Travelling Childlessly

One of my parenting dreams was taking my children travelling. 

I always enjoyed travelling as a kid: the early morning starts when it is still dark, the air is cold and crisp, and the first stirrings of insects prelude the dawn chorus; the long sleeps in the car, and rambunctious singing along to cassette tapes (showing my age there) to pass the time; the thrill of excitement at arriving at our destination; the race to the bedrooms to claim the best bed; the long days stretching ahead of us with promises of adventure, laziness and luxury. And best of all, no school! 

Sure, I would get motion sickness at the drop of a hat, but WORTH IT! I considered it a little bit of pain for a whole lot of gain once we arrived. 

It was a little bit of pain for a whole lot of gain.

Going on holidays while growing up instilled in me a value for rest, for the countryside, for bush walks and beach days, for mystery tours (getting in the car and just driving without a destination in mind), and for seeing the world outside my own backyard. 

So it was with heavy inevitability I dreamed of raising my own children with regular travel stints. 

I was reminded of this recently while watching a travel video on YouTube. A young couple was travelling overseas with their gorgeous blonde toddler, who pointed at the cows with delight and sang half-intelligible songs of glee throughout their holiday. I really enjoyed watching the video, and of course my own travel bug was stirred toward planning my next holiday. 

But a tiny part of me twinged. I would have loved to have taken my children with me. Part of my parenting dream was to take my children to magical destinations near and far, introduce them to other cultures, share my love of languages and food with them, and instil in them a respect and understanding for peoples and places the world over. 

A tiny part of me twinged.

Being childless, I will never get that chance. 

Where does that leave me? Should I never travel again, knowing it may well trigger feelings of grief for me? Of course not. I fully intend to travel (and enjoy it too). I plan to watch more travel videos. I will continue to think, talk and dream of travel. That part of my life is (hopefully) not over. I gave up the dream of children; there’s no way I’m giving up the dream of travel. 

I gave up the dream of children; there’s no way I’m giving up the dream of travel.

If I am to live childlessly, I intend to live the life I would have otherwise lived, had I had children. 

Yet I do so with an acute awareness of the missing piece. I feel the absence of little ones. I notice the gap in my travel planning. There was meant to be a little person, or a couple of little people, joining me. There is nothing I can do about that—except to grieve. 

There is nothing I can do—except to grieve.

So I feel sad. I may always feel sad. Travel is bittersweet, but I am not going to shut that out. I will not numb or repress it. I choose to feel all the emotions that travel brings: excitement, sorrow, joy. It is part of the experience, a gift of being alive. And I intend to experience all of it.

If you are childless, did you have dreams of travelling with children too? Do you now travel childlessly, and what is that like for you? What helps you grieve that dream? Share your story. Let’s have a countercultural conversation. 

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