Trailing Spouses: Life Behind the Scenes

When I married my husband I had no idea what the term “trailing spouse” meant or that I would become one. A trailing spouse is someone who follows their spouse’s career opportunities to different cities and often abroad. While it is an exciting life that affords travel opportunities and may seem glamorous on Instagram, there is much more that goes on behind the scenes. I asked other trailing spouses (and one former trailing child) for their insights on their lives. They provided thoughtful commentary to help illuminate the ups and downs of following their partners. Enjoy reading about what they love, what frustrates them, and if they would do it again!

Helen, Former Trailing Child

Helen and her family in Greece.

My father works for the State Department, so I grew up moving all around the world. I am the oldest of four children, and we were all born in different countries. I’ve lived in Panama, Paraguay, Croatia, Austria, Virginia and Maryland, and as an adult, while living in the US, I have been able to visit my parents while stationed in Greece, Peru, Germany, and now Turkey (I have not visited them in Turkey yet).

My personality is pretty extroverted and outgoing, so growing up, I usually did okay making friends with each move. However, being social and having friends was always very important to me and caused me a lot of stress, even as a young kid. I often felt like 2-4 years at each post was just enough time to really make good friends, get settled on a sports team, etc., only to have to start all over again. Some of my younger siblings had an even harder time with this than I had, some easier. In middle school and high school I always played sports, mostly as a way to make friends. I figured if I could get on a team I would have automatic friends and a sense of belonging. Family support was huge for me, and my siblings and I were close due to our circumstances. My faith was also huge, as I knew my church would be wherever we went. I am a member of the church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and the congregations varied in size, but they were always there.

When I graduated high school and left for college, we had been living in the Washington D.C. area. That summer, my family was moving to Athens, Greece. We went to the airport together as a family, but were going two opposite directions. I flew to Salt Lake City, Utah for college, and they flew to Athens. Their plane left first, and I cried privately in the bathroom after they left until I could board my plane. Luckily, when I got to Utah my aunt was there to move me into my dorm room and get me settled, but it was hard! It certainly wasn’t the typical college send off you see in the movies! That was something I really wasn’t prepared for, how hard the moving around would be even after I was out of the house.

I have been able to have some wild experiences due to my dad’s job like meeting President Obama in the Oval Office, meeting Colin Powell at “bring your child to work day”, interning at an American Embassy when I was in college, and playing “hide & seek in our house’s bomb shelter in Zagreb, Croatia in the 90’s which my siblings and I had no idea was a bomb shelter because typically we just got evacuated. I have been able to go to some amazing “bucket list” places too, some of my favorites being Machu Picchu, the Amazon, Santorini, Salzburg, and Venice.

As a kid, I didn’t really appreciate all of the beautiful places we got to visit, and honestly would have rather been at my grandparent’s house playing outside with my cousins. My siblings and I often complained about every sightseeing trip we did, and certainly didn’t appreciate the amazing places we got to go! However, now as an adult, I am very grateful for the global perspective I believe I have, and the travel experiences I was able to have that have shaped me. I always went to international schools, so I had friends from a very diverse range of backgrounds and cultures that I believe was very good for me. Even though I am a proud American, I view myself as a global citizen and still enjoy traveling, now with my own four children.

Any advice I would give is to be patient and gentle with your children of this lifestyle. It’s hard dealing with the constant uprooting, and brings challenges you don’t even see coming sometimes. You are much more vulnerable, and “third culture kids” often make bad decisions out of a desperation for connection and friends. I was lucky that my mom was not only a “trailing spouse”, but also was a trailing child as her father was a diplomat as well. Her and my father were always very understanding of us. However, you also have incredibly rich experiences, see parts of the world some people never get to see, and great cultural experiences that will shape you for your entire life. I believe these experiences can make children become more empathetic, understanding, and aware.

Follow Helen on Instagram.

Lindsey

Our family visiting Tbilisi, Georgia while we lived in Ukraine.

I grew up outside of Seattle, Washington. I lived in the same house my whole life until I went to college in Arizona. Right after I got married, my husband received his first overseas opportunity in Germany and we jumped at it! We were so excited about the potential travel and new experiences we would have. We lived there a few years then moved back to the U.S. Before too long we found ourselves with another chance to live abroad and moved to Ukraine for about a year. After that, we moved to the Washington D.C. area where we currently live, but are looking at more opportunities back in Europe soon.

