Many of us think it. Some of us dream it. Few of us have the guts to actually do it. I don't think my marriage would survive. Heck, I'm not sure all of my kids would either. It takes a certain caliber of person, of relationship, of family to leave the comforts of home to travel the world for the better part of a year.
Enter new Petit Peony customer Darcy and her husband Rob. Darcy and Rob are successful professionals, working as a lawyer and businessman. But the prospect was out there: leave their jobs, leave their home in Denver and spend part of a year traveling the world with their two-year-old daughter, Blythe. And so they did. We have caught up with Darcy over five months into their journey, as they have already traveled through Hawaii, Australia, New Zealand, Japan and are currently exploring the Netherlands. Darcy, a bit of a fashonista herself, is eager to tear open her first package of Petit Peony clothing, which will be awaiting her and Blythe when they return to Denver in August.
Kim: Tell me a bit about what inspired you and your husband to quit your jobs and travel the world for a year with a two-year-old.
Darcy: Ha! I laughed as I read your question because when we told people we were taking this trip, we got a lot of incredulous looks and a few people who asked if we were taking our daughter with us. A few months in, I have a better appreciation for the challenges of traveling with a toddler.
To answer your question, this trip is something we dreamed about, but never thought would actually happen. But last summer, we were both considering new opportunities at work. Rob was planning to accept a job the next day when we sat down and discussed whether there was another option, and if this might be the right time to take some time off and travel. Instead of asking why we shouldn’t go, we started to think about why we should. We also felt it was an ideal time with Blythe because she isn’t in school yet and we aren’t tearing her away from friends and activities in the way that we would in a few years. We sat on the decision for a few days, during which time I learned that one of my best friends in Denver tragically passed away saving her toddler son from drowning. It was a devastating reminder that life is short and confirmed that we should seize the moment.
Kim: You’ve always been a working mom. What’s the transition to momming full time been like?
Darcy: It has been a huge adjustment for me. Part of what I was considering before we decided to travel was taking some time off or finding a part-time position. I’ve struggled a lot with feeling like I wasn’t home enough, even though my last job had very reasonable hours (for a lawyer) and minimal travel. I love witnessing the small changes that occur every day – a new word, a different mannerism, learning how to jump with two feet, memorizing a new book, etc. I’m not sure that traveling with Blythe is a proxy for trying out staying at home with her full time, though – there are a lot of challenges with being on the road without a routine, familiar surroundings, friends, and foods we know that wouldn’t exist at home. I’ve learned a lot about myself, the need to move at Blythe’s pace whenever possible, and trying to be more patient (I work on this every day, all day). I miss having time alone, which I used to get at the office, and Rob and I are learning how to balance spending time together and sightseeing with each of us taking time for ourselves. I plan to work again when we return to Denver and ideally I’d find a job that allows me to pick her up at school each day and have some quality time together before the dinner/bedtime routine commences.
Kim: How have your travels been different than your expectations? How similar?
Darcy: My biggest misconception was expecting to have more time. I envisioned watching a show with Rob in the evening, having lots of time to read, running every day, blogging, and writing letters. Even though we have chosen to spend longer periods of time in most countries, we spend a portion of every night planning future travel, which can be exhausting. We also have to navigate new places and homes on a regular basis (as I write this, we are in our 26th “home” of the trip), which requires time and energy. Blythe stopped taking naps a week into our trip, so the only time we have to accomplish these tasks is in the evening when she is asleep. For example, we now have our travel booked through the summer: Copenhagen, the Archipelago of Stockholm, Stockholm, Slovenia, Venice, Lake Como / Switzerland, and London, but we need to find homes, book flights and transportation, and plan activities in each location.
I did expect to feel homesick for friends and family and our house (which we are renting through a property management company on airbnb), which I do. The feeling isn’t such that I want to book a flight home immediately, but I do yearn for the comforts of home, our routines, and being able to cook meals each day. I expected to love the food in Japan and I did, although renting a house in Kyoto and cooking familiar food was a nice break from constantly eating fish!
Kim: What have been the most challenging moments of traveling with a two year old?
Darcy: Potty training and naps. Blythe was potty trained in Hawaii and things have gone steadily downhill since left. It isn’t surprising because we have no routine, thus she has no consistency, but it’s been hard to figure out how to make it easier for her or whether to just give up for now. Prior to our travels, Blythe still took a good nap each afternoon, but she stopped a week into our time in Kauai. This means she is exhausted and a bit cranky in the afternoon but she refuses to take a nap (believe me, we tried everything for weeks and weeks in Hawaii and then threw in the towel). Truthfully, we could also use a little break in the afternoon so we miss the naps a lot, too!
