Doi Suthep, Thailand

Soaking in hot springs to weaving in between rush-hour traffic on 125cc scooters to showering in beautiful waterfalls, Chiang Mai was the Perfect place to vacation. If you’ve been following this blog, you know that my daughter and I travel a lot together. This time, however, we were joined by a third-generation of Demski: my father. Here’s a breakdown of our two weeks in Thailand,
week number one.

san kamphaeng hot springs entrance
My daughter, myself, and my father in Thailand

This will be the first of two posts remembering our two weeks in Thailand.

The best hotel with easy access to BKK (the international Bangkok airport: Suvarnabhumi).
We landed in Bangkok (a city with heaps to do but we passed over for now) and stayed at the best hotel for quick visits next to BKK: The Great Residence. For $5, the hotel provided us with a shuttle that took just 5-10 minutes to reach the hotel. I’ve stayed at this hotel several times so I knew what to expect: a warm pool beside a lazy river with panfish nipping at the surface, a delicious and healthy continental breakfast, clean, colorful rooms with comfortable beds, but best of all was the easy access to the Bangkok airport (BKK).

Bangkok, Thailand
My daughter and myself dressed in our finest. Check out The Great Residence hotel in the booking.com link provided below!

I highly recommend this hotel to anyone needing a quick transfer to or from BKK. The next morning, we were flying out to Chiang Mai so there was no reason to enter the heart of the city just yet.

Arrival in Chiang Mai

If you’re looking for a quiet place to stay with free coffee and a pleasant garden to drink it in, take a look at Naruncha Greenhouse just outside of the Old City in Chiang Mai. It’s not luxury by any means: for us 3 it costs less than $15 per night so what would you expect. But, it’s relaxing, comfortable, and the people who worked there are incredibly helpful.

The Grand Canyon Waterpark

chiang mai, thailand

After renting a few motorcycles and in been pointed in the general direction, we headed out to the Grand Canyon Waterpark in Chiang Mai. After briefly getting lost and having to stop to ask for directions–a complicated 30 minutes of poorly drawn maps, wild hand gestures, and imperfect translations–we eventually found our way there. In all of the two weeks in Thailand we spent, this was funniest and equally frustrating interaction I had with locals.

grand canyon water park
A shot of the waterpark from the lockers.

Approaching the waterpark, we came along the road that looks down into an ancient quarry filled with over 100 feet of water, with a floating waterpark bumping hip-hop. For $30, we received lockers and entry passes for all three of us before a quick golf cart ride brought us to the park. People are jumping off cliffs, zipping down slides, and bouncing off obstacles as their friends laughed at their belly flops.

grand canyon water park
My dad, Auburn, and my sunburn all together. You can see the sign for the Grand Canyon Water Park in the background

So there’s a kids pool for the little ones, Auburn wanted to enjoy the adult part with her dad and grandfather. Climbed on the inflatable’s, bounced on floating crocodiles, and fell in more times than I can count. Don’t worry, she was wearing a life vest.


Booking.com

The San Kampaeng Hot Springs

san kampaeng hot springs, thailand
San Kampeng Hot Springs, the primary spout and pool

The water park was exhausting so on our next day trip, we needed somewhere to relax. If you spend two weeks in Thailand, hot springs are a must. I’m a huge fan of hot springs; the warm water, the minerals rushing into your skin, and the atmosphere surrounding them are a few of my great loves. The San Kamphaeng Hot Springs was no exception. The primary sprout and its pool are nothing to soak in, that is unless you’re an egg. For about $1 we bought two woven, bamboo baskets of eggs, attached them to hooks in the hot springs, waited about eight minutes and had ourselves a delicious boiled lunch.

san kamphaeng hot springs
The hot spring for egg boiling. You can see the hooks and baskets along the edge. Notice the white trees in the background. They’ve been bleached by the constantly sprouting spring nearby.

After indulging our taste buds, we decided it was time for a soak.
For a few more dollars, we entered the hot spring’s swimming pool. A peaceful pool, there’s a small waterfall pouring into this 40°C mineral-filled pool. Auburn climbed onto my back as I descended the steps into the relaxing waters and we swam around and played on the waterfall and she giggled and splashed me. She’s a brave little girl, then when she decided to walk around the pool’s edge by herself I wasn’t surprised or worried. That is until she fell in.

san kampaeng swimming pool
The hot swimming pool that Auburn fell into and survived; the ‘waterfall’; my 3-hour-old sunburn

Initially, her whole body disappeared beneath the milky waters before her head popped back up, she grabbed a quick breath before her buoyancy gave out again. Her nose and mouth sank below the water line. Thankfully, she’s had swimming lessons so she’s quite strong in the water, but not strong enough on her own.

She bobbed up and down, her face half submerged. Her eyes had a frightening look of terror as she kicked and paddled at the water trying to get another breath. In total, she was probably scrambling like this for less than eight seconds. But as a parent, those eight seconds terrified me. Luckily, her grandpa wasn’t far from her and made it to her quickly.

Pulling her up from the water she let out a cry which assured me that she hadn’t swallowed any water. She was scared. As grandpa handed her to me I commended her for her strength and bravery as she explored on her own.

A few hugs, a few kisses, and a few reassurances later, she was giggling about how she had bobbed up and down like the eggs we had boiled in the primary hot spring. It’s probably her favorite memory of two weeks in Thailand. 😛
She relaxed, explored some more, and enjoyed the waterfall before we headed back to Chiang Mai. It’s an hour-long trip on a motorcycle for the hot springs to Chiang Mai, and apparently, we caught rush hour. I’ve been riding motorcycles and dirt bikes since I was about 10 years old, but never through traffic like that. It’s incredible to see how Thai people move their cars and bikes like fish in a school during such a congested traffic.

