Category Archives: Travel

Carnival: Travel and Vacation

Welcome to the June edition of Authentic Parenting Blog Carnival: Vacation and Travel.

This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Authentic Parenting Blog Carnival hosted by The Positive Parenting Connection and Authentic Parenting. This month our participants are sharing ideas, inspiration and information on travel and vacations! Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.

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Travel Goddesses! It has been too many weeks. It just so happens that the last installation of my Traveling Light with Kids series coincided with this wonderful Carnival dedicated to Travel and Vacation hosted by Authentic Parenting. The plus? Not only will you get my tips for traveling light, but you will also get travel tips and stories from scads of other family road (and sky) warriors. Bonus!

Without further ado…

Traveling Light with Your Toddler

So far I have given you some juicy tips about efficiently packing for yourself, lowering your overall traveling stress level, and traveling light with an infant. If you missed those posts, you can check them out here, here, and here. Now, let’s talk toddlers!

Toddlers are totally fantastic. I wake up every morning excited to see what will come out of our daughter’s mouth or what new skill she will master. They are high energy little learning sponges. These characteristics, while endearing, can make traveling a bit of a challenge. When your toddler is used to spending days at the park, exploring at the library, or playing at home and with friends, the concept of staying in one place for an extended period of time during your journey can be a bit of a challenge. Little things can make all the difference. How can you travel light, but still have all the things you need at your fingertips to pack a heavyweight punch of enjoyment for your toddler? Try these tips…

Tip 1: Smart Snacks

Is there anyone who doesn’t like special snacks on a trip? I do. And your toddler will especially appreciate them. They occupy time and really taste good. My one go-to snack of choice for airplanes and car-trips alike is freeze-dried fruit from Trader Joe’s (the strawberries are great!). They are physically light, calorically light, healthy, delicious, and fun to crunch. I find these are particularly useful on airplanes during the dreaded “we have boarded but are still waiting for everyone else to get to their seats” times. They are also stellar upon take-off and landing to keep your little one’s ears free and clear from the altitude changes. So, dig in! Just make sure to check to see if your brand has added sugar and consider making them an exciting treat reserved only for your travels.

Tip 2: The animal pillow/blanket combo

One of the marvels of plush toy innovations is the animal pillow/blanket combo. The belly of the animal is actually a blanket that has been rolled tight and has had the animal velcroed around it. It’s great for naps, chilly planes/cars, and something familiar from home that can become an instant travel buddy. Another plus? They are inexpensive. We got ours at Costco for $7. It has been worth every penny. Worried about space? Simply slip a carabiner around the neck and attach it to your carry-on bag. This is bang for your luggage buck!

Tip 3: Ditch the Stroller

You are the proud owner of a mover and groover. Don’t worry about bringing a stroller. Its heavy, bulky, and your toddler will most likely want to walk anyways. Why fuss with extra “stuff?” Traveling by plane? Don’t forget your Ergo- or Boba-style carrier for those times when your toddler love wants to be carried through the terminal and your arms are full. At this stage, they especially think its fun to ride (and fall asleep) on your back! Driving? Stick your carrier in the trunk for impromptu museum visits and hikes. They are great and all-terrain!

Tip 4: Simple Toys

If you are adventuring, the change-of-scenery is like one, big, new toybox. The bonus for you is that you can keep the toys you bring with you very simple and light. Pack a small bag for plane, train, or automobile with a Magnadoodle, stickers (this is a must), paper, and a few books. Voila! Long-time entertainment. Also consider making your toy choices unique to only the times you are traveling…it makes it all the more exciting.

Tip 5: Invest in a travel potty

Sometimes, you’ve just gotta go. For those toddlers that are already good-to-go in this area or for those still in training, this can be a total stress reliever for you and them! My current favorite is the Potette Plus 2-in-1 by Kalencom. For about $15 you can invest in a travel potty that doubles as a stand-alone and a seat insert all while fitting into a medium-sized handbag. Awesome! It brings me peace of mind knowing that I can attend to her needs whether we are hiking on the trail (please observe pack in/pack out rules), in a busy airport, or in the car without a bathroom in sight.

