Our Holiday Getaway to Texas Hill Country

 

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Happy Holidays Friends! I love this time of the year as it is so bright and cheerful everywhere. This year my in-laws decided to visit us from India, making it an even more cheerful holiday season. I love it when our family visits us from back home. We miss them so much. These visits are even more joyful now because we get to see our son make lovely memories with his grandparents and learn couple of new words and sentences in our native language, Hindi.

Since the schools were closed and we were able to take few days off from work, me and my husband planned to take our family for a mini getaway out of Houston. We skipped hopping into flights and avoided the holiday airport madness for a 3 and half hour road trip to Texas Hill Country. The Upscale Horseshoe Bay Resort resting on the shores of lake LBJ was our home away from home for 2 days.

We had already been to this hill country retreat last year in summer with our friends and so it seemed perfect to also enjoy the hospitality in the winter months with our family. We are obviously big fans of this place and in this post I wanted to share with you all, a glimpse to our fun getaway.

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Stay: We stayed in the 2 bedroom and 2 bathroom Palm Villas. It is perfect for families and groups looking for more space. The villas have  contemporary decor and comfortable living, sleeping and dining areas. A full kitchen is always crucial for our trips especially because most of us our vegetarian and prefer to cook few meals and breakfast. Me and my mom in law were very pleased with the huge kitchen .Throughout our stay we also got to enjoy the resort’s amenities and concierge services, as well as the restaurants, lounges, finesses centers , pools and more.

Activities: The most important reason why we chose this stay cation was for the number of things to do within and around the resort. Apart from enjoying the heated pools, tennis courts, golf course and dock fishing, I love that they had so many activities for kids and families. Our favorite this time of the year was the 18 hole Whitewater Putting Course. Vir enjoyed the experience and so did my in laws. The scenery is beautiful and I highly recommend this activity. The resort also has beautiful trails one can’t miss, we loved walking around the resort on a crisp sunny day and spotting some turtles, ducks and birds on our way.

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The resort also has large fire pits where they host camping with s’mores events , I saw it was huge hit with kids especially after pool time. Make sure to look at their events calendar before booking. We missed out on sampling some of the amenities like the Spa and water sports due to weather and time. Definitely on my list to do for next time.

RESTAURANTS. The restaurants at the resort are fantastic. There are upscale restaurants like the Yacht Club with gorgeous lake views and outdoor seating. You need to make reservations here and also note there is a dress code. The other Family friendly restaurants like Lantana and Cafe Del Sol have large tables and patio seating. There are gigantic TV’s scaling the walls and outdoor seating to which helped our son relax and enjoy lunch/dinner without a fuss. Also they had heaters everywhere to keep it warm and cozy. You can explore more restaurants and sports bars here.

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The Jungle Kids Club

This place was one of the new additions from our last visit and an excellent one ! The Jungle Kids Club is a two-story jungle gym featuring a tunnel slide and is included as one of the room amenities. Vir loved it and spent more than an hour playing here. He also tried the rock climbing wall finally. I saw some older kids enjoying the art, craft and block activities with the staff. BTW you can also reserve a kids night out here !

Special Events

RING IN THE NEW YEAR AT HORSESHOE BAY RESORT. On 31st Dec at 9:30 pm, the ballroom at the resort will open and The Argyles will keep the dance floor packed all night with an incredible live music performance to ring in 2019!! Find more information here . Highly recommend it for families as you can drop off your kids at the Kid’s club for their own party while you enjoy yours! I really hoped we could stay for this one, but my in-laws fly out on 1st Jan and so we had to head back home to finish a few things.

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Local Must See :
Sunset Cruises- 
Definitely recommend the Sunset Cruise on the beautiful Lake LBJ. You can also get your own wine and some snacks.

Explore the Vineyards-Take a tour of wineries, taste world class vintages, and discover the rich wine making traditions of the Texas Hill Country. Best is to drive up to the local vineyards.

Head to Fredricksburg-On our way back home we took a short detour to Fredricksburg. An hour long drive from the resort we visited the Main Street in Fredericksburg. I love the window shopping here and the German vibe. There are some great wine tasting shops where you have to stop. It was beautifully decorated for Christmas and also had 30 ft Christmas tree and ice rink this time of the year

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Have a fantastic 2019 everyone!

Arushi (2)

 

Our Memorable Fall Family Getaway: Apple picking & day trip to Martha’s Vineyard

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I learned on this trip, there’s no better reminder to live in the moment during those too-short childhood years than a special vacation just for you and your son.

My son and I hopped on a flight and traveled to Boston, Massachusetts recently. Diwali was just the perfect time to introduce him to his cousins and make some lifelong memories. He is now two and half, and is very aware of all the festivities around him. So I thought it was apt to make this trip, as kids at this age start remembering names, faces and start building relationships with people around them. I was very excited to travel here during the fall months and was looking forward to experiencing the fall colors, overcast foggy crisp days and some peaceful walks with my toddler.

