Planning a trip? Don’t forget to ask yourself these 5 W’s.

Traveling is definitely in my top five things that I love and I recently realized during my preparing to plan phase of our family vacation   why I love traveling so much. When I travel, and travel includes domestic places not only international, I get to explore an unfamiliar place. It doesn’t matter if I have gone to the same place more than once, it is still new because it’s different than what my senses are used to and what they register as “normal routine.”

As a child, I often times fantasized about what other countries where like. What did it look like? What were the people like? What did their language sound like? Did they wonder the same about my home in DC? This curiosity fed something. Not only did it make me feel connected to a world greater than I could see but it stuck with me until the day I could answer these questions first hand.

When I was a senior in high school, I went on our class trip to Jamaica and got to feed my curiosity. It was more than expected. The culture, the people, the food, the landscape, everything extremely different than back home. What really stuck with me was how I felt. Now I understand that different places have different vibes, and I mean that literally. After that trip, I told myself that I would make traveling a priority.

As much as I love traveling, planning trips can be stressful. It requires a bit of coordination and patience and I get why travel agency’s exist. But for my household, I am the travel agency, me, myself, and I. Every trip I plan, I answer the  these 5 W’s: who, what, when, where and why?

Who? Who is going on this trip. Is it just you? You and your partner? The entire family? Probably the easiest step.

What? What is the purpose of this trip? Maybe this is a girls trip to just chill and catch up, maybe  you need a family vacation or maybe you want to practice you language skills. Whatever your what is, be sure to give it some thought and keep asking yourself, what is the purpose of this trip? There are millions of places to visit so this will help you narrow down your options.

When? When do you want to go? Are you planning this trip for the upcoming year or are you going in the next month or two? Do you need to plan to take off leave from work? Do you need to check the kids school calendar (although I take them on trips during school year if I can, mainly because tickets are less expensive and there’s a lot of us. I also believe the world is a great teacher😊 ). Be sure to check the weather during your desired travel time because different places might have different climates. Also, check to see if there is a low season and high season because the prices are different. Both have their perks. If you are flying, search for flexible dates and see if you get better prices when compared to your exact dates. You’d be surprised how much you can save by altering your dates by a few days.  Some airlines have price matches so before you book them, call the airlines and see if they do. They sometimes offer discounted tickets for children under 11 if you aren’t purchasing a promotional ticket so ask them about that as well. If not book them when you find the price that’s right. I always book tickets before I reserve my accommodations.

Where? Where are you going, where are you going to stay while there and where do you want to visit when you get there? This can be the most stressful and time consuming process. When I was planning our trip to Cuba, I knew that I wanted us to explore the country so this took a lot of planning and patience. I had to coordinate housing and travel arrangements for 2 adults 4 children and 1 baby plus excursions. I recently started using Air B&B and they have what they classify as Super host. These are hosts that really go out of their way to assist with some of this planning, have a certain level of reviews from guest and host a certain amount of times per year. I’m truly grateful for the ones that hosted us in Cuba because they arranged transportation, excursions and meal preparation. The way that this works is that once you book their property, they will assist you with all the planning you need. This assistance is included in the service fee so don’t be shy and ask away.

Research the area on your own and figure out where you’d like to visit and what you can realistically fit in this trip. I actually looked at the map of Cuba and selected places that wouldn’t be too far from the airport but would give us different experiences: city, rural farmland/country, and beachfront. We would have to drive to each location so I figured 2.5 hours in a ’57 Chevrolet with 4 of us in the back (1 baby on my lap) and 3 in the front would be doable.  Figure out what would work for you. Do you need a rental car, is there public transportation or bike rentals? Are you going to explore locally and just walk? Think about the activities (day trips, beaches, hiking, museums, restaurants, etc.) and plan. There are so many options to choose from and this can be overwhelming so the last “W” will assist.

Why? I started off by saying why I love traveling so much. It literally gives my senses new stimulation. Simply put, it energizes me and I feel that I grow. I’m all about growth so it’s important for me to share these experiences with my children. Growth happens outside of your comfort zone. You are taken outside of your comfort when you have to put toilet paper in the trash can when you are used to flushing it down the toilet, when you hear another language 24/7, when you are kissed on the cheek by a stranger and your norm is strangers walking past you, when you eat new food, when you have to take cold showers, when you get out of your everyday normal routine. It can be uncomfortable at times and I’ve heard “I just want to go home” several times as the kids get fed up with something new, but this is what life is about. Facing newness and it takes practice to face it with grace. The more we practice, the easier it will be. I think back to previous travels out of the states when the kids didn’t understand the customs process. As we continue to travel, their lack of knowledge about the customs process turned into “Do we have to wait in that long custom’s line?” Now, they gracefully walk up to the customs counter with passport in hand. Growth. So, why are you going?

These 5 W’s will assist you in what I call the preparing to plan phase. The steps above will create your road map. If your expectations aren’t met, that’s okay, practice using your grace muscle and be grateful for the experience. At the very least, this trip will have contributed to some sort of growth.

Happy Planning!

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Retreat & reset. You owe it to yourself!

At the beginning of every season I take the opportunity to participate in some form of retreat. Sometimes I travel to retreats planned by others and other times I participate in rituals that allow my mind, body and energetic body the opportunity to cleanse. This year for the fall season I decided that I wanted to spend time resting and centering so that I could focus my energy towards creating opportunities that are in alignment with my callings.

