Travelling with a baby: The biggest and most unexpected thrill

He's here. It's the strangest feeling: not one of constant amazement but a series of genuine shocks, these jolts at seeing him in surroundings that are familiar and yet so bizarre now that he's in them.

I have a son, a three-month-old named Angus, a human I've helped bring into this world and yet one I'm still not used to seeing in it, particularly in places he doesn't belong, away from our house, away from his room and his cot where he always exists. Now, he's at a winery in the Hunter Valley. Later, he's in Melbourne. In a few months he'll be in Spain.

He's here. That little cherub face and his dusting of gingery hair; that heart-melting, full-body smile, the one that makes him wriggle in my arms with joy; those screams when his every desire isn't being met. Those things travel with us now. They go wherever we go. You forget sometimes, the fact that he's real and he's here, and the strangeness of it comes as a surprise when it hits you once again.

This is my life now, travelling with a little boy. He's here and he's changed everything. He's changed the places my partner Jess and I go, and the things we do. He's changed the style of travel we can manage. He's changed the very act of moving from place to place, the things we have to think about, the logistics we have to arrange.

That can take a while to wrap your head around. Getting to the airport used to take us about half an hour. Now, it's an exercise that consumes an entire day, one that zaps every ounce of our energy. Lugging this little man from place to place is a phenomenal and unexpected challenge, a test of patience and planning, a task I'd never even considered would be difficult before now.

Even just packing the car. Do you have any idea how much stuff a tiny human being requires for his comfort and our sanity? I didn't. Now, however, I do, and it's a lot. It takes some serious car-boot Tetris to get it all in: stroller, bathtub, swing seat, activity mat, clothes, endless muslins, all into the back of a very small vehicle that used to suit the two of us just fine and that now, much like our two-bedroom inner-city apartment, feels decidedly squishy.

We have to plan around feeds now. Every three hours this little guy needs topping up. We have to make sure we're somewhere appropriate for him to be fed; we need to stop the car, or be sitting down on a plane, or get ourselves somewhere comfortable for Jess to go through that now familiar routine. We have to change nappies constantly. We need extra clothes on hand for Angus in case he soils the ones he's wearing. We need extra clothes on hand for us, too, in case he soils ours.

We have to stay in accommodation that provides access to a washing machine so we can get all his stuff clean. We have to plan to go to restaurants that have enough space for strollers, and where people aren't going to be horrified by the sight of our very small extra diner. We have to do our eating out during the day, when Angus is happy and transportable, and eat meals at home at night while he's sleeping.

We have to be ready to pivot at any moment when things go awry, to scrap plans and make new ones on the spot. We have to be vigilant for any dangers; ready for any tantrums. We have to sit petrified on planes as we wait for him to suddenly start screaming and wake everyone else around us.


These are the challenges of my new life travelling with a child.

That, however, is not the beginning and the end. It might sound as if this new state of being is a set of trials, but the truth is it's actually a mind-boggling world of possibilities that I'm only just discovering.

I have to travel with a child – but I get to travel with my son. I get to show him the world. I get to inspire him, to surprise him, to stimulate and thrill him. Surely there's nothing better in the world.

I know what this does to a child. It happened to me. To instil a love of travel in someone so young is the greatest gift you can ever give; and yet it's also a curse.

Poor Angus – he's doomed. He'll spend his life wandering. He'll forever blow his money on experiences and thrills. He'll call back on these adventures he's been dragged along on as a kid and be inspired to continue with his own.

My own childhood was defined by travel; not just the journeys but their social consequences in the small Queensland towns I was raised in. The overseas trips my parents took me on marked me out as different in those places. I was the only one spending summer holidays tobogganing down snowy slopes in Massachusetts; no one else went to Surry for their family Christmas.

The other kids at my schools would come back from holidays tanned and bonded. I'd return pasty and different. "Breathe mate, breathe!" this one kid used to yell at me when I arrived at school in February looking almost translucent.

That sort of thing affects you. It forces you to wander your own path. It makes you realise the true scope of the world outside of your small experience, the breadth of adventures that are there for you if you choose to take them.

That's what I want to give Angus. Not so much the status as a social pariah, but the thirst for adventure, the appreciation for the world. When I picture our coming travels together it's not the packing or the screaming I think about, but the opportunity to share something I love with this new little person I love even more.

I used to work for a tour company in Europe, ferrying young Australian travellers around the continent's highlights, and my absolute favourite part of any tour was that moment on the first night when we'd round a bend in Paris and the Eiffel Tower would come into view for the first time. I'd never look at the tower; I'd always look at the passengers. I'd get such a thrill out of the expressions on their faces, the excitement they clearly felt at seeing something in the flesh that they'd had in their dreams for so long.

And that was a bunch of drunk backpackers. Imagine doing that with your own son, showing him the highlights of the world, watching his little face light up at the sight of something the two of you had looked at in photos together and planned to enjoy.

I can't wait to take Angus on all sorts of adventures. I can't wait to take him camping, to sit around a roaring fire, to sleep out under the stars, to point out the amazing animals in the national parks: to pass on a love of the natural world and allow him to explore and learn and glory in the excitement and the difference of it all. Those were the trips I took that left such a huge mark, the rough-and-ready journeys, the ones where we'd get our hands dirty and have an adventure, where we'd see snakes and kookaburras and swim in waterholes and cook meals over a little gas stove. I want my kid to have that.   

I can't wait to take Angus skiing, to see the look on his face when he first sees snow. I can't wait to go to a Premier League football match with him and cheer when his team scores a goal. I can't wait to introduce him to parts of the world I never saw as a kid, to the bustle of south-east Asia, the majesty of the Middle East, the thrill of South America.

For that privilege, I can put up with the odd tantrum. I can put up with the struggles to pack the car, with the constant soiling of his clothes and mine, with the need to rethink every aspect of the places Jess and I go, and the things we do when we get there. I can put up with all of that.

Because he's here. And that's the biggest thrill of all.