Oh, there was also a day when Blythe officially moved into the “boundary pushing” stage of being 2: she threw a rock at Rob, deliberately stomped on (and broke) a sand dollar I had just told her was fragile, and took off her pants and diaper during quiet time, crawled out of her crib, and intentionally went to the bathroom on the floor. That was a “challenging” day.
Kim: What have been the most special moments?
Darcy: The leisurely mornings we have together as a family when we read books in bed, drink coffee, and spend time together. Rarely do we have anything that requires us to rush to do. Watching Blythe fall in love with the ocean and playing in the sand. Swimming with her in Icebergs Pool on Bondi Beach. Kayaking in New Zealand and seeing 2 fur seals and a blue penguin and listening to her squeal with delight and then talk about it for days. Discovering new books throughout our travels and relating to new cultures through the books. Teaching Blythe about new foods and customs in each new location. Running through the cornfields and picking fruit from the trees during our farm stay in Christchurch. And welcoming the interactions (most of them, at least) that come with traveling with a child – people are much more approachable and chatty when you have a child with you. People in Japan adore Blythe. They pat her head and talk to her, take her photo (yes, it is a bit weird), and give her random gifts – postcards, stuffed animals, stickers, food, and two women in the park even sketched her and gave us the drawings. Traveling with Blythe has really transformed our experience – you immediately have something in common with another person if you are both parents, even if you don’t speak the same language.
Kim: How has your marriage been affected by this trip?
Darcy: Phew. That’s a loaded question! We spend a LOT of time together these days, much more so than when we were both working and traveled for work as well. Funnily, I’ll find there are days when we haven’t had any conversations other than those that involve logistics or Blythe, but we’ve been together the entire day. This trip requires us to work together all the time, to recognize when one of us needs a break and to offer that time graciously, and to be gentle with each other because real life happens along the way, too, and it isn’t all easy and fun. We have to talk through issues that arise because we are always sharing a relatively small space, so there isn’t any escaping!
What is has allowed for is more time to have big picture discussions about what we want from our life when we return home and how we want to approach parenting. Taking time off affords us the opportunity to take a step back and be deliberate about how we approach our careers, our home life, and our parenting since we have time right now and we have somewhat of a clean break. We could change careers, sell our house, move, decide to home school Blythe, etc. The funny thing is that I think our lives will continue on the same trajectory, but it’s always good to confirm it’s the right one.
I do find that we often are thinking the same thing at the same time! I guess that comes with all this time together.
Kim: Would you do it again?
Darcy: Absolutely. We have learned a lot in our first five months of travel, but I would do it again. We now know that it is best to not move around too much and that 5 nights is a good amount of time for feeling “settled” into a place. We are planning a few destinations this summer where we’ll stay for longer periods of time (2-3 weeks). We are constantly trying to purge and carry less (we left our car seat in New Zealand – those things are just too heavy to tote around when you can rent them as needed).
Rob has a calculation for happiness that has been incredibly accurate in our travel: happiness equals reality minus expectations. We have tried to not have too many expectations for this trip and to just experience new places and people as we go.
Kim: You are a very busy and accomplished woman: lawyer, triathlete, blogger, marathoner, mom (feel free to add anything here!). What are your hopes and dreams for your daughter, Blythe? What kind of woman are you hoping and trying to raise?
Darcy: I have so many hopes and dreams for Blythe, but mostly I want her to be kind, honest, and adventurous – and to have a lot of fun. I want her to know she can be and do anything and that we’ll help her achieve those goals.
Kim: You love fashion! What were your initial thoughts about Petit Peony when you finally happened upon the brand?
Darcy: The clothes are darling and I particularly love the dresses! The contrasting fabrics on the tunics and the bow collar dresses make them stand out and the fabrics are pretty, preppy, and whimsical. As a former Bostonian, the Party on the Charles print immediately caught my eye, and I love the Bike Ride and Pink Poppies leggings. Even though we live in laid-back Colorado and I want Blythe to be outside exploring and inevitably getting dirty, I still want her to look cute and Petit Peony is perfect for that!
Just as many others have done, my husband and I talked about some “time abroad” before we settled into life. We both love to travel, and the temptation was out there. But then life happened- bills to pay, children to raise and a family to whom we wanted to be closer. And we've traveled with children. 17 days around England with a well behaved 20 month-old was worth it, but I'm not sure it would have been enjoyable for much longer. I deeply admire Darcy, Rob and Blythe for taking the plunge that many of us are too frightened to take ourselves. I always say that you only regret the things you never do. Best of luck in the rest of your travels Darcy, Rob and Blythe!
To learn more about Darcy and read about her adventures in travel, visit her blog at www.DarcyEden.com.