rob roberts and brianna randall - camping with a baby

The Secret to Getting the Best Compliment Ever

Posted on 1 CommentPosted in Outdoor Adventures, Traveling

Traveling without internet is a recipe for one happy family. 

Yesterday, a friend hugged me and said, “You look well-rested, Bri.”

I almost jumped with glee. “That’s the best compliment I’ve gotten in years!”

Because you know what well-rested means? Sanity. It means I don’t look like a cat dragged through the gutter after waking up every few hours to soothe a crying baby. And it means I don’t feel like a hummingbird dipping ever-so-briefly from one person, job, chore, event directly to the next.

The view from the top of the Eureka sand dunes.
The view from the top of the Eureka sand dunes in Death Valley.

The secret to my success at resting? Vacation. Actually, several of them. We were lucky enough to close out 2015 with a suite of trips, hitting the adventure trail with a vengeance during the holiday season. All told, we spent more than 3 of the past 5 weeks in a cabin, cabana, or tent. Most of those trips did not include wifi, a laptop, or even cell service, and all of them fell during the darkest days of the year. We went to bed early and stayed there late, connecting to each other instead of screens.

The Thanksgiving week crew exploring the Wallowas in Oregon.
This crew spent Thanksgiving week exploring the Wallowas in Oregon.

First up, we drove to northern Oregon to meet friends for the week of Thanksgiving, hiking in the Wallowa Mountains, saying hi to the Columbia River, and playing sort-of-in-tune music. A few days after returning home, Talon and Cassidy and I flew to Puerto Vallarta to explore a couple of remote villages in the southern stretch of Banderas Bay while Rob went on a fishing trip in the Everglades with old friends. And a week after that, we flew to Las Vegas, rented a car, and spent a week camping in Death Valley National Park with Mark and Katie.

Checking out the waves in Boca de Tomatlan, perfect for babies and mamas.
Checking out the waves in Boca de Tomatlan, perfect for babies and mamas.

As most parents know, traveling with a kiddo–especially an energetic, irrational toddler–isn’t exactly restful in and of itself. Just the opposite, in fact. We schlepped suitcases and sleeping bags, backpacks and carseats through jungles, deserts, oceans, and mountains. We endured way-below-freezing temperatures in a drafty tent, muddy river crossings after tropical rains washed out bridges, and shitty winter driving conditions over several mountain passes.

And was our personal sherpa when crossing the river in Yelapa, too!
And was our personal sherpa when crossing the river in Yelapa, too!

We consoled Talon when he woke up (often) in the middle of the night, uncomfortable because 10 people were crammed into a noisy cabin, mosquitoes were biting his head in Mexico, or an icy wind was howling across the desert.

Dirt abounds, especially when camping in the desert for a week -- the boys didnt mind.
Dirt abounds, especially when camping in the desert for a week — the boys did not mind.

But in the end, the challenges of navigating new places brought us closer as a family. It was well worth the work to watch Talon’s eyes light up at the sight of the sea, to hear his squeals of delight at the birds flying overhead, and to see his pride in climbing a sand dune all alone.

Throwing sand down the 700-foot-tall Eureka Dunes in Death Valley National Park.
Throwing sand down the 700-foot-tall Eureka Dunes in Death Valley National Park.

Moving beyond our daily Missoula routine gave me the space to breathe more deeply, and to focus inward long enough to rest easily while awake and asleep. I finally feel like my head and my heart are back in the same groove. Now, the trick is keeping them humming along in unified tempo back in the world of internet and errands. I’ll know I succeed if more people give me that ultimate compliment: that I look well-rested.

How’s that for a New Year’s Resolution? Happy 2016, friends!

Talon went on a rock climbing expedition to find the only waterfall in Death Valley.
Talon went on a rock climbing expedition to find the only waterfall in Death Valley.
A rare bloom of the desert sunflower above the lowest point in the U.S. ... 220 feet BELOW sea level!
A rare bloom of the desert sunflower above the lowest point in the U.S. … 220 feet BELOW sea level!
Aunt Cassidy carried Talon all over the beaches in Mexico.
Aunt Cassidy carried Talon all over the beaches in Mexico.
We spent plenty of time in PJs the past few weeks.
We spent plenty of time in PJs the past few weeks.

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Talon Randall Roberts in a hammock in MexicoBeach in Yelapa

IMG_2922 - Copy t and rob. waterfallrob roberts and brianna randall - camping with a babyt in crackIMG_2972-Copy1-e1451866868715-1024x852P1020601

 

A Quick Exit

Posted on 1 CommentPosted in Parenting, Traveling

I was just looking for a little more space. And yeah, a quick exit would have been nice, too.

