Week 1 on the Road with a Toddler Am I Crazy (1)
Last night I felt like a terrible mom. At 10:00PM Mason was still awake and he was crying. It’s not the awake and time that was a problem or the fact that he was crying because that happens every 30 minutes when you have a toddler. It was the words that were coming out of his mouth that were troubling for me. “I want go home,” he was saying between gasps of breath and sobs.

You see, we have been on the road for the last week and are living in the camper on our 2003 Chevy Silverado. It’s just Mason and me, and we are driving east with the end goal being to pick up Daddy in the Grand Canyon after his almost 4 week rafting trip with friends. Somehow I got it in my head that it would be fun for Mason and I to visit Hike it Baby branches across the Western US along the way. So I started planning and the journey got bigger and bigger as it formed.

Here’s what I didn’t take into account: I am traveling alone with a toddler and while a trip like this in my past kid-free life would have been a breeze, life now is different.

It’s funny that I would take on such a big undertaking when a large part of what Hike it Baby is all about is creating a safe, supported, easy way for people to get out together with their children that is stress-free. This trip is definitely not stress-free. As I lie here at 6am listening to cars pass by, Mason lying next to me with his cute baby boy snores coming out of his little mouth, I wonder if what I am doing is fair. Would he rather be at home doing our normal thing? Is stability key to raising a happy child? Is he gaining benefit by seeing all of these place, hiking different trails, meeting new families?

Week 1 on the Road with a Toddler Am I Crazy (2)

Part of this new routine does mean Mason crying at night that he wants to go home. But I have to remind myself at home every night he cried when Daddy was away at work (my husband works 3 weeks away every 3 weeks). “I want Daddy,” is common. So are the cries with of “I want to go camping, not sleep in bed, sleep in truck.” When we put him in his bed over the last few weeks and didn’t let him sleep in our bed he cried, “I want big bed.” Part of being a toddler is that there is struggle and angst because your little one can’t fully verbalize what things are troubling them and how you can fix it. In this case I could fix it by going home, but I have a feeling it will be something else that he is crying about when we are home. And once we are home he will probably revert back to, “Not sleep in bed, sleep in truck.” So just knowing I can’t win is important to recognize. We are just in toddlerdom and strong emotions are part of it.

Right now we are 600 miles from home. I can turn around and drive back to Portland and then we would sort out how to get Daddy home. Or we can push on and Mason and I will most likely have an amazing adventure.

I am leaning toward pushing on and here’s why: When I was 6 and my sister was 3 my newly divorced Mother took us to a super remote little fishing village deep in the bottom of Mexico. It was a two-day journey by plane and taxi and then the final part we walked with our bags, shoeless on the sand to get to our new temporary home. The town was called Zipolite and we spent a few weeks there playing with the local kids and eating fresh tortillas and beans. My grandparents practically disowned my mom for “risking our lives” and taking us to this faraway place that was dangerous and fraught with unknowns.

Still to this day I think that is one of my strongest childhood memories. I can still taste the pineapple empanadas covered in sugar that were driven in by a bumpy backroad that was only passable part of the year. We ate fresh fish in Mexican families’ homes who had makeshift restaurants on the beach. We slept in shacks with no glass in the windows or locks on the doors. Our bathroom was an outhouse or just outside. My sister, even though she was only 3, has this as one of her first memories as well.
Sure we got really sick for a few days with Mexi-belly and I remember having a high fever, puking and diarrhea everywhere, which was all a bit scary for my mom I would imagine since we were so far from “civilization” and any kind of doctor. Now looking back on all of that I would imagine my sister and I did a lot of “I want to go home” when things weren’t fun. But there was a lot less of that and a lot more amazing moments playing on the golden, empty beach. Deep pink sunsets setting over the ocean and waking in the morning to wild Mexican dogs picking through our scraps of garbage outside.Week 1 on the Road with a Toddler Am I Crazy (1)

This journey with Mason is far different from my Mom’s adventures with us. We have phones, cameras, and an iPad. Yesterday I ran to Costco to get us all kinds of healthy snacks for the road. We are sleeping in the driveway of a great Hike it Baby family’s house in Sparks, NV (Mason has been insisting on sleeping in the trailer over the house, so I didn’t want to fight that one).