Tip 6: Seek out some reversible clothing

Did your strapping boy get a little too fiesty with the ketchup at lunch? Wipe off the big chunks and turn his jacket to the other side! I stumbled upon the joys of reversible children’s clothing by accident when I bought a cute spring jacket for our daughter at a consignment shop this year. We have since invested in more reversible pieces that we bring with us whenever we travel. With two sides in one, you can pack less and be less stressed about doing laundry and changing clothes during the day. When you show up at Grandma’s house for special Sunday dinner, she will be none the wiser that junior has strawberries smashed down the front of his shirt (because it’s on the inside).

Travel light and safe family road warriors, and check out my other blog posts (see above) for additional traveling light tips! Travel is an amazing experience for folks of any age, but especially our little ones. The more you travel, the more they will grow to love and appreciate the diversity of our Mother Earth. It is a gift that will live inside of them forever. That is pretty incredible! So, get out there and get going!

Stephanie is a seasoned traveler who refuses to think that owning a home is the American Dream. There are far too many amazing places to live and experience! Someday she hopes to travel to New Caledonia off the eastern coast of Australia to experience as close to what it was like to live in the Jurassic Period 160 million years ago as she can get!

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APBC - Positive Parenting Connection and Authentic ParentingVisit The Positive Parenting Connection and Authentic Parenting to find out how you can participate in the next Authentic Parenting Blog Carnival!

Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:

  • Traveling with a Sick Child — Jennifer at Hybrid Rasta Mama shares her tips and tricks for traveling with a sick child based on firsthand experience.
  • Educational Travel | Pennsylvania, New Mexico &; LouisianaThat Mama Gretchen relives three childhood trips while outlining a plan for future homeschooling adventures.
  • Babymoon: A Cruise in Europe — Bianca from The Pierogie Mama writes about the babymoon that she and her husband took to Europe, via a week long cruise through the Western Mediterranean..
  • Travelling with our little oneStoneageparent describes what travelling means to her family, exploring the link between attachment parenting and travelling
  • I Just Can’t Do It — aNonyMous at Radical Ramblings describes the nightmare it is trying to travel with her daughter, and how for the moment day-trips to local areas will have to suffice.
  • Carnival: Travel and VacationMacgyvermama rounds out her “Travel Light with Babies and Kids” series with some juicy tips on how to travel light and stress free with your moving and grooving Toddler!
  • Traveling: Adventure, Nature, Family — Brenna at Almost All The Truth shares her hopes and fears for her Great Summer Camping Road Trip with her three small children.
  • Frustration Free Flying with Kids — Based on her extensive experience flying with her family, Laura at Authentic Parenting shares tips on how to make the trip fun for you and your children.
  • 12 Awesome Toys To Bring Along When Traveling With ChildrenAriadne over at Positive Parenting Connection is sharing about toys her children love and playful ways to use them that make travel with children more fun and less stressful for the whole family.
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How Important is Time Away from Your Child?

As our toddlers played together at the train table in our neighborhood’s coffee shop, another mother and I were talking about summer vacation plans. She was sharing details about a spectacular 10-day  vacation she and her husband took to a resort in Central America last fall. Instantly, my daydreams ferried me to the shade of swaying palms, where I sat on a picnic blanket sharing sweet drinks made from local fruit with my husband and our tyke, adorably clad in a bucket sunhat and buttered up with sunblock.  My husband and I traveled a good amount before we welcomed our son into our lives, and we often talk about what kind of trips we want to take with him when he’s old enough to have fun memories of family travel.

Photo credit: mmsea (Flickr Creative Commons)

I turned to my coffee-swigging mama acquaintance and replied, “I love your sense of adventure–packing up your little one and trekking out of the country like that!” Questions about the logistics of international travel were bubbling up in my brain–infant passport? lengthy air travel? vaccines?–but before I could ask, she responded, “Oh, we didn’t take her. She stayed with grandma.”

Wait, whaaaa?  I quickly did the math, realizing that her daughter was 9 or 10 months old at the time of her parents’ tropical trek out of the country.   Ten whole days? Outside of the country? Without their babe? But…why? How?  I hoped my face belied my shock and confusion. I thought back to my son at that age. In the span of a week around that stage, my son took his first steps. He was nursing every 3 hours or so.  I couldn’t imagine being away from him for one night at that age, let alone a solid week and a half. My chest tightened at the thought. The mama went on to say that it was, indeed, a bit hard being away from her daughter at first, but she and her husband relaxed into their vacation and had a stellar time. Her daughter had a great time bonding with grandma, too, she said, adding with a laugh that her daughter didn’t want to leave grandma’s  when it was time to come home.

