With kids, I simply couldn’t travel the way I want to. That’s my truth. I don’t want to fuss over other people’s needs because honestly, I don’t even want to fuss over my own. I want to put on a comfy dress and sandals, grab some cash, and run as fast and deep as I can into other cultures and countries that are as far away as possible. There are so many places to see and experience that I find it hard to make the time to even brush my hair; I can’t imagine I would be very successful at feeding and bathing another person. If I take a minute to reflect on my past adventures and contemplate on the ones in the future, I truly feel they could not and will not happen in the way that I would’ve liked or want if motherhood is in the picture.
1. Teaching English in China for a year.
I moved to Fuzhou, China to teach English because I wasn’t doing a whole lot else. That year may just have been the most interesting and productive year of my life thus far. I entered a new career path and learned the basics of a foreign language. I learned about a new culture; I participated in new traditions, tried new foods, and met friends from all over the world. Every day I witnessed something strange or wonderful that I had never seen before and each holiday or vacation I spent exploring nearby countries or famous cities. I walked the Great Wall in Beijing, gazed at the Pearl Tower in Shanghai, and took selfies with the Terracotta army in Xian. On vacations I soaked in the hot springs of Taiwan, ate kimchi in South Korea, and visited temples in Japan. Moving to China has been a pivotal decision for my life that could not have happened if I had little ones running around. Convincing an entire family to move to the other side of the world would not be an easy task. And even if I did manage to pull it off, the kids would probably not be lining up to thank me for disrupting their social and academic lives, and willingly putting them at a cultural disadvantage.
2. Forgetting all of my worries on a booze cruise through Ha Long Bay.
On a recent trip to Ha Long Bay in Vietnam, I couldn’t understand what all of the fuss was about to take a booze cruise through the bay. It didn’t seem wise to get hammered and spend the day puking over the side of the boat instead of looking at the fantastic view. But I realized very quickly that I was wrong, way wrong. Our boat was the only one in the water and as the music began to play and the alcohol began to flow, I quickly loosened up and let go of every worry on my mind. I even began to forgive my boat mates for being such douchey bros and over bronzed broettes. I drank, I danced, and I even started to chat with the people I had initially hated. Sometimes I forgot to look around but when I did, it was because I caught a glimmer of that deep blue water or saw the immenseness of the limestone giants out of the corner of my eye. We passed islands inhabited by only beaches and I felt a sense of being the only life for miles aside for the fish beneath us. It was otherworldly, it was beautiful, and for a moment I even forgot what it was like to not be surrounded by a natural wonder with nothing else to worry about except remembering to pay attention. I’m sure kids could enjoy a cruise around Ha Long bay, but with them tagging along, could I have spent a drunk afternoon at a floating dance party and an evening on an island with bumping house music and a twenty-four hour bar? I think not.
3. Facing my fears canyoning in Vietnam.
I stopped in Da Lat city on my travels through Vietnam and decided that there was no better time to try out some adventure sports. As I get older, more fears seem to creep up out of nowhere and my existing fears get worse. Canyoning tested my fear of heights and my lack of athletic skills with an overenthusiastic guide and a steady stream of peer pressure. I slid down natural water slides head first, repelled down four different rock faces and jumped off a cliff. The biggest battle was the waterfall where I spent the first half hour watching others take it on and fail miserably. I watched athletic looking men and women with muscles much leaner than mine slip and fall, rolling around the steepest part of the falls, gasping for air as the water rushed into their faces. If they made it past the steep middle, many of them slipped farther down and plummeted over 11 meters into the water below, hitting the rock face as they fell. My turn was up and I was still fighting the urge to just say forget it. I fought it until I was standing at the top of the falls, in my socks, thinking…shit. It wasn’t as slippery as I assumed it would be. I calculated each step, testing my footing before taking the next one, placing them in every rock crevice that I could find. I don’t know how, but I did everything right. I made it to the bottom, jumped to safety and proved to myself that I could do more than I thought I was capable of. I wanted to prove something to myself without the worry of leaving children to starve if I fucked it up. Parents are meant to protect their children, not encourage them to descend backwards down a raging waterfall and free fall 11 meters into rocky waters below. I wouldn’t want to scare the shit out of them if they had to watch Mommy slip and smash her face on a rock while dangling over a cliff.
4. Enjoying the quiet of spending a night in a Japanese Buddhist Temple.
On a visit to Japan, I did a temple stay on Mt. Koyasan and it was nothing less than perfect. After bathing naked in soothing traditional baths with other temple guests, I adorned myself in the customary robe and returned to my room to drink Japanese tea and revel in the silence. I awoke to the soft tapping of Monk’s feet as they traveled through the halls and I opened the paper doors which separated my room from the patio to reveal the birds in the gardens. Following breakfast, I joined the other guests for a session of guided meditation before continuing on my journey. The entire experience was meditative and self reflective for me and I wouldn’t have wanted to sacrifice the silence for anyone — especially rowdy children.
