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What Traveling Solo With A Newborn Taught Me

What Traveling Solo With A Newborn Taught Me

One of the things I feared the most when deciding to have a baby was that I would lose my freedom, my own sense of self.  I mean, motherhood is exactly glamorized in the most positive way sometimes. I was scared of the “mom” label. Did that suddenly mean I would go to the supermarket in sweatpants, with a screaming baby who I would yell at all day.  Would it mean I was confined to my house, leaving behind my wanderlust and desire to see the world? Were my best years behind me?

When my first child Nathan was born, I was determined I wouldn’t be one of “those” moms.  I decided I would just carry on with life, with a baby in tow. I always knew I wanted to have kids, but I wasn’t one of those overly maternal people.  I never crumbled into ooohs and ahhhs when a young child was around and wasn’t one of those people who everyone said “aww you will be such a great mom one day.”  But I really had no idea how much you could love something so little and grow so selfless overnight. Literally overnight.

So rather than jump on my mission to naively prove that I could be my own person, and have a baby, it changed to taking him everywhere because I just loved him so much that I wanted to share him with everyone.

What Traveling Solo With A Newborn Taught Me

In New Zealand, we are lucky enough to get paid maternity leave.  When Nathan was born, it was 12 weeks of paid leave and now it is 22 weeks (going up to 26 weeks in 2020)  This bonding time is amazing to have, so I decided to use this time to visit my parents who lived in the USA.  So at 8 weeks old, I took my first trip with a newborn baby, solo, on 24 hours of travel. To be honest, people thought I was crazy.  But my husband was going to meet me there later on and come back on the plane with us, so I figured, “if it’s a nightmare on the way over, at least I’ll have help on the way back.”

So how is flying with an 8 week old baby on your own?  Totally doable. As a mother of 3, looking back, it was a piece of cake.  But at the time, it was still pretty good. My number one piece of advice is to have a baby carrier of some sort, so that you can have your hands free.  I have an Ergobaby soft shell carrier (which means no metal frames) and it can be used as a front pack and a backpack. He snuggled in there through all the security and customs in our connecting flights and loved the movement from walking between terminals.

As much as possible, I tried to keep him on schedule with feed times and sleep times, similar to at home and he was no more unsettled than he would usually be.  I got a bassinet on our 12 hour international flight from Auckland to San Francisco and it was awesome to have somewhere to put him and get an hour of sleep here and there.

Perhaps the first thing I learned on this trip, was how much empathy other people can have, and how easy it is to go the extra mile and make such a difference to someone.  Let me give you some context… New Zealand has a real “tall poppy” syndrome, meaning we hate when anyone thinks there are better than someone else. We think everyone is the same no matter what.  And naively before travel, I would have seen parents with small children, and barely have given them another look. Now though, I can’t help but look for ways to help them. Whether it is to pick up a bag, hold the door, give a kind word of support, I feel such empathy for these other parents who are basically juggling ticking time bombs and trying to hold everything together.  

I never expected extra treatment for traveling with a little baby, as I am just like everyone else, but it was just the little things that made a difference.  The family line through customs, the extra glass of water when you usually had a pay for a bottle (on a cheap airline), the priority boarding etc. They sound like little things, but they made so much of a difference.

While we were in the USA, we took a trip to New York City.  Another one of those things that seemed like a good idea at the time. It was just after New Years, it was 1F (-17C) in the middle of a blizzard, and we took our 8 week old on holiday.  I mean, what were we thinking? Well, we rugged up wee Nathan in winter gear, in a sleeping bag in the stroller, with a weatherproof cover so he was toasty and warm and we pushed him around the city sightseeing.

Again, people were so incredibly nice.  We were in a store on 5th Avenue and store clerks offered us space in the changing room if we wanted to feed him.  We went up the Rockefeller Centre Building to get a view across the city, and the lovely people there offered us to skip the queue since we had such a little one.  On the way down the lift, they offered an alternative exit that wouldn’t be so busy. I just had no idea that people could be so helpful. Perhaps it was always happening around me and I was too self-centered to noticed.  I mean I don’t think I was a narcissist by any means, but I never had any reason to wonder about the parents, nor any context on how to help them. Everyday people were going out of their way to help little old me, traveling around a foreign country, with a baby I was still figuring out how to program.

