Why do parents insist on taking their infants on holiday, asks Eli Orzessek.

A few weeks ago, I was telling my parents about my upcoming trip to the South Island.

"I've never been to the West Coast, so I'm quite excited - it's the only part of New Zealand I haven't really seen," I said.

"But you have been there," my dad responded.

I expressed some surprise at this, as I had absolutely no memory of the trip at all - and I can quite easily recall events from when I was 3 years old.


Apparently I was 5 months old at the time, packed into the back seat of our old Volkswagen Variant for a five-week tour of New Zealand.

A few months later, I was taken even further from my Auckland home - over to Germany to visit family for several months.

So when I read a recent story about a "travel-mad mum" who used her maternity leave to take her 10-week-old daughter on an epic adventure around the world, I pondered whether such experiences were wasted on the very young.

I mean, why bother dragging your kid on a trip around the world when they're not even going to remember a single bit of it?

I discussed this with a friend of mine who has a 1-year-old son. Before he'd even turned one, he'd been to Europe and back. I saw the pictures on Instagram and I can tell you, cute babies really do lend themselves well to travel pictures - although he is a particularly photogenic little dude.

They're heading on even more adventures this year - Hawaii in June, then Thailand and Borneo in November.

But it seems I made the mistake of thinking about travel from the perspective of a baby - apparently it's mostly about the parents.

"I don't reckon babies benefit a hell of a lot - but you do it for you, not them," she said. "No way am I sitting on the couch until he's old enough to enjoy it or stay home."

Young Eli Orzessek sees the world from a safe pair of arms. Photo / Dieter Orzessek
Young Eli Orzessek sees the world from a safe pair of arms. Photo / Dieter Orzessek

There's also the added benefit that under-twos are practically free on the plane and in accommodation.

My mother expressed much the same sentiment.

However, I think even if they don't remember these journeys once they're grown, babies truly live in the moment - like goldfish! The out-of-the-ordinary sights, tastes and experiences can only be good for their growing, sponge-like brains.

But it's not always easy and certainly not an endeavour every parent would want to undertake.

For my parents, the problem was mainly with accommodation - luckily our station wagon proved handy as an on-the-road hostel at times.

We slept on the stage of a West Coast church hall due to a lack of petrol and lodgings - talk about no room at the inn (yes, I just compared myself to the Christ child). A similar incident happened on our trip to Germany, during a visit to Sylt, the country's northernmost island. This time, a kind lady who cleaned the toilets at one of the lodgings that turned us down kindly offered us a room in her home.

The bulk of my world travelling was done under the age of 12. I've been lucky enough to see most of New Zealand and plenty of Australia, visited Germany several more times with great stopovers in Asia along the way and finally ticked Disneyland off my bucket list at the ripe old age of 11.

I sometimes wish I could redo some of those trips as an adult, because I didn't always appreciate it and spent a lot of time missing my Sega Master System. On our last family trip to Germany, I was particularly disgruntled about missing out on Form 1 camp on Motatapu Island - go figure. However, the endless travel diaries I was forced to write as "homework" seem to have come in handy - look at me now.

So all power to new parents who want to travel, I say. Whether it's a road trip around New Zealand or something further abroad, if you can make the most of paid-parental leave and get out of the house, why wouldn't you?