Without blasting their horns or flipping each other off, Thai people gently look out for one another, cut each other off, and steadily make progress down the highway. Perhaps, all of them had just come from Hot Springs, relaxed, or perhaps, the mindset of Thai people is much more communal and forgiving than that of stressed-out Americans. This two weeks in Thailand really showed me how calm Thai people are.

Our Trip to Doi Suthep, or as close as we got, anyway.

Doi Suthep, Thailand
My dad, Auburn, and I just outside of Chiang Mai in Doi Suthep National Park

Doi Suthep is a Wat that sits on top of the mountain overlooking Chiang Mai. It’s surrounded by a national park filled with waterfalls and places to hike and explore. This is the very reason we never made it to Doi Suthep. There’s just too many awesome things to see before you’ll ever encounter Doi Suthep.

doi suthep thailand
Auburn and I checking out a waterfall

With views overlooking the city and incredible waterfalls to climb, we never made it all the way up the mountain. Our longest derailment came in the form of one of the most beautiful waterfalls I’ve ever seen. Unfortunately, I can’t remember its name. However, if you want to find it simply head up towards Doi Suthep and find the waterfall that costs 100 Baht to enter. Hike up to the second level of the waterfall and you’ll enter a holler where a chilly waterfall offers a cool shower on a hot day. Bamboo, fruit trees, and a thicket of green ensconce the entire area and give you an incredible place to relax, meditate, or if you like take further into the mountains, but for what I couldn’t tell you; it was time for us to go home, it wasn’t the end of two weeks in Thailand, but it was the end of a beautiful day.

Doi Suthep, Thailand
Auburn and I enjoying a nice cool shower

If you have any questions about Chiang Mai or any of these activities I’ve mentioned, please feel free to contact me today.

cost of living in thailand

So you want to live on an island in Thailand? You’ve seen the pictures of coconut trees backdropped by a beautiful blue sky with people snorkeling in the turquoise waters, right? If you haven’t seen it, check it out here, courtesy of Matador Network.

koh tao cost of living
Koh Nangyuan, just 15-30 minute boat ride from Koh Tao

If you’ve gotten this far and you think, I can’t live abroad, you’re wrong. I’m a single parent and I live abroad with my daughter partly by running this single parent blog.

Thailand islands are as gorgeous as every backpacker blabs they are. Honestly, I didn’t want to write about the cost of living in Thailand, especially on the islands, because I like to keep my secrets to myself. So, foregoing my general feelings of disdain towards spoiling the places I love, here is the cost of living on Koh Tao for me and my daughter over our course of six months there. So you’re wondering about the cost of living in Thailand? Here it is, specifically for Koh Tao.

If you’re looking for a place to stay on Koh Tao, click here for a few ideas! It’s an affiliate link that costs you nothing but helps support this site. Cheers, my friend!

Essentials Included in the Cost of Living in Thailand, per month

Buying a Motorbike: $300

You need to be mobile. I bought a motorbike for $300 and when I sold it before I left Thailand, I sold it for around $290.

On the islands, there seem to be mafia-style price controls that make it far more expensive to use a taxi each day than to simply invest in your own motorbike.

A few caveats: you’ll likely be driving illegally, random checkpoints will pop-up where police may stop you and fine you for XYZ (though this never happened to me once in 6 months, not even riding in Chiang Mai on vacation last month), and if you don’t already know how to drive a motorcycle then don’t try to learn in Thailand; you’re going to hurt yourself and possibly someone else.

Renting a Motorbike: $75

You can also rent a motorbike; it will cost you around $75/month or more depending on the bike you rent.

Gasoline: $15

Gasoline wasn’t a huge expense because Koh Tao is quite small. You can drive from the north to the south in about 30 minutes pretty easily.

Food (local Thai food, western food, groceries): $300

Island food is a bit more expensive than the food you’ll find on the mainland, of course (you’re paying for the shipping costs, essentially), but it’s still incredibly cheap. Overall, food is likely to be one of your largest factors when calculating your cost of living in Thailand.

For breakfast I recommend stopping at a smoothie stand, they cost between $1-$1.33. Add on a barbecued pork skewer or fried chicken leg and at most, you’re looking at a $2 breakfast.

A pad thai will be as little as $2. A margherita pizza can be $3. A burger and fries will be about $5. You can go up from there, it just depends on your taste and spending habits.

Ice creams are as cheap as $0.45 in 7-11, or $0.66 from the guy who drives a scooter around selling coconut ice cream.

I’m giving you my budget based on usually eating pad thai or something similar, pizza once a week at least, and occasionally some monster BBQ skewers at a beachfront restaurant for $6 at sunset. Add in that I also have to feed a child and our food budget was about $300 each month.

You could easily eat three meals a day at $2 a piece and keep your food budget under $200.

Rent: $150-$600

Rent depends on what you want to rent. Do you want a tiny, ant-filled bungalow like I did? Or do you want to stay in a resort?

I’m not telling you where I found a place to stay for $150 per month on Koh Tao. That’s privileged information and it’s difficult to find. If you scour my blog and do the footwork on Koh Tao, you’ll be able to find it. However, you can easily find a bungalow for $200 per month almost anywhere on the island.

The best resorts on Koh Tao serve up a price tag of around $600 per month. They are gorgeous. You can get a private villa with a pool overlooking the sea where you can watch the sunset in privacy surrounded by palm trees for that price.

Utilities (electric, wifi, water): Free-$??

Many places don’t charge you at all for utilities. Other places do. If you find a place that charges you, you’re never going to pay more than $50 per month for electric, wifi, and water. If you do, you’re either getting ripped off, or you’re blasting your airconditioner non-stop.

Fresh Water: Less than $5

You can purchase heaps of one-liter bottles if you want but you shouldn’t. It’s bad for the environment, it’s a waste of resources, and a waste of money.

Instead, buy the giant, cooler-sized bottles from Green Fresh or the ice place in Sairee (not far from the main crossroad). The initial purchase of the bottle is $5, but you can refill it for about $0.66 each time. You’ll probably only have to refill it once or twice each month.