These beautiful acts of altruism have continued as our family has grown.  With three children, we hike around New Zealand and show them the beauty of our surroundings.  On a recent 7.5 hour hike up to Little Mt Peel,(where I took all three kids by myself), members of the local tramping club, held my kids hands as they traversed a ridgeline.  They slowed their own trek down through this narrow section, just to give us a hand.  

So here I was, trying to prove to the world (or myself) that I could travel with a baby and life could be amazing… but that actually wasn’t the lesson at all.  It was opening my eyes to the kindness and the love from other people. It was learning in practice how a little kindness can go a long way. It was understanding that, in the context of the tall poppy syndrome, that sometimes, other people are more important, and that’s okay.

Now when I travel, I look for opportunities to pay forward that kindness, because I just know how much it helped me.  I offer to hold or look after a child while their mum goes to the bathroom, we bring extra small toys and encourage our kids to share them while waiting, and we try to offer kind words of encouragement and support to those that really need it.   

As I stand in the sausage shaped queue with little chatterboxes littering the air with their thoughts, I don’t just ignore and carry on.  I think of the community I have joined, I understand how we are all one people and I bend down and look into their eyes and know its not about me, it’s about all of us.

Africa Asia Australia Australia / New Zealand Europe Middle East North America Travel Planning

The New UNESCO World Heritage’s Sites We’re Dying To Experience

Every year at its annual meeting, UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee unveils new additions to its epic list of significant cultural and natural sites. This year, the committee added 29 sites to its powerful list… which has got us totally inspired to revisit our bucket list. Pretty awesome, right? Here are some of the new UNESCO World Heritage Sites we’re chomping at the bit to see for ourselves!

India: Jaipur City, Rajasthan

India’s northern fortified city was designed years ago to be a commercial capital, and its grid-like city planning is proof. Jaipur’s organization creates uniformity throughout its public squares, residences, temples, markets and stalls. But its grid plan with different districts actually pre-dates the Western idea of city layout!

Australia: Budj Bim Cultural Landscape

Located in the country of the Gunditjmara Aboriginal people, the Budj Bim Cultural Landscape is one of the planet’s most expansive aquaculture systems. Through oral tradition, historians have been able to understand that the creation of this complex system goes back centuries. The system allowed the Gunditjmara people to call this location home for over six thousand years… but it’s believed to have been thirty two thousand years old/

Myanmar: Bagan

The sacred site of thousands of temples, stupas, monasteries, frescoes, sculptures, and archeological gems – Bagan is a wonder. It’s incredible architecture and collection of ancient Buddhist art illustrate the power of the Bagan empire.

Iraq: Babylon

Babylon is home to the Hanging Gardens (one of the seven wonders of the world). But, the surround villages and the ancient city also once housed the world’s most influential ancient empires. Rulers like Hammurabi and Nebuchadnezzar sat within the city walls as emperors, forever changing the world’s history.

Italy: Le Colline del Prosecco di Conegliano a Valdobbiadene

Prosecco anyone? The “ciglioni” checker board designed rows of vines dates all the way back to the 17th century. You’ll find lots of small plots of land with the design atop the area’s rugged terrain. (P.S. if you love a good glass of vino – check out this round up of destinations for wine-lovers).

United States: The 20th-Century Architecture of Frank Lloyd Wright

You know a Frank Lloyd Wright design when you see it. Frank’s iconic Fallingwater in Pennsylvania or the modernist Guggenheim Museum in the heart of NYC spotlight his “organic architecture” style. Each of his eight buildings scattered across the USA blurs the boundaries of indoors and outdoors, making a strong impact on the many architectural designers that followed his legacy.

Iran: Hyrcanian Forests

Iran’s Hyrcanian Forests date back to 50 million years ago. Yep, you read that correctly! This ancient forest area covered most of the Northern Temperate region of the planet many moons ago. The biodiversity within the forests now is staggering. 180 species of birds and 58 mammal species have been recorded within its dense woods.

