My name is Lauren. I lived in Sydney for 3.5 years and just recently moved back to the US for an adventure in NYC. I blog about Sydney expat life, travel and writing and now also life as a newlywed repatriate.
Brendan and I moved to 114th Street and Frederick Douglass Boulevard in Harlem as newlyweds on June 15, 2013, after three-and-a-half years together in Sydney. We moved to NYC because we needed to be somewhere that was close to family but that also gave us room to grow in our young marriage and to re-identify with our old country as new people.
The first 18 months were lonely, isolating, bewildering and illuminating. Brendan’s mom was sick with Stage 4 lung cancer. I worked remote for my Australian marketing job, from 5 pm to 2 am, and thus kept strange hours. Brendan struggled to fit back into a savage East Coast work culture after four-and-a-half years working in a country where beer carts were pushed around the office come 4 pm every Friday and people often never returned to their desks after boozy lunches. I was pregnant by August. We both struggled to make friends.
We did what we could to make the most of it. Comedy and jazz in the East Village. Trips to Portland, Maine, the Hamptons and the Jersey Shore. Visits with our old friends with whom we needed to reconnect.
Brendan’s mom passed away, I gave birth to Finn, we moved to Washington Heights, I got my first city job that I tried to quit on the second day, we pulled Finn from daycare and hired a nanny and Brendan switched jobs. And then by early 2015, it was all finally clicking into place. Any old friends that no longer belonged in our lives were dispatched. We were both making new friends and loving the young, social culture of our respective jobs. I figured out how to be both me and a mother. Finn grew into toddlerhood in a place of wonder. Buses! Firetrucks! Subway trains! Garbage trucks! The park became our playground and my sanity check with other parents.
I grew up coming to New York as a child and always hoped I would have a chance to live there. The chance came later in life than expected and evoked my full range of emotion. This city more than any other matched the way I love: temperamental, electric, expectant, difficult, alive. It treated me the way I treated it. It stoked my ambition and it pushed the boundaries of my mental and physical energy. In one hour, I could experience both profound annoyance when the A-train was delayed yet again and immense gratitude when someone would help me heave my stroller with child in it up the subway stairs. I marveled at how so many different people from different backgrounds and walks of life co-existed. Often they did not, but when you’re all on a fucked subway train, it doesn’t matter if you’re a Wall Street banker or the clerk at Walgreens—we’re all in that shit together.
While I loved, and will always love, New York, I knew it wasn’t forever. Just in the way you can adore someone and know that it isn’t the right fit, place or time for you.
Living forever in New York was never going to work because neither Brendan or I was willing to do what it takes to make it happen.
I have a funny theory that, for some of us, we hit a stage in life where we want what we had growing up after running away from it for years. In my case, I have lived in or near to a major city for half my life. For most of my relationship with Brendan, we have lived on a main street where we have been able to walk outside and get a coffee, a haircut, a newspaper or the groceries. But over the last few years, we’ve both talked about wanting for our kids what we had. A yard. Space in which to run around. Room for visiting friends and family to stay.
New York has all kinds of people who make life work. And we could have made it work, too. But long-term, we wanted more than a two-bedroom apartment for our four-person family. While our New York salaries have been beneficial, we never made enough money to buy a property even in our uptown neighborhood, and I wasn’t willing to commit to getting to a place where we did. I was already commuting two hours a day and not seeing my kids until close to 6 pm. The prospect of rising up the ladder and having to work longer hours and have a nighttime nanny take care of my kids and do domestic tasks so I could afford a life in New York just seemed foolish.
It took time, but I finally came to grips with the fact that while I would always want some sort of career, I also wanted time with my children and, eventually, to be the person home for them when they came home from school at 3 pm. We both wanted a place with a lower cost of living so that if one of us decided to move to a part-time or freelance schedule it wouldn’t drastically impact our finances. And we knew if we bought a house, we didn’t want to spend $500,000 for a one-bedroom. We wanted a real house.
For Brendan, the realization was simpler. One day, he said, “I think I’m ready to mow a lawn.”
So in a quick mix of circumstances that came down, we found ourselves over the course of a month deciding to move to Phoenix. Brendan got a new job and I kept mine and am now back to the remote work life for the third time in my career, with trips back to New York already planned. The kids are in a new daycare and we have a two-bedroom apartment. And, poof, just like that, we completely changed our lives.
None of that last paragraph is to say that any of it has been easy. As one can imagine, our friends and family were shocked. This move has been the hardest yet for me because of the kids. Taking them across the country from their grandparents, aunts and uncles and their school friends has been devastating, for them and for me. Finn had such a wonderful community at his preschool over the last year and a wide circle of neighborhood friends (the kid is definitely more popular than his parents) whose parents I loved. I have been regularly texting his teachers and parents of his friends to stay in touch, as much for them and for Finn as for me. This is where the first 18 years of my life come into play. I never moved as a kid, and to see it through the experience of a child, while very young, breaks my heart.
And that’s what’s so hard about a place like New York. It and the people suck you in. It’s a vacuum pulling you into its ambition, its pride, its mess, its wonder, its fucked up, crazy, dysfunctional, all-encompassing, soul-exploding love.