Pro tip: Place the bottle sideways where your feet go on your scooter. You’ll lose some water on the way home, but not much. Drive slowly and safely, no one is racing on the island. If your legs get tired, stop to take a break instead of risking your safety.

Laundry: $10

Charged by the kilo, you can get your laundry washed, dried, folded, and ready the next day (or same day for a slightly higher cost) for about $1.33-$2 per kilogram. I don’t travel with many clothes so I was spending between $2-$4 per week on laundry.

School: $300

My daughter attended school on Koh Tao when she was 3 and 4-year-old. There are a few kindergartens on the island. They are both around Sairee. Both have their ups and downs. One requires you to sign a contract that sticks you if you need to leave early, the other doesn’t. One has a brand new playground, the other is quite small in comparison. All the staff of each are lovely. If you are looking for specific recommendations or have any questions about the schooling on Koh Tao, ask away!

There is also a local school which I’ve heard charges around $70 per month. You’ll need someone who speaks Thai to help you enroll in that school, I’ve heard.

Lifestyle Choices: $200

Everyone needs entertainment in their lives. The question is: what kind of entertainment do you enjoy? Koh Tao has a mini-golf course, rock climbing establishments, windsurfing, scuba diving, snorkeling, hiking, loads of bars and beer on the island.

Your cost of entertainment simply depends on what you like to do.

If you’re looking to smoke marijuana on Koh Tao, you can, but be careful, it’s illegal and fines can be steep. Jail time, I’ve heard, is worse. There are some bars that let you smoke openly and will sell prerolls, but do so at your own risk. Smoking pot in Thailand is safest on the islands, but be as discreet as possible; Thai police don’t take kindly to people smoking weed.

Other drugs: be forewarned, if you think Thai police will be harsh on you smoking marijuana in Thailand, try getting caught with anything harder. I’ve heard some horror stories.

Visas: $100/3 months/per person

This is actually more confusing and costly than it sounds. The initial tourist visa is going to cost $40. Towards the end of your first two months, it will cost you another $60 to extend it for the third month. You also have to go to Koh Samui to do this, so add in the cost of your boat ticket, taxi to the immigration department, and the time lost spending a day doing this. Unfortunately, visas and visa runs can add significantly to your cost of living in Thailand.

Health Insurance: up to you, $100 for me

When considering the cost of living in Thailand, you should likely invest in travel insurance. You can receive travel insurance through your credit card, airline, or through the service I prefer: World Nomads. I pay about $100 per month for both my daughter and me, and that covers anything I’m worried about.

 

Total Cost of Living in Thailand for My Daughter and Me: ≈ $1200 per month

This price tag doesn’t include flights in and out of the country and is a rough estimate based on the information provided. Either way, for living on such a beautiful island, with healthy food, and a great place to raise kids, it’s well worth it.

There, I’ve given you the keys to my favorite place in Thailand to raise children and live–so when are you moving there?
Cost of Living

How Traveling as a Single Parent Kills Your Children

I felt it coming, but I didn’t know what it was. My stomach was cramping, my head was spinning, I could feel my blood pressure dropping, and my only thoughts were of my sleeping 3-year-old and how she would wake up to her daddy dead on the floor then she would die a week later of starvation.

Thankfully, I did not die. Or did I? And I’m writing this from the grave, you decide.

single parent travel
Me, happy to not die

Questioning the Idea of Single Parent Travel

Bad dad jokes aside, food poisoning is no laughing matter. In fact, it made me seriously reconsider my efforts in single parent travel. Why? Well, what if I did die? What would happen to my daughter? What would her memory and experience be? When you think you’re dying from food poisoning, these thoughts burst into your head and rip apart your moral foundation, convince you that you are a fool, and shred your sense of self-worth.



For me, the poisoning came full-force as I stumbled into the bathroom of our bungalow. Cautioning my readers here: it’s about to get graphic. Without aim, purpose, or an ability to control any bodily function, I painted the wall, floor, and wash bucket with vomit. I literally had no idea my body could hold that much inside of it. At this point, I was sure I was dying, and it happened, again and again, throughout the night. Seriously, how does my stomach hold that much fluid in it? I’m not sure, it was nasty you guys, for real.

single parent travel
The bungalow I nearly died in

Before this, I’d had food poisoning before, twice, in fact. But this was serious. What had it been? Auburn and I had eaten the same food, but she didn’t get sick thankfully. There’s only one food it could have been: street food in Thailand, specifically, grilled chicken and pork. I can’t remember who ate what, exactly, but Auburn and I definitely ate together and shared our food. Thankfully, I ate the bad part and suffered the consequences. She slept through the night.

Every time my body convulsed and ejected another round of fluids, I can remember thinking, ‘this is how I die, and Auburn will wake up to find her Daddy dead in a pile of his own puke, what a fucking mistake this was.’

Single parent travel
Somebody who loves Thailand: Auburn!

Surviving the Qualms

As with any negative horrible experience, you gotta push through, just like I did. I spent the whole night convulsing, the next day in shambles, and far too much time pondering the mistake I had made moving to Thailand alone with my daughter, but it was all worth it.

Yeah, cliché right? I don’t want to ever catch food poisoning again, but if it means that my daughter will get to see the world and grow up outside of any bubble that society can place her in, then that’s a life lived right and a parenthood I can be proud of.

single parent travel
A great reason to live in Thailand, the people! They’re super nice. This lady stopped her bike just to smile at Auburn 😀

I would recommend single parent travel, or duo-parent travel for that matter, to anyone who has children. You’re going to suffer along the way, yes, but you’re going to suffer no matter where you are, it’s just a point of choosing your suffering. I choose food poisoning over a 9-5, the loneliness of living outside of the USA over the comforts of it that make me fat and stupid, and I choose for my daughter to see the world over any desire I have to fit in with anyone else.

