Travel as Self-Care (or How I Learned to Take a Momcation)

Thursday, October 6th, 2016 | Posted under Personal, South Carolina, Travel General

Well, hello there! I’m not even going to look at the last time I posted. You shouldn’t either. 🙂

I’m going to talk about something that’s probably hard for some of us to include in our every day lives: self-care. Self-care means different things for different people. For some people, it’s getting sleep (aaah, you lucky people!); for others it’s curling up with good book or going to the spa to get that massage (I also deem you folks lucky).

I will be fully up front and let you know that I am the worst at taking care of myself. Everything else gets my time and attention over taking care of me. It’s bad habit, and it’s hard to break once you get in that cycle of not prioritizing you. I recently read an article about work life balance that resonated with me and my life these days. It seems for many people, you can only really concentrate on certain areas of your life at the expense of others. You can choose between work, family, working out, sleep, or friends, but most people can probably only truly focus on three. Crazy right? Work-life balance can be so difficult and so we have to choose areas of our lives to direct our energies. While this article focused on entrepreneurs, I think it’s applicable if you have serious demands on your time from some aspect of your life whether it’s a demanding job, or serving as a primary care giver for a loved one, having health problems, or anything else that can push us to ignore our well-being. It’s a struggle.

For better or worse, travel is my version of self-care. When I travel, I get in touch with a part of myself that I don’t get to nourish too much these days: I get to connect to my sense of adventure. I experience new tastes, see new people, and most of the time I get to relax. I’m one of those people that craves variety, newness, and being a fish out of water. The challenges and emotional aspects of travel make me think more about who I am and my place in this world; things that I don’t always have the time to spend thinking about for a few hours or even a whole day. Although I’m fulfilling other aspects of my life and feeding my identities being a wife, mother, worker, friend, and whatever other roles I have in this world on a daily basis, I need to travel to keep my equilibrium and to bring me back to being me.

Travel as self-care isn’t the easiest for me these days. In addition to just figuring out how to get time from work, I’ve got to figure out how we manage child care for the time I’m gone, and I’ve got to make sure that our household keeps running without me. It’s just the reality of my life. Even with all of the planning involved, though, I’ve managed to find some time for a short escape in 2015, and I’ll be going on another one very soon. I’ve dubbed theses little trips “Momcations”, but if travel is your version of self-care, name your getaway whatever you want!

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Me During my First Momcation

Unfortunately, my mode of self-care means that I need to make some time and space, and (lets be real) money available to making it happen, but I’m trying to force myself to create space to reconnect with me. That means that I travel WITHOUT my husband and child. I love ‘em. I really do. But a Momcation means that I put me first for a few days, and they stay home. 🙂  I don’t worry about what’s for dinner (reservations for me at a table for 1!) or who else needs comfort that day. I do that pretty well at home, and I can continue to do that when I get back.

My first Momcation was to Charleston, South Carolina in February 2015, and I had a great time. I didn’t see much more than downtown Charleston, but between indulging my inner history geek walking through its historic streets, eating some of the tastiest Southern and Southern-inspired food, and SLEEPING (!), I had a great time. Some pics are below. I’ll let you all know a bit more about Charleston over time, but I highly recommend this town for a few days or a long weekend.

Downtown Charleston House

I loved just walking and admiring the houses in historic Charleston. 

Shrimp and Grits SNOB Charleston

Shrimp and Grits for lunch at SNOB

Outside Kitchen Historic Home Charleston

Laundry room at Heyward Washington House (I think), an 18th century historic home

So what do you do to take care of yourself? Is travel your means of self-care, and how do you make sure you get enough of it? Anyone been on a Momcation or something similar?

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5 Reasons Why I’ll Never Be a GOOD Travel Blogger (& Why I’m OK with That)

Friday, January 22nd, 2016 | Posted under Blogging, Personal

Am I starting off the New Year on a negative note? You tell me….

