Category Archives: Travel With Kids

Conde Nast Traveler Interviews a minor diversion

The Web Editor of Conde Nast Traveler, Billie Cohen, emailed me from New York asking if I would be willing to do an interview about a minor diversion. Was she kidding? I was honored. Prior to our journey, I had spent years hidden in the pages of Conde Nast Traveler, their pictures and articles taunted me to embark on trips that I could never take.

Now we are finally living out our travel dreams. However, we are so wrapped up in the experience that we rarely stop to reflect on what we have seen and done. Billie’s questions were a great opportunity to look back on lessons learnt and offer some travel advice. Click here or on the picture below to read the interview and learn more about us and our journey so far.


Filed under Travel With Kids

Our Kids Have No Choice But to Love to Fly

We were boarding our flight from Abu Dhabi to Johannesburg when Ava saw this HSBC add and, with a very troubled look said, “Why does that poor cow have a map on him?” I don’t know what made me more proud – the fact that she was was concerned for the animal’s welfare or that she recognized a world map.

We have been looking at a lot of maps lately and, thanks in part to Dora the Explorer, the kids are eager to know where they are heading in relation to where we have been. Our 22 hour journey from Athens to Windhoek turned out to be a non-event. The kids slept on all three flights. The only glitch was the nosebleed Kayan got on the flight to Johannesburg.

Despite this, when we finally got into our beds in Windhoek, a disappointed Kayan asked, “Why no more planes?” The kids have boarded 19 flights since we left New York in November. Perhaps flying has become so natural that they see it as a non event. Or perhaps, since we give them lollipops to calm ear pressure, they see flying as a treat. Kayan begged for his own backpack so that he could have something to put on the security belt. Ava likes to hand over each passport when we fill out immigration forms and has a funny fetish of checking out airport bathrooms. Whatever the reason, we’re lucky to have happy fliers for all the journeys we have left to take.


Filed under Africa, Travel With Kids

Do We Get Tired of Traveling?

We’re off on safari! I am not sure what kind of internet connection we will have, so I have set up a few posts to go live while we are away. These posts answer questions that friends and readers have asked about our journey. We’ll have updates from Namibia soon.

We’re often asked if we get tired of traveling. Isn’t it exhausting to manage two little kids? Aren’t we tired of living out of our bags?

Traveling with young children forces us to be slow. We are under no delusions that we are going to see every sight, climb every mountain and enjoy every meal. What’s great about traveling with the kids is that, by traveling slow, we really absorb what we are doing. We don’t travel as tourists, we travel as tempats – temporary expats. It works out well for the entire family. Sandeep and I aren’t the sightseeing type of tourists. We’d much rather spend the days getting lost in the backgrounds of a city than in it’s famous museums. Our preference, combined with the luxury of time, makes it easier to settle in to local neighborhoods and take life slowly.

What do we do to live tempat lives? We find local coffee shops that provide us with a sense of community. Our favorite thus far has been Mavra in IstanbulWe live and shop where the locals do. We rent apartments wherever we go and frequent grocery stores and markets. This helps us understand local food sourcing, preparation and consumption. I was not shy in Thailand to grill vendors about their strange wares at Thanin market. I have yet to poison the family with my cooking.

We take public transportation wherever available. It’s slower than a taxi, but it forces us to ride along with locals and possibly make friends along the way. The 101 in Penang was our lifeline around the island. The one place where we took taxis over public transportation was Athens, as we were warned about crime on the Metro.

We make friends at playgrounds. Sandeep and I are more than happy to exploit the kids in order to make local friends. Playgrounds, such as this on in the shadows of the twin towers in Kuala Lumpur, are a great place to meet other parents also hungry for adult conversation.

We walk around a lot. Rather than rushing to places, we walk (sometimes stumble, crawl, trot, hop, skip, shuffle) around as much as possible. Ava and Kayan literally stop to smell all the flowers but, after some frustration at our glacial pace, Sandeep and I realize that is part of the journey.

