The Appian Way, was just a short bus ride from the heart of Rome. Having biked for a bout a half a mile and dismounted for a rest, we relished the quiet of the countryside. Dannie and I hadn't ridden a bicycle in some time (let alone with a toddler sitting above the handlebars), and we both felt a little more comfortable on the ground. Lisa was loving every minute of the experience, and if she was happy, so were we. Our happiness was compounded by the sight of Lisa finally getting a chance to play with other children.
Though we often find ourselves in very crowded places, travel can at times be a lonely endeavor. Staying for a month at a time in city after city where we don't speak the local languages and don't know all the customs and particulars of day to day life, Dannie and I often feel like we are the only people in the world (except of course when Lisa is awake in which case it seems like she is the only person in the world). For Lisa, though, we sometimes worry that a lack of company might become a long term problem. She has no brothers or sisters, and though she seems to enjoy our travels, we worry that her only social outlet is her parents.
For Dannie and me, our main form of socialization is online. We enjoy sharing our travels on social media, and we love reading about what other families traveling the world with their children are experiencing. There are more of us than you might think! Every once in a while we see that another family we talk with regularly will be in the same city as us at the same time. During our April in Rome, we saw that Celine and Dan from Baby Can Travel were going to be crossing our paths. We chatted with them on Instagram (Follow @Babycantravel) and we pledged to keep an eye out for one another.
We've done this before with varying success, but Rome is a pretty big city. Wouldn't you know it though, while we were scouting the colosseum for this photoshoot (which we shot a week later), we heard a voice call out Dannie by name. Celine, Dan and their two children were in line behind us and they had recognized Dannie (no one ever recognizes me because I'm the one taking most of the pictures). We chatted for a bit, then made plans for a get together on the Appian Way.
The Appian Way is pretty long - 350 miles in total - but we thought we could probably swing the section that runs through Rome. We rented bikes near the entrance and asked how long it would take us to ride to the aqueduct park. They told us it was about 8km. Now, we're not entirely used to the metric system, but we had a feeling that 8km was a little bit too far for the two hours we had allotted before nap time. Both families resolved to ride as far as we felt comfortable, and just take it easy.
After all, our goal for the outing wasn't to get a workout, or even to see all the sights (though the sights were pretty nice). This was all about giving the kids a chance to play. Even when kids are good travelers - like the three that were there with us in Rome - you have to keep in mind that what they really want to do is play, learn, and socialize. In every direction there was nothing but shady roads and green fields.
We were so relieved to see that Lisa was taking to the other children. The younger one was about the same age as Lisa and the other was older by about a year. They ran together, collecting sticks and exploring the natural settings that we hadn't seen much of since we started our journey (Check out our one year travel itinerary). Somehow there was a part of us that had worried Lisa wouldn't know how to play with other kids, but of course that was way off. After a few moments of trepidation, she was acting like she had always known them. It's easy to forget how adaptable children are, even after they've been stuck in your own rut for a while.
While the kids played, Dannie, Celine, Dan and I chatted and traded travel stories. We snapped pictures and occasionally steered an errant toddler back toward the herd. When the shade grew sparse and nap deprived little ones started acting up, we began to make our way back toward the city. Lisa was asleep on my chest by the time we got home, and we knew she was dreaming about her next play date.
Also, it was pretty nice to have some fellow travel bloggers around who know how to use a DSLR. Finally, a photo with the whole family in it! Maybe next time I'll be the one who gets recognized on the street! What do you do to help your kids have fun while you travel?