Exploring Bhutan, Baby in Tow
GeoEx’s Carey Johnston, just back from a trip in Bhutan with her husband and nine-month-old son, River, sat down with us to answer some questions about their adventure. Her experience—like so many others of GeoEx travelers—dispels the myth that having kids means ditching your travel dreams.
Were you nervous about traveling with your baby?
Definitely. But my husband and I agreed not to give in to fear. Everybody gets a little anxious before traveling to new places, and doubly so with a child. But once you’re on the road, you just roll with things in the same way you do at home.
How did traveling with River affect your experience?
I’ve traveled all my life, but on this trip, I saw new things through his eyes. For example, at the Divine Mad Monk’s Temple in Punakha, where red-robed monks chant and play the drums, River was in total awe. Everyone would look at him and smile.We watched him watching them. It brought our experience to another level. These kinds of moments really bonded us as a family.
How did the Bhutanese react to you?
River was a huge hit, a natural icebreaker.“Come, come,” they would say gently, arms outstretched. They’d call“Riva” in a singsong voice. He would respond in his way, and then they’d whisk him off. They had a knack for being with children. We were able to enjoy many of our meals while someone played with him.
How did the trip impact River?
He engaged with so many new people. I think he got more behind-the-scenes experiences than we did! He would crawl around everywhere, and nobody would mind. Nothing was off-limits to him. He met and played with other babies. Since we’ve been back, he’s been less fearful of others.
What will you change for your next trip with River?
We were in such good hands on this trip. Next time, I will sit back and relax a bit more.
How should a family choose a travel destination?
Basically, any place that you would be comfortable going makes sense for your family. Bhutan has few health risks, and its Buddhist roots make it a gentle country. China and Japan are also excellent choices (children are revered all over Asia). I’d recommend steering clear of very high elevations, especially if the kids are pre-verbal; you want your child to be able to tell you if he or she doesn’t feel well. You also may want to avoid rural areas with a risk of malaria. GeoEx’s experts are a great resource in weighing the considerations and finding the right trip for you.
Any practical tips you would recommend for new family travelers?
Yes! A number of things come to mind:
– Bring your own stroller. Although you may not use it much once you’re out and about in country (on hiking trails and unpaved roads), it’s essential for airports and big cities. Plus you can gate check it for free!
– Bring your own car seat. You want to be 100 percent sure it’s the right fit for your child and you trust its safety standards.
– Spend a minimum of two to three nights in each place.
– Don’t pack your days too full. You want to enjoy your exploring without being stressed.
– Remember that most of the worry comes during the planning period. You’ll feel better once you’re on your trip.
– The flights and jet lag may not be an issue at all. For me, River brought far more smiles to people on the plane than irritation, and the 12-hour time difference in Bhutan was surprisingly easy. Don’t be afraid to go to the other side of the world!
– Do your best to be in the moment and enjoy—you’re making memories that will last a lifetime!