That’s not really the best title of a blog post for a blogger who has been gone for a very long time, is it? I realize this, but I feel like I need to be truthful. I’m never going to be a “cool” or “good” travel blogger. I’ve thought about this post, and I think it will be rather therapeutic for me to just be honest with you all. I’m never going to be a GOOD travel blogger. As I make the slow march towards middle age (I am much, much closer to 40 than I am to 30 these days), I think I am much more secure about not  giving a f&*k. Does that make sense? Since my mind works in lists, I’m going to whip out this list below.

1. I’m usually NOT traveling. Many travel bloggers are always on the road, are expats, or are just about going somewhere and anywhere constantly. Even in my pre-child days (I’ll get to that part of my life, don’t you worry about that), I usually went just to 1 to 2 international destinations per year with domestic side trips here are there for varying lengths of time. I gotts a job, y’all; and I’ve got to battle this horrible U.S. work culture that doesn’t allow for much time off to go much of anywhere. Husband J (remember him?) and I have no current plans to be expats, so this means that I am in New York City more than I’m not. Sometimes I feel like this makes this blog not as good as others, but I’d rather go in-depth into a country on this blog life rather than tick off countries. At least you know where I am most of the time.

2. I have a child. While there is a whole family travel blog community out there (I’m still discovering it), there is often a anti-child/family undercurrent in some (not all, just some) travel blogging and travel communities. There’s often this sense that having a child makes you somehow less “evolved” or less committed to travel. I’m not going to sugar coat my travel experiences with Toddler C, but I don’t think the fact that we’ve chosen to expand our family means that I don’t love travel. I get the desire to be free from commitments and attachments so that I can travel non-stop all the time, but I don’t get to indulge them at this point in my life. That doesn’t mean that my life or my travel is any less interesting.

Also Husband J and I live away from our families, and we’re trying to be the best parents we can be. That means Toddler C has to come first sometimes and that may mean that we don’t go on a trip at all, or we decide on certain locations over others because she has joined our travel brigade. I’m cool with that. It just means that I’m not going to be telling you about the most “authentic” of places, how to survive on $18 per day in western Europe, or about the best nightlife spots (although did I ever blog about that? Not really.). Besides, I think she’s cute, and I like hanging out with her.

4. I’m Black. Woo chile! I done did it! Yes. I went there. This is not about why I don’t travel, but I think it’s a factor in why my blog was not as big as others even at its height. Since I started this blog over 5 years ago, there are so many more Black bloggers talking and writing about travel. I’m so happy to see them!!! Yay!!!  That said, the upper echelons of this genre and still very lily, and folks that are doing good work don’t get the credit they can or should. Bloggers seems to stick to the same circles of people who look like them and that can hurt others ability to get opportunities to grow their blog.  Again, this is changing, but I still find many of my fellow travelers to be surprised that I have gone where I have. As one of my favorite travel groups would say: “We out here!”, and we’re writing about it.

5.  In my professional life, I do things that have nothing to do with travel, blogging, or travel blogging. I feel very lucky that my job has lots of meaning to me. When I was younger, I decided that I wanted to do the most good for the most people that I could. I had been given a lot of great educational opportunities and I’ve always wanted to give back and help others. I do have a bit of creative saide but the “do gooder” in me always seems to win out. That means those “heal the world” tendencies often beat out travel when I’m searching for things to do professionally and sometimes in my free time. I don’t know if this will stay the same, but it is where I am now. That said, does this doesn’t mean that my latent desire to be the Black female Anthony Bourdain hasn’t gone away. I just plan a little differently.

5. Blogging is a habit, and I’m out of practice. This one is just me being honest. When you blog regularly it becomes a part of your life. It’s like exercising. Once you’ve started you need to keep it up. Being an engaged writer takes work, and I’m so much more of out practice. It takes a lot more of me to produce a good post these days, so please bear with me.

Anyhoo, these are where my thoughts are right now…I’m still here chugging away. 🙂 Stay with me!

