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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A Passport for Baby C

Monday, July 22nd, 2013 | Posted under Family and Friends, Travel General

As you can see from the plethora of posts lately (Ha!), I’ve been having a hard time keeping the blog going. As a matter of fact, after I criticized my blogging platform, WordPress, publicly on Twitter, a post I’d been working on for weeks disappeared into thin air. I swear that I was on the verge of tears for a solid fifteen minutes. It’s hard to fit in blogging at times. Case in point: Parts of this post were typed with my right hand because I often need to hold Baby C for her naps in the crook of my left arm!

Learning to be a mom has been a mix of exhausting, eye-opening, and now fun more and more each day. Baby C is getting to be a pretty cool hang out partner. I’m hoping that she’s also going to be a great travel partner for me and Husband J. Before she can go anywhere outside the country, she’ll need one very important thing:

 A passport! IMG_1399

Baby C and her passport. I was very happy that I got her to smile.

Husband J and I will be taking a few trips this year, and Baby C will get her first taste of travel. All babies and minors from the U.S. traveling by air need a passport. If you’re driving across U.S. borders, a birth certificate will suffice. By the way, I’ll reveal our destinations in a separate post, if that’s okay with you.

I figure someone out there may want to know what the process is for getting a U.S. passport for a baby, so I thought I’d share our experience. I’ll be throwing in some of my favorite Baby C pics, too.

The main thing you need to know is that both parents need to apply with the baby in person. The fact that someone needs to get their hair done or has to go to a barbecue that day just won’t cut it. By filling out a form DS-3053, you’re essentially representing to the government that you have special circumstances that prevent you from finding the other parent so that they can give consent (a section is provided on the form for the non-appearing parent’s consent).

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Here’s a run down of the passport acquisition process for a baby:

Step 1 – Make sure you’ve got the right application. For minors, that’s a form DS-11. You can download one, and fill it in on your computer or by hand. DO NOT SIGN IT. You’ll need to do that in person when you apply.

Step 2 – Have your documents in order. Both the minor applicant and the parent(s) will need to present documents that verify identity and citizenship. Being only a few months old, Baby C really only has a birth certificate and a Social Security card. A certified birth certificate was perfectly acceptable for her identification. As for us, we simply used our passports. There are other options for identification such as a drivers’ license.

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Step 3 – Have a payment ready with you. Checks will work. It’s $80 for a non-expedited passport book for a minor.

Step 4 – Get a passport sized photo (2 inches x 2 inches). You’d think this part would be easy, but it’s actually somewhat of a pain with a baby. Imagine telling a two month old baby to stop squirming, not to blink, and to stare straight ahead with a head they can’t even hold up on their own. Yup, not gonna happen too easily. In the end, Husband J ended up kneeling down and holding up Baby C so that the woman at the passport acceptance facility could take her pic. In her pic, it seems as if she has elephant ears. Those extra “ears” are actually Husband J’s hands.

Step 5 – Go to a passport acceptance facility, post office or passport agency. As I mentioned before, you can only apply for the baby’s passport in person. It’s necessary to go to a passport acceptance facility; or if you’re traveling within 2 weeks or less, a passport agency. Do you remember my trip to the passport agency last year? You can only apply for new passports at passport acceptance facilities, passport agencies or a U.S. post office. Our passport acceptance facility was the Brooklyn Public Library Central Branch at Grand Army Plaza.

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Our experience at the Brooklyn Public Library was a good one. I will say as with anything related to dealing with the government, get there early. We arrived at about 10am on a Saturday morning and a group of smart people were already there. The room isn’t that big, and there’s not really a system for figuring out who is serviced when. There’s an intake line, and you’ve got to hope that you get a little attention when you arrive.

In the end, if you come prepared, you’ll get out of there pretty quickly. I have to give the passport folks props, since we got Baby C’s passport just four weeks later. Not too bad, right?

When did you get your first passport? Were you less than four months months old? 🙂

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Help My Mentee Go to Brazil!!

Wednesday, April 10th, 2013 | Posted under Family and Friends, Personal, Travel General

Hey, all! I’m taking a break from newborn duties to introduce you to a special friend and to ask for your help. For the past few years, I have been a mentor to a lovely young woman named Jazmyn. She is a sophomore currently at the high school I attended. Jazmyn is beyond super cool. She is smart, focused, hardworking, insightful and inquisitive. In other words, she makes me not fear having a teen daughter some day ’cause I swear some of these kids these days…yikes!! 🙂 But seriously, Jazmyn is lovely, and I hope that I can take the next step in being her mentor by singing her praises and asking for your help.

Jazmyn has been chosen to travel to Brazil this summer as part of a program called the International Youth Leadership Institute. She’ll be spending time in Rio de Janeiro, Salvador da Bahia, and both Maceio and Palmares in the northern part of the country. Can I say that I am jealous? I’d love to go back to Brazil! (Check out my posts about my trip to Brazil here). As part of the program, each student must raise money that will go towards their travel costs. Jazmyn is combining her artistic talents and her love of animals by selling sketches of South American wildlife. Samples and more information about the sketches are below. You can also just donate, and there are links below to do just that.

