A Travellerspoint blog

The Outlet Mall

rain 20 °C

Two weeks ago, while staying with my sister-in-law and visiting my husband's family, we went shopping at the outlet mall in Wrentham, Massachusetts. Myself, Bodhi, my mother-in-law and my niece Jenna. It was going to be a great day shopping. We arrive and I soon realize that I have forgotten all things essential for Bodhi. I forgot the diapers. I forgot the wipes. I forgot food and snacks and milk. And the raingear. In short, I totally misplaced my mind, and had nothing I needed...

So, I went about trying to find a solution. First, we drove around the small town of Wrentham trying to find a supermarket or drugstore. No luck. We found a Cumberland Farms convenient store, but they didn't sell baby supplies. We went to the outlet and I was determined to find something. I looked for a baby store, I asked in Carter's and another kids' store if they knew where I could go. I asked where you rent strollers if they had any extra supplies for sale. No luck. So then I did what I thought best. I walked up to another couple pushing a stroller and asked if they knew where I could get diapers. I had left all of mine at home and was desperate, I said.

The woman looked at me. Her baby had the tightest black curls and the brightest smile. Bodhi and the other boy were grinning at each other from their respective strollers. "No, I Don't... What size is your baby?"
"Size 3", I replied.
"So is mine", she said, "And I have an extra here, you can have it". Her husband handed me a diaper that looked like blue jeans, complete with fake pockets in the back.
"Really? You sure you won't need it?"
"We are on our way home anyway," the Dad said.
"You are a lifesaver!", I said, and I meant it.

What a blessing, and what a lesson. I felt that day that motherhood really is a community. And when we are willing to reach out, admit our needs, and connect with it, wonderful things can happen. I only hope I am able to help out another mother and return (or pay forward) the favor. Bless you, mom in Wrentham...

Posted by globalmomma 14:44 Archived in USA Tagged shopping baby massachusetts trip community diapers Comments (0)

5 Questions You Never Ask...

For Mothers Everywhere (pardon me this angry rant, but please comment and add any 'others' I may have missed!!)

Number 1: "Are you pregnant"?
I never believed that someone would have the gall to ask this question until it happened to me...when I was NOT pregnant. Actually, what she said was, "you are not pregnant, are you?" or something slightly more innocent sounding, but equally horrifying. I remember my reply...uh, no. Then she said, "that is a terrible thing to say, isn't it?" and I said, uhh, yes, it is. Then I walked away. I have heard these accounts from many of my friends, both those who have just had children and some who have not had children. Now I believe that there are people dumb enough to ask this question. And 90% of the time, it is a woman who asks, which makes it worse. Men we can shake off, like, well, they must not know what a pregnant woman would look like. Women should know better. I still want to slap the woman upside the head who said it to me, and if I see her, I just might. Basically, unless a woman is buying baby supplies AND she looks like she is about to give birth on the floor, don't ever ask this question. Even then, tread lightly. Otherwise, wait for her to say it, then respond.

Number 2: "Is she (i.e. your baby) still not sleeping through the night?"
Unless you have a child who is five and still not sleeping through the night, don't ask this. Especially if you follow it with a gushing remark like, ohh, my baby was sleeping through the night at only 10 weeks old, it was sooooo easy. In fact, any comparisons like this should probably be left unsaid. It sounds condescending and judgmental. It also implies that the mother looks exhausted and so you assumed that her child must be wearing her out. You know what assuming does, right?

Number 3: "How much did you gain during your pregnancy?"
Women do not like to discuss their weight, in case you hadn't noticed. Especially discussing the time in most of our lives when we have weighed the MOST...it is not exactly enjoyable conversation. Unless you are a very, very good friend or our mothers, do not go here.