It made sense to me to be close to the Earth’s center since I wanted to center and to also go somewhere that would have adequate amounts of rain. Water is a cleansing element and it also represents life. September is Costa Rica’s rainy season and it is also near the equator so I decided it would be   the perfect place. My goal was to “cleanse and create” so Costa Rica it was. I booked my ticket and planned my personalized retreat and my plan was to leave DC and head south on the first day of fall with my 6 year old and 18 month old. My older children didn’t want to join because they didn’t want to miss school (more like their friends) and the teenage girls had visited the country with their language classes. My husband decided he would miss this trip and stay behind.

I found this amazing yoga farm up in the mountains near Colon Ciudad (about 40 minutes from San Jose) and immediately booked my stay. My itinerary would include daily private yoga classes for me and the kiddos, a massage, horse back riding lessons for the six year old, farmers market trips, free time to explore the nearby areas, time to write and plenty of time to rest and connect with the nature and animals. The day before I was supposed to leave, my husband and 11 year old son decided they wanted to tag along so we booked them flights and luckily there were seats on both flights and the tickets were actually cheaper. There is a saying, where momma goes, the rest will follow even if it’s to the bathroom. Well, I haven’t actually heard this before but I guarantee all the mothers out there would agree that it should be.

We (really I mean I) packed our bags and headed to catch our 6:30 am flight. I prefer early morning flights because the children are tired and sleep for most of the flight. We flew Southwest, which I like because I always find deals with their ‘Wanna Get Away’ fares and they also let you check two bags for free. We didn’t check any bags this trip as I decided to pack light and only take carry-on’s. Our flight was as expected and we landed on time. Going through immigration and customs was a breeze and we were warmly greeted by everyone in the airport. San Jose is a nice sized airport, not too large and not too small, and appears that it has been renovated recently.

I had arranged transportation with the host of Air B& B and we were warmly welcomed with a smile and kiss on the cheek by the owner of the property. We enjoyed a scenic drive up to the farm and were given a mini tour by our host as we passed through each neighboring town. I find nature to be extemely therapeutic and what truly captured my attention was the massive mountains that are a deep vegetation green in color, if that’s actually a color I don’t really know but it’s the name I would give it. The mountains are massive in size and there are towns nestled at the bottom and throughout. To our surprise, driving from San Jose towards the farm kind of reminded us of driving through some parts of Florida. The area has been developed within the past 8-10 years and you can tell. Every US fast food chain you can think of had found a home there and we learned about the development from our host. There were luxury car retailers including Maserati, Audi, and Range Rover, many shopping areas but plenty of the local stores as well. The streets were incredibly clean and I could feel the respect that the people had for their land.

Our ride up the mountain was nice, a bit bumpy at times but nothing compared to some of the pot holed streets we have back home in DC. We finally arrived to the farm and as I exited the truck I inhaled the fresh air of the mountains and exhaled the hustle and bustle of city life that was stuck deep within my lungs. The feeling of the fresh air on my skin was crisp and silky, the sounds of nature was like music to my ears and the fragrance of the farm was earthy. My body received these signals and I could feel the internal shift as my body slowly began to release and remember what ease felt like. My journey inward had begun and I could tell this would be a retreat to remember.

Retreats are needed, whether they are structured or unstructured. Pausing to reset and center supports our overall health. We slow down to listen to what the body has been screaming but we were too busy ignoring with our busy schedules. Retreats allow us the opportunity to make changes, reset the nervous system- move from fight or flight mode into rest and digest mode. The body remembers its natural state and loves you for this.  

Retreat and reset.

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Happy ‘change’ of season..who knew Fall was all about personal change?

Fall is here, or at least on the East coast in the states it is.  Many are excited for its cool breeze, cozy sweaters, pumpkin flavored everything and let’s not forget the bright colors that the leaves will turn. But for many parents and even the kiddos it can be hard to say goodbye to summer.

Summer offers the opportunity to slow down, take a much needed breather and reconnect with family and friends. Even if the kids are on a camp schedule there’s nothing quite like that busy school schedule. We often times dread the end of summer and the return to the hustle and bustle but something happens that often goes unnoticed, usually because we are too busy.

Just as the Earth rotates and shifts, there is an internal shift happening within everyone. Think about it, do you feel differently during the summer versus the fall? My guess is that your answer is probably yes. Fall is a special season because not only does it put out the fire from the hot summer days with its coolness but it has a deeper symbolical meaning- the opportunity for CHANGE.

This transition to a new season is your opportunity to make changes. There are changes all around us, just watch nature because she is our teacher.  This is no coincidence, this is our reminder to make some internal changes. What are some changes that you’d like to make this season? It’s okay to start small. Maybe you’d like to carve out 30 minutes of ‘you time’, spend more quality time with one of your children, maybe come home earlier from work, eat dinner as a family, reduce your yelling, the list can go on an on. The point is, there are always changes to be made and when we commit to making changes, we grow.

This fall season decide on a change, or two, that you’d like to make. Get a piece of paper and write it down. Write it in the positive and be specific. For example, instead of writing, “I’d like to stop complaining as much” write “I’d like to share with my spouse the highlights of my job.” Reflect on your last several months and choose something that would help you grow. Then, place it somewhere that you visit frequently so that you can be reminded of your change. I do this all of the time and write my change on sticky notes and fold them up and put them in my wallet. The mind is powerful and when see it, we believe it and when we believe it, we can achieve it or at the very least, start creating the road map for it.

Happy change of season!

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