Samai Haider – Lonely Planet's travel blog

Samai Haider – Lonely Planet’s travel blog

Samai and her travelling toddler hiking in Switzerland © Samai Haider

This month our spotlight is on the incredible writer, traveller, economist, artist and photographer Samai Haider. Samai shares her travel stories on her self-titled blog and is living proof that travelling with young children is not only possible, but may just be the most rewarding decision ever.

Give us the low-down on your blog…

My blog isn’t a travel blog in the traditional sense. It is more of a repository for all my published work – much of which is, admittedly, driven by my travels. While all my articles are written with the intent to provide information about a destination, I weave in personal anecdotes from my trips to create stories that I hope will give readers a true sense of the place and its people. I also use the platform to showcase my artwork, either sketches I’ve done while travelling, or abstract paintings inspired by the dramatic landscapes I’ve encountered on the road. Travel sparks my creativity, and through my writing and art, I hope to show others how travel can touch every inch of your soul.

Describe your travel style in three words…

Immersive. Budget-friendly. Gastronomic.

Top three places you’ve visited?

This list has been frightfully difficult to curate, but after much deliberation, my top three would be: Easter Island, Iceland and South Africa.

Samai's son on the steps of a 12th-century monastery in Bhutan Samai’s son on the steps of a 12th-century monastery in Bhutan © Samai Haider

What inspired you to start backpacking with your toddler?

As someone with an incurable case of itchy feet, I couldn’t fathom the possibility of staying away from the road as a new parent. When my son was a few months old, my husband and I took him on brief forays around the state, then weekend getaways interstate, before we finally took the plunge and went on a six-week jaunt to Europe.

As people who cherish being unencumbered by suitcases, preferring instead the freedom of hopping on and off buses and trains at whim, we thought Europe would be a comfortable place to ease back into backpacking. We headed off with only the most basic of baby supplies stashed into our single backpack and, of course, the staple in every new parents’ inventory, the nappy bag. We didn’t know if we could be the impulsive travellers we used to be, or even if the baby would take to being uprooted every few days, but we had to try.

On that trip, as we watched our year-old son happily chow down on escargots in Paris and take delight in riding tuk-tuks in Bangkok, we realised that even the youngest amongst us can be versatile and derive pleasure from new places.

Samai's son playing with children on Copacabana beach, Rio de Janeiro What better way for a kid to learn about the local culture than to meet the local kids? © Samai Haider

What have you learnt about yourself, your toddler or the world at large from travelling this way?

Backpacking with a two-year-old has been a vastly different experience from our travels in the past, and these days we find ourselves as dedicated connoisseurs of playgrounds over museums. Travelling long-term with a toddler, it is even more evident that the ups and downs of life don’t just stop because you’re doing what you love. So, I’ve learnt to be more flexible with my plans. I have learnt that it is possible to see previously visited sights in a new light, through my toddler’s eyes. I’ve learnt to linger in a place to absorb the local culture while making connections with people along the way.

I have also learnt not to underestimate a toddler’s memory or ability to form opinions. So far, my son has absorbed ‘Bhutanese dzongs’ into his vocabulary, adopted empanadas as a dietary staple in Argentina and, while in London, demanded a visit to London Bridge so he could sing ‘London Bridge is falling down’ while walking across it. But more than all the wonders I’ve witnessed so far, what has truly been life-changing has been watching my son bond with children across the globe, with little regard for language, age or race. I’ve learnt that a child’s play transcends all barriers.

Samai's son trying to dig up more Moai on Easter Island ‘Maybe there’s more Moai under here?’ © Samai Haider

Top tips for anyone thinking of travelling with under-twos?

  1. Maintain some semblance of a routine to help settle your child into their new surroundings.
  2. Be prepared to tackle temper tantrums and nappy changes in some fairly unorthodox situations. We have vivid recollections of changing nappies under the watchful gaze of the Moai on Easter Island and scrambling to quell an impending meltdown atop a 3000m-high Himalayan pass.
  3. Prep a child for air travel using books and stories so they know what to expect at the airport and while on the plane. While we made up our own stories about the airport (which became a favourite bedtime ritual), when it comes to flying, Maisy Goes on a Plane remains a personal favourite.

If you’re a member of our Pathfinders community and would like to share your story, drop us an email at and tell us what exciting things you’re up to on your blog.

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