Number 4: "Is he circumcised?"
If you know the mother or father to be vocal advocates of this topic, then fine. Otherwise, I find it a bit intrusive to be asked this question. Discussing this with your pediatrician, family, or friends is OK, but with strangers, not so much. Asking someone what they are thinking about it before the baby is born seems innocuous, because they can answer with "I just don't know" if they want to, but asking after the fact about someone's decision on their child's body parts is a little too much. Especially if you just met in a birth class or at the park.
I could add "Who's the father?" to this list as well, because asking that is just plain rude. I don't know many in this position as single mothers, but again, I have heard accounts of people asking this. If you are not close enough to know, then you shouldn't know.

Number 5: The question that has really infuriated me personally is this: it seems sweet at first, "How old is he/she?"
You answer, "14 months." You are expecting some sweet reply like, 'what a darling', or 'he's so cute', or 'enjoy it'. Replies you have heard many times. But instead, this person chooses to say, "Really? My God, he only looks like he's about 9 months old!" Or the other way, they say, "wow, she's so big! my 2 year old granddaughter is her size!" Not cool, people, not cool. Thinking you can size up another person's child's age is just not helpful. Plus if the parent has worries about their child not eating well, or being overweight, you just add to their worries unnecessarily. I used to want to trip those people who guessed my son's age in the airport or at the mall. "How old is he", they would say, "seven months?" "No, he's ten months." "Really? He's so small!" Gee, thanks, and you're ugly. That's what I should have said. :)

Posted by globalmomma 17:30 Archived in USA Tagged friend best sleep child baby questions weight age rude pregnant pediatrician Comments (0)

Love comes shining through

overcast 20 °C

Sometimes it takes a cathartic experience in order to see clearly. Last night was a major argument, an explosion of all things kept bottled inside for months and months. I believe every set of parents - at least the ones that stay together - go through this rock bottom point before they can begin to rebuid and restore themselves and their new relationship. This morning, I feel like I am emerging from battle, a phoenix rising. I am seeing with new eyes, this life, this person. I can again feel things that I had closed off from experiencing, as my emotions came tumbling out like stones turning in a fast-moving river. They are tumbling, tossing, becoming smooth like river rocks as they bounce up against the surfaces of my heart.

I am reminded of an old well-used philosophy quote, by Nietsche, likely the most relevant philosopher for today: "That which does not kill us only makes us stronger" When life gets difficult, when sentiments pour out that cause you to ache to your core, this is when a small portal opens and faith gets stronger.

It has been a difficult stretch for our relationship. What is important is to keep believing in each other, to keep focusing on the best outcome, and to continue to show up and participate in your life. This life is such a beautiful journey - we have to move through the tough times with grace and strength, and embrace the good times with all you can. After a darkest night, that is when love comes shining through.

Posted by globalmomma 23:37 Archived in USA Tagged up love argument relationship make catharsis Comments (0)

Water Park

August 8th

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Fun, fun, fun, the water park in Connecticut.

We went with family. Bodhi was still too young for 95% of the rides, but we were not too old to enjoy it!

Posted by globalmomma 01:07 Comments (0)

August in Anywhere USA

sunny 22 °C

We flew back from Italy to Boston on August first. We are at the end of a long, wonderful seasonal journey through Europe. We didn't want it to end, but unfortunately, it had a three month expiration. So here we are, back in the USA, trying to remember how things work here, and trying to find our next true move forward.

We are back spending time with our families... a real treat after months of traveling without family support and often days or weeks without contact. Our days are still as wide open as they were when we were on the road. Where will we go tomorrow? Where will we stay next week? Our next plan is to go to Hawaii, from Lake Tahoe where we will be visiting my family. We have our flight from Sacramento to Honolulu in two weeks. That is our final plan.