Over the last 3 days we have done awesome “hikes” in Eugene, Ashland, and Reno. All of which involved touching some dirt, hugging trees, playing in huge muddy puddles. I have seen Mason laughing and having a blast. This has been the upside of our journey. The hikes feel like they neutralize the negative.

The hardest part of the journey is not Mason crying “I want to go home,” but the questioning of whether travel and different places every day or two is good for him. Then there is screen time. I feel bad that on our 5 hour drive we had the iPad on for 3 of it. I am trying to figure out what else I can do instead of screen time (he has books, crayons, a “desk” to draw on and every awesome kids in the car thing you can think of to keep him busy). Screen time is one of the things that we all talk about a lot on our hikes. How to keep it minimal. If they are going to do screen-time, what should we let them watch?

Right now I am not sure if I am going to be able to pull this trip off. I know people would understand if I didn’t make it to their town, but then it also feels like every day I drive further away from home, the easier it gets for Mason and I to be away from home. Two days ago, Mason kept asking to go home every few hours. Yesterday it was just last night as we struggled to get to bed. Eventually he fell asleep and now he’s deep in a slumber. Soon we will get up and point our truck toward Elko, NV and get on the road.

Here’s what I do know about this trip: Mason and I are bonding more closely than ever before. We are meeting really wonderful families. We are having fun everyday. We’re seeing new trails, visiting new cities, driving our way toward Daddy. When we pick up Daddy at the end of the Grand Canyon and head as a family toward Zion, Mason will be a seasoned road warrior. With every mile we put between us and home, I feel more confident that we can do this. That the road can be as much our home as our home is our home.

Week 1 on the Road with a Toddler Am I Crazy (3)

There are some people who probably would frown upon or judge me for continuing this massive journey. But I have a feeling there are a lot more people who are cheering Mason and I on. Who are saying, “Wow, what an amazing experience you are giving your son,” and “I wish I could do that.” I have to focus my energy there and remind myself that at any moment I can decide to turn around and point the car home. Or just stop, find a hotel or campground, and hang out for a week and play with Mason.

You see this journey for me is a lot like parenting. There are no rules. There is no true destination other than happiness. We will accomplish what we can accomplish and do our best job. We will do this together. I feel like the love and support all around me from my friends, family, and Hike it Baby community will make it so Mason and I have an amazing month. I am excited about all of the trails we will explore and friends we will make. I am excited about the unknowns.

So with that we now will get up, pack the rest of our things up, point our truck east, and start driving on to the next chapter, the next hike, the next adventure.

Find Shanti and Mason on the road here

20 thoughts on “Week 1 on the Road with a Toddler: Am I Crazy?

  • Megan

    Shanti, you are a warrioress! You can totally do this trip. Someone once told me travel happens on a curve-it starts ok, gets harder, hits a sweet spot, then goes back down. Mason will undoubtedly benefit from his trip and what it does for you as a mom. I often wonder too, if my mothering style is good for my girls-I create routine but within that I break the rules a lot and do crazy ventures alone with them that many people would frown upon. I have come to realize int these couple years that the best parenting comes from honoring ourselves and what we need to feel complete. You are obviously adventurous and need to do these kinds of things! Mason will be so well adjusted for it. I promise:) Call me if you need to talk ever or for encouragement. We are rooting for you.
    xo megan

    • Megan

      oh yeah, you know what I did was just say the iPad was broken on our trip to montana. Juna figured out other ways to entertain herself. 🙂

    • Pam Simich

      Megan-
      You are spot on! Not matter what the age.
      “travel happens on a curve-it starts ok, gets harder, hits a sweet spot, then goes back down.”

