I think it would be fair to say that some people thought we were nuts for embarking on a 5 month, 3 continent, 10 country road trip… with our 9 month old daughter in tow.
We covered many thousands of miles in the car, and when we couldn’t drive we caught trains, ferries, planes, and buses. The trip was planned on the fly, because we didn’t know how Rosie would fare as she grew from a 9 month old baby to a 14 month old toddler while we were on the road. We didn’t even know how long we’d be away!
Our first challenge was to play Tetris with our luggage and figure out how to get it all into the tiny trunk of our (ridiculously) impractical convertible. Every few weeks we’d donate or dispose of anything we weren’t using. We were ruthless, and as you can see from our recent travels, traveling light doesn’t always come naturally to us!
We shipped our car from San Francisco to Southampton, and began our journey traveling through the rolling English countryside. Then we caught the ferry across the English Channel and kicked off the continental portion of our trip, exploring the wine regions of France, the mountains of Andorra, and the vibrant cities of Portugal. We drove through Spanish fiestas (literally on one occasion!) and around the rock of Gibraltar. It was pretty awesome.
We’d done our best to avoid flights, but at this point we wanted to shake things up and explore South America. So we abandoned our car in our friends’ garage (thank you L&D!) and flew from Barcelona to Buenos Aires. We hung out on the beaches of Uruguay, drove across Argentina, and tippled through the vineyards of Chile. From Santiago we flew back to the US just in time to spend Thanksgiving with some of our best friends in Arkansas, then a whirlwind tour of the Southern States before heading home to San Francisco.
This trip was epic by any standards (we visited over 70 cities!) but doing it with Rosie is what made it truly amazing. While we were exploring new places and cultures, with all the logistics involved, our baby girl was growing and changing right before our eyes. For 5 months we were an inseparable traveling trio; we were soaking it all in together. Rosie learnt to crawl in the South of France, and she celebrated her first birthday in Valencia. She played with children in playgrounds and parks all over the world, and she developed a palette for a really wide variety of food.
One of Rosie’s favorite activities is to be pushed around new places in her stroller, which aligned so perfectly with our desire to explore the sights and sounds of wherever we were. Rosie also enjoyed the drives. We’d cruise around with the roof down whenever possible (when she was younger she'd cry when we put the roof up!), listen to music, and enjoy the changing terrain. If it wasn’t for Rosie’s love of the stroller and the car, this trip wouldn’t have been possible. We were very lucky it worked out the way it did.
It’s totally natural to expect that this trip would have been really tough with a baby - we certainly didn’t know how it was going to work out. Counterintuitively though, it was somehow more challenging to return home and readjust to reality!
Having said that, it wasn’t smooth sailing all of the time. We got caught in a hurricane in Montevideo, and trapped in an elevator in Austin. There were visits to hardware stores when things broke, and a lot of time spent doing laundry - remember that tiny trunk I mentioned?! We lost and found Dirty Bunny (Rosie’s comfort toy) multiple times, until we eventually lost him for good in Santiago. I know that Moms around the world will understand the cataclysmic seriousness of this almighty parenting fail - but we got through it. One night we slept without hot water or power in Cabo Polonio, and another night we caught a bus over the Andes mountains, across the Argentine/Chile border in the wee hours. This was a proper adventure.