I am definitely a bit wary of living month by month through the end of the year. Worried it will get long and exhausting bouncing from place to place, as it is not as filled with events and possibilities, dreams and culture, language and food, as our Europe journey has been. We are currently deciding: Kona, Waikoloa, or Honolulu for our landing spot in September. Trusting our instincts will be our best guide. I must admit I feel twinges of sadness when I see houses for sale that I like, or am in someone else's comfy home... and I realize this is an area that I miss out on, that I give up in order to have mobility and freedom. There is a comfort that comes from a home, that after you have been on the road for months or years you can begin to forget. When you experience it for an instant, those day to day rhythms, it can comfort you with nostalgia. The glimpse, for me, is not worth what I would have to trade in order to have the life of a home... I like the adventure, I like being able to go anywhere, anytime... at this point in my life, I am enjoying the challenge and freedom of living moment to moment. But seeing life on the other side can offer a fresh perspective.

Our path is still open-ended. We hope to find a nice place to land, for a while, until it is time again to go. That may be a few weeks, or a few months. Another adventure, another place to explore. But first, a little time with family. And some time to reflect, recuperate, renew. A pause before the next act.

Posted by globalmomma 18:51 Archived in USA Comments (0)

Travel Advantages and Disadvantages

Advantages to Life on the Road --> a joint contribution with my husband Chris

(1) No cleaning for three months
I have not scrubbed a single toilet, not waxed any floors. I have however, hand washed a multitude of clothes in various sinks with various soaps and cleaners. But I haven't vacuumed or done any heavy cleaning since we packed up and moved out of our house in March.

(2) Becoming Improvisational and Instinctive
Traveling forces you to be creative, to try new things, to go without. Often I have not had the regular tools I need. For example, early on in our trip, I lost my baby changing pad. There are not really any changing tables in Italy, so I have changed my son on rugs, benches, floors; and generally I have to use paper towels, wipes, bags, sweatshirts...anything I can find to attempt a sanitary changing area. At first, it can be annoying to not have what you need. As you get into a flow of travel however, it becomes almost fun to see what you can come up with when squeezed for options. I have improved at adapting to situations overall. Making baby food out of restaurant bread and fruit stands, using juice or watered-down rice cereal when I don't have milk, creating toys from scratch. Airplane bags become puppets, pan lids are cymbals, hotel telephones when unplugged become perfect entertainment. It is always a challenge and requires creative thought and new ideas, keeping me on my toes and adapting more than I would if I had everything.

(3) Less is more
When you travel with only three outfits, after a short amount of time you realize that this is all you really need. A sweater when it is cold. A bathing suit for swimming. Nice pants or a skirt for dinner, something casual for touring and travel days. Life becomes simpler, easier. There is no clutter to distract you from your life as you are currently living it. For long-term travel, often people have consolidated their life prior to travel, so their bills are online, their things are in storage, there is not much 'at home' that needs attending. Often when you are living on the road, your whole life is where you are. So you pay as you go, with prepaid cell phones and cash. If you buy something new, it is to replace something you lost or that was ruined. Nothing is extraneous. I most emphatically recommend tidying up your life prior to long-term travel (as in over a month), because it gets complicated to pay bills, deal with mail, cancel memberships, contact people, etc all via email from thousands of miles away. Much easier to eliminate what you can (I cancelled two credit cards before I left, traveling only with one personal card, one business card and one debit card). I made most of our bills automatic payments onto the credit card, so I in fact only have to look at one bill online, and pay it directly online from my bank. Reduce, Simplify, and Go.

