Sunday, March 24, 2013

Traveling with a celebrity

I’ve often wondered what it would be like to be Justin Beber or Nelson Mandela – where you can’t go anywhere without big crowds of adoring fans forming. I feel like this trip has given me a small insight how these celebrities experience fame. Sometimes I think that Brendon and I are just Oren’s entourage. Everywhere we go, people flock to our blue eyed, white skinned, bald little baby. And lucky for them, he appears to be a people person so he offers them big smiles and happily accepts being held by just about every stranger out there.

There are incredible benefits to this. Thais and Laotians love babies and the family structure is very important. This means that we are often elevated to a different level of traveler and perhaps given opportunities that the 20-somethings don’t get. For example: we have yet to have a meal out together where the wait staff don’t take our baby away to explore the kitchen or a random fountain so that we can eat uninterrupted. It also means the locals want to talk with us. They cross busy roads just to ask us about our baby. To facilitate interactions between us and the locals, I’ve learnt some Lao and Thai – enough to convey the most crucial information – “he’s a boy”, “6months old”, “his name is Oren”, “he’s [insert] tired, hungry, thirsty, hot”, “do you have children?” “he smiles a lot” and most importantly “peek-a-boo”.

Yes, that is a monk taking a picture of Oren.


We’re now in Laos and have been traveling for a little more than a month. I feel like we have really hit our groove. We’ve figured out how to get Oren to sleep just about everywhere which now make long days pretty feasible. Not only are we more relaxed than we’ve been in years, we have time to feel inspired and to reflect on what’s next for our family. It really is pretty luxurious.

  Napping on a picnic table by the Mekong and being put to sleep by a waterfall.

It really is somewhat ironic that we chose Laos - a country where malaria and dengue fever is endemic. It also happens to be the most heavily bombed place in the world. We forfeited the excellent health care system and first world amenities of Thailand (that convinced us to travel overseas with a baby in the first place) for the slow paced, luscious, ceremonial country of Laos.

A few days ago our celebrity baby celebrated his 6 months on the planet. We rented a scooter and took the back roads to an elephant orphanage. There, Oren got to meet a beautiful mamma elephant who used to work in the lumber industry. Stopped in a small village on the way back for some noodle soup and were swarmed by just about everyone that lived there (refer to above picture). Life is pretty good.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Traveling with Oren

It’s 40 degrees outside and I am in an air-conditioned hotel room waiting out Oren’s third nap of the day. It seems like a strangely normal routine now. We plan our activities around his two hours wakeful sessions. Like Cinderella though, if we miss the window and try to postpone his nap a little longer, what was once a happy friendly baby becomes a screaming, inconsolable mess. We think of him as a ticking bomb that if we do not diffuse in the allocated time - will blow up in our faces.

Anyway, all is calm right now. Daddy is out taking pictures in the beautiful evening light. We're in a town called Nong Khai and our guesthouse is perched on a hill overlooking the Mekong river. In about a week we will make the trip across the border into Laos but for now we are immersing ourselves in the slow paced lifestyle of this quaint river town. It’s amazing how much traveling has changed since either of us did our global tours ten years ago. The most obvious change of course is the fact that we have a baby and this has made our choice of accommodations and travel itineraries a little more civilized although perhaps pedestrian. We always choose rooms with ‘air con’ and hot water. We do not take bus trips any longer that 4 hours and we consider things like ‘health care’ when we choose our final destinations.

But the world has changed too. I used to carry around my Lonely Planet like a bible – the thought of seeking out accommodation without it was disconcerting! Now every single $17 hotel or guesthouse we've stayed in, I’ve found and booked online. I read through the countless reviews from tourists all over the world and we make the call based on their recommendations. It almost seems strange to remember my life before Back in the day (the early 2000s to be precise) I would have had to call to confirm or risk a room being available upon arrival. My impulse to call is still there but public payphones no longer exist. Like North America, phone booths are a symbol of the past and Thais all seem equipped with there very own cell phones. To top it off, the once prevalent internet cafes have gone the way of the dodo bird, as every guesthouse and hostel is connected and Wi-Fi is free and plentiful. Considering that it's only been 10 years since either of us has traveled overseas, it's hard to imagine how different it will be for Oren once he begins his own trek around this incredible world.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

We rented our home!...and I finally found some time to put up a post.

We rented our place. It all fell into place a couple of weeks ago when a lovely family from the UK contacted us to negotiate a three month stay. As of February 13th our little home will have new occupants. This means that we'll be overseas until mid-May.

I think we found a perfect match for our house. The Abrams Family includes Claude and Jaime and their two children Kobra and Zenchai. They have been travelling all across the globe since 2009 and have to date been to well over 40 countries. Leaving a traditional lifestyle behind, the family has been on a journey of discovery and adventure. When I was reading their blog to learn a little more about their family, I connected with a statement that Claude had written in his bio - "More precious than money is time." It's a simple statement that Claude used to articulate the reason he decided to quite a job as a magazine editor and take to the road with his family. After becoming a mother, the concept of time takes on a whole new level of importance which is perhaps why those words have been playing in my mind for weeks now.

The first thing that seems to happen with a baby is that time disappears. I don't quite know where it goes or when I'll get it back but it seems to have moved on to another household...probably one filled with single people. These days I am grateful if I find the time to complete two activities during a day. One of those usually involves a mandatory household chore like shopping. Fascinating, yes I know.

Interestingly enough, this change is juxtaposed with an equally new notion: the long night. Not since the all-nighters of my university degree have I experienced both 'closing time' (3am) and sunrise (6am) in one day. This is coupled with the sensation that time is almost at a standstill and the night will never #$#&'ing end!

A last aspect of time I've been thinking about has to do with our trip to Thailand. One of the things that often comes up when we do interviews is a question about how we've adapted to living in a small space. Brendon was the first to identify that our home has helped to reinforce a lifestyle that is heavy on experience and light on stuff. It's hard to own more than six towels when you have no place to put them. So instead of things, we've been able to save the money that we might have used to buy things and trade them in for activities outside of the house. (Brendon reiterated this point in a recent interview with CBC which aired in French on National Television.) This has meant mountain biking trips, walks by the ocean, delicious food etc. We're now just getting the chance to take this to the next level by carving out three months of sacred time together with Oren in Thailand.

While we do not yet have beautiful pictures of Thailand to share with you, we do have copious amounts of pictures of Oren who is, of course, the most beautiful baby in the world.

Most people say Oren looks like me. Over the holidays, we tried to bring out a little bit of Brendon by painting on some eyebrows.