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Whoever said getting there is half the fun surely never flew with a toddler.

Getting there isn’t even half the battle; it is the battle.

If you accept this truth and view your flight as the trial to be endured for the payout of getting to visit a new destination, you will go into the experience with realistic expectations.

That said, there are measures you can take to make your journey more tolerable. Sometimes, you are even graced with that rare and beautiful flight that lives up to one blessed word: unremarkable.

The airplane part of traveling with kids (with toddlers being the most difficult group by far) warrants an entire book. But because I know how busy you are, I’ll give you the straight dope in just three easy installments.

Today, we’ll discuss getting along with others, or as I like to call, it:

Combating Pariah Status

It’s not all in your head. Nobody likes you when you’re flying with kids. Yes, those are withering glances being aimed your way. Yes, the gate agent did just sigh with exasperation when she saw you. Yes, that business traveler is irked that he’s behind you in the security line.

Who can blame them? You and your children are going to make a trying journey/workday all the more trying, what with all their fussing, rambunctiousness, and requirement for five times the hand luggage as anyone else.

Empower yourself with these words: These flights are for the paying public. We bought tickets just like everyone else. Nobody gets to pick who they fly with. WE HAVE EVERY RIGHT TO BE HERE.

(And to those rude business travelers —who are often bigger babies than anybody who’s ever sat on my lap: Mr./Ms. Important Pants, is this your big, important private jet? No? Then shut up and take your seat with the rest of us. Then I’ll add a Please. Because I try to adhere to the same good manners that I foster in my kids.)

That said, plenty of people will be kind and helpful to you. Usually those people are also parents, and understand that this trip is tougher for you than most people, and that your child isn’t crying because you are obliviously allowing her to cry.

Navigating between these two extremes, you can get what you need without annoying and alienating your fellow travelers. Too much.

Howdy, neighbor!

First of all, smile and say hi. Smile and say hi with all the sycophantic exuberance you’d use when being introduced on a job interview. Because you need to make friends. Lots of friends.

Smile and say hi to the gate agent. He might grant you an extra seat or bulkhead row.

Smile and say hi to your seat neighbors. They might have more patience with you than if all the noise was coming from some faceless screaming kid.

Smile and say hi to the people behind you in the security line. They might grumble less when you fill the entire belt with your hand luggage.

Then remember this:

To be merciful to your fellow travelers, you must aim to accomplish two impossible tasks: keep your kids quiet, and for the love of all that is holy, try to curb seat kicking.

Hush!

Keeping a baby or toddler quiet on a flight is a feat so impossible that even the Greek gods wouldn’t wish it on a mortal. Here’s the best you can do:

1. Try to schedule overnight flights.

If your flight is going to be a long one, use your child’s circadian rhythm to your advantage. Most small kids will readily fall asleep on a plane. And then sleep at an uninterrupted depth that I would only get in my wildest inflight dreams.

If those dreams weren’t interrupted by an excruciating crick in my neck.

2. Have a bag of tricks prepared.

We dealt with this topic in the epic gear post, and will deal with it again in another installment. Suffice to say that you should pull out all the stops in packing a separate bag full of toys and snacks, then pull out those stops g-r-a-d-u-a-l-l-y throughout the flight.

3. Apologize profusely.

Yes, you are disturbing others. At least let them know that you are trying your darnedest to keep the peace. Because otherwise people become irate not just because of the noise, but also because of perceived apathy on your part.

Who among us hasn’t heard (or thought), “Why won’t they shut that kid up?” As if stopping the screaming is just something you haven’t bothered doing yet.

4. Expose your kids to flights and long car rides early and often.

Because I firmly believe that the ability to sit contentedly in a small space for hours is equal parts nature and nurture. If my kids weren’t pretty good on planes (and gratefully, they are pros), Globe-toddling probably wouldn’t exist.

