Camping is hard & why it matters 

It was 6am and I was fast asleep hovering just a few feet off the ground with the bed of our 1990 Coleman camper to support me, just a slab of sturdy plywood and frame and a thin layer of foam that I consider a camping luxury. I fell asleep that night before snuggled up with my 6 year old at my side, anticipating dad at some point to crawl in on my other side, once his fireside game with the other campers was complete. A sweet auntie snuggled my little girl across the way in the other bed, having a sleepover with us since she was back from college for the weekend. 

6:30 began to roll around, and I wake up to a soft voice saying “Mom, a little help please” and turn to see that Haden had actually physically fallen out of the camper. We apparently had forgotten to secure the straps underneath that keep the canvas and bed together, and Haden had rolled over in his sleep and fallen out of the crack. He’s usually quite the dramatic one, so wasn’t quite sure if he was still semi sleeping when he woke me up to ask for help to pull him out of the crack, where just his head was popping through. I sat up immediately and grabbed him up and tucked him under close to me, and his dad and I burst out laughing at the fact that we just almost lost a kid out the side of our camper, but mostly at his calm reaction to it all. 

Why do I love camping with my family so much? I’ve really stopped to consider this lately. Because, to be quite frank with you, camping, especially with children, is a heck of a lot of work. I often spend my days camping doing honestly the exact same things I’m doing at home: waking up, cooking, cleaning up, and then starting that process all over again. Just this past weekend, I spent a solid 45 minutes giving both my children sponge baths because they both had accidents- I strongly suspect it’s because they were too busy playing to stop to use the bathroom. 

I always tuck them into bed at night after a long day of playing at the campground,  covered in dirt, with remnants of sticky marshmallow goo on their fingers. They smell like campfire and mud, and I’m picking leaves and sticks out of their hair. 

It’s work, this camping thing. 

But as I’m rounding in on turning 30 within the year, I’m seeing more and more the exceptional experiences that come from hard work. They are richer and more vibrant. Their roots are deeper. And most of all, the result of hard work is almost always a particular stronger amount of appreciation for the moments that come afterward. 

In short, I’d choose the vibrant experiences and appreciation that derive from hard work any day. 

Because at the end of a long camping weekend, as I’m tossing our stained and dirty clothes into the dryer, unpacking the cooler, and rolling up the sleeping bags, I don’t remember how hard it all was. I remember the way I looked over from the campfire and saw my kids making forts in the dried up riverbed. Or the way Haden’s face lit up when he succeeded in making the perfect roasted marshmallow. Or the warmth of Sadie’s little body as we warmed up by the fire that evening. 

Lots of things in life are hard work. Hard work gives us perspective. And perspective is a beautiful way to appreciate our rich and wonderful life. 

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!

Looking for Adventurous Travel Mamas! 

Over the past week, I’ve been looking for mamas to interview and feature who have traveled solo with their kids or kiddos. I wanted to share a little bit of my heart and reason behind this specific feature I’d like to start on the blog. 

Kellen and I (the hubby) have been married for almost ten years now, and we’ve done a lot of growing and learning over those ten years. He’s known from the very start what he was getting into: he married a slightly crazy, wanderlust obsessed wannabe world traveler. In fact, he spent a good portion of two months when I had just turned 18 on long distance phone calls with me while I was exploring Austria trying to convince me to marry him :). Ok, it didn’t take much convincing- the fact is, I was head over heels for the guy and he knew it. We got married just over a year later and then one year after that we ventured to do a backpack trip through Europe.

He’s always supported my dreams of travel and adventure the best he could, usually depending on our slim newlywed budget. As we’ve gotten older, he’s continued to be down for more camping and international travel when time and money allowed.

However, ask kellen today what he’d do if someone handed him 100k? You’d be surprised to know our answers are very different: mine, of course, would be to see as much of the world as money would last me. His? Well, probably a really nice fishing boat 🙂

What I love best about Kellen and I is that we’ve managed to figure out a way to allow us to each support and cultivate our individual dreams. Sometimes it comes in the form of one of us choosing to do something we wouldn’t necessarily choose ourselves, and other times it’s encouraging the other person to get away by themselves to do what brings them joy. 

It’s taken a while to get to this place, and trust me, we’ve had our share of bumps and hiccups along the way. We aren’t perfect, but what we do share is a mutual understanding and desire to see our partner genuinely happy. And I am very, very thankful for that. 