New York has its grip on me because it’s where Brendan and I transitioned to from our time as expats, where our marriage truly started, where both of our children were born, where our careers went to another level, where we created this colorful, patterned, mismatched tapestry of a life that brought in the old and the new. Not only did we have our old friends and family and the new ones we met, but also two separate couples that we knew in Sydney who moved back to the East Coast. And because it’s New York, over the years we had visits from other Sydney friends who came to tour America. It felt like we were in the place to be and getting the best of all of our worlds, past, present and future.
So many moments I’ll never forget. Parked in front of the nursing home across from our favorite coffee shop in Harlem when Brendan got the call that his mom had passed away at his childhood home. The Rite Aid on 116th street where Brendan was propositioned when I sent him at 4am because Finn wasn’t getting my breastmilk. The M4 bus ride home from Columbia Hospital with sunglasses on to hide the tears after seeing my second baby on the ultrasound screen unmoving with no heartbeat. Pushing each of my living babies in their carriages through Fort Tryon Park.
What a place to have been. What a time we had there. How fortunate we were, even in our and the city’s worst moments, to have had the time we did there. A thousand frustrations and a thousand more happy moments.
Smorgasburg, the New York Transit Museum, Central Park, birthday parties in Finn’s beloved Bennett Park, Riverside Park, the drive north on the FDR at night, the glimpes into people’s apartment buildings, the slice of their life, Christmas lights in some windows all year-long, including ours, how our super called Finn “Boss,” the High Line, High Bridge, play dates on the Upper West Side, preschool potlucks, drunken date nights and outings with friends, boozy brunches, getting to see Bruce, Chapelle and Janet, the ferry to Staten Island, working in one of the World Trade Centers, Christmas eves at Uncle Nick’s Greek in Hell’s Kitchen, the store displays at Christmas, Dyker Heights, buying our tree on a street corner, museums, watching Brendan play kickball, Fresco’s pizza shop, the Apollo, buskers, sledding down the hill in Fort Tryon, ice cream cones from the truck on a warm summer’s day, trips with daycare friends to Bear Mountain and the train display at the Botanical Garden, walking the Brooklyn..
If you’re looking to escape reality for a while, Costa Rica is the ideal location. With rainforests, beaches on both the Caribbean and Pacific and beautiful natural wonders to explore, it’s an exotic, relaxing destination with a ton to do for all interest types and ages. Everyone’s idea of the perfect vacation in Costa Rica will be different but we’ve included a few tips to help you design your trip to this luscious Central-American locale.
Costa Rica offers a range of accommodation types to choose from such as hotels, beachfront villas and apartments. If you want Costa Rican rentals and villas, there are luxury options such as Casa Ramon, located near Dominical and Playa Hermosa, which offers panoramic views of the ocean and jungle. Villa Estrella is an all-inclusive on a hilltop overlooking volcanic mountains in the beach town of Ocotal. Casa Campana is close to both a golf course and a beach club and offers mix of adventure and luxury.
If a traditional hotel is more your speed, the Tamarindo Bay Boutique Hotel, Peace Lodge and Maquenque Eco-Lodge are some of the best-rated hotels that provide rooms with a variety of price points. In Costa Rica’s capital city of San Jose, the Hotel Grano de Oro is a historic 40-room space with rooms including patios, fish-filled fountains and tropical greenery.
The type of accommodation you choose will of course depend on the type of vacation you want to have, budget and how many are traveling in your party. But rest assured, there is something for everyone looking for a perfect vacation in Costa Rica.
Photo courtesy Arturo Sotillo, Creative Commons
Whether you want relaxation, adventure or eco-tourism, Costa Rica has it all. It’s become quite the spot for adrenaline-fueled activities, but there is plenty to do even if you don’t want to do something daring as part of your perfect vacation in Costa Rica.
If you want to relax, head to the beach—you have the south and north Caribbean, Pacific and more to choose from—get a massage or have an elegant dinner. Take in the natural wonder of rain forests, or cloud forests like Monteverde and Santa Elena, and waterfalls—and if you’re more adventurous, zipline through the rain forests, hike a volcano such as Arenal or white-water raft in the Central Valley. There is also snorkeling, surfing in locales like Mal País and Santa Teresa, hot ballooning and more, plus a range of golf courses. Costa Rica is also home to a number of national parks, such as Barbilla, Barra Honda and Cahuita. For the eco tourists, Tortuguero offers both jungle and wetland that house wildlife, such as sea turtles, you can watch for as you canoe down its narrow waterways.
Photo courtesy Vlad Podvorny, Creative Commons
Points of Interest
If cultural points of interest are part of your perfect vacation in Costa Rica, you have options throughout the country from which to choose. Take historical walks through San Jose, Cartago, Heredia, Alajuela and Puntarenas. Or visit the National Museum of Costa Rica, which houses pre-Columbian gold and archeological specimens. Calderon Guardia Museum commemorates Dr. Calderon Guardia and his work on social form during the 1940s. The La Salle Natural Science Museum offers a glimpse at more than 70,000 items, invertebrates, reptiles and other animals.