I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve left my son in the care of someone else while my husband and I went out. Our friends’ rehearsal dinner; a fancy dinner out and a movie as an early wedding anniversary celebration; and just this past weekend when my husband and I went out to see a late movie. Sprinkled amongst these big events and date nights are the random long solo walks for coffee or a child-free errand jaunt, but seldom has it been, in these almost 18 months, that we’ve gone out without our son.

I’m not judging, complaining or glorifying. It’s what it is: we simply do not feel the need to go out often without him. We’ve never felt the desire to travel without him (in fact, we’d hate that). The first ten years of our marriage were filled with travel (domestic and international), parties with friends,  expensive meals out, and regular concerts and shows. We enjoyed our share of excess. We waited a long time to become parents, and, right now, we simply want to just be with our son.

We have felt pressure from others, though: You guys should go out more! You need time to yourselves!  Don’t feel guilty for going out without him! You’re more than parents, you know! It’s healthy and necessary for your child to develop relationships with other adults!  It’s good for your child to see that you have a social life! The implications and undertones of these kind of statements are irritating at best. We’re not helicoptering. We’re not sheltering. We’re not excluding other adults from our son’s life. Dudes, we just like the company of our kid.  Sue us.

When I do go out, I don’t feel guilty for going out without my kid. But, sometimes, other people make me feel guilty for NOT wanting to go out more without him.  Am I somehow neglecting a part of myself or my marriage by not going out more? I do wonder, but I always come to the same conclusion: nope.

A couple of weekends ago, after I had a particularly trying week at home with my toddler,  my husband took him to a festival in the park, and I took a long shower by myself, blow-dried my hair (a very rare occurrence in my motherhood), put on a cute skirt, grabbed the just-delivered issue of Food & Wine, walked to our other neighborhood coffee shop (the one without a kids’ area), ordered a very large iced Americano, propped my feet up on the shady patio, and read my magazine cover to cover. It was a glorious couple of hours, just what I needed to recharge.

It was enough for me.

What about you?  How often do you spend time away from your child? Would you ever go/have you ever gone on a long vacation without your little one? Has anyone ever made you feel guilty for spending too little or too much time away?

One of Rhianna’s all-time fave vacations was a road trip along the Pacific Coast Highway with her husband. She gets lost in daydreams about making the same trip with little ones buckled in the backseat. She faithfully renews her subscription to Budget Travel magazine every year.

5 Tips For Traveling Light and Stress-Free with Your Infant

Photo Credit: Dan Kuster, 2009

Have you booked your Spring and Summer travel, God(dess)? Don’t be scared, especially if you are lucky enough to have a beautiful, gurgling infant. My mom, in her infinite wisdom, gave me an awesome piece of advice when our daughter was born. She said, “Travel now while all you need is a boob and a diaper!” (or in our case, some boobies,  a baby potty, and some back-up cloth diapers). I think at the time I rolled my eyes, overwhelmed with 24/7 nursing, very little sleep, and the obligatory “peak crying” at 46 weeks.

However, as the purple haze of the first few weeks of mommyhood lifted, we began to plan trips on planes and automobiles, and it was actually fun! Most likely your first trip will be to a grandparent’s house. It is a great place to get your sea legs and adventure more from there. Please enjoy these tips for traveling with your infant…and GET GOING!

Tip 1: Bring your nursing pillow.

The breast idea in the entire world! When my husband first suggested this for our first flight from Boston to Iowa with our daughter, I balked at the idea. Seriously? That was not my idea of traveling light. But once I removed the cover and stuffed it with baby’s clothing, cloth diapers, and burp cloths I realized how brilliant this was. Not only did I have everything I needed at hand, but also had a comfy place for our daughter to sleep during the flight. The result? I nursed her during take-off, she fell asleep for the entire flight, and I got to snuggle her without getting an arm cramp while reading a book. Win win win!

Tip 2: Ditch the stroller, bring the carrier.

