Interview with Wani Baumgartner: Globe-Trotting Mother of Three

09 May, 2024 | Blog, Interviews

Let’s meet Wani Baumgartner, Malaysian-Swiss traveller and mother of three young boys. Inspired by a chance encounter with a Japanese traveller, she set a bold goal: to visit 100 countries by the age of 30. After saving and receiving support from her father, she embarked on a six-month journey, meeting her Swiss ex-husband in Buenos Aires along the way. Settling in Switzerland, she’s now a mother of three boys, having achieved her goal at 28. With 143 countries explored, Wani continues her global quest, often with her boys in tow!

Wani Baumgartner and her sons

You can also watch this interview in video form on our NomadMania YouTube channel. This interview was conducted by Central Africa NomadMania envoy, Obed Temba.

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Why did you choose to involve your children in your extensive travels? What inspired you to share your adventurous lifestyle with them?

Parenting is undeniably challenging, regardless of location. We choose to incorporate travel into our family life because we believe it enriches our experiences and broadens our perspectives. During school terms, we prioritize stability at home, but when holidays come around, we seize the opportunity to explore new destinations. From an early age, our children have been exposed to diverse cultures and landscapes, with our oldest visiting 33 countries across six continents by the age of three.

Wani with her sons

Despite the logistical hurdles, including managing work commitments and navigating unexpected challenges like illness, we approach each journey with a sense of adventure and adaptability. We believe in seizing the moment and embracing new opportunities, even in uncertain times like when we ventured to India amidst the COVID outbreak. Through travel, we aim to instill in our children a sense of curiosity, resilience, and appreciation for the world around them.

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How do you envision your children’s identities evolving as they adapt to various cultures from a young age, considering how quickly children absorb new experiences? Do you have any thoughts on how their early exposure to diverse cultures might shape their sense of self in the future?

I believe it’s beneficial for my children to have their roots here in Switzerland, where they attend school and are exposed to German, Swiss German, English, and Malay. Despite traveling less with them since my divorce, we still embark on European road trips, recently returning from Paris.

Wani with two of her sons

While the cultural exposure may be less dramatic now, I make a point to share my travel experiences with them, showing them the world map and recounting stories from various countries like Saudi Arabia and Venezuela. By consistently exposing them to different cultures and places, I hope to broaden their perspectives and instill in them a sense of curiosity and fearlessness towards the unknown, nurturing them into compassionate and worldly individuals.

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What do you think was your worst experience as a parent travelling?

One particularly grueling experience was my journey to Nicaragua during the pandemic. Traveling solo with three young children, we embarked on an educational adventure, staying in the jungles of Nicaragua. Despite the promising itinerary of Spanish lessons and excursions, the reality was far from ideal. We grappled with a nine-hour time difference, stifling heat, incessant mosquitoes, and unreliable amenities like non-functioning fans and Wi-Fi.

Navigating through unfamiliar territories with sick children, limited food options, and logistical obstacles proved immensely demanding. My youngest son’s tooth infection further complicated matters, requiring an arduous journey to find suitable dental care. Amidst exhaustion and frustration, I found myself grappling with basic necessities like sourcing fresh produce in an unfamiliar environment.

Wani with her sons

Reflecting on this ordeal, I realized the importance of balancing adventure with practicality. Subsequent trips, like my visit to Cabo Verde, taught me to prioritize comfort and convenience, especially when traveling alone with three children amidst a global pandemic. From negotiating seating arrangements on flights to navigating airport procedures with tired, cranky children, each journey presented its own set of challenges.

Wani with her sons

Despite the hardships encountered, these experiences have shaped my approach to travel and parenting, emphasizing adaptability, resilience, and the importance of meticulous planning. Through it all, I remain committed to providing my children with enriching experiences while prioritizing their well-being and safety.

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Tell us about your best experience as a parent travelling

That is very tricky. Recently, my approach to travel with my children has shifted towards embracing slower-paced journeys, where we immerse ourselves in a single location for an extended period. This deliberate choice has led us to explore the wonders of nature through activities like hiking, capitalizing on our access to the majestic Alps in Switzerland. Additionally, we have made several excursions to Paris. These have provided a fascinating glimpse into the urban life, allowing my children to explore its rich cultural heritage, artistic offerings, and diverse culinary delights.

Wani and kids in Switzerland

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How do you manage when a child falls ill during travels? How do you handle mealtime routines with them? Do you find they adapt naturally or do you employ specific methods regarding food?

When a child falls ill during our travels, it’s always a challenge. I remember our early days in India when the kids were sick and craving comfort food, particularly sushi. Despite our efforts to find a Japanese restaurant in Jaipur, we ended up resorting to familiar options like McDonald’s until they felt better. Eventually, we transitioned to local cuisine, and the boys enjoyed dishes like butter chicken with rice and naan.

Wani with her sons

However, our trip took a turn when we all succumbed to food poisoning in Udaipur, resulting in a day of recuperation for each of us. Despite the difficulties, we managed as best we could, even navigating unexpected challenges like a child vomiting in a restaurant without spare clothes. Travel with kids is unpredictable and you just have to make do.

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How do you ensure your children adapt to life while travelling, especially regarding mealtime routines and daily plans?

All parents know this—you always pack snacks. It’s a must. Additionally, I find it helpful to inform the kids about our plans the day before, ensuring they’re prepared. Throughout the day, I keep them updated on what’s happening next. Being aware of your children’s needs, especially regarding eating situations, is crucial. The more prepared you are, the better you can handle unexpected situations. Flexibility is important.

Wani with her sons

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Can you offer some words of encouragement to those who aspire to travel like you but may be hesitant to do so?

Don’t be afraid; it is definitely achievable. Many people are already doing it. If they can, so can you. If I can, you can too. The key is to try without fear. Do your research, educate yourself. Prepare thoroughly, then take action. Start with small steps.

As you progress, you’ll realize what’s possible. Keep pushing your boundaries and eventually you’ll achieve whatever you set your mind to. It’s entirely possible.

Wani with her family

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Finally, our signature question, if you could invite two or three people to dinner (dead or alive) who would you invite? 

I would invite Harry Mitsidis and one of the remarkable women who have traveled to every country.

Wani and Kion in Malaysia

Don’t forget to follow Wani’s incredible journeys on her travel blog, Instagram, and Facebook!

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