Overall I have loved this life! I love living and traveling in Europe. I have been able to see and do more things than I ever imagined. I have developed a passion for  travel and photography and I love getting to pursue them by living abroad. I have also enjoyed living in different places in the U.S. You have the opportunity to explore the region and become a mini-expert in many places. I like  “trying on” different locations to see what we enjoy, what we don’t, and what we will look for in a forever home/location. Though it’s hard to imagine anything will ever truly be forever.

My least favorite thing about being a trailing spouse is leaving friends and family. I hate saying good-bye and at times it’s hard to maintain friendships via FaceTime and Facebook. I also don’t like feeling like I’m depriving my children of growing up nearby grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins.

I was a teacher for four years before we started moving around. People always told me that I could do that job anywhere, but I have found it hasn’t been that simple. In Germany I was lucky to find an English speaking preschool to work at. However, once I had my daughter I stopped working to be home with her. When we moved back to the U.S. I was pregnant again and had  an almost 2 year old to care for, so I chose not to work. In Ukraine, my daughter’s preschool was interested in hiring me, but we knew with the amount of travel we planned to do I wouldn’t be able to commit to a regular schedule. Now we are back in DC, I am pregnant again and currently on bedrest-I’m definitely not working! I often wish I studied digital marketing, graphic design, or anything related to computers to give me something easier to do remotely from home.

My biggest challenge is finding my own niche. My husband has a career which instantly integrates him and gives him something to make him feel accomplished and productive. Sometimes I feel lost when all I have done is cook, clean, and try to prevent toddler meltdowns. I don’t have that same sense of accomplishment as a stay at home mom. It can be lonely and it compounds when you’re in a different country, can’t speak the native language, and not fully comfortable with the day to day routine.

Another challenge is the expense to move and feeling like our house is in a constant incomplete state. Everytime we move things get damaged and purged. What works in one house may not work in the next. It is always a dilemma of “do I keep this in case it works in the next place, or just get rid of it?” About 6 months before a move, I start to feel that it’s not really worth it to invest in home décor/organization because we are just going to box everything up anyway. I don’t like that temporary feeling in my own house. I keep hoping that in the next house it will feel complete, but so far it hasn’t happened.

Finding a community and something just for me are important to help me thrive in each location. I find that I am much happier when I feel integrated into a group of friends who I can relate to. Sounds obvious, but finding meaningful friendships can be a challenge. I think jumping into social events right away is very helpful. Friends aren’t going to just appear so you have to get out of your comfort zone a little. I try to say “yes” to anything I am invited to when I arrive at a new place. It might not be a perfect friend match, but you don’t know if you don’t go. At the very least it is a way to get out of the house! For example, I was never a runner and when I moved to California I joined a running group. To my surprise I ended up enjoying running and I made great friends! Similarly in Ukraine, I tried a barre class for the first time and formed lasting friendships with the other women who attended. Trying these new things gave me friendships as well as a meaningful activity just for myself.

Traveling as a family is something that I really look forward to as well. I like planning out the trip, doing the homework, and then of course exploring once we get there. Having something always on the horizon to look forward to is something that excites me and gets me through the lulls. Our daughter celebrated her 4th birthday in Paris and our son celebrated his 2nd birthday in Montenegro. Those are fun memories we will have forever!

I think it is a little early to determine how our children’s lives will be affected by this lifestyle. My daughter makes friends easily, which I think will her with all the change. My son is becoming  more and more social as well, so it will be interesting to see how he reacts to the next move. So far they have been very adaptable to each new situation. They have also learned how to be good travelers (though there are definite highs and lows there too). It is fun to see them recognize world landmarks and know that they’ve been there. I love giving them special experiences that will hopefully leave an impression, even if they don’t remember all the places they’ve been. I am happy for the education they will be afforded by being exposed to different cultures, people, and ways of life. I want them to know that there are many different ways to live and there isn’t one “right” way.

Honestly after living this way, I can’t imagine if we had just stayed in one place for all these years! There would be other benefits I’m sure, but now that we have all these experiences and memories made I wouldn’t trade it for anything!

Follow me on Instagram and Pinterest.