Apart from reuniting with my cousin sisters and their families, I was lucky enough to finally get to celebrate Diwali out of Houston after 8 years and get a four-day break from my regular life. My official travels have been keeping my schedule booked for the entire year and it has been very hard to find a suitable month and time to plan any family travels. I finally found the perfect window and opportunity and was able to book our tickets almost a week prior. Although, I have been to Boston thrice before, this was the first time we explored places outside the city.

This trip felt like a mini vacation. I needed this time to enjoy and bond with my family. Watching our kids play, dance, fight and enjoy themselves brought back fond memories of our childhood days back in Kota, Rajasthan, where me and my cousin sisters grew up. This also made me realize how old we are getting, and time does fly! Being away from our families in India has not been easy, I miss the support system, the festivities, the love, the food and so much more. But every year me and my cousins try to visit each other when we can. Last time they visited us in Houston and so this time it was my turn to pay them a visit.

The first 2 days we stayed in and let the kids bond. I was pampered by my sisters and brother in laws with great hospitality and food. We chatted for hours, face timed with our families in India and prepared for Diwali celebrations at home. Here are a few pictures from the Diwali celebrations.

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With my cousin sisters in Boston

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2nd generation of cousins

                                                       Apple Picking and Farm activities

If you have been following me for a while on my Instagram, you might know I love to explore any place I visit, and we made sure we were able to do some fall activities in this short trip. So, we packed up our kids and headed for Apple Picking at Honey Pot Hill Orchards, an hour’s drive from my sister’s house.

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Guess Moms had more fun

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His dream came true that day !

This was one of the most exciting activity of our trip. It was our first-time apple picking and we all had the best time. Even though it was very cold and windy that day, the beautiful fall colors, the excitement of exploring the orchard and getting to feed the farm animals kept us all charged up, especially Vir. He had 2 full apples at the orchard, sang “Old Mc Donald” to the sheep, goats and rabbits, sat on the tractor and harvester at the farm and guided everyone which way the maze would lead to exit. I was so proud of him all the time and it brought me so much joy to see my mini me enjoy the little things. It felt like I was reliving my childhood with him.

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Feeding the goats at the farm

Martha’s Vineyards

The next day we left for Martha’s Vineyards at 6:30am, it was a 2-hour drive and then a 45 min ferry ride to the island. The kids did very well in the car, they snacked all the way and even watched some cartoons towards the end of the drive. (the ipad always saves the day)

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The ferry ride is a fun experience on the way to Martha’s Vineyard

End of October is not the best time to visit the island as it is very cold, and the island is usually a summer getaway, but hey! We had to go because I wanted to 😊 and it had been on my list for a while. Even though most of the tourist places and restaurants were closed, we got to explore the beaches, lighthouses and the ginger bread houses, one of the main highlights of Martha’s Vineyards. Thankfully we had a lot of sunlight the entire day even though it was cold and windy, the sun was very soothing.

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My favorite ginger bread house , the kids spend 30 minutes playing here

So happy !

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Ginger Bread House at Martha’s Vineyard

We spent most of our time exploring the Ginger Bread House at Oak Bluff camp ground and I highly recommend going here. A tour through the Wesleyan Grove National Historic District known locally as the Martha’s Vineyard Camp Meeting Association can make you feel like you have stepped into a fairy tale, or even a game of Candy Land. In this district are some of the most photographed and admired homes in all the nation, and with good reason. Loved how whimsical the place was. The bright, painted colors of the tiny houses, reminiscent of the vivid hues of a candy aisle, popped against the gorgeous fall backdrop. There are around 300 gingerbread houses at this camp site and BTW you can also rent them and stay in a few.

There is no surer way of connecting with the Island’s maritime heritage than by taking time to pay a visit to one or all the Island’s five lighthouses. After spending couple of hours at the ginger bread houses and taking hundreds of pictures we headed to the Edgartown Light House. We spent an hour around the light house and the beach. Vir and his cousins kept themselves entertained by throwing pebbles in the sea.

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Edgartown Light House.

After the visit to lighthouse we grabbed some cheese pizza for the kids and had lunch at a Thai restaurant called Bangkok Cuisine. Props for the place for being open in off season. The kids caught a 1-hour nap in the car and we had a few more hours left before we could take the ferry back. We quickly searched our phones for a closer place to visit and came across Island Alpaca. At first, I couldn’t believe it as these animals are present only in South America, but then soon I realized they are also present on an island in Massachusetts.  We dropped our plan to see another Lighthouse and used our time to head to the Alpaca farm. Vir was so happy to see the alpacas and kept going to each one of them and saying “Hi Paca! How are you”.  Some of the alpacas had hairstyles from afro puffs to spiked punk attitude after their shearing. I also got to touch a few who had maximum fluffiness and then we did see them spit on each other. For few minutes I was transported back to my trip to Machu Picchu where I saw the lamas and alpacas on my hike. There is also a small gift shop where you can buy the softest alpaca blend hats, scarves, scarfs etc. Oh BTW you can also buy an alpaca here.

