The hitched hikers have set out again to wander the earth. This time, instead of traveling to the ends of the earth, we are headed for the center of it, and we are bringing our toddler, “Cheerio”, with. Our travels take us from the heart of the United States by way of connection in Paris to Tel Aviv, Israel where we will catch a taxi to a hostel in Nazareth, a city where Jesus spent his formative years. From there, like Him, we will set out to hike the good hike.
So how does one hop continents with a toddler in tow? Our destination is not a resort, but instead a foot path. A place strollers dare not go. If you have followed us in the past, you know that we hiked the Appalachian Trail, so hiking is no stranger to us. You may also know that a few years later we brought our infant on an 8 day backcountry hike through a remote region of South America called Patagonia, where she became the youngest person ever to cross the John Gardner pass in Torres del Paine national park. So having a baby hasn’t stopped us from spending time doing the things we love. We see a kids as a beginning, not an end when it comes to exploring God’s amazing creation. And each step in our journey prepares us for the next it seems. A toddler of course is really a bigger version of a baby that babbles, walks, and sings all while filling ever bigger diapers with excrement. Our greatest duty as parents is to shape her, and now that she can walk, where better for her to take her first hike (on foot) then Israel?
The preparation began mid summer of last year, when we began surveying options for free plane tickets by signing up for credit cards. We hadn’t chosen a destination, so we got several that gave us plenty of options across various airlines. When we finally decided on a destination, the best flights to and from Israel were on different airlines. Travel Tip: We chose KLM for our trip out to Israel because they consider it part of Europe when determining prices which means you can book a ticket for fewer points than most other airlines that group in Asia. So we “bought” free plane tickets. If you have flown with a baby under 2 domestically, you know that they are free. When you fly internationally, most airlines charge ten percent of an adult fare. Well in this case, the one way ticket we had gotten for free on points was actually a $4000 ticket so they wanted $400 for her ticket! No thanks, we booked her another ticket on points for free. So in the end KLM didn’t end up being cheaper on points. Ugh. Something to consider when booking internationally with a little one.
Israel will be Cheerio’s 13th country, so she is no stranger to flying, and she really has the temperament for it. She rarely cries, and these flights were no different. Our flight left around 4 PM local time and arrived shortly before 9AM in Paris. She decided to skip sleeping until they served breakfast towards the end of the flight which meant an active and sleepless “night” for us. Since we purchased a ticket for her, she had her own “bye bye” (car seat) in a ticketed seat. She decided she didn’t need the extra space and spent most of the flight on one of our laps. Travel Tip: If you travel with a toddler and you purchase them their own seat on the plane, you will need to have a car seat that is no wider than 18” for them to ride in. Since we will be taking taxis and hired drivers to move us about, we needed to have a car seat for the trip anyways. We found a cheap one at Walmart for $50 that met the width restriction.
We decided to skip the stroller altogether. Instead, we brought our Osprey infant carrier backpack for times when she wants to ride instead of walk and for times when it’s just better to carry her like the airport. It worked well in Patagonia last year, cheerio loves it, and we know we can use it to protect her in inclement weather. Near freezing conditions and almost certain rain await everyone who chooses to hike this time of year in Northern Israel so this was an important consideration. We also purchased a new piece of gear for this trip, the infant leash! Hers attaches to a fancy unicorn backpack. She didn’t like the idea at first, but after we filled it with delicious treats, she is very happy when she sees it!
While in the Paris airport for the layover, we got coffee at a cafe to help make up for lost sleep. There was a Chinese family sitting at the table next to us wearing masks. We chatted with them a few minutes, although their English was only slightly better than our mandarin. Basically there are no flights home for them, although they have hope from one Chinese air carrier. We wished them well. On a side note, there have been lots of reports of “sinophobia” in the news (irrational fear is resulting in ratial profiling, avoidance, and worse towards all Chinese people because of the novel Coronavirus which is mostly spreading in the Hubei province). If you read this story and wanted to spray us down with hand sanitizer just for chatting with them, you probably fall into that category. For the record they were part of the billion+ Chinese that are not from the Hubei province…
After the couple hour layover, we caught our second flight into Tel Aviv, which Cheerio and Porter decided to sleep on, grabbed a taxi, and headed to our hostel for the evening. We stopped and had dinner with Alon from http://www.WalkInnIsrael.com who helped us arrange our upcoming hike. Hopefully we can get decent sleep before starting our hike!
Hike the good hike,
Sherpa and Porter (and Cheerio)