You think you know parenting? You know the struggles of waking up early, dealing with tantrums, and ensuring your children’s needs are met each and every day? Try on the crazy struggles of single parent travel.

You’ll be glad you’re not doing it.

1. There is no such thing as “sleeping in.”

Oh, it’s Saturday and you want to sleep in until 10?

Too bad, you have a child who wakes up with the sunshine, is massively hungry, and won’t stop bouncing on your bed.

Here’s a video of how little space you can have while traveling with your kids:

Thought it was fun to stay up late with a few beers and binge watch Stranger Things?

Big mistake.

Sure, Stranger Things is pretty awesome, but now you’re dehydrated, exhausted, and a child just cannon-balled your chest cavity.

2. You have to trust, a lot.

When you grow up hearing the phrase, ‘don’t talk to strangers,’ that really does something awful to your ability to trust people.

And when you’re traveling as a single parent, you have to trust.

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When I trusted that Auburn could learn from people all over the world, she started showing her true colors.

You have to trust strangers that don’t speak your language around your children.

You have to trust the world to bring you good luck.

And most importantly, you have to trust yourself to be able to respond to any emergency in an effective way.

You have your   children’s lives depending on that.

3. Sometimes people look down on you.

“You need to do what’s right for your child.”

“Your child needs something more stable.”

“Aren’t you worried about your child?”

I am.

That’s your opinion.

And, yeah, single parents who travel are not monsters.

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Maybe Auburn’s not so sure about that. 😛

People have a weird idea of who you are and what you do.

Single parents dragging their children from one country to another sounds antithetical to everything they’ve been taught, and they will judge you for it.

Are they wrong? Yes.

Does it suck? Also, yes.

4. It’s exponentially more expensive to travel with children than solo.

So many living the life of travel are budget travelers.

They take the cheapest long-distance routes.

They eat only the cheapest food.

And they don’t spend money on big attractions.

I’m on board with those ideas.

But I also have a child.

That means double the airplane tickets, double the dinner plates, and the occasional trip to Disneyland.

With these extra costs, mingling with the budget travelers and their buckets of change can feel disingenuous.

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Budget travelers these days.

They’re my people, but family life appears more expensive (it is), and my people probably think I’m rich (I’m not). 

Also, I’m pretty awkward with peers and I’m a super weird dad so maybe the money has nothing to do with it?

5. There’s so much to carry through airports.

When you’re by yourself, you can easily carry your bags in the airport by rolling your check-in luggage and throwing your carry-on over your shoulder.

Single parents roll multiple check-in bags, a carry-on over each shoulder, and a snack bag to keep the kids happy during the most testing moments of the transition.

I can’t tell you how many single parents have been crushed and killed in airports by the luggage they have to carry.

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Mine and Auburn’s packing list.

There aren’t any stats for that kind of tragedy.

6. So many documents, single parent travelers need a PA.

If you’re not crushed by your luggage, you have to pull out a rolodex of passports and a briefcase of legal documents proving you’re able to travel as a single parent.

Solo travelers have one easy passport to carry, they don’t face this existential crisis at immigration checkpoints.

7. Transition periods are hard, later on.

Transition periods from one place to another aren’t the hardest part of the transition, despite the aforementioned difficulties.

The most difficult part of the transition is the emotional aftershock it has on children.

They can be super happy to travel, excited all the way through!

Then, like my daughter did, immediately begin crying for their grandma as soon as the plane lifts off the tarmac.

Then there’s the sleep and time adjustment to a new time zone.

You’ll be exhausted, your children will be wide awake.

After the initial shocks, the secondary shocks set in: homesickness, difficulty falling or staying asleep for a week or so, separation anxiety, the list goes on.

Transition periods are hard not just during the transition period, but for days or weeks after.

8. Reverting to co-sleeping.

When you’re trying to overcome all these stressors, you might think it’s a good idea to get your rest, ensure that you’re able to function during the day.

To do that, you let your 4-year-old crawl into bed with you, and they fall asleep quickly and stay asleep all night.

