Now that I’m not just a traveling yogi, but a single mom-yogi-traveling-with-baby, I figure there must be more like me right? Turns out there is a nice little tribe of us carting our offspring around the world. Emily Lancaster, from Shine a Life was kind enough to tell me her single mom story, what it’s like to travel with her daughter and how she adjusts to life on the road plus one.
What’s your single mom story in a nutshell?
I am terrible at explaining things in a nutshell! I’ll try to keep this short.. Sienna’s father, Cristián, is Chilean so even before her birth we had already been through a lot of long distance and visa issues. We were very much a young-wild-and-free couple so when I fell pregnant unexpectedly (I was 22 at the time) after a year of freelance modeling and teaching English on the side in Chile, we struggled to deal with it. Cristián did come back to England with me for Sienna’s birth but he could only stay for 5 months on his tourist visa. I moved back out to Chile with Sienna when she was 7-months-old (again on a tourist visa) but I’d had 5 months alone back in England and the culture shock for me as a new mum was huge. As time went on our relationship became more and more unhealthy so I left back to England when Sienna was 13 months.
Before becoming a mom, were you passionate about travel? How have things changed since you started taking your daughter on the road?
Oh yes, so, so passionate about travel! I’m from a small rural town in the north of England so even taking the train by myself to our nearest city was a huge excitement for me from a young age. We used to spend our summers camping in France and I’d meet other kids who could already speak different languages and that really fascinated me. So as soon as I could I moved abroad. I was an au pair in Marseilles when I was 18 and went on to study at university there, I did a university exchange to Valencia, Spain and as you already know I spent a couple of years in Chile. I became trilingual in the process. Travel logistics have obviously changed and so has the expense, but traveling with Sienna just feels natural to me. She’s so used to it and takes everything in her stride.
What inspired you to start Shine A Life?
It’s funny because when I try to remember how I came up with the name, I just can’t! It just came to me I think. Shine A Life is definitely a celebration of my unconditional love for Sienna, being truly selfless for probably the first time, but also a focus on those twinkly moments in Life. You know, when you meet someone and just have an amazing affinity, or when you make a much-needed revelation. I guess Shine A Life is my little way of expressing how I take the positive from the negative, and try to live Life to the full. I’ve become quite spiritual over the past few years so I would like Shine A Life to attract like-minded people and for it to be a sharing/inspiring platform. Because we always have something to learn.
What are your top three travel tips for parents traveling with children?
My top three travel tips are definitely easier in theory than in practice which is why you need to do just that – practice them! Number one is definitely stay calm. The whole travel process is pretty stressful: packing (I still hate packing!), remembering more than just your own passport, getting through the airport etc., and that is all before reaching your destination. If you are calm, your child will be too. The times I have been totally stressed out, Sienna has also been a nightmare. Number two, try not to overpack because there is no point in struggling with your luggage and your little one. When Sienna was tiny I would pack a few diapers to last us the first couple of days to give me time to pick some up locally. If you’re going to stay with friends they will probably have a lot of the essentials you need and should understand you needing to borrow them! And finally, ask for help. No matter what it is, there will always be someone willing to help you and in my experience 75% of the time they will offer first anyway.
What has been the most emotionally challenging about lone-travel with Sienna?
It’s silly but no matter where we go I always get a twang of « what are people going to think of me for being a young/single parent? », because I know in a lot of cultures it’s quite a big deal – in England it’s pretty normal nowadays. But I would say the biggest emotional challenge is when Life throws you lemons right in that moment you set off on a trip. Last week Sienna came out with chicken pox on our visit to Phoenix, Az. Although we are currently traveling with her dad so they can spend some time together, as a parent you still get that overwhelming guilt (maybe we should have just stayed at home!?), and keeping it all together with a smile on your face isn’t easy. I’ve just accepted that Life will always throw obstacles, and you can’t take anything for granted. Thanks to having a positive attitude, and letting the universe decide, we have generally sailed through our travels together.
What are the most important values you hope that Sienna picks up from Shine A Life on the road?
I just hope that I am raising a little woman of the world and that she can find her feet no matter where she is. Sienna is only three but she has already been cooed over in more languages than I can count, been petted by hands of so many different colors and tasted some delicious flavors. I hope that being with, accepting and embracing different people from different cultures with different values will just be second nature to Sienna.
And finally, what is your dream destination with your baby? Anything coming up that you want to tell us about?
I have never been to Asia and until recently it didn’t really appeal to me but lately I’ve been thinking about how I would love to volunteer out there and teach English. It would be a dream to have Sienna in my class too! Maybe just for a 1-3 month period but I can’t see this happening for at least another couple of years. I am also a serial expat and we’re moving to Portugal in May which will be the fifth country I have lived in. Brazil really appeals to me to setup nest in the future!