As we all know, the day-to-day routines that come with the territory of raising young children can be ... Tiresome. Repetitive. A little challenging.
It’s in those moments where many of us find ourselves daydreaming of a global getaway … Bonfires by the beach, horse riding through picturesque mountains, leisurely lunches in far-off destinations. For most of us, these remain as lofty daydreams. But for Felicia da Costa, she made it a reality. As founder of The Travelling Toddler, it seems just fitting that last year, she and her husband took off on a global adventure with their two toddlers, Alba and George. Hailing from Amsterdam and navigating everywhere from Byron Bay to Buenos Aires, this inspiring mama lived out a dream we were all-too-happy to follow along with. Felicia shared her story with us, which we know will have you ready to pack your bags for the next round-the-world flight. When that moment comes, you’ll need to jump straight on to The Travelling toddler for all of Felicia’s tips on preparing for long journeys with children, while enjoying a trip that goes beyond family resorts and water parks. Yes, we’re ready for the adventure.
Did you always want to be a mother?
Yes. Being the eldest of 4 children, I guess I have always felt a bit like a mother, especially with my youngest brother, who is 11 years younger than I am. I was like his second mom – or at least I thought so! I come from a small and very close international family, and having a family of my own one day was definitely something I dreamt about.
How would you describe the dutch style of parenting?
Well, if there is such a thing, I guess I would say that Dutch parents are quite open-minded; they treat (their) kids as equals instead of babies, which includes a lot of negotiating with them and actually explaining the ‘why’ when the answer is ‘no’. I think Dutch children enjoy a rather free upbringing. From a very young age, they get to ride their bikes or scooters everywhere, play outside without much supervision (within limits, of course!) and are allowed to publicly speak their mind. However, I do think that kids are less of an integral part of life, like in Italy or South America, for example. Think: less dining out as a family, but rather cooking them a quick meal. Or less long-distance family trips during the first few years. I’d like to think that I mix the Dutch way with some of my Caribbean roots. I am quite strict when it comes to manners and behavior, we introduce them to international foods, take them out for late dinners and try to travel as much as we can.
Was your journey to motherhood easy? Have there been any challenges and how have you overcome any challenges?
In terms of getting pregnant, we have been very lucky twice; it did not take long before I was pregnant.
Did you feel supported when you first became a mother? Did you ever feel lonely/isolated?
I actually had tons of support after Alba was born. My husband was always there, especially during the first few months. For instance, he arranged to stay at home with her once a week for a long time. It definitely helped shape their incredible bond! My parents and siblings also came to the rescue regularly, which was amazing. I found those first months incredibly hard, both with Alba and George and in retrospect, I think I just don’t handle hormones and lack of sleep very well. Even with all those people surrounding me, I still felt lonely and isolated at times. My body and mind became extremely tired and dark, which was rather scary. That’s why I am forever grateful for all the support I received.
If you could bottle one moment of motherhood, what would it be?
That’s a tough question. But if it comes down to naming only one thing, I think it’s the moments I can sit back for a second and simply watch them. The love and pride I sense in those moments are incredible. It feels like a giant wave of happiness that hits me every single time.
Talk us through your career path – what did you do before you became a mother and how long have you been blogging?
I studied International and European Law but started my career in recruitment, which I loved. After a few years, I took a sidestep to become a liquor trader, which meant I traveled a lot and worked in hardcore sales. I returned to in-house recruitment and moved on to be an independent consultant – something I continued to do after Alba was born and until I became pregnant with George. As people were always asking me for tips and tricks with regard to our travels (with a child), I decided to start my own travel website. I launched The Travelling Toddler on the day of George’s delivery! So that’s now more than three years of fulltime blogging and I love it. Currently I am involved in four exciting projects: I am a contributing editor for Trvlbees, a platform for stylish, kid-friendly and green hotels and hideaways; I cover Bonaire and Aruba for Dolfijn.go, a big Caribbean travel platform; I am one of the founding families of Born With A Backpack, a guide to travel by kids for kids; and I am editing the upcoming book on motherhood by writer Carolijn Braeken.
Was it scary giving up your work to take the time to travel?
Not at all, since part of my job is to actually travel! The perks of being a writer are that I could take my work across the world; I wrote lots of articles for magazines and platforms while traveling.
What inspired you and your husband to travel across the world? Did you plan the trip for a long time?
