The Gift of Finding Yourself

The Gift of Finding Yourself

“Sometimes you need a good challenge. Sometimes you need a great escape. Sometimes you need both.”

The Joy of Planning a Trip

Have you ever found, or perhaps re-found, yourself in travel?

A few years ago, during an intense gym session in Krakow, Poland, my friend Paulina and I made a promise to each other, we were going to Norway; neither of us had ever been. We were going to hike (and push ourselves). We were going to do it on a budget (Norway is expensive). We were going to do all of the planning ourselves (because . . . budget).

And just by verbalizing it and making a promise to each other, we made it happen. We began planning in earnest four months in advance, each researching different parts of the trip and putting it all together when we’d meet up for coffee or a long run.

Finding Yourself

At the time, my kids were 3, 5 and 7. I felt like I had been a mom for so long now that planning a trip without my kids in the picture was a bit anxiety-inducing but also immensely exhilarating. Could I really plan a trip based on all of my interests? Could I choose to do something difficult, knowing that little legs would not have to keep up? Could I actually stay up as late as I wanted, steer clear of all kid-friendly restaurants AND spend uninterrupted time with a friend?

Amazing!

Almost unthinkable.

The Unpredictable

So Paulina and I did just that. We planned a five-day hiking trip to Norway, wearing all of our gear on our backs and staying in Norwegian public huts along the way (they are phenomenal, in case you are wondering), and hiked for hours and hours on all types of terrain through stunning Norwegian National Parks.

The trail and weather conditions changed daily between when we started to plan in February up until the day we left for Bergen, Norway in June. Some hikes were not yet passable due to the winter conditions, even in early June. The Norwegian Trekking Association gurus advised us to wait until arriving in Bergen to speak with local experts to determine safe hiking routes. Because I was so used to the down-to-the-detail style of traveling with kids, it felt unsettling to arrive in Norway with five days of gear, no reservations, and no idea of where we’d be heading, but it was also freeing.

Hiking Norway

Upon arrival in Bergen, we bought a (pricey, because it was Norway) hiking map and had extensive discussions with the Bergen Trekking Association staff about what we were hoping to do and what routes to hike. They advised us of two full-day hikes, one considered a “black” or expert-level hike from Sunndal to Fonnabu Hut at Folgefonna Glacier in Folgefonna Park, aptly called the “Fjord to Glacier” hike.

The hike was stunningly gorgeous and took us from a beautiful lush forest up to icy, snow-covered rocky peaks (something we were not expecting or fully prepared for in June) to the edge of Folgefonna Glacier. After nine hours of hiking we were exhausted, grateful to have arrived, and overwhelmed by the beauty, tranquility and other-worldliness of this spot that so few others have seen.

Our second hike, a “red,” was just as challenging—if not more so—due to weather. This one was an eight-hour hike from the town of Kinsarvik to Stavali Hut through Husedalen, the Valley of Four Waterfalls, in Hardarngervidda National Park. As the name implies, we hiked past four powerful, awe-inspiring waterfalls at different elevations along the journey. Once we scrambled up massive rock face and landed in the valley, fog started to set in and the trail, marked by stacked piles of rocks every so often, became difficult to find. We did not encounter one single individual for six hours and the only people staying in the Stavali Hut that evening were us.

The Most Harrowing Part

We had to cross a wide, rushing river over which the “summer bridge” was not yet in place. The bridge sat on the land, as if to taunt us, and was definitely too heavy to push into place (believe me, we tried). So what did we have to do? Cross a wide, waist-high icy cold rushing river on foot to continue on the trail. It was not for the faint of heart. It was scary, and cold . . . and after crossing it we still had another 1-2 hours to hike until reaching the hut that evening.

This would not have happened had we hiked during the true summer season; which is July-August in Norway. Blink, and you’ll miss it! But I tell myself we’re stronger for it. It was an experience I’ll not soon forget.

Love a Good Challenge

Our trip to Norway was that, and then some. It was a reset. It humbled me in huge ways. It rewarded me in huge ways. It scared me at times. It forced me to make hard choices. There were times I was in tears because I was so tired. There were other times I was in tears because I was so proud of what I had done. And at the end of the day, I saw me for me.

Not me as a mom.

Not me as a writer.

Not me as a wife.

Not me as a former diplomat.

On this trip I wasn’t a cook, chauffeur, arbiter of arguments, trip planner, master scheduler, nor all of the other roles we play for our kids. This trip was about me pushing myself to my limits and discovering a new, unbelievable place on this planet.