Some days we do nothing. We eat in, the kids paint and we surf the net. If we were going on short vacation with the kids, we would likely ramp up our travel pace. The benefit of being on extended travel means that it feels natural to take life slowly and on occasion do nothing.

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Filed under Travel With Kids

A Journey We Are Not Excited About

We’re off on safari! I am not sure what kind of internet connection we will have, so I have set up a few posts to go live while we are away. These posts answer questions that friends and readers have asked about our journey. We’ll have updates from Namibia soon.

Isn’t it hard to fly with two kids?

I am sure it could be if the kids don’t like to fly. It has been a month since we have been on a plane and the kids are getting anxious. Every time Kayan sees a plane he asks, “Why we no go plane?” Ava says she wants to know which plane is taking us to Namibia. As you read this, the kids are getting what they wished for. We are on our longest journey so far. Getting from Athens to Windhoek, Namibia is an overnight affair that involves three flights over 6,648 miles.

We have left Athens on a four and a half hour flight to Abu Dhabi. There we hope to make our two hour connection and board an eight and a half hour flight to Johannesburg. We arrive in Johannesburg at the crack of dawn and cool our heels for five hours before boarding our final flight, a two hour stretch to Windhoek.

The kids have been great flying companions. We find endless ways to amuse ourselves at airports.

They sleep a lot. When awake, they have a voracious appetite for airline food. They like the freedom of channel surfing on their personal TVs and enjoy cruising the aisles in search of bored children. However, we have yet to brave a twenty two hour journey with them. I wrote about 7 Tips for Flying with Young Kids for Huffington Post. However, despite all the flights we have taken thus far, somehow this one seems intimidating. We’ll report back from Africa.


Filed under Travel With Kids

Packing for Around the World Travel

Last night we went through our packing ritual. We have it down to an art at this point. It used to take us hours to collect, strategize and execute on getting all our stuff into two duffel bags. Now we know where every thing goes – the exact placement of every sock and diaper – to allow the zippers to seal.

Our first task is collecting all our stuff. Inevitably two thing go missing, my sunglasses and Taniya, Ava’s doll. We leave tomorrow morning for Greece and we still have to find either. Taniya usually makes a magical appearance just as we are about to lose hope, as if she’s protesting our departure and held out until the last minute before agreeing to join us. My sunglasses seem to have many lives.

We then begin stuffing the bags. First, let me tell you that these are magic bags (thank you The North Face). Every time I see our stuff gathered for packing I swear it’s not going to fit. There must be a secret compartment in these bags because they take all our clothes, an inflatable car seat, a year’s worth of sunscreen, insect repellant, contacts for two people and other toiletries, electronic paraphernalia, and oh so many shoes.

If you’re suspicious about the amount of stuff we carry, let me introduce you to our shoes (starting from behind Ava’s head and going clockwise). I only mention the brands when I am impressed by their resilience and quality. I’m also going to put a plug in here for Zappos because we bought and returned so many pairs of shoes from them before deciding this lot was worthy of around the world travel.

Diya’s flip flops (hidden behind Ava’s head) – Perfect for pool lounging

Sandeep Keens – For extreme heat when shoes are unbearable

Ava’s Crocs – Her everyday shoes only because she refuses to wear anything else.

Diya’s running shoes – Perhaps the largest waste of space.

Sandeep’s running shoes – He uses them a lot more than I do.

Kayan’s Crocs – The shoes he dubbed as “my two-way shoes”

Sandeep’s Sauconys – Sandeep’s everyday shoes

Sandeep’s blue canvas shoes – Serves the split personality of evening attire and dirt gear

Ava’s Keens – She’s slowly warming up to them because they are pink

Diya’s Pumas – My everyday shoes. Ok, I like red shoes too.

Diya’s gold sandals – I’ve worn these only a handful of times and keep thinking of leaving them behind but I love them.

Kayan’s Keens – The first time we put these on he cried for his two-way shoes. It’s a work in progress.

