Our Journey Part 4: 4 Weeks On The Road & Lessons Learned So Far

Nomadic Baby in Thailand

Image: Mali & I on location at the beach in Thailand

Wow, I can’t believe we’ve already been on the road again for 4 weeks…last time I wrote about the countdown to leaving our home and what we did to prepare and already I’m writing a post about what we’ve learned so far. I guess most of you will know already that that’s what happens with children & babies…not only do they learn constantly but so do you!!

So here’s a bit of an update about where we are now (both physically & mentally) and some thoughts about what we’ve learned since being location independent & nomadic with a young baby….

Current Whereabouts

We’re currently in Thailand on the island of Phuket. We came here because we knew it already (which we thought would be an easy introduction back into location independent nomadism with Mali, our daughter) and my parents were going to be here for some of the time we were here.

We had a 1 week stop off in Dubai to stay with my brother and help Mali acclimatise to both the heat & the time change more gradually and that worked really well. But…we’re already thinking about moving again!

Every single time we stay somewhere, we learn more & more about what it is we look for in a place and what kind of place lets us live the lifestyle we want.

It’s no secret that while we enjoy the nomadic lifestyle, we’re actually on a quest to find those 1-2 (maybe 3) places in the world where we’d like to shuttle between each year and we do envisage settling somewhere at some point – at least for 6 months of each year. But unfortunately Phuket isn’t it. So we’re thinking about heading further north to Chiang Mai and seeing how that suits us.

Experiences So Far Of Being Nomadic With A Baby

We had all sorts of fears, anxieties and worries before we set off:

Would it be too much for Mali? Would it be unsettling? Is she going to scream for the whole flight? Will she cope with the heat, the time zone change, the mosquitos? Are we being irresponsible and bad parents for doing this to her?

Thankfully most of those fears have been allayed – although every now & then we do still wonder if this really is the *best* kind of lifestyle for Mali. Actually I’ve come to the conclusion that at her age (5 months), location doesn’t really matter but I think it will be more and more of a factor as she gets older.

For now though, here are a few of the things we’ve experienced & learned so far since we’ve been on the road again with Mali in tow…

Equipment: On a practical note, we have uhmed  & ahed about the equipment & stuff to bring with us for Mali. I’ll be writing a post about some of the gear we’ve been road-testing but here’s what we’ve found so far:

  • In a hot, humid, tropical climate a buggy isn’t really necessary: you’re unlikely to walk around much and if you do, the baby will get really hot unless you get some kind of fan-contraption rigged up. If the baby is still small enough (or if not, you’ll need a strong person around!), a sling seems to be the best thing to use. We’ve hardly used our buggy – only in the malls a couple of times – but we use the sling almost every time we go out, particularly since Mali loves being able to see the new stuff around her.
  • We expected to be able to get some of the basics really easily in Thailand; things like a simple changing mat (we have a travel one but wanted a cheap one for the apartment), packs of cheap babygro’s/onesies. Have we been able to get them? No! They seem to have all the fancy stuff (changing mat integrated into fancy changing table) but none of the basics.
  • We really struggled for a baby bath since there’s no bath in the apartment and at 5 months, Mali’s quite a large & long baby. My parents had got the biggest baby bath they could find before we arrived but it was still too small, so we now use…a blow up paddling pool w/ our regular bath support! It works brilliantly & because it’s light, means we can take it with us elsewhere.

Flying with a baby: I had all sorts of stress about Mali hating flying, having problems with her ears and screaming for the whole flight. The reality? She played happily through the first flight from the UK to Dubai and slept a little (it was a day time flight) and slept in a bassinet for 90% of the 2nd flight from Dubai to Bangkok, despite being woken up at midnight to traipse to the airport!

No crying, no screaming and her ears were fine, despite not feeding on the way up & down, as we were advised by our health visitor. I can’t tell you how awkward it was though, trying to breastfeed her on the plane with a Muslim family next to me & trying not to expose myself, while at the same time trying not to let Mali’s kicking feet kick their child in the head!!

While a bassinet is useful, in future we may try & select the seats which give us a row to ourselves (use Seatguru to check out your plane & seat configuration) so we’re not sat next to another family with their own kids, reducing the cramped space even further.