Sometimes they sleep like this.

via GIPHY

 

But, you made the right choice, right?

Wrong.

You’re back to where you were in the past, when your child was dependent on you for their sleep.

It can be tough to let them struggle through the adjustment of a new place, and it’s something that many single parent travelers stumble over before they overcome it.

9. LTR Dating is impossible.

Speaking of stumbling and sleeping alone: dating!

Finding someone who is compatible to fit your travel lifestyle with your child isn’t great.

Sure, you can hop on Tinder and be unliked as soon as someone reads your profile and notices you’re a single parent, but why not expedite that rejection and just try to meet someone face to face?

How my pickup lines are generally taken:

via GIPHY

It’s probably the best way to meet anyone: in the grocery store, at the ice cream shop, at the park.

Actually, if you’re looking for a long-term relationship, you probably aren’t a single parent traveler.

10. Your children can speak languages you can’t.

If you’re discontent with your lonely life as a single parent abroad, prepare to feel even more isolated.

Your children have new friends, and they’re talking in a language you can’t understand.

Are they giggling about the boy they like, or planning to shaving-cream my face when I take a nap?

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Auburn with her Chinese family. She wasn’t really speaking much Chinese at this time, but she sure does now! To see for yourself, follow us on IG: TheSingleDadNomad

How’s one to know unless one takes that nap?

11. You. Move. Very. Slowly. Everywhere.

Speaking of napping: children walking.

My god, I’ve never seen something move so slowly, and I tried to watch grass grow as a child.

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Here’s a picture of Auburn when she’s walking. For real, I didn’t think I’d ever get to use this photo in my blog, this is best chance I’m gonna get so here it is.

You can’t. But it grows faster than children walk.

Attention children everywhere: ya’ll need to hit the gym.

12. There is no nightlife.

If I hit the gym and expand my chest to look like Arnold, who cares?

I can never flaunt it at the club.

Nightlife is nighttime for single parents who travel.

There is sleeping, some Youtube, maybe some starlit yoga.

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Well, she doesn’t like yoga.

Outside of that, it’d be irresponsible of you to go to the bar when your children are sleeping.

Unless you can effectively drink a martini while watching your baby monitor, of course.

13. Your children won’t remember these awesome times traveling, what a waste!

Young kids these days, I tell ya. They just don’t remember the good stuff.

Small children generally don’t retain their memories.

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She probably won’t remember bonding with this adorable Vietnamese child a few years ago. That’s okay.

That means my daughter won’t remember looking over the edge of Niagara Falls or playing in the waves in Colombia.

But then again, hopefully, she doesn’t remember  the time she fell into a hot spring in Thailand.

14. Picky eaters become even pickier when traveling.

Kids can be picky eaters.

It’s our fault as parents, we know.

Blah, blah, blah.

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Yes! Yes! Yes!

Here’s what I know: when kids are being picky and they don’t have their favorite restaurant to soothe their grumpy bellies, shit gets real.

But what am I supposed to do? Not encourage my daughter to eat pizza with me?

That’s a disgusting idea.

15. You can’t ride all the roller coaster rides.

Kids hold us back in so many ways.

There’s no love life, no nightlife, and worst of all, you can’t ride the best rides.

Here was our trip to Ocean Park for her 5th birthday!

 

Luckily, when my daughter and I went to Disneyland in Hong Kong, she was just big enough to ride most of the cool rides.

Though I’m surprised her tiny body survived the jarring Star Wars Experience and the Tony Stark 3-D ride.


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How Traveling as a Single Parent Kills Your Children

I felt it coming, but I didn’t know what it was. My stomach was cramping, my head was spinning, I could feel my blood pressure dropping, and my only thoughts were of my sleeping 3-year-old and how she would wake up to her daddy dead on the floor then she would die a week later of starvation.

Thankfully, I did not die. Or did I? And I’m writing this from the grave, you decide.

