Author: Anna Sulewska
Photo:Anna Sulewska & Thomas Alboth
We met the Gipsy King in Moldova, became good friends with a poor family in the autonomous republic Transnistria, fell in love with Crimean landscape, hated corrupted Russian police, had a good rest in Chechen villages in Georgia, melt in 42 Celsius degrees in Azerbaijan, got wet in Nagorno-Karabakh, were asking questions about Turkey in Armenia and about Armenia in Turkey. And all this with a small, not even one year old daughter Hanna. And all this against a common opinion that from the moment of having a baby your world is over.
Our generation travels around the world, there and back, from a hostel to a couch found by Hospitality Club. Our generation creates international couples, speaking two or even three languages. Our generation believes that world belongs to us and nothing can change this freedom. Until certain point…
This point, in too many cases, is pregnancy. The time of expecting this sweet, international, multilingual baby, sometimes even made during a trip or in another country. Time of thinking about how life is changing, how much it will not be the same anymore. At this time many couples are deciding about “the last” trip, with a growing belly, but still only in two. Because later on the backpack will change into a stroller, books into diapers, conferences into walks to the park and traveling into visiting grandparents.
But it doesn’t have to be like this. We (a Polish-German couple met in Brussels during an international conference) decided that baby will not change our dreams but that we can share those dreams with the baby. Dreams about traveling.
And that is how it was. Mama: a Polish journalist and papa: German photographer took small Hanna for a trip around the Black Sea. A six-month-long trip, by car, through nine countries (Romania, Moldova, Ukraine, Russia, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Armenia, Turkey and Bulgaria) and three “kind of” countries (Transnistria, Gagauzia and Nagorno-Karabakh): visiting our friends – journalists, tiny and big villages, talking to men and women of hundreds of ethnic backgrounds, listening to their stories and reporting about it.
The first big question was the destination. We had 6 months and the world map in front of us. Where to go? For us it was clear from the beginning that the first big trip with our small Hanna will be by car. So suddenly our two backpacks grew into a Renault Espace – a real family car – full of nappies (they took most of the space), baby food (it’s just much easier to have it readymade), baby clothes (because this kid is growing every day) and travel bed for Hanna (so that she has her own castle and a safe, well-known place). This time we were not the hitchhikers anymore, but the family which can pick up other people.
Secondly, we were sure to choose not too distant route in order to be able to come back fast, if needed, if Hanna were not as a big fan of traveling as we hoped. So, all Latin America will still wait for us in the future. Thirdly, we both were always interested more in the east than in the west. The European Union countries are more and more similar to each other, shopping windows are the same everywhere, people wear the same clothes. So…into the east! We looked at the map and the Black Sea route came up naturally: Such a nice, complex circle. Always going forward, never back. We have been (or at least one of us) in almost all of those nine countries before, we know the languages (Russian, Polish, Ukrainian, German, English); we have many friends on the way. And there is a sea! And it will be holidays, all in all.
We were lucky enough not to need to check Couchsurfing and Hospitality Club all the time because thanks to previous international projects – we had friends. And all you need is friends! Some give you their bed or a space on the ground; others will help with the hospital or police. Fortunately, we have many friends in all the countries we were going to. So there was a possibility of using a washing machine or updating our blog. Secondly, we prepared our car in the way that we could comfortably sleep in it. Thirdly, we had a tent which we, in the end, used only three times. And in worst cases there were always hostels and rooms to rent (which can be cheaper than one night in our room – which we rent for the time of the trip – in Berlin; at the end we paid only for 14 nights during this half-a-year trip).
So our baby said her first words in Ukrainian Crimea, was grabbing noses of Russian policemen in North Ossetia, learned what sound the cow makes (“mooo”) not from a book with sounds, neither from TV but from… the real cows passing by them every morning. She was practicing walking on the top of Caucasus Mountains in Georgia, dancing along Chechen songs. She is not afraid of Muslim veils or border crossings (we crossed 20). Just after her first birthday she took a bath in the Caspian Sea, was using sometimes Polish and sometimes German passport (depends which visa was cheaper) and calling mama “anne” (in Turkish), after just few days in Ankara and Bursa.
And we, as her parents but also as young Europeans, were happy to discover so much, not within a project, not at a conference, but during “just” a family trip. And now we know very well that having a baby, even for a journalist, doesn’t narrow your life, but broadens it – like traveling!
(more detailed stories from the trip on: http://thefamilywithoutborders.com/)
“To want” means “to be able to” is one of the winning articles of the Mladiinfo Article Writting Contest