      When my daughter was 10, I took her to the Osa Peninsula in Costa Rica. It was a lot of travel, foreign country and off the grid although we were in a lovely inside out home right on the ocean. Kind of like camping, but not quite. My daughter loves camping, the outdoors etc, but the noises, animals, birds, insects and scorpions (checking shoes, bed sheets, clothing) was a bit out of her comfort zone. We were also without my husband/her dad and the first three days were full of tears and wanting to go home… by day 5, she was in the zone, by day 10 she never wanted to leave. No matter what the age, it’s the same cycle of “adventure.”

  • Megan

    Shanti, you are a warrioress! You can totally do this trip. Someone once told me travel happens on a curve-it starts ok, gets harder, hits a sweet spot, then goes back down. Mason will undoubtedly benefit from his trip and what it does for you as a mom. I often wonder too, if my mothering style is good for my girls-I create routine but within that I break the rules a lot and do crazy ventures alone with them that many people would frown upon. I have come to realize int these couple years that the best parenting comes from honoring ourselves and what we need to feel complete. You are obviously adventurous and need to do these kinds of things! Mason will be so well adjusted for it. I promise:) Call me if you need to talk ever or for encouragement. We are rooting for you.
    xo megan

    • Megan

      oh yeah, you know what I did was just say the iPad was broken on our trip to montana. Juna figured out other ways to entertain herself. 🙂

    • Pam Simich

      Megan-
      You are spot on! Not matter what the age.
      “travel happens on a curve-it starts ok, gets harder, hits a sweet spot, then goes back down.”

      When my daughter was 10, I took her to the Osa Peninsula in Costa Rica. It was a lot of travel, foreign country and off the grid although we were in a lovely inside out home right on the ocean. Kind of like camping, but not quite. My daughter loves camping, the outdoors etc, but the noises, animals, birds, insects and scorpions (checking shoes, bed sheets, clothing) was a bit out of her comfort zone. We were also without my husband/her dad and the first three days were full of tears and wanting to go home… by day 5, she was in the zone, by day 10 she never wanted to leave. No matter what the age, it’s the same cycle of “adventure.”

  • Aiyana

    When I was five, my mom took me out of kindergarten and we hit the road, roadtripping from Oregon to Colorado and back. I remember that trip–the moose outside our tent, the thunderstorm rain on dust, the animated dinosaurs, the swim in an algae filled pond. It’s awesome that you are going for it–we don’t know our limits unless we test them. You got this!

  • Aiyana

    When I was five, my mom took me out of kindergarten and we hit the road, roadtripping from Oregon to Colorado and back. I remember that trip–the moose outside our tent, the thunderstorm rain on dust, the animated dinosaurs, the swim in an algae filled pond. It’s awesome that you are going for it–we don’t know our limits unless we test them. You got this!

  • alextebow
    Alex

    Beautifully written Shanti. These musings go through my head at some point during each and every trip my family has taken. We are fairly seasoned travelers, but rarely do road trips. We’ve taken our kids on trips where others have questioned our sanity (Kauai with an 18m old and Hong Kong and China with a 3 year old). After a few years of familiarity with travel, we are starting to believe that it’s helping to make our kids pretty awesome. They adapt well to sleeping in new and odd places, and they rarely shy away from meeting new people. My oldest is now 6 and has what his teacher calls “street smarts” that are years beyond his age. Something she directly attributes to how much we travel and explore new-to-us places. It’s very rare for us to hear “I want to go home” anymore. More often we hear “when can we go back?”

  • alextebow
    Alex

    Beautifully written Shanti. These musings go through my head at some point during each and every trip my family has taken. We are fairly seasoned travelers, but rarely do road trips. We’ve taken our kids on trips where others have questioned our sanity (Kauai with an 18m old and Hong Kong and China with a 3 year old). After a few years of familiarity with travel, we are starting to believe that it’s helping to make our kids pretty awesome. They adapt well to sleeping in new and odd places, and they rarely shy away from meeting new people. My oldest is now 6 and has what his teacher calls “street smarts” that are years beyond his age. Something she directly attributes to how much we travel and explore new-to-us places. It’s very rare for us to hear “I want to go home” anymore. More often we hear “when can we go back?”