Under normal circumstances, I would not solicit money for me or anyone else on this blog, but I have to say that Jazmyn is a special young woman, and I can’t think of a better reason to hit you guys up for money 🙂 than to help her reach her goal of learning more about Brazil, its language, history, culture and environment this summer. To me, this blog is just not about telling my story but about inspiring others to create their own stories by exploring the world. Please help Jazmyn create her own lifelong memories.

Here’s Jazmyn in her own words to explain more about the program and her fundraising efforts.

PLEASE SEND ME TO BRAZIL!

“If anybody tells you your dreams are too big, tell them that the world they are living in is too small.” –Brown, 23

THROUGH A PROGRAM CALLED IYLI (The International Leadership Institute), I HAVE THE OPPORTUNITY TO STUDY ABROAD IN BRAZIL FOR A MONTH THIS SUMMER. EVERY TRIP IS SUSTAINED THROUGH SCHOLARSHIP, BUT THE STUDENT MUST FIRST DEMONSTRATE THE LEADERSHIP SKILLS THAT IYLI PROMOTES BY RAISING A CERTAIN AMOUNT OF MONEY. THE OPTIMAL GOAL IS $1,000 TOTAL, BUT ANY AND ALL MONEY MADE IS APPRECIATED AND WILL GO DIRECTLY TO SUPPORTING THE STUDENT IN INTERNATIONAL TRAVEL THROUGH IYLI.

IN BRAZIL, STUDENTS WILL GET A HANDS-ON EXPERIENCE IN THE CULTURE OF SOUTH AMERICA, VISITING LANDMARKS AND MAJOR CITIES AS WELL AS BEACHES, FORESTS, AND RURAL AREAS. THE TRIP IS BASED ON COMMUNITY SERVICE, SO ANY MONEY DONATED WILL NOT GO TO WASTE! STUDENTS WILL BE TAUGHT ENVIROMENTAL SKILLS AND WILL DOING COMMUNITY SERVICE WORK THROUGHOUT DIFFERENT AREAS OF BRAZIL.

I BELIEVE THAT PEOPLE PLAY A GREATER ROLE IN THE WORLD THAN WE LIKE TO TAKE CREDIT FOR. WE LIKE TO PRETEND AS IF WE HAVE ALREADY DISCOVERED WHATEVER IS OUT THERE. I WOULD LIKE TO ENCOURAGE PEOPLE TO RESPONSIBLE FOR THE WORLD THEY LIVE IN AND TAKE CHARGE IN THEIR COMMUNITIES. THIS MEANS UNDERSTANDING THE ENVIRONMENT AND RESPECTING WHAT IT HAS TO OFFER. WHAT BETTER WAY TO EXPERIENCE THE WORLD THAN TO TRAVEL AND SEE IT ALL UP CLOSE?

YOUR DONATION WILL GO TOWARDS DEVELOPING A MORE VERSATILE STUDENT WHO WILL BETTER UNDERSTAND THE WORLD AROUND HER AND PROMOTE OTHERS TO DO THE SAME. YOUR MONEY WILL AID IN HELPING A STUDENT WHO WANTS TO LEARN PORTUGESE, WHO WANTS TO STUDY THE ENVIRONMENT, AND WHO WANTS TO GAIN A NEW APPRECIATION FOR WHAT GOES ON OUTSIDE OF NEW YORK CITY.

PLEASE SUPPORT BY PURCHASING A HAND-MADE SKETCH OF A UNIQUE SOUTH AMERICAN ANIMAL. THE PHOTO THE ART IS CREATED FROM IS CREDITED. HERE ARE SAMPLES OF MY WORK:

Maned wolf-1

Based on a photo via Flickr River

Three-toed Sloth (young)-1

Based on a photo via Violet Darkling

Jaguar

Based on a photo via Flickr

ALL DONATIONS ARE APPRECIATED!

Please visit IYLI’s website for more information about the organization: www.iyli.org

To donate via PayPal online, go to:

Iyli.org, and click on the “Donate” button. Please put “JazmynBrazil 2013” when making the donation. 

Thank you for your contribution!

If you would like to purchase a sketch or have any questions about IYLI, please feel free to contact me at: travelabroad.iyli@gmail.com

I will be taking requests in April for any other South American animals you would like to see on the webpage that are not already there. I will also be taking special requests if you have a friend, family member, or pet you would like drawn in return for an additional donation. Just send a photo of him/her to the email above.

Thanks again for your support!

JAZMYN

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3 Advanced Travel Gear Items

Tuesday, August 28th, 2012 | Posted under India, Travel General, Travel Tips

Another post about travel gear? Of course. While I’ve already talked about my basic travel items including my backpack, that’s honestly the baseline stuff. I think there is a next level of gear that you might need at some point in your travels.  Maybe I’m a little too much of a Type A planner/safety freak, but I don’t like to be caught out there unprepared for certain situations.

I brought the items I’ll highlight below with me to India, but these items can help you regardless of your destination. Here are some next level travel items that you may not have thought to bring with you:

1. A money belt

The main purpose of the money belt is to keep your money (and passport, if you want) on your body. Pickpockets are out there in touristy areas, and some people prefer to keep money and other paper valuables very, very close.

