Should I have Kids? And if yes, how can we most enjoy our time together? Part 1

 

I have no idea how you call this in English: Roller keg?! (Rollerfäßchen?). Great game on an alpine pasture with kids: Dad just has to rest and play the starting ramp, kids are busy rolling around :-)

I have no idea how you call this in English: Roller keg?! (Rollerfäßchen?).
Great game on an alpine pasture with kids: Dad just has to rest and play the starting ramp, kids are busy rolling around. 🙂 Foto: The Woodpecker Juniors at Eckbauer, close to Munich

To my experience, the issue of “should I have kids?” and “what is the benefit of that for me” are somehow seldom openly discussed in society. At least in Germany, this seems to be a very sensitive topic that is more avoided than money, job, or whatever else is important in life.

It is also a topic difficult to address, because it is personal and there are so many sensitive areas involved (health, finding a partner, age, economic situation, etc.). Who finds this topic too sensitive for him/her at the moment might want to stop here and not read on, as he/she might find my thesis offensive or in-sensitive. But in this blog I try to address the truth, and how I see it, the truth does not care if it is offensive or not.

Anyway, as I want to progress my blog a bit away from the “money” part and towards the “art of happy living” part, there is no way ignoring such an important topic as kids. As we will see, and those of you that have kids already know, kids will massively impact on your lifestyle and happiness. I’d even say there is nothing that changes your life and your view on the world as much as becoming a father or a mom.

This post is also more directed at younger readers, I want to inspire you to dive into the adventure of having kids (which, in Germany, unfortunately is not so naturally anymore).

All right, let’s start, and let’s keep the focus on the impact of kids on your happiness:

1) Empirical relationship between kids and happiness

The major happiness research literature did of course look at the influence of kids on happiness. They typically check if a person with kids living in her/his household is more happy or less happy than a person living without kids.

Here is the outcome.

Over all, and over different ages of the kids, your happiness will be more or less the same, no matter if you have kids or if you don’t have kids.

Sorry, kids do not seem to be the key to never-ending happiness, according to these studies.
They will also not make you unhappy, even if they cause stress or because they are very costly.
However, we will see below that the current statistical picture is incomplete and misses out a central point, thus be careful to over-interprete.

Lets split happiness effect by phases of kid’s age. For two or more kids, obviously the different phases overlap, increasing the amplitude of the family-adventure-rollercoaster even more. 🙂

 

Age minus 1 until 1 year: The Happy Toddling Baby Age

About half a year before the birth of your first kid, happiness level increases dramatically.
This is due to what I call the great adventure of birth, which, even for the father, is nothing short of a true magical moment. Forget about your greatest love in life, the biggest mountain you climbed, the highest bonus you ever got. Holding your own blood in your arms the first time, in much bigger than that. Creating life (especially the first time) is an experience that nothing else in the world comes up to and (in my humble opinion) should not be missed out by anyone, no matter what the costs are. It is a moment of utter meaningfulness, an integral part of life. That’s how I ever saw it even before having kids, and that is what I can confirm, having had the luck to experience this moment now myself two times.

Happiness levels stay high until the baby is about one year old, what I’d call the happy-new-parent-effect. Yes, you sleep terribly and very little, you will hate the screaming, the diapers etc., but this is all still thrilling and new, you still feel the aftermath of the magical moment of birth, and, very important: You are still very mobile, as you can simply carry the baby around and continue to go to parties or even do fancy travelling. Time to enjoy! Definitly take a lot of parental leave in this magical phase and do some nice and extended trip with your newborn! If ou do it right, you will never forget this great time of your life.

 

Age 1 until 3-4 years: The stressful extra-rush within the rush-hour of life

Unfortunately, happiness then drops off below non-kids-same-age-persons until the kid reaches the age of 3 or 4.
During that phase, parents are in fact less happy than non-parents. Reason is simple: At kids age 2-3 your personal freedom is restricted far more than you will ever know in any other phase of your life. Of course, the kid is still there, and it will provide a lot of great moments to you. But in the same time, the little person will not stay in a cradle and sleep while you carry him/her around, but he/she wants to participate.
Which is great, but rules out a lot of activities: No party, no dinner in nice restaurants, no chilling out for hours, no big mountain tours, no skiing, no museums, no reading the newspaper, no conversation longer than one minute with your wife/husband at the table when coming back from the office.
You get the picture.
You have to care a lot, and especially if you have two or more kids and both partners work to some extend, you will enjoy an absolute minimum of time to spend for yourself, for your friends and for your partner.
This is stress. And it collides with a time where your kid-less co-workers work long hours to make a career, and you can’t or don’t want to. Plus the kid-less have way more purchase power in that phase. They will buy many fancy things, spend a lot on eating out and on crazy holiday trips, while you do only “quite holidays”, bring your own food to the beer garden and buy used stuff at eBay due to your strained financial situation (lower income and higher costs at the same time).