5. Remember that noisy toys are nearly as annoying as crying kids.

I am unable to forget a transcontinental flight over a decade ago when a little girl pressed a button that struck a harp chord and said, Your wish is granted!” at least 60,000 times.

Also annoying: DVDs cranked to full volume. Be kind. Use headphones.

6. Even happy kids are only cute to strangers for, oh, 60 seconds.

After that, a cheerful “Wook! Airpwane!” whooped endlessly is going to drive others to drink. And with the price of inflight beverages, they’re not going to be happy about it.

Loose! Footloose!

As far as seat kicking goes, there is often little you can do if your child hasn’t reached the age of obedience (say under two-and-a-half).

Luckily, seat kicking isn’t generally an issue unless your child is in a car seat —otherwise their wee legs won’t reach the seat in front of them, even in these days of non-existent legroom.

If your child is in a car seat, then you can give the person in front of you a couple of choices. This not only let’s them pick their own lesser of two evils, but also makes them feel like they have a say in their fate. And people like that.

Choice #1: To recline or not get kicked.
With most car seats, you can choose either front- or rear-facing orientation. On a plane, each has an unpleasant side effect.

If you place the seat facing forward, little feet press up against the seat in front of them.

And little feet irresistibly kick. And flex. And make the person in front of you contemplate hitting you. Because they don’t want to admit to wanting to hit your kid.

Rear-facing seats present their own pickle. Economy seats being what they are, the top of the seat rests right up against the seat in front of it, rendering that little recline button on that passenger’s armrest useless.

Here’s the script:
“Hi,” you say say with award-winning congeniality. “I’m so sorry, but I’d like to ask you what you’d prefer. I can either face his/her seat forward, and do my best to keep him/her from kicking your seat. But he/she is too little to understand and I can’t promise I’ll be able to stop it. Or I can face the seat backwards, but you won’t be able to recline. I’m so, so sorry about this. What’s better for you?”

(For anyone reading this who doesn’t have kids: the reason we can’t stop this is because, a) toddlers do whatever the hell they want with reckless abandon unless restrained, and b) if you try to restrain a kicking toddler, they will only get angry and kick more.)

Choice #2: Get kicked, or get to know us.
If you’re traveling with another adult, you can offer to have one of you sit in front of your child, thereby absorbing any fancy footwork on your kid’s part.

Again, this is a lose-lose for your neighbor, because in switching seats, they end up sharing your chaotic row. People almost never choose the second option. But you showed goodwill, and…

…encouraged them to move. If the flight isn’t full, this exchange seems to give folks tacit permission to relocate without offending anyone.

Truth: it’s really better for everyone this way.

Here’s that script:
“I’m sorry, but would it be better for you if one of us sat there so that my child won’t kick your seat? You can sit in this aisle seat instead.” (Because car seats must go in window seats by law. And offering them the middle seat between you and your baby is so insane that its comical.)

When Your Best Isn’t Good Enough

You can do all of these things, and some people will still resent your presence and spare you no kindness.

As I said, they are not the arbiters of who may and may not fly and you shouldn’t be cowed by them.

What you can do is make sure that you are doing everything in your power to be as kind and courteous to your fellow passengers as possible.

And with a little luck, they will do the same.

Isn’t it nice when the grownups behave better than the children?

Is a mountain of baby gear spooking you off taking your baby abroad? Fear not! You can leave home without bringing the entire nursery.

After lots and lots (and lots) of trial and error, we’ve got it more or less down to a science. Here’s a list of the things we won’t leave home without and the things we leave at home.

What you’ll need.

1. Car seat. And wheels for your baby’s ride.

Do you need a car seat on the plane? In my humble opinion, it helps a lot, but isn’t required. Do you want one on those poorly paved, winding mountain back roads where loitering cows lurk around every corner? Yes, most definitely yes.

So how do you get a car seat from A to B when it’s not in use? We’ve found that the best solution by far is the gogo Kidz Travelmate. This simple but ingenious contraption is basically a board with scooter wheels that straps onto just about any car seat, making it into a primitive stroller.

