Single mum travelling with Toddler
by Ella from Ellamental Mama
Before I had my son I used to travel lots – Africa, Asia, the Caribbean. The further away the better in my mind. I always thought I should do my crazy travels when I was young because people don’t travel like that with kids, right? Wrong. My family is pretty small – just me and my son (at the moment) – and it turns out that you can travel far and wide with a little one. Since my son was born he’s also been to Africa, Asia, the Caribbean and Europe – he’s already made it to over 10 countries. Admittedly the vast majority of those were in the first two years when he was still basically free to fly. Now I have to pay for his flight seat the travels have got closer to home and less regular but I still do as much as I can manage.
My most adventurous trip was last year, just before my son turned two. I threw a bunch of lightweight clothes into a backpack and off we went, backpacking around South East Asia. Everyone thought I was mad for doing it. The main thing I was nervous about was if one of us got really sick – especially me. What on earth would happen to my son? I had papers with all my emergency contacts listed on them and insurance details and in every place we stayed I would lay them out in the room, “just incase”. Bar a couple of nasty injuries which I managed to grin and bear, we were a picture of health throughout the month.
Single parenting is often a story of extremes, taking a toddler backpacking as a single mum is one of the more extreme examples of my life. One day we were strolling along the beach taking in the sights and enjoying the sun shine. The next day it took two hours to get my son down to nap, I snuck into the hammock to rest and promptly broke the thing. Have you ever tried to transport a toddler, buggy, backpack and other random bits along the beach to a small boat so that you can get dumped in the middle of the sea to climb aboard the passing ferry so you can make it back to the mainland with one arm out of action? It’s not an easy task I can tell you. But when you have no choice you somehow make it.
You might be thinking I’m rich considering all the travels we have done but my approach is to do it as cheap as possible so that we can go on as many trips as possible. My budget for one month for the two of us travelling around was £1000. That included £500 for my flight and £500 for everything else. Admittedly in the end I overspent (it was all those exciting boat trips round the islands) but not by that much. This strict budget did mean staying in the cheapest places in town though.
I remember late one afternoon arriving in Krabi in the South of Thailand, we arrived just outside the town centre and walked the mile or so to the area with the cheap guest houses. We were in luck, I found us a room that smelled like an overflowing ashtray. At 5am the sounds of the nearby market traders setting up took over from the sounds that had been blaring out of the neighbouring nightclub all night long. Let’s just say we didn’t get much sleep that night. The next day – the rainiest of the trip – we went to what was termed “the most beautiful beach in Thailand”. My son fell down a huge hole and lost a shoe before we had even made it there. Needless to say the toddler learnt some good swear words that day. When we did finally arrive at the beach and the clouds parted I ended up spending most of the time chasing my son up and down the beach as he ran off at top speed. On days like that my only reprieve was to return to the room, turn on the shower and let him stand under a small drip of cold water for as long as it would entertain him so I could catch my breathe. Invariably when I popped my head round the door to check on him he would be trying to climb into the toilet but still, he was quiet and not running away from me at high speed so I was happy and he had water so he was more than happy.
The days weren’t all like that though, well if I’m really honest I think everyday had at least one moment of total mayhem like that in it, and some were just chaos from start to finish. But there were days that had nice moments in between. And let’s be honest “nice” is an understatement. We went snorkelling with tropical fish, swam through underwater caves, explored night markets, rode on tuk-tuks and visited temples. You might think some of these things are not possible with a toddler but as a single mum I’ve got used to doing things with my toddler or not at all and I’ve never been one for sitting still. My son had one of those inflatable water seats and a pair of goggles; I would snorkel whilst holding onto his inflatable while he kicked back and relaxed, when a really good fish came along I’d get him to dunk his head under so he could have a good look. He loved it. Nearly as much as the day we went kayaking around the islands and through mangroves. That was a big hit, especially the little cave with the ‘inside’ beach. Or what about the day we went to the elephant hospital and he got to “feed” the elephants – he was too scared to actually feed them but he clung to my leg as I did it and he loved watching them walk around. Sometimes the fun turned to chaos as it tends to with a toddler, like when we were enjoying watching the monkeys playing on the beach until my son decided to throw a handful of sand at one of them – that didn’t go down too well – monkeys can be seriously vicious when they are angry.
Now I look back on the photos – the ones where he’s balancing on the palms of my hands in an aqua blue sea with the sun blazing down – the smiles on both of our faces telling of the joy in that moment. Or the one where we are both sat at a street stall eating the most delicious food in Thailand. And I’m so glad I did it. More than that, I’m so proud I managed to get through it. There were times in those weeks as we travelled around when I thought I was going to lose the plot (mainly at midnight in a mosquito infested shack, with my son repeatedly jumping on my head at midnight and the exhaustion and claustrophobia was more intense than anything I’ve felt before) but now that those memories have faded a little what I remember most are the fun moments. He still reguaraly talks about the elephant that ate bananas and the fishes that bit his bottom in the waterfall. That trip pushed me to my limit but it also gave us both lifelong memories.