(4) Control your expenses
Without a mortgage or rent to keep up with, you are free to travel in a style that suits your taste and budget. There are hostels which can accommodate you for (usually) much less than $50 per night or you can stay in a fancy resort for $400 per night...it is entirely up to you! The best part is that you are not subjected to the greater movements in the housing markets, where the amount you have to pay remains fixed but the value of what you are paying for is steadily in decline. Just ask most any new home buyer in the past 3 years... We personally have diligently tracked our expenses from the time of our first major travel excursion (1 year) in 2002-3 and through 3 different homes. We have found that the amount we spend in an average month while on the road is approximately 2/3 the cost of a month living in a similar situation in a stationary location. In other words, being on the road is generally cheaper than being in one place. Most people do not believe us. This is generally something that shocks everyone when we tell them we spend less traveling than when we were living in a house with utilities and all of our stuff. Part of this is taking a more minimalist approach, but some of it is just a basic equation when all expenses in hotels and rentals are fixed, whereas all of the 'extras' in a house can add up. When we first started traveling full-time on a year-around-the-world trip in 2002, the first question most people asked was, "how can you afford it?" At first this was a funny question, then it became annoying. The real question is how can you get paid, or how can you make money while you travel. Or how much do you have put away in savings? Because the reality is that the amount of money it takes to travel is less than what you need to live in the same place, if you can find a way to do it.

(5) Less distractions
Our life at home was very pleasurable...always something on TV, always something to eat in the fridge, always a bottle of wine in the basement...you know what I mean. Some of you might not want to live without these comforts at your fingertips, we certainly miss them sometimes; however, they can, at least in my case, take away from the things I really love and want to do. We used to eat dinner in front of the TV occasionally... As of today, I have not watched a TV in 3 months. We used to have an Italian night 1X/week, I now study Italian every day. I write so much I am getting carpal tunnel. We get the things we need when we need them... stockpiling is useless when you have to carry everything you own to the next place, so you keep it light. The best part is that, for reasons I am not entirely clear on, we appreciate the simple pleasures that much more... and we live almost entirely in the moment.

(6) The literal ability to go anywhere, do anything
This is all dependent on where you are choosing to travel, your 'means' of procuring income (i.e. can you be anywhere or are you stationed overseas in a particular spot?), and your preferences. But I love that while traveling, if we hear about a great event coming up somewhere nearby, we are often free to go attend. There are no obligations holding us back from experiencing life. For instance, the Tour de France was in Paris, but we were living in Lucca. Well, a quick flight, and there we were for a weekend in Paris to watch the Tour. We made the decision to come to Lucca while we were in Prague, miles away, when we found out my husband could start at his Italian school mid-month, so we planned our trip and booked our apartment. The freedom of life on the road is infectious, especially in Europe where so many different places, events, cultures are only a quick train or plane ride away. There are so many choices you can make, where to go, what to do...

Disadvantages

(1) Less time with family and friends
This is obviously self-explanatory, but the most difficult part about traveling is missing the ones you love. It gets even more difficult when you travel with children...and they don't get as much time with your families and friends as you would hope.

(2) Less social interaction / language barriers
We actually have quite a lot of social interaction when you get into the groove of traveling and meet other fellow travelers, or when you stop in one place long enough to make friends, start conversations and you definitely meet interesting people along the way. But when you are in another country, esp one where you do not speak the language well, it is tough to get past that superficial level of friendliness to have someone to lean on and discuss deep issues of life with...which often leaves yourself and your travel partner as your 'everything'. It can be a lot of pressure on a relationship to provide everything that you need... Often while traveling, you have to rely ONLY on yourself and your partner to get by in many ways, which can be emotionally exhausting. Also, as a parent, there are no babysitters (well, unless you get lucky), no temporary help while you take a shower or run errands, no date nights. You are traveling as a team, for better or worse, all the time. This builds unity and connectedness but can also build frustration and test patience as distance between you is compressed.

(4) The rule of one thing/one thing out
When you have a fixed amount of weight you can carry with you on an airplane you are limited to how many things you can acquire - don't even bother trying to fly on Ryan Air. We do our best to live by the rule that when you buy something you really like or want, then something else has to go...trust me, this will entirely change you perspective on the cost vs. benefit of buying anything, unless it is really needed i.e. an umbrella in a rain storm...

(5) Mishaps, Mistakes, and Adversity
It helps to have either infinite patience or a fabulous sense of humor, but either way, sometimes you lose. There are inevitably those times where something doesn't work out. Your first train is late and you miss your connection. You have to stay an additional night in a place you do not want to be, or you get lost along the way. You lose your tickets, or your money, or your bags... You have to expect the unexpected.

