I’ve been in Israel for a few weeks looking after family here while Erin, Mia and Caius have remained in Australia. It’s been tough since I miss them terribly but we talk regularly on Skype. I’d still choose travelling with my family over hitting the road solo any day, but I’ve tried to find a silver lining to this cloud and wanted to share some of the upsides I’ve discovered.
To set the scene, it’s been 12 years since I was a solo adult traveller. To compare family travel with solo travel is like 2 different worlds. The places visited are different, accommodation is different, speed of travel is different and even food is different. Sure, there’s still some similarities but in all honesty, a solo traveller can’t quite understand what it’s like travelling with kids unless they are a parent themselves. Parents will know what I’m talking about.
Over the last couple weeks in Israel I have been to Haifa, Jerusalem, Bethlehem and Nazareth. Christmas was spent with our buddies from 42nd Class, Oren and Cassie, which was an added bonus and brought some much-needed holiday cheer in the absence of my cute clan.
Anyway, here’s my top 5 perks for travelling alone as a temporarily solo dad/man.
1) Backpack travel & no check-in luggage
I’ve always tried to travel fairly “light”. But due to the logistics of travelling the world with 4 people, there will always be more “stuff” than just with 1 person. Kids also tend to carry more things like toys and more changes of clothes. So going solo meant I could fit everything I needed into just 1 carry-on bag. That meant no checked-in baggage in the airport, faster boarding, faster exiting of the airport and easier transport with less luggage.
When I took a short 3 day trip to Jerusalem over Christmas I tested my limits to see how little I could really live with. The results were surprising. I only took 3 t-shirts, 1 jacket, 1 pair of jeans, 2 pairs of underwear/socks, deodorant (good idea), mobile phone and charger, and camera. That was it (including what I was wearing). It all fit neatly into just 1 backpack with room left over. And at least 2 of those t-shirts were being worn at any one time because it was pretty chilly. I didn’t even take my laptop, which was a real stretch for me. I figured I shouldn’t do much work over Christmas anyway and it meant no valuables to carry and store. To my surprise, I never felt I was lacking anything on that short trip. You’ll be surprised how little is really needed to live happily.
2) Travel is less expensive
Apart from the obvious fact that there are fewer airline tickets to purchase, short-distance travel has been cheaper as well without kids. We often tend to rent a car as it’s easier to move the kids around and more suitable for them if they fall asleep during the day. However, I caught buses and walked a lot more which saved on transport costs. Food costs, attractions and tours were also substantially lower.
3) I can get out the door in 1 minute
Probably my favourite perk. Getting young kids ready to leave home in the morning is a mission requiring military precision. There’s choosing the right outfits, getting them dressed, making sure they’ve eaten their breakfast, combing hair, brushing teeth and packing drinks and snacks. But being a solo dad, I just grab my wallet and camera and walk out the door. Simple as that.
4) There seem to be more hours in the day
Getting out the door quicker is just 1 part of the perk. Walking and transport is faster as there haven’t always been 3 other people to plan for and no prams to push around. Climbing stairs with toddlers is usually slow going. And afternoon naps tend to eat into the available time each day. We usually get the kids home after dinner time so they can go to bed at a reasonable time. So it’s all those little things that add up to chewing through a large chunk of the day. I got all those hours back as a solo traveller and managed to squeeze much more into a shorter period of time.
5) Me, me, me
When you get married, a certain amount of selfishness dies (or at least it should). There’s another adult to care about, think about, help, and love. When kids come along, whatever selfishness was left dies in a melting pile on the floor. Being a solo dad traveller means those more self-focused attributes are picked back up. I am the centre of the universe again. Well, that might be over the top, but you get my drift.
With that, I can go wherever I want whenever I want. If I wanted to spend 2 hours walking around the Israel Museum looking at ancient artefacts, I can. I’m sure that would have left Mia and Caius in a bored stupor, culminating in a repeated “dad, are we finished yet?” Even Erin would have probably boycotted that – or at least after 30 minutes. But not now, I was able to stroll around to my heart’s content. There was no rush, no schedules, no arm-twisting. Nice.
If I wanted to eat hummus and falafel until it came out of my ears, I could – and I did. No one complained that it was the 3rd time that day we ate the same food.
Now, I’d like to clarify for the record that I love being a dad. It’s the most rewarding experience of my life and I wouldn’t change it for the world. Solo travel has been nice for a short season, but I’m definitely ready to get back to travelling with my family. Even if I can’t eat hummus 3 times a day, it’s always an unbeatable perk to watch a 3-year-old laugh with a big mouthful of hummus – as long as mum is around to clean it up!