With that being said, I can recognize that my travels will not *always* be with kellen by my side. Distance makes the heart grow fonder, right? And just as much, it makes those adventures he chooses to join in on that much sweeter. It’s a win-win, in my book. 

So where does that leave me? Well, luckily we brought two super awesome mini-me’s into the world that we both get the chance enjoy our hobbies and passions with! Kellen dreams of watching his kids reel in a fish or help him fix up his old 1950’s rat rod. I dream of all the places I will take them. 

So motherhood then creates in me a brand new layer of dreams, one where I get to share that sense of adventure with them. 

Haden and I embarked on our first solo mama-son trip this past february to the nearby city of Vancouver. It was both challenging and exciting traveling alone with a 5 year old. It brought moments of growth for both of us (especially me) and allowed us special time together that I wouldn’t change for any other moment in time. It was, to put it simply, the perfect first adventure. 

So you can see now my heart behind why I’m hoping to find other like minded mamas with a desire to travel with their kids. These kind of moms inspire and motivate me to dream big dreams that includes their little ones. Because giving a kid that piece of time, that sense of wonder, and those kind of experiences are, in my opinion, likely the best kind of gift a mother could give. 
If you yourself or you know of a mama who you’ve seen take a special trip or adventure with their kids, please send them my way! I’d love to talk with them about their experiences and share with my other readers the inspiration they bring! Email me at 

Seriously though, where can I find a turtle shell? 

Legit thoughts in motherhood this past week: 
I imagine turtles were once lizards that were just moms who decided they needed to protect their vital organs because their children bounced on them all of the time. I often feel I need a shell. Curling into a fetal position is my only attempt at protecting my vital organs. It is becoming ever apparent that my kids want to squash my kidneys or something. They are like flying squirrels who seem to think I am the fluffiest landing pad they can see (ok, I see their reasoning now.)

Me, saying goodbye to a fully functional organ: 

Serious question though: how bad of a parent would I be if I refused to intervene during all sibling fighting except when things got physical? Like seriously, is that being a really bad parent OR A really good parent? I mean obviously it has to build some kind of conflict resolution skills, right? The jury is still out on this. Only accepting input from other moms who also want to occasionally lock themselves in closets with a bottle of wine.

My kids displaying their natural primate behavior:

This meltdown brought to you by asking him to get his shoes on (it’s tough, ok?!?):

I guess the real concerning question on my mind is this: why and when did my children decide that this is an acceptable way to take a photo? 

Oh excuse me, I forgot about this completely over executed pose:
But seriously just when my head is about to explode into a million pieces and I dial their daddy to talk me down, this happens:

And I remember that OH.MY.LAWD I love these two tiny crazy people more than life itself!! Sometimes, I just need a strong cup o coffee and a whole lotta love ❤️ 

The Portland of Thailand 

It was an early morning wake up call for us to head out of Railey- which, to be honest, I was ok with because that meant capturing the sunrise while making our journey back to the mainland area and over to the Krabi airport. In order to get back to the mainland, we were loaded onto a tractor pulled by a trailer (yes, you heard that right), driven out over the low tide to a long tail boat. The long tail boat took us to the closest dock, about minute journey, and then a taxi took us to the airport where we took off to Chiang Mai. Goodbye beach vibes, help city surrounding by luscious jungle covered mountains. 
We were greeted in Chiang Mai by our gracious Airbnb host- Airbnb hosts in Thailand really go above and beyond we have discovered! Killing time before check in found us in the “old city” of Chiang Mai, which is the central part of the city and surrounded by a crumbling brick wall and moat that used to surround and protect the city at one point in time. We found a very random little restaurant featuring Chiang Mai’s best known dish: Khao Soi, which was a creamy spicy yellow noodle soup topped with more crunchy noodles. Dessert was mango sticky rice- absolutely delicious. 

A solid nap in an air conditioned room does the body good, and we had some extra energy to get up and explore the Sunday Night Market. We were a little overwhelmed at the size and popularity of this pop up market- it was really neat to see. Of course I was convinced into some hand carved wooden elephant whistles for my children by a very convincing Thai salesman “oh please, my uncle hand carve these!” I of course regretted my decision almost immediately! 

We actually hadn’t had much street food since we had arrived in Thailand, so the market was the perfect place to try it out. Kellen picked up a few marinated chicken satay sticks, marinated in what tasted like a teriyaki sauce, as well as a rice type egg roll thing (these are obviously the proper names, can’t you tell?) while I snagged a corn on the cob and some chicken satay as well. Once we get overwhelmed with the crowds, we escaped to a bar called MoonPie overlooking the crowds and drank some iced cold fin and tonics while we watched the hustle and bustle of the market continue late into the night. 