Photo courtesy Randy Robertson, Creative Commons
Food will definitely be part of your perfect vacation in Costa Rica. You can get Latin, Caribbean, European, Southern and other culinary influences when dining throughout the country, whether you are in the city or the country. San Jose has quite the emerging food scene. Park Café in that city is Michelin-starred and described by Travel + Leisure as “haute cuisine or molecular gastronomy.” Cocina Clandestina in Mariposario is a low-cost option serving seafood, vegetarian and vegan options. Graffiti Restro Cafe and Wine Bar in Jacó has a Southern-influenced menu with craft cocktails. Maxi’s by Ricky in Calle San Rafael is a popular spot to watch soccer and devour rice and beans with coconut milk.
Car, taxi, train, bike? To truly have the perfect vacation in Costa Rica, you’ll want to figure out how you plan to navigate the country, especially if you are traveling to multiple locations. The good news about Costa Rica is that it has a convenient public transportation system that can get you pretty much anywhere by bus. You can also rent a car, but be warned the at driving at night can be treacherous due to Costa Rica’s mountainous terrain. Costa Rica also has the ride service Uber.
An interesting thing about is that its domestic airlines offer a package for unlimited flights, so if you’re traveling around the country, particularly to more remote locations, this is something to consider.
There it is—your guide to planning the perfect vacation in Costa Rica. Enjoy your journey!
San Diego is a city I’ve always dreamed of visiting. Seeing pictures of it reminded me of Sydney. Sweeping views of the harbor, turquoise beaches and marine life, blonde people with tans, local beer—its look and lifestyle seemed to mirror that of my old home.
Jetblue credit expiring in April forced us to book a trip by the end of the year. I originally wanted the Caribbean–with two kids under four and having just returned to work in August from maternity leave, I envisioned being on a beach with a fruity cocktail while Brendan and I utilized a resort’s baby-sitting service to have some time alone. But flight prices to the islands over Thanksgiving or Christmas would have resulted in hundreds of dollars over our credit amount. San Diego quickly came up as an alternative for its warmer weather and family-friendly offerings. So instead, we opted to fly west for eight days and only $44 extra. If you’re wondering what to do in San Diego for families, here are a few of the places we visited and things we did as a family of four.
Note: San Diego does have a large homeless population, and we did see a number of individuals using drugs out in the open. It’s something to be aware of when deciding what to do in San Diego for families.
Ferry to Coronado
In a city that reminds me of Sydney, it was fitting to use a mode of transport I used often there—the ferry. We took the ferry to Coronado for $4.75 each way (kids 3 and under are free). Once you get onto the island, there are buses you can take to the Hotel del Coronado, a historic resort hotel on the ocean, in addition to beaches, parks and various restaurants and shops. After checking out the hotel, we got lunch at the Coronado Brewpub, which has beer flights and large appetizers like islander ahi poke and fish and chips.
San Diego Zoo
At the top of the list of what to do in San Diego for families: the San Diego Zoo. World-renowned and the home of two pandas, the zoo, set in Balboa Park, has over 3,700 animals belonging to over 650 species and subspecies. Bus rides that are part of your ticket give an overview of the park while other buses serve the sole purpose of taking you to different sections of the 100-acre zoo.
Bus to La Jolla and Old Town
A car doesn’t need to factor into what to do in San Diego for families. We decided not to rent a car for most of our trip and instead took the bus pretty much everywhere. We discovered the $14 all-day passes for two adults and took them to the zoo, Balboa Park and the beach towns northwest of the city. La Jolla is known for its sea lions but what I was not expecting was that the turquoise-tinged water and rocky coastline would remind me so much of a Sydney. There were scuba divers and snorkelers, which brought me back to my time exploring Sydney’s eastern beaches. After walking around La Jolla Cove, snapping pics of the sea lions and tossing the football in the park, we had lunch at Cody’s, where Finn threw an epic tantrum and then passed out on two chairs while his parents downed two alcoholic beverages apiece.
On the bus ride back, we hit up Old Town, which has various historic sites like the Church of the Immaculate Conception and Casa de Estudillo. Finn and Brendan played more football in the park, we stopped and watched a band play Mexican music, and then Brendan bought Finn a Rey Mysterio mask that was super hilarious and stopped passerby in their tracks. This historic spot should definitely make your list of what to do in San Diego for families.
Balboa Park is a 1200-acre space with over a dozen museums, gardens and other venues that is a must when deciding what to do in San Diego for families. I have never visited a place like it. For $46 per adult, $27 per kid 3 and up, you can see five museums in one day which, to be honest, is kind of difficult to do, particularly with two children. But we made it to four, starting with the Natural History Museum, complete with skulls, herpetology collections (think snakes and other fun stuff preserved in fluid-filled jars). We followed with pre-made sandwiches and beers at Panama 66, the Air & Space Museum, Automotive Museum and the Museum of Photographic Arts
This turned out to be the absolute best day of the trip and a must when considering what to do in San Diego for families. Both kids were in good form and the adults had a blast. First of all, the things built with LEGOS® around the park are amazing, particularly Miniland, where there replicas of New York City, Las Vegas, San Francisco, Southern California, New Orleans and Washington, D.C. Like many amusement parks, LEGOLAND is separated into smaller themed areas such as Fun Town and Land of Adventure. Finn went to Junior Driving School, helped his dad put out fires at the Police and Fire Academy, flew planes and fought off the Great Devourer in the super-cool 3D ride NINJAGO®. Finn is on the tall side so could go on most of the rides alone or with an adult. LEGOLAND took me back to being a kid. And then I got to be a kid with my kid–pretty cool! Definitely make this a destination when considering what to do in San Diego for families.
