Julia Ashwood is certainly your go-to girl for all things globetrotting. She set up her popular travel website, aptly titled The Vista, after a career spanning fashion marketing, advertising and TV, and now shares her unique take on “wanderlust” travel with a dedicated army of followers who not only want her fresh take on holiday advice, but also share her passion for often choosing the road less travelled...
Julia now mixes business and travel with being a mum to 17-month-old Delilah Bee, and while travelling with kids is never easy, we were delighted to hear her tips on making the entire process as smooth as possible (hint, it’s all about the snacks). Read on to hear more from Julia on living the slow life in Byron Bay, where some of her favourite travel destinations are and how she tackles the perils of parenthood with everyday life…
How would you describe yourself in three words?
Busy-minded, dreamer and wanderer.
What type of mother are you - strict, routine, carefree, relaxed?
Very relaxed indeed (hopefully not too relaxed), my friends reiterate this!
Can you tell us how The Vista came about - what prompted the career change?
After years and years of working in careers in fashion marketing, advertising, TV and events, all my soul cried out for was to travel. I did my best to create a platform around this – as they say, “if your dream job doesn’t exist, create it!”. We now create travel guides, curate exclusive retreats and review hotels and stays worldwide.
How did you learn the ins and outs of running your own website - did you take any courses, get career advice, employ help?
I really feel that everything in my life course really lead me to this point. Designing and creating websites was one of them, as well as producing shoots and events. If there are certain ingredients which I can’t handle I will always bring on board a freelancer to help out. I worked with a designer named Matt Pike to bring together my first website which was a simpler Squarespace site, and my husband has a great knowledge of InDesign which helps. The designer of our new interactive travel guides is the wonderful Michelle Jackson who also works for Elle magazine as a designer.
You travel often, and now with a beautiful daughter in tow - how have you handled the change from travelling relatively carefree to now with a baby? How do you handle the challenges travelling with a baby brings?
There’s no denying that it changed things – for instance, you must be very organised, and account for a lot more baggage! Delilah is a wonderful traveller and all in all, it has actually been the most beautiful thing to experience travelling with her – she opens our eyes to the smallest or most humble details which are often overlooked.
Can you tell us some of your favourite destinations to travel to and why (with and without kids)?
I just returned from a seven-day wellness retreat at Talalla Resort in Sri Lanka, actually my very first solo holiday post becoming a mum. It was brilliant. The type of holiday I would only hope all mums could take one day. No cooking, no cleaning, and as much as we adore them (no babies or young ones swinging from my limbs!). All set in a tropical sanctuary on a private beach with crystal clear water, fabulous food and yoga – it was pure heaven!
Since DeeDee was born last year we have travelled to Tasmania, Kauai, LA and the Mornington Peninsula. Kauai was spectacular, however, all of these trips held very special moments for us, especially in nature. We always tend to avoid the cities and naturally head for the mountains and the beaches. We are yet to embark on a trip longer than 14 hours in the air, I am indeed psyching myself up for that one!
How do you juggle work with motherhood at the moment?
I have funnily enough found myself more efficient since having a little one. My mother lives nearby and often takes her one day per week around her work as an interior designer. Matterson has a mobile bar business for weddings and events, “Dead East Bar Co’ in Byron Bay, so is often away from Thursday to Sunday. We then juggle time with her during the weekdays. She now (fingers crossed) will sleep three hours during the day, once in the morning and once in the afternoon and it is quite surprising just how much I can fit in within a power session.
We have set up a small office off the side of the house with lovely light, breeze and music to escape to. Somehow between us we make it work, because you just have to!
What’s the best advice you’ve received about motherhood, and what piece of advice would you pass on to any expectant or new mums?
From the moment they are born they will be calling the shots. You can only do you best to be flexible and relaxed. It’s a wild ride but worth every moment.
