view of our bright blue house looking up from the stairs

Sayulita Pueblo Magico

We’ve stayed in lots of hostels, we said. We have always had good experiences in them, we said. But then, we have never stayed in a hostel in Sayulita, Mexico that shares a front area with a bar who plays live music every night. Nor, have we ever stayed in a hostel in Sayulita, Mexico for the three days leading up to New Years. Oh, I had a brief thought before we left that it might be crazy, but had NO idea just how crazy it could be. When we booked, it was literally the only choice available unless we wanted to pay $250-$12,000/night and no, that is not a typo.

When we arrived at the hostel there were so many cars and people that our driver had to circle back around the plaza before he could find a safe place to pull over and let us out with our 13 pieces of luggage (yes, thanks for counting girls). In my defense, 5 of them were suitcases the rest were some form of backpack and I guess my yoga mat could be counted as a piece of luggage (“but why did you bring this mom? You never do yoga” “Well because I’m planning on changing that Mackenzie, now shut up” (ok, I didn’t actually tell her to shut up but thought it)). We walked in the front door and a very nice young man greeted me and then proceeded to show us to our room. Ok, I thought as he pointed out the AC unit and mini fridge. I can deal with this; we each have a bed and a private room. It might be loud but at least…. What? Oh, you’ve made a mistake? This isn’t our room? Ok….

He then led us back toward the front of the building into a room with beds for 7 people and indicated the beds our roommates had already claimed. Our beds would be those along the wall next to the window that looks out onto the street and the place that would become a stage at 10:00pm each night we were to stay.

Our window at the hostel and the stage taken from the street
Our window at the hostel and the stage

Oh, and by the way the window doesn’t close all the way and there is one fan in the upper corner of the room that just teases with a soft breeze (if you can even call it that). The fan was really good at drawing smoky air from the back patio area behind our room and blowing it directly onto Jacob’s top bunk bed. I guess the only saving grace was that there was a bar outside where Jacob and I could have a beer while the girls hunkered down with a movie until we were all so tired that the only thing left to do was pass out. That and the fact that when our roommates returned to the room just as the first band started we all bonded with a laugh at the ridiculousness of our situation and I no longer felt like the 41-year-old mom who stuck out like a sore thumb.

I won’t disgust you with descriptions of the bathrooms. Let me just put it this way, there were two bathrooms for a hostel that sleeps 18 people. However, our lovely hosts also allowed 4 tents in the back so lets say there were probably about 35 people by the time New Years Eve rolled around and flushing paper down the toilet is not allowed, instead, one must throw it into the trashcan. Yep, get the picture? Just to make things even better and story-worthy, I came down with a stomach bug on New Years Eve and while the party was rockin’ outside, complete with laser lights flashing in our bedroom (this band was high tech), I was puking in one of those disgusting toilets.

I can’t tell you happy we all were the next day knowing our long-term rental would be ready at one o’clock. The catch? We had to check out of our hostel at 11am and oh no, said the host (with what I imagine was a sarcastic laugh), you can’t stay in the room until 1:00 pm. We have a whole new crew of guests coming in and we must clean (good gracious, it was going to take a lot more than 2 hours to get that place clean. How bout set fire to it and start over). So, Jacob made nice with the bartender who was just opening up outside and helped her pull out all of her tables so that we could sit at one and wait (and I could die and will by body to stay calm, if you know what I mean). Then finally, one o’clock rolled around and we lugged our 13 pieces of luggage across the cobble stone roads to our casita, which was luckily only five minutes away. The last haul was to climb the 65 stairs up to our hilltop villa named Casa Naranja (although everyone in town knows it as Casa Guamúchil for the large tree nearby whose leaves are a favorite food of our resident iguanas). Thankfully it is not 65 stairs straight up; there are some landings here and there to help you catch your breath.