Iceland: Vatnajökull National Park

This volcanic region of Iceland covers 14% of the island! Within the national park, visitors can find ten volcanoes (eight of which are subglacial and two of which are the most active on the island). The amazing volcanic action creates incredible landscapes, including river systems, growing canyons, massive waterfalls and more.

Japan: Mozu-Furuichi Kofun Group: Mounded Tombs of Ancient Japan

The burial mounds of all shapes and sizes found above the Osaka Plain are tombs for the elite. Archeologists have found weapons, armor, ornaments, clay figures in the shape of homes, humans and more within the funerary system.

What do you think? Find some new destinations to add to your bucket list? Every traveler should get familiar with UNESCO’s listed destinations and sites. It’s beyond inspiring to learn about their mission. (P.S. you can check out the whole list of the new UNESCO World Heritage Sites, if you’re interested in learning more!)


Have you visited any of UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites? What was your favorite?

Australia / New Zealand Outdoors

Why Winter Is The Best Season To Visit New Zealand

New Zealand is a unique island country that draws tourists like a magnet all year round. If you love beach holidays and wine tastings, then the opportune time to book your trip is in the summer. But if you’re more into snow-covered slopes, fewer tourists, and lots of adventure, then you will definitely benefit from flocking to the islands in winter. In fact, we believe that winter is the best season to visit New Zealand, and here are five reasons why.

 

1. Traveling for thrifty travelers

June, the first month of New Zealand’s winter, belongs to the low season. There are fewer tourists at the beginning of winter, so hotels normally reduce prices for accommodation. The same goes for plane tickets, car rental, tours, and entertainment. In addition, wintertime is an ideal season for introverts – unlike summer, there are no crowds of tourists occupying all local sights. If you plan to stay away from the advertised ski resorts, you can barely meet any tourist-packed buses.

2. Snow makeover

New Zealand is beautiful all year round but in winter, mountain tops adorned with snow caps add a touch of magic to the landscape. Mountains, like giant cupcakes covered with velvet frosting, can be found here and there no matter where you travel throughout the islands. Any journey in winter, whether on New Zealand small group tours or by rented car, gets a boost of excitement when you cruise through the land of snowy peaks.

3. It’s time to unpack your skis or snowboard

Winter vacation enthusiasts from the Northern Hemisphere are sure to miss the charm of ski resorts in the summer. If you’re a sucker for skiing or snowboarding, you don’t have to wait several months until the chill comes to your vicinity. In New Zealand, the wintertime is in full swing by July. Hundreds of ski fields, ranging from the world famous and loaded with tourists to more intimate yet equally worthy resorts, await you in this Polynesian country. What is especially cool about New Zealand is that the mountains always have snow cover, so you don’t have to struggle with bare mountains or icy terrain.

4. It doesn’t get too cold

Despite the fact that New Zealand turns white in winter, the snow mostly lies in the mountains and rarely reaches your feet. This means that you won’t get numb with cold while sightseeing. Numerous giant lakes of the South Island maintain a comfortable temperature in winter, while warm currents enveloping the North Island contribute to the mild climate. In fact, the temperature rarely drops below 10 °C. On a sunny day, you can even bask on a beach without the risk of freezing your limbs off.

5. Unique plant and animal species

New Zealand is not only the home for majestic mountains, crystal-clear lakes, and mighty geysers, but also a unique kingdom of fauna. Many endemic species that can be seen nowhere else in the world inhabit the islands. In winter, the whale migration routes pass so close to the coast of New Zealand that you can see these gigantic aquatic mammals literally from ashore, especially in Kaikoura. If you want to come in closer contact with this marvel of nature, you can hire a boat with a guide or hop on one of the many tourist yachts.

Asia Australia / New Zealand Caribbean Latin America North America Travel Planning

Our Favorite Tropical Destinations When The Cold Weather’s Got Us Feeling Down

Our Favorite Tropical Destinations When The Cold Weather's Got Us Feeling Down

It’s that time of year. The grey, dreary weather of the winter has got us really dragging our feet. Summer seems leagues away from our realities. Isn’t this just the perfect time to hop on a jet to a tropical island? We think yes! Here are our top ten tropical destinations we’d highly suggest for any Dame Traveler ready for some sun and relaxation this winter!

