Portugal is Sesam’s 24th country to date. That’s 24 countries in his 29 months of life! Pretty crazy, I know. His first trip on a plane was from Helsinki to Copenhagen when he was just two months old and it’s pretty much been go ever since. While this is a lifestyle that is not easy by any stretch of the imagination, I have noticed some pretty cool advantages to being a toddler on the transcontinental go. In this post, I’ll cover three of them, namely adaptability, tolerance and exposure.
Now I’m not sure if it’s nature or nurture that has made Sesam such a good traveler. Would he have been as easy-going independent from the rotating landscapes he found himself in from the word go? Surely if he had displayed fussier behaviour at so many environmental changes, the lack of appeal to keep traveling with him might’ve lessened the chances of doing it? In any event, I’ll wager that a constitution not fully adverse to the rigours of travel combined with a chance to actually travel both have had a hand at it. Anyway, back to those three advantages…
Adaptability: Sesam can pretty much fall asleep in a wide range of places. Planes, trains, buses, couches, laps, on my chest, you name it, he’s done it. He does not require elaborate nightly rituals to get himself ready to sleep. I’ve exchanged notes with parents whose children can wake up screaming and crying in the middle of night because a cherished, well-chewed rabbit toy was left at daycare the previous day. Sesam’s only real attachment was his pacifier and I thought he’d be going off into the world as an adult with it, so much did he need it for a good long while there. However, one day quite recently, he lost it. It stayed ‘lost’ and after about one cranky week, he’s never looked back. Now his main attachment is a little stuffed airplane that he was given on a Lufthansa flight from Frankfurt. Go figure. 🙂
Tolerance: Similar to being able to adapt to new situations and people, a certain level of tolerance comes about through travel. Only packed the same few toys that were not too heavy and cumbersome to fit into the suitcase? No problem, I’ll throw stones in the water instead. This also makes coming home to his toys a most exciting novelty indeed. Reading the same two books for the sixteenth night in a row? Kids have their little obsessions and their ‘favourites’ even when there is plenty to choose from. Ear pressure during take off and landing? Not an issue. Waking up to a different care-giver while mum and dad are teaching in the early morning? So far so good. I’d say that Sesam’s ablity to adapt to, and tolerate, new and various situations has been a direct result of living in this peripatetic way.
Exposure: I’d say this is the greatest advantage to travel, at any age really. The amount of exposure Sesam’s experiencing at this tender age is almost envious. Language, food, customs, wildlife, man, this kid sees a lot! He’s not fussy about eating and trying new foods. He may not like everything but at least he’ll give most things a try. He may not be talking yet, but he’s been exposed to all sorts of languages and sounds. He’s seen the inside to all sorts of places and houses of worship and has been a part of different rituals and rites of initiation. The most robust one being his welcoming ceremony that his Kikuyu side of the family did for him in Nairobi when he was five months old. He may not’ve been able to last through any of these, but the exposure’s there, nonetheless.
Sesam meets Guruji; KPJAYI, Mysuru, 2015 (photo: Petri Räisänen)
Now that you’ve read about a few perks travel has had on this little one’s development, let me be perfectly clear that it can be, at times, uniquely and undisputedly draining for the parents or caregivers. It’s no walk in the park and I fully believe that a consistent and reliable sense of the world is of crucial importance for the wellbeing of a child. However, with a few tips, imagination and tolerance on the part of the adults, this sense of consistency can be taken on the road too. I’ll post next Sunday some of my top tips that I’ve learned along the way.
Until then, get that passport application in and Om ❤