While the small wheels and the low clearance don’t exactly make it a proper baby buggy, they do help you scoot around airports and well-paved spaces like a dream. Plus, take your baby out and you’ve got yourself a hand trolley for your carry-ons.

2. Baby carrier.

A fringe benefit of the Americans with Disabilities Act is that US buildings and sidewalks are usually wonderfully wheel-friendly and thus stroller accessible.

Large, modern international cities are generally equally stroller friendly, although the historic parts of ancient towns may not be. (Don’t believe me? Try carrying a stroller up the spiral staircase of a castle turret.)

But the farther afield you go, the more it makes sense to forgo wheels completely.

Enter the baby carrier. There are basically two categories of carriers: framed carriers (i.e. backpacks) and soft carriers. Both do essentially the same thing: strap your baby to your body. But each has it’s own benefits and drawbacks and depending on your destination, you may find both equally necessary for your trip.

Frame packs are similar to traditional backpacks. Except that they come with seating.

Backpacks

Backpacks are the workhorses of baby carrying. They are rugged and ready for long-haul hikes and off-road adventures. Many now have hydration systems built in, so you can carry a couple of liters of drinking water —in addition to your baby —quite comfortably. Many also include day packs and all sorts of other bells and whistles, making them a multi-purpose device par excellence.

The downside to backpacks is that all this convenience comes with a lot of bulk. Your kid and your gear will easily project a foot or more off your back. Which is fine if you’re hiking in the great outdoors, but not so fine if you’re turning around in a cottage crystal shop.

Soft carriers rate higher on compactness and the snuggle factor, but can't carry much gear.

Soft carriers

For a more compact conveyance, frameless carriers are the way to go. These days, there are almost as many wraps, straps, and slings as there are babies in the world. The pros and cons of each of these devices is quite literally a movement all its own. Our personal preference is for the versatile Ergo.

Baby carriers let you keep your baby close, which is helpful not only in the aforementioned turning-around-in-a-crystal-shop scenario (not that I’d ever bring a baby into a crystal shop, but I digress), but also for providing TLC on the go. That’s because in a soft carrier, your baby rests against your body, whereas in a backpack, they essentially sit in a chair behind your shoulders. The soft carrier’s snuggly arrangement seems to keep our girls happier for longer periods, so we can climb that castle turret and see the castle’s museum while everybody stays quiet and content.

The cons to baby wearing is that you have to carry gear and water separately. Some carriers (including the Ergo), have after-market accessories to help with the hauling a bit, but these aren’t intended for the heavy lifting serious back country trips demand, and they do return you to those bulky take-out-half-the-store proportions.

If there are more adults than babies, one person can carry a day pack and hydration system for both parents. Or if your wanderings won’t take you too far off the track, it is perfectly feasible to wear a baby and carry a diaper bag.

3. Diapers and wipes.

OK, you don’t technically need to bring these, since both cover and clean little bums the world over. But we prefer to for two reasons: first, the quality and variety of diapers overseas can be variable at best. Buy diapers in a developing country and you may find that you’re seriously kickin’ it old school. Wipes can be similarly retro. And not in a good way.

The second reason is that it forces you to hold room in your suitcase for souvenirs. As the trip goes by, diapers go out, treasures go in. It’s a great system.

4. Familiar snacks.

Eating in other countries is one of the best parts of traveling. But finding baby-friendly food can sometimes take more time than a fussy toddler is willing to wait, especially if you’re arriving at odd hours or in a remote area. So it’s helpful to have some items on the spot. You don’t need to bring an entire bushel of snacks you will find baby snacks locally but a few boxes of favorites go a long way to buying some peace and quiet when things start to go cranky or mealtimes get delayed.