We decided to take advantage of our car rental for our last day and first drove to the murals in Chicano Park, where there was this divine Prince painting. We then drove to Point Loma to check out the tide pools and Cabrillo National Monument which offers a spectacular view of San Diego. Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery is a military graveyard located there with more than 100,000 graves, lined up in perfect rows of white. Afterward, we ate lunch at the San Diego Taproom in Palm Beach and had some park time before catching the sunset over the ocean on our final night in town.
I hope this has been a valuable guide to figuring out what to do in San Diego for families. There is plenty more we didn’t even get to explore—we’ll just have to plan a trip back!
I did receive two complimentary passes to LEGOLAND, but all opinions about the park and other sites in this post are my own.
I’ll never forget a discussion I had with my then live-in boyfriend, now husband, about six or seven years ago about kids and career.
“I’ll have no problem putting my kids in daycare so I can work,” I said flippantly. “My career is super important to me.”
My career, at that point, was on the rise, exciting and by my own design. After getting laid off from my magazine job in the recession, I’d built up my own freelance business and then moved to Australia for a year-long adventure that turned into more than three. I was writing for outlets like AOL, CNN, Travel+Leisure and AskMen, with some magazine work sprinkled in between. I hustled and worked longer hours than I had at my last full-time job. But my days were busy and interesting, especially as I got into travel writing and blogging as an expat on the other side of the world.
Fast-forward to September 2014. My son Finn was four-and-a-half-months-old and I was starting a new job, begrudgingly. After I’d burnt out from full-time freelance at age 30, I’d taken a content marketing role while still in Sydney. I’d stayed with the company for a year after moving to New York City, working Australian hours remotely—I’d gotten pregnant six weeks after moving and didn’t want to look for jobs while hiding a pregnancy, especially given that in New York most jobs want you there a year before giving you maternity leave. But I couldn’t keep my 5pm to 1am schedule with a new baby, so into the New York job market I went. I toured daycares and signed Finn up for an in-home one a few blocks away.
Then came my first day of work and Finn’s first day of daycare.
To say I had been distraught about putting my still tiny baby—who’d had a hospital stay right after birth due to dehydration and jaundice, who was only in the fifth percentile for weight, who I’d spent every waking moment with since mid-April—was the understatement of the year. On a family trip to the Finger Lakes, then the Poconos, I’d started becoming emotionally unhinged. The day before my start date, which, fittingly, was Labor Day, I’d rushed down to a girlfriend’s apartment in Harlem to have a glass of wine and a cigarette to calm my nerves. The only other emotion competing with the nervousness was sadness. Wouldn’t you know, this career-driven thirty-something actually liked being home all day with her baby.
The next morning was the hottest day on record for that year. My husband strapped Finn into his carrier and we walked the sweaty five blocks to the daycare. Upon arriving, we noticed two things: the air conditioning wasn’t working and the place wreaked of paint fumes. I started panicking.
“We can’t leave him here,” I said to Brendan.
We decided Brendan would work from home with Finn so I could at least start my first day at my new job. I went in and sat through the onboarding trainings in a haze. I hadn’t slept the night before and I felt clammy and nauseous from the exhaustion, stress and weather. By the time I got home that night, I knew what I had to do: quit and stay home with my baby. And the next day, I tried to do just that. I called up my boss, who worked out of Cambridge, Massachusetts but was on his was to Manhattan for my onboarding, and said I couldn’t leave my child.
“Okay,” he said tentatively. “But there has to be a way to work around this. It will take me months to find someone like you for this role.”
What followed was a several-weeks odyssey during which my boss finagled a part-time work-from-home scenario for me with the condition that I had to be a contractual employee for that time. If I felt comfortable enough by December, I’d come back on full-time and go to the office each day. While that was being worked out, I found a nanny. It was an expense we had not budgeted for, but I needed it for my sanity. I needed to know someone was giving my son one-on-one attention and love when his father and I couldn’t. I realize I am so fortunate to have been able to have had the means to make that decision. Many mothers in America do what they have to do–leave their children before they want to, at daycare.
This is a story I haven’t told often because for a long time it embarrassed me. The woman who had hustled her whole career, who’d survived as a journalist and then a freelance writer in another country and started a third career in her third decade of life couldn’t initially hack it as a working mom in New York City. I knew my coworkers, many of whom did not have kids, just didn’t get it and probably thought me weak or emotionally wrecked. And, let’s be honest, I was. This post isn’t meant to be a diatribe about US maternity leave policy, but to expect women to return to work when their babies are still so vulnerable and their own emotional and physical states are nowhere near back to normal is the definition of insanity, not my inability to deal with those requirements.