The next day we found a place for breakfast and coffee very easily, which we discovered come very often in Chiang Mai, which is why I told Kellen it reminded me a bit of the “Portland of Thailand.” Hip, cool, and filled with coffee shops, it was the perfect place to explore. We ended up renting a scooter nearby our condo and got really lost. When we looked at the map, we navigated to be beside the river, which we figured could only take us to good things. That route brought us out onto the highway and heading to Mae Rim, which we were excited to start seeing signs about waterfalls, so began to just follow those. About halfway through our journey we encountered a police roadblock and was flagged over. He asked for our license in very broken English, kellen handed him his Washington license (haha) and the cop pointed to a paper that said “500 baht” and made a motion to pay him. It was a very rough and consuming conversation where we tried to ask about proper licensing and permits and ended with us handing him the cash, him shaking our hand, and whispering “go go go!” Wait- did we just unintentionally bribe a cop not thailand? After lots more research and conversation with other travelers, we came to found out this is not at all uncommon and we most likely had been taken advantage of a bit. Oh well, since 500 baht was the equivalent of $15 US dollars and we weren’t too disappointed since it made for a pretty funny experience and story, 

We made it to the waterfalls, and I literally didn’t care I wasn’t wearing a suit, it was SO hot that day, I jumped right into the water for relief. 

Later that evening when we made it back to the city, we got picked up by a local photographer who drove us around looking for photo locations- this seems possibly not so significant but honestly was such a fun experience for us. He was a local to Chiang Mai and spoke really great English, so we finally had a chance to ask all sorts of questions to a local who could share with us. My first question was an important one: why are the beds so hard here?!? Apparently Thai people like firm beds, haha. He joked that he had become our tour guide that evening, and it really felt like it, since we learned some of the most useful and interesting facts from him about living life in Thailand. 

Our session was a fun one and we were absolutely exhausted from such a fun day, we crashed that night in anticipation of an early morning filled with elephants 🙂 stay tuned. 

On to Paradise

Our taxi ride from Khao Sok National Park to the southern area province of Krabi took us 2.5 hours, that is, with the usual stops along the way we have come to accept by all drivers in Thailand- refreshments and errands they have built into the trip. Rain began to pour in buckets as we came into the city, and when I say pour, brig from Seattle, you’d think I knew what that meant. I’ve quickly come to realize that rain in Thailand is nothing quite like the rain back home. Stepping outside for just a quick second has you drenched from head to toe, and running to the bathroom meant splashing in warm puddles up to my calves. It was quite the experience- warm rain- I wouldn’t have minded it much had I not felt bad for soaking the entire inside of the taxi. We arrived to our Airbnb in Ao among, Krabi, and we were exhausted from the travel and hike earlier that day. We ordered “room service” which was a funny experience in itself, as our Airbnb was just a house amongst other homes and the room service was just delivery from a local restaurant arranged by our gracious host. We had no idea what the surrounding area really looked like, having arrived so late, but we were eager to find out in the morning after a good nights rest.

In the morning we caught a taxi into town- the taxis are here are really just pick up trucks with a cover and benches to sit. Our first observation of the town was the neighborhood surrounding our Airbnb, which was a mixture of really nice small homes and then literally across the street shanty houses made of scrap material. It was very strange and a bit eye opening, as we’d soon come to discover is the apparent theme here in Thailand. 

The town of ao Nong itself is a road along the beach filled with shops and restaurants. We grabbed breakfast and wandered down to the beach. Along the very left hand side were stairs along the cliff that led into the jungle. We followed them to find that they led to the resort on the other side, with a beautiful stretch of beach. We swam out to a cove we saw in the rock and sat inside it for a while, I told kellen I felt like a mermaid lying in the cove letting the waves splash over me. 🙂

After all that hard work, it was obviously time for a massage, which, in Thailand is literally more common than a Starbucks in Seattle. In fact, you can’t walk more than 30 feet it seems without being propositioned for a massage. I found the most picturesque of them all in my opinion, an open air deck lined with mats, and had a back, neck and shoulder massage (this one much less traumatizing than my experience in Bangkok), my toes and nails painted, all for a whopping $9 US dollars. Oh Thailand, I do love you.

After an amazing lunch including some delicious pineapple fried rice, kellen attempted to find a grocery store but came up unsuccessful. I had to rescue him with a tuk tuk, thanks in major part to google translator who helped me explain my situation to the driver. 