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Vir: “Hey Paca”

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Mama and Babe

In the end all I can say is life with kids is busy, As I learned on that first trip, there’s no better reminder to live in the moment during those too-short childhood years than a special vacation just for you and your son.this trip was the perfect bonding experience for me and my son. Spending time with my son out in nature helped increase my emotional health and our physical well-being. I believe family travel doesn’t have to be all about finding the most amazing places to visit but instead focusing on your FAMILY and what each one of you loves to do.  Kids love to have special time with their parents, it doesn’t need to be a getaway only. Scheduling an outing that is just for the two of you. Whether you run out to get milkshakes or just go walk around the mall, being together and having one-on-one time brings you closer.

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Happy Holidays !

Arushi (2)

Cafes and Experiences, You Don’t Want to Miss in London!

 

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On my travels I always like to experience the café culture of a city. If you follow my Instagram stories you will know how much I love a good cup of Java and appreciate latte art. So on my recent work trip to London I made sure to go and experience the tea and cake shops of the city and I realized within a day whether you’re after caffeine, cake, or just a spot to plug in your laptop – London’s cafés and coffee shops are little havens

The British are known for their love of tea, scones and cake, so as the tea room capital of the world, and yes London lived up to some high expectations I had.  Alongside its grand, sophisticated afternoon tea establishments, the capital has a range of smaller, quainter and infinitely more charming tea rooms – perfect spots for sitting with a book and a homemade treat on a good bright day, or for indulging in a little luxury with a group of friends.

In this post I am sharing my top 4 Instagrammable cafes and cake shops in London I visited and an experience I missed but definitely recommend to all my readers in London or travelling anytime soon.

 

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Peggy Porschen Cakes, Address: 116 Ebury St, Belgravia, London SW1W 9QQ
For those of you on Instagram, you’re 98% likely to have seen a picture of this Belgravia cake shop. It’s become the place to throw on the Gram, thanks to its pastel pink exterior, floral wreath and cutesy flowers lining the windowsill. In fact, if you didn’t know better, you’d probably just assume that this place was made especially FOR Instagram… Just look at it! Be prepared to wait for some time to sit at the café and enjoy some cake. There are long lines all day I believe, we had to wait for almost 25 minutes

 

 

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With my bestie Richa !! 

Saint Aymes, 59 Connaught Village Hyde Park London, W2 2BB

My favorite cafe from the trip. Just order a unicorn latte or a cappuccino with 23 carat leaf and grab a seat by the flower wall! From the outside you know it’s going to be something special, as the window is framed by gorgeous wisteria, and once you step inside, the flower theme continues. It’s a girlie dream. But of course, it’s not just all show and no substance. Saint Aymes is a luxury chocolatier which is stocked in Selfridges and Harvey Nichols, and this cafe is their first venture out on their own. There’s all sorts of cute and perfectly presented sweet treats available, you should be aware, it is all sweet treats so just make sure you don’t come expecting a sandwich.

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Biscuiteers Icing Cafes , Notting Hill Icing Cafe, 194 Kensington Park Road, W11 2E

I was in a rush when I visited Notting Hill and although it offers a lot of things to get excited about, but a cafe filled with delicious biscuits, cakes and chocolates caught my attention. This place has that Sunday-afternoon-London-in-winter kind of vibe. It’s cozy and intimate, in a beautiful setting surrounded by incredible biscuit masterpieces! Everything is provided for you, and at the end you’ll walk out with a tin of your own beautifully iced apres-ski biscuits to take home… SOLD!

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Dominique Ansel Bakery, 17-21 Elizabeth Street, London, SW1W 9RP. 

Behold for the What-a-Melon Soft Serve, one of my favorite treats I had on this trip !! It’s a ripe slice of watermelon filled with watermelon flavored soft-serve ice cream and topped with miniature hand-cut chocolate ‘seeds’ to finish. Refreshing and cute me and my friend couldn’t wait to dig in. The bakery has something for everyone. From crust less cucumber sandwiches and dry Victoria sponges to cronuts and delicious savory items, this bakery had the best menu. You definitely want a table near the flower wall!

 

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BB BAKERY AFTERNOON TEA BUS TOUR

7ed1f03d-6cfa-4863-90d2-bb2818a1428eI was so disappointed I didn’t book the tickets in advance for this tour. This is a must do experience in London. Taking in the sights as your sip your brew on board an antique bus. Yep a unique experience! This 1960s double-decker (nab a seat on top if you can) passes by all the major attractions, including the London Eye, Big Ben and Westminster Abbey. It’s a great way to multitask your tourist-ing. The bus is a fusion of London meets Paris! I was able to get a glimpse of the bus only as the tickets were sold out and I was travelling back home next day.

