I found @nappy_nomad_ (they’re anonymous, so I’ll keep using their Instagram handle) on Instagram, another in the niche of mums who are deciding to go travelling when their babies are super tiny. When we went travelling, one of the hardest things for us was how we broke it to our families that we were taking away their new grandson / nephew / cousin. Yet, @nappy_nomad_ and her partner pretty much snuck off, with their family thinking it was just a holiday, that seemed to then extend and extend.
I imagine it’s been a bit harder to do the same now that they’ve left to travel again with their second baby, again a mere nine weeks old! Here’s their story:
Tell us about your family & work situation and how travel fits in with that...
We have two kids and we started travelling when she was only 7 weeks old. We never advertised it as a world trip, so no-one could argue against it. We just said to our parents that we were going to drive down the coast of the South of France, then we arrived in Spain, and then in Portugal; and then we did not come back! It developed over time and so everyone was quite satisfied with it.
We knew that they would react in a bad way, and because it was our first kid we didn’t know how it would work out, so we thought we’d just jump in the car and drive and see how it goes!
Then we took a flight and went to South East Asia, and the furthest we ended up travelling to was New Zealand. We loved it there and almost stayed. When our daughter was 8 months old, she was an easy baby, just laying around, not moving much, not a lot of work or trouble. We felt quite confident about having a second child. Then she started to move and walk! To be honest it is really quite tough, but it’s too late now! We came back 2 months before the second one was born and I gave birth. She will be 8 weeks when we leave home again, next week. [N.B They are now in Sicily, having left since the interview was undertaken]
What do you and your husband do for work?
My husband is self-employed. He does all kinds of projects, software development, some legal work. He was self-employed before we left. I am a health economist, working for different pharmaceutical companies. I was on maternity leave for the last year, and now we’ll see what happens. In the meantime, I have been working on the blog and now we are designing baby carriers, with a view to start selling them at the end of 2017. In Germany, the baby carriers are very outdoorsy in style, or very hippy. We’ve got prototypes that address that gap. The baby carrier will be called ‘Rookie Baby’.
You are all incognito on your blog, why is that?
I used to work in a professional, very serious area, and I wouldn’t like people to see me on the beach! It’s quite private and in Germany, most people want separate private and business lives, so we take pictures without our faces in them and we always use our Instagram names. If we do interviews, we call each other Nomad Mum, Nomad Dad and Nomad Baby.
What were you hoping to gain from travelling with your baby?
My husband and I used to travel a lot pre-kids, but usually during holidays. We get six or seven weeks holiday, which is quite a lot, we would use every day for travelling.
We were both location independent in our jobs, so we decided ‘why not go somewhere warm and sunny?’. We loved it so much, and over time, we really grew together as a family as we were with each other much more than we would have been in Germany. As funny as it sounds, I found spending all of our time together more harmonic than it would have been to spend our time at home. You’d think that spending 24/7 together, you’d hate each other, but we actually fought more when we came back home.
What were friends / family’s reactions when you announced you were going for the second time?
Everyone was asking us if we’d keep travelling. We were considering keeping our home as a base, and leaving for a month at a time, because it’s quite convenient to have day care for an 18-month-old. But we decided to do full time travel because the weather is getting unpleasant over here! We told our families that we’d leave for two months, because we don’t know how it will be with two kids – but they’re not buying it!
How did you make the big trip happen?
We had some savings, but the goal was not to use them, just as a back-up. My husband works full time and in Germany you get financial support for maternity leave. We had some earnings from our blog. As we start the baby carrier business, hopefully we will have some earnings from that as well.
How did you go about organising the specifics of your trip?
I did all of the travel itinerary. We were mostly living in Airbnb’s, occasionally hotels, but we prefer Airbnb because you can cook there, you have more space and it’s more convenient. Most of them also had baby beds.
We had some family and friends who visited us, so if we really needed something from home they would bring it. We kept our apartment at home and sublet it to friends of ours. We used a service where you could redirect your mail to a different address, they scan it and then you access it as a pdf.
For the baby, we had the first immunisations in Germany, and then the other ones we arranged abroad. We would find local doctors and usually it was helpful to stay at least for a week in one place. Then the baby could have the injection at the beginning of the week and if there were any side effects, we could still go to the same doctor. It wasn’t complicated, but it’s more of a discussion to explain you’re travelling.
What were your must have packing items?
We had a car seat with retractable tyres called ‘Doona’, which means you can also use it as a buggy (https://simpleparenting.co/car-seat/). We were thinking back and forth about car seats, but they’re all so bulky. We weren’t confident to risk having a car accident, so when we found the Doona, it was the best solution we could have. We used it so much.