(6) Planes, Trains and Automobiles
There can be so much travel, and so much time spent going from place to place. Logistics, logistics, logistics. It can be exhausting, difficult, tedious, sweaty, and plain painful at times to always be on the move. It can also mean long journeys by plane, train, bus, boat, whatever. You get used to getting where you need to go by every form of transportation, except possibly mules. The timing can be challenging, early morning flights, long mile walks from the train station to the hotel dragging your bags and stroller across town in sweltering heat or thunderstorms...there can be moments when the travel parts are less than ideal, and the travel from place to place is less about the journey than it is about the destination!

Posted by globalmomma 07:42 Archived in USA Tagged travel light to simple what days traveling easy bring expenses advantages long-term disadvantages Comments (0)

Ciao Italia!

sunny 26 °C

Cruel or marvelous, I am not sure, as I look out the window and see miles and miles of beckoning beachfront. Perhaps it is both at once. Marvelous to enjoy the scenes of Italy on our last day, cruel that we have to leave it behind as it taunts and leaves us longing for more.  A perfect sunny day on the coast, a Sunday filled with people out enjoying their weekend at the beach, wide expanse of ocean blue, fishing boats and sunbathers.  All this beauty outside the windows passing by, and we cannot get off and explore

We are on the slow train from Lucca to Milan. Today is our last day in Italy and we are taking the scenic ride up the coastline toward Livorno. The scene out the windows is enough to make me want to jump out at each stop and go 'on the lam'. We cannot stay longer, our visa has run out, yet there are miles and miles of sea, and one can really never have enough of the Italian coastal towns. The rugged dark charcoal cliffs, small pockets of sandy beaches absolutely covered with colorful umbrellas and people, the glittering Mediterranean sea, a deep turquoise blue on a perfect sunny summer day in July.  My heart wells with sadness that we can't stay and spend the weekend enjoying the beach and exploring the Cinque Terre. I want to stay for so many reasons now. Lucca is less than an hour from these amazing beaches and stunning coastline.  We spent our last morning in the cafe next to our apartment... we have been many times, but I still want more. And as we are walking home, I am hit with disappointment that there are so many more places in Lucca and in the surroundings that I didn't get to see.  It is difficult to leave a place that feels so much like home, and a place that has so much to offer. Last night on our evening passeggiata, we went to the botanical gardens in Lucca. On our way, there was a spontaneous concert in the town square, an orchestra outside playing with hundreds of people gathered round. 

Perhaps we have found our love of this country after all, and are willing to overlook the sometimes infuriating parts and the challenges in order to have the good life.  It is difficult now to leave Italy, as rough as the start was, we are now truly adjusted to the lifestyle and feeling very much at ease here.  We are consistently getting by with our fumbling preschool Italian. Not glamourous, but it works. The other day we are in the train station, waiting at the coffee bar for our early morning cappuccinos, after our long trip back to Lucca from Paris.  It is busy and the baristas are rushing around. Our cappuccinos come and they are cold.  No sooner do I muse to my husband, 'gee I wish our Italian was good enough to complain and get new capps'... then I hear him call the barista and say, 'fa freddo'! (it's cold!) and explain to her that our cappuccinos are not warm and he is not having it! She whisks them away and brings us new steaming ones apologetically. I am thoroughly impressed and stunned that with his gesturing and enough language, he has pulled it off. It is essential to learn how to politely yet firmly argue your point in Italian - it is necessary to life here, and apparently, we are reaching that level of competence. To know what is appropriate to argue about, to know how to get your way without offending, to get a good price, this is quintessential Italian. This is where we are with OUR Italian, right on the verge, on the cusp of being conversational, and it is hard to leave it behind.  Our last week in Lucca, two Americans stopped me on the street and asked if I spoke English. Then asked me directions, and I actually was able to help them find the sight they were looking for. That same night, we were mistaken by a local for Italians, as she rattled away to us about Bodhi, her dog, the weather... and I said to Chris, apparently we are looking more the part these days.  It is always fun to look like you belong, and to pretend you are local for as long as the ruse lasts.  He can really play the part with his dark curly locks and tanned skin. Fairer skin and hair on me, likely never will I be mistaken for a native Italian, but perhaps as a misplaced Italian, which is our aspiration. 