Special thanks to my sweet friends Richa and Jasbir who traveled with me to these gorgeous cafes and took me to all the fun spots, bars and Indian restaurants in the city!!

Arushi (2)

 

 

 

 

 

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Tips for Travelling and Working Moms. Handling the emotional logistics while on a business trip.

Tips for Travelling and Working Moms. Handling the emotional logistics while on a business trip

Let’s face it, being a working mom can be extremely challenging. It takes a lot of planning and support to manage a household. Add business trips and travel into the equation and things get exponentially more difficult.

I always get emails and messages from my Instagram followers on how fun and glamorous my work travels are. And yes honestly, being able to visit new places and try new things is fun, but every month being on the road, another hotel, another restaurant eating alone, the glamour fades, especially when you miss your child a day or two into a five-day trip.

I have come to think of it as a necessary sacrifice that I am making to ensure I continue to build my career and not give up on my aspirations, while also providing for my family. I love my job and everything I do, but I won’t sit here and say I love it every single day. Days get long, sometimes I don’t get to FaceTime with my son before bedtime, I miss my own bed, and I feel guilty for being away and probably miss on some new words too that my son started to speak.

In the last year, I’ve realized that even though it is necessary, there is a way to handle it in a way that I don’t feel horrible for the decision I made and to not get frustrated or burnt out from my work travels. You may wonder – How can we be a good mother while also traveling for extended periods of time? Contrary to what society may tell you, there are plenty of ways to make the situation work for you and your family. Here are few tips I recommend for travel savvy moms-

  • Take it as a Break – Being a parent to a toddler can be Pickups, drop offs, swim days, play dates, other activities and your day to day chores at home while working full time can be tiring and monotonous. And so, I’ve started to look at my trips as a “break” from the job of parent at home. It’s a little break from the busy lifestyle of having to work full-time and then be on again at home as a mom
  • Make a calendar and set reminders – I usually have a calendar in front of me of my upcoming travels and start to work on putting up a plan for the family on what to do while I am away. List out all activities at daycare that needs special attention like soccer practice timings, splash day packing, events or special celebrations that week etc. Also, it lets me also confirm with my caregiver on her availability.
  • Maintain your child’s routine. While it’s important to have something fun planned for while you’re gone, don’t abandon routines. Bedtime, naptime, meals, school and playtime should remain the same. Kids rely on their schedules and if they are interrupted, it can be confusing and upsetting.
  • Leave a Meal Plan– To ensure my home is running smoothly in my absence I make a meal plan for my family and mail it to my husband and my caregiver, while also placing a print out on our refrigerator. You can also freeze meals or use local services of cooked meals that deliver at home for the days you are away. Also, I make sure to do groceries before I leave so that we are not short of the important items like Bananas, Milk, Eggs, Bread and snacks that are needed on a daily basis.
  • Don’t hesitate to ask for support when and where you need it- Without my family and my in laws here in the US to check in or help out when I am gone, I rely on the support of my close friends, neighbors and my son’s teachers. I ask them for extra help when needed. Lately I have been looking to share a nanny with a close friend on the days when my husband gets late at work. It is very important to have several backups and foresee few situations that you might need help with, when you are away.
  • Create Fun Rituals – Baking cupcakes or banana bread or pudding for days when I am gone is a sweet way literally to treat my son. He is very young to understand the association, but I am sure it makes him happy especially if he is moody or cranky. Also, I try to leave a new book to read every night in my absence and come back with a small gift from my travels for my son to open. He is 2 and he thoroughly enjoys it.
  • Ditch the guilt.I know it’s tough, but you should not feel guilty about this choice. I never let others negative opinion affect how I think about myself. It may not be an ideal situation in your mind, but if you love what you do, never feel guilty about that and the fact you are providing for your family. Remind yourself that you aren’t a bad mom for traveling and don’t compare yourself to other moms on the block. If you communicate with your child before, during and after travel, they’ll be prepared for your departure and be fine while you’re gone.
  • Let your significant other rest and have a day/night to themselves.
    Even though I come back tired from traveling, I always make sure to give my partner a break, it could be some time away at the weekend with friends or a short getaway. It is very important to tell your partner you appreciate them and that it’s okay to go out and take a break and let me take on everything you’ve been doing the past few days.

In the end I will like to say that to have a family’s ability to function well with a travelling mother is also linked to the attitudes of its members. We need to make sure our partner is happy to contribute and is appreciated, and that the kids adapt well to the changes in routine, so that all goes smoothly. In our house we have learnt to treat Travel as just another facet of life that needs to be managed. I always say it’s all about Teamwork! And so, me and my husband try our best to treat travel with resourcefulness and optimism. It is hard to leave on a monthly basis, but I look forward to coming home to see my son’s face and get a hug and kiss from him (as there will come an age when he won’t  want them from mommy). His smiles make it all worth it.