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The Good, The Bad & Not So Bad of Traveling with a Small Child, Part 2 – The Good

Wednesday, June 10th, 2015 | Posted under Family and Friends, Personal

Way back when, I wrote about why it can be tough to travel with a baby or toddler, but there are two sides to everything, right? So it wouldn’t be fair to make you all think that you should swear off traveling with young kids. I thought about why traveling with young kids might actually be pretty cool. Here’s what I came up with:

People love kids (well, at least outside of the U.S.). I remember our last real trip outside the U.S. to Antigua late last year. I could not begin to describe the Side Eye I got from a young couple at the sight of Baby C running around the airport gate. Yep, she’s a ball of energy but that doesn’t mean she’s going to ruin your flight, people. Contrast that with our experiences in Montreal and Costa Rica, where folks just smiled when Baby C even entered a restaurant. I’m not saying we’re curmudgeons in the U.S., but children are often welcomed and accepted in other countries in ways that they are not here. It’s made it easier to not feel so bad when we’re chasing Baby C around a restaurant knowing that people are a bit more accepting.

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Kids are conversation starters. A small baby will cause many people to stop and say hello or make comments. If anything that becoming a parent has taught me, it’s that people are nosy and like to make comments about kids whether you want them to or not. Strangers have initiated conversations with us in airplanes, airports, buses, and restaurants all because of Baby C. A woman in Montreal even offered to hold Baby C while I ate. That definitely made eating that dinner a lot easier. Baby C made interacting with locals a lot more fun. In a way, she made the introduction for us.

Babies and toddlers force you to travel slowly. I’m a New Yorker, and I walk pretty quickly. In the old days, Husband J and I used to run all over a city all day and collapse at the end of the day in our hotel room before what we hoped to be a great dinner somewhere. Now due to Baby C’s naps, we’ve got to take a break in the middle of the day. I gotta say it can be nice to stop and chill for a few hours and maybe even take a nap myself. Sometimes as travelers we try to cram every moment/historical site/fun activity into our travels. Baby C makes me figure out the highlights, take a breather, and then keep going. Instead of rushing to see everything we can, Baby C forces us to choose where we want to go in that country, stay in one place, and get to really explore it. Some people call it “traveling slowly”. I call it “traveling with a kid”. This is not to say that you can’t jetset with a little person, but sometimes it’s nice to enjoy a place for awhile.

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Babies and toddlers get something out of it, too. As I’ve said before, I can only speak for Baby C, but I have to disagree that you shouldn’t travel because kids “don’t get anything out of it.” For some reason, I’ve been seeing that statement everywhere, and I’m a little puzzled by it. Baby C’s avid people watching is something I’ve noticed a lot when we go away. I’ve also discovered her love of yucca, grilled fish, and other foods that surprised even me. She is seeing new colors, experiencing different environments, smelling new scents, and eating things that I wouldn’t usually cook. Plus, just getting Baby C out of New York isn’t such a bad thing. To me, my child is definitely getting something out of our travels. Maybe she doesn’t get the historical or other significance of everything we see and do, but she’s still experiencing something.

So like I said, it’s not always easy or fun, but travel with a baby or toddler opens up your travel experiences in ways that you might not realize.

For those of you who have done so, what have been the good points of traveling with a small child?

 

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The Good, The Bad & Not So Bad of Traveling with a Small Child, Part 1- The (Not So) Bad

Wednesday, March 18th, 2015 | Posted under Family and Friends, Family Travel, Personal, Travel Tips

I am not going to sugar coat traveling with a baby or toddler. If you’ve read anything online that is telling you that it’s easy, THEY’RE LYING. Ok, fine, maybe not lying completely, but they might not be telling you the hard parts of traveling with a small one. Because I love you all, I am going to give it to you straight — no chaser. Traveling is still doable, but there are definitely some things that you need to think about more fully than when traveling solo or traveling with your buddy/significant other. Here are some areas to think about while you prep for your next trip with the little person in your life (You ARE going to keep traveling by the way… because I said so. :))

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Getting ready to head to the beach in Antigua