I have my best friend seeing the world with me, bring on the pain!


Traveling with children makes children as wise as it makes the parents strong; wisen-up the kids, strengthen yourself.

 

My fellow Americans, freeze your credit report now to protect yourself from fraud!

Why? Because there is roughly a 50% chance that Equifax has lost your confidential information to the black market. What information exactly? Your social security number, your birthdate, your addresses, your name… basically everything that can be used to open credit cards, purchase a house in your name, or collect your tax returns while claiming your children as their dependents!

freeze your credit report
A graphic-rendering of someone stealing your data

First, I’m going to give you my experience in freezing my credit report today while I show you how you can easily do it yourself, as well.

Then, I’ll answer a few simple questions you may have that are burning inside your mind.

Don’t forget to check your annual credit report for free here.

How to Freeze Your Credit Report

There are three credit companies you will need to contact in order to freeze your account: Experian, TransUnion, and, the data breach culprits themselves, Equifax.

I tried doing it online through their websites and was unsuccessful on each attempt. So I moved to a method that I found was much easier to freeze your credit report: through the phone!

Before I give you the numbers you’ll have to call, make sure you have the following:

  • your social security number
  • your address (also your previous addresses if you have lived in your current residence for less than two years)
  • your birthdate
  • a credit card
  • pen and paper to record your Pin and Confirmation numbers

If you have those things, you won’t be scrambling during the phone call to retrieve them.

Equifax: 1-800-349-9960

  • Time to complete: 5 minutes
  • Cost: $0 Why? Because they know they dropped the ball and they’re trying to save face.
  • Pin and Confirmation delivered over the phone

This was the easiest of the three to complete. A simple robot asks for your information, you provide it, boom! Your credit report is frozen and you can sleep well again!

TransUnion: 1-888-909-8872

  • Time to complete: 30 minutes
    • I had to be transferred to an operator and I waited on the line for most of this time, once I was connected, the process took just a few minutes.
  • Cost: $10 (I’m from Michigan, each state is different, but Michigan is in the most expensive bracket)
  • Pin and Confirmation number delivered via snail-mail

Again, easy to complete, as long as you don’t mind waiting on the phone for an operator.

Experian: 1-888-397-3742

  • Time to complete: 6 minutes
  • Cost: $10 (Again, the Michigan rate for this company, and again, the highest cost bracket)
  • Pin and Confirmation number delivered via snail-mail

Though the phone call only took 6 minutes. I had to make this call twice to get through. For whatever reason, the robot system just didn’t recognize or understand what I was trying to do the first time. The second effort was a breeze, however.

So now, a few answers to some simple questions you probably have.

freeze your credit report
“I’ll take that!” Says the data thief.

Common Questions About What Happens When You Freeze Your Credit Report

Here are a few quick answers to questions about what happens when you freeze your credit report.

Does it impact my credit score?

No, not at all.

Can I still rent an apartment, buy insurance, or open a new account?

You can, but you’ll have to temporarily lift the freeze on your report. Simply contact the companies again to do this. If you’re wise, you’ll ask your new bank, insurance agency, or landlord which company they will contact to check your credit report and you can just do your temporarily lift for that company to save you time and a little bit of cash.

Does a freeze impact my current accounts?

No. However, if your current information is stolen, like, say a credit card number, a thief can still damage you in that way. The credit freeze just prevents any new, unauthorized accounts from opening in your name.

Why can’t I just use a fraud protection agency like LifeLock?

You can, but understand that the company you are using is likely just funneling your money back to Equifax, the same company that lost your information in the first place.

Likewise, the fraud protection companies can’t prevent everything. Remember the buffoon for LifeLock who braggingly plastered his Social Security number on the side of a truck and broadcasted it in television ads to show how solid LifeLock was? His identity was stolen 13 times as a result. Real nice.

How long should I keep the freeze in place?

Until you die. I’m not fear-mongering when I say this: your data may never be safe again. Thanks a lot, overly-confident, under-prepared, super-incompetent credit monitoring companies.

freeze your credit report
Me, protecting my data.

Do you have any other questions about the Equifax breach, how to freeze your credit report, or how it impacts you? I’m happy to help so leave a comment with your concern 🙂

 

 

 

 

Considering traveling abroad with children? If you are, then I’m sure you have a million questions jetting around inside your mind: is it safe to travel with children? Do you children adapt well to new cultures? Should I travel with my child? Most importantly, why should I travel with children?

Let me give you a quick answer to the penultimate question: absolutely, you should. There are always things you can do beforehand to prepare, so, prepare.

Now, let me tell you why you should travel with them. First, I’ll hopefully ease your fears, then give you two more important reasons to take your children traveling abroad.

Safety Concerns

Like any parent who is asking themselves the question if they should travel with their child, I have been concerned about my daughter’s safety abroad. More importantly, I am more concerned about her safety in the United States. It seems that every week there is a massacre of one type or another, a horrific act of violence, or a ‘mistake’ that ends in the death of a child.

Traveling with children
Auburn playing safely in Hong Kong, safety equipment and all

So if you’re worried about your child’s safety abroad, I can assure you, they are as safe as anywhere you would take them in the United States. Obviously, travel with caution and diligence; it’s probably not a good idea to take your child to Syria, Somalia, or Iraq, at the moment.

However, don’t be afraid to take your child somewhere that has historically been belittled by American/Western media. Auburn and I have been to Colombia and Vietnam, places I had heard from other Americans (who’d never been there) that I shouldn’t go there because it’s ‘dangerous!’ Now I just laugh when I hear this because I’ve never been to a place outside of the USA that felt more dangerous than living in the USA itself.

Traveling with children in vietnam
Auburn playing with her new-found friends in Ho Tram, Vietnam. I’m pretty sure this sand pile was for construction purposes so likely not the best example of traveling safely 🙂

Learning Opportunities

Can your child get a solid education in the United States? Sure, if you send them to a private school you know and trust. I may sound like a hater in this regard, but the American education system sucks, it sucks big ol’ donkey hooves.

