I never thought too much about the way my family travels through a new place. We walk, use public transportation and even rent a car from time to time. This is how we get around at home. It only seemed natural that we would do the same abroad.
Biking as a way to travel and explore was always for other people, the more adventurous, the more daring, the more in shape. It was not for me. That is until we arrived in the very flat, very bike friendly city of Ferrara, Italy.
In October my two boys, Dek age 3 and Ty age 6 months, headed to Italy as part of a 5-week adventure to visit friends around Europe. The city of Ferrara, located between Venice and Bologna, treated bikes as if they were cars, but cyclists did get to bend the rules a little.
On my first day in the city my friend suggested a bike tour with the kids. I was hesitant. I hadn’t been on a bike in years, much less had a kid riding behind me. Dek and Ty had never ridden as passengers on a bike either. This could be a very interesting adventure.
Dek held on tight, squealing with glee as the wind swept through his hair keeping us nice and cool. His brother Ty watched the world flash by him, not entirely sure what to think of this new mode of transportation.
I was transformed from a mere visitor to a local in no time. I rang my little bell to pass people; I used hand signals to let the cars know what we were about to do. I even yielded to pedestrians.
Later when my husband joined us on our adventure we got a sitter for all of the kids, and we got to go on a rare double date with our friends. Bikes were once again the preferred mode of transportation. No one had to chip in for parking; we just had to find a spot to pop the kickstand down right outside the restaurant. Talk about better than valet parking!
When we returned home to the states I began to reevaluate the way we traveled. Had we been missing an amazing opportunity all along? I think so. Even though we have young kids, hopping on a bike isn’t out of the question. Oh sure I was a bit sore after our rides and I have now been shamed into working out a bit more before our next adventure, but the possibilities of just how much we can explore has been blown wide open.
I am not an athlete. I am certainly not a cyclist. I’m not saying I’m going to be entering the Tour de France any time soon, but our Christmas wish list just got a little longer; we are going to need an infant bike seat and helmet to practice with at home. You can bet I’ll be looking into bike rentals for our next trip; it will be worth the extra expense.
Keryn Means is the founder of Walking on Travels, a site that gives hope to today’s modern parent who doesn’t want to stop their lives; they simply bring their kids along for the ride. You can find Keryn dragging her 2 boys around Seattle most days and across the globe several times a year. Follow along on their adventures on Facebook, Google+ and Twitter.
Photo credit: Keryn Means