The Ups and Downs of Our First International Family Vacation
In the midst of our tropical paradise vacation last week, Michal and I found ourselves more stressed and exhausted than we were before leaving. Ironically, we were not overwhelmed because of our three-and-half-month-old child, but because of ourselves.
Sophia inexplicably slept the most soundly we’ve ever seen her sleep when we were on holiday in Bali, Indonesia. She fell asleep quickly – not needing any of the usual help rocking or swaying, and she slept straight through the night every night. We’re not sure if we can attribute the calm to the serene surroundings, the clean air quality, or the time in her development.
Her sleepiness could have been due to the over-stimulation of her senses: the persistent sounds of nature with the crashing waves and the croaking of frogs and crickets, the vivid sapphire blue of the Indian Ocean and verdant green rice terraces, the variety in textures from the grainy sand to lush grass.
Looking back on it now, Michal and I should have followed her cues from the beginning with how to handle this first big international trip as a family by simply taking in the beauty of Bali and relaxing in God’s glory. Michal and I were instead busy with taking this time of respite for granted.
In the time of B.B., we would tackle extensive jaunts abroad with a To-Do list that rivaled agendas we had at the office as we would research reviews and gather tips on TripAdvisor and Yelp as well as read guides like Frommer’s and Lonely Planet. We wanted to make the long flight worth our time and money by visiting every historic landmark, trendy bar and hip restaurant. We would stay out all night and still try to get up early, as we were running on adrenaline fueled by our wanderlust.
For example, I remember one night back in 2013 when traveling Cambodia when we befriended a British bloke who had recently broken up with his girlfriend back home and was set on drinking everything in sight with me and Michal as his entourage. We ended up bar hopping all night despite having a packed schedule during the day with a reserved tour guide who would to take us around the temples. It was all about seizing the moment and not wanting to miss out on anything.
In general, logistics get complicated when keeping in mind what to do with a baby vs. without when baby stays with sitter/nanny or at daycare. During our trip, we invested a lot of time categorizing activities in either column, and then prioritizing what was most important in case we ran out of time, and then lastly making the appropriate arrangements/reservations.
We had planned on one day with a baby sitter while at the beach so we would do all the activities we couldn’t do with baby: Rent a scooter and venture around Seminyak area (more known for its nightlife and party atmosphere), eat dinner at a romantic restaurant, get drinks at a posh beach club.
Truth be told: After all this work, I was mentally drained and generally tired from being a new mom, so I wanted to throw it all out and just stay at our first location for the night, ordering another round of appetizers and chilling until the sun set on the beach. Michal had other expectations and a lot more energy for the day and night. Needless to say, I wasn’t very articulate in expressing my perspective and he wasn’t ready to slow down, so we both ended up disgruntled and slightly disappointed with how the day unfolded.
The best days we had on the trip were when we didn’t plan much of anything except a starting point and we just went with whatever presented itself. Sophia was miraculously pleased by our side the whole time.
Nusa Dua Beach: We had brunch at another resort for variety’s sake – the St. Regis, savoring our Luwak coffee alongside a smoked salmon sandwich and poached egg and pancetta salad. Walking around the resort, we discovered a turtle conservation area and were in awe of the many tiny baby turtles. Then, we took a dip in the most beautiful stretch of the beach with its crystal clear blue water and soft white sand. With its calm coast and shallow depth, it was very comfortable for us to hold Sophia while the gentle waves rolled over us.
Ubud: We trekked through nearby rice terraces surrounding our resort and then wandered through the monkey forest. We had lunch at a vegan cafe that had large sofa-like benches for Sophia to stretch out on. And then we did a hike along the Campuhan Ridge at sunset. With its moderate inclines and mostly paved path, it was manageable with Sophia.
Sophia slept through most of the walking while we wore her in the carrier. When she wasn’t sleeping, she was looking around with curiosity at all the sights. We were surprised at not only how calm she was but how alert.
Bali itself turned out to be very baby friendly. Balinese people were extra interested with her and enjoyed meeting her and even offered to carry her while we dined at certain places. Resorts are generally accommodating to families, but on another level in Bali.
For example: At the Conrad in Nusa Dua, our room was equipped with a baby bed, baby toiletries, diapers, a bottle sterilizer and a bottle warmer.
The least stressful parts of the trip were when we stopped worrying about our lists, reviews, maps and plans. It was yet another reminder of the overall theme of this blog – Proverbs 16:9. On our next journey, we will keep in mind that the point of a vacation is to relax, and that true joy is in being content with what we have rather than stress about what we could be doing or what we are missing out on.