The train to our airport hotel in Milan feels longer than it actually is, and we are already thinking about what our last meal in Italy will be.  Pasta? Veal? definitely antipasti and a limoncello.  Hopefully a nice half liter of delicious house wine and Bodhi will have his three favorite Italian dishes: pasta with olive oil, black olives, and sparkling mineral water. Ciao Italia, ti amo.

Posted by globalmomma 08:29 Archived in Italy Tagged beach native airport train day lucca italian terre sunny milan cinque conversations cappuccinos Comments (1)

Creativity in Italy

art, literature, and serendipity

rain 20 °C

There have been many travel books written about Italy, some of the newest are Under the Tuscan Sun, Angels and Demons, and Eat, Pray, Love. But there are more: La Bella Figura, Bella Italia, La Cucina There is a rich history of classic writers finding passion in Italy: D.H. Lawrence, Charles Dickens, William Shakespeare, Henry James, Ernest Hemingway... I could go on and on. Other Italian cultural greats are too numerous to list but Michelangelo, Botticelli, Bernini, Giuseppe Verdi, Donatello, Leonardo DaVinci, Roberto Cavalli, Dante Aligheri, Versace, and Giorgio Armani are a pretty impressive starting point.

When Chris and I were discussing our own 'getaway', where to go for three months while we reassessed our lives, we tossed around ideas for several different places we could go. New Zealand, England, Germany, Hawaii, Croatia, Costa Rica - there was a growing list of possibilities, but at the top stood Italy. I went to the library to do a little research on the subject of travel in Italy, and I found a massive amount of literature. At first I was disappointed. How unoriginal. Maybe we should go someplace LESS known for its culture, cuisine, art, romance, history. Maybe we could write an amazing story about someplace people had not explored, someplace few people have visited. As I thought about it, I wondered why so many books have been written about traveling in Italy, when by comparison, there are not many at all about individuals going to France or Germany or Russia in search of themselves.

Of these books about discovery and love, passion and food, creativity and desire, Italy corners the market. Why is that?, I pondered. Why don't people write books about food and love from Spain or Scotland? Then I realized: it is the place that inspires. It is in the soul of the place itself that motivates artists, evokes love stories, and invites pieces of yourself to come home again. I know this is why I wanted to come to Italy, to be in this place that has for centuries inspired creativity in the minds of intelligent authors, the hands of great painters, and the hearts of lovers. I desire to be all of these things, and being in the land that woos artists causes one to dream, to expand, and to cultivate. There is something palpably aesthetic about Italy - perhaps it is the ancient charm of the picturesque piazzas and frescoes in the churches, and all of the culture that surrounds you. But it is also in the amorous nature of Italians, the fashion, the architecture, the civilization in its entirety. It awakens elements of yourself, and allows you to focus on appetites and aspirations outside of work, home, family, and friends around which most of our time and space revolve. We are currently living in the town where Puccini, the great opera composer, lived. Other greats have spent time walking these same streets, sipping espresso and leaning on the same marble counters.

