We just returned from a vacation in the Dominican Republic. It was amazing. Those who know us, know that we are pretty well traveled. We have volunteered throughout the developing world (Egypt, Ghana, Rwanda, Tanzania, Mexico, India, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Vietnam). We love the bustle of big cities, the calmness of the county side, and all of the craziness in between. We have experienced floods, animal bites, tropical storms, malaria, dengue fever, earthquakes, and many other adventures. We have also met the most incredible people, seen the most beautiful sites, and experienced some of our best moments in life while traveling. I even wrote a book about it "DON'T SLEEP NEAR THE MANZANILLO TREE: HOW TO VOLUNTEER ABROAD INDEPENDENTLY AND SURVIVE"
When I got pregnant we decided to get away “one last time” but decided to try out a resort in the Cayman Islands. It was very different from our usual travel but it was a very wonderful time. We still prefer our old ways but this was fun too. Regardless, we thought we would not travel for years!
Having Baby E in our lives has transformed many things (our eating, our philosophies on parenting, our quest to be more natural, etc) but it did not change our ability to socialize dramatically. We have still been able to go to parties, to have lovely dinners out, and vacation. E is adaptable and loves an adventure. Being a “natural” family made it all pretty easy!
Being able to breastfeed E had many advantages.
1. We didn’t have to worry about washing bottles/cups, buying/storing/preparing formula, and/or buying/storing milk.
2. I found it made the adjustment easy. E nursed A LOT this trip. She nursed when she was excited, tired, over stimulated, and maybe even of she got homesick. It helped so much to have something so comforting and familiar for her.
3. It was really nice because I didn’t feel like I needed to worry about being modest. I did not see any nursing but saw plenty of bare breasts on the beach (so many implants)! Occasionally, someone would notice and gasp “oye!” and then smile and continue on. I am not sure if they were surprised to see nursing, to see nursing in the Ergo, to see a white woman nursing, or to see a big baby nursing . . . they were surprised but no one was ever offended
4. It gave me a chance to bond with a few local people. I was reading the Womanly Art of Breastfeeding (part of my LLL leader training) on the beach and a random jewelry seller began going on and on and about how wonderful breastfeeding was “it is the love and the food that only mothers can give”
5. It made the take off and landing on the airplane tears free
Cosleeping worked great because E was totally comfortable in the bed at the hotel. We had a king sized bed (we are used to a queen) so the first night E must have turned side-ways, tried to find me, and rolled clean off the bed! That was kind of sad but she was 100% fine and we all snuggled closer together from then on. Ella slept beautifully from 9pm-9am each day (with nursing in between of course).
This certainly saved us money (we paid about $10 to have the diapers washed by the cleaning service) but I think it was probably just as easy as disposables would have been. They were super easy. We used them, stuck them in a wet bag, and had them washed once. However, we felt good knowing that we weren’t putting garbage in the landfills of such a beautiful location.
The Ergo was a life saver. We forgot the Ergo when we went camping last week and it was a disaster (I used a pair of Tom’s PJ pants as a makeshift sling!) I loved being able to wear Ella. I watched people struggle with strollers at the airport, at meals, and even on the beach. We just strapped Ella on and were able to take walks, contain her when she wanted to “watch” the birds with her hands, and when she was feeling sleepy while we were out.
On our 3rd day, we got brave and decided to hop on a local bus and ride an hour to the nearest town. It was great to have the Ergo for the bus and the stroll we took through the town. The town reminded me of Accra (the capital of Ghana) with it’s color buildings, open gutters, and beautiful gritti-ness. It was a bit stressful because we worried about the baby (the pollution, the traffic, the germs). But, I am so glad we experienced it and so glad we had an easy way to carry her around.
Natural Cleansing Methods
This one was probably a little harder. I had to bring our baking soda shampoo, vinegar rinse, oil face wash, and coconut oil deodorant. Also, I keep all of these in random containers so there were a few tiny leaks (good thing I wrapped everything in some recycled plastic bags). It would have been easier to just use the free shampoo at the hotel. However, I am glad we stuck with our natural methods because it allowed us to reduce our chemical exposure and reduced the chemicals that were released into the water shed. I also found that they worked great. We smelled fresh the whole time. Though, this was not more trouble than bringing my own expensive fancy hygiene tools like some people do.
We made this an electronics free vacation (partially by choice and partially because we forgot our outlet converters!). We used no TV, IPOD, computers, or phones on the trip. It was great to read, chat, and just hang out as a family. When we got home we went back to our electronics right away but hopefully we will spend less time on them in the coming weeks.
We did a lot of things in the natural way. But, this post is not to brag, it is to show that it can be done pretty easily. But, for full disclosure, we also did some not-so natural things:
1. Baby E spent every day in the pool and often lapped up the chlorine. E LOVED the pool. She loved to walk down the slop until it reached her chin, she loved to jump off the edge while holding our hands, she loved to have us hold her tummy while she “swam”, and she loved climbing in and out of the pool. In an attempt to minimize chlorine exposure, we showered about twice a day.
2. Baby E sampled her first juice. Not only did we give her juice but we let her take sips from my Pina Coladas (sin Rum of course). E really loved this treat and spent one layover walking to any person will a straw in a cup begging for their drink. Ha!
3. Baby E also watched her first TV on the long plane ride home. She was ALL over the place so we tried some "Finding Nemo". She watched it for about 20 minutes. I hope not to turn to this as a strategy anywhere other than plane rides. We’ll see though!
4.I ate dairy. A.lot.of.dairy. At first it was by accident. I was half way through my fish before I realized it was covered in butter. The resort was all-inclusive and had amazing food. All of the food had some sort of butter or cheese on it though. I decided it wasn’t worth the stress and went a little cheese happy. Now Ella has eczema on her face and legs! I am strictly dairy free again so hopefully it will go away soon. It doesn’t seem to bother her though.
5. Ella left DR with a pretty dark tan. We applied a lot of sunscreen and the last two days put her in long sleeved pants and shirts (poor thing!) She never burned but I do feel like it is not great that she got so tan. She looks adorable though!
Overall, this was a fantastic vacation. We played in the ocean (one day she asked to nursed while I was waist deep in the waves. We rocked back and forth while I fed her in the bright, clear water), we did aerobics on the beach, we read, we played, we let E roam and followed our little explorer. Tom went deep sea fishing and caught a fish. I had 2 massages and a facial. We also met some great people (Chef Ramon was our favorite). We also got to practice our Spanish and were surprised by how much we remembered!
I am so excited that it is still possible to travel with the baby. We certainly aren’t ready to grab our backpacks and travel by tro-tro but we can relax in a beautiful place. As soon as E is old enough, I can’t wait to take her to volunteer somewhere. In the meantime, I think we will enjoy this new type of travel.