A two week itinerary in Portugal with a toddler

When my husband and I were trying to figure out our next big family vacation we wanted to try somewhere new. We also recently have fallen in love with surfing (not that either of us are any good at it) and so we wanted to go somewhere unique where we could hit the waves – and we all know the biggest waves in the world are in Portugal so that’s where we decided to go.

No, we weren’t planning to surf the 100 foot wave, but rather take in the beauty of the Algarve, drink wine in the Duoro Valley, and take in the culture of Lisbon. But there is one thing we had to keep in mind while planning, how will we also entertain our one and a half year old?

The more research we did, we realized Portugal is actually an incredible place to take a toddler. They let you skip the line at most museums and castles, they have a lot of toddler friendly beaches and parks, and lots of delicious food.

I wanted to share our two week itinerary with you – and honestly we fell so in love with this place, it is one of the few I hope I will get to travel back to someday.

View Post

Learning how to sail in Squamish

Did you know that Squamish means ‘mother of the wind’. The Squamish First Nations gave it that name because of the strong winds that prevail in the Howe Sound.

Because of the daily inflow that tunnels into the Sound, it happens to be the perfect place for water sports like kite surfing and sailing – and now a new company has opened up in Squamish that actually gives you hands on experience teaching you how to sail.

The Adventure 

InFlow Adventure CO is one of Squamish’s latest adventure tourism companies and I was excited when I had the opportunity to head out on the water with them and try something I have always dreamed of – sailing.

We met Will at the public dock in Squamish, we soon found out that Will’s entire life has been about sailing. His mother used to teach youth sailing in Australia, and he first became a certified instructor before finishing grade school. Despite being nervous, I immediately felt like I was in safe hands.

We set off on the 4 hour Howe Sound Sailing Experience. From the moment you leave the dock you are reminded why this place is so special. Incredible views of the Chief and Shannon Falls send you off into the deeper seas.

Very quickly we were put to work. We learned how to steer, jibe (a way of changing direction by bringing the stern of the boat through the wind), and tack ( changing directions by turning the bow of the boat towards the wind). Within 30 minutes we all had positions and Will was shouting commands at us, and even though we still barely had a clue what we were doing, we were laughing as guided us on which ropes to pull and when to tack ( apparently it has two terms – one of which is switching sides on the boat).

In no time we were moving and cruising down the beautiful UNESCO biosphere reserve on the gorgeous custom FarEast 19R.

Once we got out to Britannia Beach we slowed down with a beautiful view of the mien and landscape in the area and at that point Will brought out some lunches for us, delicious sandwiches from Smoke Bluffs Coffee. It was an amazing experience to sit in the middle of the ocean with these gorgeous views eating lunch.

After that it was time to make it back to shore with our new found knowledge and love for sailing.

While the tours are closed now for the winter, Inflow is offering more adventures out on the Sound come next season.

Happy exploring friends,

xo

Mia

Why you need to visit the Comox Valley

Whenever I think of making a trip to Vancouver Island, Victoria and Tofino are the first places that come to mind, but recently I discovered a lesser visited gem; Comox Valley. The region is made up of Courtenay, Comox, and Cumberland, as well as some smaller communities like Fanny and Union Bay.The region really has it all, mountains, ocean, and beautiful old growth forest to explore, and the great thing is you really can explore the whole Valley, because it’s not too far of a drive to get from one spot to another. I wanted to share with you my perfect weekend in Comox Valley.

Getting to Comox Valley

There are a few different ways to get to Comox Valley. The easiest from Vancouver is probably a ferry ride. You can take the ferry from Horseshoe Bay to Departure Bay in Nanaimo – from there it is about an hour and a half drive. You could also opt to fly into the Comox Valley Airport from Vancouver.

Day 1: Cumberland

 

Locals that I spoke to told me they pride themselves on being a “forest in a village”.

The entire community revolves around the beautiful old growth forest in their backyard – so much so that they actually have been fundraising for years to buy parts of the forest back from a logging company – and then giving it back to the community. The Cumberland Community forest is filled with tons of trails, some specifically for mountain biking, others for trail runs and walks and so  I started my day in Cumberland on a beautiful trail run.

After working up a sweat, and an apatite, it was time for lunch. A few locals recommended Biblio Taco and I am thankful they did. This could be home to the best burrito I have ever had – and their portions are huge and they had some really unique combinations – but they worked really well together.

What is the best thing to do on a very full stomach? Go on a hike. If you have followed my blog for a while, you probably know my passion for hiking – it is the first thing I google when I visit a new place. One of the hikes in the area that was highly recommended was the Perseverance Creek Potholes. The smoothness of the pools, which has been carved by erosion was incredible to see and the deep colours of the water was so inviting. A great place to cool off after a hot day.