Packing is bitter-sweet. We know that one chapter of our journey is ending but also look forward to unpacking in our new home. We’ve said this before and we’ll say it again. It is such a liberating feeling to walk away (regardless of what shoes we are wearing) from a place with everything we need in two bags. Now where is that Taniya?


Filed under Travel With Kids, Turkey

Is Traveling to Africa with Kids Too Risky

Extended travel requires planning. There’s a delicate balance between planning enough to have stability and leaving an itinerary open enough for spontaneity. Between Internet research and personal recommendations, this has been an easy balance to strike during our travels in Asia and Europe. Things may not be quite as easy in Africa. We’ve just started planning for a June arrival in southern Africa and preliminary research makes us feel like novice travelers. Things such as car jacking and being eaten by lions (toddlers make good lion bait is one thing we have repetitively read) are risks we just haven’t had to consider elsewhere.

Here is last night’s conversation between The King of Paranoia and The Queen of Rationalization.

Sandeep: We should have planned for Africa months ago. I’m looking at these game reserves and the good ones book out a year in advance. And then a lot of them don’t allow kids.

Diya: Oh yeah? Well, can’t we just camp? Isn’t that what the One Year Off family did?

S: I’m not camping in the bush.

D: Why? We can take a guide with us.

S: There are wild animals in the bush. And a lion can definitely bite through a tent. Plus, how are you going to control the kids in a tent? What if Kayan just runs out? There is a reason that these places don’t allow kids.

D: I think there are better things for a lion to eat than our tent. But I get what you’re saying about Kayan. I’ll look into what our options are with kids.

S: And we should research all the other risks in Africa.

D: Like?

S: Scorpions, snakes, crime.

D: We know Africa has all those things, we just have to be careful. If I see a scorpion I’m not going to and make friends with it.

S: This is not funny. There are specific risks and if we don’t research we won’t know how to prepare. Like what if we need to buy the kids closed shoes to protect them from scorpions?

D: I am sure all the kids in Africa don’t have closed shoes.

S: That’s not the point. Look, we have two kids to worry about and we need to know our risks. You wouldn’t go to war unprepared, would you?

At this point I can see that Sandeep is really annoyed so I search “risks to visitors in Africa” on Google. This is a really stupid thing to do. There are over 50 countries in Africa and the risks include pirates, guerrilla warfare, and of course scorpions and snakes.

D: I don’t know how to do this. It’s telling me things like don’t have s*x with strangers because a third of Botswana’s population has AIDS. What do I do with that?

S: Look D, I need to know that you’re taking this seriously otherwise we just shouldn’t go.

Of course we are going to go. The kids are so excited about seeing Africa’s animals, although even they don’t know what they are in for. Kayan’s closest encounter with a wild cat is his affectionate relationship with Tiger.

I joke with Sandeep that he’s African and our trip should be like a happy homecoming. He was born in Nigeria, which is a very different country now than it was almost four decades ago. Moreover, Africa is a diverse continent and one that neither of us knows much about. The King of Paranoia has a point when he says we need to research the risks. Our Sikkim experience taught us that we are city slickers and not intrepid wilderness types. I can deal with a horse being outside our tent in Sikkim, but knowing that canvas is all that separates the kids from a lion will elicit fear even in The Queen of Rationalization.

Come June, while Sandeep, Kayan, Ava, Tiger and I watch a lion kill a zebra, I hope we all can rest assured knowing that we are prepared for the experience. Our next several days will be spent figuring our our Africa plans. Who knows, we may even go shopping for some closed shoes.

When planning for travel, which camp do you fall in? Paranoia or Rationalization? We’d love to hear your stories of when either worked for or against you.


Filed under Africa, Animals, Travel With Kids

The Turkish Love Children

April 23rd is Children’s Day in Turkey. The occasion, now celebrated by countries around the world, was the brainchild of Ataturk, the founder of the Republic of Turkey, in 1920. The Turkish think that a day to honor children is so important that it is a national holiday.

