• Claudia Elena

Are You a Busy Mom Who Dreams of Travel? 10 Secrets to Make Your Dream a Reality

Updated: Feb 7

All of you moms out there know that having children involves an identity shift of seismic proportions, and literally changes every aspect of your life.  While children are wondrous and magical creatures that bring a new feeling of fulfillment into your life that you never could have imagined possible, they are damn hard.  Unless you are some kind of unicorn put here on earth for the sole purpose of being a mother, you would be lying if you said being a parent isn’t hard. 

Granada, Nicaragua

We need to shed the mom guilt that comes along with even admitting it’s hard, and do a better job of supporting one another.  I’ve been fortunate to have so many supportive women in my life who understand. But there is that subset of women who don’t take kindly to the slightest complaint because that signifies you are ungrateful; as if we can’t love and appreciate something while simultaneously dreaming of escaping it at times.    


There is so much sensitivity, and I get it.  There are countless women who desperately want children and can’t.  There are those who have lost children. I feel for them very much. The thought of that is heart-wrenching.  In an effort to be empathic and to show the world just how grateful we are for the gift we’ve been given, mothers can feel tremendous pressure to cherish every poop, beam with joy at every tantrum, and capture each and every sleepless night and place it in a fairy worshiping container.   Ok, going overboard a little bit. But my point is that well-meaning people love to remind us to “appreciate every moment,” when sometimes we are barely hanging on. Sometimes we need some damn permission to complain, to be validated that it’s hard, and to not appreciate every single waking moment.  


I’m not angry when people tell me to soak up every moment because it goes by quickly.  It’s a good reminder for me to slow down. I can usually see the love beaming from their hearts when they say it, as they reflect fondly on memories of a time when they had young children.  They genuinely miss those times and want you to know how much you’ll miss it one day too, as if you can freeze time.  


Nevertheless, these comments can really leave us feeling depleted, unworthy, and downright guilty that we are not grateful enough. I’m just here to say; IT’S OK!  It’s okay to not be euphoric at every moment. Feeling overwhelmed and even hating it sometimes doesn’t make us any less lucky or any less appreciative. It doesn’t mean we don’t love our children with every fiber of our being.  It just makes us human. There, I said it.    


Mom guilt is a bitch, and I’ve experienced my fair share of it.  A little guilt is healthy because it can motivate us to be better and do better for our kids, but the guilt, perfectionism, and self-doubt I see in some moms is kind of sad.  I just want to shake them and tell them “you’re enough!”  


Much of the guilt moms feel is about pressure to adhere to arbitrary norms and conventions.  I think we need to question those conventions and call bullshit on them when they don’t serve us.  We shouldn’t blindly follow what our friends are doing because they seem to have it all figured out.  I guarantee you they do not. I am very willing to share the challenges I feel as a mother because I think women need to hear that they are not alone.  And sometimes I don’t want to feel alone.

   

That’s my biggest advice for you.  Talk about it with trusted people. Get it out.  If you are feeling depleted and want to do more for yourself, do it.  If you want to take some of your life back that you’ve completely handed over to others, to reconnect with yourself, you need to know that it is OKAY!  You can.  You might even want to take a trip just for you.  If so, I got your back. I grant you permission.


 

Taking care of yourself and what you want (not JUST what you need), is not selfish.  And even so, is it wrong to be a little selfish sometimes? You’ve become a mom, but that’s not all you are.  You are so much more. Although our identities that we had before children get buried in the weeds, it’s important to dig them up and keep feeding our souls...not just so we can be the best moms we can be...so we can be the best version of ourselves we can be.  


This is how my trip to Nicaragua came about.  After my daughter was born, I had already been a mother to my son for 3 years.  While having my first child rocked my world, having a second really pushed me to my limits.  I felt completely depleted. Exhausted. I had the family I always dreamed of, but my confidence in myself as a mom was declining under all the pressure.  My sense of self was fading away. I needed to get myself back. Solo trips to the grocery store or the gym, once in a blue moon date nights, and an occasional weekend away was not feeling like enough.  Every time I was away, I felt a pressing need to get back home because of the guilt of leaving my husband alone with the children. I needed more.  


Travel was something I hadn’t gotten to do in years and was something that was so invigorating and fulfilling to me.  I knew I needed to get far away and do something that was just for me. I had been dreaming of going to Nicaragua. It can be quite an undertaking to get away when you have a family who wants and needs you home.  Despite having no budget for it, and two little ones (ages 1 and 3) at home, I was determined to make it happen. Here’s how I did it and how you can do it too. 


1. I ditched the mom guilt. Who is it serving?  What is it accomplishing?  I gave myself permission. What helped me was to prepare my children for my departure.  I didn’t make a big deal out of it. Conversations about my trip were light-hearted and fun...and mainly centered around the topic of volcanoes.   While my daughter was too young to understand, I remember having lots of fun conversations with my son about volcanoes and how much fun he and daddy would have while I was gone.  He drew me a picture of a volcano and I told him I would bring it with me wherever I went on my trip.


2. Negotiation and compromise.  As a mom, one cannot just hop on a plane and go.  There are husbands, jobs, and kids to think about. Of course, first and foremost, I needed to make sure my children would be in good hands.  In my case, they would be with their father. He knew me very well, so when I mentioned the idea of going on this trip, he was able to understand the reason I wanted to go and was willing to support me. I planned to be gone for a week and a half and he felt he could manage this.  