My tip:

Great fun with kids: Watching movies / comics from when you were young.

Great fun with kids: Watching movies / comics from when you were young.

Make the best out of this time, try to spend as much time as possible with your kids to take part and enjoy their development. Remember that better times will come and later you will have ample time for yourself and all your Egotrips again.
Make clear at the job that family is priority, and if this is not accepted (which in Germany unfortunately is often the case) don’t care but make family priority anyway, or think about changing job, even if this creates additional stress for the moment.
Concerning money, read the chapters on frugal living, and always remember that the link between money and happiness is through relative wealth. Simply surround yourself with people on your (now lower) spending level and everything will be fine. Often this will mean that you spend more time with other families, and less with your kid-less friends, but that’s life. And no-one says you have to burn the bridges. One day it will fit better again.

 

Age 4-13: The Long Stretch of Family Happiness

After the age of 3-4, there comes the long stretch of family happiness, as I’d call it. It is a phase where parents are most happy, and happiness level rises significantly above non-parents. Woodpeckers just entered that phase (hooray!!), and it is in fact a great time, because now the kids are old enough to care for themselves in basic things (they can dress, they can go to toilet, they can say what they want, they can eat more or less properly) and they are now able to participate in activities that are also thrilling for adults (well, this is my view as a man at least):
You can do cycle tours with the 5-year-old, you can do the first mountain tours, you can start skiing together, you can buy a telescope and explain the stars, you can go to technical museums, build fancy sand castles or model cars, erect a fire, repair the car together, you can sleep at the mountain hut with other families and have a full fledged pillow fight, you name it.
And slowly you have more time again for yourself and your partner, as the kids accept a baby-sitter, sleep out at friends, are able to play an hour alone from time to time etc.

My tip:

Enjoy!
And spend as much time with your kids as somehow possible. This is the time to build the basis for a life-long relationship with your kids and simply have fun with them.
Your career now is ruined anyway (who cares?) and you adapted to having less money. You will have a large and ever-expanding circle of other families as friends by now that will make for great buzzing family gatherings. You will have plenty of time for non-family-adventures later in your life, so don’t worry if there is a still less of activities with your kid-less friends in this phase. It will come back.

You now also have sufficient energy back to sort our some things in your life that you might have postponed during the extra-ruch-hour-phase. As finding a new job (That’s what Woodpecker did a month ago and finaly got rid of his “uninspiring” old boss. Hooray again! …extra post to come on this topic).

You could also sign up for a cereal advertisement, because in this phase, you most likely will have that family-happiness-glow they want to see. 😉

 

13-17: Puberty or: Oh no! My son/daughter starts to develop an own opinion!

The stretch of family happiness apparently goes until the age of 12 or 13, until puberty. At that time, happiness research suggests that times get more rough again as conflicts with the kids will emerge, and on average parents happiness drop significantly. I cannot say anything on this, as Woodpeckers boys are 5 and 3 only, but from what I observe, actual happiness of parents differs widely in this phase, very much depending on the relationship they have with their kids.

Age 5: Hooray, mountaineering with the boys now available! And little Woodpecker even overtaking his dad in the deep snow. Grrr.

Age 5: Hooray, mountaineering with the older boy now available! And little Woodpecker already overtaking his dad in the deep snow. Grrr.

Thus my tip (its more a guess at this point of time, but I’ll tell you in 7 years 😉 ):

I think the more time you spent with your kids during the long stretch of family happiness, and the more you are able to develop common interest and activities, the easier it will be during puberty, because the common activities keep the connection.
E.g. Woodpeckers neighbour is very much into wild-water kayaking, and was able to infect his boy as well, many years ago. The boy is now 16 or 17 and they still do many boat trips together and apparently have a very good connection which in turn is strengthened by their common activity.
This should be the way to go through this phase with hopefully a minimum of collateral damage, I’d say.

