The Middle East has long been on my bucket list, so when I found a group trip to Jordan last year, just as Covid restrictions started to ease, I knew it had my name on it. I’m in my early 30s and my husband and I were planning to start a family at the time. I thought, “If I don’t go now, I never will.”
My husband is a homebody, whereas I have a strong adventurous streak, so I’m used to travelling on bigger trips without him. We complement each other well, but he doesn’t want to do long-haul hiking or far-flung escapes, just as I’d opt out of a five-day golfing holiday. We’re both happy doing what we do best, without holding the other person back.
I wasn’t expecting to be pregnant when I booked the trip
All this meant that I was really drawn to the idea of travelling to Jordan with a hand-picked group of people like me, who share my love of different cultures and new experiences. Still, I wasn’t expecting to be pregnant: I booked the trip in November, but it wasn’t until December that my husband and I found out that we were expecting our first baby.
Obviously, that changed things as the decision to travel was no longer just about me. We talked it through a lot. I also consulted my doctor at my 11-week scan. Her advice was that as long as I felt okay, I should go ahead – but remember to drink lots of water and wear compression socks on the plane. Equally, my husband encouraged me. His attitude was, “It’s what you want to do. As long as you feel fine with it, you should go.”
Lots of people were shocked that I was travelling solo
Even though all my loved ones supported my decision to travel while pregnant to Jordan, the reactions I faced more generally took me by surprise. I live in quite a conservative area of Iowa and lots of people were shocked that I was travelling solo. They implied I should make my husband come along. It made me doubt my decisions.
Perhaps that explains my meltdown in the toilets at JFK airport as I was about to set off in March 2022. Suddenly in that moment, after weeks of planning and talking about the trip, everything became very real. En-route, and 16 weeks pregnant, I called my mum in tears saying, “My baby hasn’t even arrived yet and I’m worried I’m a bad mum for doing what I want to do.”
I was nervous about holding others back on the trip
I was also nervous about holding others back on the trip being ill or not being able to hike properly, since you can never quite predict how you’ll feel day-to-day when you’re pregnant. My mum’s response was typical for a family who have been reared on travel adventures and exploring the “great unknown”. “You’re going to be fine,” she told me. “Suck it up and get on the plane.”
So it came to be that I touched down in Amman, Jordan’s bustling capital, and met with my fellow group of Flashpackers. On our first night together, we played a game where everyone told two truths and a lie. That’s when I revealed I was pregnant. Of course, no one believed me at first.
Everyone was super nice; there was zero awkwardness
The next morning, five of the girls went down to breakfast together and that’s when my nerves finally vanished. I realised everything was going to be fine. Everyone was super nice, relaxed and friendly; there was zero awkwardness.
My fears about slowing the group down were unfounded, too. On the trip’s more active experiences, such as hiking across the Dana Biosphere Reserve, or trekking a backdoor route to the Unesco World Heritage site of Petra, I wasn’t the fastest person in the group, but neither was I the slowest.
I had so many people checking in on me along the way, saying things like, “How are you doing?”, “We can take an extra break if you like”, or “Let me take your suitcase.” Everyone was awesome.
The trip was the perfect balance for my second trimester
We shared so many incredible moments on that adventure, from glamping in the Wadi Rum desert surrounded by ancient rock formations, to bathing in the Dead Sea, the lowest point on Earth. One of my favourite activities came when we shared a fireside dinner with a Bedouin family who invited us into their home. It was amazing to experience that kind of hospitality first hand.
It helped that Flash Pack were very flexible about me being pregnant. They said: “It’s no big deal. We’ll make it work.” In a way, the trip was the perfect balance for my second trimester: active enough that I kept busy (something I couldn’t do now I’m bigger with swollen feet) but also low key with lots of time for relaxation. I never felt awkward going to bed early or taking time to myself when I needed it. In fact, lots of people did the same.
I’m setting an example to my baby as my mum did for me
For other mums-to-be considering a pre-baby adventure, I would say go for it. Like me, you’re about to face a big life change, so it’s important to stay true to yourself. I could have let other people’s negative reactions prevent me from taking this trip, but I’m so glad I went ahead regardless. My decision to travel solo while pregnant may be unconventional for some, but life is short: I don’t want to have any regrets.
I’m setting the same example to my baby – a girl, as it turns out – as my mum did for me. Soon enough, I’ll be hiking with my own daughter in my backpack; my little travel companion for our many adventures to come.
Kelli Kimbell is a lifelong adventurer from Iowa. She travelled to Jordan with Flash Pack.
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Images: Flash Pack and Kelli Kimbell