"Congratulations! Your Travel Days Are Over..."

How many times were we told that Selima would bring the end of our travel lives? Too many to count. People would say "you did it right. You got your traveling out of the way before children". As if when the she came out, there would be this invisible barrier that prevented us from walking out the front door of our house. Or even worse, when people found out we were having a baby they would say "Well, I guess you're traveling days are over!". As if that little embryo crawled up Kailah's uterus and flipped the ol' "travel switch" permanently to off. Honestly, it was disheartening. But it was also motivating. And fortunately for us, we made the commitment to each other to continue to do what we love.

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Selima has now been to 4 countries (Iceland, Switzerland, Austria and Germany), California, Washington and Texas. She's flown on 10 different airplanes. Chugged along on over 25 trains. And walked (or been carried) tens of thousands of steps. Kailah and I are proud of ourselves.

I say all of this, to say…that it has also been hard. We'll be the first to admit that travel is far from the same with a baby or toddler…not to mention if you have multiple. There are minimal dinners out past 5 PM (unless we invite grandparents on the trip!). Rather than sightseeing, or enjoying a relaxing glass of wine on our balcony, we very well might find ourselves at the park in town swinging and sliding. What it comes down to is that we would rather be traveling with Selima, than not traveling at all.

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Many people have asked us how we've "done it". How have we continued our love for visiting foreign lands, with a baby (and now toddler) in tow. For those that do travel with their kids, they know that there isn't a single answer to that question. We are all different people, with different children and since our kids are constantly growing, we are always traveling with a new version of our child. So how the heck can we help others by providing advice? We can only do our best to try.

Instead of listening to me babble on about in-flight tactics and travel planning with kids, I think it's best to talk about our high level mindset (however, don’t hesitate to email us at travelplanning@nowhereonearth.com for any specific questions!). The entire ordeal of travel, from a difficulty standpoint, is really all psychological. If we were traveling alone, we would deal with most of the same stress that we do with Selima, but with her getting added to the mix exaggerates those worries. For example, after a long day of flying, the last thing you want to do is stand in a line for two hours at customs. When you add a screaming child to said line, the anxiety can sky rocket.

So how do we do it? We start by booking the flights…

Well "duh" Kyle. Everyone knows that. But seriously, it's literally one of the most difficult things we do. When we commit ourselves to hundreds (if not thousands) in airfare, it creates a pretty damn good motivator to follow through. It also does something more important. It starts the ball rolling. It represents action and commitment. There is such a huge difference between planning a trip that we have purchased flights for and planning a trip we haven't. Especially when traveling abroad.

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The next part is discipline. And this really starts at a young age. When 4 month old Selima was screaming in her crib and had been for 30 minutes, we watched with frantic, weary eyes from the baby monitor. All we wanted to do was go in there and pick her up. But the doctor said she'd learn to put herself to sleep. 10 minutes later…she was out like a light. It seems small, but it's this level of discipline that is so helpful for us when traveling. It helped prepare us, and Selima. When you know that screaming baby is ready to close her eyes for the remaining 7 hours of a flight and you just have to fight through the next 20 minutes of bouncing, shushing, screaming and crying…it gets easier, and less stressful. This goes for more than just tired babies. Once you've learned to keep pushing through, that cancelled flight, or two hour wait in customs doesn't seem so bad. Last week in Switzerland, my phone stopped functioning (thank you Selima for punching it repeatedly), Amazon compromised our credit card (and then did it again 2 weeks later) and somehow we got separated at the train station in Bern. I literally watched in disbelief as my wife and daughter drove by me on a bullet train headed for Interlaken, while I stood on the platform. These types of things would be stressful at home, within our comfort zone. But in a foreign country? …Only if we allow it…

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The final piece when traveling with children, in my opinion, is "expectation versus reality". We do not travel with the expectation that we will be able to follow our plans. We ALREADY KNOW that kids AND travel are unpredictable. So we set that expectation in our PLAN. If we convince ourselves that one dinner out on the entire trip would be "nice", then two dinners is a bonus! (plus, shopping for local foods and sampling them at your apartment rental is a blast and cheaper). If we want to see multiple sights in one day, then we might leave the next day open. If the first day's plan goes awry, no problem! The moral of the story is that we will do less, but still more than if we were at home. We just need to be sure to set our expectations correctly.