view of bright sunny kitchen with the word HOLA on the wall
Our cozy kitchen

Then, we were home. The party of the New Year holiday a faint noise below us. Instead of club music there are roosters and after the year of travel around the world, like the sound of the train passing by in the distance from my childhood, the morning greeting of roosters has become quite comforting. Our new home is a little oasis. Unexpectedly, our indoor living quarters are organized in a circle like living in a tower. Funny enough, Jacob has always wanted to live in a converted missile silo so this is a fabulous compromise. We get to have a house in the shape of a cylinder except it is above ground with lots of light, air, an outdoor dining room and hammock lounge area as well as a roof top patio complete with palapa.view of out door dining area with hammok

view of grass roofed palapa on roof top patio






This morning, I indeed used my yoga mat before walking the girls to their new school. The school grounds have many tropical plants and green trees, an adorable playground and smiling faces everywhere. Both girls were a little nervous but walked into their classrooms without a look back to us for reassurance. Wow, I’m impressed. I cried and cried on my first day of school after moving to a new town and will be forever grateful to my childhood friend, Gina, for noticing me and asking me to be her friend. I hope a Gina finds them today but honestly, they will probably find her first.

….and here begins part two of the Seize the Davi adventure. Thanks for reading our stories, sending us love and get your buns down here so I can show you the charming, Sayulita Pueblo Magico. (I am told the town will clear out and become tranquil again soon but at Easter time it is nuts so don’t come then.)

Picture of Mackenzie and Quinn in school uniforms of kaki skirts and white polo shirt (mack) and green t-shirt (Quinn) on first day of school
First day!
Heart made out of lichen on a rock

Saying Goodbye

Today is our last day in Cape Town and the girls’ last day at Auburn House School. It is hard to believe we have already been here three months and that our time in South Africa must end.   We had lots of tears today at the school as we said goodbye and now at home it is sinking in that we really are leaving and the tears are flowing again. I asked one of the teachers today that if she knew ahead of time how painful it would be to say goodbye, would she have agreed to accept our girls in for the one term. She laughed and said “No!” and then went on to say how special they are and how wonderful it has been to have them be a part of the environment. I asked myself the same question this evening as I sat with each of my daughters comforting their tears. My emotional answer is ‘no’, I would rather avoid this difficult goodbye and protect my daughters from pain. The wise, balanced answer however, is ‘yes’. In spite of the pain they are feeling tonight, I would still enroll them in Auburn House School for the one term because if we had not, we would never have been a part of this wonderful, welcoming community of parents, kids and staff.Sign for Auburn House School with Table Mountain in the background

By the time our last month rolled around, the girls’ friendships were in full swing and each day at pickup time, more and more kids would ask us to arrange times with their parents for play dates. We knew we would never be able to coordinate each one in the short time we had left. This led us to the idea of hosting one big play date for all the kids in the Junior Primary (grades 1-3) who could make it to a park near the school on our last Saturday in town. In my experience, these things are typically hard to coordinate and often require more than two weeks notice, so I was blown away by how many parents and kids were able to come. I only wished we would have thought of this sooner because in that one afternoon we enjoyed easy conversations, made friends with the parents and understood why the girls so quickly fell in love with the community at Auburn House School.

I write this post tonight to say thank you to the principal and teachers for opening your doors and allowing the girls the opportunity to learn in an environment different from their own. They had a taste of two languages, Afrikaans and Xhosa (well three if you count the differences in terms between our English and the South African English). Perhaps you also saw the opportunity for learning and potential benefit of more diversity that a couple of girls from the United States could add to your classroom as well and for that, we are grateful.

We take our new friends with us in our hearts, the medicine of Table Mountain in our bodies and the warmth of community at Auburn House School in our spirits.



Quinn in a swimsuit stands in front of a pool with arms crossed a smirk on her face

The Vitamin Showdown

Scene: The famous whistle music of the classic western movie plays in the background as mother and young daughter stand on a dirt road, staring each other down, guns cocked and ready for the other to make a move. Dusty wind blows through their hair and tumble weeds roll and bounce across the space between them. Mother’s thoughts play over the scene: “I will win this stand off with my youngest daughter over taking her vitamins even if my legs are starting to shake and arm is cramping”.

One Month Earlier

Mom and daughter in the kitchen. Mom is holding a bottle of chewable multivitamins:

Quinn: “I don’t like raspberries”

Mom, speaking flatly: “you don’t know that until you try it, Quinn.”