 

Well, and the kids get out of the house.

There is no indication of happiness research on this phase. It is a pity, because it plays an important role, and might tip the “neutral happiness effect of kids” to a positive side.

I think there are two effects:

First you have to let go. I guess that might not be easy and you might find it difficult to go back to your empty-house-kid-less-life after so many years of chaos and life and action around you.

But then I also think that – given you were able to build a good relationship to your kids – there is an additional happiness boost to come:

Staying in good contact with your now grown-up kids, spend time with them, see them develop and later on care for the grand-kids. Finally, there hopefully will be somebody there to look for you from time to time when you get old, and to keep you up to date on how the world evolves when you are no more so connected with what is going on (Don’t flatter yourself, this time will come for each of us).

This is the part still missing in happiness research. I think all of this might add another injection of happiness to those with adult kids and might tip the balance to the positive, but I don’t know.

In the end probably – as so often in life – a lot depends on the relationship you are able to form with others, in this case your kids. As with the relationship to your partner or to your dearest friends, the relationship to your kids hold enormous potential. But you have to build it! This will take time, time, time.

So, in a nutshell: If you do it, do it right!

Next part we will shed light on kids’ impact on your economic situation (- – -) and on their impact on your philosophical/metaphysical situation (+++).

Cheers,

Woodpecker

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Frugal Winter Weekend in the Alps – Father & Son Style

View to Aschau from Kampenwand cable car.

View to Aschau from Kampenwand cable car.

This weekend, Woodpecker and his older, 5yrs old son decided it is time for a weekend in Nature again.

Actually my idea was to take young Mr.Woodpecker to his first alpine hut-weekend experience.

Checking short-term availability off DAV huts (=Deutscher Alpenverein, German Alpinist Association), the mountain Kampenwand close to lake Chiemsee was the target.

It’s an easy one to go with small kids, as most of the ascend can be done by a lovely, 60-year-old, retro-style cable car, the “Kampenwandbahn”.

The DAV hut up there is a self-catering hut, i.e. you get a key, they have fire wood, cold water and kitchen equipment up there, but the rest you bring yourself.

As always when going to the mountain, this little timeout was great:

  • Two meters of fresh snow for a great shoveling andigloo-building experience, in other words a kid’s paradise.

    Sunset at 4.30 p.m. A LOT of time for cooking now...

    Sunset at 4.30 p.m. A LOT of time for cooking now…

  • A fantastic dinner prepared by Mr.Woodpecker. I made it a habit to cook luxurious when being at huts in winter, as it gets dark at 5 p.m. anyway, so there is plenty of time to kill.
  • These huts are always good to get into contact. About 15 other interesting and diverse people stayed up next to us. Among them 5 kids, who, along with little Mr.Woodpecker quickly retreated to the upstairs dormitory for an extended pillow fight, while I and the other adults had some nice beers together downstairs in the “Stube” (=living room). From the noise pouring downstairs, I sometimes feared the wooden ceiling would break, but it obviously is used to a lot of jumping kids.
  • A chilly (3 degree Celsius) thus healthy night in the unheated dorm, enjoying my beloved down sleeping bag (recommended!). And the good feeling that our bodies are not yet fully softened by civilization.
  • A great downhill ride with the sledge we brought with us. In fact, the slope was close to what it doable with a small boy on the lap and a 20kg rucksack on the bag…but we made it! 🙂

Total cost for 2 days, 2 persons:

Brave Mr. Woodpecker junior climbing up to a snowy peak. (In fact he was quicker than me, as not sinking in so deep :-)

Brave Mr. Woodpecker junior climbing up to a snowy peak. (In fact he was quicker than me, because not sinking in so deep 🙂 )

  • 11,50 EUR for cable car (kids are free).
  • 12,00 EUR for night at hut (members tariff, kids are free).
  • 30,00 EUR cost for car-ride.

Total: 53,50 EUR. Without the bloody car ride, just 23,50 EUR. (I do not count the food, we would have needed that anyway)

This is what I call value! And better fun than most 5 star hotels I have ever seen. 🙂

Highly recommended! (Also without kids)

Cheers,

Woodpecker

On Kids and Happiness

Kids are great! The boys of the Woodpecker clan on a autumn hike to Kloster Andechs.

Kids are great!
The boys of the Woodpecker clan on an autumn hike to Kloster Andechs near Munich.