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To tie it all together, the key to travel with kids is really like doing anything else in life. It's a combination of the “why”, our discipline and expectation versus reality. We do it because it's WORTH the effort to us, we remain disciplined to push through the difficult times and we set our expectations correctly. If we do these things, we are at least setting ourselves up for success. The rest is just noise. Usually screaming…

 

Kyle

Why Vietnam?

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As Americans, many people have asked us “why, of all places, did you choose to visit Vietnam?”. Honestly, it wasn’t a question I was prepared to answer at first. I hadn’t really thought about justifying it to anyone. Some people asked because their only exposure to Vietnam was related to the US and Vietnam war, while others were concerned for our safety. And then of course, the question that got posed the most frequently, “why travel so far for vacation?”.

The answers to these questions are always impossible to communicate without a more in-depth conversation. Which can be said for most of our trips. It always comes back to “why we do what we do”. That why is rooted in a specific feeling. It’s the feeling of stepping off of an airplane and knowing you are in a completely different part of our world. The people are different, the language is different, the food is different…literally everything is different. That newness sparks curiosity for us. It ignites adventure. It makes us remember how small we are. For Kailah and I, it isn’t just a “vacation”. I try not to even use the word because it comes with the implication of escape. We don’t want to escape anything. We just want to live more. And for us, that living is defined by experiencing new cultures.

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We chose Vietnam because we had such an amazing experience during our first trip to Asia and we wanted to have another adventure just like it (Not to mention the low cost!). We decided that our perfect recipe this time around would be “a dash” of city and the balance spent near a beach, with copious amounts of culture. After visiting Thailand, we knew we wanted to explore some of the other surrounding countries like Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos. We also knew that during our time frame, the most southern Asian and Indonesian countries would be in the middle of Typhoon season, so we wanted to be certain to avoid a dreary trip. Following in-depth research and conversations with other travelers, we landed on sunny southern Vietnam.

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A deciding factor, the culture piece is so important to us when traveling. Like anyone else, we enjoy lounging on the beach with our beverage of choice, but we also generally try to combine it with a new authentic experience. In Vietnam, we were able to get the best of both worlds by exploring Ho Chi Minh city (formerly Saigon) for a couple days and then spending the balance of the week on the tropical island of Phu Quoc. Bustling Ho Chi Minh gave us exposure to the chaos of everyday life in Vietnam’s capital, delicious Vietnamese restaurants (shout out to Bep Me In) and the bustling night life of Bui Vien Walking Street. In Phu Quoc, we were able to slow way down, enjoying more Vietnamese cuisine on the beach, but also exploring a nightly open air market, organic bee farm, pepper farm and panoramic gondola over to Hon Thom island. I will never forget the garlic and herb, pork Bun Cha dish served near our hotel. It was a simple, traditional, mouth watering dish served by smiling locals.

There ya have it. The “why” for Kailah and I. We will continue to return to Southeast Asia (and everywhere else we can get our hands on) in continued search of the curiosity and inspiration that we get from stepping off a plane for the first time. Hopefully this helps put in perspective why we love to do what we do. More details coming soon on our Vietnam adventures!

Safe journeys,

Kyle

87,000 miles later. Nowhere On Earth: A Year in Review

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2018 has been one hell of a ride. We’re finally taking a a step back to breathe and rehash the great memories created as we navigated our travel lives with addition of our daughter Selima. As a family, we flew over 87,000 miles (that’s three times the circumference of earth) and 200+ hours, across two continents and six different destinations. We got to see friends tie the knot, drink cab sav in THE Napa Valley, climb a glacier, glimpse the northern lights, visit English pubs and even lounge in the famous Hungarian baths. Instead of babbling on about what we did, we thought it might be most interesting to recap what stood out and what we learned this year, especially with baby in tow (for more details on Napa, Iceland, England and Hungary, check out our destinations page).

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Baby wearing is the real deal: Humans have been “wearing” babies for thousands of years for a reason. It is easier to get things done when you have both hands to do so. And that is exactly what we’ve found when traveling with Selima. So whether it is carrying luggage, hiking a mountain, or snapping selfies at the Gulfoss waterfall in Iceland, we’ve been wearing our little girl. Originally we started with a small baby bjorn, but have needed to upgrade now that Selima has grown out of it. We were fortunate to get an opportunity to partner with Ergo Baby and they sent us their new Cool Air Mesh (CAM) Carrier. It is much larger and more padded than the bjorn and allows the baby to ride several different ways. We would highly recommend. While we acknowledge the need for strollers, and we bring one on every trip, our carrier has certainly made traveling easier for us.

