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.
This is what I had expected Singapore to be like. I was walking along the Limmat River in the old part of Zurich, Switzerland, and realized why I had been disappointed by our visit to Singapore in the previous week. Don’t get me wrong, Singapore is an amazing city, but so many people had told me that it was one of the cleanest and most organized cities they had been to. Well, I guess they hadn’t been to Zurich. Zurich is living up to the Swiss cliché of being organized, punctual, clean and polite.
The Limmat River with the Grossmuenster.
I was walking the still familiar streets and enjoying a break from the fabulous chaos that is Southeast Asia. However, I was still very confused that cars stopped for me at the crosswalks. It was late Tuesday morning and I was on my way to meet a friend for lunch. I had lived in this city for a while during my PhD and a few of my friends were still around. This gave me the opportunity to settle into the time zone and adjust to the environment for a couple of days before I had a job interview.
Yeah, the main reason to come to Zurich wasn’t to catch up with friends or go hiking in the Alps. I had applied for this job a while ago and got invited to interview right around the time when we were leaving on our Southeast Asia adventure. Of course, the date for the interview was right in the middle of the time frame that we intended to be travelling. For one of my previous job interviews I had gotten the advice: ‘If they ask you to jump, you only ask how high’! Thus, the date was set. The open position was at one of my favorite employers and in a location that offers a great quality of life for me. Thus turning it down wasn’t an option either. That meant that it would have a significant impact on our travel itinerary. Little did I know how much it would influence our trip. At first, I mainly thought about the added complications of travelling to Zurich. I had to pick a city close to where we might be at that time and book flights. Unfortunately I had no idea where that might be. J suggested that I should fly out of Singapore since I was also trying to set up a business meeting there. That way I could combine the two things that needed fixed dates and it ended up determining the rough schedule of our trip through Malaysia and Singapore.
Sailboats on Zurichsee with the Alps in the background.
However, the preparation for the interview had an even more significant impact on our trip. In the beginning I only worked a couple of hours each morning. But especially in the last few weeks before my departure to Switzerland, I spent more and more time designing the slides for the presentations and trying to come up with all possible angles for questions. By the time we arrived in Singapore I was basically working normal hours. But applying for jobs is a job in itself and having the time for it as well as being removed from my normal work environment was very beneficial. Furthermore J was a great reviewer and improved the quality of my presentations tremendously. [J’s note: I didn’t make him write that!!]
The days that I spent in Zurich before the interview went by quickly. I met more friends, visited the cafes and bars I used to frequent and worked more on my presentations. By the time I went into the first interview event I felt like I was well prepared and, what was maybe even more important, like I belonged in that place. One of the presentations was public and two friends of mine attended it. It’s always nice to have supportive faces in the audience. This is something I also take advantage of when giving talks. I focus on those people in the audience who seem supportive of what I’m saying. Things went well. The two interview days seemed to fly by with many interesting discussions and I left with the impression that I had done a good job. The rest is going to depend on factors outside of my control.
View of the city and the lake from the Uetliberg.
The day after the interview I went on a hike with my parents who had decided to use the opportunity to see me for a weekend trip to Zurich. We had a great time and it was especially nice of them to stop by since I don’t get to see them that often these days. They dropped me off at the airport after breakfast on Sunday and I started on my two day journey to meet J in the islands of southern Thailand. On the way I spent a night in Singapore, which seemed even nicer now that I was more relaxed.
It will be a while before I hear back about the outcome of the interview. I knew that going in. Nevertheless the first two weeks were tough. I checked emails every time that I had access to an internet connection. But I’ve calmed down about it. It still crosses my mind regularly. But I’m no longer excited every time I check my emails. For the time being I assume that I won’t get an offer and continue to look for jobs… …and to travel of course.