Strollers take up a lot of space. Babies are light and love to be close to you. Bring your carrier! You can literally sashay through the airport, adventure forever through museums, go on long walks with grandma, and sooth her if you need to. A bonus? They are all-terrain!

Choose a carrier that is correct for your babe’s development. A Moby and Baby K’tan are great for very young babies (and pack down small too). For those with more head and torso control, I recommend the Boba or Ergo style carriers.

Tip 3:  Don’t forget the duct tape!

Macgyvermama approved! Duct tape can fix anything. Got a hole in your muffler during a road trip? No problem. Need a prom dress? Whip one up! However, a roll of duct tape is also a cheap (and light) way to baby-proof where you are staying away from home. If your babe isn’t mobile yet you don’t have to worry about this, but if you have a crawler/cruiser on your hands, duct tape is just the thing you need to blast out some DIY socket covers in the hotel room. You can also use it to tie up loose curtain and electrical cords, keep drawers closed, and patch sharp corners. Remember, less stress = more enjoyment. (Just make sure it doesn’t take the paint off the wall).

Tip 4: Organize baby’s clothes

Babies are small. They have small shirts, small socks, and small pants. When packing for your child (after you have packed your suitcase, God(dess)) use small, reusable drawstring bags (or gallon Ziplock bags if you prefer) to organize clothing. One outfit (shirt, pants, socks, etc) goes in each bag. This avoids overpacking and reduces the barrier to getting baby dressed (or re-dressed throughout the day). Whoever is with baby at the time of a wardrobe change can simply pick a bag without disturbing Papa from his nap or Momma from her soak in the bathtub.

Tip 5: Leave space for pottying and/or changing

I snuck this one in to see if you were following the “Travel God(dess) 75% Rule” from our last travel post. If you have followed the rule, you already have plenty of space! Traveling by car? Leave space either in the backseat or trunk to comfortably potty and/or change your little world traveler. It is less stressful than trying to dodge dirty truckstop bathrooms with your bundle of joy. Traveling by plane? Good luck. Most planes have itty bitty changing tables and most seat inserts fit on airplane toilets. Just take a deep breath (or six) and imagine yourself in a Saturday Night Live skit.

Continue practicing Elimination Communication as much as you can while you are traveling. You will gain a lot more space by not having to pack as many diapers and a little potty/bowl is an easy thing to bring with you. You may be surprised how your little babe rises to the occasion of travel!

Worth a mention: If you are planning a trip overseas with your baby, call the airlines and reserve a flying bassinet. Baby not only can sleep in it, but it makes an excellent “play space” where baby can sit and admire her surroundings.

Next up, Traveling Light with Your Toddler! Join us in two weeks. Happy travels!

Stephanie’s daughter took her first road trip to see her Grandmother in Maryland at 4 months old. It ended up being an 11 hour trip full of traffic jams, the Jersey Turnpike, and nursing escapades. She was a complete rockstar and hardly fussed. That was more than she could say for her parents.

Traveling Light With Babies and Kids: Physical Baggage

Photo credit: Stephanie Kuster, 2008

Welcome back God(dess)! I am so glad to see you reading the second installment of the Traveling Light series. If you missed the first post, wander here when you get a chance to soak up some nifty tips on reducing the emotional baggage of traveling with young children. Now let’s get physical!

For most of us, packing for a trip is one of those “rather-have-a-fork-in-the-eye” activities that we leave until the last minute.  However, once you add a kid or three into that mix, plus the new airlines baggage fees or a small trunk, the results can be frustrating, irritating, and downright disastrous. You pack too much “stuff,” you end up with armpit stains from lugging all the baggage through the airport, or you consider putting “Tetris Master” on your business card because of the rearranging you have done in the trunk of the car. Let’s lighten our loads! Less is more! You will love the view out the back window!

Physical Baggage: Load level down, joy level up

Is anyone really having fun when they are lugging 60 pounds of heavy objects? Nope. For you God(dess), traveling light is all about organization and knowing what you need before you need it. The first time that you really strategize for a trip, it will be a lot of extra work. However, I promise you that each time you travel it will get easier and easier because everything will already be set in motion. The results? You can grab your things and go because you already know what to pack. Now, you can really take advantage of last minute travel deals or (you may want to sit down for this one) be more spontaneous! I will tackle to how to efficiently pack for your children in the next installment, but for now God(dess), please devour these tips for reducing your physical baggage.