Please do share your opinions and thoughts on how you are trying to balance travel and home duties.

If you are a breast feeding mom and travel for work, check my previous post –How I Prepared to Leave My Breastfed Baby for a Work Trip

Love

Arushi (2)


 

 

Moms Give Yourself The Gift Of a Solo Getaway – Sharing My Experience From My Hiking Trip to Machu Picchu

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In my recent post My Inca Trail Hike to Machu Picchu & Solo Trip to Cusco, Peru: An Adventure of a Lifetime I shared with you all my three minute movie , lots of pictures and so many other details of my amazing SOLO trip. (Check it out if you haven’t) This post focuses on what this journey meant and how it has affected me personally . Also I am sharing a list of benefits of jet setting alone and going on a getaway by yourself.

Travelling Solo was one of my top goals for the year and I knew that this year for my birthday I wished to do something different, something special, something truly just for myself. I wanted to rediscover the girl I was, before spouse, before a kid, before all the parenting responsibilities. So, a few months before my 33rd birthday I decided to challenge myself, both physically and mentally with a Solo Trip to Cusco, Peru.

I have had several opportunities to travel around the world with and without my family and friends. Travelling alone for work to a new country or state has been a part of my lifestyle and something I am familiar with since I was sixteen years old.

However, planning a getaway on my own to a country where I have never been before, hiking for two days with a group of complete strangers or for that matter living in a hostel and meeting people of all age groups from different parts of the world…… truly made this trip an Experience of a Lifetime! This journey has given me one of the most valuable collection of moments and experiences that has added depth and value to my life and who I am.

“Traveling Alone is Radical Form of Self Care”

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On this solo trip not only did I get to discover the stunning landscapes of Machu Pichhu on my hike and enjoy the breathtaking architecture, lively artisan markets and the delicious local cuisine of the vibrant city of Cusco, I also got to spend time by myself — walking alone, eating alone, writing alone and sitting alone. And honestly, this was far from lonely. It was in fact restorative!

I can’t think of the last time I had been alone long enough to revel in my own thoughts without being interrupted by my child or the nagging to-do list that lives in the back of my mind. I could have conversations with people that didn’t revolve around my child or me being a mom. It was kind of strange and exhilarating. Radical Self-care is the assertion that you have the responsibility to take care of yourself first before attempting to take care of others.

There is endless list of benefits to jet setting alone and by sharing my experiences I hope to inspire others to try out a solo adventure too.

Makes you Independent and Empowered: One comes back with a new perspective. Solo travel represents independence, wanderlust and of course freedom. One gets to create their own When and How to do it list!

Self-Discovery: Through solo travel you get a chance to listen to your gut and control the direction you want to go to. You get to know you, be you and reflect upon yourself.

Self Confidence: Yes, solo travel is a brave endeavor. There is a lot of planning and preparations that one needs to go through, especially us moms. And as women we need to research more into topics like safety, cultural norms etc. By stepping out of your comfort zone and travelling anywhere new and unknown we learn to face various types of scenarios and gain much confidence.

Making new Friends and lifetime connections: One can always choose to be alone, but on a solo trip you get an opportunity to connect and make new friendships on your journey that could last a lifetime. Travel leads to exciting adventures and meaningful connections, it provides you an opportunity to meet like minded people in a new cultural setting devoid of digital distractions.

Your well-being gets healthier: Each one of us know spending time alone makes us release a lot of stressful toxins and travelling makes us happy. Research shows that travelling alone is such a healthy option as it makes you a happier person and cuts out your depression and stressful phases.

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Being a Mom is hard work! By taking time to focus on myself, recharge and relax a little, I have returned home more mindful. I can’t think of travelling alone as “Selfish” now, as this trip has nurtured my body and nourished my mind while giving me chance to follow my dreams and do what I love – Explore! Also, I want my son to see me as a person with interests, rather than the person who does everything

Have you taken a solo trip? What was your experience? 

Love

Arushi (2)

 

My Inca Trail Hike to Machu Picchu & Solo Trip to Cusco, Peru: An Adventure of a Lifetime

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“In the end, we only regret the chances we didn’t take”

Travelling Solo was one of my top goals for this year and the timing to accomplish this goal couldn’t have been any better, since I got to experience this lifetime adventure on my birthday week! Hiking through brutal altitude and stunning panoramas towards an unmatched destination: the ancient Incan city of Machu Picchu.

The Inca Trail hike is one of the most iconic treks that I had been wanting to do for past many years. And finally, in February 2018 I booked my itinerary to Cusco, Peru in a single day without deliberating too much on where I should travel for my Solo Trip.

My fitness regimen for the strenuous hike was already in line with my 2018 fitness goals, with weekly 30-minute mountain climber sessions, Reformer Pilates on weekends and daily 3 mile runs on my trail. Thankfully I was right on track with my fitness.

