How to leave your kids. Not forever – just for a few days.

This week I’m traveling across the country and leaving my kids at home with my husband for the first time ever. Preparing for this adventure has been a learning experience, so I’ll share my top 5 tips for a successful getaway.

1) Have your toddler stage a sleep strike for two consecutive weeks prior to your departure. Make sure she skips naps, and demands that you wake up and rock her for 1-2 hours every night around 3 a.m. This will help get you even more excited to stay in a hotel where you will attend your first sleeping writing conference.

2) Leave your husband a painfully detailed day-by-day, hour-by-hour agenda of household activities he needs to cover in your absence. Consider telling him when he should go to the bathroom each day, but realize that might be overkill (you can text him that info later).

3) Tell your husband that you will prepare a few meals in advance that he can feed the family when you are gone. But then forget to do it.

4) Remind your husband 40-50 times that your toddler has developed a dangerous habit of running into the street to ensure he never leaves her unattended in the yard. Incorporate this reminder into a blog post as a subtle, yet annoying, means of reminding him yet again.

5) Pack only the essentials.

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Ok, so perhaps these are more tips to avoid vs. tips to follow. Details, details.

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When you need a change of scenery

Last week we went to Texas. It was a nice break from our norm. We swam in an outdoor pool in 90 degree weather. My children will never know this experience where they live.

We saw scorpions. In the house. No thank you.

Oh – and I got the worst sleep of my life since the newborn days. Holy mother why do I bother trying to travel with children before they are old enough to hold their own in a big bed? My neck is still kinked from rocking a 25 lb+ child to sleep 3-4 times/night. Les Miserables.

On the upside I took a cool lizard photo to add to my ever-growing collection of critter pics.

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Hey National Geographic – call me maybe.

While it was nice to get away for a few days, I have an itch for a bigger travel experience. Sometimes I dream about packing up my family and moving to a foreign country to live for a while. I want my kids to experience a different culture. I want to look back and feel like we had a few solid adventures together as a family. I want an excuse to wear espadrilles.

But before I can entertain the idea any further, I am overwhelmed by how daunting the reality of that dream seems to be. We’d have to sell our house! Quit work! Find new work! And what about schools?

Nevermind. We’ll just stay put.

So I was fascinated when my friend, Erika, recently did this exact thing – but on a more flexible, short-term basis.

She was seeking a change of climate and perspective, and wanted to expose her kids to a new language and culture out of their comfort zones. She also wanted to start traveling with them at a young age so it wouldn’t seem so daunting later. Smart!

So she packed up her bags and her kids and headed to Big Corn Island off the east coast of Nicaragua in the Caribbean to live for three months.

She’s there now, and I have been living vicariously through her amazing photos.

How did she do it? What are the costs?

She rents a house for $400/month. She pays a whopping $16/month for her kids to attend a private Baptist school. And they can take a taxi almost anywhere on the island for $1.

I don’t know why, but it never crossed my mind that you could do something like this without having to completely upend your life back home. She didn’t even have to leave her job – she is working remotely from there. Granted, she always works from home so that was probably easier to negotiate than most jobs, but hey – you never know if your boss will let you fly the coop for a bit if you don’t ask.

I just think the whole thing sounds dreamy, and I totally admire that she had the gumption to do it. Not to mention, what an enriching and educational experience for her kids.

She did mention that there is no hot water, she hand washes clothes in a bin in the backyard, and the language barrier can be bumpy to navigate at times.

But honestly – I rarely shower, I wear the same clothes every day, and the majority of my conversations are with a 16-month-old child who speaks gibberish. I have never been more well-suited for such an adventure.

Just in case I never get enough of my own gumption to travel beyond exotic Texas, my friend was kind enough to let me share her story and photos here. I was inspired and intrigued by the idea, and thought maybe someone else will be too. Plus I just love travel stories and photos – and her photos are gorgeous. If you ever need a photographer in the Montana area, check her out.

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Whoa whoa whoa. Let’s steer clear of the lizard pictures, ok, pal? I think we know who owns that territory.

While the sunshine and ocean pics are lovely, hands down the best photo she has taken is the one she posted on my Facebook page with the caption “Creepy Baby sighting in Nicaragua!”

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Holy hell if ever there were a baby in need of a ski mask, it’s that one. I’ll get right on it.