By Faten Omar
KUWAIT: Traveling with children adds a whole new dimension to any trip, but being a fulltime traveler and mother can be a challenging and eye-opening experience. Swiss traveler Andrea spoke with Kuwait Times during her stop in Kuwait about her adventure of roaming the world with her 20-month-old son Raphael, who notched his 18th flight last week.
Kuwait Times: When did you start traveling?
Andrea: I started traveling at the age of 16 with school trips, but my first solo trip was at 18, when I visited my pen pal in Latvia with no credit card or phone, forget maps. With my child, the first time I traveled was when he was about six months old. My first trips with him were in Europe, mostly by train or car. He took his first flight when he was 10 months, followed by other 17 flights in 10 months.
KT: How many countries have you been to?
Andrea: I have traveled to 80 countries in different continents. Raphael, my son, has been to Switzerland, Germany, Italy, Poland, Czech Republic, Austria, Spain, Slovakia, Romania, Hungary, Liechtenstein, Oman, United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Morocco, Tunisia, France, Cyprus/Northern Cyprus and the UK.
KT: Is traveling with a child hard?
Andrea: It depends — I have traveled mostly alone with him to many countries, and I must say, I am addicted to travel. It is my passion, so the will to make an effort and face challenges is high too. Even when I am overtired and more exhausted than ever before, after or during a trip, my strength is still there. You have to think all the time about organization, where a baby is allowed to be taken with you, or how you will do it with a baby seat. Your mind is always fully awake and your brain is used as never before. It is your daily life and sorrows you take with you as a mother in case of danger or accidents. My whole life I have mostly traveled alone or took care of groups, so I can also handle a toddler. I am experienced and know a lot of tricks to make it easier for us.
KT: How do you manage to control a child while traveling?
Andrea: I think you cannot control a child’s emotions like frustration or hunger. Also, take into consideration to give him enough sleep, and to yourself as well. Do not be ashamed if the baby cries in public; ask for help if needed. Most people with kids know how kids are at home and can imagine that they are the same when traveling. A lot of parents try to help if they see a mother traveling alone.
KT: How did you find Kuwait?
Andrea: I have visited all the Gulf countries before, apart from Saudi Arabia, and for me, all these countries have a lot in common. But Kuwait, I must admit, I needed longer to find it attractive. Kuwait has some very special places. I somehow missed the nice beaches and because I walk with a stroller, I missed the pathways for non-car users. All in all, I met nice people who guided and helped me discover Kuwait by car. The good thing is, it is not that big, so I could see a lot. I also loved the markets. They also have screens for football games, which is awesome.
KT: What attracted you the most in Kuwait?
Andrea: I liked that women were very friendly to my child, and therefore Raphael was not afraid at all to go and hug them. I also walked back to the hotel in Kuwait City a lot. It is a busy city, but at night it is quieter. I was never scared or harassed by any men on the street. I felt safe all the time.
KT: What do you think of traditional Kuwaiti cuisine?
Andrea: The food is quite similar to that in other Gulf countries. Hummus, Arabic bread, beef stew and sauce or rice are traditional Middle Eastern dishes. I love it! I tried mumawwash, machboos and other dishes.
KT: What is the strangest situation you faced in Kuwait?
Andrea: When I was in Kuwait and posted a picture of us, I got a message from a schoolmate that his sister lives there and I should meet her family. So the next day they picked me up, showed me around and invited me for dinner. That was funny and showed me how connected we all are through social media in our lives — the world is small.
KT: Your advice for mothers who want to explore the world with their children.
Andrea: Just do it. Travel once or twice with your child, and you will become an expert. Travel easy countries first, similar to your country. For me, this was Germany and the rest of Europe, because when he was small and with his cleft palate, I was assured that if something happened, I could return to my home more easily. Give yourself time to adapt with your baby. He or she will then become your soulmate, your best buddy. Respect the fight against fear, or take a friend, partner, or a local with you. Travel slowly and be more spontaneous; do not plan all, just in case you need a longer stop somewhere. Remember, you gave birth and already you are more powerful than you ever might think you are.
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