It was time. Time to put the baby in the front and the backpack on the back. Time to make that ultimate dream of adventuring with my 13 month old son come true. Time to add a pin for country #10 for him and accumulate some frequent flyer miles for his current total of 13 flights.
Time to go explore the second largest country in SE Asia which ranks #2 for corruption and almost equally bad for human rights abuse. A buddhist country that is still deeply engrossed in civil war with more than half a million persons displaced and an even larger number without citizenship. A country that has only recently opened its doors to (mainly wealthy) foreigners and is changing so quickly. A country where most people outside of the cities don’t have running water, electricity or an education, where less than 1% have access to the (slow!) internet and the selling price of a SIM card still stands at 150 US Dollars.
Yet you are entering a country that will let you feel none of its dire straits but instead will allow you to feel safe every step you take and whose people could not be more welcoming and genuine, making your traveling experience unique and most memorable.
A place where you are not harassed or regarded as a walking dollar bill but where men, women and children alike are keen to interact with you, experience what your baby’s skin feels like and of course want to know why you have chosen to travel 20 hours to visit them.
In my case the answer is simple: Friends. International friends working in the main city of Yangon and who had invited us to come. An opportunity too fantastic for me to pass up. Trusting everything would be fine and my Europe-travel-savvy- baby would play along, we packed for 3 weeks: 100 Diapers, 3 bags of powdered milk, some emergency food and some summer clothes. 14 kg on the back, 12 in the front, and a small foldable 2piece stroller to push for balance.
And what an experience this turned out to be! The baby appears on the scene and just by doing that he opens doors. I follow. A mother and young child traveling together bring a smile to everyone’s face. Being no threat whatsoever, the child loving locals want to help out and interact, paving the way for amazing things to happen.
People stopping to buy the baby sweets and oranges, wanting to carry him around and not being put off when he cries – on the contrary – becoming ever more creative to make him forget that he wants his mother. Cuddling him, playing with him, singing for him in their native tongue. Feeding him, soothing his mosquito bites with various powders/ointments/oils/herbs or creams. Tugging at his pacifier since they have never seen such an object before and are so curious. Bringing their own kids over to compare and make friends. Inviting us in for tea, games and entertainment.
Old and young vendors making space and allowing us to share their shade during the extremely hot midday sun.
Pink young nuns on the street spontaneously inviting us to their nunnery where the baby is allowed all the way into the sacred sleeping quarters of the child nuns and where they sing and clap for him. Their child faces light up as the baby smiles and starts to dance to their music.
A waiter enthusiastically taking the baby from me as we enter the restaurant only to find him falling asleep on his shoulder. He calmly rocks him until I finish my meal and then gently carries him all the way to his bed in the hotel room.
An elderly orange monk inviting the baby to sit on his lap and share breakfast with him.
People peering into the stroller wherever we pass, and breaking into a smile immediately after. Making us feel welcome and signalling ‘you’re not alone’.
Allowing me to realise my dream of traveling and raising a baby who is already a real partner and wonderful companion. Perhaps a pagoda less on the list of “seen and done” but a warm feeling inside of actually having belonged and having been part of something. Enjoying the escape from societal pressure of home and just going with the flow. And the flow is no high chair, no crib, no toys, no licensed day care professionals, no organic food, no worries about pedagogical useful dos and don’ts, just immersing yourself and trusting the outcome will be fine.
Relying on any means of transportation at hand: plane, bus, train, ferry, boat, horse cart, bicycle, motorbike, tuktuk or on foot – and getting there – or somewhere.
And now struggling to overcome jet lag and readjust to home society. Huddling up and falling asleep spooning while silently wishing to still be on the road. Feeling 100% fulfilled and proud. Proud of the super trooper baby who linked the bridges of my old life and new and adjusted to all changes (climate, time, food, language, people, faces, daily rhythm) without complaints. He made this experience all the more unique and special. Thank you.