Wanderlust as a Parent

Your ticket anywhere…

It’s 2022, and the Coronavirus now renamed COVID-19 virus rages on. People have collectively sheltered-in-place, experienced curfews, and learned how to connect with each other digitally. The last one, the last one is what resonates. While individuals, families, and even seniors or the well-seasoned as I like to call them become accustomed to Zoom meetings, Microsoft Teams for work calls or other business, Kahoot! for Kids in Hybrid or e-learning, and some older community members finally learned how to use FaceTime or Google Duo. We know how to do all these new things; yet, we miss the old way of life. We as a collective can’t wait for the pandemic to end. Some of us have even resumed travelling. That wanderlust is felt by us all.

However, the wanderlust resonates a little differently for all parents whether married, newly divorced, co-parenting, parallel parenting, or single. We all budget (yes, even rich folks). So, how do you budget for travel or even moving (see our last blog post) when you have kids and want to travel either domestically or internationally or even better you want to do both. There are many amazing tools and sites that make it far easier to satiate your travel desires or as some people are doing completely moving to new states or countries.

So, here are a few tips based on my own personal experiences:

  • Create a System
  • Hire Help
  • Live in the Moment

Create a System

As a parent, a single one at that, I live and breathe by systems to keep my life balanced. Systems for our morning routine, school being in session, summer camps, and even for our trips which is what we are focused on here. Before the pandemic, I travelled with my infant son and toddler daughter to the Bahamas for their Godmother’s wedding. We made it successfully due to my systems for the essential lightweight stroller, the ever-present baby bag, our arrived-in-time passports, multiple pieces of luggage, the carry-on, etc. Those early days of travel as a parent prepared me for the older years. Yet, we still operate with a system. For example, we recently did somewhat of a staycation and visited Starved Rock in Utica, IL. My kids are always advised to pack their own bags so that they take some ownership and it also ensures they bring things they like for the car ride. While they took care of their bags, I packed our snack bag and made sure all their technology (iPads, Amazon Fire Tablet, Nintendo Switch, etcetera) were all charged. It is simply part of my system. Now, our most recent goal was to travel to London and Paris this year…and the pandemic just will not let us be great just yet. I jest but the fact is the constant monitoring of school requirements for testing does make planning ahead for travel a bit harder. So, let’s move on…

Hire Help

Sometimes, I wish I had been more willing to hire people to help us which leads me to my next point and recommendation. For this recommendation, I have two phenomenal links for the same company which is Chicago based. Simply put: Hire Help. You can have professionals help with labor packing in Chicago: www.jcmovers.com/labor-only/ and let you handle the rest yourself. Think back to when your Mom would pack your travel bag for you as a kid and then when the family arrived at the airport, Mom and/or Dad would hire the bag porter to take care of your bag from there. It is worth the investment, hire help. You can even hire sitters while you travel. Do not make excuses, quench your thirst for travel. It may even inspire you to make even bigger moves. Hence, my next suggestion…

Live in the Moment

While you begin your journey, be present with your family and yourself. The pandemic taught us that we are so uncomfortable with sitting still for long periods of time and we adjusted. Some people loved living in the moment so much and that the the coronavirus, or COVID-19 if you prefer, made it easier for us to work remotely and explore the world that they decided to move across the country or even internationally. The link I’m including her for J.C. Movers does not cover international travel but it does cover domestic long-distance moves so check them out on the web at www.jcmovers.com. As a kid my own family, moved several times and the experience of moving to a whole new state was exciting. It is what created my own ongoing wanderlust.

So, as a parent or simply a human being, do not let anything stand in your way. Travel to your hearts content. And, hopefully, these tips will help get you there.

July Reflections of an American Expat  

Passports

By Jessica Thien Wood

Picture it: Zürich, Switzerland February 8th, 2020, my family arrived after a very long flight from San Francisco, California ready to start our new life in Switzerland! Is this the picture you were imagining? This was our reality after 4 weeks of living in Switzerland. The picture is from my daughter’s 8th birthday, celebrated in March 2020 with no furniture (aside from foldable chairs we picked up at the Swiss version of a Home Depot) and store-bought cupcakes because I hadn’t yet figured out how to work the oven.

Now that we have lived here for over 2 years and have passed the point of surviving (i.e. yes, we have furniture, can work the appliances, communicate in basic daily German, and are fortunate to have several good friends…) – I can reflect on my experience of being an American abroad. Living abroad has made me connect with Americans from all different political and geographical locations and on a different, more meaningful level. I could list several things I miss about the US (Amazon, big refrigerators…), but here are the shared values I miss the most:

Opportunities and Optimism. I can almost hear the eye-rolls of readers. Yes, America is not perfect and there are inequities, but it does seem to be easier to switch careers in the US than in Switzerland and there’s an undercurrent of hope. I moved here from the San Francisco Bay Area, the land of startups, where failure is almost a rite of passage. From my understanding and talking with local friends here, your career path is decided relatively young and once you start a career it can be difficult to switch as switching can mean a substantial amount of time and resources. However, in Switzerland, the depth of knowledge in each profession from car mechanic to teacher runs far deeper than in the US and all professions are well-respected, which is really incredible.