Quinn with a note of attitude: “I do know, mama”

Mackenzie who had been standing by watching the interaction pipes in with a brown-nosing quality to her voice: “I love them Mama!”

Uuuuhhhg, ok, I decided, I’ll play along one time. I agreed they were crunchy vitamins instead of the chewy type of which she was more familiar. Fine. Jacob said he would grab a new kind when he went to the store that afternoon and brought home bear shaped vitamins of the gummy version. Quinn conceded, tried one and immediately spit it out.

Damn our family rule that says one must try something before forming an opinion and if you don’t like it you can spit it out! We need an amendment to that rule that says, ‘except in the case of vitamins’! Over the next week we tried all the typical bribery, but Quinn used savvier methods. She perfected a dramatic gag reflex to powerfully highlight the amount of torture and abuse she was experiencing by our forceful demands of vitamin consumption. “Fine! If you won’t take these then you will need to use your own allowance to buy more and you can pick them out!” (I’ll be honest, I tried one and they were gross but hell if I tell her that)

This new solution seemed to appease her. She bounced home with Jacob one afternoon (I actually don’t think Quinn has another way of walking) and proudly presented her new strawberry and vanilla flavored selection…We only got one willingly down her throat.

Mom, face turning red: “If you don’t take your vitamin, then you don’t get to have treats later in the day and you just don’t know what those will be so you might as well set yourself up for success now”.

Quinn with a power voice: “I don’t want any treats”

Mom with sing-song sarcasm:  “Ok, we will see how you feel later”.

We all had milkshakes that evening except her. She appeared unaffected. For the next two weeks we fought with her, pleaded with her, offered rewards, and helped her plug her nose all with about a 50% success rate. Jacob grew tired of the nose plugging drama and told her he wouldn’t help her anymore and into the deep mud she dug in her heels and then poured cement on her feet.

I made cookies the other day (really my purpose wasn’t to torture her, but I secretly hoped it would tip the scales in my favor). She saw me eating one and asked me if it was one of the cookies I had made. “Mmmhmph” I nodded a confirmation with a mouthful of cookie. “humph” she said as she shrugged her shoulders and walked into her room clearly communicating with her body her complete disinterest. Who is this six year old and when did she become a teenager? I was sure to send her the same message back with my own nonverbal communication, but she was already gone. Score one for Quinn. However, it dawned on me that my little one prefers salty treats to sweets. Ha ha ha! This will get her. I have now restricted her fry and chip consumption. No cheese cubes or crackers in her lunch for snacks she gets double helpings of veggies and fruit. She is still unaffected in fact asked if she could pick out new veggies at the store.

Ok, I’ll admit the fact that double veggies in her lunchbox is not a bad side effect of this vitamin showdown but that’s not really the point is it? Jacob is now on her side, begging me to let it go. This morning Quinn said to me, “Mama, did you know there are nine vitamins in each cornflake? I’ll eat those, I love cornflakes”.

Blast! Who taught her how to read? Now I have to take away her books.

Travel with Kids: Health

Keepin’ It Real: Travel with Kids

Installment #3: Medical Mishaps

….and so I sit on the red twill couch in the sunny living room of our apartment in Sevilla, Spain. My knees propped up with pillows obeying the instructions of Dr. Ruiz from Hospital Universitario Virgen del Rocio, who, after painfully draining it, told me I was not allowed move my knee for at least 24 hours. Jacob took the girls to their art and theater class for me instead of going to his Spanish class this evening because the girls deserve to get out of this house and do something fun. Sitting quietly and obediently at a busy hospital for two hours is a lot to ask of an 8 and 6 year old.

The growing pain and inflammation in my right knee had been haunting the back of my mind since we arrived. Each time we travel to a new destination, my knees seem to get a little inflamed but then it subsides and I am able to keep up with our adventures. So, I thought this is what would happen here too. I ramped up my yoga practice trying to be gentle on my knees, not over tax them. I found an English speaking Physiotherapist/Orthopedist/Eastern Medicine practitioner nearby and made an appointment. I surfed the Internet for an Acupuncturist as a treatment supplement. All while the inflammation grew and grew. The increased walking here could have been the cause or maybe over the last 5 months I have not properly rehabilitated my knee. Whatever the reason, two days ago I could no longer walk without looking like Igor from the movie “Young Frankenstein.” My knee was so inflamed it looked like an over full water balloon ready to spring a leak at any moment then burst.

