First of all, we love our kids. Just in case there was any misconception about that.
My husband and I have been together for 13 years and did a fair bit of traveling before kids (being part of a long-distance relationship helped). Since the arrival of the kids, we’ve either traveled as a family, or solo, meaning that they always have at least one parent with them. Our kids are 4 and 8 and this year we have finally bitten the bullet and taken a parent-only holiday. 6 days away from them meant 6 days of sleepover fun at grandpa and grandma’s (with no rules!), which they immensely enjoyed. Knowing that they were in good hands allowed us to fully enjoy our holiday.
While we don’t see ourselves doing this often, it is something that we thoroughly enjoyed and highly recommend parents to try at least once. Think of it as an extended date, where you don’t have to watch the clock. Date nights allow you to reconnect and rekindle your relationship, so think of a holiday as a potent dose of date-nightlyness.
Here’s what we enjoyed most about traveling without kids!
1. Taking time to be a couple again
It sounds like a very simple thing but we really enjoyed just going on evening strolls and holding hands without any agenda. This trip reminded us that we were not just parents, but also a couple in love with each other. It was really nice doing couple-y things instead of just family friendly activities, to ask each other “Would you like to do this/that?” instead of saying things like “let’s eat here instead; there are better options for the kids”.
Being together just as a couple, with the responsibilities of parenting temporarily lifted, is such a carefree feeling.
Pha That Luang, Vientiane, Laos
2. Rediscovering each other
When we went out on our first few dates when our first born was a couple of months old, we had moments when we struggled to think of conversation topics. We ended up talking about the baby all evening. The first few years of parenthood are all about the children so there is the risk of losing oneself and we are working very hard not to get pulled into that situation.
Being away without the kids allowed us to rediscover each other again. We saw each other as individuals again, not just partners in crime in the name of parenthood.
Both of us having a beer with kids around? Not something we’d done before, nor something we intend to do in the near future!
3. Traveling for ourselves
Moving around with kids comes with the need for certain structure. Because we traveled without kids and their related accessories, we could travel light. So for the first time in many years, we backpacked. And although our aged backs complained, we felt young and free without being tied down to suitcases. We could also move around budget hostels and boutique hotels without first checking if there was a swimming pool with slides.
Timings can be more flexible too – Wake up at 10am? Late lunch at 3pm? Pop into a cafe and linger for an hour? Spend the evening at a night market? Why not! One of the things we enjoyed the most was wandering around till we got thoroughly lost, something that would have been tricky to do as a family.
We also took the time to explain to our children that this trip was an opportunity for us to learn more about ourselves and each other, and they understood to a certain extent. We’ve always told them that we are all individuals despite the many roles that we play, so this trip cemented our belief in this, and they had a chance to see that even though we love them so very much, we also exist as individuals, not just as their parents.
4. In-depth conversations… or not talking at all!
Instead of conversations that can only take place when the kids are asleep and all the housework is done, we could talk over meals and as we were walking. Full scale uninterrupted conversations!
No one appreciates silence more than parents with young children. We enjoyed nice long moments of quiet just chilling with a book, or staring into blank space and being lost in thoughts (another thing I’ve taken for granted!).
We managed to do a mini stock take of our lives together and realigned some previously forgotten goals.
5. Enjoying the destination
When traveling with our children, we don’t always get to carve out time to do things that we want. I love museums but that’s tricky to do with an active 4-year old.
Taking our time to visit museums and temples was just so wonderful! We held lengthy conversations with people without having to hastily retreat because of little hands tugging ours toward playgrounds.
We ate street food almost every meal, we had chillis at every meal, we enjoyed local brews, we stayed out past bedtime – in other words, we really experienced the country instead of merely scraping the surface.
We enjoy experiencing destinations as a family, but enjoying a holiday as a couple is a whole new dimension that we found to be very fulfilling. Perhaps we could make this a yearly treat!
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