A question you are likely to come across in your younger years is:

Should I have kids?

And if I write “should I have kids”, I do NOT refer to a moral or social responsibility, I refer to YOUR wellbeing plus the wellbeing of the potential kid.
Not more. Continue reading

A Downshifter’s Boat Trip around Rügen, Baltic Sea. Or: Adventure and Kids, Part 2.

Nautic map of Ruegen, Germany, Baltic Sea. (more pics below)

Nautic map of Ruegen, Germany, Baltic Sea. (more pics below)

“You can’t do that, your kids are too young”

“Take it much more slow, think about the kids and if they can stand this”

“What if something HAPPENS?”

“I don’t know if kids of age 3 and 1 belong on a boat”

“Why don’t you go to a nice kids-hotel at the beach?”

This was some of the comments Woodpeckers got to hear when we quite spontaneously decided to do a family sailing trip on the Baltic sea around the island of Rügen (Germany).

Actually, why exactly didn’t we want to go to one of these family friendly kids-hotels, that other families in our situation cherish so much?

Because these hotels are boring!

They are ugly, noisy and hectic in their strange plastic charms. They are no adventure at all. They are quite the opposite: They are perfectly arranged avoidance of any unexpected or challenging situation.

And yet these kind of synthetic environments are very very expensive!

More expensive as chartering out a last-minute offer 32 foot sailing yacht at the Baltic sea.

So we did the latter.
Because if you are into it, a sailing trip – while being far from frugal – offers an excellent relationship of price vs. experiences, fun, being together, seeing and feeling nature. The high price is typically more than compensated by a unique experience.

And this is what happiness is about, and where I clearly deviate from the other early retirement and frugal living bloggers:

I am very fond of living efficiently and buying as little stuff as possible. And it is important to never spend more than necessary for a given good or activity as well as thinking twice or better thrice if it’s worth it. And to buy only things you really need and not things you are told to need. Reducing overall consumption and becoming less dependent on money is very important on your way to independence.

BUT:

If you really love something, and if you thought about it long enough, there is nothing wrong with spending on expensive hobbies or activities occasionally and in a conscious way as long as the satisfaction you gain is really deep and long-lasting.

Actually, happiness research has proven that spending money on activities/experiences is a good way to improve happiness – a far better way than spending money on stuff, on status symbols or on everyday consumption.

So the Woodpecker clan did exactly this:

Encouraged by our experimental sailing tour on lake Chiemsee we took advantage of some last-minute offer and a family visit in Hamburg and continued to the close-by and beautiful island of Rügen close to Germany’s Northeastern coast in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern.

And I dare say it was a fantastic tour!

No, our boat was a bit smaller... (Photo: Stralsund, home of Mrs. Merkel)

No, our boat was a bit smaller… (Photo: Stralsund, home of Mrs. Merkel)

Despite circumstances were ok only, but not optimal: Weather was quite heavy the first days. Lovely for a boy’s tour on the boat. But with wind around 5-6 Bft first three days, for a first family trip a bit less wind would have been sufficient.

I admit I was quite nervous when we started out in the marina of Breege during strong winds, occasional heavy rain beating down on me at the wheel and an unknown area around as well as an unknown boat under my feet.

However, I was very impressed on the good moral and maritime capability of my small crew, with Mrs. Woodpecker being an excellent first officer, steersman and boat handler at my side plus our two young captains!

So after one or two days the tension and my initial nerviness dwindled away and gave way to this deeply satisfying feeling you get if you do something that you really love, something that challenges you, while being accompanied by people you love.

Weather gradually got better too and so we had a fantastic tour around the island within one week. As described in the other post, we tried to adjust our pace and activities to the demands of the kids – and the kids in return loved being on the boat, seeing new places, exploring small fishing harbours, little towns and beaches when we were moored.

And soon we noticed that kids and boats are perfectly fine – as did dozens of families around us. Actually the area is very famous for family sailing, partly because it offers a lot of protected bays with reduced exposure to waves and weather.

Only drawback was that this was much to short a trip and necessary mileage per day to circumvent the island was slighty too high – so the plan now is to do an even more relaxed two weeks tour next year in the Mediterranean Sea.

Costs: Around 1100 EUR for the boar charter plus 250 EUR spending on food and marina fees.

This is not cheap, but for a family of four and an unforgettable experience, it’s not over the top either. Especially when you think about what others spend on their holiday air fares already.