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Me, happy to not die

Questioning the Idea of Single Parent Travel

Bad dad jokes aside, food poisoning is no laughing matter. In fact, it made me seriously reconsider my efforts in single parent travel. Why? Well, what if I did die? What would happen to my daughter? What would her memory and experience be? When you think you’re dying from food poisoning, these thoughts burst into your head and rip apart your moral foundation, convince you that you are a fool, and shred your sense of self-worth.



For me, the poisoning came full-force as I stumbled into the bathroom of our bungalow. Cautioning my readers here: it’s about to get graphic. Without aim, purpose, or an ability to control any bodily function, I painted the wall, floor, and wash bucket with vomit. I literally had no idea my body could hold that much inside of it. At this point, I was sure I was dying, and it happened, again and again, throughout the night. Seriously, how does my stomach hold that much fluid in it? I’m not sure, it was nasty you guys, for real.

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The bungalow I nearly died in

Before this, I’d had food poisoning before, twice, in fact. But this was serious. What had it been? Auburn and I had eaten the same food, but she didn’t get sick thankfully. There’s only one food it could have been: street food in Thailand, specifically, grilled chicken and pork. I can’t remember who ate what, exactly, but Auburn and I definitely ate together and shared our food. Thankfully, I ate the bad part and suffered the consequences. She slept through the night.

Every time my body convulsed and ejected another round of fluids, I can remember thinking, ‘this is how I die, and Auburn will wake up to find her Daddy dead in a pile of his own puke, what a fucking mistake this was.’

Single parent travel
Somebody who loves Thailand: Auburn!

Surviving the Qualms

As with any negative horrible experience, you gotta push through, just like I did. I spent the whole night convulsing, the next day in shambles, and far too much time pondering the mistake I had made moving to Thailand alone with my daughter, but it was all worth it.

Yeah, cliché right? I don’t want to ever catch food poisoning again, but if it means that my daughter will get to see the world and grow up outside of any bubble that society can place her in, then that’s a life lived right and a parenthood I can be proud of.

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A great reason to live in Thailand, the people! They’re super nice. This lady stopped her bike just to smile at Auburn 😀

I would recommend single parent travel, or duo-parent travel for that matter, to anyone who has children. You’re going to suffer along the way, yes, but you’re going to suffer no matter where you are, it’s just a point of choosing your suffering. I choose food poisoning over a 9-5, the loneliness of living outside of the USA over the comforts of it that make me fat and stupid, and I choose for my daughter to see the world over any desire I have to fit in with anyone else.

I have my best friend seeing the world with me, bring on the pain!


Traveling with children makes children as wise as it makes the parents strong; wisen-up the kids, strengthen yourself.

 

camping with kids

One of the best things you can do for your children, in my personal experience as a child and as a parent now, is get them outdoors. The majority of my childhood memories are outdoors, and memories are what makes your life longer and more meaningful. Sure, I remember playing video games and watching TV as a child, as well, but I don’t have any particular memory that comes to mind that is nearly as enjoyable to look back on as my memories of being outside.

If you’re looking to get your child outside, take them camping! If you’re unfamiliar with who I am and what I consider to be a proper camping experience, then you should know straight away that I don’t consider using an RV to be camping. Plenty of people do, that’s fine, but we have a difference of opinion on that. Going camping is about connecting to nature, engaging with the elements, and removing as much of your comforts as you can. Now, some people are more extreme in their views of camping than even I am, but everyone has their own tastes and preferences. Here’s what I believe to be a camping experience and why is it important to go camping with your children.

Auburn and I went camping several times this summer. Tahquamenon Falls, Kitch-iti-kipi, and lots of smoked fish was on the menu. Rockstar of a summer. My dad even came out camping with us once!

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I’m not a selfie-taker but the Upper Falls of Tahquamenon Falls deserved one

 

Why Should I Go Camping With My Children?

#1 Prepare for Doom!

Not really, but sort of. What if the electric grid goes down? What is a solar flare knocks out all the satellites in the sky? What if you get lost on a hike someday and can’t find the trail? Have you spent enough time outside to know that, hey, the end of the world isn’t so bad? I have, and Auburn is on her way there. She can help set up the tent, gather firewood, and prepare the food.