“Ma’am, you can’t sit in the emergency exit row with a child,” the flight attendant informed me. With my arms full of wriggling infant, coats and snacks, I headed back toward a cramped window seat. I wasn’t sure which felt worse: being called “ma’am,” or being denied the luxury of the exit row for the next dozen years.

As I settled myself and Talon in for the short flight from Portland to Missoula, I glared at the back of the business-suited dude who slipped into the emergency row after me, glued to his iPhone and clueless about what was going on around him. I would definitively be more effective at opening the door and pulling the ripcord on that inflatable slide than he would.

It doesn’t really make sense, when you think about it. Aren’t mothers of small children exactly who you would want opening doors in case of disaster? I guarantee that mothers of helpless infants will have the exits ready for immediate departure in record time. Instinct kicks in, and we will kick down doors, take out predators, and protect our offspring at all costs. The other passengers on the plane would greatly benefit from this mama-bear instinct, meaning they should actually pay mothers to sit in the emergency exit row.

You with me?

To be fair, my snit on the airplane was a bit more existential than simply wanting more legroom. As I breathed through the claustrophobia of sitting with a hot baby in a tight corner, I was also breathing through the claustrophobia of feeling like I wouldn’t have any quick exits to anywhere—emergency or otherwise—for the next several years.

No more spur-of-the-moment road trips or impromptu jaunts to Mexico. No last-minute bike rides, ski trips, or parties. Goodbye to simply walking out the front door when life gets overwhelming. The full weight of motherhood settled around my shoulders, leaving me slightly angry, extra sweaty, and mostly petrified.

But then Talon giggled, and the urge to flee subsided like mist under the sun (at least until he started screaming inexplicably during the last ten minutes of the flight).

The point? It’s normal to feel trapped in an airline seat. And to want to flee when confronted by a massive life change. Most of the time, though, my visions of quick escapes include taking my baby with me to beaches, mountains, or even parties.

It’d just be a lot more fun to bring him along on those escapes if they paid us to sit in the emergency exit row.

bri lifting t b&w

 

 

 

Talon in his carseat

Will our baby have the travel bug?

Posted on 1 CommentPosted in Parenting, Traveling

bri and talon in black and white smilingAwww, so cute!” an acquaintance remarked, stroking Talon’s fuzzy head while we waited in line at a local coffee shop. “Aren’t you glad you got traveling out of your system before the baby was born?

If I had a nickel for every time someone asked me that question lately, I’d have been able to buy my cappuccino. I know my friend meant well. But anyone who’s set off to explore the nooks and crannies of the world knows that you never “get it out of your system.” Travel is a virus that stays in your blood – kind of like hepatitis or certain strains of malaria. It lurks at the edge of your daily routine, waiting for just the right moment to surge forth and overwhelm you with the urge to pack up and go.

I bit my tongue and smiled pleasantly as I paid for my coffee. Then I took my baby to a corner table, where I vowed to him that my travel bug is dormant but not dead. Talon gazed solemnly at me with his wide eyes as I promised him future trips to new horizons.

That afternoon, I walked with my friend, Amy, through the yellowing cottonwoods in Greenough Park. She’s taken her two children to live abroad several times, to Spain, Brazil, Mozambique. We talked about the transitions to and from these adventures, and how to manage the virus that flares and recedes in our blood. Amy told me that her personal travel bug follows a recognizable pattern: it takes a full year to settle back in after returning from abroad. And a full year after that before she starts yearning again for distant shores.rob and talon in baby tiger costume

My friend, Ali, is leaving tomorrow on a nine-month international adventure, her route as open as her heart. I went over a few nights ago to cull through her already small pile of potential packables, helping prioritize what she’ll need for a trip that includes farming in Italy, trekking in Nepal, touring through South Africa and lounging in Bali. We both cheered when the pile finally fit in her small backpack. I lifted it appraisingly, and felt the travel bug nip at my heels.

It was a gentle nip, considering that Rob and I just recently unpacked our own international backpacks. But it was sharp enough to keep me awake after Talon’s 3 am feeding, my mind spinning through potential (and affordable) travel options with an infant. Could we make it through the long flight across the Pacific to visit our friends in Tonga? Maybe we could camp for a month in Baja. Where might I find a friend with a sailboat that needs looking after in February?

Then I pushed pause on the travel scenarios scrolling through my sleep-deprived new-momma mind. I made a resolution that had to be enough for that night: we will take our child abroad some day, somehow. We will take him on buses and boats and bikes. We will give him the gift of new cultures and new vistas. And – in time – we will see if he inherited the yen for exploration that courses through the veins of both his parents.  

rob roberts  and talon in black and white smiling

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