Jacob immediately relegated me to the couch and instructed the girls to push me around on a rolling office chair if I needed to use the bathroom. He went to stock up on food and walk by an Acupuncture clinic whose website made it seem like they were still in business; however, their email bounced back and the message I heard when I called could have said it is no longer in service but it was in Spanish and so I wasn’t sure. He returned half an hour later with food and news that the clinic was indeed closed down. We spent the afternoon trying and failing to figure out options for English speaking doctors in the area. When that proved difficult, Jacob took to consulting with Dr. Google instead and determined that:

a. I have some strange disease I have never heard of

b. fibromyalgia is causing the inflammation

We decided those weren’t the most hopeful of prognoses and went back to seeking an actual doctor. After a couple of phone conversations with receptionists, the Physiotherapist I had an appointment with later in the week, texted me at 10pm to tell me he could see me at his office at noon the next day and included the address. “Wait”, I thought, “this address looks different than the one on his website, better consult Google again.  Hmmm, it isn’t showing me Sevilla, there must be a mistake”. I sent him a text explaining my confusion about the location and thanked him for rearranging his schedule for me. Alas, his clinic was NOT in Sevilla it is in Madrid. He hasn’t practiced here in over 4 years. Great. That’s only a 4-hour car ride or 2 and a half hour train ride away! I immediately started to cry. The pain was getting worse and the fear growing that our broken Spanish would not be sufficient to get treatment and we would have to go home. However, now here I am less than 24 hours later, relishing the relief from the pain caused by pressure in my knee and feeling more hopeful that with proper rehabilitation we can continue our journey.

A Keepin’ it Real blog post about health has been bouncing around in my head for a while now. What better time to write it than after seeking and receiving medical care in a foreign country?? I must admit, I sat in the waiting room of the hospital looking around at the mass of people awaiting their care and witnessed myself experiencing many different emotions. I felt a lot of trepidation about the quality of treatment I would receive immediately followed by a feeling of shame for that thought to come into my mind. I felt relief that we were in Spain and not in Panama or Peru when this happened. There was a sense of hilarity at the situation. For instance, about every five minutes or so, Jacob and I immediately stopped our conversation and strained to understand the name and instructions being said over the loudspeaker. When we were finally called to “Rayos numero dos”, Jacob pushed me in my wheelchair, out into the hall around and around a pole, the girls following behind like obedient little ducklings, trying to determine what the instructions meant since all the doors in the hallway were closed. OH! Of course, silly. It means x-ray! At the moment of our realization, the x-ray technician opened the door to “Rayos numero dos”.

Finally, after the x-ray and initial consultation with a nurse, I lay on the treatment table in the third and final room of our medical adventure and I felt the feeling of vulnerability. No matter the country, no matter the facility, lying on a treatment table in an unknown place is vulnerable; however, I also felt trust. Trust that this man was doing exactly what his education and training had taught him. In fact, looking back, it seemed they were actually more careful about sterilizing my knee prior to the treatment than the fancy sports medicine doctor I saw in the States. I even got a little numbing spray on the injection site prior to being stuck with the giant needle.

Knees aside, the biggest unknown about long-term travel for me is health. How do we stay healthy? If we get sick, how do we get the medications and treatment we need? All blog posts I have read say everyone at one time or another will get travelers diarrhea. So, when Quinn came down with it in Lima I was scared we would be unable to keep her hydrated. Happily, that was not the case. Common sense was our best ally. Even the common cold can foul up plans for exploration. As everyone knows, if one member of the family is ill it is likely to get passed to all.

We battled this type of illness beginning in Urubamba, Peru. It was our first stay in a hostel and there were three other petri dishes, a.k.a. kids, staying there as well. One of which already had a cold. So, you can imagine the cold found its way into everyone in the house then followed us around through the Sacred Valley. Airplane travel is another kind of petri dish so we likely picked up another bug traveling from Peru to Spain. All told, at least one of us was sick for a full month.