Haley

I grew up in the deep south of the United States. I lived in Mobile, Alabama from my birth until I went to college in Pennsylvania. I met my husband in college; we were lab partners in Physics 201. We married right after college and moved to Columbus, Mississippi for his job. After a year and a half in Mississippi, we moved to Tucson, Arizona. Next to South Korea, and Las Vegas, Nevada, where we welcomed 2 children. We then moved to Washington, DC, and Alamogordo, New Mexico. Finally we moved to Germany where we currently live and have welcomed a third baby.

I have thoroughly enjoyed following my husband’s job around the world! We have had the amazing opportunity to live in some incredible locations. I think my favorite part about the unexpected locations we have lived is the fact that you really can find community everywhere. From big lights and never quiet Las Vegas,  to a tiny, quiet town in Germany we have made some life-long friends and have been surrounded by fabulous communities. It really forces you out of your comfort zone to meet new people. If we weren’t forced to embrace some of these new locations I don’t think I ever would’ve tried them on my own. I am definitely thankful for the unexpected blessings in each location we’ve called home!

I can’t think of much I don’t like about the life we’ve been given, but if I had to choose one thing that is difficult about the trailing spouse life, it would be my career advancement. I went to school to become a meteorologist. It’s what I knew I wanted to do since I was a little girl listening to the weather radio I got for Christmas in 4thgrade. It’s a passion of mine and unfortunately, I have not been able to continue in that career field while moving to these unique locations. I was able to continue my education and pursue a career of teaching, which I have also thoroughly enjoyed. I have even been able to teach meteorology! I decided to stay home with our children after our daughter was born and it has been a true blessing for our family! I’m now the family travel-planner! One other sad aspect of this lifestyle is missing family. On the other hand they have truly enjoyed visiting us around the world!

I think my biggest challenge as a trailing spouse is stepping out of my comfort zone and meeting new people and finding a new community in each new place we settle. At the same time, I would also call this my biggest reward! I would never step out of this comfort zone if I wasn’t forced to, and I’m so thankful for all of the opportunities it has provided our family. From new friends who are like family to incredible travel experiences, it has ultimately been an incredible life for us!

A sense of adventure and flexibility have allowed us to thrive in this lifestyle. We have truly embraced all of the opportunities presented to us, and have tried to enjoy each and every move. Whether that is to the middle of the desert or to a foreign country, we have succeeded in finding opportunities for exploring all that each spot has to offer.

I think the best piece of advice for someone entering this lifestyle is to find something that can bring you joy no matter where you are! There can definitely be challenges to following a spouse around the world, but if you learn to embrace your situation and find joy in each new location, you will learn to love the lifestyle. Finding a community quickly in each new location can also help. Whether that is through church, work, or neighborhood activities, finding a community is always what makes me feel at home.

I think my children have been affected in such positive ways by moving around. They are flexible, resilient, world-travelers, and are now also bilingual! They can make friends easily and while leaving those friends is never easy, they can also say they have friends around the world. What incredible experiences they’ve had at just 6 years, 4 years, and 3 months old! Our kids can sleep anywhere, find adventure in a pile of sand or a stick and 2 rocks, and explore a museum like it’s their job. We are so proud of the kids they are and are thrilled for the opportunities this lifestyle has given them.

I might be biased, but I think the trailing spouse lifestyle is the best out there! I have everything I need in my faith and family and those can go with me wherever we live!

Follow Haley on Instagram and on her blog Where Are We Going Today.

Jules

I grew up in Germany before moving to the UK. After graduating high school I moved to The Netherlands, where I met my partner whose career means we relocate internationally.

I love seeing the world not as a tourist but actually living in different countries and experiencing mundane everyday life. I like that whenever you move you get to explore a new side of yourself. In a way, wherever you go you get a fresh start and can “reinvent” yourself.

My least favourite thing, especially now that we have a son, is the fact that we want our little one to have a home and friends and we feel he is missing that. My husband and I are still in touch with some of our childhood friends. We feel that we take that away from him as he is growing up as a third culture kid.

Currently I am a stay at home mom, but our next assignment location will be the UK. I am legally allowed to work there and am keen to look for employment, even if it’s a part-time role. I am not focused on a career at this moment. I just want to have a professional life, colleagues, and not be fully financially reliant upon my husband.

