By Alyce Collins
THIS OFFICE WORKER used her maternity leave to begin her dream of TRAVELLING and has since visited several continents and even got pregnant again on the road – and now she hopes to inspire other expectant mothers to travel without fear.
Head of design, Val Berndt (35) from Berlin, Germany, was delighted to find out she was expecting her first baby with husband Ben, in 2016 and even more excited to think about ditching the office scenery during maternity leave.
From early on in her pregnancy, Val started to enjoy the prospect of travelling after welcoming their first born because there could be no better chance. So, six weeks after their daughter was born in March 2016, they set out travelling from Berlin to the south of France.
Since beginning their journey in May 2016, the family have travelled round Europe, Africa, South-East Asia, Australia and New Zealand. A firm favourite of Val’s was Cape Town in South Africa for its stunning landscape and plethora of activities.
While they were travelling through New Zealand, Val found out she was pregnant for a second time, to her shock and excitement. Driving through certain winding roads became increasingly difficult as Val became nauseous, and hiking in the mountains of La Réunion grew tougher.
The family travelled to Bali where the intense heat was challenging for Val, who experienced many pregnancy symptoms. However, the greater challenge was maintaining her hospital appointments while travelling, each time seeing a new doctor who needed to be told of her previous appointments, symptoms and problems. Val later welcomed her second daughter in August 2017.
Many women steer clear of travelling to such an extent while pregnant, but Val hopes to encourage more men and women to travel, and to help pregnant women feel less fearful of travelling during pregnancy.
“My husband was self-employed with several tech start-ups and I used to work as a health economist for pharmaceutical companies,” said Val.
“I was always very career oriented. However, we used to travel every day whenever we took time off work.
“When I was pregnant, I started to think about what I would do with what I thought would be free time during my maternity leave – little did I know back then. I was the one who was bound to an office, so we decided to start traveling.
“It was absolutely clear that we would go on the road and for us it was the right thing to do. All the obstacles that we faced when organising the trip were worth it and we never questioned our decision since we were so excited. We started to travel when our first daughter was six weeks old.
“First, we just wanted to drive to the south of France with our bub and be on the road for a couple of months. When we reached the south of France, we decided to drive further to Spain and then Portugal and the rest is history.
“We actually stayed a while in Cape Town as it was the most amazing spot. The landscape is stunning and incomparable to any place in the world. It’s international, so you feel at home instantly, the climate is great and very kid-friendly.
“You have the comfort of a western style infrastructure and the highest density of day activities – it’s so diverse that it never gets boring.
“Then one day I felt a bit sick and took a pregnancy test, which came back positive. Being pregnant and travelling was tough sometimes, especially while driving down winding roads in New Zealand, we had to take breaks for hours.
“When we were in La Réunion, we went hiking in the mountains and realised that an easy hike is actually really steep and tough. Also, the heat in Bali is killer when you’re pregnant and I had all the symptoms as well.”
Val had difficulty scheduling her medical appointments throughout the pregnancy, but by being organised and knowing when and where she needed to be seen, she managed a healthy pregnancy while on the road. Val and Ben welcomed their second daughter in August 2017.
Val hopes that her experience helps other women feel less scared of travelling during pregnancy as she didn’t return to Germany until she was 32 weeks pregnant.
“It was difficult to get all the check-ups with different doctors who don’t know your history and dealing with so many different health care systems,” said Val.
“It was hard to deal with the various systems and bureaucracy. I once ended up crying in a physician’s office when I showed up with an appointment and they told me I couldn’t see a doctor.
“I received a lot of messages via Instagram from other pregnant women who wanted to travel but were scared. Many just want someone to tell them that they will be fine, but no one can give you that guarantee.
“There are definitely risks that you are taking, and no one can take them away from you, but for me it was all worth it. Sitting under palm trees, with a light breeze, next to a beach and watching my toddler play in the sand was all I needed.
“Since having our second child, travelling has become more difficult. Before, we used to stay for a week in one location and then move on. With two under two, that’s simply impossible, so, we stay at least one month in each location.
“Sometimes travelling can be difficult and you might wonder why you do it, but then flicking through all of the pictures you can take shows it’s the best decision in life. Leave your sofa and get out there.”
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