Spontaneity and Creativity. I miss the creativity and having more spontaneity that life allows for in the US. In Switzerland, where everything is clean and “runs like a Swiss clock”, it should come as no surprise the Swiss value punctuality and perfection. This is ingrained at an early age, where if an assignment is done incorrectly, students will often be asked to redo it (at least in the German part where I live). It reinforces the need for perfection but also ensures the student truly understood the assignment. As a parent to school-age children, I can say they are getting a wonderful albeit different education than they would be getting in the US. Also, if you have ever taken public transportation in Switzerland, you can see the difference…trains run on time and everything is clean. So while I do miss the creativity and spontaneity, I truly appreciate the Swiss way of life. 

Emotions are not worn on your sleeve in Switzerland. Laughing too loudly will surely get you a stare, as will crying, or outwardly showing too much emotion. You will not be offered a tissue or a hug, you will be stared at or ignored. They are not being rude, they are a private group and are respecting your privacy.

I hope Americans are able to start seeing each other as this Expat does, as neighbors and friends who have more in common than their differences. If you are reading this in the US, I hope you had a good belly laugh picturing this emotional sponge of a woman trying to keep herself together in the place she currently calls home. If you are reading this in Switzerland, happy to schedule a spontaneous Apéro.

Zurich, Switzerland where Jessica moved with her family. Image from: https://unsplash.com/photos/XxAR3uzYiZY?utm_source=unsplash&utm_medium=referral&utm_content=creditShareLink


Writer’s hurdle

I usually love writing. This is actually why starting a blog initially appealed to me when I was examining ways to improve my income largely to account for anticipated family court attorney expenses. Still, I think – no – as a matter of fact I know that 2020 threw us all for a huge shock. We are well past the halfway mark for 2020 and I personally set a goal for myself financially that is definitely a huge stretch; yet, I believe it is entirely feasible.  This is how faith in yourself works. You must believe without a single doubt in spite of being stalled on writing for weeks. Even, if your belief in yourself starts as small as the size of a mustard seed for any particular day or moment.  The belief will undoubtedly grow.

So, what is the true reason for my writer’s block or, as I prefer to frame it, writer’s hurdle. The true reason is because I enjoy being social. Social media has never daunted me because I have never been afraid to speak my mind. It’s been easier to post and create a 2-5 minute video off the top of my head than to plan a structured article. Speaking my mind has always been a preference for me whether virtual or in person. Now there are times when I was taught to dim my light and not share the words that I felt would help her others. So, wouldn’t a blog be the perfect place for that overcoming that limitation?

The fact is everyone emphasizes your audience. We all need help and the truth is we’re going to resonate with those (that pesky audience) who understand us best. The funny thing about that is those who understand you best may not necessarily be your family and sometimes not even your closest friends. The reason for this is that we all change daily. Some changes are small and others are huge.  Being social has changed and become more virtual than in person. Yet, we all crave that in-person a.k.a LIVE connection. Live interaction is necessary to our health and wellness. So, choose carefully who you connect with and make a choice to adapt and embrace your daily changes.

Taken at a local Cakery in Chicago called Eméché

This leads me to the buzzword for those who are on the front lines of dealing with COVID-19 and appearing as leaders is pivot. What does pivot really mean to those of us who have always adapted to change? Pivoting is nothing new. Pivoting simply means you adjust to your surroundings. Yes, you may have a signature style or signature talk that you display at the ready within the confines of a virtual world. However, the definition of who you are changes daily at times in huge ways and at times in small almost invisible manifestations so that signature adapts as well, via whatever medium you feel most comfortable delivering it on. Music is the method for composers, musicians, DJs. Books are the method for authors, academics, or even new entrepreneurs.

So, as I write my first blog post in what for me is far too long – I give myself a break on getting the writing done to my idea of perfection because evolving or going through this daily change.  There is no need for me to bring you scientific research right now. For some of us that evidence is important. The fact remains science has its place and life experience has its own too.  Experience teaches us that each person and moment serves a certain and specific purpose.

One of my constant affirmations is: “I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be.” So, this has simply been a writer’s hurdle that I’m clearly overcoming as we all adjust to the uncertainty created by a super-virus and racial unrest.  This worldwide pandemic has changed us all as well as our environments. Still, what remains most amazing is that we are still here to share our light with the world. Remember that no one has the right to take away your happiness or your peace of mind. And I write this simply to encourage us all. I hope it resonated with you.  LITE your path and I’ll cheer you on.

Big smiles from my little guy and I to spread good cheer and positive vibes only ?

My Top 3 Methods for Sifting Through the News Amidst COVID-19 by TeMeka C. Williams

3 Tips for Sorting data

I have to admit that lately my default has been to truly practice living in each moment as it comes. This is not in alignment with my Type A past. Seriously, I am a graduate of Duke University land of Alpha personalities and overachievers. Several life events forced me to – as I like to describe it: “tone down my Type A.” Yet, I have also been known to say recently that I feel like I am drinking water from a figurative fire hose of information while attempting to move at the speed of light and the last time I checked that’s not humanly possible. Given our current world state of affairs how are we to manage the plethora of information being presented to us – especially without feeling overwhelmed? There are 3 methods that work best for me: stay in the moment, conduct my own research, and be kind to myself and others. So let’s get started on how we all can move forward.

