We have always prided ourselves on our status as no-frills, minimalist, rough and ready travelers. We pack carry-ons only – no checked luggage – and try not to worry when our hostel of choice tends a little more to the medium scary side than we expected. No door on the bathroom? No problem. No Wifi or air-conditioning? We’re not here to check our email. No electricity after 8 pm, when the generator shuts off until the following morning? We’ll get up and go to bed with the sun, like explorers or pioneers! After all, this concrete box outfitted with a mattress and suspicious mosquito netting is only costing us $4/night.
I so badly wanted this travel mindset to continue after Connor was born (I hear you laughing, reader). As we prepared for our latest trip to Muscat, friend after friend recommended that we stay at al-Bustan Palace, a five star beachside resort by the Ritz Carlton. They raved about the pools, the food, the service, the cabanas on the beach. But we resisted.
I made reservations at a very nice guesthouse instead. We had a private room and bathroom, a communal sitting area and kitchen, and a rooftop bar. At one time, even this would have seemed extravagant. It wasn’t until our arrival that I began to suspect I had miscalculated.
We spent one very long night in the very average accommodations. The beds were hard and uncomfortable, the house and street noisy, the WiFi spotty. Worst of all, the air conditioner sputtered pitifully and in its futile efforts to make a dent in the oppressive heat. As anyone who has ever had an uncomfortable baby can attest, no one slept well. At 6 am, Dave and Connor went for a walk. By 7, we had thrown in the towel. And by 9 we were in a cab on our way to the Ritz.
Our priorities, we discovered, even as travelers, are different now. When one-third of your travel party gleefully throws their orange slices on the floor before trying to eat them, or very carefully picks up all the carpet lint for a quick snack, cleanliness takes on a new dimension. And with two naps a day and an early bed time, a quiet, cool, dark room becomes a necessity, and fast internet and reliable room service critical for the parents waiting out those naps. For the first time, we found ourselves spending hours in our hotel room while Connor slept, rather than out exploring our travel destination. And when he awoke, we were only an elevator away from pools, beaches, and restaurants – all places he could explore in safety and comfort. No treacherous sets of stairs, no cars, and much to his disappointment, no stray cats.
I thought I would miss the sense of adventure, the excitement, of the way we traveled before. And though it’s certainly been a change, it’s been good. I spent the weekend watching Connor have his own tiny adventures – fascinated with the way the waves washed up and down the beach, horrified by the way the sand shifted under his feet until he realized he could still walk, single-mindedly determined to catch all the birds pacing the hotel grounds. We were finally in a safe, baby-friendly place that encouraged him to explore, to have new, pint-sized discoveries, but comfortable enough for us all to relax.
I’m sure one day, when he’s older and sturdier, we’ll go back to our old ways. But for now, I supposed I can make this sacrifice.