Posts Tagged ‘ excursions ’

What Travel Does For Me…And Fi

Friday, February 25th, 2011

Before I had Fia, travel was my lifeblood. It sustained me, gave me purpose and left me humbled. No matter how harried or remote the trip, I would always come back grateful for having gone; for having left my comfort zone and experienced life a different way. It never let me down.

From the moment we started dating, Phil and I were on the same page. We wanted big careers and a life of globetrotting. We implicitly agreed that kids weren’t going to be part of our equation. To make a long story short, it was upon our return from Mali, West Africa a few Christmas’s ago that we realized maybe life wasn’t all about exploring the next country. Maybe it was about creating and adding more to the life we had here. And perhaps in the process, god-willing, raise a good child who would do good things.

So now we have Fi. And my globetrotting consists of taking her to Kidville for wiggle-giggle, keeping her from getting mangled by the cat or falling on the steps, and all the other joys that go along with parenthood.  And I dig it. Far more than getting my passport stamped. But now I am realizing I can have both. No need to choose.

When I took a trip to Belize a few weeks ago, I wasn’t sure if I’d be homesick and heartbroken leaving Fi. Turns out I was neither, but unlike other trips, I didn’t want to race off to another country or adventure before returning home. Five days was the perfect amount of time and just enough to make me feel alive again in my travel shoes.

It was also important for me to know that Fia could survive without me for that short time. In fact, I had my blackberry all programmed to send and receive texts, thinking I’d torture my sitters hourly. No such luck. (I’m sure they were quite saddened). We were 3 hours away from the airport in the middle of the rainforest. And once I accepted the reality that there would be NO SIGNAL, I immersed myself in all the joy and empowerment that travel brings to my life.

(Once a day I borrowed someone’s computer at the lodge in exchange for a drink and did a quick check of email. Click here to see what was happening on the home front.)

On the drive to Black Rock Lodge we passed little villages, roadside stands, and fruit and vegetable peddlers. We saw people walking along the side of the road, and waiting for the bus (many don’t own cars).  Just day-to-day activity. Life. But it was that, and things as simple as billboards and store signs that re-ignited something dormant in me.  It’s different. It fascinates. It stimulates.

Once there, we were truly in the wilderness, at a place that is completely self-sustaining, meaning they generate their own electricity and grow their own food. Check out the website to see how they do it. (Luckily they do bring in alcohol and had a fully stocked bar).

One of the women who worked the reception desk was 8-months pregnant. She had a lively spirit. Good juju. She was married to one of the managers and they live in a cabin on the property.

“How are you going to get to the hospital when you go into labor?” I asked, barely able to mask my alarm (the 7-mile road off the main highway is barely that—it could better be described as a rocky, pockmarked bike path).

She shrugged and said, “Well, hopefully I’ll labor here for awhile, and we’ll leave in time to get to the hospital.”

Of course.  What is wrong with me? I’m rusty. I had to pinch myself to remember that most of the world isn’t privy to weekly ultrasounds, hospitals within five minutes and the insistence on getting a “private bed” after delivery. By most standards, Belize is up there. She had had an ultrasound (they’re having a girl. Congrats!). And they do have the capability to perform C-sections, etc.  So while it’s different, (and I think fair to say, more bare-bones) it’s not without modern amenities.

As I hear the whir of my washer, I laugh at how good—no, I shouldn’t say good, that’s relative—about how easy I have it. In Belize, this is what we passed one day.

Baby in a Bucket

Baby in a Bucket

It’s brilliant in that it reminds me why travel is so crucial to my life. It snaps me out of my mom-self world and into one where Exersaucers, bottle sanitizers and wipe warmers aren’t part of the vocabulary. I need to make sure I never lose that perspective or become so self-absorbed that my awareness for the bigger picture disappears.

My hope is that when Fia is a little older, she’ll understand why occasionally Mom needs the adrenaline rush that comes from setting foot in unfamiliar territory. And I hope she’ll want to strap a bag on her back, take my hand, and go crossing borders with me. I bet she’ll love it as much I do.

Quick Update: Before I left, I wrote about how worried I was that Fia would miss me. I’m happy to report that she didn’t! As for that magical reunion when I thought she’d squeal with delight? Well, that didn’t happen either. I got home late and picked her up out of her crib. She looked at me, blinked, and then fell back asleep. The next morning (at 6 a.m.), my grand entrance was met with her usual crib stance, hands out, calling for the cat. Seriously. Wayne Sanchez even trumps me when I go on vacation.

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Not A Vacation

Sunday, June 20th, 2010

Did I say last week that having a baby is like being on vacation? Really? Or did a ghost swoop in and steal my computer? Honestly, I went to the museum with a spring in my step, and left with a limp (along with a covering of cheerios, a film of sweat and a coating of baby formula).  Good times.

I thought the exhibit, Race to the End of the Earth (about Antarctica explorers), would put mommyhood into perspective. I guess it did when you consider I nearly sweated to death (instead of freezing to death).