And guess what? What I myself would have considered career suicide back when I was young and childless and cocky and naïve has been fantastic for my working life. I’m still with my company, three years, three promotions, two direct reports and a second child later. To be honest, I struggled with the same misgivings about returning to work after my daughter was born last April. I had both of my kids home with me over the summer, and despite the stress of juggling an infant and a toddler, I loved it. The simplicity, the loving focus on domestic tasks like cooking and bathing my kids, the fun adventures on the bus to Riverside Park or the Children’s Museum of Manhattan or to the Jersey Shore with my mom.
My husband and I went through the scenarios of me opting out, of returning to freelance, of leaving the city. In the end, we went with what made the most sense, financially and also to allow my son to stay in his awesome bilingual preschool that he loves, which was for me to go back to work. I worked more flexibility into my schedule and leave the office most days at 4:30 and work from home at least once every two weeks (this was meant to be weekly until some team changes made it necessary for me to take on more projects for the time-being).
And the difference this time with Baby #2 is that I’ve gotten far enough in my career that I don’t get nervous about telling my boss I’m leaving at 3pm on Halloween to take my kids trick-or-treating. Because today, three years after that time I tried to quit a new job on the second day because I didn’t want to leave my first baby with strangers, I’ve proven to myself and to those around me that I can do it. I can be both good at what I do professionally and enjoy my time as a mom.
These are the first words I spoke to my daughter outside of the womb. The minute the doctor put her on my chest, I saw the most adorable little girl I’ve ever seen. A few minutes later, she repaid my compliment by pooping all over my arm to the collective “Woah!” of the doctor and other medical staff.
Maeve Lucinda—her middle name after Brendan’s late mother just as Finn’s is after my late father—was born on April 22, three days after her brother turned 3. Her labor was quick compared to Finn’s and she was out within 10 minutes of pushing. A medical resident originally thought my water hadn’t broke and offered to send me home. I’m glad I didn’t listen, or she might have been born at home.
Maeve is small, like Finn was, just 6 lbs., 12 oz at birth. She looks like her brother, but doesn’t at the same time. She has red hair, fair skin and blue eyes and resembles Brendan. I think that’s why people think she’s a boy just like people thought Finn was a girl because he had my features. Her hair stands up like Finn’s did, and she is already wide-eyed at the world and ready to go. Her neck is strong and she already likes being held in a standing position on my lap.
I am as in love with her as I am with Finn, who is a fab big brother. What they say is true. Your heart just expands!
She started smiling and cooing at me before she turned a month-old. She is social and happy and is fussiest when gassy. She loves to be held. One of my favorite things to do is watch her expression while she is looking over my shoulder. She likes lights and her brother and laying flat on our bed where she smiles like a fool and kicks her little legs all over the place.
If I revisit this list I made before I gave birth, I am failing once again at some of the things I mentioned. We are no longer breastfeeding, I’ve lost my shit on my son and my husband and I still have weight to lose.
But I am happy and adjusted. I love being home, and I am also able to be home with Finn save some days of camp to give him something fun to do. Two has been challenging to juggle at times, and it will only get harder when I return to work. I am so happy to have the time I do with both my kids, and while I think maternity leave should be longer in this country, I am making the most of it, in the summer, in New York, in this time and place in my life.
Australia has one of the largest coastlines in the world, stretching for a total of 34,218km around this vast island nation. Our coastline is also incredibly beautiful and diverse, with stunning scenery and some of the best beaches in the world. With most of the country’s arid interior being largely uninhabitable, 85% of Australia’s population also live along this coastline. As such, Australia has some amazing coastal cities and communities. Outside of the big cities, it is in the small coastal towns that you will experience the real Australia, with the laid-back vibes, sun, surf and sea that is ingrained in the Aussie culture. Here are some of the coolest coastal towns to visit in Australia.
Starting in the far north of tropical Queensland, Cairns has to be one of the most popular coastal tourist towns in the country. It is more of a small city these days, but it’s not big enough to give off that busy city feel. Cairns is known as the gateway to the Great Barrier Reef and it makes for a great spot to base yourself for exploring this natural wonder. Accommodation in Cairns is fantastic, with some amazing hotels and resorts on offer, plus plenty of budget options. Tours to the reef and other attractions around Cairns, including the surrounding rainforest covered mountains and tropical beaches, are easily accessible, and Cairns also has an international airport.
Moving down the coast to Southeast Queensland, Noosa is one of the best beach destinations on the scenic Sunshine Coast. It is a popular holiday spot for people heading up from Brisbane, so there are lots of great places to stay here, along with amazing restaurants and shopping. The main Noosa beach is just lovely and there are several other less popular beaches just south of town. Outside of town you can head into the picturesque Sunshine Coast hinterland to visit some other cool towns such as Eumundi, which has an excellent market on Wednesdays and Sundays.
