Traveling the World Without Kids

Zambia 2013

By Jennifer James

August 03, 2013

Also published by Babble Voices

Learning about the work of the Macha Malaria Research Institute’s lab in Macha, Zambia.

Since 2011 I have been traveling the world fairly consistently for my work covering global health and development. It started in 2011 when I traveled to Kenya with the ONE Moms for a week and ever since then I have had several week-long or longer trips overseas to report on issues facing mothers and children in low or middle income countries. In fact, I just returned from a trip to Zambia where I was an International Reporting Project Fellow and covered under-reported stories about HIV/AIDS, TB, and malaria. I was in Zambia for ten days, not including travel time, and I was the only mother on the trip.

During my time in Zambia, many asked how my family was doing in light of my extended time all the way across the world. My answer was always the same: My family was fine, my girls were doing well, and they were. Thankfully, Skype is the best thing known to mankind to keep people connected – especially when you’re a world away. My girls are older now, 15 and 12, and are used to me having to travel. And since my husband is a professional runner he has the flexibility to be there with our girls when I’m away and when he has a race, I take over parenting duty. It works for us.

When my girls were younger and I first started blogging I traveled a lot domestically for junkets, conferences, and consulting meetings. It killed me! I hated leaving in the wee hours of the morning to catch a 6 AM flight and not seeing my girls before they woke up and then arriving home late at night once they were in the bed. There were times when I couldn’t hold it together from my home to the airport.

That seems like a long time ago now. Traveling away from my family is never the easiest thing in the world, but it has definitely become easier as our girls have gotten older.

This year I have two upcoming trips: one to South Africa and then a two-week trip to India with Water for People. And, there may be more because you just never know. Oftentimes I wish my family could be with me on my travels. That will be in due time, but in the meantime I know I have work to do and stories to tell.

A few years ago I had one of the biggest epiphanies about traveling overseas so often. I want my girls to know that anything is possible, that even though I am a mom I can travel and share stories about what health workers are doing for women who cannot deliver their babies in a hospital, for example, or that families that live in urban slums must rely on mobile health units for care. Through my intrepid travel I hope I am teaching my daughters that travel isn’t difficult and that they should follow their passions no matter what they are.

One thing I also know is that if my girls were still young it would be quite difficult, probably impossible, for me to travel as much as I do. Another epiphany: everything has its season.

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