Graphic image yet feels fairly appropriate for what I’m trying to describe too.

I’m an avid reader. So the first books that come to mind when it comes to how I’m coping are:

  1. The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle
  2. Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert
  3. The Four Agreements by don Miguel Ruiz
  4. How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie

Like I said at the start of this blog article, I have to take pause and focus on the present moment. And, the first book listed was actually a gift to me from one of my best friends whose field of study has always touched on human behavior. She started as a social worker who holds a LCSW and now she has a master in Behavioral Analysis. Needless to say I value and appreciate all her knowledge she shares with me just because she loves me and has known me longer than she has had those degrees (funny yet very true!). Also, Eckhart Tolle was featured as part of Oprah’s Book Club and essentially he teaches mindfulness is the best way for me to describe it a nutshell. Now we all know anything Oprah touches usually turns to gold so I forced myself to pay attention. Please note, I am a much bigger fan of fictional work so it was truly a labor of personal development for me to get through this book and his follow-up book which was also part of my gift set. At first, it was not easy to stop planning ahead or reflecting and reviewing on way to improve on my past actions. Then, as I made a more conscious effort to implement his teachings, it gradually became easier. So, when the flurry of information about the Coronavirus started to feel overwhelming or appeared to be a constant influx of often times faulty information, I simply reminded myself to reset my mind. Rather than allow anyone else’s panic to infiltrate my life, I would again simply focus on what was right in front of me. Luckily, that was usually my children especially once Chicago Public Schools and day care were shut down by the IL Governor Pritzker or it was work for my corporate employer. Equally important, I enjoy both my babies and the sales and marketing career I’ve built so the reset is much easier than it would be for a person who is a bit unhappier with their current station in life. I’m sure you can guess what I enjoy more, right? Well, in case it is not obvious, I enjoy my family life with my children immensely and will passionately love and protect them especially from what feels like a huge world crisis right now with the way the information regarding COVID-19 has rolled out.

My children playing at a park near our home in Chicago

This also easily leads me to the passion I learned from Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat, Pray, Love. Her own journey through a life transition stirred my soul in ways that are hard to put into words. Yet, her book came to mind as a reminder on how to sort the information because she was also working as a writer as she traveled ate her way through one country, meditated her way in another, and fell in love in the final leg of the chapter of her life which she was illustrating for us. She was doing her very own first-hand research. This is what I encourage all of us to do as well! It shouldn’t be hard to do with the easy of smart phones, tablets, and voice-activated gadgets we all have in our home. And, if your anything like me and feeling like you practically live in your kitchen while eating non-stop (thanks again coronavirus LOL), then you have all the incentive in the world to put down that yummy food and get to work ensure you have validated the source. The Snopes website: https://www.snopes.com/ even does that work for us so we can get back to eating faster. I jest. Still, I did share with you all that I am a proud Blue Devil hailing from the research-based institution with a renown winning basketball team right? The library, printed sources, and reputable websites if you insist on relying on only internet information will help you to not spread the vicious cycle of misinformation we have all been experiencing as of late. I can not forget how when the virus first hit and I felt like my family was inundating with news and gossip they had heard trying to push me to the grocery stores. They were well-meaning but needless to say I was frustrated at stretching my planned grocery budget well beyond its means not to mention the amount of cooking I had to do to ensure food did not go bad. LOL They say the road to a hot place is paved with good intentions and I get cold easily so perhaps I should go down that path. Again, I am joking so I hope you can bear my style of humor.

With that in mind that leads me to my last tip and point of reference. Laughter is so critical to my life. I can not count the number of times I have had to laugh to keep from crying. So when I reflect on what I learned from the Four Agreements is that most people stay in their own heads and can actually be pretty harsh with his or herself in their. So again be kind. I will even bonus you all with 2 quotes this time:

“Be kind; for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.” Plato

“The World is a Tragedy to Those who Feel and a Comedy to Those Who Think.” Horace Walpole

source: https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/horace_walpole_163240

It’s too easy to be hard on yourself especially when it feels like your surrounded by chaos. Still, the best way to stay focused on the right data also means you must choose the words you spread carefully. And this is the reason why I brought up Dale Carnegie’s book How to Win Friends and Influence People. Admittedly, I haven’t finished his book because remember non-fiction is harder for me? Still, I remember him describing how Honest Abe turned around his political career. Honest Abe meaning our former president Abraham Lincoln who is from my home state of IL (bonus points if you know what number president he was)! Hopefully, you understand my parallel. And just in case, here’s the gist of all this information I shared in picture format.

This was a long one but hopefully you made it to the end and will like it enough to leave a comment here or via one of our social media channels. And, thanks so much for taking this journey with me!

TeMeka C. Williams
TeMeka C. Williams

A woman constantly learning for myself & about others whose also a proud mother of 2 beautiful angels. I’m passionate about my loves – all of them. Cheers to the living our best life.