  • Coco staggs

    They are no rules in adventure it’s all about happy medium like parenting. I am so happy to be part of HIB and yes I have found my happy place on earth walking down on diffrent rail in the city I live in with my kids and knowing that it is safe to meet stranger who like minded . Thank you for stopping by Reno and making this trip to confirmed that love and support from stranger is no stranger when nature is involved. I will continue follow you and your journey.
    -love
    Coco

  • Coco staggs

    They are no rules in adventure it’s all about happy medium like parenting. I am so happy to be part of HIB and yes I have found my happy place on earth walking down on diffrent rail in the city I live in with my kids and knowing that it is safe to meet stranger who like minded . Thank you for stopping by Reno and making this trip to confirmed that love and support from stranger is no stranger when nature is involved. I will continue follow you and your journey.
    -love
    Coco

  • Erica Mierop

    Thank you for sharing the realities of your trip with us! I think it’s incredibly brave of you to undertake a journey like this and I’m really enjoying all the pictures via Instagram. Keep it real! We are all rooting for you – this awesome community wouldn’t be here without you. HIB has helped me make several good friends and I treasure the time we spend together on the trail and off.

  • Erica Mierop

    Thank you for sharing the realities of your trip with us! I think it’s incredibly brave of you to undertake a journey like this and I’m really enjoying all the pictures via Instagram. Keep it real! We are all rooting for you – this awesome community wouldn’t be here without you. HIB has helped me make several good friends and I treasure the time we spend together on the trail and off.

  • Merilee Schmidt

    Being a parent is wonderful and difficult. It can be such a mind game. Yesterday I felt like a bad mama because my son didn’t get to see the garbage truck dump the bins on our street, even though the reason was because he was sleeping. ????
    I think that the experience of traveling and hiking is a wonderful gift to give your son. I’m proud of you, and will be cheering you on no matter what choices you make for the two of you in the next few weeks. I’m sure I will hear some of the same cries when we cart Desmond off to Europe for a two week adventure, but the memories and bonding are worth it. Hang in there!

  • Merilee Schmidt

    Being a parent is wonderful and difficult. It can be such a mind game. Yesterday I felt like a bad mama because my son didn’t get to see the garbage truck dump the bins on our street, even though the reason was because he was sleeping. ?
    I think that the experience of traveling and hiking is a wonderful gift to give your son. I’m proud of you, and will be cheering you on no matter what choices you make for the two of you in the next few weeks. I’m sure I will hear some of the same cries when we cart Desmond off to Europe for a two week adventure, but the memories and bonding are worth it. Hang in there!

  • RiverDragon30

    What a beautifully orchestrated piece of writing Shanti. You and Mason are inspiring to say the least. And your mother and her strength of character also. My partner and I were just talking about getting out and seeing the world. Why would all of us humans be in such a magnificent place, on planet Earth, if we weren’t meant to explore and unite with our fellow humans, tree people,winged-creatures, creatures of the water, and all other beings whom we share this planet with? No rules. Pure freedom is what travel offers. Especially when riding with a toddler, because no-thing is certain, all-things are possible when we take the leap and are open to support. You and Mason, and the Hike it Baby crew have been miraculous support for so many families. Your efforts and endeavors have enabled us humans to be in connection with the Great Mother Earth. As for screen time, it’s inevitable, especially in this technological world we live in. But, what truly matters is all that you do is from the heart and happiness is the goal. My son loves The Little Einsteins, but if I ask him, “do you want to go outside?,” there is no hesitation. “Outside. Pay outside.” I use the show as a tool, a helping hand, something that helps create a happy environment for all of us. But it is not the only activity we have. While we are an extremely outdoor oriented family, Hike it Baby has got us out exploring new places and meeting new faces. The Austin branch was a lifesaver for us when we traveled far from home, away from Daddy, into foreign, cityesque territory, out of the green Humboldt land we were so use to. Do I regret it? Absolutely not! Did Rio have hard times? Yes. But, beyond being a toddler, he is human. And all of us as humans will encounter challenges no matter how old we are, no matter where we are, at some point in our lives. So, thank you Shanti for inspiring us all, and for your heartfelt persistence and adventurous soul. Road warriors! Making a positive impact on the lives of many. Aho. ~AMR