To make the deal sweet for him, he decided he also had an adventure he wanted to take a couple months after my return.  I was willing to give him a whole month away on a wilderness survival program, just to be able to have my time away for less than two weeks.  We compromised and we both got something out of the arrangement. Whether it be your husband, your parents, or other caretakers of your children, make sure you work out a solution that can work for everyone.  Barter, trade, get creative. Figure out what you can do for them in return.  


3. Time off.  Time off can be scarce in this country.  For me, I work at a school. I am fortunate to get so many vacations but I can only travel during those specific vacation windows. My husband at the time operated within the typical 9-5 work-week with very limited vacation days (maybe a week for the whole year).  We were able to overlap my trip with Christmas time when he had some extra days off.  His parents helped out for the other days he had to work. You may need to do some creative crafting with your employer and save up your days.  


4. Money.  I ended up having an epic trip to Nicaragua on a tight budget of about $600-$700.  We did not have money laying around to take a trip, so I had to be resourceful and we had to agree that we would put expenses on the credit card and pay it off as quickly as we could.  


How was I able to travel on such a tight budget?


5. Solo travel. We did not go as a family or a couple.  Solo travel was much more affordable. This worked for us because he was not so interested in going to Nicaragua and he really needed to be there for the kids at their young ages.  


Granada, Nicaragua

6. I chose an affordable country. I chose Nicaragua for my first trip away. Depending on how frugal you want to be, you can stay overnight in hostels starting at around $15/night, you can stay at luxury hotels, and there's a huge range of moderately priced and very nice options as well. Food is affordable and public transportation is usually only a few dollars to get from point A to point B.


7. The flight was free.  This justified the whole trip for me.  If I hadn’t discovered how to leverage credit card points and sign-up bonuses, I may not have gone.  It would have been too expensive. 


There are a plethora of websites out there that teach you how to leverage these sign on bonuses. At the time, I had just discovered Extra Pack of Peanuts.  I highly recommend this site.  They teach you how to travel for cheap and have an entire section of their website dedicated to the best credit cards for travel.  If you are smart and pay off your card right away, this is a great strategy. I’ve used points and sign on bonuses to fund many of my adventures.  The bonus I got from signing up for the Capital One Venture card and meeting their spending requirements, paid for my flight.   


8. Public transport. I traveled cheaply within the country I used mainly public transportation. I think this is one of the best ways to see the countryside and to experience the culture of a place.  Plus, it’s cheap! I was careful but not stingy about my accommodations.  I stayed at one affordable boutique hotel, a nice cabana on a farm, and some very nice hostels.  I didn’t stay at the absolute cheapest places I could find, but they were very budget-friendly. We ended up only sharing a room in a dorm for a few nights of our stay. 


9. Meals.  We ate very cheaply.  We ate out only two meals a day, eating a granola bar or small snack in between if we needed.  We could have cooked meals in the hostels and saved even more money, but we opted not to do that on this trip.  


10. Take a friend. I found a travel buddy.  Not only did this make it more fun; it also helped to split cost. Finding a travel buddy can be difficult when all your friends are either broke, raising babies, or planning to have babies (no Zika for her)!  


I didn’t want to go alone so I took matters into my own hands and posted an ad on Reddit. People think I’m crazy for doing this, and she and I joked that I could have been a psycho plotting to lure her to a foreign country to harvest her organs. But this was the best decision I ever made. I won the the reddit travel partner jackpot!  I had the time of my life, gaining a lifetime friend in the process, and she was so cool, I decided not to harvest her organs after all. Ha ha.  


The adventure of going to Nicaragua was everything I needed it to be, and more.  It reconnected me with pieces of myself I had lost. The little embers inside of me, barely burning, were ignited and I felt alive again!  

I can’t imagine where my life would be if I hadn’t pulled the trigger and figured out a way to go.  Since then, I have made it a point to continue traveling. While it is hard to fit it in as a working mom, I take advantage of as many opportunities as I can.  It fills a piece of me that had been missing. When I feel whole, the pressures of motherhood feel more bearable, and I can show up more fully as a mom. 


You might wonder how I could leave my children for so long. For some moms, this is hard to do.  Dads do it all the time and people don’t bat an eye. Ahhhh, double standards! My kids were not only fine without me; they were great.  I was able to video chat with them almost everyday. When I returned, I ferociously wrapped them up in my arms and loved them with all the fury a mother can muster.  I was overjoyed to see them and filled with abundant gratitude to have them in my life, but to also be able to have that precious time away. 


After the trip, I was debriefing with my 5 year old son, and his reaction to my travels was priceless.  I made sure to write it down so as not to forget:


Me:  Are you mad I went on my trip?

Abbott:  No, I’m glad because you didn’t get to travel in awhile.

Me: Were you sad I was gone?

Abbott:  No, I wasn’t sad, but I did miss you.


That says it all.  Our kids love us and miss us, but they are resilient and can do just fine without us!  Bottom line: where there is a will, there is a way. If you make it a priority, you can make it happen.  It might not be tomorrow, or in a week, or a month from now; plan for something a year from now. Whatever makes sense in your life, start to figure it out now, and then make it happen!  You can tell your husband or partner

it was my fault;)

León, Nicaragua

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