Tip 1: Follow the 75% rule

Luggage is a foul temptress. We humans LOVE to expand to fill the void. Don’t do it! Instead, follow the “Travel God(dess) 75% Rule.” Once you pick out the piece of luggage you are going to use, don’t fill it more than 75% full. If you are traveling by car, do not fill the trunk over 75% of its capacity. If you need to carry your luggage (and kids) through the airport, don’t carry (or roll) over 75% of what is a comfortable weight. You get the idea. Everything needs breathing room, including you, God(dess).

The 75% Rule applies to clothing as well. Before a trip, place all the clothing that you want to take with you on your bed. Immediately remove 25% of it. This is hard. I still have trouble doing it, but in the end I have found that 9.9 times out of 10 I wouldn’t have worn the items anyways. Try it. You’ll like having less. Having extra room in your suitcase also means that you can fit in that gift Grandma gave to your sweet baby and that you don’t have to meticulously fold everything for the trip back home. An instant stress reducer!

Tip 2: Make a list

The week before you leave for your trip, start making a list of the things that you need to bring with you. As you pack, check off the items. I can’t tell you how many times my packing list has saved me and kept me from forgetting or adding un-needed items. Want to save paper? Make a list on email or phone.

Tip 3: Dress like Angelina Jolie

Red carpet appearances aside, the majority of Angelina’s wardrobe consists of black, grey, white, and tan. Her clothes are classy and, best of all, infinitely interchangeable. This is perfect for traveling light (and adhering to the 75% Rule)! I always use her style as inspiration for what goes into my suitcase. On several occasions I have considered making bracelets stamped with WWAP (What Would Angelina Pack) to help me along my way.

Stick to a neutral palette. Get yourself a fabulous but comfortable black dress or two. Dresses (especially cotton jersey) pack down nicely and are instant outfits for mommas on-the-go. I have a short and a long dress that I pack almost every time I travel. I can wear them every day (or night) with a different scarf and no one is the wiser. What else can’t I live without in my suitcase? A pair (yup, just one pair no matter how long the tip is going to be) of dark jeans, a black, drape-front cardigan, and a pair of nude ballet flats. Backcountry camping is a different story…perhaps we will tackle that subject another time.

Tip 4: Bring a fabulous scarf

The scarf is the one travel item that a momma cannot live without. Not only does a fabulous scarf pack a style punch with the Angelina-inspired packing job that you have accomplished (see Tip 3), but functionality abounds! A scarf can also serve as a nursing cover, a light blanket on a chilly plane, a pillow, a modesty cover for visiting places of worship, a glamorous headband for a bad hair day,  and (most importantly) allows for an epic game of peek-a-boo. The bonus is that scarves take up very little space. In fact, you can probably bring two!

Tip 5: Invest in miniatures

If you absolutely need to bring a hair straightener or hair dryer, invest in a travel sized device. The same goes for toiletries. Refill mini hotel shampoo and lotion bottles and the next time you visit the dentist, ask for toothpaste samples. S(he) will be more than happy to supply them for you! After your effort, make sure to organize your mini treasures in a nice, hanging toiletries case and always have them ready to go when the great, open road calls to you. Trust me, it makes a difference.

In two weeks we will continue the Traveling Light series by tackling Traveling Light with an Infant. The natural, breast-feeding, baby-wearing momma definitely has the advantage! Happy travels!

Stephanie’s favorite fabulous scarf was bought by her husband in 2009 during a late-night trip to a Berlin Department store. He picked it out of the 5 Euro bin. She has brought it on every trip since then.

Traveling light: Goddesses and Gods First, Part 1

photo credit: Jennifer Griffes 2012

Spring has sprung! There is nothing like opening the door to have a whiff of Spring blast you in the face. The world feels lighter. We block off weekends for spring cleaning. We crave salads over comforting mashed potatoes.

With the flowers blooming, animals scampering, and birds building nests, it awakens something within us that whispers “it’s time to get out of the house.” What better time to travel with baby on that road trip to Grandma’s house? How about cashing in on one of those Groupon Getaway deals to take the family to Niagra Falls or to tour the castles of Ireland?  Can you feel the wind whipping through your hair? Yes!