If you’re a backpacker, no trip to Australia should be without a visit to Byron Bay on the northern coast of New South Wales. This cool coastal town has long been a backpacker favourite, but it is not just for budget travellers, with lots of great accommodation options and amazing restaurants and cafes. Byron Bay has always had a bit of a laid-back hippie vibe, with great beaches and the feeling that it would be impossible not to relax here. A walk to the Cape Byron Lighthouse is also a must, where you will visit the most easterly point of the Australian mainland.
It’s hard to pick just one town on the Great Ocean Road – one of Australia’s most beautiful coastal drives – but Lorne would have to be near the top of the list. The town has a real art feel to it and is in a great position for exploring the amazing coastal scenery of the Great Ocean Road. It is just big enough to provide you with all the facilities you need for a nice beach holiday, including excellent dining and boutique style shopping. The surf beach at Lorne is fantastic, and there are lots of other cool beaches to explore close to town, plus all the highlights of the Great Ocean Road are just a short drive away.
Although far less popular compared to the east coast of Australia due to its remoteness, Western Australia has some of the best beaches in the whole country. It also has the largest coastline out of all the states, and this amazing coastline is dotting with postcard perfect beaches which you can often find all to yourself. Little communities also dot the coastline, and one of the best is in the far north of the state. The small town of Broome is remote and might feel like you are flying to another country to get there, but it is well worth the trip. You will feel like you are in the outback and in a stunning beach destination at the same time, making it a unique spot to visit in Australia. Broome is the pearling capital of the country and its beaches are world class but so uncrowded that you can truly relax here. The sunsets in Broome are also some of the best you’ll see, and a camel ride on the beach at sunset is a must.
My friend Nicole is the best gift-giver. Some of her best presents to my family have included a beautiful, small travel purse that I still wear daily eight years after she gave it to me as my “moving-to-Australia” gift; an NYC bus that Finn adores; and a quirky penguin onesie for my newborn daughter.
A few Christmases ago, I was lamenting how hard it was getting to buy for some people in my family. She recommended I pop onto Uncommon Goods, a site that offers unique, sustainably-made gifts for people of all ages. The company works with artists and small business and manufacturers, who make creative wares often made from recycled materials.
The result is some pretty cool shit. For my husband’s birthday last year, I gifted him a gin-making kit, a hot-sauce-making kit and a small book about all the things I loved about him. Some of my favorite items currently on the site for occasions I have coming up include:
Thinking about gifts for the men in my life, including my favorite uncle and my father-in-law who both have birthdays this summer:
Peanut butter sampler – I don’t know about you, but we lovvvve peanut butter in my house and I love trying flavor-infused anything.
Communication in marriage is hard enough when you come from similar backgrounds. But what if both of you have different native languages? That’s a whole other ballgame. While you may share one common language—either another language separate from your two native languages, or the shared language is one of the native languages—there will be some definite obstacles to overcome.
When you aren’t a native speaker of a particular language, no matter how well you grasp that language later, there will be things you miss. Details here and there. Nuances. Cultural references. Stuff that only someone growing up speaking that language will know and appreciate. Since communication in marriage is so vital to really understanding and connecting with each other, how can you make it all work?
How do people who have grown up with different mother tongues cope during marriage? Here are some ways to overcome obstacles that will inevitably come your way.
1. Talk about Expectations
What language will you mostly speak together? What about when you are in different situations, like with your family or your spouse’s family? Remember that your spouse will always feel more comfortable speaking their own mother tongue; they will know all the intricacies, humor, slang, etc., that comes along with intimately knowing a language. And the same goes for you with your mother tongue. Just try to be conscious of what the other person may be feeling about it. If you talk about it and plan ahead, you’ll be better prepared as different things arise.
You never want your spouse to feel left out. So vow now to never leave each other out of the loop. When you are at your family’s house, for example, no doubt you’ll be speaking your native tongue. Whether or not your spouse knows how to speak it, there may be some things that your spouse doesn’t understand. That could be due to not growing up with that language, or it could also be your own family’s little quirks and inside stories. As a couple, you must have each other’s backs. Always watch your spouse to make sure they feel part of what is going on, and check in periodically to make sure they caught all the details. Explain in their native language what they may have missed. Never make them feel dumb for not remembering a word or being able to follow a story.
3. Learn Each Other’s Native Language
You may know at least one common language, but it’s important to show your spouse you really care about them. That’s why learning their mother tongue is of vital importance. Plus, consider yourself lucky! You live with a native speaker and can practice speaking with them; that’s one of the best ways to learn another language.
Talk to your spouse about how to do this. Will you only speak their language at certain times or in certain places to force you to stick with it and practice effectively? Or maybe you could read aloud from a book in your spouse’s native tongue each night, and your spouse could help you with pronunciation. Also, you could take a class and then practice speaking with your spouse. The point is to put in the effort. Daily effort is best to ensure you are constantly learning. Plus, you and your spouse will be able to form a strong bond as you work on this together.
4. Pick Up on Nonverbal Communication
A glance. A wince. Relaxed or tense. Looking away. Looking interested. Over time you will get to know your spouse in many ways—perhaps one of the most important is their nonverbal cues. These are especially important in a partnership where you each have different mother tongues. Nonverbal communication can tell volumes, especially when there is a language barrier and words can’t capture what is going on. So just be watchful of your spouse’s nonverbal communication.