So you think I’m a hater? Not true, I love the United States, but I also love and respect other places for knocking us around in the education department. Take for example that American education ranks just 14th in reading, 25th in maths, and a sad 17th in science.

Traveling with children, class in Ho Chi Minh City
Auburn enjoying her birthday in Ho Chi Minh City, summer camp 2016!

Now I’ll hand you over to my personal experience in public education: donkey hooves. I grew up being taught the letter ‘w’ could sometimes be used as a vowel, that Christopher Columbus was a class-act, and that the USA had never lost a war. Let me scribble that out for you: (1) is B.S., (2) is vomit-inducing, and (3) is utter nonsense. A university-education and the internet have taught me heaps more than what I could have ever hoped to learn (unlearn) from the over-lavished, sub-standard, American public education system.

Now take for example that if you travel with your child, they’ll have the opportunity to learn in a different culture (avoiding common mistakes), see things from a new perspective, and pick up on languages that you probably won’t be able to speak. Get them to put down the new iPhone, the latest gadget, and get outdoors and meet some new people! The new language alone is the best investment you can give your child. Aside from the fact that it might cost $10,000 in the future to learn a new language from a university and you can save that by simply immersing them in the language and culture, but learning a new language also changes your brain, makes you more open, and helps you understand things that monoglots cannot.

Memories Increase Your Lifespan

So maybe you don’t care about your child’s education that much or learning a new language isn’t really on your radar of things you want your child to achieve. Fair enough.

Then, for a moment, imagine a life without memories. Or, more common, a life with the same memory over and over again. How short is that life? Painfully, in my experience.

Traveling with children
Me, my daughter, and my sunburn, all together. Koh Tao, Thailand

I can remember spending each day waking up at the same time to go to the same job at the same place through the same amount of traffic. In my memories, months can pass without any significant change, and that’s where your life gets lost: when you’re not making new memories.

I don’t want to pretend like every day will be different traveling and you’ll remember everything, no, that’s not true. You can fall into routine traveling or living abroad as well. But the move itself, the plethora of new sounds, sights, smells, tastes, textures, people, all add ages to your memory. A year will no longer feel like it flies by when you live or travel abroad, a year can actually feel like a proper year, imagine that?

Traveling with children who sleep on your head
Auburn sleeping on my head in Hong Kong, a memory I won’t forget and she won’t remember 🙂

Travel, Travel Now

So your child will learn more than your standard American B.S., will pick up a new language, will be as safe as ‘back home,’ and you’ll expand your lifetime through an increased diversity of memories? That’s right; if you do it right.

Give me a shout out if you have any questions: do you agree? Disagree? Leave a comment 🙂 And don’t forget to sign up for reminders of future posts through the submission form at the bottom of the page 🙂

Traveling with children to U.P. Michigan
We didn’t have to travel far for this one, just a few hours north of home. Kitch-iti-kipi, Michigan. Simply gorgeous, though it’s better in color, to be honest.

By: Julie Morris 

If you’re a single parent, you may think that single parent travel is out of the realm of possibility. There are always commitments and reasons to put yourself on the back burner, but the truth is, taking time to travel by yourself can be extremely helpful in getting to a place of self-discovery. There’s no reason to feel like you need to be forgiven for this.

It’s difficult to be our best selves when we’re faced with daily stresses and a schedule that never eases up, so in taking time for yourself, you’ll be doing something to help your relationship with your children… and yourself. So do some single parent travel and be a better person for it. 

single parent travel
Get out and enjoy yourself!

The key to traveling solo is planning. Safety is always a concern, especially when you’re in a new country, so being prepared is essential. Packing the right items and knowing how to get around once you’re at your destination can help your trip go smoothly, as well.
Here are some of the best tips on traveling solo and staying safe while having fun.

Single Parent Travel, Plan Well

Do some research on your destination to find out local customs, such as how they handle tipping or shaking hands, and find out what the local scene is like. Is it customary to wear certain items of clothing?

single parent travel
Get lost if you have to, but stay safe

If so, come prepared so you won’t have to go shopping once you get there. It’s important to be able to blend in when you’re in an unfamiliar place, as tourists are often targets for theft or are taken advantage of because they don’t know any better. The more educated you are on where you are traveling to, the better off you will be.

Work out a budget

Solo traveling doesn’t have to break the bank, but you don’t want to find yourself in a tough position in a strange place, so work out a budget ahead of time and stick to it. If you’re in a foreign country and exchanged currency when you arrived, try not to carry too much of it when you go out. Ask the hotel manager if you can keep some things in their safe, including any expensive jewelry (though it’s best to leave these items at home if possible), and your ID and passport, which you can make copies of to carry with you. That way, if you lose your bag or wallet, you’ll still have the originals.

Focus on yourself

When you’re a single parent, your focus is likely almost always on your children: making sure they’re well fed and rested, taking care of anything related to school and childcare, dealing with illnesses. There’s very little time to focus on yourself, so make that a priority on your trip. Book activities that you’ve always wanted to try, and explore areas you’ve always wanted to visit. Bring a camera and journal to document everything and solidify your memories.

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Find yourself by putting yourself in perspective

This experience is especially helpful if you’re going through recovery. Substance abuse, grief, and anxiety can take a toll on our bodies, minds, and emotions. Focusing on yourself during a solo vacation can help you get back to a healthy place and can lead to some self-discovery, which is an important part of recovery. Spending time in a new place can really help you see what areas you want to work on and eliminate from your life when you return.

For more information on how traveling can help during recovery, read on here.

Improving Yourself Improves Your Family

Remember that this trip is all about you, but that doesn’t you reap all the benefits. Find the best ways to enjoy yourself and relax, but remember to make your safety a priority at the same time so you can return safely to your children. Stay connected to someone back home and let them know where you’ll be at all times, especially if you’re going exploring.

