London native Karen Edwards, 32, used the year-long maternity leave from her nursing job to travel to 10 countries with her husband and newborn baby, Esmé. Now a toddler, Esmé has been to 17 countries and counting.
Edwards blogs about their adventures, as well as reviews of baby travel products and advice for travelling parents, as the Travel Mad Mum. While the occasional tantrum or lost toy might cause a few bumps in the road, Edwards loves traveling as a family and seeing the world with a baby on her back.
Edwards, a full-time nurse with a flexible schedule, and her husband, Shaun, have always travelled frequently.
When they found out that they were expecting a child, the couple was determined not to let that stop them from seeing the world.
"I was just like, 'I can't give this up yet,'" she said. "We started thinking, 'Well maybe we could bring the baby with us.' And it was quite an instant decision."
When Esmé was born, they decided to use Karen's maternity leave to travel.
Edwards started her blog, Travel Mad Mum, in May 2015 in order to chronicle her travels with Esmé in tow. At the time she was a little over halfway through that first 10-month trip.
Edwards said she would have started it earlier, but "Just like any other new mom, I was definitely in that same daze."
Edwards was most nervous about visiting Taiwan because she found little information about travelling there with kids. However, she was pleasantly surprised by how accessible it was.
"Every Metro station has nappy-changing facilities, and they're so extensive as well," she said. "They have free wipes, and they have a big sofa where you can sit down and breastfeed, and it's really, really child-friendly."
"I loved how friendly the local people are with her, and they're so helpful," she said. "I think parenting is definitely a community approach [there] in comparison to other countries."
While some people called her selfish for using her maternity leave to travel, Edwards said the reality is quite the opposite.
“It's an amazing time for all the family to be together, to get used to being a new family,” she said.
“Shaun, her dad, got to spend the year with her just as much as I did, and their bond is just as close.”
She also consulted a doctor who said that the best time to travel with babies is when they’re breastfeeding, since they get immunity from breast milk.
Travelling came with some unexpected parental perks, too.
“We didn't have to do any cooking or cleaning, or maintain a household,” she said. “We just had unlimited 24/7 eyes on Esmé, and she had our full attention all the time.”
Now two years old, Esmé has been to 17 countries and counting, and they continue to travel about once a month.
This year, they’ve already been to Thailand, Cambodia, South Africa, Spain, and Cuba, with Italy next on the list.
Not every moment is glamorous...
And travelling with a baby certainly has its challenges.
Edwards captioned this photo "This is us lying down beside the bed on the floor in our hotel room trying to hide from our girl who NEEDS to sleep!!!...naps are few and far between resulting in a cranky baby!!"
But the Travel Mad Mum (and dad!) are well-practiced at handling them, and said that Esmé couldn’t be happier.
“The other day she said something to me like, 'Mom, I want to go on a swing,' and then she said, ‘Actually, I prefer to go on an airplane,’ as if it's such a frequent occurrence that it's as often as going to the playground.”
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