Access to the Inca Trail is strictly controlled — only 500 permits per day are issued (including guides and porters) and only authorized companies can receive permits. I was very lucky to find a spot with a group for my hiking experience so close to my birthday. The Inca Trail is among the most expensive and is undoubtedly the most exclusive hiking route to Machu Picchu; other options like the Salkantay or the Lares treks allow travelers to book mere days in advance and pay a fraction of the price. But I was fixated on the classic Inca Trail, that connected hauntingly beautiful archaeological sites, breathtaking views, and heart-pounding mountain peaks.

MY SOLO TRIP MOVIE 

Thousands of my followers on Instagram were present with me virtually on my IG stories daily and kept sending me their love, best wishes and all the motivation I needed to go on this journey all by myself. It is unfair to log all of this by simply putting it in words and pictures, so I made sure that I can share this Lifetime Experience with all my readers and followers through a short movie that I made through my Go pro Hero 5 camera (P.S This is my first attempt to creating a Travel movie, I hope you like it)

Cusco

I landed in Cusco, a vibrant city located in the heart of the Peruvian Andes Mountains, 2 days prior to my hike to acclimatize to the altitude. Cusco is located at an altitude of 3,400 meters (11,200ft), and I came from Houston’s altitude of 24 meters (80 ft.) ! Within hours of arriving I started to notice the difference in my breathing.

 

 

Once the capital of the ancient Inca Empire, this mountain city is steeped with Inca and Spanish history and overflowing with Peruvian culture. From the breathtaking architecture and lively artisanal markets to the friendly faces and delicious local cuisine, it didn’t take long before I fell in love with this city.

After checking into my hostel, I headed to get some breakfast, where I met with two young people who too were travelling solo like me from Germany and Mexico. It has always been easy for me to start up conversations and make friends with likeminded people. The three of us headed out in the morning for a day hiking trip around the city and exploring the streets and neighborhoods of Cusco. To my surprise and delight, I made it around the city, despite being ridiculously out of breath every time I attempted to climb upstairs. Other than a bad headache, I was in pretty good shape. I drank copious amounts of coca tea and tried to rest in the afternoon once I got my room keys at 2 pm, almost 6 hours after my arrival. Honestly, I was very exhausted from my travels as I first landed in Lima and had a 6-hour layover to Cusco starting at 12 am in the night, which meant I was travelling and had been awake for almost 14 hours.

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My headache had been bothering me a lot for the first 2 days and to keep my attention diverted from it, I continued exploring the city on my own by visiting the top attractions closer to my hostel like the Plaza de Armas, Cathedral of Santo Domingo and the San Pedro local market. I loved shopping around the cute souvenir shops for colorful hats, scarves, amongst other things. Also, I made sure to enjoy the authentic Inca vegetarian meals on the upper floor with a balcony seating of two different restaurants placed at ancient colonial buildings overlooking the gorgeous Plaza de Armas.

The next day I met my guide for the pre-trek briefing. He was funny, with smiling eyes he reassured me that the symptoms of altitude sickness would pass and that trekkers with a good level of fitness would have no problems once they were off trekking. At the back of mind, I couldn’t help the nagging of self-doubt that was creeping through me. However, I kept my calm and mingled with my lovely group members. I made sure I had enough snacks and water for my hike so I went shopping for some chocolate, cookies and chips, (comfort food at its best.) Of course, I had the healthy granola bars stocked too.

Inca Trail to Machu Picchu

My expedition company picked me from my hostel at 4 am and we took a bus to the train station to leave on the 6:10 a.m. train, from Ollantaytambo. This is one of the most magnificent train rides in the world, with its phenomenal views of the Urubamba River, the soaring snow-capped mountain peaks and cornfield farms.

 

 

After the train ride our group met with our porters and chef and enjoyed the breakfast before we prepared for our hike. Our hike was challenging but rewarding and honestly manageable as we were all coursing with energy and excitement.

Chachabamaba was the first ancient Incan checkpoint for entering to the Inca trail. While hiking I would stop and look around the breath-taking scenery and the stunning landscapes. I knew then that over the course of the next two days, I would never fail to be moved by the beauty of my surroundings. After the first three hours of climbing we reached the most famous Inca site along the trail, Wiñay Wayna.  This site was a teaser to what was coming at Machu Picchu and I couldn’t have been more excited. Wiñay Wayna consists of two constructions, one is located on the top, and the other is below that, united by a type of stairways, where you can see some of the terraces used for agricultural activities.

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Wiñay Wayna.

We took a break near the site and were served delicious buffet style Inca meal by our chef and porters. The variety of vegetarian options had blown my mind and I was pleasantly surprised by the local recipes.