The Maldives

Ah, yes. The ultimate tropical oasis. The Maldives crystal clear waters, oceanic surroundings and warm air have us swooning. If jet-setting to the most magical blue waters of the Maldives is on your bucket list, be sure to check out our guide to this paradise.

Serenity Found In The Tropical Maldives

Bermuda

“Bermuda, Bahama, come on pretty mama.” The Beach Boys knew what they were talking about when they included this island in their lyrics. Bermuda’s sunsets are unlike anything we’ve ever seen. And trust us, it’s the perfect setting for the ultimate girls getaway!

An Instagrammable Guide To Bermuda
An Instagrammable Guide To Bermuda
An Instagrammable Guide To Bermuda

Cozumel, Mexico

Paradise found. Cozumel’s lagoons, lapping ocean waters and watercolor sunsets are calling our name during this blisteringly cold season! When booking your dream vacay, be sure to pick a hotel that offers beach front views like this one. For the adventurous soul, Cozumel is also well connected to some of the most historic Mayan Ruins and other seaside towns too!

Maui, Hawaii

30 miles of beaches that are yours for the sunning in. Maui’s incredible pools, waterfalls and winding tropical roads are incredible. Maui is plush with rainforests and city living perks too. And it’s the perfect starting point for adventurers who want some relaxation before jetting to the other, more wild and adventurous islands like Kauai. When you’re planning your get away to Maui, check out this post on our top five experiences to have!

Havana, Cuba

Okay, listen. We know Havana isn’t a typical tropical island per say… but it’s always going to top our list of warmer destinations in the bleak midwinter. There’s no place like Havana. Truly. It’s a place stuck in time. Vintage cars, pastel hued architecture, cigars, warm and inviting locals, hot weather? Yeah, count us in.

Our Favorite Tropical Destinations When The Cold Weather's Got Us Feeling Down
Our Favorite Tropical Destinations When The Cold Weather's Got Us Feeling Down

Koh Samui, Thailand

Koh Samui is a favorite destination for adventurers for good reason. It’s affordable and has the perfect mix of relaxing atmosphere with the option for many a party on any given night!

Bali

Bali has a special place in our hearts. We hosted a wonderful girls getaway and photo retreat there this past year and discovered so many hidden gems! As tempting as it is, don’t miss out on these cultural activities when visiting!

An Insiders Guide To A Girlfriends Getaway To Bali
An Insiders Guide To A Girlfriends Getaway To Bali

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

This seaside city is sure to swoon you. Rio de Janeiro is best known for its wild and wonderful Carnaval festival – but we’d highly suggest checking it out in any time of year! And besides, who wouldn’t want to escape to Copacabana in the coldest season of the year?

Key West, Florida

Who says that tropical destinations have to happen abroad? Key West has a certain appeal unlike many other cities in Florida. Be sure to visit Hemingway’s house in between getting your tan and sipping on daiquiris!

Jamaica

To round out our list, we had to include Jamaica! The home of reggae music, lush and rainforest laden environment, surrounded by the bluest waters and dotted with incredible resorts. Jamaica is a great place to find yourself getting a tan in the middle of winter (and even find love) – don’t you think?


What do you say? Time to hop on a plane and catch some sun? We’re totally down!

For those of you planning your ultimate tropical getaway, be sure to check out our other favorite beaches around the world for more inspo!

Photos by Nastasia Yakoub

Australia / New Zealand Giving Back

Eco-Friendly Travel In Australia: Explore The Most Amazing Places On Foot

Australia is one of the most eco-friendly destinations in the world. With 85% of plants being endemic and having a 10% stake in the global biodiversity, this is truly an amazing country to see and feel. It’s also a unique opportunity to see koalas, wombats, and echidnas – all remarkable animals having Australia as their home.

