You get all sorts of different responses to the fact that you go overlanding with a baby only a few months old. Looks of disbelief and anger towards “irresponsible” parents are leveled out by sentiments of wonder, laughter, comprehension and even envy, but to be frank, most people frown upon the idea of a baby on a trip, let alone an overlanding trip. Before we became parents we could side with majority that babies must stay in nice, warm, clean and comfortable homes. And we saw lots of couples that used to travel, but got babies and just never ever lifted their butts again, except maybe only for a short vacation somewhere on the tourist-infected beach. But being overlanding addicts that get miserable when staying at home for more than three days, in the light of the imminent “threat” of family expansion, we were forced to seriously consider our options – still go overlanding with a baby or do the reasonable, responsible, expected, “normal” thing – stay at home for few years, basically forever.
It’s not hard to guess that we didn’t stay at home. First we did an “introduction” overlanding trip to Sardinia when Kea Pika was only five months old, to see how we handle things from long-distance driving to outdoor feeding and sleeping in a car. And guess what… we survived.
With this new-found confidence we embarked upon our so far the longest family trip – 51 days and 9.500 kilometers over 11 countries (12 including Slovenia) when Kea Pika was eight months old and not only did we survive – we loved it immensely.
We shall not discuss the downside or possible negativities of baby travel – we’re pretty confident that most stay-safely-at-home parents could talk for hours why you cannot strap the baby to the car seat and take it across Eastern Europe to Moldova and back – in a large loop. But we did just that and would do it again in an instant.
Of course overlanding with a baby is demanding – it takes quite some planning, adapting and lots and lots of improvisation. We had to develop a travel rhythm that was in tune with sleeping patterns of our baby. We had to make longer stops so we could cook for the little one and we made bivouacs earlier so we could play and enjoy each other’s company. And we even had to put alloy crates on the roof rack of our Land Cruiser, for diapers and dog food! But in the end we realized all that was not only nuisance but a big bonus – we woke up early and started to enjoy our days, we had time to eat ourselves, play with Kea Pika and Punky, we had time to visit the sights or the people, and the evenings were long and peaceful with plenty of time to make the bed and dinner, to light a fire and to collect berries for little one to eat. This was a big relief compared to trips where most of the day was consumed by driving. And nevertheless, after few weeks of our overland we were quite surprised how many kilometers we made, how many things we experienced and actually how easy it all went. Not to forget that the crates on the roof rack came in quite handy when transporting divines over the borders!
There were not so perfect moments too, this must be understood… some days we had to drive for too long to reach the desired destination, sometimes Kea Pika didn’t want to sleep and we had to entertain her during the drive, sometimes it was too hot or too cold and we were tired and cranky… But that is an inevitable part of travelling, with a baby or without. It’s never all roses when overlanding.
But in the end it comes to the most important aspect of it all – we were together for full 51 days, every day, all day. We had time for each other. We played with Kea Pika. We talked to her, read her books, sung songs. We took countless photos, every day. We washed her shitty behind in all possible water sources and she got so used to cold water that she still doesn’t like warm baths. We watched her how she learned how to sit and how to stand up. We watched her pick up her first pebble and seashell on the beach. We spent countless moments trying to stop her from eating grass. We picked all sorts of forest fruits for her and she ate it all. We laughed as she tried to grab the ears of a donkey. We brought her a tortoise. We swam together in countless seas, rivers and lakes. We cuddled every morning together in our bed. We were a family 24/7, not distracted by mundanities of ordinary life. And somewhere during the trip our baby turned from a small shrieking smelly package to a little laughing human being (although still missing teeth!).
Babies are not some sort of delicate plants that you keep in safe environment and water them from time to time, even though that is exactly what most parents seem to do. Even just a few months old babies are curious creatures eager to explore everything they can see and touch and put in their mouths. We can be pretty sure that Kea Pika will not remember swimming in the Danube river or seeing bears in Bear Sanctuary in Zarneşti or staring at the flames of the campfire somewhere high in the magnificent Carpathians or eating cottage cheese in the mountains of Montenegro. But we will forever remember her amazed eyes and laughter. And maybe the desire for adventure and travelling will get under her skin too.
So guess what – we are definitely pro! and already planning our next overland. We look up to a new challenge – it is expected that Kea Pika will be walking by then.