Heat, humidity & bugs: We have acclimatised Mali fairly slowly to the heat by keeping the air con or fan on most of the time but gradually turning it down so she gets used to the natural temperature here. I’ve been very wary of dehydration and at the advice of our health visitor, have just offered her more milk, more frequently particularly when she seems to be hot & bothered.

So far, we’ve not had a problem with mosquitoes but brought with us some natural repellant rather than anything chemical-based (and certainly not DEET-based for a baby). We’ve managed to avoid the mosquitos by staying indoors at prime feeding time (dusk) and being vigilant about keeping the doors & windows of our apartment closed. We also have our homeopathy kit at the ready, in case of any bites and know which remedies to apply should Mali get any bites.

And the biggest thing we’ve learned so far?

Thai nappies (diapers) are crap!! We must have tried every brand available (including western brands here such as Huggies, Drypers etc.) but unfortunately nothing is as good as Pampers.

The best ones to use here (and thanks to everyone on Twitter who also recommended these) are the Mamy Poko brand – they’re slightly more expensive than others but worth it and are the closest thing we can find (both in comfort, fit & performance) to Pampers.

9 Responses to Our Journey Part 4: 4 Weeks On The Road & Lessons Learned So Far

  1. Kathleen K. O’Connor

    December 18, 2009 | 1:43 pm

    Your daughter is adorable!

    I had the same fear of flying with my daughter when she was 5 mos. old. I had to fly from Japan to South America and I was sooooo worried. Turns out it is way more difficult to fly with them when they are around 2 years old! I miss flying when she was a tiny baby :)

    I have a question about visas… how do you get a visa to stay in Thailand for so long? I thought that as a tourist, you could only stay there for 60 days or so. We have discussed going to Thailand but didn’t like the idea of having to leave so quickly. I asked a lawyer if they could set us up with year long visas but they said they couldn’t because my husband is not from the US or UK.

  2. Natasha

    December 18, 2009 | 10:10 pm

    She’s so cute! Honestly nomadism is no problem at that age – most of what you can’t find you can do without anyway. I agree that age 2 was a lot harder for flying, but it got much better again after that.

    When they reach about 6 putting down some roots becomes more of an issue, as you become less the centre of her universe. Going between 2-3 places sounds like a really good way of dealing with this. Home-schooling probably helps too, though I’ve never tried.

  3. Julie

    December 21, 2009 | 3:08 am


    I’m so happy for you and your family!
    Like Mali, Mariel has turned out to be an excellent traveler. She’ll be three months old this week and has already traveled to Boston (by car), South Carolina (plane) and St. Thomas (plane), and has had no problems at all. I’ve worried most about temperature adjustments, so I found your acclimitization advice really helpful.

  4. Lea Woodward

    December 21, 2009 | 3:34 am

    @Kathleen – thanks, Kathleen! You’re right – we’ve been told that travelling with a baby is *much* easier than with toddlers/mobile babies and although we haven’t done the 2nd one, I’m pretty sure I agree having seen other parents on the flight. At least at Mali’s age, she stays where we put her!!

    Re. Thai visas – we applied for the 60 day visa in advance, which can be extended once in Thailand by another 30 days and then you can do a border run for another 30 days – so 120 days in total. The rules change constantly though so it’s always worth checking at your nearest consulate/embassy. Not sure if we’ll do a border run yet but will def extend. For anyone who wants to stay in Thailand for longer, one of the best ways we’ve come across is an education visa from somewhere like thaiwalen.com – you basically have to take Thai lessons (not a hardship esp. since you’re living in the country!) and then get a 12 month visa. I know a couple of people doing that this year.

    @Natasha – that’s a really good point about becoming less the centre of their universes. We’ve already been thinking about how to ensure some consistency in the people she spends time with etc. We’ll definitely be giving the home ed route a go – at least to begin with. Amy Palko is an inspiration on this – we’ve met her 3 home ed kids and they are just fantastic, bright, well disciplined and extremely social (but not bratty or precocious) children. We’ll be fortunate if we can have the same success with Mali!