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Auburn preparing some corn to cook in the fire

Camping is essentially wildlife survival training if you do it correctly. I’ve been trying to become more and more rustic in my camping adventures, but I’ll admit that I still bring along a blow-up mattress, an electric coffee maker, and a waffle iron so I definitely do not completely do rustic camping.

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My little helper
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It’s hammer time! Goodness, I’m old.

#2 Meet the Animals

Children love animals, at least mine does. She may be slightly frightened of some of them, but she adores little mammals like squirrels, chipmunks or ‘chick-monks’ as she says, and rabbits. One of the coolest things about camping is that the animals who live near the campsites are generally used to humans. They are still skittish if you get too close, but if you camp for a week or so, you’ll notice that the little animals will get quite close to you if you’re nice to them.

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Meeting the ducks on Indian Lake

#3 Get Comfortable in Uncomfortable Settings

You’re not going to have a lazy boy, a big screen TV, and a microwave unless you are using an RV. And that, dear reader, is why using an RV is not going camping. You’re certainly not camping with kids if you’re using a wheeled home. An RV, no matter its class, is a home, and simply going from your usual home in the city to a home with wheels under some trees is not going camping.

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Auburn playing at the campsite

I’ve been in campgrounds where there are 100 campsites full, and 90 of them are RV’s. (Sure, it’s because I’m in the RV area because I need an electric outlet for my waffle iron, coffee maker, and blow up mattress, but I’m hoping to cut down one day and get some cots, boil water over the fire for coffee, and simply not eat waffles.) But the point is that when the 90% of my fellow ‘campers’ experience rain, or thunder, or both, they retreat into their wheeled homes.

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Doing a little trail hike 🙂

They aren’t taking the time to experience what camping is meant to give you, a level of discomfort that removes your brain from the plugged-in, electricity-driven world. Sleeping in a tent in a rainstorm is amazing: it’s loud, your tent may shake from the wind, and if you have to get outside to use the toilet, you’re gonna be part of the storm. If you’re not comfortable in those situations, you’ll probably be one of the first people to die when doom happens (see #1).

camping with kids
Found the most interesting tree

#4 Get Dirty

You know you’ve witnessed a parent who tells their child to stay out of X, Y, or Z because “they’ll get dirty.” Makes me cringe, ya’ll need to go camping with kids. One of the top reasons (hence why it’s on the list) that I like to get my daughter outside, especially in a camping situation, is because it gets her dirty. If anything, I fear the clean. When I take her to school in the morning, I’m probably the only parent who opts out of the teacher at the door holding hand sanitizer, “no thank you,” I say.

camping with kids
Getting dirty racing Grandpa to the restroom.. she lost

I’m not afraid of germs, dirt, but leeches yes because they’re weird, wormy vampires. Go camping with kids and show them that being dirty is okay! Getting filthy improves the immune system, calms the soul, and creates memories that last a lifetime. Just stay away from leeches, they’re little graboids trying to grow big enough to eat your truck, I think.

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Running through the forest, she fell a few times and got quite dirty

#5 Pee on the Trees

There’s no better feeling than being able to let loose on a bush with no one judging you. That’s all I need to say about this.

 

The Wrap-Up

So go camping with kids, it’s fun, educational, and an experience that adds time to life because memories are what makes life long. A comatose person will not have memories of their coma (usually), and an able-bodied person who spends their whole life indoors is just a thinking comatose patient.

camping with kids
Auburn and I visiting Kitch-iti-kipi

Do you already enjoy going camping? Where is your favorite place to go? Let me know in the comments and I’ll comment back with one of my favorite places 🙂

single parent blog, parenting blog, single parent travel

Two Healing Words

After a day of rain drumming on the bungalow’s tin roof, my 3-year-old would say two words that would help me in forgiving myself. The strength, the clarity, the confidence that she showed me through those two words helped me understand that the strongest amongst us are missing something when we punish ourselves for making mistakes. We focus on the wrong like it’s a stain on our only shirt, thinking everyone will see only that and judge us accordingly. My daughter’s two words help me realize something we all need to understand, ‘it’s okay.’ Failing isn’t nearly as important as what we do after we fail.

