Sarah Barrell: How a trip with the children can set you free

Travel view

Travel with children: it's something I used to believe was an oxymoron. Parents who strapped their newborns to their backs and travelled overland across Africa were not to be trusted. The same suspicion was raised by those who went on a two-week holiday to Thailand with their toddler.

Apart from the fear factor (bugs, bites and boiling nights) my main concern was that travelling with a small child wouldn't be fun. In fact, it would be so lacking in fun as to remove the reason to travel in the first place. A reason that speaks of escapism but whispers a need, for the travel addict at least, to briefly deny their reality ... or step into someone else's for awhile.

You can't do that with a baby. They are sent to us, if nothing else, to daily remind us of our dutiful reality, and challenge it at every turn. I have just interviewed a well-known explorer who has been completely floored by the early years with his children. And this is a man who fought his way solo through the Amazon, and thrived in the desert for months with nought but a camel for company.

Faced with the challenges of raising a newborn? "Well, it's just a waking nightmare," he says. "There's all the drudgery and horror of an expedition but none of the control. It's really quite the leveller." For many inveterate travellers I know, small children are (deep breath) quite dull. They are an anti-expedition, one that goes nowhere except the same stretches of park and pavement and, in the dead of night, the recesses of your sleep-deprived soul. And what's found there is none too edifying.

So why on earth would this be something to take on the road with you? When I finally ventured out into the world with my daughter, it was to the sort of resort I hadn't been to since I myself was a child. Inevitably, this wasn't the answer. Sure, there was the lure of the kid's club but this involved handing over my wee one, and all the associated guilt; something we deal with most working days of the year. Hardly a welcome break from the norm.

It's true that the better children's clubs release the kids into the outdoors to hunt for seashells or learn to snorkel. This does a good job of sugar-coating the compromise, but does it satiate an adult's wanderlust or encourage the urge to roam in a child? Not really: and it might be enough to make you think the world has closed its doors to you. Of course it hasn't. They say hindsight would be a great thing but foresight, for those suffering from new-parent claustrophobia, would be an even rarer gift.

I just needed to wait a bit. I've recently had the liberating experience of taking my first "proper" trip with my daughter, to the Arctic. Admittedly this was the Swedish Arctic where the icy wilderness has been chivvied into relative obedience by hardy Laplanders. Here was enough civility to make travels with an under five do-able but also plenty to give this itchy-footed parent a fix of big skies and seemingly endless horizon.

And what was the best part? Staying up late hoping to see the Northern Lights? Riding a lightening-quick sledge pulled by 12 powerful huskies? Tracking reindeer through a snow-silent forest? No ... it was feeling united with my daughter in these exotic quests. And this new terrain, I think, is one I am keen to keep exploring.

Do you have a travel issue? Email

Suggested Topics
people And here is why...
Arts and Entertainment
Amazon has added a cautionary warning to Tom and Jerry cartoons on its streaming service
voicesBy the man who has
Arsene Wenger tried to sign Eden Hazard
footballAfter 18 years with Arsenal, here are 18 things he has still never done as the Gunners' manager
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
The new Windows 10 Start Menu
Arts and Entertainment
Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson star in The Twilight Saga but will not be starring in the new Facebook mini-movies
tvKristen Stewart and Stephenie Meyer will choose female directrs
Arts and Entertainment
Hilary North's 'How My Life Has Changed', 2001
books(and not a Buzzfeed article in sight)
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
More than 90 years of car history are coming to an end with the abolition of the paper car-tax disc
newsThis and other facts you never knew about the paper circle - completely obsolete today
Arts and Entertainment
There has been a boom in ticket sales for female comics, according to an industry survey
comedyFirst national survey reveals Britain’s comedic tastes
Arts and Entertainment
Twerking girls: Miley Cyrus's video for 'Wrecking Ball'
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Ed Sheeran performs at his Amazon Front Row event on Tuesday 30 September
musicHe spotted PM at private gig
people'I’d rather have Fred and Rose West quote my characters on childcare'
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Management Accountant

    28,000 to 32,000 per annum: Accountancy Action: Our client, a hospitality busi...

    Food and Beverage Cost Controller

    18,000 to 20,000 per annum: Accountancy Action: Our fantastic leisure client i...

    Marketing Analyst / Marketing Executive

    £20 - 24k: Guru Careers: A Marketing Analyst / Marketing Executive is needed t...

    IT Administrator - Graduate

    £18000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: ***EXCELLENT OPPORTUNITY FO...

    Day In a Page

    Ebola outbreak: The children orphaned by the virus – then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection

    The children orphaned by Ebola...

    ... then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection
    Pride: Are censors pandering to homophobia?

    Are censors pandering to homophobia?

    US film censors have ruled 'Pride' unfit for under-16s, though it contains no sex or violence
    The magic of roundabouts

    Lords of the rings

    Just who are the Roundabout Appreciation Society?
    Why do we like making lists?

    Notes to self: Why do we like making lists?

    Well it was good enough for Ancient Egyptians and Picasso...
    Hong Kong protests: A good time to open a new restaurant?

    A good time to open a new restaurant in Hong Kong?

    As pro-democracy demonstrators hold firm, chef Rowley Leigh, who's in the city to open a new restaurant, says you couldn't hope to meet a nicer bunch
    Paris Fashion Week: Karl Lagerfeld leads a feminist riot on 'Boulevard Chanel'

    Paris Fashion Week

    Lagerfeld leads a feminist riot on 'Boulevard Chanel'
    Bruce Chatwin's Wales: One of the finest one-day walks in Britain

    Simon Calder discovers Bruce Chatwin's Wales

    One of the finest one-day walks you could hope for - in Britain
    10 best children's nightwear

    10 best children's nightwear

    Make sure the kids stay cosy on cooler autumn nights in this selection of pjs, onesies and nighties
    Manchester City vs Roma: Five things we learnt from City’s draw at the Etihad

    Manchester City vs Roma

    Five things we learnt from City’s Champions League draw at the Etihad
    Martin Hardy: Mike Ashley must act now and end the Alan Pardew reign

    Trouble on the Tyne

    Ashley must act now and end Pardew's reign at Newcastle, says Martin Hardy
    Isis is an hour from Baghdad, the Iraq army has little chance against it, and air strikes won't help

    Isis an hour away from Baghdad -

    and with no sign of Iraq army being able to make a successful counter-attack
    Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

    Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

    The exhibition nods to rich and potentially brilliant ideas, but steps back
    Last chance to see: Half the world’s animals have disappeared over the last 40 years

    Last chance to see...

    The Earth’s animal wildlife population has halved in 40 years
    So here's why teenagers are always grumpy - and it's not what you think

    Truth behind teens' grumpiness

    Early school hours mess with their biological clocks
    Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?

    Hacked photos: the third wave

    Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?