3 Thoughts on Traveling Child-Free

I've often heard my mom give the advice that every year you need to go on a Family trip, and Friend trip, and a Couple trip. The family trip makes memories, the friend trip reminds you that you are You, and your Couple trip strengthens your marriage.

Wise advice!

I've had the luxury of having more than one of each types of these trips so far this year and I want to write some things about the third.

1. I am so grateful to have people who can watch Jamie without me

This includes Porter. He watched Jamie while I was in Cuba and I realize that one, not every mom has a partner at all and two, not every mom has a partner who has the flexibility to take over.

Beyond Porter, I have a group of friends and family who have been so wonderful at watching Jamie while I'm away, no more than porter's mom trish. She had him the entire time we were in Italy and I am so so so lucky that she is willing, capable and that Jamie is getting to bond with his Nana. She is so fun and loving and honestly, probably more safe and healthy than I am. This trip, her best friend Pat came out to help out and I'm so glad for her too! We got semi-regular updates and cute photos of Jamie being happy and that he isn't waking up every two hours feeling abandoned.

I recognize just how lucky I am to have her.

2. Traveling without Jamie makes me feel very complicated.

It's hard to not feel like I'm being an awful person and awful mother just up and leaving my baby. I read all these advice forums for moms and we're fed a pretty steep diet of 'Your child needs you' and how attachment in the first 3 years sets the tone for a child's ability to love later in life and blah blah blah. It's hard to not feel bad for not being there for every smile and cry and, in the case of Jamie, every heavy thing he lifts.

It's also hard to not feel indebted to Nana, because I know he's probably more clingy than usual, and I know how many diapers he's going through, and that he's wiggly and a handful and maybe not sleeping great while I'm away.

But it's also preeeetty fantastic to be away, to sleep in, to read uninterrupted, to have few responsibilities and to get to hang out with Porter, undivided in attention.

But I also miss him so much! Porter and I fought over who got to watch videos first and how long we got to ogle snapshots Nana sent. I saw kids and playgrounds and strollers and kid's stores and just wished he was with me. Every good thing I experience I want him to experience and it would be made sweeter with him around. Except it wouldn't because traveling with a baby fundamentally changes the experience. But it sure would be great if it didn't.

3. Child free time is so great and important

Man, I love my husband.

3 Reasons We Moved to Anacortes

It's been four months since we decided, not entirely on a whim, to move to Anacortes. It's funny how right a decision can feel when the gut response to the many times I've been asked 'Why Anacortes?' has been to note just how obvious it is. And how everyone should want to move here. Here are some of my reasons:

1. Seattle is crowded and expensive. The city is going through some serious growing pains, caused in great part by a healthy job market. The area has everything it has always had (access to water, mountains, city, and country, all relatively close; a strong academic, cultural, and entrepreneurial landscape), and the preponderance of desirable employers has snowballed: good companies attract talent, which attracts more good companies, and then all the business and services that come with all those companies and people (for example, know a guy who worked for a company whose sole function was to manage storage units for people being moved to and from Microsoft positions, how's that for a random job).

All this to say that there's a housing crisis and a traffic crisis and the whole situation means most people are cramming into small spaces and paying a larger portion of their pay to live closer or more comfortably. Also, spending bucket loads of time on the freeway either commuting or just getting about. I hate that I had to plan when to visit family in Kirkland or friends in Seattle around when I-405 would be a nightmare or the bridge wouldn't be at a standstill only to find out that it's a nightmare most of the time, and without a lot of rhyme or reason.

So, to start we were interested in getting away. But to where?...

2. Small town with a self-identity, walkable downtown, slow pace, strong community, good schools

I have reached the stage in life where my community matters to me. I want to matter in my community and plant my little family in a place where we connect with others around us. That's hard to do in any metro area, where neighborhoods and suburbs run into one another. Some neighborhoods do it better than others-Mercer Island gave us a little taste of what it felt like to have distinct borders (people there really care about those on the island!).