 

 

 

camping with kids

One of the best things you can do for your children, in my personal experience as a child and as a parent now, is get them outdoors. The majority of my childhood memories are outdoors, and memories are what makes your life longer and more meaningful. Sure, I remember playing video games and watching TV as a child, as well, but I don’t have any particular memory that comes to mind that is nearly as enjoyable to look back on as my memories of being outside.

If you’re looking to get your child outside, take them camping! If you’re unfamiliar with who I am and what I consider to be a proper camping experience, then you should know straight away that I don’t consider using an RV to be camping. Plenty of people do, that’s fine, but we have a difference of opinion on that. Going camping is about connecting to nature, engaging with the elements, and removing as much of your comforts as you can. Now, some people are more extreme in their views of camping than even I am, but everyone has their own tastes and preferences. Here’s what I believe to be a camping experience and why is it important to go camping with your children.

Auburn and I went camping several times this summer. Tahquamenon Falls, Kitch-iti-kipi, and lots of smoked fish was on the menu. Rockstar of a summer. My dad even came out camping with us once!

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I’m not a selfie-taker but the Upper Falls of Tahquamenon Falls deserved one

 

Why Should I Go Camping With My Children?

#1 Prepare for Doom!

Not really, but sort of. What if the electric grid goes down? What is a solar flare knocks out all the satellites in the sky? What if you get lost on a hike someday and can’t find the trail? Have you spent enough time outside to know that, hey, the end of the world isn’t so bad? I have, and Auburn is on her way there. She can help set up the tent, gather firewood, and prepare the food.

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Auburn preparing some corn to cook in the fire

Camping is essentially wildlife survival training if you do it correctly. I’ve been trying to become more and more rustic in my camping adventures, but I’ll admit that I still bring along a blow-up mattress, an electric coffee maker, and a waffle iron so I definitely do not completely do rustic camping.

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My little helper
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It’s hammer time! Goodness, I’m old.

#2 Meet the Animals

Children love animals, at least mine does. She may be slightly frightened of some of them, but she adores little mammals like squirrels, chipmunks or ‘chick-monks’ as she says, and rabbits. One of the coolest things about camping is that the animals who live near the campsites are generally used to humans. They are still skittish if you get too close, but if you camp for a week or so, you’ll notice that the little animals will get quite close to you if you’re nice to them.

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Meeting the ducks on Indian Lake

#3 Get Comfortable in Uncomfortable Settings

You’re not going to have a lazy boy, a big screen TV, and a microwave unless you are using an RV. And that, dear reader, is why using an RV is not going camping. You’re certainly not camping with kids if you’re using a wheeled home. An RV, no matter its class, is a home, and simply going from your usual home in the city to a home with wheels under some trees is not going camping.

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Auburn playing at the campsite

I’ve been in campgrounds where there are 100 campsites full, and 90 of them are RV’s. (Sure, it’s because I’m in the RV area because I need an electric outlet for my waffle iron, coffee maker, and blow up mattress, but I’m hoping to cut down one day and get some cots, boil water over the fire for coffee, and simply not eat waffles.) But the point is that when the 90% of my fellow ‘campers’ experience rain, or thunder, or both, they retreat into their wheeled homes.

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Doing a little trail hike 🙂

They aren’t taking the time to experience what camping is meant to give you, a level of discomfort that removes your brain from the plugged-in, electricity-driven world. Sleeping in a tent in a rainstorm is amazing: it’s loud, your tent may shake from the wind, and if you have to get outside to use the toilet, you’re gonna be part of the storm. If you’re not comfortable in those situations, you’ll probably be one of the first people to die when doom happens (see #1).

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Found the most interesting tree

#4 Get Dirty

You know you’ve witnessed a parent who tells their child to stay out of X, Y, or Z because “they’ll get dirty.” Makes me cringe, ya’ll need to go camping with kids. One of the top reasons (hence why it’s on the list) that I like to get my daughter outside, especially in a camping situation, is because it gets her dirty. If anything, I fear the clean. When I take her to school in the morning, I’m probably the only parent who opts out of the teacher at the door holding hand sanitizer, “no thank you,” I say.

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Getting dirty racing Grandpa to the restroom.. she lost

I’m not afraid of germs, dirt, but leeches yes because they’re weird, wormy vampires. Go camping with kids and show them that being dirty is okay! Getting filthy improves the immune system, calms the soul, and creates memories that last a lifetime. Just stay away from leeches, they’re little graboids trying to grow big enough to eat your truck, I think.

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Running through the forest, she fell a few times and got quite dirty

#5 Pee on the Trees

There’s no better feeling than being able to let loose on a bush with no one judging you. That’s all I need to say about this.

 

The Wrap-Up

So go camping with kids, it’s fun, educational, and an experience that adds time to life because memories are what makes life long. A comatose person will not have memories of their coma (usually), and an able-bodied person who spends their whole life indoors is just a thinking comatose patient.

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Auburn and I visiting Kitch-iti-kipi

Do you already enjoy going camping? Where is your favorite place to go? Let me know in the comments and I’ll comment back with one of my favorite places 🙂

From planting a garden, to swimming at the lake, to camping and canoeing the Tahquamenon River, we have had a refreshing and relaxing summer, mostly.

Of course, I came home to make sure my mom was fed and kept on her meds while she recovered, but it wasn’t the only thing I did. Now that she is starting to get back on her feet again, I feel I have finally have enough time and energy to get to updating you on our life and a relatively mistake-free summer.

The Garden

We started our summer with getting some plants in the ground. The garden beds needed some TLC and Auburn was happy to help. She helped shovel in new soil, plant some vegetables, and put in this beautiful sunflower that is now standing taller than me!

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What We Grew

From tomatoes to kale, marigolds to other types of marigolds, the garden did quite well this summer. That is, except for the tomatoes. Why? Because we planted a few varieties with indeterminate growth and didn’t have a trellis system in place to support them. So what did we do? Improvised!