Needle off the record. Whether you are flying or driving, we have all stood in front of the massive pile of “stuff” that we are supposed to fit into a space that is physically impossible to fit into, let alone carry through a busy airport. Stress levels rise. There may be some bickering. Traveling with a child(ren) isn’t nearly as spontaneous and carefree as it was when we were all single or married without children. It can be totally overwhelming.

Traveling light is empowering! When I had my daughter, I never thought I would travel again…at least not in the way that I used to (wind through my hair as I sashay on the plane with a small carry-on bag after scoring a cheap flight the night before). But we do!

Join me in this several part series exploring travel and adventure with your infant or toddler.  With a bit of adjustment, we can reduce emotional and physical baggage to have you all traveling like Other Baby Book Goddesses and Gods in no time.

Emotional Baggage: Stress level down, joy level up.

We begin with you. Yes, you, travel God(dess).  Hopefully, you have all read Kate’s post “The New Myth of the Stay-at-Home Mom.”  If not, please wander here when you have a chance. The long and short of it all is that sometimes you must put yourself first. Dirty dishes, laundry, and packing for your child be damned.  If you are planning a family adventure (and I mean adventure in the loosest of terms…even a trip to Grandma’s house counts), this is a great time to follow such sound advice and take some time for yourself to strategize.

You are your child’s rock, base, and who he looks to as a first indicator of whether or not a situation is fun and comfortable. Whether your child is 3 weeks or 30 years old, he will always know when you are stressed. Traveling can cause a lot of emotional stress! Just a little bit of careful planning can reduce travel stress, and your family will love you for it. Through my travels with our daughter, I have discovered that four things can make or break my emotional traveling state. If you do nothing else for your next trip, please try these tips.

Tip 1: Bring your own blankie.

You take so much care in making sure that your child has their favorite stuffed animal, blanket, or lovey. While traveling, you should do the same for yourself! We are not just talking about blankets here. We are talking about something portable that can give you extra enjoyment when you need it most. We all identify certain items that bring us into our comfort zone, be it an awesome book you are reading, a favorite raw food snack bar that you tuck into your carry-on bag, meditation beads, or your favorite music. It can be anything just as long as you know that during a stressful time you can whip that puppy out and feel your joy level shoot up to the sky. I love packing special “momma only” snacks that I don’t get to have that often. It is instant pleasure.

Tip 2: Make sure you have designated God(dess) space.

If you are staying at a hotel during your travels, try to book at a place that you can get a suite or a room with an outside space (balcony or patio). This will alleviate any “feeling trapped by sleeping baby” feelings. My husband and I discovered this on a recent trip to California when we were upgraded to a room with a balcony. Completely fabulous!  Don’t forget the baby monitor!

Tip 3: Have a special place for special documents.

Up your efficiency and lower stress by having everything you need (especially at the airport) when you need it. This includes birth certificates, confirmation numbers, driver licenses, etc. You will never have to frantically dig through bags while keeping an eye on the little one (or endure the deep thigh squat if you are wearing him), hold up lines, or waste time you could be spending gliding through security and getting a bite to eat instead.  We have a dedicated gallon-sized Ziplock bag for this purpose when flying (and then we separate important documents after check-in).

Tip 4: Set aside special time to pack for yourself.

Just do it! The first time we flew with our daughter I had everything ready to go…everything except anything packed for me. The clock blinked 2am. We had a cab coming at 6am to take us to the airport. I wept.  Now, I pack myself before I pack our daughter. A God(dess) who feels organized (and  has the right pair of shoes and, ahem, remembers underwear) is a happy God(dess). You can make this happen in any number of ways…during naptime, in the evening after bedtime, having your partner take the kid(s) for a bit, or hire a babysitter for a few hours. Just make sure that it happens!

Join us in two weeks for the second installation of our Traveling Light series, Gods and Goddesses First, Part 2: Physical Baggage. Once you ditch the “stuff,” traveling is a breeze! Let’s use Spring as an inspiration and lighten our traveling loads! Happy travels!

Stephanie’s greatest packing achievement was for a 2.5 month journey to Kenya and Tanzania which included a geological field season, summiting Mount Kilimanjaro, a safari in the Masai Mara, and a snorkeling excursion in the Indian Ocean. She fit everything into a single backpack. She never wore any of those clothes ever again.

 

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