I am not going to lie, I stupidly thought that our travelling style wasn't going to change all that much once we had a baby. Naive I know. I honestly thought that we would still be able live in studio sized rooms that only had a microwave and kettle for a kitchen. I thought that we could get away with hand washing like we used to. I thought that maybe we could even live on the same amount of money before we had Zoe once all of those one time baby purchases were out of the way.
It has been almost four months on the road and I was wrong. So so wrong.
Let me share what our life used to be like before we were blessed with the most awesome baby in world and what life is like now.
Before Zoe our luggage was itsy bitsy. Everything we required for life on the road which included two laptops, various electrical bits and pieces, a small kettle, plastic mugs, copious amounts of tea and king sized bed sheets fit into three bags that we carried onto the plane. Two carry on bags and a laptop bag. No check in required. Ahh, life was good.
Now that Zoe is in our lives we have to check in bags. Not one, but two with possibly a third on the way. We can't wait until Zoe can carry her own bag and sleep in a regular bed.
Her travel cot, blow up ducky bath and cube of toys take up rather a lot of space. We didn't actually start out with a travel cot or an inflatable duck bath. They joined our belongings once the practicalities of traveling with a baby become apparent (A playpen is super handy and may not be provided by our accommodation. Sometimes there is no suitable clean place to bath Zoe). Even though we are lovers of baby wearing Zoe also has her pram to be driven around in. Luckily, that fits in the overhead compartment.
So as of right now we have two check in bags (possibly a third soon), a 44L backpack that Andrew wears, a stroller that folds down to carry-on size, and a hand bag. One day, one day we will be back to carry on only.
Where we stay has changed as well. When it was just Andrew and I, we did a lot of pet/house-sitting around the world. At one stage we went five months just moving from house sit to house sit. We lived in comfortable places, looked after pets and plants and enjoyed living like locals. If we weren't house-sitting, we stayed in studio apartments or modest hotel rooms with an ensuite, a table, and wifi. If there was a microwave handy, that was a score. We ate out for every meal except breakfast. Instant porridge would be made using the water we boiled in our travel kettle.
Lately, it seems we have hit a lull with the house-sitting. Andrew, Zoe and I are completely house trained but we understand why homeowners would prefer people like our former selves ie a pair of adults sans child. We may think our child is awesome and lovely and we tell the owners this but their reluctance is understandable.
Instead of house sits we have been going from airbnb apartment to airbnb apartment for almost five months straight now. By the time this run of airbnb places is over we will have been in airbnb apartments for seven months. And instead of bedsits (where the whole apartment except for the bathroom is in one room) we have been sticking to 1-2 bedroom apartments as having to sit quietly in a dimly lit room from 6pm because your baby is asleep three feet away and there is no other room to go to is not much fun.
1-2 bedroom apartments don't come all that cheap in Europe as a rule. We have certainly enjoyed being able to wash our clothes in a washing machine (Zoe's clothes are small but she goes through a lot), being able to cook awesome meals in proper kitchens and being able stay in homes without having to clean up after pets BUT these luxuries don't come cheap.
Time to get to the nitty gritty. When it was just the two of us, not counting airfares and batches of dental work, Andrew and I could get by on AUD $1000 – $2000 per month, leaning towards the $2000 end of the scale generally. We spent a few months parked in Thailand where it cost us just under $1000 for the two of us. This included accommodation, food, transport and entertainment. At the $2000 end of the scale was house sitting in places like Australia and Singapore or periods where we were moving around a lot and thus spending more on short hotel stays.
In the four months we have been traveling with Zoe we have made a conscious decision to NOT keep track of what it has cost us. I can tell you that our accommodation bill alone has been well over the AUD $1300 per month. Add on food, transport, nappies, toys, the extra meals we need to survive, and I would take a guess that we are now spending around AUD$3000 per month.
That is a huge jump. We suddenly don't have money left over each month to save or invest for the future. We have to work more. Ok, Andrew has to work more. On the positive side, our heads are now in overdrive trying to work out more ways to bring in the extra cash we need to support our lifestyle while also letting us put money away. We are also working at getting the house sitting happening again.
Not only has how we spend our money changed, how we spend our time has changed. We now reminisce about the days when we would sit around and watched episode after episode of our favorite TV shows. One week to one month in a place was definitely long enough. We would go out for 10km walks just to have a look around wherever we were. We spent a lot of time on Reddit, YouTube, Facebook, Magic Travel Blog, and with each other of course.
Now our days consist of a cycle of nappy changes, feeding, playing, nappy changing, sleeping, nappy changing, feeding, playing, nappy changing, sleeping, and so on. I may get two hours to myself a day. What do I do then? What most parents do. Go to the toilet, maybe shower quickly, make food for the baby, eat something gloriously fatty, complain that I am getting fat, get grumpy because I am tired…
Wait, aren't we travelling? We are in another country after all. These days we are pretty much just living in a place. Museums aren't ventured into unless someone drags us into one. Instead, our outings are generally to the local supermarket. Andrew and I get excited about trying out a new brand of nappy/diaper. I have taken to making my own baby wipes. Oh yeah, life can be exciting!
But would I change anything? No way. Our lives are still fantastic. We are blessed with an amazing healthy happy child and have the chance to show her the amazing world world that we all call home. Yes, our travel style is certainly different but this is what life is all about. Change.
We are still working all of this out. This is new for all of us (especially Zoe). It will take us time to find our feet, to learn how to fit our life around our wonderful daughter, and to really start to thrive. It will take time, effort and probably a few tears but we are committed to making it happen.