Celebrating a decade of family travel


On Friday of this week Tommy turns 10 years old, and it feels as much a milestone for me as it does for him. So each day I’ll be sharing photos that take us through the many places we’ve been together with links to posts I wrote about those places so you can come along with us.

So how did we become a traveling family? When Tommy was born I had no specific intention of spending between eight and ten weeks every year on the road, which is what we now do. I certainly hadn’t done that before I had children. Like most new mothers, I wasn’t thinking about taking him anywhere but home in fact. That photo at the top of this post of me and Tommy was taken a few days after we left the hospital; it is in fact his first outing. I think it took us a half an hour to get ready to stroll about a block up the street to show him off to the neighbors. I remember clearly how enormous the world – and how small and vulnerable I – suddenly felt.

I’m not sure precisely when my perspective shifted, but I do know that Tommy played a role in that shift. From the moment he could hold his head up, he was always looking out and forward and ahead. At a very young age – perhaps around two months – he stopped allowing us to carry him in the front pack with his face pointed in. I have a clear memory of walking down the street with him strapped to my chest; as usual he was facing outward. A young man who looked to be in his twenties and was just about as baby- and fancy-free as they come, touched my arm as I walked past and said, “Wow! I just have to tell you that your son is so alert! I’ve never seen a baby that looked around so much and seemed so excited by the world.” Fearless and engaged, that was my boy. It made me feel the same way, even through the fog of new motherhood and the equally new feeling of uncertainty that it brought.

I like to think it was Tommy’s good example gave me courage and stamina for all that travel we did during the first two years of his life– there was a four-week driving trip across the Midwest in his first summer followed by a fall trip to New York City, Thanksgiving in Vermont, Christmas in Wisconsin, and spring break in Arizona. And all of this was just a warm up for year two: Between his first birthday and his second, he was in eight different locations stretching from Italy to California.

The slideshow at the top of this post shows Tommy in each of the places we visited during that time. What a year it was: He learned to walk in Boston, to talk in London, to throw rocks in Austin, and to sing in Pasadena. We were great adventurers, he and I – while Matt worked on the book he was writing, we discovered parks, trains, double decker buses, and botanical gardens. We rode and ran and sang and threw countless numbers of rocks into ponds, lakes, streams, and puddles.

As I point out in the post I wrote listing my top reasons for traveling with kids, going places with a young child brought out the best in me as both a person and a parent. It taught me to be flexible, creative, and curious alongside my son, to venture fearlessly into the world with little else but a few spare diapers and an umbrella stroller. That’s a lot to learn in just two years!

Want to read more stories about that year we spent traveling with a toddler? You might also enjoy:

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  1. says

    My eldest is ten now too! You were a lot more adventurous than me in the early days. I can clearly remember being terrified of a trip to visit my aunt in Hampshire! We’ve caught up now of course. One of the things I love about travelling with my children is their unique perspective on everything, they notice the tiny details that I overlook. It’s fun with them.

    • says

      Oh, Victoria, I was terrified in those early days. It’s very hard to get out of the house with your first baby. But once you start to do it, you quickly realize it’s not *that* much harder than staying home.

  2. says

    Happy birthday to your son, may the next 10 years find you all in many new places. The trips I took with my parents growing up make up some of the strongest fabric of my childhood memory.

    • says

      Thanks Elliot – it’s nice to hear that travel with your family was so formative for you. I have a feeling the next decade will hold just as much travel, if not more. I plan to keep my kids on the road until they don’t want to go with me anymore!

  3. says

    Happy Birthday to Tommy, and happy “birth”day to you, Mara! Such an interesting point about being at your best as a parent when traveling. Hadn’t thought about it before, but it’s so true. It’s so wonderful to get away from home and obligations and all the things you feel you should be doing, and instead just focus on spending time with your kids.

    Oh, and I suppose you mean it won’t *always* take me 30 minutes to get out the door for a walk? I look forward to that! 😉

    • says

      Ha! Well, it still takes me a half an hour to get out the door because I have to make sure we’re carrying adequate food. If we’re going to be doing anything that takes more than 15 minutes, that involves about four snacks apiece as well as water bottles. You’d think by now that I’d have gotten faster at cutting up apples.

  4. says

    My daughter is 11 years old and we have traveled as much as possible. I remember a few years ago we were gone something like 45 out of 90 days! And, that was multiple trips! (Part of it was an evacuation from a hurricane, but we turned it into a ‘trip’ to see museums, etc). I love reading about other families that travel and am glad I’ve found your blog!

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