Having spent most my life in Europe, Africa and the Middle East, Australia always sounded like a such an exotic, far flung place. It almost seemed an unattainable travel goal, one I would need quite a lot of time and resources for. Adding that to the fact that I’ve never been particularly drawn to the country as a travel destination, I didn’t think my feet would ever touch Australian soil. And I was OK with that.
When I moved to Bali; however, it really sunk in how nearby Australia is and how cheap the flights can be. Suddenly, the destination that once seemed so out of reach, was accessible in quick 3 hour flight! Technically, I could jet off to Australia for a long weekend, spending just €100 on a return flight!
Fast forward 3 years, my best friend announces she left everything behind in Belgium and is settling in Perth. There was only one thing I could do:
Book. The. Ticket.
Meeting up with my bestie in a destination I never thought I would reach: this could only be epic! A quick search led me to an elaborate list of places around West Australia I absolutely wanted to visit. I could already see myself snorkelling the reefs, wine tasting in the vineyards of Margret River, cycling around Rottnest Island, having random kangaroo encounters and exploring prehistoric caves clad with Aboriginal art… So there I was, floating on my little cloud when an important thought brutally brought me back to reality… I was going to be traveling with my 1 year old daughter!
More so, I was about to embark on a single parent travel adventure…
I mean, baby’s can’t snorkel! Nor is there space for a kid’s seat on a mountain bike! I can’t possibly detect subtle hints of nutmeg in a silky red, while keeping a toddler from brushing her teeth with pebbles! I definitely can’t enter a protected underground tunnel while holding a princess that touches absolutely everything she sees.
I hit the delete button and erased my adventurous Australian day dream. I only had one option: go with the (baby’s) flow!
Before I knew it, I was boarding a flight holding a toddler in one arm and a bag full of her crap in the other. The only part of the trip I had meticulously planned was regarding the baby’s flight: how much milk to bring, pre-cutting snacks for the road, gearing up on new toys for her entertainment, stacking up a ridiculous amount of diapers… Other than that, I had zero plans. I knew nothing about Perth, had no idea what we’d be doing there and I really didn’t care. All I could think about, was making it through the hourlong drive to the airport, getting through customs and keeping my sanity during the 3 hour flight as a single parent with toddler. That’s when I encountered my first surprise…
Flying solo with a baby or toddler is quite all right!
You wouldn’t believe how many people reached out to me or spontaneously helped out. At every check in the airport, I would turn and find someone either picking up my bag for me or fetching me a trolley while I juggled kid, bags, passports and boarding passes.
During the flight, I mostly encountered compassionate, smiling faces giving me kudos for traveling along with my daughter. The kid waving, smiling and blowing kisses at all the passengers, probably helped with that.
As we smoothly passed the first ‘single parent travel test’, my excitement went through the roof. We had an Australian stamp in our passports! From now on, I could start saying douchy things like “When I took my daughter to Australia… ” or “My daughter traveled to 3 continents by the time she started to walk”. Douchy indeed, but proud, even more so!
It was only when we stood in the arrival hall and I couldn’t find my friend who was supposed to pick us up, that I realised I had not slightly prepared for this trip. Where would I stay if she wouldn’t show up? How do you get to the centre of town? Though it’s not the first time I land in a country I have made absolutely no plans for and hardly know anything about, it is the first time I do this while having a kid in tow… I suddenly felt the responsibility weighing on my shoulders.
I realised once again this trip would be different than any other I had taken before. “Old me” would have probably been carelessly sipping on a cappuccino in an airport café as I waited for my friend. I’d be catching up on some news while vaguely putting together a backup plan incase she wouldn’t show up. “New me”, however, was pacing up and down the hall, anxiously singing nursery rhymes hoping our royal cuteness wouldn’t throw a hunger-led tantrum…
I wondered if travel would ever be the same again. Probably not. Definitely not when it comes to single parent travel.
Eventually, my friend showed up and we spent the following days catching up…
Meeting new friends…
Wandering the quaint streets of Freemantle…
Going out for elaborate breakfasts, which seems to be the meal Australians take most pride in.
Taking spring walks along meadows filled with wild flowers
There was even space for some wine tasting after all!
As you can see, we had to replace all the exciting adventures with low key, baby friendly activities. What shocked me most was…
It didn’t bother me at all!
These vanilla activities actually made all of us feel comfortable and at ease. No stress, no pressure. Just pure enjoyment of being in the now. It’s without a doubt a different travel style that I’m accustomed to but single parent travel turns out to be quite enjoyable.
Over the past years, I have traveled so much, jetting off to some foreign nation has become an easy trick. I hop from one country to the next without thinking much of it, as the challenge of it all has faded. Single parent travel or travel with a toddler in general, has once again turned travel into a challenge, a push out of my comfort zone.
Let’s do this again some day!
The post “This was not how I pictured my first visit to Australia” first appeared on Travel Cake.