Travel Money Belt

I’ve used a money belt off and on since I started traveling independently years ago. I’ll say that if you don’t mind your money being a little sweaty (I sweat. I’ll admit it.), it can be an effective way of keeping your moolah safe.  Someone would have to reach under your shirt and cut it off of you to get your stash. On the other hand, if you’re wearing tight clothing, it will create a bulge in your clothes signaling to the robbers where you money is. I tend to like it better than whipping out my wallet from home, which is pretty big. I leave my wallet from home in the hotel safe.

When choosing a money belt, I would make sure to find one that adequatly wraps around you. Not all of them are going to be comfortable to you. I needed to replace my old one before leaving for India, and I have to admit I was not a fan of the Belle Hop brand that I bought in the picture above. It just never seemed to stay wrapped around me and kept slipping. I fell for the pretty packaging. Bad idea.

 

2. A sleep sheet

Silk Cotton Sleep Sheet

I’ve found that people tend to use sleep sheets for a few reasons. If you’re in a totally low-budget hostel with no sheets (Do these still exist? They did when I traveled when I was younger), then you’ve got an automatic set of sheets with you that’s easy to fold, store and clean as you keep on traveling. Another option is for camping purposes as a liner for a sleeping bag in case you’re sleeping in colder conditions (camping/outdoorsy people, help me out here if I am wrong).

In India, I used the sleep sheet at those hotels and situations where the sheets just looked a little suspect. That definitely was the case in a few instances. I could put my feet into the sleep sheet, and it was like an extremely lightweight sleeping bag.

Here’s an example of a place where I used my sleep sheet below: on an overnight train from Ajmer to Delhi. Sheets and a blanket were provided, but I decided to pass on them.

Silk Cotton Sleep Sheet Train

On the top bunk of my sleeper train. Okay, so I wasn’t actually in the sleep sheet yet, but there it is. Please excuse my ashy feet.

 

3. Extra strength bug killer

Malaria and other disease that are transmitted by insects are still common in parts of the world. You will need the extra protection. Not every place in every country is going to require you to dose yourself in extra strength repellant, but you should be prepared in these areas. For those in the U.S., I highly recommend checking the Centers for Diseas Control website. They give pretty detailed information on countries and their levels of malaria and insect-borne disease and is a great resource overall for travelers’ health. I’m going to do a traveler’s health post soon.

There are a variety of creams and products you can use to keep the buggers away that have strong acting ingredients, namely DEET. This time around instead of a cream, I used individually-wrapped towellettes.

Ben's Wipes with DEET

In the U.S.,  a maximum of 35% of a repellant product can include DEET. My Australian travel mates from Team Ozzie had creams with 95% DEET in it. Lucky…

There was a stick that I could have bought, and I think I will next time. I just hated that fact that I needed to thoroughly wash my hands every time I used this. Just make sure to not get this stuff near your eyes and mouth after you’ve applied it.

 

So I’d like to hear from you. Have you ever used any of these three pieces of travel gear? Am I just being overly cautious? While this isn’t an exhaustive list, what piece of travel gear do you think more people should consider using?

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Buenos Aires: To Live or To Travel?

Monday, August 20th, 2012 | Posted under Argentina, Travel General

Yeah, I know. The title of this post is a little odd, but I have no other idea how to express what I’m about to say.

Flat out: I liked Buenos Aires, but I think I’d rather live there than travel there. Does this make any sense?

I know that I can sometimes be a cheesy traveler/tourist. When I visit a new place, I want to know what the residents are like. I want to see what is distinctive about that place and why visitors and locals like it. I usually find all of this out by a mix of roaming and people watching, but I also want to go to the known frequented spots, too. I know it’s the nerdy, restless traveler in me.  Often there’s a reason why there are must-see places to visit. I don’t feel ashamed about getting my “tourist on”. It’s fun.

So knowing this about myself, when I got to Buenos Aires, I realized something by the end of my time there: I’d rather LIVE in Buenos Aires than visit there. Part of this stems from the fact that there wasn’t enough for me personally to “ooh” and “aah” over. I like being awed by a place. Buenos Aires felt homey and familiar.

Instead of being bowled over by the city, I kept picturing myself in Buenos Aires.

I saw myself hanging out on rainy Saturday afternoon browsing through El Gran Ateneo Bookstore.

El Gran Ateneo Bookstore

El Gran Ateneo is a converted theater.

I saw myself spending afternoons in the Japanese Garden on a park bench reading a book or people-watching.

Buenos Aires Japanese Garden

 

I could totally see myself sitting in one of Buenos Aires’ plazas staring at all of the statues and other beautiful public art.

Buenos Aires Statue

 

The next time I’m in Buenos Aires, I hope it’s for a longer period of time where I can just kick it and really become a part of the city. Buenos Aires reeled me in. Sometimes a place doesn’t need to wow you for it to still be special and worth visiting.

Have you ever traveled to a place where you would have preferred being a local to being a traveler?

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