The second thing that was very helpful for tropical destinations was having a baby tent with a mosquito tent, it was small and really good.
When you arrived in a new place, how did you go about finding your feet?
Almost every destination we visited, except Mauritius, has SIM card providers at the airport, so would get it on arrival, and that was very helpful. We usually stayed at least one month in a country, and then you could get internet everywhere.
I wasn’t able to breastfeed after 2 months, so we needed formula milk. It was good to not change it too much, so we researched it and found a brand that was widely available among south east Asian countries, and Australia and NZ so we could get the same milk everywhere.
How did you travel?
When travelling through Europe, we travelled with our own car, so we had a car all the time, and in NZ we bought a car and then sold it at the end.
In Asian countries, we used taxi’s as they were quite cheap. In other countries we rented cars, but only on the weekends. During the week my husband was working, so we didn’t make any big trips and just stayed local.
How did you go about meeting people on the move?
We met all kinds of families, ones on holiday, others who were long term travellers, sometimes through Instagram, sometimes through other channels, or just randomly. What I found quite sad was that you’d meet them for a couple of days, or a week, or you stay with a local family, but then you have to leave, or they do. It’s always coming and going, as soon as you get comfortable with each other!
For some time, we were trying to find some nomad families we could travel together with, but it’s not easy as everyone has their own itinerary. It can get quite lonely. If you read blogs about digital nomads who are travelling on their own, they can get really lonely. That’s an obvious downside of this kind of lifestyle. It’s nice that you have your partner and kid, but sometimes it’s nice to have your friends around. We’ve really enjoyed our time here in Germany, seeing friends and family.
What do you hope your kids will gain from travelling?
They are more open to changes and new situations. There was some time when our oldest was six months old, and we were just at the end of our European trip and she became shy with strangers. Then we arrived in Thailand and everything was gone. Everyone was taking her on their lap, and she didn’t have a chance to be shy. That was such a nice thing.
Why is travel so important to you (and your family)?
It’s great to stay in beautiful places and I’m curious about finding new places and meeting new people. My husband and I are both quite social and enjoy meeting new people. Flight are so cheap now, and places are changing so quickly. I recognise that you hardly have the chance to see places as they are now, still in their original state.
What's the best experience you've had with your family while travelling?
It’s very difficult to pick one! The first time when we arrived at the beach and our daughter got to see the sea for the first time was amazing. It was in the south of France, and that was exciting for us.
And the worst? The biggest challenges about travelling with kids?
We try to stay relaxed as parents, but we are still quite aware of the health risks, especially in the tropics, like dengue fever or bad foods. When I used to travel, I didn’t care at all, but with kids you start to care. It’s also the downside of travelling in less developed countries or tropical areas, because the risk is there and it does bother you, but you cannot do anything about it. The only thing would be would be to stay away.
Were there times when you needed a break from travelling?
Yes! At the end of our last trip I was very pregnant, and our daughter was very difficult and I really needed a break. We arrived back home and got day care and I could relax a little bit.
How was it travelling when pregnant?
Most of the time it was easy, I just got very tired with a child who can run everywhere and is trying to kill themselves the whole time! I did all the check-ups away while pregnant. I had some discussions with doctors for whom it was strange that I was travelling. You also have to be tolerant towards other medical care systems. In some countries, it works one way and in others it’s different. You have to adapt, and if you’re open to that you should not have any problems.
Anything you regret about having taken the non-traditional route by travelling with your baby?
No! The only thing I missed was friends and family, but during the time we had a break we saw everyone a lot, so we have filled up the bucket now and now we’re ready to go again. That’s the trade-off. In the long run, it would be nice to have both, stay for a couple of months, then travel.
How did it change you / your family?
We grew together as a family, because we were spending more time with each other. Our daughter got to see her dad all the time and she has a very close relationship with him, she likes him more than me! (maybe because I’m the stricter one) It was really good for her to spend time with both of us. He was working, but it’s different versus leaving to go to an office rather than sitting at a table nearby. I would also say to those who aren’t travelling long term yet – it’s actually easier than you would think.
How are you continuing to travel full-time?
My husband is continuing to do the same work. We will keep on doing the blog and we have started the baby carrier business now.
Future travelling plans? Italy, Malta, Greece, then central America. We will come back for Christmas for 2 weeks and then keep travelling full time again.
To find out more about their new baby carrier follow at @rookie.baby on Instagram