THE BLOG

Slow Travel Is The New Slow Parenting

When my husband and I decided to quit our jobs and take our son on a trip around the globe, part of the decision was making a conscious choice to jump off the spinning merry-go-round of life.
This post was published on the now-closed HuffPost Contributor platform. Contributors control their own work and posted freely to our site. If you need to flag this entry as abusive, send us an email.

When my husband and I decided to quit our jobs and take our son on a trip around the globe, part of the decision was making a conscious choice to jump off the spinning merry-go-round of life. With every school commitment, sport season and extracurricular meeting, I found it more and more challenging to keep our lives simple. My son, at eight years old, had more activities and opportunities than we could fit into a single week. My husband traveled every week and I was working part time, volunteering part time and trying to keep our lives simple and focused on what was important. None of the myriad of choices presented to us were bad ones, they were just all-consuming.

Admittedly, saying goodbye to our lives was a giant leap of faith, but one that we knew was right for us. We knew we might never grab this chance again to show our son the world and spend nine months together each and every day. It was worth the risk, and it’s paying off in spades.

We decided to travel slow and soak up what life was like around the world. We are halfway through our journey, visiting friends, volunteering, homeschooling our son and experiencing other cultures in cities big and small. We wanted to peel away the layers of schedules and busyness that enveloped our family, and spend weeks at a time in different places where we knew no one but each other.

Through the Eyes of a Child
It’s just not feasible to travel at a quick pace when bringing along a child, and we have enjoyed slowing down to see the world from our son’s perspective. It’s a lesson in patience and a reminder to stop and smell the roses when you bring your child along. Whenever we try to speed up our itinerary, he inevitably reminds us that we can take as much time as we need, to ride bicycles, wait for the next bus or stop for another ice cream. Seeing the world through the eyes of a child slows down your pace, and you realize that holding their hand as you walk along a seaside promenade or village market is much more precious than dragging them quickly to your next destination.

suzanne rutledge 1
Observations we as adults often take for granted are not missed by a child. I’ve learned more by looking at the world through his lens.

Time to Talk
My son loves to talk. I mean, all. the. time. He’s a curious and clever child who never outgrew the “why?” stage. I was a little anxious about the volume of conversations we would have for nine months, day in and day out. We are used to sharing the love of his chatter with teachers, coaches and grandparents. But, to my surprise, this time spent in conversation has been a relationship builder I never considered. With each new city and every historical or cultural site we visit, there is so much to discuss. His interest in learning has opened our eyes to all that is in the world and how much we are experiencing together. Sometimes verbalizing it makes it more real, and he’s teaching us that every day.

suzanne rutledge
When the world is a child’s classroom, questions are endless. But listening, teaching, and learning more in the process, is rewarding for a parent.

Simple Pleasures
At home, it was sometimes hard to slow down and find time to play a simple board game or take a bike ride as a family. Old fashioned activities seemed to be swallowed up by baseball, basketball, Cub Scouts, swim practice or even the television. But now, simple is all we have. Each of us has read more books these last few months than in the last few years combined. We seek out a bicycle rental outfit in almost every city we visit, spending hours riding side by side as we explore. Even traveling light, we prioritized baggage space for Uno, Scrabble (travel size, of course) and a deck of playing cards. It’s refreshing not to see my child’s eyes glazed over in front of the TV, but instead to be engaged in strategy, good-natured competition and simple fun.

suzanne rutledge
Relaxing with a good book is hard to find time for at home, but on the road it became part of our daily routine.

It Took Us Leaving
Over the course of our trip, I’ve realized these simple pleasures are not just attainable on the road, but at our own home. Sure, they are easier without any distractions, and it will take some extra effort to continue our simpler life back in the U.S. But after all we have seen, learned and experienced, it’s the time spent together as a family that we will cherish forever. And the beautiful thing is, everyone can achieve it without ever leaving their zip code. Jumping off the merry-go-round opened my eyes to the simple and slow pace of living as a family and not surprisingly, we have all landed on our feet.

suzanne rutledge

Suzanne, husband Mitch and son Luke took nine months off from their regular lives in Athens, Georgia, to travel around the globe. You can follow their adventures at www.ruttotheledge.com.

This blog post is part of a series for HuffPost Better Together. To contribute, submit your 500 - 800 word blog post to bettertogether@huffingtonpost.com.