  • RiverDragon30

    What a beautifully orchestrated piece of writing Shanti. You and Mason are inspiring to say the least. And your mother and her strength of character also. My partner and I were just talking about getting out and seeing the world. Why would all of us humans be in such a magnificent place, on planet Earth, if we weren’t meant to explore and unite with our fellow humans, tree people,winged-creatures, creatures of the water, and all other beings whom we share this planet with? No rules. Pure freedom is what travel offers. Especially when riding with a toddler, because no-thing is certain, all-things are possible when we take the leap and are open to support. You and Mason, and the Hike it Baby crew have been miraculous support for so many families. Your efforts and endeavors have enabled us humans to be in connection with the Great Mother Earth. As for screen time, it’s inevitable, especially in this technological world we live in. But, what truly matters is all that you do is from the heart and happiness is the goal. My son loves The Little Einsteins, but if I ask him, “do you want to go outside?,” there is no hesitation. “Outside. Pay outside.” I use the show as a tool, a helping hand, something that helps create a happy environment for all of us. But it is not the only activity we have. While we are an extremely outdoor oriented family, Hike it Baby has got us out exploring new places and meeting new faces. The Austin branch was a lifesaver for us when we traveled far from home, away from Daddy, into foreign, cityesque territory, out of the green Humboldt land we were so use to. Do I regret it? Absolutely not! Did Rio have hard times? Yes. But, beyond being a toddler, he is human. And all of us as humans will encounter challenges no matter how old we are, no matter where we are, at some point in our lives. So, thank you Shanti for inspiring us all, and for your heartfelt persistence and adventurous soul. Road warriors! Making a positive impact on the lives of many. Aho. ~AMR

  • Leah C

    Shanti:

    Hang in there, honoring your needs along with Mason’s will serve you both well.

    Our boys spent tons and tons of time on the road between here and NorCal until they started school. 8-12 hour drives were not uncommon at all for us during that time. In the toddler years, the IPad became a big part of that, but as a parent who also struggled (and still struggles) with the guilt over the increased screen time I can say that eventually the kids start to self regulate. The boys (now 6&8) regularly read, listen to books on tape, listen to music & stare out the window instead.

    My point is–go easy on yourself. Stay on the road, take lots of breaks, download a shit-ton of scholastic books episodes, PBS shows or the old seasons of Mr Rogers, Reading Rainbow (or the app is awesome, too), get some books on tape–the adventures of Winnie the Pooh is especially funny, find pit stops along the way with a park or a patch of grass and buy some bubbles to blow while Mason runs around before the next few hours of travel time.

    He’ll make it & you’ll make it.you’ll all be exhausted by the end and better for it just the same.

    have a great adventure & stop by if you make it down this far south. Lee & I would love to meet the little man.

  • Leah C

    Shanti:

    Hang in there, honoring your needs along with Mason’s will serve you both well.

    Our boys spent tons and tons of time on the road between here and NorCal until they started school. 8-12 hour drives were not uncommon at all for us during that time. In the toddler years, the IPad became a big part of that, but as a parent who also struggled (and still struggles) with the guilt over the increased screen time I can say that eventually the kids start to self regulate. The boys (now 6&8) regularly read, listen to books on tape, listen to music & stare out the window instead.

    My point is–go easy on yourself. Stay on the road, take lots of breaks, download a shit-ton of scholastic books episodes, PBS shows or the old seasons of Mr Rogers, Reading Rainbow (or the app is awesome, too), get some books on tape–the adventures of Winnie the Pooh is especially funny, find pit stops along the way with a park or a patch of grass and buy some bubbles to blow while Mason runs around before the next few hours of travel time.

    He’ll make it & you’ll make it.you’ll all be exhausted by the end and better for it just the same.

    have a great adventure & stop by if you make it down this far south. Lee & I would love to meet the little man.

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