Soul Traveller recently caught up with paediatric doctor and mother of two, Bongi Hill, to discuss her journey of parenting, and what it is like travelling with kids. Bongi is the proud creator of the instagram page @ndibambe which promotes her ‘gentle parenting’ journey and her family life in the idyllic region of Tulbagh, Western Cape.
Bongi’s page started as a space to connect with like-minded caregivers and we are very grateful that we can share her insights with our community. So without further ado, let’s get into it.
ST: Parenting is no easy task, but some people feel born for it. Did you always envision yourself as a mother and has the journey been what you expected?
BH: I always had a dream of becoming a parent and I truly believe I’ve been given extra grace for parenting. I didn’t enjoy being a mother to newborns/small babies. I prefer parent toddlers and older children. Each stage has its own challenges and joys but the newborn stage was very boring and draining for me. I’m really enjoying this time where I feel like I’m shaping my children’s characters.
ST: You mention in your bio that you are ‘Sharing my gentle parenting journey’ - can you tell the readers a bit more about what ‘gentle parenting’ is?
BH: Gentle parenting is basically parenting that is respectful and responsive to the needs of children with the intention of raising content and confident children. There is a wealth of scientific evidence to this approach of parenting. The four main tenets of gentle parenting are empathy, respect, understanding (understanding of your child’s brain and developmental stage) and boundaries.
ST: Has your personal philosophy always aligned to slow and conscious living, or was this something that was inspired/enhanced by having to raise little humans?
BH: No. This is a philosophy which developed in me after I met my husband. On our first date, Deane took me on a hike and on that hike we ended up collecting rubbish. I was not a hiking type of girl at the time and definitely not one to be picking up rubbish on a date. This horrified me but also intrigued me to want to know more about him and understand his values. Deane grew up with a deep love and concern for nature. As we dated and spent time together hiking, going for walks and on nature based holidays together this love and concern grew in my heart too. It has been enhanced by living on a farm surrounded by so much natural beauty and by wanting to preserve the earth for my little ones.
ST: Do you feel that travel is important for children's development and if so, why?
BH: Travel is a huge privilege and I don’t think it’s important for development. It is wonderful to be able to expose our children to different places, experiences and even cultures but there are more accessible and affordable ways of doing that too.
ST: When did you first start exploring with your kids?
BH: Lukhanyo was about 8 weeks old when we started traveling with him. We found it very easy as he slept a lot at that stage and adapted easily to new environments.
ST: What is the most fulfilling part of adventuring with your family?
BH: It is discovering new places and making memories together. We also enjoy having that dedicated quality time together.
ST: What research do you do before a trip to make sure you and your family will have a good time? What are some of the important things that you take into consideration?
BH: The place needs to be safe and secure. We avoid places without secured pools. In covid times we ask a lot of questions about social distancing and the hygiene protocols in place. We prefer to stay in places which are self-catering and fairly isolated from other people.
ST: Do you have a travelling-with-kids hack?
BH: We use Baby Jake’s Ultimate Baby Holiday Packing List for all our holidays. You need a list and you need to check it twice or you will forget things. Phone ahead to check if the accommodation provides things like a camp cot and highchair if needed. We pack our clothes in outfits for each day with extra changes of clothing for the kids. We always pack lots and lots of snacks. We make sure to take along the kids’ favourite soft toys and blankies. For long roadtrips, audiobooks and podcasts are a lifesaver. We always have activity packs that we take along for the car or airplane trips. We prefer these to be new activities or things which they don’t use or do often at home.
ST: Travelling with kids can be quite full-on, how do you balance your time with them and downtime for yourself?
BH: At least once or twice a year we travel to a place which has childcare or a special program for the kids. This helps a lot to give us time together as a couple and time on our own. As much as we love family holidays, we still try to do short holidays as a couple and solo trips with friends. This is important for us.
ST: What advice would you give to parents who are planning their first family vacation/weekend-away?
BH: Keep it close to home, less than 2 hours and short, 3-4 days max. It is a good trial run to figure out how your baby copes with travel and adapts to change.
We would like to thank Bongi for taking the time to answer our questions, and hope that our community found value in this. Let's connect in the comments and tell us what you think of travelling with kids.