Baby’s year out


The Gulf Today - Panorama - - Contents - by Talia Lakritz

Lon­don na­tive Karen Ed­wards, 32, used the year-long ma­ter­nity leave from her nurs­ing job to travel to 10 coun­tries with her hus­band and new­born baby, Esmé. Now a tod­dler, Esmé has been to 17 coun­tries and count­ing.

Ed­wards blogs about their ad­ven­tures, as well as re­views of baby travel prod­ucts and ad­vice for trav­el­ling par­ents, as the Travel Mad Mum. While the oc­ca­sional tantrum or lost toy might cause a few bumps in the road, Ed­wards loves trav­el­ling as a fam­ily and see­ing the world with a baby on her back. Ed­wards, a full-time nurse with a flex­i­ble sched­ule, and her hus­band, Shaun Bayes, have al­ways trav­elled fre­quently.

When they found out that they were ex­pect­ing a child, the cou­ple was de­ter­mined not to let that stop them from see­ing the world.

“I was just like, ‘I can’t give this up yet,’” she said. “We started think­ing, ‘Well maybe we could bring the baby with us.’ And it was quite an in­stant de­ci­sion.”

When Esmé was born, they de­cided to use Karen’s ma­ter­nity leave to travel.

When their baby was born, Ed­wards, and her hus­band put their Lon­don flat up for rent and set off for New Zealand — where Bayes was born.

Af­ter stay­ing in New Zealand for sev­eral months with their new­born girl Esmé, the cou­ple set off for a sev­en­week back­pack­ing trip home through Asia.

Ed­wards started her blog, Travel Mad Mum, in May 2015 in or­der to chron­i­cle her trav­els with Esmé in tow. At the time she was a lit­tle over half­way through that first 10-month trip.

Ed­wards said she would have started it ear­lier, but “Just like any other new mom, I was def­i­nitely in that same daze.”

Ed­wards was most ner­vous about vis­it­ing Tai­wan be­cause she found lit­tle in­for­ma­tion about trav­el­ling there with kids. How­ever, she was pleas­antly sur­prised by how ac­ces­si­ble it was.

“Ev­ery Metro sta­tion has nappy-chang­ing fa­cil­i­ties, and they’re so ex­ten­sive as well,” she said. “They have free wipes, and they have a big sofa where you can sit down and breast­feed, and it’s re­ally, re­ally child-friendly.”

“I loved how friendly the lo­cal peo­ple are with her, and they’re so help­ful,” she said. “I think par­ent­ing is def­i­nitely a com­mu­nity ap­proach [there] in com­par­i­son to other coun­tries.”

While some peo­ple called her self­ish for us­ing her ma­ter­nity leave to travel, Ed­wards said the re­al­ity is quite the op­po­site.

“It’s an amaz­ing time for all the fam­ily to be to­gether, to get used to be­ing a new fam­ily,” she said.

“Shaun, her dad, got to spend the year with her just as much as I did, and their bond is just as close.” She also con­sulted a doc­tor who said that the best time to travel with ba­bies is when they’re breast­feed­ing, since they get im­mu­nity from breast milk.

Trav­el­ling came with some un­ex­pected parental perks, too.

“We didn’t have to do any cook­ing or clean­ing, or main­tain a house­hold,” she said. “We just had un­lim­ited 24/7 eyes on Esmé, and she had our full at­ten­tion all the time.”

Now 2 years old, Esmé has been to 17 coun­tries and count­ing, and they con­tinue to travel about once a month.

This year, they’ve al­ready been to Thai­land, Cam­bo­dia, South Africa, Spain, and Cuba, with Italy next on the list.

Not ev­ery mo­ment is glam­orous though...

And trav­el­ling with a baby cer­tainly has its chal­lenges.

Ed­wards up­loaded a pic­ture and cap­tioned it, “This is us ly­ing down be­side the bed on the floor in our ho­tel room try­ing to hide from our girl who NEEDS to sleep!!!...naps are few and far be­tween re­sult­ing in a cranky baby!!”

But the Travel Mad Mum (and dad!) are well­prac­ticed at han­dling them, and said that Esmé couldn’t be hap­pier.

“The other day she said some­thing to me like, ‘Mom, I want to go on a swing,’ and then she said, ‘Ac­tu­ally, I pre­fer to go on an air­plane,’ as if it’s such a fre­quent oc­cur­rence that it’s as of­ten as go­ing to the play­ground.”

Karen Ed­wards and Shaun Bayes with baby Esme.

Now 2 years old, Esme has been to 17 coun­tries and count­ing, as they con­tinue to travel about once a month.

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