5. Backpacking Europe for six weeks.
Recalling a college class in which my professor told us that backpacking through Europe was a rite of passage for people in their twenties, I called my boyfriend and told him that I wanted to do it. After planning for a year, we each took six weeks off of our jobs, threw on our backpacks, and got on a plane to Spain. We spent those six weeks sleeping on stranger’s couches, gazing at world famous views and wandering around nine beautiful countries. We turned up in cities without any plans or a place to stay, trusted and befriended people we didn’t know, and lived off of salami sandwiches that we got for free from our hostel’s daily breakfast. With kids I couldn’t have had that backpacker experience, nor could I have taken the risk of leaving my job and potentially running out of cash to get back home.
6. Road tripping around America for five weeks.
Road tripping in the U.S. is like the American version of backpacking through Europe, and I couldn’t complete a rite of passage abroad without also experiencing one at home. My boyfriend and I decided that five weeks was enough time and we took off work, got my car tuned up, and left for Mississippi. It was pure freedom to just get in the car and drive to places that we had always dreamt of seeing. We met up with friends in other states and partied in famous cities like New Orleans and Las Vegas. Some days we drove for hours, while others were spent camping out with the Red Wood trees in California or amongst the arches in Utah. We visited breweries in Colorado for the craft beer and ate incredible burritos in New Mexico. Days were spent driving, staring out the windows at our country as we harbored a new understanding of American culture and the people that were a part of it. Freedom was what we were after on this trip and that is what we got –freedom to go where wished and to do what we wanted. The only thing that wasn’t free was room in the back of the car for a car seat.
7. Spending a night in a Bedouin tent in Israel.
The Bedouins are a nomadic ethnic group comprised of different tribes that traditionally live and travel around the deserts of the middle east. On a trip to Israel, I had the chance to camp out in the Negev Desert in a Bedouin tent with about 15 other 20-somethings looking for a culture-filled festivity. The night began in the entertainment tent where we sat on the floor atop beautifully colored handmade blankets. Under low lighting, we were served tea while watching the local people perform their songs with traditional instruments. When the performers finished, we were served local dishes while we sat around a floor level table and ate with our hands. We finished off the meal with the best baklava I’ve ever had and headed off into the pitch black desert to star gaze with a telescope. The sleeping tent was essentially a slumber party where we all sat around the floor in our sleeping bags drinking, playing games, and listening to music before curling up and falling asleep in the vast desert. Upon awaking the next morning, we were taken to breakfast and afterwards we gathered around to meet the camels that would be escorting us through the desert. One camel held two of us — one behind each hump — and once we were all aboard we went on a ride through the Negev. I felt like a princess and wished I had worn some bangles and a flowing dress for the event. My camel mate and I sang Arabian Nights to one another and pretended to be Jasmine.
8. Legally buying shrooms in Amsterdam.
Because when else would I be able to legally get high out in public, wander around some sweet canals on a bicycle, have an emotional meltdown at the Anne Frank house, and then calm my nerves watching a live sex show in the evening. Shit, if I had a family lurking around, I certainly would not have been able to take shrooms in the privacy of my own home, wander through the cartoon channels, have an emotional meltdown watching Planet Earth, and calm my nerves looking at a snow globe. On a trip to Amsterdam, my boyfriend and I wandered into a Smart Shop and purchased magic truffles (non-dried out version of magic mushrooms). It was easy, legal, and I bet you can probably guess what kind of day we had. This is an experience that I’m going to say wouldn’t have been possible if I had children, unless I wanted them questioning why mommy had been staring at a stop sign for a half hour.
9. Going on a bicycling bar crawl in Munich.
While traveling through Germany, my boyfriend and I rented bikes from our hostel and took it upon ourselves to find the largest and coldest beers that the beer gardens had to offer. We passed through parks along the way and even got to view the naked sunbathers, which to our disappointment were mostly overweight old men. When we got too hot or needed a break, we stopped for a radler (German shandy) to cool off between destinations. We ate fluffy soft pretzels and sweet apple strudel all served to us by barmaids in traditional dirndls. Spending the day cruising around a beautiful city, while drinking some of the best beer in the world, was without a doubt one of my favorite experiences in Europe. Bicycling may not be the safest mode of transport during a bar crawl, but it certainly doesn’t waste any time getting to the next beer garden. The experience was worth taking the chance on the bike for myself but with children, perhaps it wouldn’t be the best idea. As delicious as it is, children may not yet quite appreciate the flavor of German beer and they may become a little uneasy watching their parents wobble their bicycles into traffic, urging them to follow.
10. Becoming an actual nomad.
After taking weeks off work at a time to travel, I decided that the life of a nomad would be a lifestyle I would be better suited for. After leaving my job, I met my boyfriend in Asia to begin our new lives. We travel, we live, and the only plans we have is to make money to continue living this lifestyle for as long as we want. He works from home and I pick up jobs where I can to pay the bills. When work is done, we leave our apartment of whichever international city we have chosen to live in that month and experience something beautiful or strange right outside our door. We shop in night markets when the prices in the mall seem too expensive and sometimes, when we are sick of cooking, we can grab dinner at a tiny stall on the side of the street. I try new foods, see new animals and plants, and meet people culturally different from me every week. When life feels dull or we just want some change, we simply pack up our bags and wander off to another destination. The days of battling wanderlust and pinching pennies to save up for vacation are over for me. This is just my life now and one that I believe wouldn’t be possible if I had kids to worry about.