Even with all the precautions and immune system boosting protocols, the risk of catching a parasite, virus or bacterial infection is very real. Up to this point in our travels, our experience has showed us that in Costa Rica, Peru, Spain and Paris, one does not buy medications at a grocery store but instead at a pharmacy. Usually, you have to speak to the pharmacist to explain what you need and she/he gets it from behind the counter, even ibuprofen and vitamins. In fact, in many of these countries a trip to speak with your pharmacist is your first course of action.  Doctors are reserved for emergencies or when the pharmacist is stumped. One time, in my broken Spanish, I asked the pharmacist for fish vitamins instead of fish oil…oops what’s the word for oil again?? How about the word for fish when it is swimming in the ocean and not in lemon juice on a plate?

Trust is a big factor when it comes to medicine in a foreign country. Can I trust the pill, treatment or advice I receive is the same or as good as what I would find at home, where I am more familiar? I think this speaks to so many issues of diversity. Can I trust the unfamiliar? Can I trust that another culture is as good as or even better than my own or that I just might learn something from that other culture? More aptly can I accept this as a possibility? The experience at the Hospital in Sevilla taught me that yes, I can and at times I must.

The only thing we have to fear is fear itself. – Franklin D. Roosevelt.

Our strategy moving forward is of course, mindfulness and preventative medicine. I need to accept that I have some sort of problem with my knees and listen to them, seek out rehabilitative advice and do it.  I don’t want to avoid travel because of the fear of getting sick. I don’t want to make judgments based on secondhand knowledge or assumptions. I want to ask questions and research to find out what is available so I can negotiate treatment in a way that feels safe.  Otherwise, I am allowing my fear to grow and fester to an unnatural size and creating a self-imposed barrier to potentially amazing experiences and people.

Some tips to stay healthy:

  • Listen to your body and rest when needed.  Traveling is tiring and when you are tired your body has less energy to fight off infection. The girls are perfect, at times loud, little gages of when we need to rest.
  • Vitamins are important.  We are now taking daily multi and “fish vitamins”. Every little thing you carry has to be weighed according to its importance and cost.
  • Eat more vegetable soup. We thought we could get our nutrients through eating healthy foods and follow the advice of smart travelers ahead of us, only eating fresh veggies we have washed and peeled ourselves. However, when you are bouncing around a lot preparing your own fresh veggies can get tricky and in some places the risk of parasites on those fresh veggies is very real so you end up skipping it.
  • Carry hand-sanitizer everyday.  More often than not, there is no soap (or toilet paper) in the bathroom; therefore, I carry around a natural hand sanitizer made from essential oils.


Travel with Kids: Budgets

Keepin’ it Real: Travel with Kids

Installment #2: Stretching the Almighty Dollar:
I recently read an article in the Huffington Post from a travel writer with the title “Why ‘Quit Your Job and Travel the World’ is the Worst Advice Ever.” Basically, the writer’s perspective is that you are going to either need to save up a bunch of money for a very long time or be able to earn money abroad in order to make long term travel successful and the idea to up and quit your job is asinine, actually, she says “a huge steaming pile of crap” and “The world doesn’t work this way. It’s not reality”.  At first read, my response was “why not? why can’t the world work that way?” Agreed, to quit your job without a plan or forethought is not a good idea but with planning it is possible to travel without working, at least for awhile.

The word “travel” has many different connotations. The kind of travel we are doing and the type the writer is referencing in her article, is not the 5-star luxury beach resort in every location, that kind of travel is more accurately described as “vacation” .

The kind of travel we are attempting to do is to peel away that top layer of tourism and find at least a taste of what really makes a place tick and the people who, in each country we visit, are winding the clock.

We want to do this in as many places as our money will allow and for this reason we are taking our time in each location (which also helps the girls), limiting our tourist excursions and doing our best to observe and participate in each culture. In this definition of travel the writer and I are in agreement. However I had to laugh when I read the title of her article, obviously, since that is exactly what we have done. Quit our jobs to travel the world.