When you are out with friends, for example, and everyone is mostly speaking using your own mother tongue, you should always gauge how your spouse is feeling by watching them. Is their smile real or forced? Are they acting hurried, so they can leave the event early? Pay attention and either help ease your spouse’s tension or agree on a time to go. Talk about how your spouse felt and what could be done differently next time to make it go better. Maybe even come up with a signal so you and your spouse know when the other needs a little help.
5. Embrace Each Other’s Cultures
A big part of who your spouse is has a lot to do with not just their mother tongue, but the culture that goes along with it. Do they have big family get-togethers? Who cares for the elderly? What sorts of cultural dress do they wear and when? You can’t fully embrace another person unless you fully embrace where they came from. This means learning as much as you can about your spouse’s culture. Pay attention to what parts of their culture are the most important to them. How do they celebrate different events and holidays? How does their culture influence how your spouse feels about religion and family and other parts of life? Do your best to bring both of your cultures together and celebrate them equally.
Depending on where you met and live now, you may not have been to your mate’s native land with them by your side. Make it a big priority to go at least once—maybe even every year or so. It will mean so much to your spouse, and you’ll get a first-hand glimpse into who they are. Where they came from had a big influence on them, and it’ll be fun to experience it with your spouse. Perhaps you’ll be able to meet extended family, try some local dishes, and see parts of the world you have never seen before.
Sylvia Smith is a relationship expert with years of experience in training and helping couples. She has helped countless individuals and organizations around the world, offering effective and efficient solutions for healthy and successful relationships. Her mission is to provide inspiration, support and empowerment to everyone on their journey to a great marriage. She is a featured writer for Marriage.com, a reliable resource to support healthy, happy marriages. Follow her on Facebook, Twitter, StumbleUpon, Google+ and Pinterest.
Well, here you are. In exactly the same position I was this time three years ago, because you seem to have a thing for having babies in April. Except you are wiser now. You’ve now been through this insane circus of bringing a child into the world. So there are some things you should remember and others maybe you should try to forget (like your 18-hour labor and how physically painful it got at the end—no need to go there until you’re there). Here is my counsel to you as you prepare to bring a second little life into the world any day now:
Don’t beat yourself up if breastfeeding doesn’t work out. You have a perfectly healthy, bright, happy almost three-year-old (tomorrow!) who was given mostly formula to attest to the fact that it’s all fine as long as your baby is fed, period.
Sleep when the baby sleeps. It took me a bit to get down with that one three years ago. But it will save your sanity. Forget about social media, what’s going on in the world or returning texts and emails. Restore your mind and body in the spaces of time, however brief, when your daughter is at rest.
Don’t obsess over the baby weight. Maybe you will shed it in three months, maybe it will take almost a year as it did the first time. You will get back to some semblance of pre-baby “you,” but don’t beat yourself up over how long it takes.
Be patient with your son. Finn is figuring out his new role as Big Brother and your new role as Mommy to someone other than him. He will be loving, angry, sad, confused, regressive—maybe all in one day. Continue to let him know how special he is to you and carve out time for just the two of you, even if it is just five minutes.
Be patient with your husband. Brendan will need time to figure out how he fits into the equation of this new family. He will lose sleep like you do, get frustrated like you do, wonder who his wife will be now that she has two little ones to take care of. Be kind and take the advice of Pink when she was a first-time mom with Cary Hart: “Don’t take anything to heart that’s said before 10 am.” The same applies this go-around.
Know you are bringing this baby into the world under different personal circumstances than your first. You and Brendan were still newcomers to New York back then, grieving the loss of your mother-in-law and missing Australia. You now have a support system, social circle and three years of experience being parents in the city on which to lean.
Remember that people will try to tell you how you should take care of your daughter. Some of the advice will be sound, other bits you will want to ignore. Everyone does things their own way. As long as your girl is safe, fed, healthy and loved, you are doing your best.
You will be lost for a while. You will not know who you are and, the truth is, you will be someone different after you come through this second post-partum haze. It will take you a bit to get your groove back, but in that time, you will develop more resilience, wisdom, insight, capacity to love and the ability to get shit done than ever before. Ride the wave, love yourself, love your family and take stock of how amazing it is that life can transform us in these ways.
Those close to me know I am a true crime obsessive.
I was born into the era of “stranger danger,” which emerged from some high-profile stranger abductions and murders of small children including Etan Patz and Adam Walsh (whose father is John of America’s Most Wanted fame). The infatuation for me started in the late 80s when Unsolved Mysteries was in its heyday. My parents never monitored my TV consumption, and the show would captivate me on weeknights with stories of kids my age who had disappeared, some of whom are still unaccounted for to this day. I have read a ton of true crime books, from accounts of individual abductions and murders to the trials of infamous serial killers (I highly recommend Helter Skelter, the very long but very good account of the gruesome murders committed by Charles Manson and his clan and the eventual trial as told by prosecutor Vincent Bugliosi).