One of the biggest challenges is you often cannot make choices about how and where to live. At the moment we are waiting to relocate to the UK and the employer will choose our housing. I wish we had more control and input. I am over living in furnished houses. Sometimes they are not according to our taste and then you have to live in a house that never feels like home. It feels like living in other people’s “old junk” or sometimes a stylish hotel, which is not really suitable for babies.

The advice I would give a new trailing spouse is not to expect a life full of glamour and travel. Often it’s lonely and you have to be very independent and self-reliant. But, if you get the chance to experience life abroad DO IT, GO! You will not regret it, as overall the adventure and memories will outweigh the bumps in the road. Always remember the days are long, but the years are short!

Follow Jules on Instagram and on her blog Shades of Courage.

Camille

Hi! I’m Camille, the voice behind Get Globetrotting. We are frequent home exchangers based in LA. We exchange our home with other families in the country/world most months. I run an Instagram account aimed at helping other parents find affordable things to do with their children at home and abroad. I also work one-on-one with clients to help them plan budget international trips. My overarching goal is to help parents find joy and fulfillment by making travel a part of their lives!

We’ve lived in Utah, San Francisco, and now LA. We have traveled all over the world by exchanging our homes with other families. We follow my husband’s career. I am primarily a stay-at-home mom but I work outside the home as a nurse 1-2x a week.

I knew I wanted to primarily stay at home with our children. Because of this, we decided to send my husband to grad school 2 years ago meaning he would have a higher earning potential of the two of us. We think of ourselves as a team. He recognizes the sacrifices I make to help him excel in his career and I am grateful to him for providing a good living for our family. However, I do sometimes struggle with him receiving awards, promotions, and recognition while I put aside my career for a time to raise our kids!

We aren’t a nomadic family because my husband has a typical 9-5 with every other Friday off and a fair amount of vacation time. He really likes his job and we’ve investigated remote work, but nothing ever felt right. I work 4x/month any day of the week I choose so I can build my schedule around our travel plans pretty easily. Also, I am working on building my travel planning, Instagram, and photography business so I can do that from pretty much anywhere! We also own our home and it’s a good investment for us plus we can exchange it for other homes.

One of my greatest challenges is struggling with doing the same thing every day and I miss the stimulation of talking to people that aren’t children. I try to remedy this by planning outings with friends and daydreaming about travel. Every time I go to the hospital to work I cannot stop chatting with all the adults!

Communication has been key to thriving for me! My husband is really good about hearing me out, even when my concerns are completely irrational. I try to treat his successes as my own because it’s me doing all the behind-the-scenes work! We also have a good divide of chores at home so I don’t feel like I am constantly doing housework.

I would tell other trailing spouses to communicate with your partner. Recognize that the work you do may not be recognized by the world, but that doesn’t make it any less important. Find something that you love to do that has absolutely nothing to do with childcare and make time for it. You may resent your spouse sometimes and that is OK. Just don’t let it consume you. Talk about how you’re feeling; don’t hold it in.

Marriage is a team sport! Today women are told they MUST work or they are not fulfilling their potential. But the great thing about being a woman now is that we get to choose the life we want. If you choose to be a trailing spouse, a stay-at-home mom, a working mom, or some combination of them all, realize that those choices are between you and your spouse. Keep your sense of self-worth because the work you’re doing is just as important as the work your spouse is doing. As Eleanor Roosevelt said: “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.”

We keep a house in order to provide stability for our son. We want our child to have one place he feels grounded. We were both raised in a really traditional manner and we wanted that for our kids. But I do get jealous of others I see online who have freedom to move around as they wish.

Follow Camille on Instagram and her blog Get Globetrotting.

I always love to hear your comments and questions! Please feel free to say hi below! Don’t forget to follow abroadwife.com for more; you can also find me on Instagram and Pinterest!

Starting Move Preparations

The move prep has begun. We are roughly 6-7 months out. An exact move date has not been set but we know the window. I’ve been researching our next city for a little while. I’m trying to connect with other moms of young children who are currently there or have left recently. One of the big dilemmas I’m having is figuring out a stroller.

I’ve read 2 different lines of thinking in terms of the city. Some recommend a sturdy stroller with big wheels to navigate the less than stellar sidewalks. Some recommend something lightweight and easily folded because there are reportedly a lot of stairs leading to metro stations and underground walkways. So do you see why I’m a little unsure? To me, sturdy big wheeled strollers don’t normally seem very light and easy to fold up!

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Our current stroller, not exactly easy to carry or fold up!