There were four moms and four babes (five if you consider one of us was pregnant. And no, it wasn’t me!). Getting there on the subway took four different trains (thanks to some unplanned MTA service changes). Since this was my grand idea, I tried to keep it light. I told the moms that we would get good exercise schlepping our strollers up multiple stairs. And that seemed to work well, that is, until we had to keep changing trains. Usually you get a Good Samaritan to help carry your baby-in-stroller up the steps. But anyone who saw our caravan was sure to run the other way. Who could blame them?

Once at the museum, we headed straight for the food court. The babies needed things like pizza, an apple, a grilled cheese sandwich and hot water for a bottle. The moms needed a booth to collapse in. I couldn’t believe I was that person, sitting in a cafeteria at 11 a.m. and actually dreading getting up and walking.

tiredofhistory

We finally hit the exhibits. Fia promptly went to sleep at the stuffed mammals (the one thing I thought she would like). We were told the explorer exhibit I wanted to see was an IMAX. And if our babies cried, we’d have to leave. After great debate, we psyched ourselves up. Yes, our babies can do this. We’re going for it. We went to buy tickets, and were told conflicting info: no IMAX.  It was a walk-though. Though for us, it became more of a crawl through experience. But at this point, like the explorers, there was no turning back.

At one point, I was on all fours, chasing Fi under a yurt waving a clean diaper in the air. Nora’s baby Aiden had his first bout of separation anxiety when she ran (pregnant) to the bathroom for 30 seconds. We all danced and sang to him with zero consolation. Visitors scurried past us, not sure why we were performing a jig next to an igloo and a screaming baby. Courtney’s baby Teddy tried to eat the fake ice mountain (the plaque said “Do Not Touch”). Stephanie’s baby Gracen was flinging and contorting her body every which way in the stroller while screaming. In baby speak, she was yelling, “Let me out of stroller jail! I want to be an explorer!”

We exited and looked at our watches. I was sure 5 hours had gone by. Nope. Only 2 ½. How was that possible? We needed to kill more time. We left the museum and bee lined to the only place that could soothe our souls: The Shake Shack on 72nd street. One Shack-Dog later and my nerves began to recharge—at least enough for the subway ride home.

We moms try and get together every Thursday. Each week one of us picks what to do. After this excursion, I think I lost that privilege.

Oh, and P.S. by the time I hobbled home, I was too tired to even watch Oprah. So much for indulging myself with baby.

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Living in the Moment

Thursday, June 17th, 2010

I’m taking Fia to the Natural History Museum this week. My mom friends and I feel like getting out of Brooklyn for the day. There’s an exhibit there: Race to the End of the Earth. It’s about two explorers who in 1911 went to the South Pole and back.  It was an 1,800-mile journey where their endurance and survival skills were up against not only extreme weather and insane logistics, but also THE UNKNOWN. I figure after seeing it, any challenges of motherhood will be put into perspective.

But here’s another little secret: I wanted to go to the Museum—and have for some time. I’ve been a freelancer for years. Every day and week was different. Before I had Fia, I wouldn’t give myself the permission to “indulge.” Rather, I’d sit at my computer and force myself to do something, anything.  I had to be productive. And if I couldn’t, well, then I’d do things like train for marathons. Climb mountains. Or, say, go to Timbuktu.

dirt and dust in Timbuktu, Mali

dust and desert in Timbuktu, Mali

But now I’ve realized something that I hesitate to even share because a) I might feel totally different tomorrow, if Fia has a meltdown and b) I don’t want my husband to see this because then all my whining is negated.  At the risk of both, here it goes:

If you don’t have to work full time, once you get through those first really hard months with a newborn, it’s kind of, in a small way, like being on vacation. Dear Lord, I said it. I’m ducking under my table right now, cringing at my very words.  Let me rephrase: when your baby is 10 months old, like Fi, you can start to entertain yourself and your baby simultaneously. You can do things normally reserved for a weekend—or vacation. (There’s that bad word again).

Having placed so much of my own self worth on career, it was hard for me to go with the flow without a goal at the end. I mean, the other day, I was playing on the floor with Fia, watching Oprah. Halfway through the episode, I put her down for a nap and thought, I better turn off the TV and DO something productive. I can’t just lay here and watch….can I? Well, maybe just a little… And finally, SCREW IT, I’M FINISHING THE EPISODE. (Dare I say I watched another one after?)

Granted, I am a little type-A, so many of you may have been born with the ability to write yourself a permission slip. For me, this is an awakening. Fia has accomplished what no therapist or yogi could: she has, without even knowing it, given me ability to live life in the moment—and make that moment whatever I want it to be, i.e.: Oprah, museums, etc. She is allowing me to enjoy aspects of life without degrees, accolades or medals attached. She has quieted my monkey mind.  And, in many ways, transformed me, by completing me.

soaking in the sun -- and Fia

soaking in the sun -- and Fia

I know this is a finite time. When she starts to walk—or run—a trip to a museum in Manhattan may require Advil (for me) and a leash (for her). And when she goes off to nursery school and beyond, I’ll have chunks of time to fret and worry about furthering my career and not falling behind in the world. But right now, by fulfilling myself, I feel I am fulfilling her. By opening my eyes, I’m opening hers.  Those explorers didn’t know what they would find on the other side. I don’t know either. But for right now, I’m completely living in the moment.

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