The best advice? My good friend Mia once told me regarding weaning… “don’t offer milk at night, avoid waking up, warming bottles and soothing. Instead, when they wake during the evening offer water, it’s simple, easy and will potentially stop them from waking and being rewarded with warm comforting milk”. We took this on board and it worked a charm – however, I know every child is completely different and you can only do what works for you!
Can you tell us about your own childhood - where did you grow up?
I grew up 20 minutes from my home now in Lennox Head. A sweet little fishing and surfing village which is now quite popular yet not as busy as Byron. My family had a farm so we never travelled at all. It wasn’t until my first boyfriend who was a competitive surfer, did I manage to jump on his coattails and start journeying all over the globe. From that point on I was addicted to seeing, knowing and experiencing more.
Tell us about your recent move from Sydney to Byron Bay…
Before moving home, I had almost 15 years in between Sydney, New York and LA. I was actually offered a wonderful role with Free People in USA whilst on honeymoon, yet soon found out I was pregnant with Delilah Bee, so returned here to the Byron Hinterland a long way from the city. I love this North Coast lifestyle, sunrises at the beach in our farmhouse. There is nothing better and I really miss it when I am away.
Motherhood brings a lot of joy but also a lot of challenges, how do you tackle the not-so-easy side of being a mum?
Meditation! And talking it out… communication is so important – I’m lucky that my partner and I can laugh about most scenarios, because if you can’t who will! Talking with other mums and getting firsthand advice, especially in those early days is so helpful as well.
Social media can often give an unrealistic view of motherhood, as a lifestyle blogger and influencer do you often feel pressured to only show the glossy side? How do you handle mixing reality with expectation?
In terms of Instagram, I actually have a personal account ‘Julia Ashwood’, which perhaps shows a few more “ups and downs” of being a mum in the 21st century! I do like to keep The Vista business minded, however, we ALWAYS will focus on authentic travel and a genuine voice. I certainly believe people will see through this if you don’t keep it real.
What makes you feel stressed (and how do you handle it)?
I mentioned mediation earlier, this is such a simple and powerful everyday tool. I know it’s difficult as a mum to find 1 minute let alone 20 minutes in the morning and the evening, however, if you can do it is a valuable way to just disconnect from your busy mind and reset. I also could not recommend ocean swims more highly, there is nothing that clears my head more and invigorates the whole body than a swim in the big blue.
What’s your approach to health and wellbeing - do you exercise regularly, cook, meditate?
Meditation (as much as I can).
Loads of walking and bushwalking.
Nature is always my favourite remedy!
Has your relationship with your husband changed since having a baby, if so, how?
We are certainly more of a team. Sure things also get a little more serious/tired/frustrating too, but we have both never loved anyone like this before. That little girl is our world and brings us so much fun and absolute joy. Matty is a brilliant father who is patient, so attentive and gentle.
Travelling with kids can often mean a lot of extra luggage and associated paraphernalia - what are the essentials to pack for a happy baby and mum?
Snacks! Don’t leave home without them. Fruit, savoury biscuits, rice cakes, anything that keeps them occupied on a long haul flight or car ride. I’m also guilty of downloading Play School for her onto my laptop or phone – we don’t have a TV at home so it’s a bit of a treat and 20 minutes of free babysitting in an airport or at a cafe whilst you wait for your food to come.
We also have a Bugaboo pram which comes along with us to most destinations now that she is too heavy to carry. I did recently hear of a new business (Sydney only for now) called ‘Sleepy Lion’ – they will deliver car-seats, pop up cots, etc to you wherever you are to save you bringing them on your trip. Genius idea and so helpful.
Julia's little list of loves:
Ceremony hot chocolate, it’s delicious and the cacao is the perfect mum pick me up in the morning as a caffeine alternative.
My mum’s lasagna, she’s not Italian but you would certainly be suspicious after tasting how great it is!
DeeDee’s crazy laugh, it’s truly infectious.
My husband’s cooking (and cocktails), I never want to eat out because or kitchen is the best restaurant in town.