It's part of what I love about small towns. And that they are usually a lot more peaceful and less rushed, which works well for my frazzled self.

3. Maritime identity, town festivities, strong local businesses

We're a boat family (that's what happens when you're married to WPBIII) and Anacortes is a boat town (The town vision statement says so). There are ship builders and ferry riders and kayaker, yachtees, and day sailors. And a lot more marinas per capita than probably makes sense. It was actually at the Waterfront Festival last year that it clicked that this was the perfect town for us and we went from regularly visiting Anacortes for fun to compulsively looking at neighborhoods, real estate listings, and asking strangers what they loved and hated about living here (for the record, most could only hate on "old people who think they run the town" oh boo hoo).

Four months in and it's everything I could have ever dreamed of.

3 Reasons I Love Flying Southwest Airlines

There was a minute there where I was flying a bunch (yay summer!) and I remembered how much I love flying Southwest. They don't have as many nonstop flights out of Seattle as they used to (thanks to Delta and Alaska having a million each), but I still choose them, because:

1. Open Seating and Family Boarding

Especially now that I am flying with a walking time bomb/puppy/small child, I appreciate more than ever unassigned seats. Throw in Family Boarding (where families with children get to board after first class and before two-thirds of the rest of passengers), and I get to choose how important a window or aisle is for me at the current moment (window when he's feeling curious, aisle when I know a diaper change is coming) AND people who board after me can self-select if they are into sitting by a kid or not.

In July, I flew 7 legs and I twice chose to sit by a 13 year old who ended up being awesome with babies (one girl I actually ended up giving $10 at the end of the flight because I was flying without Porter and she was so incredibly helpful, plus her mom kind of seemed like a wreck), I had two grandmotherly women choose to sit by us (and ooh and ah and play peekabo and use voices and all that good grandmotherly stuff), once had someone in front of me move when I sat down (no offense taken, lady, I get it!) and once got the row to myself even on a very full flight (thank you Southwest flight attendants for making my dream come true!).

There's all sorts of commotion about parents giving goodie bags to passengers around them and I don't buy it. I truly think children are usually more well behaved and bring more joy to strangers traveling than headache, but I get that lots of people don't like babies and don't want to deal. In fact, much of the stress of flying is not just handling the moods and whims of the small child, but reading the people around you to make sure you aren't making them grumpy. Southwest makes this much much easier.

2. Companion Pass and Points points points
I am a airline loyalty miles junkie (haven't paid cash for a flight in 5 years, knock on wood) and Southwest happens to have a really great program.

First, the Companion Pass, which you get if you accrue 110,000 points in a calendar year (by flying on SW, purchases made with the SW credit card, or my personal favorite, sign-up bonuses). Once you get to 110,000 points, for the rest of that year and the following calendar year, you can have someone fly with you ANYWHERE SOUTHWEST FLIES, WITHOUT EXCEPTION, only paying fees (for a domestic flights, fees are $5.60). So when I fly, I buy a ticket with SW points and Porter (my designated Companion) flies for free, add in a free lap child and that's three of us flying roundtrip for $12 out of pocket. It feels like stealing.

We've been through three years of the companion pass and our is expiring this year (sobbing emoji) so we'll see if we decide to get creative and get it again for next year.

In addition to the Companion Pass, between Porter and I, we use several Chase credit cards tied to the Chase Ultimate Rewards program which, conveniently, transfers to both Southwest and my other preferred airline United. It is helpful that Porter has to buy mountains of shirts, medals, and cones that accumulate points, but really everyone in their day to day makes enough purchases to get points and should be using a credit card that works to their advantage. (To be clear, we don't ever carry a balance and any credit card is paid off in full each month.)

3. Generousity and flexibility

There is no cancellation fee, no fee for checked bags, no fee to change your ticket. It's wonderful. They also give out a lot of snacks (no meals though).