Travelling with a one-year-old is kind of complicated.
On one hand, you have a baby who’s old enough to take in what’s going on around her, so that makes the travel somewhat more fun than it would’ve been with, say, a tiny infant who sleeps all the time. New places to see! New things to eat! New people to make friends with!
On the other hand, you have a baby who’s old enough to take in what’s going on around her, which presents certain difficulties if that baby also happens to be a bit of a creature of habit. Strange places to go to bed in! Unfamiliar meals and mealtimes! And what’s a little person to make of all these excited grown-ups wanting to hold her?
That said, Chinese New Year in Penang was kind of great. James’ aunts are amazing people (and great cooks!), and Katy definitely warmed to them after the first two uncertain days. It didn’t help that she had a nagging fever from her MMR vaccination, which didn’t do anything for her mood.
There were some things we knew would be a little harder to pull off, like breakfasts at Taman Free School. We don’t do hawker centres with Katy very much here in Singapore because lately she hasn’t liked sitting in her stroller for very long, and hawker centre stools aren’t comfy or safe for a little wriggly person to perch upon. In Penang, it’s the same deal, and the stools aren’t even bolted down.
Not to be beaten, we took turns eating, feeding Katy, and taking her for walks around the market. Katy ate almost everything we did – kuay teow soup, peanut pancakes (what allergens?) – and she quite enjoyed surveying the market stalls and their customers, though she seemed a little miffed that no one waved back at her the entire time.
And there were other things that we just had to resign ourselves to, like the meltdowns on the plane trip there and in the car whenever we got stuck in the inevitable traffic jams. For days I had scratches on my chest from when Katy absolutely lost it while confined to the Manduca carrier while we were in the car. (I think we both badly missed the comfy car seat back home.)
We made up for the minor inconveniences by taking it as easy as we could. Our hotel room had a great sea view that I rarely got to enjoy, but in the middle of the night after Katy woke up randomly, I would fall back asleep to the sound of the waves breaking on the shore below our balcony.
And while we made it a point to spend lots of time with James’ family, we also took the occasional couple of hours to just chill out and not do anything. One afternoon, James’ mother and aunt offered to watch Katy so we could sneak off to a tui na reflexology place for an hour and a half. That was nice.
All things considered, though, I don’t think I’m ready to do this again anytime soon. Katy’s personality is so wilful and curious in equal measure, it’s hard enough to keep her at the right balance of calm and engaged even at home. Furthermore, her nights have been so fitful since she turned 1, and I just find it really hard to keep up with her in the day when I haven’t had any kind of rest at night.