The part I disagreed with is the notion that in order to make this adventure work we should have gone directly from our jobs in the US to a job abroad like teaching English as a foreign language. Right now, we are not working, on purpose. We wanted to detoxify our psyches from our hectic life. Our full time work and graduate school life. From the early morning crock-pot dinner preparation (on a good day), lunch making, working 8-9 hours then sitting in traffic cursing at the cars to move so that I can pick up my kid in time to make it to gymnastics then home for homework, dinner, baths, reading and collapse into bed to do all over again the next day: aka life.

I’m not saying we always felt stressed and unhappy or that we did not find fulfillment in such a life, we did. However, going back into a work environment, even if in a new exciting country did not sound appealing straight out of the gate. Now, might that change? Yes. We gave ourselves three months of detox before we started the “what next” conversation. Might we one day return back to that same lifestyle…. maybe, but I am hopeful it will look much different, much less hectic, much more balanced. Are we asinine for doing it this way? I don’t think so but others might.

In order to make this work for us, we took a close look at our resources.  One of the payoffs of working as hard has we have for as long as we have is that we had assets in places we hadn’t looked at as assets before such as our house and our stuff.  We realized we could take advantage of a hot housing market and seize the day, use that equity for something we both yearned for instead of more remodeling (which I can tell you is not fun to live in a house that is constantly being improved). We were, of course, mindful to leave some seed money behind in order to start up again at the end of the year. So, I guess in someways we did save up a bunch of money over 11 years, just in the form of home ownership and stuff accumulation.  Then, after knowing we had the money, the question became how do we make this money stretch?

Based on initial research of airline, food, and accommodation costs, we set a budget.   To make our money stretch the year, this budget needs to be fairly strict. We have to be cautious of the alluring adventure and cultural tours and any extras like souvenirs.  At the start of our trip, Jacob and I were at odds with each other on this quite a bit. We are constantly trying to find that balance of travel versus vacation; living life in the foreign country versus touring the foreign country.

I am the grasshopper; Jacob is the ant.

The way I see it, both have legitimate points of view for living the way that they do. Sadly, the grasshopper gets “left out in the cold” at the end of the story because he partied too much, which, legitimately Jacob is afraid will happen to us if we go nuts and do everything possible in a given location.   However, in my opinion not only does the grasshopper get a bad rap, the ant doesn’t enjoy the journey for fear of not having enough, something that causes me suffering too. Somewhere in there is the balance of planning for our money to stretch and enjoying each country that we visit so that we don’t go away from it saying, “I wish we would have”.

How do you do that and live within a budget without working to bring in money? We rent accommodations with kitchens and cook at home, a lot. Jacob, in his glorious research, figured out an approximate daily food and shelter budget in each country. If we buy groceries and cook at home, we typically stay well under that budget, allowing for a more spendy meal out at a later time. When we are really on it, we research the restaurant we want to try beforehand so we don’t feel like we just spent a bunch of money on just an ok meal. Obviously this doesn’t always work out. We struggled a lot with this while visiting Cusco, Peru. Our hostel there was not open to us using their kitchen forcing us to eat out more. Also, the internet was subpar, which made research a challenge.  The restaurant gems in Cusco seemed to be hidden away and we got trapped in the tourist machine more than once and paid for it with an overpriced, bad meal.

We do a lot of walking or public transportation instead of taking taxis. Not only does this allow you to get around more cheaply but also experience more closely the way of life in that place.   We use the amazing excel spreadsheet Jacob created to keep us in line, and enter EVERY penny we spend.  In this way, we have been able to stay within and even be a bit under budget, which is then how we can do extra “vacationey” excursions such as the zip-lining for Quinn on her birthday.

My inner consumer is desperate to buy the beautiful hand-woven wall hangings in Peru, paintings by local artists or clothing in Spain. Not only is it unrealistic to carry all that around with me for a year, it is very expensive to ship things home and if I choose to spend the money to ship stuff, then I am choosing to limit an excursion or beautiful meal later.  I am working to temper this grasshopper desire with the knowledge that we have some amazing photographs that will one day adorn our walls and the handmade woven bracelet I am wearing for $1 from Peru will be a reminder of the local craft. I’ll let you know if I am able to resist the clothes and shoes in Spain, ay yai yai!

