September Feature from Deez Diaries
Tell us about yourself?
I am Deenaz Raisinghani, an Indian mother from the Northeastern state of Assam, Army wife and avid traveller. I have worked in Google, India, and other multinationals in the past, in the fields of advertising and research and have completed my MBA in Marketing and a second Masters degree (MSc in Communication Studies) in 2015. I conceived my baby while I was studying in University in 2014 and delivered her just before my final semester exams. I am married to a Colonel in the Indian Army. We are currently posted in Ambala, India. We have a daughter who will be turning 2 on the 3rd of March. Her name is Arianna. My husband and I have regularly taken trips for the last decade across the country and the globe
Where have you visited?
I have travelled across the length and breadth of my country India, and to 13 other countries so far. They are Singapore, Malaysia, Canada, Sri Lanka, Bhutan, Turkey, Sweden, Finland, Denmark, Norway, France, Germany and have just come back from a wonderful trip to Cambodia.
How did you first get into traveling?
My husband introduced me to the wonderful world of backpack travelling across the globe, and we haven’t looked back since. Having been bitten by the travel bug, I now play an active role in planning our trips. I slowly discovered that nothing gives me more joy and satisfaction than travelling to a distant land, and exploring its culture and sights and sounds. I had read about so many places in my geography books in school, but only now am I actually learning about them first hand. This new learning is a joy that only travel can bring
How do you prepare for travel?
Although we have been travelling extensively before we had a baby, and we always planned our trips a couple of months in advance, and made sure we knew about the places we were going to, its culture, and did our basic bookings beforehand, we always used to leave a few things to chance and see how things work out once we reach. This concept changed a little once we had a baby. When I conceived my baby, I had a strong desire to take a trip alone with her before she is two years old. I wanted to experience our first moments of bonding as mother and child away in a beautiful land, all by ourselves. After she was born, we started travelling very frequently with her, and her first major trip was to Bhutan when she was just seven months old. We hiked up a mountain (tigers nest) with her on our back, and she had a blast… That’s when we realised that she too enjoys travelling with us a lot.
As preparation, in December 2015, I took her with me for a mom and baby trip to Bengaluru, India and also attended the NH7 Weekender (an open area country wide music festival) with her. She and I had an amazing time. I took her to test the ground for my upcoming trip with her to far more distant places, and saw that she took this well. I knew we were ready to travel
What inspires you to travel?
I believe more in the concept of “travelling like locals” in a foreign land. Therefore, we have mostly always done backpacking trips, and have planned our own itineraries. We also try to indulge ourselves in seeing some noncommercial destinations, and savor the local flavour of the places we travel to.
Where is your favorite place you have visited? Why?
In July 2016, my husband, my 16 month old (then) and I set off for a backpacking trip across seven countries in Europe. This has been the most amazing trip of my life so far.
How did you prepare for this trip?
We planned for it for around a month, bought point to point tickets on Eurail, and booked youth hostels (we both are life members of the Hostelling International community )and BnBs (through airbnb.com) for our complete stay.We did not book a single hotel or anything more than our budget allowed us. We carried a few essentials for baby, two rucksacks, and a baby stroller for our trip and we were set to go.
This is what our route looked like:
We had an absolutely amazing time and travelled only by public transport (Subway lines, Trams and Buses) and ate mostly fresh street food in every country, whilst allowing ourselves entry to the higher priced museums, and monuments that we really wanted to see. We did not take a single taxi, even though we were travelling with an infant and sometimes, it was tough to lug her, and the luggage when we were hurrying to catch trains and flights to all these places.
However, we had kept this as a rule to challenge ourselves with backpacking throughout the trip. It worked and how! She adjusted to this beautifully, and since we did not carry any baby food with us, she ate street food and whatever else was available with us and relished it too. We made so many local friends during our travels who were extra sweet to us with the baby around. We were absolutely on track with the budget we had planned and did not miss out on anything we wanted to cover.
My husband and I had worked the route so he would do a part of the journey with us, and let me carry on backpacking further with the baby…
He went back to India from Berlin, Germany and I stayed back with the baby to backpack further. This part of the trip was what I had planned to do since I conceived her, and I was super excited to try it. I noticed during the trip to all these foreign lands, that there was not a single Indian mother who was out backpacking with their baby and that is what I wanted to change.
