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September 21, 2011

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Life Changing Blogs and Winter Adventures


Back in July when Whoop Whoop abruptly decided to wean himself, I spent a fair amount of time googling for ‘toddlers/breastfeeding/weaning’.  Alas, I did not find any stories that paralleled my own.
However, what I did find ended up changing the direction of my life.  It certainly helped me come to some of the decisions discussed in my previous post.

I randomly stumbled upon Tripping Mom blog written by a Brazilian single mom–a surfer chic who is traveling and currently living with her young daughter in Costa Rica.  After reading her very well written post on breastfeeding her toddler, I was hooked.

You know how you find a blog and instantly you want to read the entire story–every single post?  Yeah.  That’s what happened (I still haven’t gotten through the entire blog).  I was so smitten with this woman and how she was living her life and raising her daughter (although we agree to disagree on some things….) that I reached out to her via email and we started communicating.  We clicked.  Sometimes it’s just like that.

Her blog led me to other blogs.  Traveling families, single dads traveling with a toddler, single moms traveling with teens.  So many people out there seeing the world with their children.  I had already been following the adventures of a family with twin boys who biked from Alaska to Argentina.  Theirs was armchair travel as I have no interest in extreme bike riding.  But slow travel, educating my kids on the road….yes that was very appealing to me.
Moving to a place where we knew no one, strapped with mortgage and auto debt, surrounded by red necks and homophobes and relentless heat?  Was moving to Florida what we really wanted?  We could not continue to travel if we made this move.  Wouldn’t we rather take the money and find a better use for it?

Many late night discussions with Chicken led us both to the realization that we were obsessed with finding a ‘new and better’ place to live when really what we should be concentrating on was how to survive the winter doldrums.
I love nothing more than a new project to obsess over!  Now, I just had to find a way to get through winter.

Something I never blogged about last winter–because it sounded so insane (and it was)–was when Chicken got it in her head that because she could work anywhere with an internet connection, we should try to sublet our apartment and go somewhere warm for the winter.  With 13 month old toddler twins.  You know, just a jaunt halfway around the world to say, Thailand or Malaysia or maybe somewhere closer like South or Central America.  But a place with enough western amenities to have comfort and a nice beach and safe and good medical care and WiFi and an airport close by and cheap and and and.  Oy Veh.  It was a tall order.  And the twins weren’t even a year old.  We had no idea if they would be walking or what by 13 months old.  What about cribs and highchairs and play equipment and baby proofing?  In the end, I DID find a couple of places and we could have made it work, but I finally told her it was a crazy idea and it wouldn’t be fun and I called the whole thing off.
This past Spring when they started walking we looked back at that idea and thought Oh My GOD.  What were we thinking?!

So, where am I going with this?  (a) We are a little bit crazy–but you already knew this.  (b) We are a lot travel obsessed.  (c)  I had a head start on my new project  (d)  Tripping Mom

In the end, we believe we have found a solution to the New York City winter doldrums.  

We have rented out a 3 bedroom beach front house in a small village in Costa Rica for March 2012. 
Chicken is taking 2 weeks vacation and working the other 2 weeks.
The boys will be 24 months old and we won’t have the same worries as we had for them last winter.  There is a Waldorf bilingual preschool nearby and the owner has agreed to enroll the twins for the month.  They will attend ‘school’ from 8am-12pm, 2-3 times a week.

There are no paved roads, no TV in the house, no A/C.  We are in front of a gorgeous toddler-friendly beach.  We have a beautiful gated yard.  We are renting bikes with toddler seats for getting around (and bringing our own helmets).  We’ll be visiting the farmer’s market every Saturday morning with the locals.  There are howler monkeys in the jungle nearby and a two-toed sloth lives on our property.  
It’s pretty perfect.

But even better–Chicken’s mom and step dad are coming to stay the first week, her dad the third week and my parents are arriving for the fourth week.  They will all get to spend quality time with their grandsons and between preschool/family care Chicken and I will both get a true break.
Not a bad way to spend the last (and in my opinion, worst) month of winter…..

The money we saved this summer by NOT hiring a nanny and NOT going to Florida on a scouting trip (minus the extra money I spent on espresso to make it through those days!) made it possible to pay for the house–it was a great deal at $1500/month.  Plus, all of the parental units will be dividing the costs, so it’s practically nothing.  We are paying for two of the plane tickets (about $1100 total) and getting two free with our frequent flier miles.
Even with the added cost of food, restaurants, entertainment, transport, preschool and bike rentals it’s much less than what most families of four spend on a two week vacation.
I have averaged that we will spend $20/day (each).

Why am I telling you the costs?  Because, I think most people falsely assume that travel has to be expensive and that they cannot afford it.  Also, because we are not rich and we manage to make it work.  We cut costs in other areas of our lives to add money to the travel fund.  It’s important to us and as long as we stay within our means we will continue to travel with our kids.
We both believe this is one of the best educational opportunities we can give them–the chance to see the world, learn another language (or two or three), appreciate how others live and value the differences.

Thank you Tripping Mom.  You changed my life.