Dropping my daughter off at school knowing I wouldn’t see her again for a week was harder than I expected it to be. The last time I was traveling without her for a week she had broken her tibia and fibula two days prior so I had some anxiety about leaving. I text my husband as I walked out of her school misty eyed and relayed how sad I was to say good-bye.
“One day in paradise and that feeling will be a distant memory,” he said.
Waking up to the howler monkeys in Nicaragua a day later and I knew he was right.
Let’s be clear, traveling with a toddler is not a vacation, it’s a trip. Between packing their clothing and snacks to lugging their car seat through the airport and praying they don’t make a scene on the plane, its work just to get to your destination. Once you arrive there’s schedules to follow from lunch to naptime and, of course, the challenge of getting around a foreign country. Being a flight attendant and yoga instructor means I have a flexible schedule; however, having my husband take time off work and budgeting for a family vacation for three is a once-a-year ordeal. I wanted to find a way to satisfy my desire to travel and not feel guilty leaving my husband and daughter behind. I also needed to find a way to get paid for these adventures, so it was essentially a working vacation.
After much research I found my niche – hosting adventure yoga retreats. My first one was in Telluride in 2014 and allowed me a weekend escape where I taught yoga, led hikes, and created a community of 14 women from all over the country. Charlotte was about 16-months-old at the time and, while leaving her was difficult, it allowed me time to myself while doing something I loved. I then took another opportunity to host a retreat in Belize, which was followed by a Glamping Retreat and then another hiking retreat in Telluride. The more I traveled away from my daughter, the less guilty I felt because I became a better mom in the process. Coming home to her after a week away meant I was re-energized and more focused on her needs, because I had left my stress behind.
While in Nicaragua on my latest yoga retreat this February, I had a realization that there were experiences I would not be able to have had if my daughter been along with me. If my husband and her had come along, then one of us would have had to stay behind while the other had a massage. I would have had to wave to them from the shore as I received my surf lesson with the knowledge that once it was over it was back to being mom. I would have had to worry about how much sunscreen to apply and what foods she would enjoy or how on earth we’d make the trek to the neighboring town 20-minutes away in a taxi with no car seat. A zip line experience wouldn’t have been in the cards because of her age and I certainly wouldn’t have been able to enjoy a late night glass of wine while star gazing.
Without my daughter and husband along, I was able to focus on teaching yoga without hurrying home. I enjoyed my coffee hot every morning (and finished it hot!) and had uninterrupted dinners and conversations. My photos may not have my daughter and husband included, but they have 12 new friends featured that became my family for the week. Hosting yoga retreats has allowed me to expand my social network, travel, and learn new skills like surfing – all while getting compensated.
Many times I will have women ask me if I will consider having a yoga retreat where mom’s brought their kids. My answer is always that a retreat isn’t a retreat when your children come along. While I’ve had many mother’s attend with their adult children, I have never considered involving little ones. I believe moms and dads need time away to refocus and re-center. You need that time away to realize that you are more than just a parent and caregiver. I always miss my daughter and husband while I’m gone but I never feel guilty because I know I’ll be a better parent and spouse when I come home. My daughter will have her own time in life to travel and experience the world. Some adventures I may join her on and others I may not, because she will need her time away from me as well someday.
I truly believe as parents we often neglect our own needs and sacrifice who we are because that’s what we feel society dictates as being a “good” parent. I know so many parents who have never even taken a weekend away from their child for fear of missing them or missing out. What I missed out on during my week in Nicaragua was replaced by what I gained when I came home. I had a new appreciation for my husband and all the work he did while I was gone. He, in turn, had a new respect for all I do on a daily basis that often goes unnoticed. My daughter received quality father/daughter and grandparent time and was able to experience life without me for a bit. Most important it was wonderful to know I had a life waiting for me on my return and people that loved and missed me. This made coming home even sweeter.
I feel so fortunate to have found a way to fund my wanderlust lifestyle. Adventure and connections, to me, are the key to a happy life and I plan to continue seeking both. One day, when my daughter gets older, I hope she’ll join me on one of my retreats and appreciates all the hard work I do even while I’m away. As for my husband? In addition to acknowledging how much I do around the house he realized he was missing a bit of adventure in his life, as well. Looks like we’re both traveling to Tulum in November for my next retreat. Sorry Charlotte and grandparents.
Do you take time to get away and re-energize yourself? How have you felt traveling without your kiddo?
Just read this Natalie – I love it! It’s so important for us as moms and parents to get away on our own. I love following your adventures and hope to join one day.