Toys en route

One thing I love now traveling as a mom with my young son? Less toys to clean up.

When we moved to Sweden earlier this year we downsized. A lot. At the time we had been living in a 5 bedroom house (or as someone called it a “mansion apartment” as it was the sprawling top two levels of an old house) and we had enough stuff to comfortably furnish and inhabit every room.

Moving to Sweden with no home or jobs in the works and also on savings to last us through worst case scenarios, there was no way we could afford what would have been exorbitant shipping fees for sending all of our stuff. Project downsize was cathartic, liberating, emotional and after a while just annoying (I had one social service agency that accepted donations tell me they couldn’t accept anymore from me as they were simply out of space to store it).

Our new life was more minimalistic than we had ever experienced together, aside from when my husband and I first met each other and each of us could fit all our belongings in a couple carloads. But this new minimalism was a project of necessity, not so much a deliberation of choice. With our decision to ‘start over’ in Sweden we really had no other option but to trim, trim, trim.

However, the once again growing toy collection takes center stage in our apartment. On a recent visit to Örebro, I relaxed in my seat in the train and just watched my son playing with the few toys I had packed for our little journey.  I realized that one thing I love about traveling these days, to be perfectly honest, is less toys to clean up!!! Of course, I love the adventure, the bonding en route and seeing his bright, wide eyes drink in the sights whenever we are at a new destination but tucked into that too is the sense of humor and relief at simply having less material chaos to manage.

In late January earlier this year, a couple of weeks before we moved to Sweden, my son and I hopped on an Amtrak train from Connecticut to NYC, as had become our custom while living in New England for quick little big city trips.  The train was busy and almost full and we made our way to the cafe car where we found an empty booth and immediately settled in, shortly afterwards seeing we were just adjacent to a father and his young son.  This father had had the wise foresight to pack a toy (some sort of transportation set) that would keep his son occupied for the entire ride.  They immediately engaged us and welcomed my son to play as well which he did.  It’s one of my greatest transit and travel memories as, for the entire ride to NYC,  our two boys sat adjacent to each other fully preoccupied by this set, allowing us adults to relax, enjoy the ride, have a glass of wine and talk life, politics, place and more.  I always knew to pack a few toys for my son when we traveled but seeing their set up enlightened me to how the right objects and activities could smartly engage a child’s attention for the length of a short trip and also to how relaxing and enjoyable this could be for us  adults as well.