We headed towards the Sun Gate for another round of an uphill and downhill hike. (The Sun Gate was used by Incas to observe the sunrise from Machu Picchu during the summer solstice.) It started to rain on our way. Now, I always end up forgetting to pack something or the other during my trips and this time it turned out to be Poncho! However, I had my rain jacket that gave some protection in a rain forest. (some)

 

 

We stopped on our hike a few times to spot the beautiful orchids and plants, click some pictures, grab a breath and just like that on one of our stops, an Andean Bear also known as Spectacled Bear jumped out in front on our trail a few feet away from us and ran away into the forest. We got just a brief glance of the animal. While most of us initially thought it was a big black dog, our guide confirmed that it was a BEAR! This was one the most exciting episodes of my hike and was just adding up to this once in a lifetime experience.

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My amazing group , with whom I met as a stranger and we ended the hike as friends!

Once we reached the Sun Gate I got to experience the climax of our hike with the dramatic dusk and the stunning views of the Ruins of Machu Picchu! The air had retained all the grandeur and mystery around this gorgeous site. The elegant Sun Temple, the surreal Royal Mausoleum, the monolithic shrines of the Sacred Plaza and the mysteriously carved Intihuatana stone. I was in awe of this wonder and proud of my journey. Never again would I recapture that feeling, the pure wonder and elation at being there. My moment, alone, on the mountainside, feeling like I had discovered Machu Picchu for myself.(This ancient city was never revealed to the conquering Spaniards and was virtually forgotten until the early part of the 20th century)

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The next day we hiked back at 6 am from our camp site to Machu Picchu, this time to explore the site with a guided tour and know all about its fascinating history and see the sun rising from the site. I can’t effectively describe what I saw before me. I’d seen it on so many websites, in guidebooks and on countless social media pictures, but nothing prepared me for that view. I breathed in the fresh morning air and gazed at the 600-year-old citadel. Gradually the sky grew lighter and I gasped as the first rays of sunshine touched the tips of the ruins. This was it, my magic moment – sunrise at Machu Picchu. I explored the ruins for few hours with my group, got some great pictures and selfies with the Llamas and then headed for a short hike to the Inca Bridge. The Inca bridge, which is constructed of a few narrow logs perched above a sheer vertical drop – is believed to have served as a secret entrance to Machu Picchu. The trail to the Inca Bridge wraps around the backside of Machu Picchu Mountain in the opposite direction of the Inca citadel.

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After exploring the ruins for from 6 am to 1pm we headed back to Cusco in our private van, it was a long journey with beautiful views of the Andes and the countryside. This time I choose to stay in a traditional boutique hotel with a bigger bed and an attached bathroom! I had been wet, cold, hot, sweaty and exhausted from the hike and needed some extra comfort. I was travelling back home the next day and after stuffing everything in my back pack, I headed to a spa for the best 90-minute massage and some last-minute shopping.

Truly, what an amazing experience this has been! What a fantastic gift I gave myself. This Solo journey to Cuzco, Peru and trek to Machu Picchu is one of the most valuable collection of moments and experiences that has added depth and value to my life and who I am. I have realized to live a fulfilled and meaningful life, you must live it yourself. I finally found the courage and willpower to go on this trip by myself. This adventure was impossible without the support of my amazing husband as he watched our toddler for 7 days while I was gone! (Parent of the Year)  Thanks to my family and friends who supported me and sent me all their love and best wishes to do my dream hike.

I hope this inspires you to do your dream trip by yourself when you are ready! If you are planning a trip to South America, you must stop at this world wonder and see it with your own eyes. I can’t wait to get back there sometime soon.

( In my next post I will be sharing more details on my trip details , recommendations, logistics etc with links)

XOXO

Arushi (2)

Airplane Busy Bag Must Haves + Tips on Flying Internationally with a Baby or Toddler

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A recent pic from our Portugal travel diaries. (Pena Palace,Sintra)

Me and my husband love to embrace adventure and explore new places. The idea of exploring this big beautiful world with our toddler is exciting.  Yes it takes a lot of work, time, patience and planning and no doubt it gets difficult sometimes too. But, then anything difficult has the opportunity to help you grow. I have realized after travelling to 4 countries and total of 6 destinations this year with my son,  that each trip comes with new challenges and learnings.

In this post I will be sharing all the different techniques l learned from our past travels for not just surviving but thriving with a growing toddler on our travels.

In April we travelled to Switzerland & Amsterdam for 2 weeks,(Post here with our travel pics and more tips) Our son was 10 months old at that time . His major food source was formula, he was crawling and standing with support and was understanding just a few words. This is a good age to travel as they sleeping comfortably in the stroller.

My learnings from that trip was –

  1. Always carry at least 2 days worth of formula or milk in the carryon luggage, to avoid shopping for your baby’s food in a foreign land (with packaging in foreign language) since they are chances your baggage can be delayed
  2. Try to take only red eye flights so your baby can sleep in your lap and not be awake throughout your ten hour journey
  3. Every country is not baby bathroom friendly (We faced this issue in Amsterdam). It was almost impossible to find a restroom that had a changing table in the city.

In July we travelled to Los Cabos, Mexico (Our Vacay pics are here ) for a 3 day getaway when our son was 13 months, almost walking,  drinking cow’s milk and eating real food.