After a day of hiking and running it was definitely time for a treat. My first stop was Love’s Ice Cream. The homemade ice cream uses real fruit and there were endless flavour options. I also loved their commitment to using biodegradable and reusable products. After ice cream it was time for a treat of a different kind and Cumberland Brewing. Their goal has always been to share a beer with company in an inviting environment, even though I entered alone I felt like I was in a room full of buddies – people that cared about their community and local businesses – and the drinks were refreshingly delicious.

 

Day 2: Comox

I absolutely fell in love with this quaint waterfront town. Everywhere you went you have a view of the ocean.

I started the day with a walk along Goose Spit. The Spit is a very unique landscape, offering sandy beaches and gorgeous views of Hornby and several other islands. After taking in the views I wandered along the quaint harbour front (enjoying a coffee from Komox Grind). Along the way there are some more stunning views, this time of Comox Glacier and Beaufort Mountain Range. I then made my way over to Filberg Park where there are gorgeous flowers, a petting zoo, and even a little tea house.

After exploring the area by land it was time to get out on the water and explore by sea. I had heard of this incredible beach the locals like to call ‘Little Mexico‘. I rented a SUP from Coast Surf Shop and they actually took me out on a tour to the beach. Along the way we were followed by a curious seal before making our way to a truly gorgeous white sand beach to watch the sunset.

Once back on dry land it was time for some food. I was told by the locals Church St. Taphouse was the place to be on a Saturday night. They had great food, delicious beers on tap, and some great live music.

 

Day 3 Courtenay

I started the day with a run along along the spit and past the airport. It was a really beautiful place to stretch the legs and taking in that morning ocean breeze. A morning run sure worked up my appetite and so I went for breakfast at the Hog and the Hen. Don’t let the location fool you – the food here is AMAZING. I love their smoked salmon benny.

My next stop took me to 5th street where there are some of the most adorable shops I have ever seen. Classic book shops, home decor, fun gift shops, and some cute clothing boutiques. After shopping I wanted to get back out to explore the beauty of this area. I made my way a little outside of Courtenay to explore Browns River Falls. It is a beautiful wide waterfall where at the bottom there are some more popular swim holes.

After all that walking, it was the perfect time to relax and the best place to do that is at Kingfisher Hydropath. Take a dip in the heated outdoor pool and then relax in the steam cave. I am a big fan of any hydropath therapy – basically walking from through a circuit of hot and cold pools that helps blood circulation. And the icing on the cake, there is an indoor waterfall grotto.

I finished off my time here with the best greek food I have ever tasted, and that is saying a lot since I have been to Greece. Yimas Taverna is an absolute must visit.

Bonus: Fanny Bay

I didn’t have a full day to explore Fanny Bay, but I did get a chance to visit for lunch and some Oyster shucking. I first stopped at Fanny Bay Inn, located right on the water this has been the go to place for 80 years and it is the kind of pub where everyone knows your name – and the food was delicious. I ended my trip with a visit to the famous Mac’s Oyster LTD to get some lessons from the pros on how to shuck oysters.

It was an amazing trip to the Comox Valley, and I can see why more and more people are making the trip (and even move out here as it is one of the fastest growing populations in BC) but I promise you it is still a bit of a hidden gem, without the crowded tourist beaches and long waits for dining – you are going to want to make a trip here ASAP.

xo

Mia

 

 

 

 

 

Tips for hiking in a foreign country

 

Hiking is my love language. I fell in love with it as soon as I moved out to BC. There is something about being out in nature, just you and the wilderness and taking in the natural beauty around you. I have experienced some pretty magical hikes in my own backyard, but every time I travel, I try to find a local hike.

Hiking in a foreign country can be a scary thought. I sometimes still don’t feel fully comfortable because there are so many factors you have to consider when you are outside of your own comfort zone. Safety, ability, transportation, just to name a few. But through my experiences I have gained a few tips that have made me feel more confident. And trust me it has been worth it. From conquering Lions Head in South Africa to experiencing the most magical sunrise on Mt. Batur in Bali – hiking in foreign countries have left some incredible memories.

I wanted to share some of the tips and tricks I have found have been helpful when it comes to hiking in a foreign country.

1. Do your research

Just like any local hike, it is important to be prepared. Do as much research ahead of time to make sure you understand the safety aspects. Are you an experienced enough hiker? How long is it expected to take you? How do you get there? Who are you going with? ( there are very few hikes I will do solo even locally in my own backyard). In order to be as confident as possible, it is important to have as much information ahead of time.

2. Look for local and reliable guides

Sometimes I just feel more comfortable going out with a local or on a guided tour. They can get you from point A to point B safely and know the area. Recently when I was in Sayulita I joined an Airbnb experience with a local guide to hike Monkey Mountain. Our guide was so knowledgable that not only did I enjoy a wonderful hike, but I also learned so much about the local area and culture. Also since I was planning to hike for sunset, I just felt more comfortable with someone who was familiar with the route for coming down in the dark.