5. Bibs, sippy cups, and other vital feeding supplies.

Can your kid drink from a real glass? Eat off a porcelain saucer without whipping it on the floor? Will a metal teaspoon do in a pinch? If the answer is ‘no’ to any of these questions, bring along a set or two of the mealtime items you use at home.

6. Medicines and your pediatrician’s phone number.

There are two levels of pharmaceuticals that we pack. Level One is for trips to modern cities, where the equivalent of baby Tylenol and a pharmacist that speaks English are likely to be found at any corner drugstore. Level Two is for trips to more exotic locales, when we include medicines for a variety of contingencies.

For Level One trips, we just bring the diaper bag essentials: pain killer/fever reducer, diaper cream, and a little first aid kit for boo-boos.

For Level Two trips, we arrange a consult visit with the girls’ pediatrician, where we discuss the CDC’s guidelines for that destination, assess the kids’ vaccination needs, and come up with a list of helpful over-the-counter meds, which we buy here, since getting them in developing countries can be confusing or even risky. Lastly, we get a prescription for antibiotics, which we won’t plan to use without calling the doctor for her blessing first. Which makes keeping her phone number handy an advisable thing.

7. Sunscreen

Ever since an ill-fated snorkeling trip using locally-purchased sunscreen on our honeymoon rendered me both unable to sit and amusing to others, I’ve fostered a deep suspicion of unfamiliar sunscreens (hey, the label said it was waterproof!). Maybe this is unfounded, but all these years later, I still prefer to slather my skin with stuff I know and trust. When we’re talking about my kids and the sun, I take no chances. Especially since their sun products also need to live up to claims of being sensitive and tear-free.

Pack a separate carry-on for your child with toys and activities for the trip.

8. Toys and activities.

Experience has taught us that it is easy to overdo this category. Do NOT pack a suitcase consisting solely of toys and books. Just a handful of each will do. Keep them small and light (e.g. paperbacks are better than board books) and dole them out slowly.

Ounce for ounce, paperback children's books can pack a lot of distraction for kids on long flights. This appropriately-titled one even went one better.

I begin by making each child an activity bag for the plane. Starting weeks or months before our trip, I grab small, inexpensive toys, books, and stickers from big-box dollar departments and bookshop clearance tables. I then select a small group of favorite toys and books from home. Then I fill a wee carry-on for each kid.

Incidentally, starting in toddlerhood, most kids simply adore the idea of having their own luggage. Older kids can even be included in the toy packing process, which they all also seem to love.

Once underway, we have a rule that the bags are not opened until we’re in the air. And then only one toy at a time. Otherwise, you’ll blow through your bag of tricks before drink service begins.

Packed at the bottom of a grownup’s carryon is our emergency portable DVD player. If your child is at all captivated by TV, this may become your most beloved possession if things start to melt down at 30,000 feet. Don’t forget earphonesnot ear buds, which aren’t sized for little kids’ ears.

While getting through the flight without your child driving the entire plane bananas is the first task of the toys you bring, it is not their only purpose. Once you get to where you’re going, you’re going to be in a hotel room with nothing more to play with than a corded telephone (which is endlessly amusing).

Time to break out those toys again. We also find that this is where tried-and-true favorite books come in handy. These little familiar tastes of home go a long way to contenting kids about to go to bed in a strange room.

That DVD player also isn’t ready for retirement. While watching foreign kids’ TV is fabulously entertaining for adults and kids alike (you haven’t seen Scooby Doo until you’ve watched it dubbed into German), it is nice to have the option of re-watching that favorite Pixar film. Plus, having an in-room TV is never a guarantee, especially the farther afield you travel.

Keep in mind that you will invariably be coming home with more toys than you left with. Every place on the planet has enchanting objects that your child (and you) will covet. Be it handmade dolls from a rustic marketplace, or charming and cheerful wooden toys from a posh toy store, you will find irresistible souvenirs to add to your entertainment arsenal along the way.