Napa has changed wine forever: Kailah and I never used to be wine drinkers. Neither of our families drank wine growing up, we certainly didn’t dabble in college (Save the occasional box of Franzia) and both of us essentially dove head first into America’s craft beer craze. We didn’t understand wine. For us, it was this pretentious and expensive beverage that rich people ordered at dinner. But then we started traveling and quite honestly, learning. We started tasting new foods and drinks while trying out new ways to eat and drink the ones we already were familiar with. We ate octopus in the Azores, steak in Tuscany, duck in Paris, chocolate in Belgium and on and on and on. But it was Italy that started a wine movement for us and I credit it for tipping the scale. In a land where great wine is cheaper than water, you simply do not imbibe in anything else. However, this post isn’t about the chiantis, rossos and brunellos of our world. It’s about the Cabernet Savignons, Pinot Noirs and Chardonnays…

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The week before we left for Napa, we made a huge mistake. We went and filled our wine shelf. And then hopped on a plane for America’s most famous wine region, where we would be getting a crash course in appreciation by the people who make it. The experience that stands out in my mind to this day was a private tasting we set up at Pride Mountain Vineyards. We paid $90 a person to get a private tour through their caves and an extravagant sit-down tasting in their summit room. While feeling rather kingly through all of this, it wasn’t where I gleaned the most value. Once our tasting was over, our guide took us back into the caves for an “experiment”. He paired us up, gave us two glasses and led us to two areas, each with a pre-tapped barrel of cabernet. From the first barrel we drew from, he said it was taken from a part of the property where the vines were only 5 years old. I took a sip and noticed it was a bit watery, but smooth and easy to drink. For the second glass, he said that it was harvested from 15 year old vines. This one packed a punch and was much dryer and full of flavor. He then asked us to mix the glasses together and taste again. The result? It was the best of both worlds. And little did I know it, but we had just built a WELL BALANCED WINE. So that’s what those fancy wine drinkers are talking about!? It’s not pretentious at all! I couldn’t believe how real this made wine tasting for me. I could actually understand the difference because I had become educated on it and little did I know how much this would change my perspective on wine.

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Iceland the beautiful (but expensive!): There is nowhere else on earth (see what I did there?) that you can walk on black volcanic beaches, glimpse towering waterfalls, visit active geysers and scale a glacier, all in the same day. It’s truly a gorgeous country and is one of the first places we’ve traveled in Europe where we felt isolated by natural beauty. With that being said, Iceland’s tourism is booming right now and there were no shortage of tourists during the day (yet way less then any other European location we’ve been to). But at night and in the morning, when all of the buses are parked back in Reykjavik, Iceland gave us an amazing sense of being alone in nature.

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Obviously isolation and tourist demand drive increased cost. And that is exactly what we found out when visiting Iceland. We don’t want to deter people from visiting (because you should!), but we want everyone to know what to expect, budget for and how to save money. During the northern lights season, late August to mid-April, hotel prices soar as people flock to small villages in hopes of glimpsing the Aurora Borealis. In addition to hotels, food and drink costs outside of Reykjavik are significantly higher than any American or European city we’ve ever been to (Reykjavik is similar, but has a few alternative options to eat/drink for low cost). For example, when we arrived in Vik, we visited a small brewery in town called Smidjan Brugghus (highly recommend). We each had two beers and a burger. The beers were $15 a piece and the burgers were $20 each for a lunch-time grand total of $100. A bit pricey eh? Especially the beer, which is marked up almost 200% compared to cities and close to 300% in other locations. As you can imagine, dinner time can easily run you $150-$200 a couple at a decent restaurant. So as value-based travelers (aka we don’t like to pay more than something is worth) we started thinking about how we could adjust, so that we weren’t paying $400+ a day in food and drink. Instead of eating out for breakfast and lunch, we bought yogurts, bread, meats, cheeses, peanut butter, jelly and so on at the grocery store (Yes, larger towns have these). One bonus find was the same pureed food for Selima as we buy at home - huge win when we ran out of what we brought in our suitcase. We also found local beverage stores and grabbed bottles of imported wine and local canned beer, which were still marked up, but only 15%-20%. This overall strategy dramatically reduced our daily cost because we were not longer paying a gigantic premium. And at the same time, it made us very flexible traveling with a baby because we could eat on the go.

