Flyin’ Solo with a Baby - International Edition

Ella McFarland

This past fall, shortly after giving birth to my son, I felt a strong urge to go to Europe & bring him along. The last time I was there, the world shut down because of COVID. At the time, between the lockdowns & vax passes, I had a large dark cloud overhead, wondering if I would ever be able to travel internationally again.

When the travel bans were lifted, I opened my calendar & landed on the week of March 20th, thinking it would not be too cold, not too busy with tourists, and something about that week just felt right. Then, over Christmas, when my oldest childhood friend told me she was planning to go to London that same week, I knew this trip was meant to be.

This trip - returning to London almost exactly three years later to the date from when I had to leave in the middle of my study abroad program because of the COVID travel ban, was truly a full circle moment for me. So much of my life, my beliefs, and my way of looking at the world had undergone a complete 180 with so many twists & turns with unforeseen joys (such as becoming a mother to my son).

Over the course of the last three years.............began journaling (which changed my life) —— I fell in love —— moved across the globe —— experienced the entire world shut down —— learned about the military complex & the truth about America's actions in other countries (that we aren't always the heroes in other's eyes) —— lost my dream internship in my dream city due to the lockdowns —— discovered the pharmaceutical industrial complex —— had the most fun final semester of college —— drank some brews & had some good laughs w/ some homies —— made some good mems —— learned about Tower 7 (& started to questioned many of the "official narratives" the public gets told) —— built & designed (my website) —— graduated college —— moved to Texas briefly, decided it wasn't for me at the moment —— moved back home to da desert —— recorded & published over 50+ podcast episodes  —— got pregnant  —— went through the hardest heartbreak of my life —— learned about the truth about the birthing complex in our country —— gave birth naturally with no medicine to the best little boy in the world —— bought & closed on my first piece of real estate.

And so, I felt in my heart that in order to have a solid bookend to my three-year journey, I needed to return to the place where it all began. The place where I was living where my plan was to be a corporate boss single lady living in NYC. To now being a mother working for her family's business in her hometown while working on various passion projects in my free time.

On this trip, just like I did three years ago, I brought my journal and documented some moments throughout my son & I's adventure. I discovered so much about not only traveling alone but also what is unique about traveling with a baby all by yourself.

I want to share my thoughts because many people (my prior 20 year old self included) think having a child would be disruptive and take away from what I want to do with my life. Instead of it being the most joyful additive I could ever imagine! I am so grateful to have been able to have had this experience with my son :) 

Here are my five main insights from my international trip with a baby:

1. Kids under 2 fly for free! When deciding whether to take my son on a trip with me to Europe, cost was obviously a huge factor, especially as a young working mom raising & financially supporting my son all by myself. It was really nice, especially as a new mom, to only have to worry about the cost of the flights and train tickets for yourself. Also for international flights they give you first choice for picking your seat for free & supply you with a bassinet that attaches to the wall for your baby.

2. Which leads me to my next point: traveling when your child at six months is the golden age. I say this because babies are old enough where they aren't as fragile newborns (they're sturdy, holding their head up) but aren't crawling or running around where they can run off from you. Also, they are still at an age where they can nap anywhere, like strolling through Hyde Park napping in their stroller or sleeping in your arms during a late night out for dinner & drinks in Amsterdam w/ friends.

3. Just because my baby won't remember the trip like you or I remember things as adults doesn't mean he's not learning or being influenced by his experiences in the present moment. The entire time we were traveling, I could see my son in real-time forming new thoughts & connections with all the new things he was seeing —— whether it was taking in a new climate, looking around at all the old architecture, or getting off the train into a new city. He was fully present in those experiences. And I know all these subconscious moments will play a huge role in who he becomes as he grows up. Looking back at my own childhood, exposure to more adult spaces, whether that be music, art, or restaurants, was a big part of my childhood, and even if something never became a core memory, those early exposures can come up as you go through life and bring more color to your life.

4. Traveling with a baby can be unpredictable, so it forces you to be really present on your trip & open to going with the flow instead of sticking to a predetermined schedule of sightseeing. I had probably three things I put on my list that were must-sees the entire trip, and the rest we really just played by ear. In fact, one of my favorite days was when Lido and I went on a walk to Hyde Park that was supposed to take 25 minutes, but it ended up being 3 & a half hours until we got there because we kept discovering new things to explore along the way.

5. You make friends. People, in general, are more open to starting up a conversation with you when they see you traveling alone, especially when you have a cute little baby. (And if someone isn't friendly when you're with a baby, it's a good way to weed people out lol.) Lido and I made so many new friends on our journey, from our friends we made at high tea to the lady who works in the bathroom at Claridge's to taxi drivers to the British lady we chatted with outside Westminster Abbey to bartenders at our hotel to the old British couple we met in the train station to the Harvard doctor in his 80s on the bus to an American family we chatted with at dinner to the golden retriever & group of British girls we befriended in Amsterdam. I think when you're traveling with a big group, whether it be friends or family, people aren't as likely to reach out or strike up a conversation. But when you're flying solo, you're more likely to give off an openness energy that can lead to people engaging & wanting to be your friend :)

I am excited for many more adventures to come with my son -- as my grandma always says the best way to spend money isn't on material things but making memories with your loved ones! cheers & I hope this post inspires you to get out & see the beautiful world around ya :D