9. At least two wardrobe changes per day.

Laundry can be an option when you’re away from home, but I wouldn’t count on it. Bring at least two outfits per day for your child, especially since you’ll be eating all your meals out and may need a goo-free shirt before dinner.

10. Zipper storage bags.

At home, my earth-loving, granola leanings have led me to all but ban disposable plastic products from my kitchen. On the road, I make an exception. Zipper storage bags in quart and gallon sizes are indispensable for carrying wet and gooey things around. Be it a food-covered spoon, ice cream-soaked shirt, or diaper disaster, it is comforting to know that the contents are hermetically sealed before you toss them back in your day pack.

They also help to organize your gear without adding bulk. Use one for your baby’s eating implements. Another for diapers. Another for baby snacks. Another for medications. Toss an extra handful in just in case. They weigh next to nothing, so go to town.

What you probably won’t need.

Travel crib.

Almost all hotels will let you borrow a crib, and usually for free. Always call or email ahead to reserve your crib (often called a cot overseas), not only to be sure that they have them, but also so you can open your door to find it ready and waitingoften adorably so.

More often than not, your hotel can arrange a crib for you, so you won't have to bring your own.

The quality of cribs does vary. The dozens we’ve seen have ranged from the spartan metal and rough-sheeted one we dubbed “the institution crib”; to the cute but worrying one in Peru that was replete with cheerful bedding… and lengths of wire in place of the many screws it had lost; to the luxe bassinet in Austria that came with a teddy bear and bath toys.

If you’re willing to gamble a bit on the quality (the odds of getting a good baby bed being far better the more upscale and modern the hotel), then you can leave a hefty piece of gear at home.

Our fall back in the event of getting a shoddy crib (like in Peru) is to simply let our kids share our bed. Which is a perfectly reasonable option for us, but may not be for others.

Travel high chair

We used to travel with a portable high chair, but have stopped bothering for three reasons:

1. Many, many restaurants have some sort of high chairalthough this is less true in rural or developing areas,

2. Both strap-to-the-chair and hang-from-the-table styles require furniture that is in good repair and suitably shaped. Rickety furniture, stools, benches, round-backed chairs, cafe tables, and artsy furniture can all render a travel high chair useless or dangerous,

3. Even the smallest high chairs are bulky, especially considering that they need to be brought along on all excursions.

Instead, prepare to be flexible. If practical, we’ll bring along the car seat-cum-stroller. Or we request a booth. Worst case scenario, we switch off holding the baby on our laps while the other parent eats. This option is hardly ideal, but we’ve decided that it beats carrying a high chair around.

Multiples of everything.

The watchword for packing for kids is minimalism. Yes, you need a lot of stuff, which is all the more reason to keep that stuff to the bare essentials.

Aside from the two-per-day clothes rule, you generally don’t need to pack on a per diem basis. For the following, I go with a two-per-trip guideline:

Baby blankets (they will have blankets on the plane, and hotel towels can be substituted for blankets when you’re in your room).

Above-mentioned kid’s dining items (you can wash these in your room between meals)

Jackets/sweaters (varies by climate, of course)

Shoes

And that’s about it.

Rest assured that even in the most remote of areas, there are children. And thus there are children’s products for purchase. So if you forget or run out of anything, chances are excellent that you can buy it locally.

In our experience, everything one child needs fits in a large suitcase. And if it doesn’t, we winnow down the pile until it does.

Then you can line it up with the rest of your luggage and chuckle that the smallest person in the family somehow has the biggest suitcase.

But it’s a well-packed suitcase, and with it, you’re ready for your family’s next adventure.
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When you're having this much fun dancing in a downpour on a tiny island in Brazil, does it matter if you'll remember?

My daughter has been to nine foreign countries and about a dozen states. Not bad for someone who hasn’t even had her fourth birthday yet.

We just got back from Brazil a couple of weeks ago, and she is flush with tales of that adventure.