We All Need Trips Like This

You don’t always have to fly half way around the world to find them but you do need to challenge yourself. Do something for yourself. Be somewhat selfish and determine what it is that thrills your soul – and do that. Maybe it’s an improv class; maybe it’s flight lessons; maybe it’s learning how to play a new instrument; maybe it’s the North Pole marathon; maybe it’s a SCUBA certification on the Great Barrier Reef. I don’t care what it is, but plan it.

Then do it!

And in doing so, find yourself. Maybe for the first time. Maybe for the second, third, or fourth time.

My trip to Norway, at 39 years old, was hugely empowering. It was a moment that I made happen. One that required bravery, pushed me, taught me and helped me realize how much I had craved and needed a dose of solo, self-reflection and validation.

Oh, and a little tidbit of information I wasn’t even aware of when planning this trip: I was pregnant at the time with baby number 4. So you know, all things are possible.

This is an original post for World Moms Network from our contributor in Ukraine, Loren Braunohler. The image in this post is attributed to the author.

Loren Braunohler

Loren Braunohler is a former U.S. diplomat turned stay-at-home mom and freelance writer. She is a world traveler who avoids the cold (don't ask why she is currently in Poland). Former assignments have included Mozambique, Venezuela, Australia, Sudan, Thailand and Washington, D.C. She enjoys running, although she probably enjoys sleeping even more. Loren blogs about her family's international adventures and parenting at www.toddlejoy.com.

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Acknowledging White Privilege

Acknowledging White Privilege

Being Latina AND white

A few years ago, I wrote an article about being a white Latina. It didn’t go down well. I’ve learned a lot about white privilege since then, and it’s definitely made me see things differently.

Through my erroneous view of how being a white Latina was a disadvantage, I learned just how much easier I had it than lots of other people. Being fair and nice to my long-time Andean maid wasn’t and will never be enough.

When I was young, I was an immigrant in the United States. I hardly spoke any English and my family shrunk from having tons of uncles and cousins around to just me and my mom. I never really noticed how being white made it easier to be an immigrant until I was much older. It was only when I traveled as an expat/digital nomad in my 30s that I came to terms with how my White Latina existence was actually a privilege.

I’m no longer blind to my white privilege and how it’s made things easier for me and my family to move around the world and get ahead. With my work in social media management, I’ve tried to look beyond my own existence and try to be as diverse and inclusive as possible in my language and content output.

Raising kids with awareness

As a mom, it’s my job to impart my children with the right knowledge of how and why their life is privileged. On this front, I can’t say I’m doing a great job. My kids need more first-hand experience with other realities of human existence. So, as a way to teach them about white privilege, I put together some resources to help.

Here are some tools:

Since I am a visual person, I collected infographics and illustrations to get the point across.

First, I found this infographic, visualizing one of the most important articles about white privilege, written by Peggy McIntosh. The infographic is by The Visual Communication Guy and I think he did a great job. The context is based around the United States but the teachings apply to any white person anywhere.

Privilege or Racism?

Here is a series of illustrations titled, A Guide to White Privilege. It simplifies the most important aspects but I feel like the biggest point is that white privilege is tied to racism in a very close-knit way. On the last slide, the artist includes suggestions on what to do with your white privilege.

Test Your Knowledge

This next video is a TEDx Talk by Lillian Medville who created a card game called Your Privilege is Showing. Her talk is a great starting point for those of us that need to learn about accepting and acknowledging privilege. Not just white privilege but also societal privileges like gender and socio-economic.

I am considering getting a copy of her card game. I’m interested in how it might help both in my work and with my kids’ relationships with all humans.

And finally, this article, written by Gina Crosley-Corcoran, titled Explaining White Privilege to a Broke White Person. It’s a personal reflection about recognizing white privilege when it’s difficult to see it.

After all of that, here is a white privilege test that anyone can take. It was created for British people, but applies to anyone. How will you score?

What’s your take on white privilege, either in the US or elsewhere in the world? Do you have a personal experience you’d like to share, from either side of the coin?

This is an original post to World Moms Network from our head of Social Media & Technology, Orana Velarde, in the Ukraine. The images used in this post are attributed to their links.

Orana Velarde

Orana is a Writer, Artist, Mother and Wife; Peruvian Expat currently living in Kyiv, Ukraine with her husband and children. She works as a writer, designer and social media manager for diverse organizations around the world.

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