I spent part of my childhood in Curaçao, and it brought me so many things. Lifelong friendships, different languages, the ability to adapt and adjust at any time. For me, the memories of a carefree youth spent on the beach, the quality time with my family and the fact that I have so many international friends are invaluable. I’d love for my family to experience the same! So I want(ed) to move abroad but with my husband’s profession, it’s a tad difficult. We had been talking about traveling for quite a while and then, during one of our holidays, gazing at another incredible sunset, we decided to just go for it. This was August 2017, and we left two months later, mid-October! We still had six whole months before Alba would turn five and was obliged to go to school. So no planning ahead…
Have you met many other families doing the same thing?
Quite a few, and even more families have contacted me since, telling me we were an inspiration and that they are about to embark as well. However, I met my favorite traveling family in Buenos Aires; Alice Adele Brown, who is by far the sweetest and coolest traveling mama ever. She and her family travel a lot and are currently located in Argentina. Together with a few other traveling families, we founded Born With A Backpack.
Where did you begin your trip and where have you been?
We traveled to Byron Bay via Singapore. After a month of settling into Byron, we went on to Noosa, The Whitsundays, Jervis Bay, Sydney, New Zealand (the entire southern island and part of the northern island, including Waiheke), we flew all the way to Buenos Aires and traveled on to Iguazu, Mendoza, Chile and Uruguay, and ended our incredible journey again in Bueons Aires.
When will your trip end?
We flew back to Amsterdam in April. I still can’t seem to ground completely, but school runs and work are helping me with that!
What did you want to get out of this trip for you and your family?
We simply wanted to unwind. To spend all our time being together, just the four of us. To see parts of our beautiful world, to bond and not have to wake up in the morning feeling stressed by everything we had to do. Although I think we spent lots of time together before we left, our bond and understanding and love for each other multiplied by a million during our travels. It was everything.
What have been some moments you’ll never forget from this trip?
So many…. Our barefoot kids on the golden beaches in Byron, the farmers markets with the best coffee ever, the incredible art caravan at The Woods in Jervis Bay, Alba’s swimming lessons in Icebergs Sydney, our terrifying plane ride to the incredibly beautiful Milford Sound in New Zealand, the barbeques during sunset in Punakaiki, family ridings at El Metejon Polo Estate, our early morning jogs in Santiago De Chile, an unexpected Easter feast with new friends in Garzón, Uruguay. I could go on and on! Our kids were such happy wildlings – I still tear up when I think about those glowing dirty faces.
What’s a funny moment you’ll never forget from the trip?
Ha! During yet another rainy day in Noosa, my husband planned a farm visit in Melany. Picture pouring rain and thunderstorms, us dressed totally inappropriately (white trousers, heels … you get me) and the kids losing it because every single animal (yes, including the chickens!) scared the hell out of them. We laughed until we cried and got pictures to prove it!
Any disaster moments you’ve looked back on and laughed?
Only a few, thankfully! A rather disastrous moment was when I realised I had left part of our luggage in a taxi on the way to the airport in Buenos Aires. Including phone chargers, iPads and itineraries. Or changing a flat tyre roadside during a heavy rainstorm, after five hours of non-stop driving and vomiting kids. Oh, and a horrible apartment in Wellington, where I found quite some pieces of human nails next to the beds, a dirty toilet and a stained shower. Only to discover that the next-door neighbor was a night club, when they started playing music at 1 am and continued until 5 am. Utter bliss…
If you could revisit three places, where would they be?
Don’t make me choose! Currently I would say Byron Bay, Sydney and Santiago De Chile. And José Ignacio, Uruguay!
Best places/accommodation you’ve stayed with kids?
In Australia, it would be The Woods and Manly. In New Zealand, it would be Marlborough and Waiheke. In Argentina, it’s El Metejon, in Chile, it’s Lastarria, and in Uruguay, it’s Jose Ignacio.
What are your tips for travelling with kids?
Well, it’s because of this question that I started The Travelling Toddler! There, you will find tons of tips. I guess it comes down to a bit of planning ahead and some sort of scheme to tackle potential jet lag. I always take their favorite toys and a few small items from their room. As soon as we arrive, I fix their room(s) to make them feel (like being) at home. Their stuffed animals, some swaddles to make the beds, their favorite books. Yes, it takes some effort, but it will pay off immediately!
How do you entertain your child during long car trips or flights?
Well, when they were small, I brought lots of toys and books and snacks. However, as they got older, we allowed them to binge watch their favorite movies and cartoons while travelling. Some parents might disagree, but in my opinion, it’s a lifesaver. As long as they consider it a treat and know it only happens on special occasions, I’ll allow it. So: pack some great headphones (we use Urbanears) and make sure you download their favorites on the iPad. They also like to draw, so I always pack crayons and colouring books. I do stick to normal naps and chill out sessions, to maintain some sort of rhythm. Thus far it works every time!