*You’ll see some affiliate links here, check out this link for a full-break down of what that means. Hint: my links cost you nothing!

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Auburn doesn’t care if she fails, the first time she did this the seat knocked her forehead

Why Do We hurt?

In today’s social media atmosphere where we are constantly bombarded with images of the exceptional, it’s easy to feel inferior. The companies who advertise on social media know I am a traveling Dad, so the advertisements I see are about top-notch parents who never fail, travelers who make five figures a month working just 2 hours a week, and images of people working on hilltops, swinging in a hammock, or (most unbelievably) working right on the beach! What a bunch of crap.

 

Even if everything I am seeing is real, those images are denoting the .01% of people who are actually involved in any of those activities. Every parent repeatedly fails, travelers travel because it’s cheaper than staying in one place, and digital nomads like myself work at a desk. Can you imagine having your computer out at the beach for 8 hours? If you can, then you should also imagine the next computer you’re going to need because the sand, water, light, and elements are going to destroy your gear.

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This is not a work place, Nang Yuan Island, Thailand

So It’s all BS?

Marketing is all BS. They show the outliers, the freaks-of-nature, the rare runes. When you see these outstanding people every day, all the time, how can you not compare yourself to them? Your average life, your average job, your average face. This isn’t crap you can easily change, so when you can’t be extraordinary, you feel like shit, because you’re just average, and you’re a failure. Mark Manson touches extensively on this in his book, The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck.

Those Two Words

When my daughter stirred that night, at first just uncomfortable because her blanket was off her, I heard her whimper in the darkness. Once, then twice, a soft, third time. ‘What’s wrong honey?’ I asked her. Her little voice sniffled out, ‘I miss Mommy.’ I was instantly back to hating myself again, forgetting how hard I’m trying to love myself. My mind jumps to all my mistakes, what I’ve done to put Auburn in this position, a series of events leading up to her waking up and crying at 11 pm because she doesn’t have a ‘Mom.’

She crawls over to me and falls into my arm, I feel her tears drip onto the inside of my bicep. I squeeze her lightly, ‘I know sweetie, you got your Daddy here.’ A tear of mine drips unnoticed on her hair, ‘You’ve got lots of people who love you, Aubi,’ a few more whimpers from her. Her hand moves up across my neck, she stops crying, smiles, kisses me on the curve between my nose and cheek, ‘I know Daddy, it’s okay.’

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Sometimes she sleep with undies on her head

It’s Okay

You don’t have to be perfect. You don’t have to be the outlier, the extreme example, the super-parent, the model, or the charming one. Like Mark Manson says in his book, ‘What is objectively true about your situation is not as important as how your come to see the situation.’ I’m an average parent and person, I constantly fail. But my little girl looks at me with the strength of a General, smiles, and says ‘it’s okay.’ It’s okay to be normal, it’s okay to fail, it’s okay to occasionally hate yourself for the things you’ve done. Failing, and feeling like a failure are a part of what makes us strong people.

If our minds couldn’t adapt to failure, we wouldn’t have evolved and spread across the world battling Smilodon, direwolves, and eating giant furry elephants. You think our ancestors had an easy time dealing with seeing their children shredded by a 400 pound cat? Or having dental work done with rocks? Or living only to the ripe old age of 36? No, we were all bred to be strong. Our strength runs in our DNA, that is our average. Our average is a lineage of survivors who failed all the time, and succeeded because of it. It’s okay to be average, to fail repeatedly, as long as you learn from it. That’s the best lesson our diseased and ill-fated ancestors can teach us. It’s okay to be human, to fail, and love yourself regardless. Sometimes it just takes a 3-year-old whispering it to you at night to understand that.

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3-year-olds know it will be okay

*You’ll see some affiliate links in here to the books I mention, I only link up to things I find truly valuable to the reader.