Meet the Belgian Family: Backpacking With Kids

I have been a horrible blogger the past couple weeks. Since I left Cozumel, I have found myself surrounded with amazing people and often no or limited internet access. I haven’t made time to sit down and write, and that is something I hope to find a solution to. While I work on fixing up drafts, I’ll share with you a post I wrote about a family I met traveling into Guatemala. Enjoy!!

They’re Belgian, a family of four – mom, dad, and two girls – on a 4 month backpacking trip through Mexico and Guatemala. Unfortunately, I didn’t actually get a chance to chat with them in any detail; I really wish I had, though.

They came on the bus in Chetumal, the Mexican city bordering Belize. I noticed the two small girls, the backpacker-looking parents, their minimal bags and big smiles. As we prepared to board the bus, I watched them with a curious eye. Are they staying in hostels? Are they eating in cheap, local restaurants? Are they wearing the same clothes most days, doing laundry when needed? Are they just typical backpackers – but with a couple of beautiful and adventurous children?

It turns out, the answer is yes to all these questions.

I noticed them while waiting for the first unplanned change-of-bus in Chetumal, Mexico. They waited patiently for a long day of travel to begin, an expected 7 hours and 2 border crossings. When we arrived in Belize City, there was a lot of bus changing caffuffle. Long story short, we disembarked the big bus, got on the small bus – bags and everything – and then reboarded the big bus after it had already left. The entire process took probably a couple hours. I wasn’t watching the time. I noticed the family again when we were attempting to cram ourselves onto the small bus. The mom and her two daughters boarded the bus as most seats were full. They spotted one spotin the back corner, and all three attempted to squeeze in, husband up front. No complaints, no negative comments. Just this is what’s available so this is what we’ll do. A new friend (who I met on the bus) and I offered our seats to the mother and daughters. I took the seat in the back corner, and my friend moved up front. The mom and two girls spread out a bit and the husband took the fold-down seat in the middle. Neither husband nor wife seemed flustered, frustrated, or upset in any way, despite the disorganisation and tight squeeze. The girls were getting a little bothered by the long wait and one started crying a bit. Still, these parents were comforting, but not upset. The child cries, mom comforts here. It’s quite simple really. She stopped in no time. I wondered to myself what other kinds of adversity they had experienced in their travels and how often they actually become seriously bothered by it. There are lots of challenges travellers experience. Overcoming these challenges, with still high spirits, can be difficult for some, let alone with children in tow! I was very impressed with their positive attitudes.

We eventually continued on the journey on the big bus, arriving in Flores about 4 hours later than originally planned. I heard no cries from the girls, and they didn’t complain once. After 12 hours of bus travel, they were both pretty exhausted, sleeping in parents’ arms when we exited the bus in Flores, Guatemala.

I don’t know if they had already booked accommodation. I did learn that they sometimes book, sometimes don’t. Either way, they found a place and, I’m sure, settled in pretty quickly before dozing off to sleep. We passed by them a few times in the coming days, each encounter met with smiles from all. The girls always seemed happy, curious, enjoying the journey. The parents were always positive, relaxed, cheerful.

As I observed them, I recalled discussions with others about how I envision life with children (should I ever decide to have children). People are often skeptical, telling me that travelling with children is difficult, that I would need to have a lot more baggage, be well-prepared and so on and so forth. Since I don’t have children and haven’t travelled with them, I really haven’t had much to base a disagreement on, but I quietly continue to feel as though it would be very possible. I could still travel light, and in a similar way, just with children. Of course, some things would be a little different (booking some things in advance, taking somewhat better quality transportation, etc.). But the philosophy would be the same.

This Belgian family has been an inspiration for me, and I hope to others as well. Travel with children doesn’t have to be too difficult. With the right attitude, anything is possible. Thanks, Belgian family, for helping me to see that long-term, backpacker-style travel with children really is possible.

Note: photo is not the Belgian family (I didn’t get a photo of them).

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