We’re not surprised. While every country we have visited on our journey has been friendly to our family, none has welcomed us with the enthusiasm of Turkey. The Turkish have very strong community and family ties, along with a keen awareness that the role of the present generation is to nurture and prepare the future ones.

Young kids are treated like celebrities wherever they go in Turkey. People here, young and old, male and female, go out of their way to get kids’ attention. They smile, they make funny faces, sometimes they even dance, all to elicit a smile. While people in other countries have been welcoming, the Turkish attention towards children was a little too much for Kayan at first. Every minute, someone comes over with a fond, “Mehraba!” and rubs his hair, putting him on the fast track to Sandeep’s smooth head. Kayan went through a phase where he used to exclaim, “No more Mehraba!” but has since given up. Even he realizes that the attention is genuine and there are benefits if he plays along. At every Turkish delight store the kids are invited behind the counter and offered a selection of whatever they want. At this pastry shop, the chef handed them beautiful chocolate ribbons and ice cream. He only half joked about taking the kids home.

All of this attention also pays dividends to parents. We have a helping hand no matter where we travel. When we ride the subway, people don’t get up to offer us a seat. Rather, they take the kids on their own laps or carry them for us. At restaurants, waiters entertain the children with balloons so that we can enjoy our food. A security guard at the Aya Sofia spotted us in line and directed us to a secret entrance. Even he couldn’t bear the idea of the children having to wait in line with everyone else. This behavior seems as natural as if these people are a part of our family.

We’ve mentioned before that traveling with kids can be a more enjoyable experience that traveling without them. While Ava’s constant singing and Kayan’s accompanying dance moves may invite reactions, we’ve seen other kids in Turkey benefit from the same positive treatment. Our visiting cousins said their daughter’s ample cheeks were constantly admired and our friends from New York told us a story about their three year old being whisked away by a group of jovial men at the Sultanhamet. Traveling with kids, at least in Turkey, opens the door to interacting with locals. Childless visitors to Turkey shouldn’t be disheartened. You can start a conversation by borrowing someone else’s baby or toddler for a tram ride or meal. If the parents are Turkish they won’t think twice about handing over their child. Just don’t try the same thing in New York City.


Filed under Travel With Kids, Turkey

Anyone Can Travel, Just Let Go

Each month, a group of us nomadic families participate in a writing project where we share our ideas on a specific topic. We’ve been chatting about how we respond to people who tell us “I’m so jealous” or “I wish our family could do that” and realized that our answers may be of interest to a wider audience. So March’s writing project is “Anyone Can Travel, All you Have to Do is…”

Let me start by saying not every family should travel. If you can’t handle crowds, if you can’t stand the surprise of a wrongly advertised hotel room, or refuse to go anywhere without a seatbelt, then perhaps extended travel is not for your family. Then again, maybe your family should travel and get a different perspective.

My thoughts are more for those families that know they want to take off on a long adventure but don’t think they can. We reckon that most families resist pulling the trigger because they fear letting go of a life they’ve worked so hard to build. I want to share what were the hardest things for us to let go of, why we did it and what it all means five months into our journey.

Letting go of responsibility

Sandeep and I are the quintessential Asian couple. We followed the path that was expected of us. We got good grades, went to top universities, found each other and settled down early, popped two babies and climbed the ladders at multi-national corporations. We did everything to set a foundation for our family and prepare for our own retirement. However, both of us had a sense of adventure and curiosity that we weren’t able to satiate through our vacations. Our first decade as professionals had flown by and at least another three stretched ahead. We wanted a break from living the life we should to live the life we want. Watching our kids grow up made us realize life goes by fast. Finding out I had multiple sclerosis made us realize that life also take turns we don’t plan. Too many of us take our responsibilities so seriously that we start forgetting the things that really matter such as health, personal connections, or introspection. Every elderly person we meet on the road compliments us, saying that they have all the time now to travel but have lost either the physical ability or the family ties to make it a reality. Their advice and ours is don’t wait until retirement to travel the world. You may not be able to climb the Himalayas or swim in the bluest oceans if you do. And you certainly wont be able to experience these things with your impressionable children. By making the decision to travel, Sandeep and I actually think that we did the most responsible thing we could for our family. We’re navigating the world together and understanding each other on a level we never did at home. Most importantly we have all the time in the world to truly appreciate each other and what makes us a family. We’re not turning our backs on the conventional paths to responsibility, but travel has given us a renewed focus for why it matters.