My learnings from this trip was-

  1. Always carry extra food on the flight or places you visit at your destination -like bread, cheese, fruit or any other snacks, as you will run out of them especially if your kid throws everything on the floor. Be prepared if you have a picky eater at this age.
  2. Plan your day trips around the kid’s nap schedule so they can be happy when you plan to step out, since a tired kid and cranky kid can cause stress if you are miles or hours away from your hotel.

In September we travelled to Seattle for a 4 day trip, where Vir was walking, eating well and understanding many words and communicating with us.

My learnings from this trip was

  1. Even though kids are tiny and can fit in your lap easily, it is a good choice to get their own seat for more comfort. (I carried a pillow with me on the flight on which our son comfortably laid across me and my husband )
  2. Once they learn to walk, it will be hard to have them seated in a stroller for long periods of time, so be prepared to carry them in a baby/toddler carrier or in your arms half of the time when you are sightseeing or shopping.
  3. The best way to keep them excited about visiting new locations is to allow them to explore it by running around in a safe place and burn all that energy. Once they are tired they eat peacefully and want to sit in the stroller.

 Post these travels I started to plan ahead of time on what I need to do for our recent vacation to Portugal. We were now aware of all possible scenarios   – covering in flight entertainment, meal preps at destinations, planning the day trip around the toddler’s schedule, dealing with jetlag , expected crankiness  and meltdowns at public spaces etc.

However my biggest concern this time around was to handle the 14 hour journey with an extremely active and energetic 18 month toddler.  Unfortunately we didn’t get a red eye flight from Houston to Lisbon and for that reason I worked on my BUSY BAG solution to keep my little guy occupied with the least amount of screen time possible.

Below are the items I used in the busy bag that was a huge success in keeping my little one entertained.  Honestly, I was so happy my tricks worked and we had a smooth journey.  Also as expected my son didn’t sleep the entire flight, which means I had to keep him engaged for over 14 hours.

15 Dinner Ideas for You and Your DadToys

I only pack items that are small and can be sorted, stacked, or otherwise moved from place to place. My son’s favorite are his pull back Cars from My B toys  (good for play at the airport ) Finger puppets, legos , a musical remote,  wooden activity board were a huge hit too. The buckle toywas a new toy we introduced on the plane, it’s great for learning basic skills and kept Vir busy for over 15 minutes.

Books

Small board books with flaps are great to engage also try getting new books so it keeps them interested , I really like this Water coloring On the Go book

Craft Play

Play Dough is low mess and easy to pack , my son tries to eat it but he enjoys cutting it and pressing it too. You can also get felt activity books.

Games

Flashcards are fun and also cheap, easy to find at the dollar store or at Target dollar bin, I never feel sad about losing half the cards by the end of the trip). (They’re great for quizzing her on words and sounds, and making piles to stack and counting the cards as we put them back in the box (that’s a game, right?)

SNACKS

Anything bite-sized is perfect for little fingers…plus, it stretches out the snacking time twice as long. YOU CAN NEVER HAVE TOO MANY SNACKS. I probably pack twice as many snacks as toys, because snacks double as entertainment. When it doubt, get out the snacks. I always carry the Oat bars from Happy Baby, raisins, fruit, cheerios , yogurt and for long haul flights even get homemade pasta, veggie sandwich or  veggie muffins(Recipe here)  and very importantly Horizon organic low fat milk. Always carry extra milk and yes these packs are allowed in flight in carry on luggage along with any other baby food.

Random Things like

Glow stick was very helpful to divert his attention if he was cranky and great play when it got dark on the flight. Stickers are fun to carry too.

Screen time (And yes the ace in your bag of tricks when everything fails )

Let’s face it. As much as I try to avoid giving our toddler the tablet, it’s going to happen on travel days. We expect a lot out of our little guy and we definitely push our limits of what a little body can handle, so I find that bending the rules and treating him to the Amazon Fire HD tablet and his favorite snacks is the least we can do to help ease the stress for everyone involved.

Downloads Shows  from  Amazon Prime or Netflix, Little Baby Bum, Super Simple Songs, Word Party, and Sesame Street are a few of our favorites.

Fun and educational Apps like Peekaboo Barn, PBS kids, Happy Valley Friends and Sago Mini Truck and Diggers are few of our favorites.

I completely forgot to carry headphones for my kid , so definitely going to carry them on our trips moving  forward .

Here is more information and tips on travelling with kids.

A pediatrician’s advice on caring for your child’s health while travelling

How I survived a long haul flight with a lap child

How I prepare to leave my Breastfed baby for a work trip

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Vir wanted to stand for sometime and play on his ping board in the flight

Hope this post was helpful, please do share any tricks or tips you have on travelling with kids. Please feel free to leave me your questions and I will get back to them as early as I can .

XOXO

Arushi (2)