I realize after being here for the majority of three months that I have found something that I do not want to lose. I was walking around the city of Lucca yesterday, somewhat aimlessly, on my way back from the market. I stumbled into an artist studio, and the paintings inside spoke to me in a way that I cannot adequately explain. If you have ever walked into a place and realized that if you were practicing that profession, that is what your work would look like, than you know what I mean. I saw myself in every work. I related in a way that is not coincidence. It is one of those moments, like when you bump into someone on the street and know instantly that you have known them closely before, that I could feel providence moving. I have not felt that level of serendipity for a while, and it is still with me. I wish I could have bought all of the paintings in the shop and walked out with my arms full, eyes beaming. I wanted to tell the man instantly, tell your wife (the painter) I will apprentice with her. If she wants to teach me, I am willing to learn. It is not unlike meeting a guru, I understand, or meeting a soul mate. When you know it's right, you know. So that was the universe's way of telling me that I will be back in Lucca, sometime, somehow. We cannot stay longer this trip, but we will be back. And next time we come, I hope to be a bigger artist than I am right now.

Posted by globalmomma 05:27 Archived in Italy Tagged art culture love opera lucca tuscany creativity romance painter literature passion writers serendipity puccini Comments (0)

Kid Bans?!?

A short rant

Ok, I just read an article on yahoo about restaurants, cinemas, even Whole Foods Market banning children from their establishments at certain hours. I am disgusted by this trend started by a Pittsburgh restaurant recently. I can be as irritated by a bratty or screaming child as anyone else, occasionally, but the reality is that most children are in fact very well-behaved. Furthermore, more adults are whiny and irritating than children, and I can be more annoyed by the presence of an obnoxious adult in a movie theater than a child. If we as a culture are not approving of children being children, and cannot appreciate and accept their development, then how do we expect to keep growing? Children should be appreciated by the culture and allowed to be children. I look at cultures that embrace and enjoy children and I see happier children, more relaxed parents, and a better atmosphere overall. We need to think about the direction our country is headed with no universal health coverage for children, no individual maternity plans, short maternity leaves, no paternity leave, little support for early family life. Children are the future of our country and until the ones making the laws are the ones raising families, support for families will be lacking.

I spent a lot of time here in Europe talking to families about the policies in European countries. They are often shocked to hear our normal work environment entails 9-10 hour days with 2 weeks vacation in a year, and maternity leaves that do not last more than several months, and are often only partial salary, or none at all. In Germany, women are offered up to one year maternity leave that is at least partially paid - the first few months are full pay, and it decreases from there. They have up to 3 years off to 'raise their children' wherein the employer is required to hire them back for their same or equivalent position. i.e they do not have to decide to stay on their career path or to stay home for a few years and risk never being hired back in their career field again. In Holland, there are similar laws. It is common to have up to 8 weeks vacation time per year, and many businesses offer 4 day work weeks, or 3 day work weeks for mothers.

While staying with our friends in Germany, our friend who is 7 months pregnant told me she was required to take paid time off during her pregnancy. She is a dermatologist, and in Germany, for professions that are considered higher risk for a developing baby, pregnant women can take paid time off to 'encourage healthy babies', she told me. Wow. Doctors can take time off so they don't worry about communicable diseases while pregnant, what a progressive concept. I know their system is not perfect either - there are abuses of the system, the money has to come from somewhere, not everyone benefits. But having the concept of protecting children and supporting families at the forefront of legislation is inspiring.

Posted by globalmomma 12:45 Comments (2)

Are you a Traveler-at-Heart?

Take this simple quiz to find out!

Are you a traveler-at-heart?
take this simple quiz to find out!

Are you able to adapt to most situations with a clear head or are you easily flustered?  Are you a planner or do you just 'wing it'? 

Flexible people are more comfortable traveling because it is essential to be able to accomodate changes in plans.  It is OK if you are a planner, as long as you are able to leave those plans behind when necessary and follow a new path when the situation demands.  Long term travelers tend to be people who are able to go with the flow of a situation.  There are inevitably problems that arise in travel. Missed flights, dirty apartments, train workers on strike, inclement weather, cancelled tours. Being able to change plans and find a new solution to a problem is a big part of being a traveler. If you are traveling in pairs or a group, group problem solving and mediation is also an important skill to have! There are often conflicts and changes of direction, and you must be open in order to find a new way.