I’m leaning toward the lightweight stroller side. I just can’t imagine carrying my current full sized stroller up and down stairs and controlling my 2 small children at the same time. My daughter would probably be fine, but my little guy will be just over a year at that point, probably not an expert walker.  I’m thinking of trying to find a double McLaren umbrella stroller. My daughter can walk most of the time, but I think having the option of the extra seat will be good on days we’re traveling and out and about all day long.

The other “project” that has been occupying my mind is buying clothes ahead for the kids. I’ve been told that children’s clothing where we’re going is not the quality we’re used to and/or expensive for what it is. So it was suggested to me to try to buy ahead and bring a good amount of clothing with us. I’ve been playing the guessing game with what sizes I think they will each need, and it’s hard!

Since the place we’re going will be very cold in the winter (and will have a long winter) we need warm coats, hats, gloves, snow suits, boots, etc. I have warm coats for just everyday wear but still need to find ones that will be suitable for snow. I have yet to order boots for either one. I’m scouring sale racks, asking friends/family, and watching resale pages to see if I can find any deals.

It seems sort of silly that I’m thinking so much about this. Surely if we don’t have enough clothes, or don’t find an item it can be purchased there. There’s always the option of ordering things once we get there but I have no idea how long it would take for the shipments to arrive. So for now, I’m doing my best to stock up! I debated adding a picture of the stash I’m building but it’s currently a messy pile in a messy closet!

We have completed physicals for everyone to make sure there’s no medical issues that would need special attention. Lucky for us, we seem to be good to go! Next up is passports. Which reminds me I need to check mine to see how many empty pages are left. We’ve been slowly purging and organizing the garage (which still has a LONG way to go). We’re making notes of boxes that are going to storage, and boxes that are coming with us. We have crammed the most essential Christmas items into a Rubbermaid tub. “Christmas in a box” as we’re calling it.

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I read a post that talked about these labels being a lifesaver during a move. Hoping the color coding of boxes and rooms will make things easier.

So that’s where we’re at now. I will try to keep updating on our progress for anyone who’s interested in what goes into an international move. Have you moved abroad before? What are your best tips?

Christmas Markets

In Germany, right after Thanksgiving begins the anticipated Christmas Market season.  Cities all over Germany have festivals to celebrate the season.  Last year we visited Cologne and Dusseldorf for their Christmas Markets.  This year we stuck with some smaller more local villages.  The first was Bernkastel-Keus.  We had visited earlier in the year for a wine festival and liked it so much, we decided to go back!

To keep you warm while you wander the town through the cold, it is practically mandatory that you get a glass of gluhwein (hot mulled wine).  They come in special glasses that would actually make great gifts or souvenirs.  Honestly it’s not my favorite drink, but it does warm you up!

Giant Christmas Pyramid, these are very typical decorations here.  Most of the time they have places for candles, and the heat from the flame makes the fan on top spin.

The other market we went to was in Sankt Wendel.  First stop was the medieval market area, where they kept the camels!  Part of this market was Middle Eastern themed, and you could see the three kings in costume tending to their camels.

Some Middle Eastern snacks near the tea tent.  They even had mint tea like we had in Morocco!
Blacksmith hard at work.

This market also featured a small toboggan run, with snow from the Alps!  The kids seemed to be having a great time.

In Germany Santa wears Addidas sneakers.
Santa’s reindeer.

 Every afternoon there is a parade through town.  The three kings ride the camels, there are jugglers, people playing instruments, etc.  It’s pretty exciting to see the camel parade come by!

Both markets were a lot of fun.  I would happily return to both!  I hear Sankt Wendel has a great Easter Market as well, but we will be gone during it.  Christmas Markets in Germany are a wonderful way to really get into the Christmas spirit.  It’s so nice to spend time in a decorated village, hanging out with your friends and family over some gluhwein than it is to rush around a crowded mall buying presents.  I think America should adopt Christmas Markets, the Europeans are really onto something here!

Preparing for the Next Adventure

When we found out we were moving to Germany, we were ecstatic.  It was our first choice of available options, and it seemed like the opportunity of a lifetime, neither one of us had been to Europe before.  It was our chance to explore and take in all the continent has to offer.  We also knew it would be temporary.  We would eventually return to the U.S. This took a little bit of the fear factor away.  It would just be a one time fun adventure we would get to experience as newlyweds without children.  While we were living there, a few things changed.  We started our family and we made a career shift that would take us into a lifestyle where living abroad would become the new normal.