This is what my route with the baby looked like
BERLIN-HAMBURG-COLOGNE-FRANKFURT- NEW DELHI
What were your experiences while covering this route and how did you manage it with the baby?
My 16 month old daughter Arianna and I, continued taking the European trains like the DB Regio, ICE (Inter City Express), SL Regional as well as the local city trains known as the U Bahn, the S Bahn, the buses and the trams.
I had a rucksack with me on my back and wore her in a baby carrier throughout this time. I also alternated with her in the stroller so I could walk and cover more places with the rucksack on my back and her in the stroller. Europe is best covered on foot, and my regular evening walks back home in India with baby in the carrier really helped me.
Where did you stay during this time?
We stayed at Youth Hostels under Hostelling International (HI Hostels), and cooked our food in their hostel kitchens which are always amazingly clean and equipped with basics. Arianna managed to make friends with the local staff there. We made a really good friend, Hawa an Iranian from Koln who was one of the staff members at the Koln Youth Hostel and she helped me explore the city in a great way. We slept on bunk beds in dorms and she co slept with me without any problems. She had been eating German sausage or currywurst (their absolute staple), cup noodles, milk and lots of fresh seafood from the street and supermarkets and local fruit and she never had a tummy upset. I love trying out local cuisine, and we made sure we tried every new thing we came across. We saved up on a lot of fine dining money, which helped us as we could use it to experience the cities even more.
Can you highlight some major things that mother and baby experienced together on this trip?
We visited the riversides and harbours including the famous Landungsbrucken harbour in Hamburg and saw seagulls preying on fish. We chased pigeons in the various European squares, we relished German chocolate, we travelled on multiple subway train routes, overground and underground to the various points around the cities and took buses and always met a lot of smiling faces.
We went to the Kolner zoo and saw giraffes, the African rhinceros, the seals and and penguins and so many different species of birds for the first time in baby’s life. We admired contemporary art and architecture at the museum, the Heinrich Hertz tower, and saw an organ concert at the Cologne Dom Cathedral which was breathtaking. We ate soft ice cones and fresh fruit from from the local stalls, and gorged on local german bread and cheese.
We played hide and seek in the youth hostels with their staff and fellow travellers, and danced at local music festivals in market squares. We adjusted our tummies and palates to Asian noodle boxes bought from the local Hauptbahnhof (their central station) for dinner, and learnt to eat and enjoy almost anything. We even visited the famous Hamburg red light district Reeparbahn and were amused at what all was on offer as we walked by it during the day. We bonded like friends and understood each other from so early on in life. I found me my best friend
Did you find any other Indian backpacker mothers on your route?
Throughout my trip, my eyes scoured around for more cultural exchanges with fellow travellers and its always nice to see a fellow backpacker from India. Well, I didnt spot any solo mom with her infant at the places I went to.
What is one thing you would like to share with everyone related to travel?/What advice would you give to other mothers with infants/toddlers who have a desire to travel?
Mothers, I would like to tell you that its absolutely possible to take that dream trip with your child, and one should definitely start early on in life. Kids will adjust to anything as long as you make a routine of it, and we have tried our best to make backpacking travel a routine affair for her.
There is absolutely no need to stock up on baby supplies except the absolute essentials as everything is available around the world, and it is really good for the baby’s immunity if you want to introduce them to real food from all over just so they can adjust to different tastes and not cry for their home food and milk bottle.
Why is it so important to travel on your own?
More than anything, travelling alone as a mother with your little baby and making sure you both have a good time gives you a kind of self-confidence that only travel can. Those moments are what I will always cherish as they ended up teaching me a lot about myself, and my child. You start seeing your kid in a different light and appreciate the patience and bond you both develop as mom and baby. I don’t even have to tell you how much exposure your baby gets early in life, and new sights, tastes, people and cultures will only make him/her more sociable and a better placed human being as they grow up in this multicultural world.
Where do you want to go next?
My daughter and I have just returned from another trip to Cambodia, and we had an absolutely beautiful time exploring the country as it has so much history, and sights and sounds to experience. The people are very sweet too. We will be planning our next International journey sometime this year, but before that I want to take her with me to more music and cultural festivals happening across India, so we will be exploring that scene next.
There are a lot more pictures of this trip and more on my Instagram account at deez_diaries