Letting go of Parenting 101

As New York City type-A parents, we stayed in established neighborhoods, enrolled the kids in a variety of classes and even got them into private school before they could talk. We scheduled meals, nap times, gave them mostly organic foods, played lots of music and very little TV. We provided Ava and Kayan with every opportunity, but they were growing too fast for us to process any of it. It was as if we were leading separate lives, hurriedly squeezing in family time in the evenings and weekends. We wondered if taking this trip would disadvantage our kids. Some people were shocked that we would expose a one- and three-year old to the diseases of the world. So far, all these concerns seem to be routed in fear not reality. The kids have been healthier on this trip (despite licking floors and playing with the earth) than they ever were at home. When we have needed health care, such as in Kuala Lumpur, we have found it to be of higher quality service than in New York City. And despite visiting ten countries, the kids have only required one non-routine vaccine. Our family has been a single unit over the past five months and we’ve become intimately familiar with each others’ gifts and neuroses. The biggest benefit to all of this is that we as parents have an infinite platform to educate our children about our world. We’ve laid under the Indian sky teaching the kids about constellations. Ava now loves finding Orion’s belt in every new country. By the end of our trip Kayan will know a zebra, lion and rhinoceros because he saw them in the wild, not because he was shown them in a book. After three months in India the kids understand our heritage in a way they never could have at home. Our experiences on the road has brought us closer to our children and them closer to each other. Sandeep and I would like nothing more than for that do define our success as parents.

Letting go of our desks

As parents in our 30’s, we were focused on wealth accumulation and defending whatever nest egg we had already built. Letting go of a job when the global economy is unsteady may seem like a stupid move. However, let’s put things in perspective. Most of us spend at least forty years working. With retirement age expanding, that number may be closer to 50 for our generation. We’d argue that taking a year off, even in a tough economy, is a rounding error in the grand scheme of things. Moreover, by focusing on a career a few years at a time, we were missing the broader movements in our shifting world. As U.S. professionals spending time in India and China we can confidently say that our relative positions in the business world will be drastically different going forward. Traveling has given us the opportunity to experience this on the ground, and to learn from and build a network with our counterparts globally. Extended travel has also given us time to work on skills that will help us professionally. I’ve had the chance to write for Huffington Post and Conde Nast, which has pushed me to be a better communicator. Interacting with people of different cultures and socioeconomic backgrounds, and navigating through uncertain situation builds confidence as a leader regardless of profession. A doctor gains better bed side manners, an investment advisor better understands economic shifts and an educator can apply new ways of teaching and learning. Yes, we can succeed by working hard, going to the right schools and stacking years of experience. However, what differentiates leaders is their ability to consume diverse perspectives, negotiate different viewpoints, inspire and mange others through uncertain conditions and times of change. The confidence gained from maneuvering a family through multiple countries, cultures, logistics, political situations, housing conditions, health care systems, and hygiene levels will make you a stronger person, a better professional in the long run and a true leader.