The boring kids hotel would have been more expensive 😉

Cheers,

Woodpecker

____________________________________

Hover for caption, click to enlarge:

ps. Next post takes us to Poland – Germany’s eastern neighbour, where we continued our round trip – by car not by boat unfortunately…

You got kids, or thinking of having some, but love adventure? Just go for both!

Boat at Seebruck harbour.

Boat moored at Seebruck harbour.

Having two little boys around like Woodpecker’s definitely changes they way you live.

Kids are no machines and do not function like machines. However hard modern society seems to try to force them into the tact of modern economy, they very often happily resist these attempts. Kids show us in a refreshing way that the natural state of living is not about looking at the watch and reaping “profit” as efficiently and as quickly as possible, but about taking your time, concentrating on the here and now, enjoying your body, nature, the beauty of the world and let yourself not be hasted by calendars, clocks or duties.

In fact, there is no such thing as a “duty” to a small kid, except enjoying themselves. What a good life!

Needless to say that downshifting – however much recommended to anyone – is absolutely mandatory once you have kids.

It is a real and shameful waste of some of the potentially best years of your adult live when you just continue your race in the thread-mill once your kids arrived to this beautiful world. And it would be something you very likely will heavily regret on your deathbed – as millions have done already: “Spending much more time with family and friends” and “much less time working on a career”, is one of the most frequent statements of dying people throughout the world when asked what they would like to change in hindsight.
What a tragedy to recognise this only in your last hour!

However, for many people the thought of kids is very much connected to abdication of control and freedom.

Although some of that is true (some things will not be possible to you for some time – though for some limited time only), Woodpecker, as a outdoor and travel-maniac is very glad to have found out that one thing still is possible:

Doing adventures, thrilling traveling and varying endeavours are possible with kids as well as without!

There is absolutely no need to stay at home, to spend all your free time at grandparents only or in one of this awful and non-frugally overpriced family hotels with full-time care for the little ones (so that again you don’t have to spend time together).

Only ingredients you need to experience something special are:

Lunchbreak at Frauenchiemsee (an island).

Lunchbreak at Frauenchiemsee (an island).

  • Faith in your kids,
  • Understanding of their needs, and
  • Time, time, time!

Recent proof from the Woodpecker’s tribe was a two days overnight sailing trip on a small rental yacht on lake Chiemsee.

A fantastic lake next to the towering mountains, big enough to have some sailing fun, but small enough to offer a secure and save “testing-ground” before going something more sportive.

And what fun it was!

The kids were quite fascinated about the different way the world looks from a boat, they loved to sleep all together in its cave like cabin and the elder one found some fun in taking the ruder as well (which was way larger than he is) – although any cop would have taken us for drunkards when looking at our sailing path then ;).

I was not so sure if all would work out that well, because only two adults on board plus two kids means scarce resources to do all the stuff that has to be done on a boat. But again I was proven wrong, and chances are that Woodpecker can continue his beloved hobby also in the circle of his beloved family! Hurray to that!

You are not a sailor and don’t care a damn about Woodpecker’s little lake adventures?

Well, no problem, here is the good news:

The above holds true for about any other of your hobbies and fondness as well!

  • Small kids can climb mountains with you (you might have to carry them on your back though).
  • Small kids can be taken on a bicycle trip from Paris to Istanbul (although you might have to carry them in a trailer).
  • Small kids can join you on a trek trough Africa in a Unimog (and enjoy it!).
  • Kids can go uphill ski-tours with you (from maybe the age on 12 on).
  • You can to a “mens/women only” weekend city trip with your 3-year-old (see Woodpeckers father and son trip to Vienna).
  • You can take your kids to surfing, riding, kayaking, cooking, museums (or boy loves museums), theater (well not at age 3 though) and so on.
  • You can drive by car to the end of turkey or Sicily or you can take them to a backpacking trip through Mexico.

These all are real examples I have seen or done and all of them worked well!

The thing is:

You need TIME, you have to adjust the pace of all the above needs to the kids rhythm, and you have to build in kids specific features.
E.g. on a sailing trip you sail 4-5 hours per day instead of 8, you make a lot of stops for swimming, you construct funny things to tow behind the boat, you tell tales of pirates and discoverers, you do a water-fight on deck and frequent land excursions.
In other words you simply do what you loved your father/mother to do when you were a kid.