    @Julie – hey Julie, good to see you here! We really will have to organise a Mali/Mariel meet-up one day :)

  5. sharni montgomery

    December 22, 2009 | 9:45 pm

    hey , good for you being nomadic with a baby, very inspiring, I’d love to interview you about your experiences on my blog (soon to be website)

    Would you be up for this? Just email interview, obviously

  6. Lea Woodward

    December 23, 2009 | 5:42 am

    Of course, Sharni – please email me at locationindependent at gmail :)

  7. soultravelers3

    December 31, 2009 | 10:24 pm

    So glad to hear it is working out well! I always adore seeing pictures of Mali! Too cute!

    Glad to hear the sling is working well! That is all we ever used. We never used a baby bath or changing mat, so never missed them. We took baths in our big tub with baby from day one & my mom used the kitchen sink for us as babes. I just changed diapers on the bed or floor etc with a towel underneath.

    Many of the things that some parents feel are a must today, are recent additions, so we went the old fashion route and did many things like my mom did in the 50’s or how native women do it! LOL. I figured if she could raise 4 kids well without them & native women kept in simple for eons, I didn’t have to invest in all the baby stuff.

    I know you don’t believe in a lot of stuff either, but thought I’d toss out these thoughts in case it might help you or others.

    The blow up pool sounds fun! We bring a blow up globe with us that has proven to be a fantastic multi-purpose tool! Doubles as a ball and homeschool helper! ;)

    I agree with @Natasha that once she starts walking & crawling that things will get much harder for a while, but disagree with her view about 6. I think that 4 to 6 are fantastic ages to begin serious travel, especially if the child is reading then!

    We enjoyed supplying the roots in the early years and found 5 1/2 a perfect age to immerse deeply into the world and other cultures. There are many ways to do it, and it is hard to guess at what will work beforehand, but now that our child is 9, I can say that these last 4 years of extensive slow travel has been superb for her. For us, it’s been the perfect age (and coming back to the same small village in southern Spain every winter..a perfect choice).

    I guess it just proves once again that there is no one “right” way to be a location independent parent!

  8. soultravelers3

    January 1, 2010 | 2:11 pm

    I also wanted to mention that our daughter loved taking showers with us starting at just weeks old, so that might be another possibility for some. I held her for part of it & then put her down in the corner of the walk -in shower on a folded towel or two (that got wet) while I finished.

    This may not be for you, but extended breast feeding made traveling with a baby soooo much easier for us , kept her healthier ( stats show nursing babies & toddlers have much fewer illnesses, shorter duration & fewer allergies) and gave us lots of peace of mind about food, nutritional & comfort issues ( & needing less stuff). Breastfeeding also gets easier as a baby gets older & extended nursing benefits the mom too.

    With organic cotton sling, breastfeeding & using the family bed, we did TONS of travel starting at 2 weeks and basically needed nothing but a few clothes & diapers.

    I can’t tell you how advantageous this can be in getting fluids into a hot baby on the move, or sick baby who will not eat or drink anything else, stopping a toddler temper tamper immediately, always having food/drink/comfort immediately available no matter where you roam, going to adult venues & having an instant trick to calm & quiet a toddler, etc!

    There is a reason that many nomadic peoples did/do extended breastfeeding. ;) It’s even a greener choice that’s better for the planet, but the best thing for mom & dad, is the ease it adds to your life!

  9. Lea Woodward

    January 5, 2010 | 3:50 am

    @soultravelers3 – Thanks for the tips Jeanne.

    Re. the sling/buggy – she’s getting so heavy now that I can only carry her for about 30m before my shoulders start to scream with pain! Any tips for that in a sling? (We’ve tried various different types but still the same). At least with a buggy, our posture is spared somewhat ;)

    Unfortunately some of the places we stay in don’t have a bath tub or sink big enough (did I mention she’s a big girl?!?) – have tried a shower but it’s not quite the same for her as she loves to lie in the bath kicking and splashing away. The blow-up paddling pool has worked well so far – a good improvisation!

    Mali is still 100% fully breastfed (as per NHS recommendations!) although now she’s hit 6 months we’ll be starting to wean her slowly on to more solids. I totally agree with you about the ease & convenience of it – although having to do it in a muslim country and/or where it’s not as socially/culturally acceptable is somewhat more uncomfortable.

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