Letting go of familiar grounds

We all have things that ground us – routines, personal and professional networks, families. It’s daunting to let go of these things to face the unknowns that come with long term travel. What we have found is that by figuring our new comforts and routines as we go, we have become better people and a tighter family. The four of us depend on each other a lot more than we did at home. Yes, little annoyances become magnified under these conditions, but small accomplishments are also jointly celebrated. Sandeep and I are forced to deal 24 hours a day with the things that irritate us about each other. It was a hard adjustment at first, but we are more honest with each other as a result. Kayan first two-foot jump was on the beach in Penang and all four us were there to cheer. Because Ava has seen the extremes of open sewers and pristine mountains, she knows not to litter or to pluck flowers. The kids know how a chicken is raised, how fish are caught and that fruits and vegetables come from the ground and not grocery shelves. They could have been taught all this at home, but they have lived it on the road. We do miss our friends and family, but in this digital age we’re not too far behind on each others’ lives. Many of our friends and family love to travel as much as we do and have people visiting us in seven different countries. That gives us a chance to become closer to them as well.

What you gain… 

Once we hit the road we immediately realized that we traded in our full lives for richer ones. Instead of setting our alarms to get to work, we set it for things like giving alms to 12,000 monks in Chiang Mai. Instead of limited family time, we have the luxury of lazing together. We’re not saying life on the road is perfect or that we never miss certain comforts of home. Sometimes things don’t work. Other times we just can’t get what we want – the only available diaper brand leaks, the coffee is not strong enough, no one speaks English, nothing on the menu is gluten-free – but we adjust as a family. We spend every day now learning about our world with our children. We’re more connected to each other but also realize how connected we are to the rest of mankind and our natural world. We knew this on a superficial level before our journey and live it every day now. We are  learning what it means to be responsible and adaptable global citizens.

Do you dream about extended travel? What prevents you from letting go?Read what other traveling families have to say about realizing their nomadic dreams.

Anyone Can Travel by Bohemian Travelers

Diet Shouldn’t Stop You from Traveling by Livin’ On the Road

Not Everyone Can Travel by Living Outside of the Box

Only the Very Special, Lucky, Rich, and Perfect (Like Me) Can Travel by Nomadic Family

Anyone Can Travel Why Don’t You by Walkington Travels

Anyone Can Do This by Experiential Family

Not Everyone Can Travel by Living Outside of the Box

You Have to be Special Like us if You Want an Awesome Life by Discover Share Inspire

True Story: Single mother from Bushwick, Brooklyn, funds long-term trip without having to sell a kidney by Break Out of Bushwick

You Can Make it Happen Too by Growing Grace Life

Why Anyone Can Travel by Family Trek

Travel – Possible? by Wandering Photographer

Even Solo Mamas on Government Handouts Can Travel by Solo Mama Travels

A Family Travel Lifestyle is More than Just Luck by Little Aussie Travellers

Anyone Can Travel Can’t They by New Life on the Road


Filed under India, Travel With Kids, Traveling Family Writing Projects

Traveling Family Stories of Appreciation

When we first started our trip, our mission was to “appreciate each other, our world and ourselves“. For this post, I asked other traveling families to share their stories of appreciation. The traveling families we have gotten to know on our journey inspire us everyday to be better travelers and stronger parents. These families include those on bikes, single parents, those with terminally ill children and, like today’s post, those who have chosen to give up a house for a home on wheels. Interestingly, both these on-the-road families are in Australia and New Zealand.

Lauren Fisher, David and their four daughters travel around New Zealand in a modified 80 square meter horse truck. When in Australia, they’ve turned a modified truck and trailer into a two bedroom abode. Lauren’s blog, Sparkling Adventures, is a refreshing look at life on the road. Lauren’s story of appreciation can be read here.

Lisa Wood, David and four of their five boys travel and live in a Motorhome. In addition to travel stories from around Australia, Lisa’s blog offers honest reflections on living the simple life. To see more about their journey please connect with them at New Life on the Road. What follows are Lisa’s thoughts on appreciation.

Reflecting on Our New Way of Living

If you had of told me that I would be happy living in a Motorhome I would have said you were crazy! Yet here we are – a family of six living in a Motorhome!

But that was before we decided that we wanted a life that was simple. Something that was living outside of the box!

We live in a 9 metre Bus. An old school bus that was converted into a Motorhome around about 2000-2001…Since we have found out the history of our bus we now realise our life was meant to be this way.

