Gloria+Tonya::Mama+Kid Travel Adventures::New York City 

I am so excited to share my first post in my series about Mama+Kid Travel Adventures! If you’d like to read more about the heart behind this project, you can read that here. 

Tonya from Detail Orientated Traveler first wrote to me saying

“When I did these trips with my kiddos, I really wasn’t thinking of it as solo adventure with kids. Just, here’s a trip, let’s go! I think this will be an inspiring piece, can’t wait to see it!” 

I totally love that she said this. I think it’s going to be so fun to recognize and get inspired by these travel stories of moms and kids!

Read on to hear about 11 year old Gloria and her Mama Tonya’s trip to New York:

“My name is Tonya Denmark, and my daughter Gloria is 11 years old. She and I are performers at heart and share a love of the stage. She’s a book nerd and loves to read non-stop, which I love about her. She’s at the perfect age to discuss bigger ideas (but not too big) and still have a need for her mom. We are very close.

Where did you travel and for how long? 

We traveled to Connecticut, Rhode Island and New York City for a little over a week.

What prompted your adventure? 

Gloria had a choir competition in Rhode Island, so we extended our trip on either side with a visit to family in Connecticut and NYC to hit Broadway.

What was your most special memory on your trip?

Wandering through Central Park, with no real plans for the day other than to see as much as week could. Just stopping wherever and taking pictures, getting a bit lost, and enjoying the fall colors. We don’t get to slow down much in our busy lives and this was a nice way to have no plans for the day. As we live in the south, we also don’t get to see leaves change and she enjoyed the difference in climate.

What did you find challenging about traveling with your kid(s)? 

It’s challenging to be the only adult, and the only set of eyes on her and her safety. Especially in a big city where we don’t know the area, it’s not always easy to take a moment to figure things out geographically with eyes on a map/phone and not on the child. 

Why is traveling with kids important to you? 

Showing my children different cultures, different experiences is important. However, spending quality one on one or one on two time is just as important. When we get away from our daily busy lives we get to focus on our child(ren) and what they see, learn and experience.

Do you have any other mama/kid adventures planned? 

My son, age 13, and I are planning a trip to Boston. I also plan to road trip with both my kids next summer.
Thanks so much for sharing Tonya! If you’d like to read more about Tonya’s adventures and some amazing tips on travel, check her blog out at Detail Orientated Traveler! I’d love to have a follow up on your time with your son to Boston, Tonya!

If you are interested in being featured for a solo Mama+Kid adventure you’ve taken, please email me at!

Goodbye, Vancouver 

It’s evening time in Vancouver, British Columbia and our train is just pulling out of the station. The orange sunset is illuminating the city skyline and I’m listening to Haden share his Minecraft commentary with a new friend he’s made here on the train. I’m feeling tired, sore, relieved, and so incredibly content. Haden and my first solo adventure was, in the most perfect sense, an incredible success. I would be lying if I told you I wasn’t nervous when we left. In fact, the ferry ride to Edmonds actually had me having a straight up panic attack over whether we were fully prepared. I am thankful for Kellen’s presence in my life who, although he doesn’t necessarily share the exact amount of passion for traveling as myself, has time and time again reminded me that life is worth taking reasonable risks. Traveling will never be a compromise in my eyes: the joy it brings to my life is something I just couldn’t live without.

It’s funny though, what you must choose to accept when you seek out adventures as such. You must choose to accept that it almost always comes with challenges. Something inevitably always goes wrong. Much like the rest of your life- challenges force you to make a choice about the attitude you have for those circumstances. An attitude that has the ability to affect the way you view the rest of your day, the rest of your trip, and ultimately the memories associated with it.

Drifting off into darkness as we head south, I have to stop myself from tearing up. I am thankful. Thankful for opportunities like this, for having the chance and the ability to share it with my children, for the beautiful, colorful, and exciting world we have been given. It deserves to be explored, to be experienced in new and exciting ways, to leave you feeling satisfied and joyful and happy from exploring it. To pay that joy forward:to spread kindness, goodness, and love created from that joy.
Good night, world, we kinda love you ❤

Arctic Tundra and Canadian Cupcakes 

In the beginning of December I got the idea to let Haden pick a country to study and we would *try* to visit it together. Obviously if he chose Iraq or Nigeria this was going to be a little more complicated, so you can imagine my sigh of relief when he lit up and said with great enthusiasm “Canada!!” -why he conveniently decided on a country that lies within a four hour trek of our hometown, I don’t know, but I ain’t arguin’, ya know?

We eagerly got to work checking out books on the land of the maple leaf and watching youtube videos about tundra buggys and polar bears. I, of course, made him repeat the term “arctic tundra” an excessive amount of times when referring to the landscape of the north, because just try to listen to a 5 year old saying those words and not smile.

Haden’s specific questions regarding the culture of our friendly neighbors the Canadians came to about two things: food and sports. So basically, it confirmed my theory that someone cloned and shrunk my husband (I’ve been suspecting as such the past 5 years).

Once we did a general overview of the the country itself, is was time to focus our studies on the city in which we specifically planned to visit. We busted out the world map and I showed Haden our destination: Vancouver, BC. He said “uh mom….that’s not very far.” Truth, my son. But hey, you picked it….and also, you are 5 and you complain about the 25 minute drive to Costco, so I think this is a good first step.

It turns out, Vancouver is a wonderful city filled with lots of fun things to do for kids his age. We watched a few good YouTube videos that covered all the fun activities, and I’m happy to report that Haden is excited….to eat cupcakes.