Part of our budget juggle is the awareness that we need to balance the needs of the girls as well.  As we predicted, our travels in Peru would give us much information on what the girls can handle in terms of bouncing around from place to place in one county.  Our plan in Peru was to fly into Lima, stay for a few days before heading to the Sacred Valley, spend 2 weeks in the valley and then charter a bus to take us South to Arequipa (a 7 hour bus ride) stay there for a week before moving onto Puno, Nazca, Paracas and eventually back around to Lima.  All of this in the time span of one month.  However, after being on the move in the Sacred Valley (Urubamba, Ollantaytambo, Aguas Calliente, Cusco) we discovered that a. the girls get carsick very easily so buses were out and b. they are tired and long to have whole days at home for playing and resting.  Spending whole days at home is difficult when you only have a few days in each city.

For me, adventure awaits!  There is the whole world out there to explore and I will exhaust myself until I feel I have seen everything!

(There’s that grasshopper again)  For kids, this doesn’t work.  We knew that family travel would look very different from solo or couple travel so when we sat at our hostel in Cusco discussing our next move we chose to fly to Arequipa and spend 9 days there rather than visit the other three cities.  Is it a bummer that we missed Lake Titicaca and the floating islands in Puno or the amazing Nazca lines? Yes. But was it better for the girls and the sanity of our family? Yes. That is ultimately the best decision. You might think more flights sounds more expensive though, right? Wrong. Actually, the bus for all of us plus short term stays and eating out in all of those cities was about the same as staying in one place longer and flying around the country instead. This is where that spreadsheet comes in so handy, it allows us to compare prices and lay it all out before making our decisions.

We have been at this travel thing now for three months and so far so good staying within our budget. We have come to a point where we are talking about how we want our life to look like at the end of this and even ways we might start earning some money now, while we are on the road. We are looking into websites for people seeking house sitters or work exchange programs although I am yet unsure how these work for families. If we can offset our housing expenses then that allows us to allocate that money somewhere else. While I felt the author of that travel article was very absolutist and narrow minded about how to approach this kind of travel, I do think it is important to keep your feet on the ground and look at all angles of earning and spending money. Our goal is not to cross every item off the bucket list or pull up to the finish line dead broke but instead have the experience of assimilating into each new culture and new place; making it enjoyable for everyone, grasshoppers and ants alike.

Quinn running through a park with her hand in the air

Keepin’ It Real: Communcation

Jacob and I were recently asked by a good friend of ours during a much needed Skype session, “Ok, let’s be honest, how is it really?”  JD and I both laughed and then sighed and spoke about the ups and downs of the last three months.  It occurred to me in the days following our conversation that he might not be the only one with that burning question.  So here is the first in the series of…

Keepin’ it Real: Travel with Kids

Installment #1: Rage Against the Machine

I think that Jacob would agree when I say that overall things on the road have been surprisingly great.  For instance, right now, as I sit and write this post, the girls are playing in their room popping out every so often to dance and spin around the living room in the quest for a toy or whatever object they need to enhance their game.  They have been doing this since I got home from my Christmas shopping outing which was about an hour ago.

I would say, 75% of the time this is how they are; engaged with what we are doing as a family or with each other in play.  We are all establishing a routine that is completely different from the one we know in the US and in someways, not so different at all.  For instance, our biggest difficulties with the girls arise when they are tired physically or tired with each other.  Typical fights occur when Quinn wants some down time.  She is like Jacob and me, a little more introverted and requires solitude to refill her gas tank.  Mackenzie is the ultimate in outgoing.  She refills with social activities and rarely wants to do anything quiet on her own.  This difference causes a big amount of friction in our family because three out of four of us need alone time to recharge inevitably leaving Mackenzie to feel frustrated which then leads to tears, clenched fists and stomping feet.