Many of our friends and some members of our family have a hard time relating to why on earth we would want this lifestyle.  There’s many reasons behind it.  Most of all is the idea of taking opportunities to see and do things you would’ve never imagined you would do!  Do we like being far away from the people we love-of course not. But I don’t know that either of us would have been totally fulfilled by settling down into one place just yet. We’ve been bitten by the travel and adventure bug and there’s so much out there to see and do. Besides, I think neither of us is quite sure exactly where we would want to put down permanent roots yet.

Since we have been in California, we have known that we will eventually be returning to Europe, we just were not sure exactly where we would end up.  It’s been always in the back of our minds.  We’ve been toying with different scenarios and possibilities.  Musing of what might be, and wondering when we would know for sure.

Well, we found out where the next stop in our crazy abroad life will be.  There’s a mix of emotions happening.  Excitement for the possibilities.  Relief that other expats have good things to say about this city and country.  Fear for the unknown. Nervousness about a new language and new culture. And also managing the fears, questions, and expectations of friends and family.

So what’s next?  We have almost a year to prepare, so how do you start?  With Google, Facebook, and Pinterest!  Researching, reading articles, message boards, finding people to reach out to.  Right now we are gathering big picture pieces of information.  As time goes on the questions will become more specific.  We will also eventually need to work on updating passports, medical checks, and deciding what household items will come along and which will stay behind.

And though it’s sort of mean to throw this out there without revealing where we are going (although close family and friends have already been told), I’m going to hold off for now as our plans have already changed once. Yep, we found out where we were going, started researching, and already it has changed. So as the move closes in, and things become more firmed up I will share.

Babywearing-A Traveling Momma Must!

It’s International Babywearing Week! Babywearing has been a big part of bringing up both my littles. My little guy isn’t a fan of being put down, so he gets to ride in the ergo around the house quite a bit. Wearing him in the ergo is the only way I can run around with both kids. It lets me still have my hands free for my daughter who is growing in independence, but still needs to hold my hand or get a lift every now and then.

Babywearing has been an integral part of traveling for us as a family. It was the easiest way to get through airports and explore spaces that aren’t stroller friendly. Even when I bring the stroller, I pack the ergo in the bottom. You never know when you’re going to need to park the stroller at an entrance before entering a site.  It also seems to be a pretty surefire way to calm a fussy babe. Has worked like a charm for both our kiddos so far. Here’s  some of my favorite babywearing snapshots from our travels!

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Babywearing at the Western Wall, Jerusalem

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Babywearing at Kensington Palace, London

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Babywearing at a pumpkin patch in the German farmland

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Babywearing my little man-Paso Robles, California

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Baby wearing at Hearst Castle

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Wearing the little guy at the beach in Carmel-by-the-Sea

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Babywearing waiting for the Royal Tattoo to begin in Edinburgh, Scotland

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Babywearing at Chateau Chambord in the Loire Valley, France

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Babywearing at Chateau Chenonceau in the Loire Valley, France

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Babywearing with some Alpine Cows in Switzerland

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Babywearing with the Eiger, Monch, and Jungfrau in Murren, Switzerland

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Babywearing at the Palace of Versailles, France

I can’t recommend a baby carrier of some kind enough!  If you are a mom to be, this is a must!  If you’re a mom about to start traveling, this is a must!  It’s good for baby and makes your life easier-everybody wins! Happy International Babywearing Week!

Wildparks in Germany

The German wild park

One of the fun things to do where we lived in Germany was to visit the local wildparks.  A wildpark is similar to a zoo, but more local and tame animals than wild animals like lions, tigers, and bears (oh my!).  They are fairly small, and you are able to feed most of the animals.  Sometimes you can bring in your own food (carrots, vegetables) and sometimes they ask that you purchase special food for the animals (about 1-2 euro for a box).  The one closest to our house was even free!  You could go at anytime and bring your own food and have a free day’s worth of entertainment!  It was a great way to get out of the house and enjoy the sunshine.  My little one loved visiting these parks and seeing/feeding the animals.  Here are some highlights of our visits to our local wildparks!