The next day we ventured on a tour to see some of the islands just off the coast. It sounds a bit more romantic than it really was, to be honest, as the tour company seems to have a very effective way of jamming as many people as possible into these boats, and providing an “English guide” who barely told us anything that day, haha. Still, we had fun, snorkeling off the boat, seeing the amazing Phi Phi island and watching the curious and quite aggressive monkeys on bamboo island. The guide warned us not to take anything out to this island with us because the monkeys have been known to steal things from tourists, they especially love water bottles. A group of monkeys had obviously stolen a woman’s scarf at some point and were playing tug of war with it, I found this absolutely fascinating and told kellen I could probably watch monkeys all day. 

I was eagerly anticipating our trip to Railey Beach the next day, which is set on the peninsula of Krabi but completely disconnected from the mainland because of cliffs, so you can only access it from long tail boat. This, my friends, is absolutely as romantic as it sounds: Railey beach did NOT disappoint- it is surrounded by limestone cliffs and a lush rainforest. We rented a kayak and explored around the cove on the left hand side, this had to be one of the highlights of the trip so far in my opinion, the scenery is absolutely breathtaking. 

We walked along the beach and found what was called the “walking street” which we quickly learned was just the street that takes you to the resorts. Again, a very strange feeling of wealth and poverty as you must walk by lots of shanty houses and tents in order to reach the resorts on the other side. 

We had made a mistake in booking our Airbnb, so we had to leave Saturday morning (we were sad to leave for sure, since the host was absolutely incredible and the Airbnb itself was a whole home to ourselves with a private pool). We had booked one night in Railey, which we didn’t know until we got here but that meant lugging our luggage all the way via long tail boat to the resort. Longtail boats are absolutely an experience in themselves, you have to wade into the water to get on them, maneuver yourself up a rickety ladder, and swing your legs in to get in. So with luggage, you can imagine what a funny experience that was :).

Arriving to our resort had us quickly forgetting the woes of leaving our amazing air bnb- within the first two hours we discovered a path which followed along a cave wall that popped you out onto the most amazing and picturesque beach so far, in my opinion, phranang cave beach. Describing it almost feels like not doing it justice- it was just breathtaking, swimming below a cave wall, watching the drips from the top fall into the water from 500 feet above. 

I had been looking forward to eating at an amazing restaurant called “The Grotto”- which happened to be right on this beach- and was by far our biggest expenditure of the trip, but the food was delicious. 

More monkeys on the way back to our room for the night, not to mention the giant iguana we saw consume another lizard under our table at lunch, we are now snuggled up in our bed listening to the sound of thunderstorm. We leave early for a 9am flight to the north- Chiang Mai- more exciting adventures to come!

Cave Trekking

“You ready for big spider?” Asked our guide. 
“No sir. Thank you. Goodbye”
….Is what I wanted to say but…it was too late. We had already hiked 2.5km through the jungle to the entrance of the cave, and it was time to go in. We strapped on our giant neon green headlamps and followed. 

I wasn’t expecting the length and time we’d be in there. I knew we’d be walking through water at some points, but I had no idea we’d be maneuvering through narrow wedged boulders and swimming through sections. It was dark, there were bats lining the ceilings, and giant spiders on the walls, some bigger than my hand. To say I wasn’t nervous and scared would be a massive lie- I was eagerly anticipating the light at the end of the tunnel (literally). After around 40 minutes trekking through the cave, we finally found that light, and I took a deep breath. It was an experience I won’t ever forget. 

A House that Floats

It’s 10pm and I’m sitting on the dock just outside of our floating lake house anchored in Khao Sok National park. We are surrounded by the jungle, it’s noises, it’s peacefulness. I’ve just taken an evening swim in the warm lake water and stared up at the stars, reflecting on the day’s events. After waking up in our bungalow this morning, early still due to a bit of lingering jet lag I am sure, we packed up and headed to the open air restaurant to connect to wifi and call the kids-I couldn’t wait to tell them about the cave temple monkeys. We discovered they were at their cousin Cohen’s house and wanted absolutely nothing to do with talking to us other than a brief “hi Mom, hi dad!”-a bittersweet feeling for sure. It’s good to know even when we are away they are being loved and cared for so well. 