Yep, as we head out on our first international adventure together, Haden has taken the 15 second clip about a cupcake shop in Granville Island as his number one goal for our trip. I’m so happy to travel across international borders for something that he can literally have at home. Those better be some pretty good cupcakes 😂

This morning I made him pack his own backpack. I told him “we are going to be like turtles, everything we will take will go on our backs.” So he quickly realized his entire Pokémon card collection and the Pokémon handbook might not be the smartest choice. He settled on a few random small Pokémon toys, Green Eggs and Ham, and his Husky (in addition to his clothes).

So, cheers, my friends, to cupcakes and our Canadian neighbors, and international travels with a 5 year old. Vancouver- were coming for ya!

That one time I may have wished Liam Neeson was my dad 

It was nearing the end of my stay in Austria, I was having a total blast pretending to be Maria ala Sound of Music (like for realz people, I can’t tell you how many times I busted out “the hills are alive” while there, I mean, can you blame me?)

I,  however, was eager to get home to my stinkin’ hot boyfriend and an iced Carmel machiatto at my every beck and call. Seattle, I was coming for ya.

I pulled out my itinerary and realized my flight left at a completely ungodly hour of the morning. I contemplated my plan in getting on the train to the airport. I shared with a friend there my early morning dilemma, and she said “oh, you should just stay the night in the airport! I totally did that recently with some friends. It’s perfect because they never close and you can just sleep on a seat or something!”

And so it was settled. I mean, Tom Hanks did it, why couldn’t I? I was to spend my last night in this glorious country snoozing a few hours on an airport bench surrounded by the hustle and bustle of fellow jet setters, and then be peacefully whisked away to my home land. Sounds like a fool proof plan, right? But are they ever?

I arrived at the airport around 8pm that evening. I found the perfect spot to spread out, enough space to lie down and prop my head up with my polka dot covered airplane pillow for a decent nights rest.

Around 10pm, a security guard came up to me and spoke some German-

“sorry I only know English”

He responded “when is your flight?”


He looked a bit confused, and then shrugged and walked away. I thought hmm….welll….I guess he is cool with this idea- and went back to reading.

That’s when it happened. The lights in the airport shut off completely. I sat up and looked around. NO ONE WAS THERE. Not a single person. I knew in that moment I had just made a really, really dumb life decision.

Not only was the airport lit only by the dim light of the airline advertisement screens, I also quickly realized that the automatic doors themselves were never actually locked. And just to keep me on my toes- every so often, they would randomly open, no one there- just a random opening and closing as if to remind me to be completely and utterly terrified (in case I had forgotten the predicament I had gotten myself into).

I don’t think I’ve ever prayed so hard as I did those 4 hours. Around 2am, employees began to show up and passengers began to trickle in and I am pretty sure I threw my hands up in the air and gave a pretty big “Thank ya Lord Almighty.”

My mom thanks me kindly, even to this day, that I didn’t call to tell her where I was that evening. And I thank myself that I didn’t really need a real life Liam Neeson to save my dumba**.

Life lessons: 1 Nicole: 0


When I knew

I leaned against the side of the phone booth and wiped a tear from my eye. He said “I’m staying at your place tonight with your mom- I miss you like crazy- I can’t wait for you to come home.”

It was 2006 and I was freshly 18. Somehow I had convinced my overly cautious mother, an entire schoolboard, and myself that the best decision for my final months of my senior year in high school was to spend it abroad. I  found myself in Schladming, Austria for a two month long program studying the Bible.

When I look back on that journey, I laugh. I had never traveled anywhere alone- the extent of my international travel up until then had consisted of a ferry from Seattle to Victoria, British Columbia when I was about 7. So you can imagine….it was uncharted territory, to say the least.

To be completely honest, I had no idea what I was doing or what to expect. I stumbled across the airport, juggling my overly stuffed suitcase and carry on. I looked for the nearest bus and hoped I was making the right choice. Paying the fare and sitting down, I heard the pre-recorded announcement of the next stop. That’s when I knew I was in trouble. I had absolutely no idea what he was saying, let alone did I know how to pronounce the town which I was looking for. I looked around and naively said out loud “does any one speak English?” (don’t worry, I’m cringing with you). An adorably sweet and tiny Austrian woman near me answered “I know a bit.” I asked her to help me find my stop, she smiled and waved and said “Please!” as I got off the bus (Bitte in German means both “please” and “you’re welcome” so I later realized what she had meant).

Nestled among the Austrian Alps, the tiny town of Schladming was literally exactly what you might imagine a picture perfect Austrian town would consist of. I loved it. I loved the landscape, the people, the language. Literally every little difference of life between my home near Seattle and the residents of Schladming brought a new rush of excitement.

To sum it up: I fell in love. I fell in love with the idea that people around the world have different lives than my own. It was vibrant, the very thought of it. It was colorful and exciting and exhilarating anticipation and I was completely and utterly in love with the idea of it all.

I knew what I wanted. I wanted to see it ALL.

So as I sat in that phone booth, halfway across the world, I felt a heaviness on my heart. Just as much as I knew that I wanted to spend my life seeing the world- I even more so knew that I wanted to spend it with him. We were young and in love and just like all those stereotypical high school sweetheart stories, we didn’t think the world could go on without each other.

It was that trip that I finally understood what homesick meant. Every new experience was shadowed with a feeling that I wished he was there experiencing it too.

“I want to marry you, Nicole.”

I wanted that too. “I want to marry you too- but, you have to promise me- we will come back here. We’ll backpack through Europe together. We will explore the world and travel together and see new things.”

He followed through with that promise. We were married just over a year later- and that next summer we found ourselves on a packed London subway, covered in sweat and avoiding knocking over commuters with our giant backpacks…but that…that trip is for another story.


My love for travel grew just like my love for him- I was curious and cautious and then one day I found myself diving head first and I never, ever looked back.