But of all her previous journeys, she will tell you two things:

1. In Germany there was a castle with a BIG bed in it.

2. At our hotel in Peru, there was a dog named Fanu.

What about tangoing with her daddy in Buenos Aires? How about stomping around the ramparts of Edinburgh Castle? Whirling along with the glockenspiel in Munich’s Marienplatz?

Nothing.

So why did we bother bringing her at all? The same goes double for her little sister, who still lives in a world with a now but no then.

If they can’t remember any of it, then what’s the point of traveling with very young kids?

Here are five.

First tango in Buenos Aires.

1. Early childhood experiences shape who we become.

In those first three-or-so years of childhood, why do we celebrate birthdays? Eat Thanksgiving dinner together? Go to museums or the beach or the park?

Why don’t we just leave kids in their cribs until they can demonstrate that our efforts to entertain and enrich them will be rewarded with a place in their permanent memories?

Because babyhood experiences obviously count for something. In fact, those hazy early years are among the most formative in a person’s life.

What better time to introduce a child to the world?

2. Being a parent doesn’t mean you hit the pause button.

I would never claim that our children drive our travel decisions. If that was the case, we’d just go to the nearest hotel with a pool for every vacation. The destinations we choose are selected because they are on my husband’s or my wish list.

And there’s nothing wrong with that.

Putting our suitcases away for the next decade makes about as much sense to me as giving up coffee until my kids are old enough to drink it.

We travel internationally because we are fanatical about it. And by bringing our kids along, we don’t have to put the brakes on doing something we love.

3. Because it’s more fun with kids.

Why don’t we just leave our kids with a babysitter while we travel?

Because we happen to be rather fond of the little scamps and like having them around. And the feeling seems to be pretty mutual.

I feel fairly confident that this won't be Anja's only trip to the UK.

4. Because passports don’t work on a one-punch system.

The most frequent criticism we hear about our family journeys is that we are cheating our kids out of the chance to truly experience destinations because we are taking them while they’re too little to appreciate it.

Hogwash.

There isn’t a country on this planet with a “no readmission” sign up at its border.

Just because they visited somewhere with us as toddlers doesn’t mean they can’t return there when they are old enough to plan their own vacations.

If they want to experience a place through more mature eyes, they can go back.

Heck, we might even go with them if they’ll let us.

Ingrid was the youngest person our guide ever brought on the Inca Trail. It'll make a great story for her to hear someday.

5. Because families have a collective memory.

Families are so much more than the sum of their parts. The things we choose to do together become part of everyone’s story. They form a family identity that bonds us together.

Our kids don’t have to remember anything now for the memories of a trip to be important. As they grow, there will be tellings (and retellings) of our adventures. They will see themselves in pictures. They will know that they were part of all the fun.

Until then, we will remember it for them.


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We’re above 12,000 feet and a stout village woman is carrying my baby on her back.

Slung between the woman’s waist-length braids in a flamboyant blanket, tiny Ingrid is the cooing darling of the ancient marketplace. The air is thin and crisp here in Chinchero, but the sun is strong. In any direction, we are eye-to-eye with the peaks of the Andes and in the shadow of Incan ruins. Suffused in a chuckling crowd of market women in full black skirts, we watch giddily as Ingrid models traditional Quechua baby gear.

“This,” I think, “is why we brought the kids.”

No stroller? No problem. Ingrid helps a local woman model a traditional Quechua sling in the high-Andes village of Chinchero.

Months before, when my husband and I announced that we were planning a trip to Peru’s Sacred Valley, we invariably got two questions. First, “Who’s watching the kids?” Nobody, we answered. We’re bringing them. Cue second question: “Are you crazy?”

While bringing an eight-month-old baby and an almost three-year-old to a place like Peru is a bit different from taking them on vacation in the Poconos, there is nothing so insurmountably challenging about it that it can’t (or shouldn’t) be done.

Challenge number one for bringing small kids to this part of the world is the terrain. The Incas may have been master engineers (their temple complexes would make Escher blush), but their creations are far from stroller friendly.