Mama and baby wild boars

Mama and baby wild boars

The goats came to join us for lunch one day

The goats came to join us for lunch one day

Eagle out for a practice flight for the daily bird show

Eagle out for a practice flight for the daily bird show

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The animals are not shy once they see you have food!

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Multiple eagles, hawks, and falcons at this wildpark

Multiple eagles, hawks, and falcons at this wildpark

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Pen full of guinea pigs and bunnies

Feeding the horse some peppers

Feeding the horse some peppers

Have you ever visited a German wildpark?  Or been to something similar in other locations?

8 Things I Miss About Germany and Europe

So as a follow up to all the things I missed about the good ole’ U.S. of A., here are some of the things I’m missing about Germany and Europe after being back.

1. Chocolate

German chocolate, and really this can include a number of European countries’ chocolate, is just better.  Period.  End of story.  I can’t get on board with Hershey’s anymore, it’s just not the same.

2. Breakfast

When we would travel, I would always try to pick a hotel that included breakfast.  Not only is it convenient, but the spreads that the hotels would lay out were always very delicious.  It was an added treat we looked forward to when we were traveling.  Most of the time the breakfast would consist of a wide array of freshly baked pastries and breads, butter, jams, nutella (hello!), yogurts, fruit, cold cut trays of meats and cheeses, and frothy cappucinos (or whatever sort of coffee drink you wanted).  May not seem that special but I can assure you a fresh baked pastry is pretty spectacular.

What was leftover from a breakfast in the Champagne region of France.  Fresh baguette, huge slice of brie, homemade jams, and fresh squeezed OJ.  Delicious!

What was leftover from a breakfast in the Champagne region of France. Fresh baguette, huge slice of brie, homemade jams, and fresh squeezed OJ. Delicious!

Breakfast with a view over Positano, Italy.  Yes please!

Breakfast with a view over Positano, Italy. Yes please!

3. Traveling 

The hands down best part of living in Germany was all the places we were able to visit.  The size of Europe makes jetting off to another country for a long weekend a fun possibility.  We knew our time in Germany was limited so we made the strong push to go and do as many things as our calendars and wallets would allow.  Of course you can travel in the states, but here in California we could drive for hours and still be in California.  There’s something a little more exciting about traveling abroad than staying in your own state or country.  It also gave me a hobby to sit down and research places and develop itineraries.  It was fun!

4. Festivals

Germans love a good festival and are always looking for a reason to party.  It seemed like every weekend during the spring and summer would have multiple fests in the area to choose from.  There was always music, beer, wine, kiddie rides, and of course food!  One of our favorite festivals was a culinary hike through the farmland.  The organizers set up about a 5 km route and along the way placed 6-7 different stops where different vendors were set up selling different culinary and wine specialties.  So you walk for a bit, then drink and eat, walk a little more, and drink and eat.  Another one was a car free day on a 30 km stretch of road.  We brought our bikes and biked along the route.  Similar to the culinary hike, there were different food and wine booths set up all along the course.  The perfect mix of athletic activity and food and wine!

Spring Fair in Kaiserslautern.

Spring Fair in Kaiserslautern.

Christmas Market in Bernkastel-Keus.

Christmas Market in Bernkastel-Keus.

Europe's largest pumpkin festival in Ludwigsburg.

Europe’s largest pumpkin festival in Ludwigsburg.

Wine festival on the Mosel River

Wine festival on the Mosel River

5.  Public transportation

While you can find public transportation in some places in the U.S. I find that it’s not as readily available or as widely used as it is in Europe.  Here I drive everywhere.  And if I go someplace else, we drive there too.  Which means I always have to travel with my carseat, and that is a pain.  I loved traveling without one in Europe and just knowing we would take the metro everywhere or walk.

6. Gelato shops everywhere

There’s never a bad time for a gelato stop.  A little tip we learned on a food tour in Italy:  if the gelato is neon colored and piled high in fluffy mounds-it’s made with a lot of artificial ingredients and pumped full of air.  Look for gelato that is natural in color and does not rise above the top of the container.  And my personal favorite flavor combo is pistachio and hazelnut, just in case you needed a new idea to try.

7. Atmospheric old towns

I miss being in places that look like this: DSC_0139

8. The overall experience.

The fun of being a new place, the excitement of journeying into the unknown, and being able to experience things I never thought I would have the opportunity to do.  I’d do it again in a heartbeat.