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An old chair that I axed the seat out of to use as a support system for the tomatoes

Gardening is a learning process year-to-year. To me, it doesn’t matter if the garden looks professional, is well spaced out, or has an particular aesthetic to it. As I’m trying to learn in life and gardening: plant your seeds, care for them, and make due. If people want to judge you, oh well, that’s on them. Set your own standards and you won’t be flailing for reassurance from anyone else. The tomatoes will turn red either way, and they taste no less delicious.

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An old guitar stand I used to prop up another tomato plant

If there’s on plant I can’t recommend enough to grow, it’s kale. It’s a delicious superfood that goes great in smoothies, salads, and steamed with butter. It grows quickly, has a a solid yield per plant and is also quite attractive on it’s own. Gardening with children helps them learn about where food comes from as well. You may find your own children are more likely to eat vegetables with them grow them themselves. 

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Morning dew on the kale.
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Tomatoes growing

Marigolds are a great addition to any garden. They come in many varieties and colors and are incredibly easy to take care of. Give them water, and dead-head the dying flowers. At some point you might even be overwhelmed with how well they do. One of plants went from a tiny sprout to a flower plant nearly 2 feet in diameter with flowers sprouting from all over!

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Marigolds: blooming and wanting to bloom.

Gardening with Children

Auburn has helped me create the garden at my Mom’s for several years now, but this was the first time she was actually helpful! Previously, she was keen to shovel out the soil I was shoveling in. This year however, she managed to fill several of plots all by herself and loved it! There’s nothing like watching a little kid get dirty and enjoy themselves, it makes me wish I was still a child sometimes. Aside from the fun they having gardening, there are numerous health benefits to it: fresh air, exercise, relaxation, and the microbes in the soil that get under your nails are beneficial to your immune system. Dig on, my child! And parents, try gardening with children and see how they do, it could be your next family activity 🙂

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Putting in work with her Auburn-sized shovel

 

Super People, Super Problems

In this era of super kids, it’s easy to want to your child to be superstar, a famous athlete, musical prodigy, or whatever kind of top-level person you want them to be. Our news feeds are flooded with examples of three-year-old skateboarders, 5-year-old piano masters, or 9-year-olds with the pipes of Aretha Franklin, and this gives us the idea that our own children should be up to that level. What is being forgotten is that most of us are average, our children included, and being average is exactly what our children should be. We all make mistakes and have a chance at forgiveness, but driving our kids to be outliers shouldn’t be their inherited mistake.

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Average kids do average things, like paint their nails with watercolor

With the massive increase in levels of depression and anxiety in American adults since 2010, is it possible we are priming our children for the same? Social media has driven us all to believe that being an exception is normal. That having millions of followers, or making six figures on Instagram and Youtube, is thought of as realistic is downright insane. There is a reason that these people are the exception to the rule: being average is the best that most of us will attain. If it wasn’t, then the average would be exceptional and the exceptional would be average. Can you see why this causes problems? The current idea is that if you aren’t special, then you aren’t loved.

Comparing Ourselves to Outliers

We’ve already set the goal posts for ourselves in relation to the freaks we see on social media. We think that we aren’t good enough, don’t have enough friends or enough likes, or that we always must be happy and prove it by posting pictures of us having an amazing day, every day. Please, hold my beer while I vomit.

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An average yoga session, with below average posture

Be honest with yourself, most of your days are average. You get up, you commute for hours to work, you work, you commute back, then maybe you get to have a pleasant Saturday where your child gets you full-time (pending your face isn’t buried into your phone). So why are you expecting your child to be a professional baseball player when they have the exact same child-care schedule as every other kid on your block?

The Ugliness of American Ideals

I’m a lucky S.O.B. and have spent the last four years since graduating college traveling and working on three different continents. This is partly because I love to travel, but also because I completely reject the American ideals of getting a ‘good’ job, working your life away, and having no time to yourself and your family while burying yourself in debt to fill your life with material. Instead, my 3-year-old daughter has gone to school and made friends in 5 different countries and has picked up at least a few words in as many languages. She isn’t going to be a superstar or high-earning athlete, as much as I’d like her to be, because she, like me, is average. And frankly, that’s when she is at her best.

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She didn’t find a single egg this Easter, but her below-average performance didn’t affect her fun at all

I’ve been teaching her to swim and snorkel recently because it’s something I enjoy. One of her most recent challenges is floating on her back and it’s been a true pain in the ass to get her to keep her ears in the water for longer than a few seconds. I push, she resists. I see 2-year-olds on Youtube diving and snorkeling easily, and I get frustrated that Auburn isn’t progressing more rapidly. We’re all prone to this type of behavior because American ideals tell us we are all special. Again, hold my beer, more vomit coming up.

Toddlers Are Excellent Teachers

So why am I ranting about this? Because my daughter recently taught me a valuable lesson. I’ve been showing her videos of other kids snorkeling and swimming, tempting her to try it more and more, and even getting angry at myself when we go a whole session without her dipping her head in the water. So what lesson did she teach me? To just let her float.

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Just your average chocolate cake-eater

I had given up. We were headed to the pool and I had zero intention of trying to get her to do anything with her snorkel or mask on. I just wanted to swim, let her swim, and enjoy the sunshine in one of our last days in Thailand. A few minutes into the pool and I was floating on my back, staring up at a half-moon in a blue sky circled by palm trees. I could hear the muffled sounds of people chatting and others splashing. After a few minutes, I picked my head up out of the water and saw my daughter doing exactly the same thing I was. Floating on her back, ears in the water. I hadn’t once asked her, pushed her, or even insinuated that she needs to practice any skills that day.