Reflecting on our different lifestyle

Instead of wasting time living in a home that took up too much work we now have more time…

We now have time to create memories

We now have time to see experiences

We now have time for each other

What would we change if we had our life over again? There is plenty that we would do differently if we could change our life. There is one thing that we would do differently and that is living our simple lifestyle sooner rather than later!

We are so grateful that we are now able to live our life differently. We love that our Motorhome is our home, just on wheels. That saying “Your Heart is where your home is”…that is so very true! My heart is where ever our bus is parked!

Have you thought about living a simple lifestyle?


Filed under Travel With Kids

Our Family’s Attempts at Adjusting Safely

On a spectrum of paranoia and disregard, I’d like to think our approach to safety teeters somewhere in the middle. Sandeep started fatherhood with immense paranoia and I was irresponsibly carefree, but we’ve managed to meet each other somewhere in between. Our New York home had child locks on kitchen cabinets and finger guards on doors. We didn’t go all out with the toilet seat locks and oven knob protectors, but we did have electric socket guards on about a third of our outlets.

The most debated decision we had when packing for our trip was about car seats. In New York we wouldn’t think about getting into a car without making sure the kids were appropriately straight-jacketed into them. However, the last thing we wanted to do was schlep two bulky car seats around the world. In the end, we left home without car seats. We figured that we’d be taking tuk tuks and cabs in Hong Kong, Thailand and Malaysia and wouldn’t need them before our arrival in India.

During our first month of travel, we felt like paranoid Western parents. We only took tuk tuks when both of us could sandwich the kids. We didn’t take taxis without seat belts. We made sure the strap was always on the stroller. I can’t pin point if it was practicality or a casual traveler’s mindset that caused us to relax our requirements. A couple of weeks into Chiang Mai, I was taking the kids alone on tuk tuks – Kayan on my lap and Ava tucked under an arm. We jumped into cabs without regard for safety measures. The stroller, on the rare occasion we used it, was more like a musical chair that Ava and Kayan bounced on and off freely.

So, what’s happening in India? We thought we would use car seats for the kids since we are spending a lot of time in our parents’ private cars. Both sets of parents tried to convince us otherwise, saying that we don’t “need” car seats here. It may not the law, but we reasoned that the chaotic Indian traffic makes a stronger case for car seats. We bought an inflatable booster seat for Ava and coerced my father into buying a car seat for Kayan.

One month into our India travels, the booster seat sits warmly in its original wrapping and the car seat is gathering dust in Goa. One reason we haven’t used them is practicality. We often drive in one sedan, and between the driver and the extended family, there is no room for car seats. Also, with bumpy roads, windy hills and stop-and-go traffic, one kid is always getting sick. It’s much easier to deal with the consequences free of a car seat’s grasp. On our eight-hour 170 mile drive to Kodaikanal, we went through 19 plastic bags and two changes of clothing each. Practicality may be a justifiable reason, but a more honest reflection is that both Sandeep and I have adjusted our outlook on safety.

The concept of safety is vastly different around the world and, for better or worse, we’re adjusting to local norms. In New York, parents strap helmets onto kids riding kick scooters. These toys are about two inches off the ground, and powered by people about three feet tall. Yet in India, kids (and many adults) don’t even wear helmets on motorbikes.

Some kids are tucked between their parents, and some mothers attempt to protect heads with a free hand.

Three months ago we never would have thought our kids would be bouncing around in the back seats of Indian cars. The likely truth is that any of the parents in the above pictures care about their kids as much as we care about ours. But when there are no laws dictating safety, people default to the practical route. Despite the seeming chaos on Indian roads, at speeds of 20 miles and hour we’re not in any greater danger of getting into an accident here than we would be at the back seat of a taxi in New York, where we don’t use car seats.

There is a balance between safety and adjusting. We’re still trying to figure out how to safely adjust.


Filed under India, Travel With Kids