After breakfast we boarded a van (called “minibus” here in Thailand) and drove into the nearby town to pick up some provisions for the day’s adventure. Our tour guide said he was buying food for us to eat out on the lake, right there from the market. We walked around the market and saw all kinds of interesting and, dare I say, questionable types of foods- the heads of pigs and all other body parts laying out, fish and seafood or all kinds, pink eggs, and other fascinating things to look at. I didn’t have my camera but since this wasn’t really a tourist type market, more of a local one, I would have felt strange taking pictures any way. 

Hopping back in the minibus and a bit more drive, we arrived at the pier for Khao Sok, which was busy with tourists boarding longtail boats to transport to their accommodations around the lake. The boat ride to our lakehouses took us just under an hour, observing the amazing lake and scenery as we went, the turquoise green water and jutted mountains covered in lush jungles and rock face cliffs. I’ve never felt water this warm before, being a Pacific Northwest girl. It is seriously amazing. 

The rest of the day was spent kayaking, swimming, and enjoying food provided by the family who lives here at the lakehouses. Just before dinner our guide took us out on an evening “safari” which had us pulling into coves around the lake and spotting monkeys swinging from the trees. We met a young British couple named Ellie and Mitch, and finished the evening drinking Chang beers on the large floating common area, listening to stories of their traveling adventures through Southeast Asia so far.

Jungle Bungalows

It was another early start to our morning as we headed to the local airport to catch a plane from Bangkok to Surathani. I have discovered that Thai people know how to make a good latte, so naturally I’ve decided I can stay. Kellen’s attempt at ordering a coffee this morning left him with just a shot of espresso, illustrating I believe exactly what being a 6’3″ man in Thailand really feels like:

Navigating to Khao Sok National Park was an experience, since there is no direct transportation, we had to take one bus to the city center, and then a mini bus from there. Signing up for the minibus was literally in a family’s house, which I’m coming to discover is not that uncommon here for businesses- they run them out of their homes, which is just basically an open air living concept with children running around and family life happening right there amongst the business. Being a mom, of course I loved watching the kids and couldn’t help but thinking how different life is here for these children, and yet, oddly the same! I laughed when I watched the Mom tell her little boy, barely 3 maybe, to go sweep, and his tiny little body carrying the big broomstick to complete the task. 

The Minibus was quite the native Thai experience, it certainly wasn’t a bus made for tourists, since all of the other passengers he picked up were local residents. He told us it would be 1 hour to Khao Sok, so we had to laugh when our driver kept stopping to complete random errands along the road- including getting gas, picking out his lunch at the local market, picking up some corn at a different market for later- every stop kellen and I looked at each other and started laughing. So different from back home. The other passengers on the bus kept turning aliens to watch us, they seemed really confused as to how we had ended up there, haha. The one hour trip turned into two thanks to all of our drivers pit stops that provides us extra time to scope out what life is like here- but we eventually made it to the park. 

The place we are staying is called the Smiley Bungalows- it is literally a row stilted bungalow houses lined up inside the jungle. There is a hammock on our porch and an incredible view of the luscious green jungle mountains out in front of us. The room is extremely basic, just two beds and a shower with a hole in the ground that shoots right out onto the ground below, no plumbing hooked up for it. There is a toilet with plumbing, however, which I was relieved to see. 

The “restaurant” here is once again just another family business, and we took no time wasted in ordering another round of phad thai and cashew chicken. 

After lunch, we were told the only activity outside of the national park itself (which we have planned for tomorrow) is the Cave Monkey Temple to feed the monkeys, a local temple and business where monkeys have learned they can get food, so we were off to explore. 

When we arrived, we bought tickets and a bag of peanuts from a young boy and his mother from a tiny shack at the entrance. I grabbed the bag of peanuts and we began walking and I was not prepared in the LEAST for the bombard of monkeys. One big one came running at me, climbed us my legs and literally grabbed the entire bag of peanuts out of my hands. So much for feeding the monkeys, haha! We still got plenty of pictures of them, as they played and foraged for other food leftover by other past tourists. It was such a cool experience and probably one I’ll never forget- being under the tree as they swung in the branches. As we were observing, it began to pour, and it was one of the coolest experiences finding shelter in a cave on the side of a cliff, watching these monkeys play and eat. 

Walking back it began to thunder, so we were happy to be back at the bungalow just in time to see lightning cross the sky in our view from the porch. 

The rest of the evening was spent with some drinks and swinging on the porch swing in the open air bar, talking about life and overlooking the jungle and bungalows from our spot. When we went back to our place, it took no short of 5 minutes for me to fall asleep in the hammock, listening to the sounds of the jungle.