What Happens When You Don’t Know NOT to Bring Your Infant Abroad?

As we welcome our new baby into the world I’ve invited a few fellow travelers to share some of their stories. Up first is one of my favorite traveling moms, Nancy Vogel from Family on Bikes. I met Nancy last year just after she returned from a 17,300 bike ride down the Pan American Highway with her husband and twin boys. This was not the first time she had done something a little out of the ordinary, not that she thought it was. It began many years before when her boys were born. Read on to discover how Nancy started her journey as a traveling mom. 

Twins being blessed by an Ethiopian priest

Sometimes it helps to be ignorant.

When you don’t know that you shouldn’t or can’t do something, you just do it. Being ignorant is a good thing sometimes.

I will be the first to admit I was ignorant of this whole parenting thing before my twin boys were born. It never occurred to me that I couldn’t or shouldn’t continue living my life pretty much as I had been doing; I figured I would just add the boys in.

When I flew back to my parents’ home in Idaho for the birth of the babies, it never occurred to me that I shouldn’t or couldn’t fly back to Ethiopia with them a few weeks later. After all, my home was in Ethiopia and that’s where I wanted to be. The boys would simply have to go with me.

My husband and I were teaching at the International Community School in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia when I got pregnant. As soon as we discovered we had twins, the decision was made to return to the USA for the birth. The way we figured it, I would fly back to America at the beginning of the last trimester, my husband would join me a few weeks before the boys were expected to be born, then we would fly back to Ethiopia a couple of weeks after the birth.

It sounded reasonable to us.

The boys being held by their Ethiopian maid

Apparently, it didn’t sound reasonable to others. According to them, we couldn’t – simply couldn’t – take young babies to Ethiopia. There were starving children in Ethiopia after all.

Those ludicrous concerns were easy to overcome.

The hard part was figuring out where the line was REALLY drawn. Many people told us how difficult it was to fly with babies. Babies aren’t like big people, they said. They told us we would need everything plus the kitchen sink in order to fly the 35 hours to Addis Ababa. It would be the hardest 35 hours in our lives and there was no way it could be done. No way.

Ethiopian girls say hello to the twins

And then one of the boys was born small and the doctor wanted him to stay in Boise another month, but my husband needed to get back to Addis to work. I was OK with that – I could fly with both babies.

Yet, I couldn’t. Not according to friends and family, anyway. According to others it wasn’t humanly possible to fly from Boise to Ethiopia with two babies. I’m still not quite convinced.

In the end, my mother-in-law agreed to fly with me and together we traipsed halfway around the globe with two six-week-old babies. That was, quite possibly, one of the easiest flights of my life. Tiny babies need nothing more than a clean diaper, a breast to suck on, and two arms to hold them.

Twins in Egypt at 11 months old

Our boys lived in Ethiopia for the first 4.5 years of their lives. During that time, they visited seven different countries, flew across the Atlantic nine times, and had a delightful childhood.

All that wouldn’t have happened if I had “known better.” If I had known that kids needed to sleep in their own bed every night or that they needed 25 outfits even though they only wear one at a time or that they needed a great big house in the suburbs I never would have lived the life I led.

Exploring Vietnam at 2 years old

I’m so glad I didn’t know. I’m glad I lived overseas and saw all the neighborhood kids running around my house. I knew they were happy and healthy and not starving. I’m glad I saw that kids are simply a part of life. Your life doesn’t end when children enter the picture; it just changes directions in the best way possible.

The boys in Thailand at 3 years old

Nancy Sathre-Vogel is a long-time schoolteacher turned nomadic mama. After spending twelve years living the expat life, she headed out to explore her world on bicycles with her husband and children. They spent a total of four years gallivanting around the Americas, including riding 17,300 miles from Alaska to Argentina. Now she lives in Idaho where she attempts to inspire others to pursue their passion and live their dream. Follow their journey at Family on Bikes.org,  Facebook and Twitter @FamilyonBikes.

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6 thoughts on “What Happens When You Don’t Know NOT to Bring Your Infant Abroad?”

  1. Paige AllOvertheMap

    I love this! I know, as we are planning our RTW trip with our daughters, that many of the things we are planning to do sound crazy to our friends and family, but to me it sounds like the most logical thing to do. I love that your flight with the 6-week-old twins was the easiest one of your life. Of course it was! You knew it would be. You just have to live your life as you imagine it can be. It all works out. Or it doesn’t, and you figure out a way for it to work differently.

    1. Very true. It all works out in the end – one way or another. Just do what you want to do and figure it out on the way!

  2. Diane from The Stripper Project

    I completely agree with Nancy! When my boys (not twins – 16 months apart) were born we were living in Europe and I traveled all over with them by myself (my husband was a professor and he would always catch up with us) and it was a breeze when they were babies. We also lived in many different places while they were wee ones, including Turkey. They grew up on the beach and some of their first playgrounds were ancient temple ruins. They could identify ancient time periods based on architecture ruins by the time they were 2 and 3!
    When we left Canada on our first adventure our families thought we were crazy, but we apparently thrived on crazy!
    Now, traveling with 15 and 16 year olds? A completely different story….

    1. Very true that traveling with older kids is a challenge. I don’t understand why people think it’s hard to travel with little ones – makes no sense to me!

  3. Rob

    We didn’t know any better either our young son was in Hawaii before his first birthday and traveled to Argentina from Canada an 18 hour trip at 18 months. He loved it. Right now we are planning a 4-6 month trip to Colombia and Ecuador and our now 3 year old will be there with us. Every time he sees a plane he wants to know when we are we leaving. Traveling with kids is great. Well done shutting out the “can’t do” people in your life.

    1. Ignorance is bliss at times! I love how kids get so excited about everything – so fun to see them excited about airplanes and what that means.

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