Quinn has her challenges as well.  She gets tired more easily than the rest of us and a chain reaction is set off: Quinn starts whining, stress increases and biting at each other ensues.  It is not as if these kinds of fights didn’t occur at home, it is just they are more noticeable now that we are around each other 24/7.  One lesson Jacob and I seem to have to relearn with each new city in which we arrive, is the need for a plan on where we will eat BEFORE we leave the house.  If the plan is to eat out, pick the place or top two places ahead of time and when ready, go there.  Instead, we often find ourselves wandering around the streets trying to decipher menus in a foreign language unable to make a decision due to growing weariness, hunger and cries of our children.  If it were just us, no problem we can order just about anything and be happy but the girls are much pickier. When hunger is onboard, good communication and decision making is not.

Jacob and I seem to be holding onto the some of the same roles we held in Colorado.  Mine was always the running of the house: Grocery shopping, dinner preparation, cleaning, laundry.  Jacob has always been the one to research things to buy, vacations to go on or other such decisions.  He is a natural at this and so I often rely on his research as a baseline of information to make decisions. He is also the one with a close eye on our finances.  When I let go of full-time work to stay home with the girls, I also deferred to Jacob about decisions regarding our finances.  I know I am not alone when I say, stay-at-home moms struggle with guilt over not bringing in money.  Even though I went back to part-time work when Quinn was 2, I was also starting a business and still not bringing in much more than we were paying for childcare.  The deferred responsibility over financial decisions continued and guilt when I would spend any money on myself and resentment of that guilt, continued.

This is all irrational I realize and never once did Jacob reinforce these feelings by his words or actions.  My inner conflict, I think, just naturally comes from that sense of autonomy we all seek and when we rely on a partner financially or for any other basic safety and belonging need, it feels vulnerable which creates internal friction and therefore, communication is challenged.  I wonder now, how we fell into these gender roles. I remember in college I railed against the notion of these typical gender roles.  And yet, here I am 40 years old and following a path that was set before me 100 years or more ago.  All this to say that I think both Jacob and I were ready to give up some of our typical family responsibilities and patterns when we chose to embark on this journey.  So its no wonder, we are having arguments that stem around wanting the other to take on more responsibility for the thing we are sick of doing all the time.

Alas, some of these roles and responsibilities will always fall to one or the other; patterns are not so easily changed.  For instance, one of my “jobs” which I just have to deal with, especially since the the girls are older and more conscious of what it means physically to be a girl and not a boy, is to be the take-me-the-bathroom parent.   What I wouldn’t give to have a few moments to myself when our food arrives to the table to enjoy a couple of bites rather than inevitably when the food arrives, the girls have to go to the bathroom or Jacob says, “have you girls washed your hands?” a legitimate request but couldn’t we have remembered that 10 minutes ago?  Jacob is a master at excel spreadsheets and retains information like no other so maintaining our budget sheet and comparing airline prices will likely always be his job.

Ahhh, these little gripes grow into monstrous beasts if not attended.  Just as at home, we fall into doing jobs for the family that we naturally gravitate toward.  The trick is to communicate when we need a break from that job. We are trying to figure all this out; adjust to our new normal.  Sometimes heated arguments about sticking to budgets that start on the streets of Arequipa, Peru lead you to new awarenesses of your shit or “work” as I would have said it while wearing my therapist hat.  Jacob and I are each reading a lot on Buddhist thought and teachings and trying to establish a regular meditation practice to develop more tolerance for internal suffering in all it’s various formations.  I try to find little moments during daily activities to practice mindfulness.  I often described this to my clients as everyday mindfulness practice.  Just turning my attention while out and about to observe what I am feeling in my body, emotions, or thoughts, can be just the thing I need to reset my state of mind and choose kinder more accurate words.

Many of the arguments and communication breakdowns (cue Led Zeppelin) between all of us are the same now as they were at home.  The gift is that we don’t get to run away from it or go to sleep or work for 8 hours and “forget” about the argument. It is right there, waiting to be resolved.  We get to practice a new way of being using better strategies.  For the girls, we understand that they need a break from each other and don’t always know this need is their problem.  Jacob and I have each taken a kid and split up for 2-3 hours to give them that break.  Then, I get to feel my heart soar watching their loving reunion as they run toward each other across a plaza.  It’s all about asking for what you need, anticipating the needs of the girls, taking space when necessary and finding acceptance and openness for times of difficulty.  Now, let’s see if I can walk my talk…