And then you can do everything. Kids are quite robust, they lived in caves and rode on horses with our ancestors, they seem to stand heat or humidity better than I do (because I am the guy who has to carry the rucksack…), they have no problem with a lack of luxury or strange foreign people.

It is never the kids who are the limiting factor. It is the parents.

It is parent’s stress, their lack of time and faith, their impatience that is limiting your family!
Downshift, overcome these factors and you will have a great time. And your kids will have a fantastic childhood!

Cheers,

Woodpecker

The joy of a Father&Son trip: Vienna

The Vienna Giant Wheel - teaser for big little Woodpecker

The Vienna Giant Wheel – teaser for big little Woodpecker

Since a long time I am thinking to write a post about children and happiness. But never found the right angle to do so until now.

Because if you simply look at the statistics, they will tell you that after an initial boost, happiness and having kids is not really correlated.

Thats good news out there for people without kids: You can still be and stay happy!

But why is it then, that for Woodpecker myself having kids was an enormous life changer, and all to the better despite all that diapers, costs, sleepless nights, etc.?

I’ll put up the following theory (happy for any comments):

If you get kids and then want to continue an un-downshifted life devoted to work like you had it before without kids (as many people seem to do), then your happiness probably will stay flat.
Reason is that any happiness gains from having the kids (coming via the affection, your hormones, the new angle you’ll see the world from, a boost in optimism about the future, the sheer fun you can have with them etc.) will be counter-balanced by negative effects like having much less free cash-flow to consume plus having much less free time for other activities, if both partners are stupid enough to continue working full-time.
That’s a sad situation, but one that I can frequently observe among friends and colleagues. Many people do not really set the stage for enjoying the gift of kids to its full extend.

In contrast let’s look at a situation where you already are committed to downshifting, i.e. money and consumption does not play that much a role for your life satisfaction. And you work as little as possible and have no TV thus time is an ample resource to you (maybe that ample that you actually are one of the few happy people today that still know the feeling of boredom 😉 ).
Then kids will bring a wonderful boost of happiness to your life, so please:

Go ahead when thinking about having kids! Don’t wait for the “perfect point in time”, just do it now, before it is too late!

Hurray to father and son

Last week Woodpecker had some days off plus one of Germany’s luckily numerous public holidays (The day of work 😉 Hurray!)
Unfortunately, Mrs Woodpecker was not able to take this days off, so Woodpecker and Big Little Woodpecker (the three-year old boy) decided to do a mens-trip to my favorite city in the world, Vienna.

Vienna is the city I myself had my first father and son trip to ages ago, when we quite frugally cycled down the Danube from Passau to Vienna (yes, Woodpecker’s father was a good example in downshifting and having time for his kids as well!).

Vienna is the city that Woodpecker went to on his first holiday without parents and a friend only, when he was 16.

And it was the city Woodpecker had a simply wonderful time spending a year abroad during studies.

Now it would be the first city for big little Woodpecker to visit with his father alone (Ha! Dear old dad, outperformed you on that one 😉 ).

I’ll write about the uncountable beauties of Vienna in this separate photo-post, but here I’ll focus on promoting trips with your boy/girl as early as you can.

Fun and Fun costs

Well, it was a men’s trip, so we did take our comforts (by Woodpecker’s standards at least).

We spent the tremendous and unfrugal amount of I think 50 EUR at Viennas fun park, the Prater, riding the ancient giant wheel, a mini train, a horse (well, actually the little one did, and talked about it for days), auto-scooter, carousels etc.  while we were enjoying tons of totally unacceptable and unhealthy food besides. As some of you might know, it is not easy for a downshifter to spend money so recklessly (for most of the population it would have been a perfectly normal costly visit to a fun park though).

But wise Mrs. Woodpecker instructed me please not to look at money on this trip to make it something special. So we didn’t.  🙂

Next we had lots of more unhealthy food by enjoying at every occasion (and there are plenty!) the most of Vienna’s fantastic sweet bakery and confectionary products. We visited some Museums, see next post. Despite being three years old only, big little Woodpecker has more stamina in Museums than old Woodpecker, and he loves them.

The Vienna Tramway. Turned out to be THE highlight for the boy.

The Vienna Tramway. Turned out to be THE highlight for the boy.

