Why My Daughter Skipped Pre-K to Dance Around the World
I remember it so clearly. We had just found out some pretty epic news. We were going to have a baby! Up until this point we had lived a pretty baby unfriendly life; our house was a 500 square foot fifth floor walkup apartment in New York’s Gramercy neighborhood with pull-down attic style stairs that went up to a roof with no guardrails and our very own fire pit. After work, we watched marathons of Pawn Stars and ordered take-out. Sundays were for sleeping until noon and then eating lobster rolls at Luke’s. Things were going to change for sure, but the one thing everyone kept pointing out to us (quite obnoxiously, I may add) was that “our traveling days were over”. I would have none of it.
Traveling was our thing and we weren’t going to let some baby who couldn’t even talk stop us from doing what we love. The day after we received our daughter’s birth certificate we applied for her first passport. At ten weeks old, we headed out on a trans-continental train journey across the whole of Canada. At ten months old we crisscrossed Chile, Argentina, and Uruguay. Before her second birthday, she had been to eight countries on three continents and we had no plan to stop.
Although we found that we could keep traveling even with a small child, the type of travel that we did definitely changed. In Santiago, we would put our daughter to bed in our AirBnB and take turns going out to take out dinner from nearby restaurants. In Ireland we never let her adjust to the new time zone so our days started at noon and we could go out late to enjoy restaurants as a family. In the Galapagos, we hired a private guide for the first time ever so we’d have flexibility with transportation and could easily get back to our hotel for naps.
We quickly realized the importance of seizing opportunities for travel. Children under two fly for free so we traveled as much as possible. After age two, we were strategic about where we flew so that we could utilize miles and take advantage of time zones. When she hit four we realized we would soon be locked into a traditional school schedule and decided to take things to a whole new level.
In the year leading up to kindergarten, we traveled together as a family absolutely every chance we got. Long weekends, holidays…even a single day here and there. In just over one year, we visited 29 different countries and four territories taking full advantage of any discount flights we could find. We hurled tomatoes during the annual Tomatina festival in Spain, witnessed the Great Migration in Kenya, rode camels in Israel, visited the Christmas markets in Estonia, road-tripped across Iran and sailed across the Baltic Sea. Our daughter learned to swim in Abu Dhabi, drove her first bumper car in Tbilisi, laced up ice skates for the first time in Stockholm and learned to speak Spanish in Madrid. She spent one of the most formative years of her life surrounded by people that were not like her and took from that an appreciation for other cultures that most adults don’t even possess.
And oh yeah, she danced. She danced a lot. From Europe to Asia to Africa she danced her little heart out and watching her dance was one of the most enjoyable things I’ve ever done while traveling. My first time out of the United States was a group trip to Europe at the age of 16. Travel changed me from the person I was to the person I am. For my daughter, travel has defined her from the very beginning. I can’t wait to see where she dances next.