Thursday, September 27, 2012

New Teen Traveler in the Family

My oldest kid turns thirteen-years-old today. Thirteen!! If you had told me when he was born that we would celebrate this milestone in our Malaysian home and traveling the world, I would have laughed in your face. Back then, I had absolutely no intention of leaving Texas and thought we were living in our "forever home."

His first trip, in utero, was to Banff, Canada. As I hiked through knee-deep snow along the Athabasca Glacier, 10-weeks pregnant and recently recovered from the flu, I couldn't help but notice just how extremely tired I was.

10-months-old practicing water safety on Galveston Bay, Texas with his uncle and cousin

He turned out to be a colicky baby and a strong-willed toddler. At Thanksgiving, we drove to Houston for him to meet his extended family. One of his baby toys was a Winnie-the-Pooh that played a 12-second ditty whenever I squeezed its tummy. The only way to keep our baby calm during the long drive was to continuously play that song over and over (and over and over...) again. My hand was tired! Trips to the grocery store were filled with crying, and grannies would kindly inquire what was wrong with my baby. Back then, I couldn't imagine bringing him on a plane.

7-years-old in Vancouver, Canada near Science World

When he was 22-months-old, we took our first trip that didn't involve visiting family. That's when we started our balancing act of developing an itinerary that would take into consideration both adults and a child. We made our way through Baltimore, Philadelphia, and Hershey, Pennsylvania. Everyone was pleased with the Hershey Chocolate Factory. He loved Sesame Place, and hubby and I enjoyed seeing historical Philadelphia — on the Fourth of July, no less.

8-years-old on top of Pikes Peak, Colorado

But one other memory stands out, too. While on our scenic boat tour of Baltimore's Inner Harbor, my toddler continuously attempted to jump overboard. I ended up wrapping my arms and legs around him to keep him on the boat, and he wailed for most of the trip. I'm sure that's not what the other tourist had in mind when they bought their tickets. For a long, long time after that, I wouldn't go on a public tour unless I had an Exit Strategy where I could easily whisk my kid away if his mood went downhill.

9-years-old at Mr. Toad's Wild Ride, Disneyland, California

He celebrated turning five-years-old in San Diego with a trip to LEGOland. For this birthday, he's requested a visit to the newly opened LEGOland Malaysia. That San Diego trip also marks the last time when we weren't slaves to the school year calendar. No more traveling during the off season for us. Luckily, our current school has a long weekend every month.

9-years-old at Acadia National Park, Maine

When he was seven, hubby decided we needed to come up with a 10-year plan for summer vacations. I thought this was crazy at the time but have come to see the value in it. We only had a decade of summer vacations left before he started university, and there was so much to see. Our family traveled everywhere from Hawaii to Maine, Florida to Vancouver. The summer of 2011 was supposed to be Yellowstone National Park. A year beforehand, I excitedly booked our rooms with a view of Old Faithful. Instead, we ended up moving to Malaysia and had to temporarily shelve the U.S. version of our multi-year plan. Time to draw up a new one focusing on Asia!

10-years-old at the top of Haleakala National Park, Maui, Hawaii

As a new mom, I quaked in my shoes at the thought of family travel. Looking back, there's still no way I would have brought this son along on an international trip as an infant. If it were his little sister on the other hand, she would have had no trouble bouncing around the world as a baby. But parents are a lot like kids. You have to figure out each individual's capacity for being challenged and stretched like a rubber band and know when to stop before it breaks. That point is different for each person. As the years went by, we reached the point where family travel didn't seem like it would break us.  I try to look at myself with grace and know that the mother I was in the beginning couldn't do it, but I eventually grew into a mother who could.

11-years-old at Disney's California Adventure Animation Academy

There's a saying that goes, "The days are long, but the years are short." As time has passed, that colicky baby grew into a fine teenager who passed me in height months ago. He takes up feats like soaring through the trees and amusement park thrill rides that are more daring than what his mama is willing to try. He can help pack the car and retrieve luggage at the airport. This week, he cooked us a delicious dinner and helped his sister study for a test. He even asked to decorate his own birthday cookie cake. My baby is growing up, and I can't wait to continue exploring the world with him.

12-years-old at Victoria's Peak, Hong Kong

Here's to reaching new heights.

This post is part of Travel Photo Thursday on Budget Travelers Sandbox and Friday Daydreamin' at R We There Yet Mom? Check them out for more around-the-world travel inspiration.


  1. Sweet post! I hope to be able to travel with my future kids some day. I know I loved traveling with my parents and I'm sure they liked it too! :)

  2. What a beautiful birthday card. I'm sure there will be many more photos to add. Happy Birthday!

  3. Happy Birthday to a well-traveled young man! What a very sweet tribute to your son, Michele. I loved the progression in age of the pictures. I hope he has a great weekend filled with lots of love, gifts and celebration. Wishing the two of you many more years of travel together.

    1. Going through my digital pictures, I realized that I must have always brought just my film camera on trips before he turned 7. That baby one was a fluke. I really wished I had some of his toddler and preschool travel photos with me instead of packed away in Texas.

  4. Happy Birthday to your little man! Beautiful post!

  5. Happy Birthday! What a sweet post for him!!

    Thanks for linking up!

  6. What a sweet post, Michelle! Happy Birthday to your young man!

    My youngest will turn 16 tomorrow! It's hard to believe that time has flown by so quickly!

  7. What a wonderful birthday post! I love your idea of a 10 year plan for summer vacations - it's amazing how fast those years pass by and you realize that the kids soon won't be traveling with you anymore. My older daughter turns 16 in a couple of weeks and I suspect that we only have a couple of summer vacations left with our entire family - not sure where the time went!

  8. Happy Birthday! These milestones are a great time to look back on many happy memories.

  9. What an incredible sweet birthday tribute to your son. I love each of the stories--he'll really appreciate reading this if not now, in a few years. He certainly is a lucky, well-traveled young man! And now you have a luggage helper--that's the best!

  10. What a lovely birthday present for your son. These last years do pass so quickly but I have found that as they get older and older, age does not deter them joining us ....if they are invited!!

  11. My parents didn't travel so I had to wait until adulthood to develop my love of travel. I am envious of the experiences you've already provided that now-teenager of yours. What wonderful childhood memories he will carry into adulthood.

  12. That's one well traveled son you have and what a lovely post of memories. I love the saying "The Days are long but the years are short." It's all too true in my experience.

  13. What a lovely post! He sounds like a lovely, thoughtful boy ... or is it "young man" at 13? I'm so not ready to be a mum of a teenager. Thankfully I have a few more years yet! We worked out that other week that our 5 year old has had a birthday in 5 different countries.

  14. Hi Michele, thanks for dropping by at my blog ;) Nice meeting u!


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