Let Them Float

Instead of pushing your children to learn how to swing a bat or sing like Aretha or float on their back, I’ve discovered the best thing you can do is just let them float. Show them what they can do, then let them do it. Drilling and repeating can have a positive impact on your child’s physical abilities, but take a moment to consider what telling a 3-year-old that they will be a professional athlete will do to their psyche. What happens to that psyche when they don’t become a professional athlete? Unfortunately, this type of social media-driven behavior hasn’t been around long enough to give us a clear indication of what happens, but we can look at what is happening to us adults as a clue.

If you’ve ever felt pressured that you have to post something that gets your opinion across in a flashy way, or that an Instagram photo with the perfect filter must be shown each day, imagine what that mentality does to a toddler’s brain. Imagine what kind of influence your toddler is undergoing when you are propping them up as a ‘future Chicago Bulls’ star’ in your Facebook feed. Imagine having the standards set so high for you that you constantly feel inadequate. I’m sure you don’t need to imagine, all you have to do is see how you feel when you look at all the social media icons and compare yourself to them. You’re average. Just floating.

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My average little Easter bunny

But there isn’t anything wrong with just floating, just being average. My daughter is at her best when I let her do what she can do on her own. I can show her a few times how to do it, but no amount of pressure from her father is going to make her love to snorkel with me or want to improve her off-foot striking skills in soccer.

Letting her be average, letting her float on her own, is the best thing I can do for her. It’s when she improves her quickest and enjoys her activities the most. My daughter likely won’t grow up to be a pro soccer player and possibly won’t ever enjoy snorkeling with me, but that isn’t my goal. My goal is to raise a healthy, well-rounded, competent individual who knows that she can do her best, fail, and still be loved. I can’t see a reason to have any other goals than that.

 

Two Healing Words

After a day of rain drumming on the bungalow’s tin roof, my 3-year-old would say two words that would help me in forgiving myself. The strength, the clarity, the confidence that she showed me through those two words helped me understand that the strongest amongst us are missing something when we punish ourselves for making mistakes. We focus on the wrong like it’s a stain on our only shirt, thinking everyone will see only that and judge us accordingly. My daughter’s two words help me realize something we all need to understand, ‘it’s okay.’ Failing isn’t nearly as important as what we do after we fail.

*You’ll see some affiliate links here, check out this link for a full-break down of what that means. Hint: my links cost you nothing!

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Auburn doesn’t care if she fails, the first time she did this the seat knocked her forehead

Why Do We hurt?

In today’s social media atmosphere where we are constantly bombarded with images of the exceptional, it’s easy to feel inferior. The companies who advertise on social media know I am a traveling Dad, so the advertisements I see are about top-notch parents who never fail, travelers who make five figures a month working just 2 hours a week, and images of people working on hilltops, swinging in a hammock, or (most unbelievably) working right on the beach! What a bunch of crap.

 

Even if everything I am seeing is real, those images are denoting the .01% of people who are actually involved in any of those activities. Every parent repeatedly fails, travelers travel because it’s cheaper than staying in one place, and digital nomads like myself work at a desk. Can you imagine having your computer out at the beach for 8 hours? If you can, then you should also imagine the next computer you’re going to need because the sand, water, light, and elements are going to destroy your gear.

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This is not a work place, Nang Yuan Island, Thailand

So It’s all BS?

Marketing is all BS. They show the outliers, the freaks-of-nature, the rare runes. When you see these outstanding people every day, all the time, how can you not compare yourself to them? Your average life, your average job, your average face. This isn’t crap you can easily change, so when you can’t be extraordinary, you feel like shit, because you’re just average, and you’re a failure. Mark Manson touches extensively on this in his book, The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck.

Those Two Words

When my daughter stirred that night, at first just uncomfortable because her blanket was off her, I heard her whimper in the darkness. Once, then twice, a soft, third time. ‘What’s wrong honey?’ I asked her. Her little voice sniffled out, ‘I miss Mommy.’ I was instantly back to hating myself again, forgetting how hard I’m trying to love myself. My mind jumps to all my mistakes, what I’ve done to put Auburn in this position, a series of events leading up to her waking up and crying at 11 pm because she doesn’t have a ‘Mom.’

She crawls over to me and falls into my arm, I feel her tears drip onto the inside of my bicep. I squeeze her lightly, ‘I know sweetie, you got your Daddy here.’ A tear of mine drips unnoticed on her hair, ‘You’ve got lots of people who love you, Aubi,’ a few more whimpers from her. Her hand moves up across my neck, she stops crying, smiles, kisses me on the curve between my nose and cheek, ‘I know Daddy, it’s okay.’

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Sometimes she sleep with undies on her head

It’s Okay

You don’t have to be perfect. You don’t have to be the outlier, the extreme example, the super-parent, the model, or the charming one. Like Mark Manson says in his book, ‘What is objectively true about your situation is not as important as how your come to see the situation.’ I’m an average parent and person, I constantly fail. But my little girl looks at me with the strength of a General, smiles, and says ‘it’s okay.’ It’s okay to be normal, it’s okay to fail, it’s okay to occasionally hate yourself for the things you’ve done. Failing, and feeling like a failure are a part of what makes us strong people.

If our minds couldn’t adapt to failure, we wouldn’t have evolved and spread across the world battling Smilodon, direwolves, and eating giant furry elephants. You think our ancestors had an easy time dealing with seeing their children shredded by a 400 pound cat? Or having dental work done with rocks? Or living only to the ripe old age of 36? No, we were all bred to be strong. Our strength runs in our DNA, that is our average. Our average is a lineage of survivors who failed all the time, and succeeded because of it. It’s okay to be average, to fail repeatedly, as long as you learn from it. That’s the best lesson our diseased and ill-fated ancestors can teach us. It’s okay to be human, to fail, and love yourself regardless. Sometimes it just takes a 3-year-old whispering it to you at night to understand that.

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3-year-olds know it will be okay

*You’ll see some affiliate links in here to the books I mention, I only link up to things I find truly valuable to the reader.