Moral of the story: Go see Iceland’s beauty, budget wisely and spend what you budget :).

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You are never flying with the same baby: The first time we flew with Selima was a breeze. Despite a five hour delay, our little three month old snoozed the entire four hour ride down to Austin, Texas. I can remember thinking “This is it? What’s the big deal?”. What we hadn’t accounted for was that she was going to get older, and at an exponential rate.

The second time we traveled, we upped the stakes to six hours of flight time to match her six months of age. This time we booked a seat for her on the way there because it was a night flight and we wanted her to have her car seat to sleep in. This worked great. The ride back however, was in the morning and our little darling angel had no desire to close her eyes. Fortunately, Kailah’s parents were on the same plane and we took turns juggling her. Despite a mid flight diaper adventure, I can remember thinking at the end of the flight, “This was tougher, but it could have been worse…”

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Flights five through eight were where we really started to appreciate the challenge of taking a baby on a plane. Both flights were over five hours and we played the same hand - night flight on the way out with her car seat and then a day flight back. We had done this twice already. We were pros right? Wrong. What we hadn’t accounted for was that Selima could sit, crawl and stand now. She had no interest in sitting down for a flight. And with all of these people to look at, why would she want to sleep? Yet again, we were flying with an entirely different baby than we had at three months and six months. She was larger, smarter and required more attention. There are only so many times you can feed a baby and play the Muppet Babies theme song on your cell phone.

Flying with a baby is pretty similar to our experience as a whole with our new addition. Each month, week and day, we see new development. Diapers and clothes become too small, we have to put protectors on our outlets and move anything from our lower shelves that we don’t want destroyed. It’s the same for flying. What worked the first time, may not work the second, or third. Our job is to keep adjusting, changing and supporting as Selima develops.

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7 out of 8 weeks on the road makes for a tired family: Simply put, we pushed it a little too hard over the past two months. There were some unexpected trips, like my travel to England for work, but overall we probably tried to pack too much into a short time period. I think if it was just Kailah and I, it wouldn’t have been a problem, but throw a baby into the mix and it adds a whole new dimension of stress (not to mention lack of sleep). With that being said, we are unbelievably grateful to have had these opportunities and have learned so much in the process. We can’t wait to tell Selima these stories and show her the pictures of the places she visited in her first year on this earth. Traveling with her is a new challenge and it would certainly be easier to do it without her (and we will in January, when Kailah and I take our anniversary trip to Vietnam), but we know the value of building this foundation for our family and hope that Selima will enjoy traveling the same way we do.

Thanks for reading and hope to connect with everyone soon! Please don’t be afraid to reach out!

Cheers,

Kyle

"We love to travel"

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How many times have you heard this? I've said it more than a thousand times and it never elicits the response I expect. I always think people will be excited to hear about my passion. For god's sake, I'm a traveler! But it rarely works out that way. I usually get a dull acknowledgement and we move on to some other small talk subject. Why aren't they happier for me? I've decided that it's for two reasons. First of all, people equate travel with an escape from their every day life (I'm on vacation!). Secondly "I love to travel" is a pretty poor representation of why we enjoy going to new places. So here's what I really mean... 

In our society, vacation is a word that has always come with the stigma of escape. It's that golden week that we planned ahead for, where we don't have to drive to work, we don't have to take orders (except for maybe a spouse) and we sure as hell don't have to get out of bed in the morning. It's like summer break, when we were in school, but compressed into a week or two. The problem is that we spend most of that time dreading the return. It's never long enough and we always look back wondering where it went. Said plainly, it's not fulfilling. 