Do you generally see the glass as half-full or half-empty? Eternal optimists make for the best travelers.

Are you interested in new places, seeing new things, meeting new people?
If you aren't interested in the greater world around you, if you aren't always wondering what this place could be like, what it could teach you, what is beyond this frontier...you are not a true traveler-at-heart. Lifelong travelers have lists of places they would like to go, not just sights, but experiences. They want to run with the bulls in Pamplona, trek across Mongolia, visit Antarctica, bike through all of the countryside of France, meet the Dalai Lama, see the Great Barrier Reef... For each trip they go on, they discover five more they want to take.  Their journeys are never complete.  People who are not travelers at heart get tired of the experiencing...they tire of the pace, the discomforts, the desire to see more is not there, and the pull toward home is stronger than the urge to embark again.

Do you like to have your environment just so, with everything in its place? 
Are you OK with not having your usual comforts? Or do you need to have your Diet Coke at 9AM every morning? 

If you need to have certain things, they become a barrier to a life of travel.  Some places do not have diet cokes at all...other places it is warm, or costs 5 euros a can. You have to be willing to change your habits if you are going to travel for a long period of time. OK, there is no cola here, I will try Turkish coffee.  The more needs you have in your life, the harder it is to fulfill them on the road.  Over time people become disgruntled and annoyed with traveling if their needs are not met. If your needs entail specific items, like a certain kind of toothpaste or a particular food, you can encounter difficulties while traveling. True travelers may have favorite foods or lotions, but they can do without these comforts if it means being able to experience something different.  Travelers want to try a diet of yak butter and black tea while in Bhutan, wine and antipasti in Italy, beer and french fries with mayonnaise while in Belgium, fresh salmon in Seattle, spicy veggie curry in India. Being where you are requires adapting your life to fit the customs of a place, and that often means living out of your comfort zone in some respects. 

Do you see the world as filled with potential opportunities and adventures, or as filled with obstacles and dangers?

If you are more worried about traveling because of the dangers of flying or visiting a big city like Paris or London, or nervous about going to places like Greece or Nepal with potential unrest or political instability, more worried than you are excited about the prospects of seeing these places, than you are not likely a traveler at heart. Travelers see the world as filled with possible adventures and discoveries. They may 'play it safe' and choose to go to places that are stable, but they do not let fears stand in their way.

Do you feel like you have never found 'your place' or have no desire to be settled? Do you think that no place really defines who you are, but rather that there are aspects that suit your personality in cities and countries scattered all over the globe?

If so, you are a traveler, in search of places that resonate with pieces of yourself. You are continually searching for that place you truly belong, that complements you, or you are comfortable with the idea that no such place exists and rather you bounce from place to place enjoying aspects of a city that you love, then finding another passion fulfilled somewhere else. 

Is your lifetime dream to be able to work from anywhere, not being tied to a place, but being able to sustain yourself working on the go? 

If so, you are a traveler, because we all seek this kind of lifestyle - being able to work from home, or work from wherever suits our needs.  Having two weeks off a year just isn't an option. So in order to travel, you choose jobs that are either below your abilities, or that don't pay well or have some other sacrifices in order to have the lifestyle of travel that you desire. This is often the quandry of a traveler...how to sustain the lifestyle and make it work. This is also the aspect of a traveler's life that most people do not understand. Why do you work at that job as a barista in Spain when you are an accountant? Why do you take off for several months and deplete your savings?  Why don't you get a better paid job and settle down and buy a house like the rest of us?  Well, it often isn't that easy when travel is the goal. Travelers at heart have bumped up against this dilemma at least once in their lifetimes, if not again and again. How to make the lifestyle work is the question.  Sometimes the answers are not the easiest to explain.

Posted by globalmomma 01:48 Comments (2)

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