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M & Em travels: Traveling solo with a 3 year old is an experience in growth.

A couple of months ago I was spending the day with my dear friend Jackie. She mentioned that her and her family were taking a trip to Maine soon. As I "oohed and ahhed," I also shared that Acadia was on my bucket list! I actually tried to book us a trip to camp there last fall; apparently me and every other person tired of being holed up in their own house because it was booked solid for months, even though it was the "off season."

Jackie's response, when hearing this? "Come with us!!" For a moment I got excited!! I told her I just might!! Then I felt bad, as if I was a tag along that was just interloping on her family's vacation. She kept prodding me about going, and I finally confessed I felt bad, and didn't want to impose on her family's trip. This was followed shortly by a phone call from David, lol, Jackie's father telling me that I was being ridiculous and that they would love to have me come. To give a little back story, Jackie is one of my closest and most unconditional friends. She's been my right hand since walking into my life many years ago, and I just do life better with her. I love her family, they are all absolute gems. How could I say no to David. I was excited again, and so was Emi!!

Off to planning I went, I'm not one to have an "itinerary" down to the minute, I like the freedom of exploring, but I do like to have an overall plan. Chris was unable to travel with us to Maine, but was going to meet us in Boston on our way home. After many different ideas discussed for our 9+hour drive to Desert Island, ME. We settled on me hitting an Air BnB just outside of Boston on the way up, travelling in the evening so Em could sleep, spending the day in Portland, ME. Then continuing on to Desert Island after dinner. I was excited for this plan, Emi could sleep for both the 5 hour drive to Boston and the 3 hour drive from Portland to Desert Island. The 9 hour drive didn't phase me, I have spent a good portion of my life on the road, often with a horse trailer behind me, my longest being 22hrs straight from Alabama to NJ to PA in a snow storm with a horse and a trailer!!! The difference was I knew I could sleep in then!! There is no such thing as sleeping in with a 3 year old that wakes with the sun, haha. So we'll call my plan self preservation, and also hoping to hit some more places on our route to enjoy.

When faced with challenges, I do my best these days to look at them as lessons. It certainly helps maintain some sanity through them, and usually speeds the painful process up. "Lesson #1" happened on day 1! I'm not even sure if I can call it "Day 1," since we hadn't even left yet. Saturday morning, upon waking, I had a concerned message from my lovely Air BnB host, Lucy. It read, "I hope everything is ok...?" I paused thinking, how weird...and then I checked my reservation information. Oh no, I booked my stay for the WRONG NIGHT!! Air BnB pros that are used to searching and "favoriting" the stays they would like to save probably wouldn't have made the mistake I made, BUT it doesn't really matter how it happened, I still booked the wrong freaking night. I sent lovely Lucy a message, letting her know my amateur mistake, and asking if she had that night available. Sadly she didn't, so here we go!!! Straight drive to Maine, ETD around 5:00pm, ETA 2:00am. What were my choices? I mean, we are still going!!! 9 hours with a 3 year old over bedtime hours is way more appealing then 9 hours with a 3 year old during waking hours, not to mention it was the best and fairest option for her. Off we went, about 30 minutes in and she was out cold.

The drive itself was fairly uneventful, detour around NYC due to traffic and accidents, but all in all straight forward. I caught up on some lectures for school and listened to some great speakers for most of my drive. Emi woke for an hour when I finally stopped in Southern Maine for gas. She was pretty excited so it took some time, some contortionist hand holding, a few tears, some singing and then counting until she finally fell back asleep. Alas, we arrived around 1:38am, to very chilly air, me carrying a sleepy kid, our refrigerator items, essentials and couldn't get in... and there it was...Lesson #2

Emi is now waking up because its pretty chilly (45 deg F) and I just pulled her out of her warm car seat. No big deal, Jackie is usually up until 3am or later (she works nights regularly), except NOT tonight! After multiple unanswered calls to "Aunt Jackie" I text her and Emi and I set off to walk around the house looking for a door or window to get in. Now my kid's teeth are chattering, she is NEVER cold! It could be 20 deg out, and she's opening our door to go wandering outside, but tonight she is shivering and chattering, and we are still locked out of the house. I consider calling Holly, Jackie's mom, but feel to bad calling at now 2am. So I get Em a jacket and a blanket to wrap around the rest of her, and back to trying to break in, lol. Thank goodness I had pictures of the house so I knew it was the right one!

I had resigned myself to the fact that we might be sleeping in the car, no big deal. Em and I can pretend that we are camping. Something told me to try the door one more time. It was an old in-swinging french door with a slide bolt on the inside of it. Well, on this last attempt it pushed open, slide bolt still slid out into the locked position, only a little chewed wood where it was forced open, and in we went. Emi was pumped! She excitedly walked around the house to put food away in the fridge, checking out our bedroom and we pushed our beds together. I thought, "She's never going to sleep," but amazingly she did! And woke up brightly just after 5am... ah yeah, there's that lost sleep (for me), but I have to be honest, we were both pretty excited to wake up and look out

the window to the woods and the water. Let our Maine vacation begin!

Now, Emi absolutely ADORES Aunt Jackie, but she hasn't really spent time with her family, and she is a bit shy. I wasn't really sure how the week was going to go, but I knew that however it went, everyone would roll with it. Thankfully it only took about 15-20 min to warm up to David, the only other person up in the house with us every morning at sunrise lol. She quickly warmed up to everyone else, especially Jackie's sister in-law Shanna. Shanna was definitely the "cool kid" to my kid. This obsession bought me 40 min to myself to run to the grocery store while Emi stayed and hung with Shanna. Emi was pumped, Shanna probably not as much :) but she was great with her.

