job timelines where interviewing happens months after applying and actually starting jobs takes even longer. As a result we weren’t prepared when he received his contract asking him to start within a week and a half – a full 11 days prior to when we were scheduled to leave Morocco. Through some scrambling we switched around flights and called countless people to help us get organized for our move, proving that these things can be accomplished from anywhere in the world.
Luckily we didn’t have to scramble for a place to live as we moved into one of M’s friends apartments. However, the friend was out of town during our first week, which made settling in a rather humorous affair. We were fairly convinced this friend only had two bowls, as we couldn’t find more anywhere in the kitchen. Well, we were wrong and found a few giant stacks of bowls hidden under a bunch of candles… It took me an entire 5 minutes to figure out how to use the strangest contraption of a can opener that I have ever seen (and considering I have no problem opening cans with a pocketknife that is saying something…). It also took me a rather long time to figure out how to turn on the microwave. For the record, you don’t. You simply turn and keep turning the switch as it adds time to the clock and once you stop turning it eventually starts all on its own. In addition, I have learned how to open the front door to the building. This involves me body checking it with all my weight and force and having the heavy piece of crap very slowly inch open under all of my pressure. Home sweet home… it may take us a while to fully settle in.
The infamous door…
While we are in Berlin, I have started an intensive language course to finally learn German. While I have been making some progress through the use of Duolingo and talking with M, I hope that this will help me advance much more quickly. I took a similar type of course six years ago when I moved to France without speaking any French. I’m already in better shape than during that adventure in language learning, as I can already order beer in German. I proved it at an “American” bar where we were able to watch the Super Bowl. The bar was filled with Germans wearing random NFL sports attire. I’m not sure they understood that the Dolphins, the Eagles, the Packers and the Jets (to name a few) were not, in fact, part of the very disappointing game.
As for the blog, we plan to continue to post our travel stories from the past six months as well as write new stories about our travels throughout Europe. Hopefully I can convince M to post something about the ups and downs of his job search in the near future. I’ve decided to take a break from the Picture of the Day series as I’ve been spending a significant amount of time studying German and adjusting to our new surroundings. After six months of culture shocks, you would think that adjusting would be easy…
Day 193: Statue of Friedrich Jahn in the Volkspark Hasenheide.
Day 194: Shoes left behind at a bus stop in Berlin.
Day 195: The Quadria on top of the Brandenburger Tor.
Day 196: Frankfurter Tor with the Alexanderplatz TV tower in the background.
Day 197: Sun setting behind the alps.
Day 198: People slack lining at the Flugfeld Tempelhof.
Day 199: Ampelmänchen!
Day 200: Water pump in the streets of Tempelhof, Berlin.
Day 186: S-Bahn tracks in Berlin.
Day 187: Platz der Luftbrücke.
Day 188: Grifi near Treptower Park.
Day 189: St. Marienkirche, Alexanderplatz.
Day 190: Office buildings near Potsdamer Platz.
Day 191: Kaiser Wilhelm Gedächtniskirche
Day 192: Gasometer Schöneberg
Day 179: Kite surfer off the coast of Essaouira, Morocco.
Day 180: Donkey and new buildings between Essaouira and Marrakech, Morocco.
Day 181: Storks on the roof of the royal palace in Marrakech, Morocco.
Day 182: Sheep! (In Germany….)
Day 183: Snowy first night in Berlin.
Day 184: Holocaust memorial in Berlin.
Day 185: On the way to watch the Superbowl in an American sports bar in Berlin.
Day 172: Jemaa el-Fnaa square in Marrakesh in the evening.
Day 173: View from the old city of Ait Benhaddou near Quarzazate.
Day 174: Inside a Berber tent in the Sahara desert.
Day 175: The Sahara desert near Merzouga.
Day 176: Sunset at the Essaouira harbor.
Day 177: Soccer players and wind turbines at the coast near Essaouira.
Day 178: Camels at the beach near Essaouira.