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When Kailah and I take that invaluable week off from work, we plan adventures. We go places that we have never gone, and do things that we have never experienced. We bathe mistreated elephants in Thailand, we eat crepes in Paris, we swim with dolphins in Jamaica, we tour vineyards in Tuscany and we drink Guinness with the Irish in their pubs. This allows us to continue to grow and move forward, instead of pause time to escape from it all. I can honestly say that when I return from a trip abroad and I walk into work on Monday morning, my energy and motivation is through the roof (despite minimal sleep). Learning and experiencing are extremely powerful motivators for us. And trust me, we find plenty of time abroad for rest and relaxation. We just mix it in with culture and experience. That is what we mean when we say "I love to travel". 

 

 

Baby's First Flight

First flight is in the books! And believe it or not, we survived...

Flying with a baby is definitely one of the least desirable things I can think of when traveling. Airports and flights can be stressful enough, but when we add an unpredictable infant into the mix, it just feels like a recipe for disaster. 

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Since Kailah and I share a passion to continue exploring our world, we knew we would need to raise Selima with this is mind, in order to keep doing what we love. If we didn't take a long term approach, we would risk building habits and expectations (for both her and us) that would not be conducive to the unpredictability of travel. This is not to say that we already have a bulletproof strategy, but we are happy to share what worked for us (and what didn't) the first time around and hope that it will help others develop their own.  

Our flight didn't exactly get off to a "roaring" start. As soon as we parked our car at Logan airport (Boston), we received an alert from Delta that our flight had been delayed by five hours. And just like that, our planning for Selima's feeding and napping schedules immediately went out the window. We had to start ad-libbing before the journey had even begun. 

Getting through baggage and security was a breeze. We generally do not travel with checked bags, but since we were traveling with a three month old and staying in a rental, we needed to pack her bassinet. So we checked one very large suitcase (stuffed to the zippers with a bassinet, clothes, wipes, diapers, bottles, blankets - on and on) and our two backpacks containing our clothes for the weekend. We figured checking everything was easier, so we could focus on the diaper bag, stroller and car seat (car seat and stroller checked at the gate)...oh! and the baby...

Once through security, it was time to get some food. Selima was still acting like a true road warrior because she had napped on the way to airport and it wasn't time to eat again. We were traveling with friends (thanks for your patience Elijah and Kristen!) so we made a reservation for five at Legal Test Kitchen in terminal A. Selima didn't want anything to do with sitting still, while we waited for dinner. There was too much to see. So we took turns walking her around the terminal, holding her upright, so she could see everyone. This was something we had done dozens of times in public since she was a few days old. The constant stimulus was enough to keep her mind busy, especially because she got plenty of smiles and attention. 

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When our names were finally called for dinner, it was time to eat for everyone, including the baby. We had prepared to feed her a bottle at this time, but originally, we thought we'd already be on the plane. Our plan was: a bottle during ascent - resulting in a sleeping baby until touch down in Austin. With many hours worth of delays, we "audibled" and planned on feeding her one more time before lift off. After dinner (we would definitely recommend Legal Test Kitchen in Terminal A by the way) and a few beverages, we had to find a way to waste a few more hours. 

This was by far the most difficult stretch. Selima started to get tired, but since she was over stimulated, she refused to close her eyes. I'm pretty sure I did 300 laps around an empty gate area that night, bouncing, juggling and begging her for slumber. But even then, she had no intention of settling down. We played the last card in our deck, by plopping her in the stroller and continuing to cruise her around the terminal. No dice.  

We planned on bringing Selima aboard as a lap infant. Meaning we only purchased two seats and since she is under the age of two, she could sit on our laps during the flight. We were five hours delayed, so we were now dreading entertaining an awake baby for four in-flight hours. 

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We were lined up to board the plane, when a flight attendant came over to me and gave me the best news of our fledgling, baby-toting, travel lives. She said that they had held the seat between Kailah and I and we could bring Selima's car seat on board. It was at that moment that I looked over to see Kailah rocking back and forth with a FINALLY exhausted and sleeping baby. I literally could have cried. When it was time for families to board, we rolled down the jet bridge, checked our stroller and let that beautiful, sleeping infant dream for four hours at 40,000 feet. 

I have to be honest. I thought flying with a baby would have been worse. We had ups and downs, including a giant wrench thrown at us in the form of a five hour delay. But it really wasn't THAT bad. Which is probably a good thing, since we have three more flights booked for Selima in 2018. I'm sure they will all be just as unpredictable, but we'll keep learning and adjusting, so we can continue to pursue our travels. 

 

Cheers!

Kyle