By Tara Harvey
It’s not necessarily a natural connection: the years I’ve spent wanderlusting, skipping from one continent and adventure to the next, to the time I spend now in a homebound and baby-dominated stage of life. The world was calling my name from the moment I realized how much there was to discover outside of my hometown of Long Lake, Minnesota. I was lucky to have been born to parents who valued travel—be it trips abroad or more local adventures like canoeing and camping in the Boundary Waters. I studied the world through Art History in college and first lived abroad in Madrid, Spain—sparking a love affair with Latin culture.
It wasn’t until after I’d bumped around Europe on trains, backpacked through South America, taught English in Thailand and explored Southeast Asia, among other corners of the world, that I made a concerted effort to tie travel into my everyday existence. As the stars would have it, my now husband Jordan (ironically from my hometown) was journeying along a similar path. We were married in the fall of 2009 and moved to Patagonia, Chile shortly thereafter to found our company Knowmad Adventures (KnowmadAdventures.com). Five years later, we’ve built custom trips for more than 500 travelers to the Galapagos Islands and Ecuador, Machu Picchu and Peru, Patagonia and Chile, as well as Antarctic expeditions.
Our biggest adventure, however, had nothing to do with travel or business but everything to do with love. On an early Tuesday morning last December our beautiful baby boy, Trey Bennett Harvey, was born to this world. He trumped it all. This fragile, yet resilient, little life changed everything. Days suddenly had no definition and flowed into nights as a tiny tummy needed nourishment every two or three hours. The nursing, burping, diaper changing, napping, and relentless efforts to get to that ever evasive “Sleeping Through the Night” milestone were both deeply monotonous and more exciting than anything I’ve ever experienced.
Trey, nine months old now, is crawling—or I should say motoring—around making his own discoveries. He babbles up a storm, too, expressing that he absolutely despises cauliflower, wants nothing more than to “pet” our dog Luna, and thinks his mama and papa are comical geniuses (big ego boost!). Life is still filled with the new challenges a baby brings, like carving out me-time, getting enough exercise, and finding that work-life balance now that life is filled with so much. Surprisingly, I’ve found that the life lessons I learned while traveling have helped me get through some of the more difficult times as a new mother.
Relish In The Unknown.
This sounds so much easier than it is. Whether it’s navigating your way through a foreign city’s metro system, or bathing your little bebito for the first time, there is a certain amount of fear associated with all things unfamiliar. It helps me to overcome it by reminding myself that more often than not the unknown becomes a great adventure if I let it.
Evaluate Your Needs.
I actually mean bodily needs here. I once found myself on a broken-down bus in the middle of Cambodia in dire need of a toilet. The reality of that need being met was really far off—there wasn’t even a bush in sight that I could hide behind. I ended up knocking on a nearby farmer’s door asking for a “water room” in the best Khmer I could muster. My request was received with blank stares and I was handed a wrap skirt to cover myself as they pointed to their “toilet” —the backyard.
When Trey would wake up in the wee hours of the morning apparently just ravenous, it was all I could do to blindly stumble into the nursery to feed him. And then I was stuck in that chair with a full bladder, a parched tongue, and grumbling stomach, and I was always very, very tired. I could have let all those needs get in the way of enjoying those middle-of-the-night feeds but, as in Cambodia, if you put your needs into perspective it helps you to at least laugh a little at your predicament.
Patience Is A Virtue.
When we first landed in Chile to start Knowmad Adventures, our biggest hurdle was Internet service. I’m not talking about fast, really reliable Internet. I mean just the bare-bones existence of Internet. That was when we truly learned the meaning of the Chilean word trámite, which directly translates to red tape or form-filling. To obtain internet there, you also need an identification card which is possible by standing in lines at maybe four different government offices, getting papers notarized, and jumping through a bunch of other hoops. It actually took us a couple months before we were able to send out our first newsletter—now that is patience.
Similarly, with a baby, something that used to take ten minutes—like unloading the dishwasher—is now an afternoon activity. Or how about getting out the door in the dead of winter? Yep, that takes us the whole morning. It can be worth it if you stay relaxed about it, but catastrophic if you don’t.
Seize The Moment.
My most valuable life lesson learned from traveling is to seize the moment. It’s so easy to get in that mindset when you’re abroad: You may never return to that place again, and the importance of enjoying the experience and letting it truly soak in is at the forefront. The time you spend with your little one is just as fleeting, but it’s easier to let the laundry or e-mails get in the way. The old adage is so true, though; we’ll never look back at our lives and wish we had swept the floors more often!
Tara Harvey is the Co-Founder, Marketing and Operations Manager at Knowmad Adventures (KnowmadAdventures.com), a company dedicated to creating unique, private and custom trips in South America. She first traveled to South America in college and is endlessly inspired by the cultures, food, colors and idiosyncrasies she discovers there.