The landscapes and natural beauties are a story for themselves offering visitors magnificent attractions and experiences to remember. To help you decide what to visit first and next, here are the most amazing places in Australia to explore on foot.

Lake Hillier

Pink Lake, formerly known as Spencer Lake, hasn’t been pink for little over ten years due to the weather conditions. But Lake Hillier is still pink and near the blue ocean which makes it a gorgeous play of colors and nature. The lake is surrounded by eucalyptus trees and sand dunes covered in vegetation. The best thing about Lake Hillier is that is safe to swim in.

Blue Mountains

The Blue Mountains is a national park close to Sydney with the famous Three Sisters peak. The walk through magnificent nature will take you to waterfalls and through unique rainforests. Those really adventurous can try some rock climbing, but firstly this is the place famous for amazing hiking trails.

Go on the Grand Canyon Walk and up to the Echo Point lookout to relish the view. This is a perfect place to escape city rush and come for an enjoyable meal in the local restaurants. For an added experience, go on the steepest ride in the world – Scenic Railway.

Lord Howe Island

Lord Howe Island Group consists of 28 islands famous for their millions of years of volcanic origin. This is a World Heritage Site with untouched forests and undisturbed flora and fauna that it is perfect for hiking holidays. Besides some of the best hiking trails, it is also a great place for bird watching with more than 200 different species.

A gorgeous coral reef spreads on the 6km lagoon rich with marine life and surrounded by volcanic mountains. Forests like Blackbutts, Greybarks, Curly Palms and Hopwoods are all perfect for a relaxing walk, and you can even visit Goat House Cave if you are up for a challenge.

Daintree Rainforest

As part of the Daintree National Park in Queensland, Daintree Rainforest is older than the dinosaurs. This World Heritage Site offers Ngadiku Dreamtime Walks which are led by indigenous people. While you hike the gentle tracks, you will visit culturally significant locations and pass remarkable landscapes.

Before the walk, you will participate in the smoking ceremony to ward off bad spirits. Then you will hike through the rainforest and learn about traditional plant use. Of course, you can take self-guided walks on trails like Baral Marrjanga, Rex Creek Bridge and Rainforest Circuit Track.

Eco-Friendly Travel In Australia: Explore The Most Amazing Places On Foot

Twelve Apostles – Great Ocean Walk

Great Ocean Walk is what happens when you decide to go over 60 miles (96 km) long Great Ocean Road on foot. One of the national parks you will pass on your way is the Twelve Apostles which are the testimony of the times long passed. There are eight massive limestone structures left now and they are around 148 feet (45 meters) high with 230 feet (70 meters) high cliffs behind them.

This is a wonderful spot to observe the sunrise and have a picnic, or simply enjoy the view of the horizon and natural landscapes. At night, the whole area gets eerie with the sea glowing in the moonlight, so it’s also a nice place to stay after dark.

Eco-Friendly Travel In Australia: Explore The Most Amazing Places On Foot

Royal National Park

Being the oldest park in Australia, Royal National Park is also the third oldest in the world, after Bogd Khan Uul in Mongolia and Yellowstone in the USA. This is a perfect national park to visit if you are staying in Sydney since it is only one hour away. Look from the ancient cliffs is amazing and will certainly be a life-changing moment for many.

Natural formations like Figure Eight Pools are located near the track and offer a great spot for photo sessions. You can take a dip at the Little Marley Beach and Wattamolla and visit river valleys with eucalyptus woodlands.

Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park

Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park, or just Uluru, is an ancient landscape full of history and tradition. The land belongs to Aboriginal people Yankunytjatjara and Pitjantjatjara which will tell you their stories and legends. There are many rock arts in Uluru like in Mala Walk and Kuniya Walk to Mutitjulu Waterhole.

The best way to explore Uluru is by foot and there is a number of walks to do that. You can walk around Uluru instead of climbing on the Talinguru Nyakunytjaku from where you can see the whole area.

Final Thoughts

Whatever place you choose to visit in Australia will tell you a story, so you can’t make a mistake. But exploring this eco-friendly country on foot will show you some amazing places. So, pack some snacks and put on your hiking shoes, because Australia is anxious to tell you its story.

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