I have a keen interest in cold case abductions. The idea that someone can be missing for decades without their loved ones knowing what happened to them both terrifies and fascinates me. It’s like living in a purgatory. Every once in a while, a current case will really grip me. And that has happened in the last few weeks with the Feb. 13th murder of Abby Williams and Liberty German, teenage best friends in rural Delphi, Indiana. You can read the details of this case all over the web, but the synopsis is that these two friends went hiking in a well-known wooded area on a day off from school. They had been posting pictures of their excursion on Snapchat, which is why the case is being dubbed by some “The Snapchat Murders.” But German, 14, captured more than just images of her hike and her friend—she took both photos and audio of what police say is likely her killer. A month later, they are still hunting for the person responsible.
This case is haunting and heartbreaking and resonates deeply with me because it reminds me of a time more than 20 years ago when I would go off in the woods and on walks around my town with one of my friends, Staci. It also makes me think of when my future daughter becomes a teenager and the fears I will have for her in a world where women of all ages are preyed upon by both strangers and people close to them.
A 13-year-old me rocking one of my many band T-shirts.
Staci and I mostly pursued innocent fun in our hometown of Brick. NJ when we were 12, 13 and 14. I rode my pink, 10-speed Huffy all over the neighborhoods on either side of Mantoloking Road, off of which we both lived.
It was heavily wooded in parts on either side of this main thoroughfare. There were always rumors of neo-Nazi activity in my town, and on more than one occasion we spotted swastikas spray-painted on trees. One time, as we walked our bikes through a swampy area because my bike chain kept popping off, we saw an overturned canoe littered with swastikas. No one else was around—that we could tell—but we both felt an immediate and intense sense of unease. We practically ran our bikes through the rest of the wooded pathway until we got to a development. A dead body would turn up in that same area years after I’d left town for college.
The scariest thing that ever happened to me and Staci took place while we were walking on Adamston Road, which ran parallel to Mantoloking, one Friday evening in spring.
Both Adamston and Mantoloking roads were flanked by neighborhoods, but there were pockets of desolation marked by clusters of woods. In those areas, street lights would disappear and, without the headlights of passing cars, it would become quite dark. That night, a jeep passed us in the opposite direction of where we were walking and flashed its lights. At 12 and 13, we didn’t know many people with cars beyond our parents and neighbors, friends’ older siblings and coaches and dance teachers. I squinted into the headlights, but there was no way I could tell if it was someone I knew.
How I spent a lot of my free time in the mid-90s. Courtesy Roland Tanglao on Creative Commons under this license.
We kept walking—and then the car spun a sharp U-turn and drove up behind us. Neither Staci or I had any idea who this person was or why they were taking such a strong interest in talking to us, if talking was indeed what they were after. As the door to the jeep began to open, we bolted. We ran onto a neighborhood street and into the yard of the first house we came to. It was dark. We rushed to the backyard and hid behind a deck. Within minutes, we saw headlights beaming into the driveway. I hunched down, silent, praying the driver wouldn’t get out of the car.
I was 5 foot 3, 115 lbs. at that time. A strong adult could have easily grabbed me without much of a fight.
Thankfully, after what felt like an hour, the car reversed out of the driveway. Staci and I stayed crouched down, catching our breaths. We gave it a few minutes and then ran across the street to a house with lights on. We told the adults there what happened and they offered to drive us back to Staci’s house nearby. We took them up on their kindness and stayed inside for the rest of the night.
The event still jarred us a few weeks later when we were stopped by yet another jeep, this time in broad daylight on a Saturday while walking on a different road. Startled, Staci and I ignored the driver and started swiftly walking away. This time, the person quickly rolled down the window.
“Lauren,” said a familiar female voice. “It’s me.” It was my teenage dance teacher who drove an off-white Jeep Cherokee. It was confirmed that she was not the same driver who had stopped us on Adamston weeks earlier. We never found out who that person was.
Thankfully, nothing that scary ever happened to us again, at least while we were together. There would be creepy boys and men, poor choices and experimentation on various levels, but we survived. Others in our town weren’t so lucky and would fall victim to evils ranging from domestic violence to drugs. Around the same time as our Adamston Road incident, there were actually two missing teenage girls in my town. One ended in a murder without a body ever found. The other had a happier ending, and Facebook tells me the victim has a family of her own and seems to be doing fine today.
The freedom to roam. Courtesy J Stimp on Creative Commons under this license.
It’s entirely possible the person who stopped us that night on Adamston didn’t have nefarious intentions. I will never know. At the time, our early adolescent intuition told us otherwise. And I realize random abductions and murders like the kind that happened to Abby and Libby are rare. Chances are, you will make it out of childhood and adolescence without falling victim to such a fate. In fact, it’s more likely you will die in a car accident or at the hands of someone you know (and, to be clear, police don’t yet know for certain if these girls were killed by someone known to them).
I know all that. And, yet, I hope that when my daughter becomes a teenager that she can enjoy her rites of passage without feeling threatened by the evils of the world. That she can feel like she can walk in the woods with a friend and talk about boys or girls she likes, take pictures, even sneak a cigarette, and own this world as one she deserves to explore, not one in which she has to walk in fear.