3. Don’t go off the main path

I learned this lesson the hard way in South Africa – everyone kept talking about this cool cave off of Lion’s Head. We went looking for the path and ran into a Park Ranger and were fined for our off roading. We later learned that the reason they are so strict is because the area is prone to slides and they are also trying to restore the flora in the area. I know how upset I get at home when people are going off the main path because of how precious the wildlife is and so it is important to be respectful in other countries too.

4. Pack proper gear

Just like you would for a hike at home it is important you have the right gear. While I am guilty of not always packing the top 10 items – whenever I am in a foreign country I try and make sure I pack for worst case scenario.

5. Get travel insurance

You always hope you don’t have to use it but there is always a risk in the outdoors and if you are stuck with medical bills in a foreign country, well that could be a pretty pricey bill.

6. Check warnings and risks ahead of time

I have learned over the years that there are different seasons and concerns. For example maybe a hike in Hawaii during the rain season isn’t your best bet as it can impact safety of the route. Or maybe you are going to an area where zika is prevalent – pack a ton of repellant.

These are my top six tips for hiking in a different country – but I really cannot stress enough number 1. Over preparation is key for a safe and incredible experience.

Happy hiking my friends,

xo

Mia

What to do if your baby gets sick while on vacation

Our family recently went on a beautiful vacation to Mexico, one problem though, our baby got traveller’s diarrhea half way through our trip. if you thought newborn diapers were wet, gross, and hard to clean, just wait until you have to deal with these kind of diapers. But aside from the diarrhea or poor little guy had a fever, a terrible diaper rash that was bleeding, and once he had blood in his stool we knew we had to do something.

It was so scary seeing our baby so sick (especially since it was the first time for us dealign with a sickness) but being so far away from home, in a foreign country, trying to communicate the issue in a different language, with medicine that also doesn’t have english on the label – well that just adds even more fear and anxiety to the situation. And so I wanted to share a few tips on what to do if your baby gets sick while on vacation.

Preparation is key

There are a few things you can do to prepare for the possibility of a sick baby before you even step foot on the plane. This is something I have learned very quickly as a new mom.

Even when I am just going to the park, I am always traveling with a first aid kit that has everything from baby tylenol to band-aids.

On top of packing first aid items you can also do a little extra research ahead of time. Talk to your doctor about safety tips for the particular place you are traveling to. Make sure your child is up to date on all their vaccines and get any additional ones that might be needed for the area you are visiting. Also check your travel insurance ahead of time in case you need to visit a doctor while abroad (like we did… twice).

 

Try to stay calm and assess the situation

Ok, you prepared as much as you could and your child still gets sick, now what? It is easy to go into panic mode in this situations – I know easier said than done ( I definitely went straight into panic mode), but thankfully I had my much more grounded husband by my side (and very lucky his GP mom) to help me stay calm. Even if you don’t have that support team though, it is important to remind yourself your child needs you and you need to stay calm to figure out the best plan of action for them.

Think about what you would do if you were dealing with a sick kid back home. How do you need to treat this? Is it something that just needs rest and fluids or do you need medication?

 

Regarding medication, finding the ideal one while on vacation might be difficult. It is even more challenging when the medication labelling is written in a foreign language. Fortunately, there is a way around this hurdle; you only need a good internet connection. It takes effective planning even before you get on the plane. For example, if your child has asthma, pack the appropriate inhalers. However, it would also help if you ordered the appropriate COPD medication prescribed by the doctor to help handle the situation. While doing all this, remember to stay calm throughout the situation.

Trust your instinct and seek help if you need it

I knew my babe wasn’t well but I didn’t trust my instincts right away. We kept going back and forth on if we actually needed medical help, that it wasn’t until we saw blood in his stool (which even google will tell you is no good) that we made the call. If something feels off and you need help, get it – but on that note do your research. Check online to find the most reputable doctor’s office.

But try and get a second opinion if you can

Like I mentioned, we were super lucky to have my husband’s mom with us – who right away told us that the medication they prescribed our son wasn’t the right one. Of course not everyone has the luxury of having a doctor in their family. If it isn’t an emergency and you might be able to get on the phone with your doctor back home (especially if you are in a different country) I would highly suggest doing that.

Adjust your itinerary

Sure it is no fun when you have to cancel plans you have been looking forward to – but hey getting your child better is top priority – and if you can do that in the sunshine by a pool at your resort -well that sounds pretty good to me. We were lucky that we had a team with us (aka my husband’s parents) so we decided to take turns and everyone got to stay home and snuggly with our sick babe and also hit the town for a little date night. At the same time don’t the experience totally ruin the trip. I was exhausted by the end and needed another vacation – but we still created some beautiful memories as a family.

Take care of yourself so you can take care of baby

In our case it was traveller’s diarrhea but what it if was a virus? It is hard enough to take care of your sick child in a foreign country, but to do that while fighting off a virus yourself? No bueno. If your child does get sick try and take those extra measures – extra hand washing, stay hydrate etc.

We survived the first one and I am sure it won’t be the last but don’t let the idea of a sick baby on vacation deter you from booking that ticket to experience the world with your little one.

xo

Mia