We're one week into our trip, which is frankly quite amazing as it already feels like we've been away for a lifetime. It felt like such a long time coming, and then even after the most meticulous planning, we were somehow sprinting around sorting things until the second the taxi driver arrived at our door. Leaving your house indefinitely in such a way is most definitely not stress free!
The flight across in total contrast was slow, slow, slow. But, nowhere near as bad as the anticipation we'd had about flying all the way to New Zealand with a 7 month old. Like any day, he slept at times, cuddled and played at times, and had the odd grizzle when he couldn't sleep. We took it in our stride, tried to relax, and it paid off.
We landed in Auckland, determined to stay awake and get back on track with our timings (despite not really having slept at all during the flight ourselves), and somehow managed to have an afternoon of exploration that involved walking about 20,000 steps. The next two days followed a similar pattern, we found ourselves in city mode, wanting to explore everything we could, and exhausting ourselves in what is a very hilly city (and often carrying a 23 lb baby).
Our plan from there was to visit Spirit Bay, right at the top of the North Island, a recommendation from someone I'd interviewed for @mastersofmany. In fact our original plan had been to go to the Bay of Islands, but this recommendation changed our mind.
Off we set, early doors, timing the first half of our drive (we estimated about 6 hours, so likely 2 or 3 stops with a baby) with when Otis was likely to go to sleep. All was going well until we were almost at our first stop, and Otis woke up and had crying fits like nothing we'd seen since he'd had colic when he was little. We managed to stop and calm him down and quickly realised that the car seat we'd been given didn't have the correct insert for a baby of Otis's size; and just didn't feel sturdy enough full stop. Not helped by the fact that he was clearly cutting a tooth, and was really feeling dreadful.
Parental guilt followed like you wouldn't believe. Off we went to a big store called The Warehouse that seems to be a catch all for anything you ever want to buy (albeit at a bit of a discount rate), and spent the next stressful hour working out what to do next, as all of the car seats available looked exactly the same as the one we had. Finally, we worked out a solution that involved a change of installation and a few extra bits to make Otis comfy, but at this point the afternoon had dragged on, and we still had a long journey to make.
We finally decided to scrap our plans to visit Spirit Bay, and instead head to the Bay of Islands, which were relatively near, so that we could get Otis to somewhere he could chill out, and not put us all in the situation of a long journey with a stressed out baby.
The biggest lesson of our first week? Slow the hell down. We sat down that night, after a lengthy session of getting our tent up for the first time, rotating between shoving poles through tarpaulin and seeing to Otis (not an easy task), and reassessed our whole trip. Fewer stops, spending longer in the places we visit, and not feeling like we were constantly driving, like driving was the end goal rather than the destination.
We immediately felt relieved, and excited for the rest of what's to come. Travelling with a baby is of course going to be different to the selfish nature of travelling by yourself. There's a reality that you can't do everything you would on your own, and that someone else always has to come first, and that's what our decision bore in mind.
But in fact, baby or no baby, it's a lesson for us in the way we travel more broadly. We never wanted to have a tick box exercise when we travelled. The point of this year is to spend time together as a family, and to really enjoy ourselves, removing the stress of day-to-day life in the pursuit of headspace to work out what we want as a family out of our living situation.
We're now in the Bay of Islands for 5 days rather than 2, and only a couple of days into that we're already seeing the benefits of this approach. We're not rushing out the door (or tent flap in our case) to squeeze everything in. We can appreciate the beauty of how much the view over the water changes in the morning and the evening, and then again the next day. Life is running at the pace we want, and we suddenly feel like we've been away on a relaxing break for a month or more, simply due to the realisation that we can't possibly do everything. I hope it's an attitude that we take back into our normal lives, as it's something we could definitely learn from.
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