Now populated by the Inca’s descendants, known as the Quechuas, villages remain paved in ancient cobblestones —where they’re paved at all. Steep terrain, haphazard steps, and open channels make even a stroll to the village square seems like an occasion for hiking boots.

Forget the fish and the bicycle, the old saying could easily go “like a Quechua needs a baby stroller”.

Since wheels are out of the question, we carried our children in backpacks. Beginning our trip in the hamlet of Ollantaytambo, we set out through the morning’s wood smoke and bleating sheep to explore some of the Incan ruins tacked high on a dizzying slope above the village. This strenuous morning hike with our kids in the Andes’ rarefied air made us feel like super parents.

Until we saw what the locals were carrying.

Back in the village, we passed an elderly woman toting enough sticks to shame the guy on the Led Zeppelin album cover. Barefoot schoolgirls flitted about with bundles of alfalfa twice their height. An old man strolled along a lane with an entire tree trunk tilted on his shoulder. The feats —and the scenery —were so unbelievable that we had to get some pictures.

Quechua people carry everything. And never complain about it.

While we were busy photographing the Quechuas and their bundles, the wee people riding on our own backs were turning us into a village curiosity. The locals may have grown accustomed to seeing pale-skinned adult tourists, but our blue-eyed babies were clearly a novelty.

We knew it was time to brace ourselves for an onslaught of affection.

Before we had kids, we’d travel through foreign cities like ghosts, invisible to everyone but the hawkers. Now, with babies in our arms, people are drawn to us.

My Spanish vocabulary, once comprised of the basic phrases necessary to order a meal, can now hold up my end of conversations that include, How old are they?, Your children are beautiful, and, For shame, your baby’s head is cold! (I have also learned that it is the universal prerogative of grandmothers across the globe to be aghast that your baby is not wearing a hat.)

Our kids turn heads and make friends in Ollantaytambo.

When we travel with our kids, we connect with people not as tourists, but as fellow parents. We get to talk to them about things that don’t involve the purchase of goods and services. People are actually happy to see us.

We trade the label of “tourist” for “family”.

Which brings us back to that high-Andean marketplace.

Near the end of our trip, we were were strolling through Chincero’s main square, my baby snuggled against me in a high-tech baby carrier as my husband and older daughter looked for souvenir ceramic bulls. A woman caught my eye, cocked an eyebrow, and held aloft a technicolor blanket. This was just the invitation I was hoping for.

For our entire trip, I’d been marveling at the tidy, origami-like folds of cloth that the local women used to carry their kids. Curious to try, but too shy to ask, I now leaped at the chance to test out a traditional Quechua baby sling.

With a few deft movements, they had Ingrid swaddled and on my back. I was pleased with the result, but sensed from the assembling crowd that I was somehow doing it wrong. With skeptical hands on chins and a few slow head sways of disapproval, Ingrid was plucked from my back. As I waited to feel the readjusted burden returned to my shoulders, I realized that she was already refolded and wrapped across the blanket seller’s back.

Suiting up with a traditional Quechua sling. Apparently, I was doing it wrong.

The woman’s friends erupted in giggles as she led my baby through the paths of the market. Ingrid snuggled against the woman blissfully, cooing and smiling amid the ageless Incan stonework.

Without language and across cultures, we found common ground in one universal truth: everybody loves babies.

These sorts of things just don’t happen to adults traveling alone. And they don’t happen to kids left behind at grandma’s house either.

From the cradle, we are teaching our daughters that this planet is theirs to explore. That their culture is but one of many wonderful ways that the people of the world live their lives. That there is so much that is beautiful and intriguing and delicious and wondrous and exhilarating to see and eat and do in this world if you’re only willing to make the journey.

And for that, I’d carry them anywhere.

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We Took Our Two to Peru. (And You Can, Too.) by Jody Pratt is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.
Based on a work at globetoddling.com.
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