And – very important – we made very ample use of our four day public transport ticket (only 16 EUR), riding the beautifully old-fashioned Vienna tram-ways up and down all of the city for sheer fun.
And, boy, that was fun!
Big little Woodpecker in the end was even more pleased by that simple and cheap pleasure than by riding the horses and the giant wheel at the Prater! At least 5 times a day he saw a tram somewhere and said: “And now, we have to ride that one, dad!” And so we did!

Two additional observations:

Feeling the time

As described here, Woodpecker’s sole new year’s resolution for 2013 was to experiment with time and e.g. living without a clock for a prolonged time.
We did exactly that the whole four days, except when we had to reach the trains to and from Munich.

We did not purposely look at the watch at all.

We simply slept until we woke up, got to breakfast (luckily the body clock is clever enough to wake you in time for that), start the day.
Looked for food when we felt like.
Did a break when the mood was for it.
Went back when any of us started to feel tired and slept when our bodies told us now it is time to stop to daff around in the chamber and to close the eyes. One day bed-time must have been after 11 p.m, after we had to make a final tram drive plus an ice cream in the dark. This is way later than the boys usual time, but then the next day he decided to do an additional nap around midday – a good opportunity for Woodpecker to have a coffee and read the newspaper.

What a fantastic experience! Simply drift through the sunny days and see where they are taking you!

Highly recommended with or without kids.

The plus with kids is, that this is actually their natural state of living, and I firmly belief you will see how relaxed even the most stressed and nervous kid would become, once you take the pressure of the clock from them. A very rewarding experience.

Getting into Contact

On top, doing it the slow way does get you into contact with all kinds of people, mainly locals. This is actually boosted if you are travelling as a father with a young kid, as fathers with young kids unfortunately still is a seldom thing in todays crazy world of work.

All the disadvantages that you still will encounter at your workplace if you seriously take out time for your family as a father are paid back by friendliness of people towards you if you move around with your small kid in public.

Example? Two times (!) tram-drivers got up from their steering wheel and helped me carry out the buggy without me asking them to do so.
Ten or twenty times I was approached by total strangers for a chat.
At least five times or so I got into contact with other parents as my and other kids teamed up for playing in one of the wonderful city parks.
At least five times the boy benefited from some sweets some people insisted on sharing with him.
All of the three breakfasts and one train ride we spent in nice conversations with other travellers.

Thus: Kids boost your social contact. Especially when travelling with one parent only.

Base Costs

As said, costs on fun, entrances and food were ridiculously high by Woodpecker’s standards.

But, guess what? Thats all no problem, as our “base costs” were really low, making the overall trip frugal again, despite a very loose brake on daily spending.

Of course we took the train to Vienna, relaxed, much more fun and contact, and cheaper than the car. With the regular special “Europe” offer, it was 90 EUR in total, kids being free.

Being there we stayed in a Youth Hostel for only 20(!) EUR per night, including breakfast. Kids again free. Absolute central location (send me a mail for details), two-bed rooms with own shower. Well, very basic but quiet and clean, what more do you need?

Thus a quick overview on total cost:

Woodpecker’s trip Average family trip Extreme frugal option
Transport for 2 Train, 90 EUR Car, 700km+parking, 150 EUR Car-Sharing, 50 EUR
Accommodation 3nights Youth Hostel,60 EUR 3nights Normal Hotel, 300 EUR As Woodpecker, 60 EUR
Necessary Food Eating out, plus some take away and picnics,70 EUR Eating out only,160 EUR Only picnics, 50 EUR
Fun Food Ice cream, pastry (a must!), frequent coffees (a must too in Vienna),50 EUR 50 EUR 0 EUR
Entrance Fee Museums, Fun Park,50 EUR 50 EUR Museums 20 EUR
Total, 2 persons, 4 days 320 EUR 710 EUR 180 EUR

Not too bad, isn’t it? 320 EUR for four days fun for two. Still fine with me, given we were so relaxed on costs. And still much closer to the extreme frugal option than to the average family trip.

The secret is that accommodation, transport and Eating out make most of the difference. Keep those in check and the luxury of daily spending will be ok.

Summary

All in all one of the best trips I had in my life, and of a total different nature than anything before.

A trip alone with your kid will force you to concentrate fully on him/her. If you do that and are willing to forget the clock, this will be a very relaxing experience.

It will make you see the world from a different angle.

It will be full of social contact.

It can still be frugal while having a lot of fun.

Go ahead and do it! (Or get a kid first 😉 )

Cheers,

Woodpecker