I was proud and amazed at how awesome Emi was on this trip. She fit right in with everyone, went hiking with us every day, loved on the dogs, helped me make some meals, browsed around Bar Harbour, picked out her own gifts for family with her own money, she loved every second of a 2 hour boat tour, and was just a complete and total joy.

With out taking away from that, I have to be honest and keep it real. You would think I should have been having the time of my life, but each day I felt more and more mentally and physically tired. When we were out and about hiking I felt great, but otherwise I was a bit on the struggle bus. There was a hike I really wanted to go on, but the one day that everyone set out on it, I knew that my kid just needed a day to be a kid. To play games, to have an empty quiet house and play with the dogs. So we took that day to hang back and did just that. Played, acted silly, had imaginary play, took a walk outside the house, played with the doggies, she was happy!! I was happy she was happy, but I was one step more on the struggle bus.

You would think I was in beautiful Maine, with my amazing little girl who was an absolute gem, and out in nature, what more could I ask for??

Well those lost hours of sleep for one, some exercise or mindfulness, and probably just a few minutes each day to myself. In the moment I knew I wanted and needed something physically challenging, hiking was beautiful, but I was always watchful of Emi, and in a group. I told myself I should do a work out, but was being a wimp about it. So, what usually happens when you are ignoring the things you usually need? The universe usually delivers them in an uncomfortable, yet beneficial, package.

Which leads me to our last day in Maine. I really wanted to join the hike on Cadillac Mountain, although by this point I was actually feeling really blah and low energy, and almost bailed. With out it being spoken, I know there was some concern about whether we would be able to make it up the hike with Emi in tow. Cadillac Mountain is a moderate to hard hike, involving some climbing, almost completely on rock, about 4.5 mi round trip with a 1300 ft elevation change one way. Emi is 3, she wanted to do it "by her own self." We all get out the door for the last (and biggest) hike that Em and I will take on this trip.

She's also a little tired and moody, we weren't the greatest combo at this point. The hike starts out decent.

She honestly was doing great, but definitely slowed our progress time down. She had a moment that she slipped and hit her head on my Yeti bottle, clipped on my side. She didn't fall, but the tears ensued. Tears of frustration, tears of tired, tears of overstimulation...I feel you kid.

I took a deep breath and got her to do the same. After we both cleared out some heavy energy I talked to her about getting on my back. She wasn't particularly down with it at first, but I was able to get her to agree to a temporary ride in the Ergo.

At this point I almost completely bailed. I thought to myself I'm not in the right frame of mind to tantrum our way up a mountain, I felt sluggish and fatigued, and I don't want to subject anyone else to that either. Something made me keep going, and I'm glad it did. Apparently rucking 40lbs of 3 year old up the rock side of Cadillac mountain was what I needed. It also gave me the "alone" time I needed. It was hard. It was mentally challenging and physically challenging to do this hike with Emi on my back, but once I got past that first awful phase where you want to quit I was in a flow state. It didn't matter that I was with people, I was with just myself in my own head, focus on my breath, on the step just in front of me and no more, on how the rock felt under my foot and if it moved, on the sounds around me, and on the incredible views that the North Ridge Trail up Cadillac Mountain have to offer. It was invigorating and so restorative. And the best part, my daughter loved every second of it. She ended up spending the rest of the trip up and down on my back. I'd pause sometimes to say, "Emi, do you see that?" and she would respond, "I see it Mommy, its soooo beautiful," and 'soooo beautiful' it was.

There were honestly times on the way up that I would not allow myself to look up, if I did then I might doubt my ability to make it up this next climb and keep going. There were a few sections of climbing, that made me hesitate about the idea of coming back down. Up usually seems easier then down, maybe not from a strength perspective, but in a balance and strategic perspective, it is to me. When we made it to the top I was excited, Emi was excited, I felt like I could run a marathon and I definitely wanted in on the climb back down. There she was...the real me. I got all of the things I had knew I needed, but wasn't figuring out how to make happen, thrust upon me. I'm so glad I rolled with it and didn't give up to go back to the house. Which leads me to...

Lesson #3 was to listen to my body. We always know what it needs, what we do with that knowledge will effect our physical, emotional, mental and spiritual health. I counsel self care every day, but often find myself in the same boat, struggling to make it all work sometimes.

And Lesson #4? not give up, when you are already sliding into the hole of negative energy and self talk, don't close the lid on yourself, climb back out and keep going. These moments are what we are willing to make of them. It doesn't mean I wasn't on the struggle bus, I just decided to get off and take a new route, I'm so glad I did.

I needed that reset, and everyone around me got to benefit from it. I had recharged myself, and was able to be present. Maine is absolutely beautiful. Emi enjoyed every moment of it. I thought about how wonderful it was to show her how beautiful life is, nature is, people are. What a wonderful thing for a 3 year old to experience and even better yet, appreciate. Jackie and I actually had a long talk about how important we felt that was for children on our hike back down the mountain. These types of conversations feed my soul and energy also.

We had a wonderful meal that evening, one of Emi's favorites, tacos and taco salads!! The next morning was our departure. Everyone was getting up to see the sun rise over Cadillac Mountain at 5am. That meant getting up at 4am to pack my car and get Emi out the door to join. I had planned to make it happen, but was open to it going left on me.

Well, like a horse show morning, it went right on schedule and we were out the door, packed, and on top of Cadillac Mountain for sunrise. My daughter got to see her first sunrise, over the Ocean while sitting on top of a Mountain we climbed the day before. She loved it, and so did I.

It truly is in the journey. The most beautiful views from Cadillac Mountain actually weren't from the top, but from different spots along the way. If that wasn't exactly a reminder we all needed I don't know what is.

I'm so grateful we had the opportunity. A big thanks to the Annatone Family for welcoming us on their trip to Maine! stop? Boston!!! to meet Dada on the way home

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