Sleep – Some people are blessed with children who will sleep anywhere everywhere at whatever time. If you happen to be one of them, then please bow down and worship any deity that you choose or at least thank the Universe because many kids aren’t like that. I kid you not as I am drafting this post Husband J and I are trying to figure out where to go in 2015, and part of what is holding us back are time zones. People travel with kids all of the time across time zones, but when you’ve got one like mine that seems to have low sleep needs and wakes up at the butt crack of dawn, wanting to brave a drastic time zone change just doesn’t sound fun. Time zones definitely played a part in our experience in Costa Rica, and I can tell you that it is dark at 3am in Costa Rica in August…in case you were wondering. Our trip to Canada in 2013 was before Baby C was even sleeping through the night. With a little co-sleeping we took care of that, but good dear, we were a little bleary eyed for parts of that trip.

 P1090380Hanging in the Park in Montreal – She’s going to kill me when she’s older for posting this. 

This is all to say that sleep is real, maybe more for some kids than others, but if your kid sleeps well or even if he or she doesn’t, it will still be a factor in how you experience your trip.

Oops…I almost forgetting napping. Baby C needs to nap in a room. She’s fallen asleep in a stroller a total of five times her entire life. When she was a smaller baby, she would nap in the carrier and that was helpful because we just kept it moving during the day.

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Carrier naps are your friend! 

These days, Baby C needs to have things shut down, or she won’t shut it down. She really does need to be in a room in some sort of a crib to get that necessary nap. Yes, that nap is necessary. Baby C is great kid, but she’s even better in the afternoon after a nap.

Activities – Baby C is still at the age where activities can be tricky. Unlike during her small baby stage where we just took her almost wherever we wanted to go, we now have a mindful little person who is beyond curious and is absolutely ready to run everywhere and touch everything. I know not all kids are like this, but this is one we’ve got, so we’ve got to work with this little bundle of energy. One of the reasons I was hesitant to go to Costa Rica was the fact that we’d be limited in some of the activities we chose. Zip lining? White water rafting? Probably not. That doesn’t mean that we weren’t able to do fun things. We just needed to be more particular.

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Off for a walk in Manuel Antonio Park 

Food – Okay. I’m not going to totally count this as a possible difficulty for us while traveling with a small child. Baby C gets modified versions of things on our restaurant of choice’s menu. We try to steer clear of the children’s menu, but boy, does she love her some French fries like her mother. I know some kids are a little pickier than others; so for some, having to be limited in where to eat can be challenging. I do remember the time we went to Antigua, and Baby C wasn’t totally eating regular solids (we did start with pureed food). Food pouches are your friends in that case, but we did bring some of our own food for her. Depending on where you are, some hotels are helpful in preparing baby–friendly foods or staying in an apartment like setting with a kitchen can help if you just need to have a meal in for the night.

Rooms – I don’t really know if I can stay in a small, little hotel room anymore. Baby C goes to bed early (often by 7:30pm!). I have no desire to go to bed then. None. We’ve stayed in a larger hotel room, but even that wasn’t much more comfortable. We’ve had a much better time with Air Bnb and other rental apartment set ups where we could spread out with the gear we try to limit bringing with us (that’s another post). I will say that I did like our hotel in Costa Rica, which had the benefit of essentially being a large apartment. It was actually bigger than where we live now! If you’re okay with smaller spaces and have one of those kids mentioned above that sleeps through anything, then a traditional hotel room might work. Being choosy about accommodations is just another aspect of travel that just changed for us.

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Don’t look down, Baby C!

Did I forget anything? I hope this post hasn’t dissuaded anyone from traveling with your young one. I’ve actually enjoyed many wonderful travel moments with Baby C. Seeing her observe the parts of the world we’ve visited since she was born has been one of the best parts of being her parent.

There are absolutely great things about traveling with small kids, and I’ll highlight those in a separate post.

If you’ve traveled with a small child, what was the hardest part for you?

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Happy 2015!

Thursday, January 8th, 2015 | Posted under Personal, Video, Vlogging

Here’s a video to say hi to you all! I hope 2015 has started out well for everyone!

Also that is the world’s weirdest screen shot. Ugh….. 🙂 Happy to be back! 🙂

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