Before having my son, traveling was a very close third after my husband/family and my career. I originally delayed having kids, always waiting for the next trip and the next promotion. One day I realized that I didn’t need to choose between travel and kids. Instead, I would make traveling with a child the new norm.
My first non work-related trip with my son, Will, was technically to Los Angeles when I was 5 months pregnant. It was exactly 10 years after I lived in L.A., long before responsibility and “adulting” was a real thing. I was well into my second trimester with tons of energy. (Although let’s be honest, that didn’t stop me from taking advantage of priority boarding on Southwest airlines. Yay for expectant mother friendly policies!)
I recall walking almost 25,000 steps and 12 miles in one day, from Santa Monica Beach up to the Getty Museum, with my poor mom trying to keep up with me along the way. (My husband, who doesn’t always share my love for flying, gladly swapped in my mom in lieu of the traditional babymoon.) From that point on I knew my little guy would be my traveling partner for life. With two adventure themed baby showers and a travel focused nursery, I didn’t give him much of a choice : )
In Will’s first year of life, he visited more places than many Pittsburgh natives have been to their entire lives. When he was 7 weeks old we boarded a plane to Omaha, Nebraska with a newborn for a family wedding for my first time really flying with a baby. We then made the 14 hour road trip back home in the car through 6 states. We realized that surviving a long car ride with a baby (and travel in general) was possible and our son did an amazing job throughout the trip. Although let’s be real, traveling with an infant is deceivingly easy since they’re sleeping so much of the time.
We spent a few weeks in Ocean City, Maryland when Will was 3 months old to take advantage of time with my parents and my employer’s generous maternity leave. It was there that his love for the water and my love for new adventures with him really began. He came along with my husband and I for a wedding in Kentucky where the three of us saw our first horse race. He also traveled New Jersey more than once for the bridal shower and wedding of another one of my best friends. Having been a bridesmaid in three weddings the first few months of Will’s life, it felt like we were on the Pennsylvania Turnpike for half of that time between bridal showers, bachelorette parties and other wedding festivities. Despite the stress of traveling with a newborn, those long drives with just the two of us taught me patience in ways I never thought were possible for my type A personality.
When Will turned 8 months old we experienced our first Penn State bowl game together as a family in Arizona. (As die-hard Penn Staters, we had to start the brain washing early!) After the stomach flu of the holiday season almost prevented us from going, we ended having a blast between the game itself and just relaxing as a family.
At 10 months we got on another flight, this time to Islamorada in the Florida Keys; a first for all of us. After that trip, despite the lack of sleep and the recognition that a beach vacation would never again be relaxing with a child, I started thinking about what life would be like without the constant pressure from a demanding job and more time to focus on my son. I also had the realization that each time we went somewhere new, we grew stronger as a family, got smarter about traveling and learned to stress less and enjoy more. (Side note: I couldn’t agree more with this article on Motherly about the positive effect vacations have on your kids.)
Fast forward 3 months from that vacation in Florida and I made the tough decision to leave my job as a Chief Operating Officer/ SVP in financial services. I worked extremely hard to build a career I was proud of and dedicated a lot of sleepless nights to, but at the same time I’m thrilled to be able to focus on my baby boy (now toddler) and getting more enjoyment out of life. I realize how fortunate I am that my career thus far and a supportive husband have afforded me the ability to take time away from work to have this time with my son, and I don’t plan to take that for granted for a second. (And of course, being consistent with my wanderlust nature, I celebrated the career change with a quick girls weekend to Iceland before going into full time mom mode.)
I created Toddling Traveler as a way to capture our adventures with Will, not just when we’re traveling but also as we explore our home city of Pittsburgh. Because let’s face it, all those annoying cliches people tell you when you first become a parent about how fast the time goes and to enjoy every minute are totally true. Aside from documenting our family friendly destinations and fun things to do in Pittsburgh, I also hope to share a few family travel tips and tricks about traveling with kids along the way. Thanks in advance for joining us on this wild ride!
<3 Amanda Emmerling
“Oh the Places You’ll Go” decal pictured above from Will’s nursery is from The Sticker Hut on Etsy.