Tag Archives: travel

April 9, 2014

Going to Asia: Family Travel Tips from the Founders of Petunia Pickle Bottom

When we were getting started with Tea, we met Braden & DeNai Jones, the founders of Petunia Pickle Bottom, at a New York trade show. We connected instantly – fellow entrepreneurs building great products for mamas. Emily and I returned to our office in San Francisco to find a (surprise) floral arrangement from our new friends at Petunia! The crush was mutual.

Our paths continued to parallel not only through building our businesses, but also in building our families. Braden & DeNai also have two boys: Sutton (8) and Miller (6); just a year ahead of my two boys! I have enjoyed keeping up with their families these past few years – especially when they packed up their kids and took them to visit their vendor partners in Asia.

Now, it is my turn! Once each year, I travel with a few members of our production team to visit our partners abroad. It just so happened that my husband’s calendar opened up around the time of this year’s trip, so we thought this would be the perfect opportunity for a family vacation! Our boys are very excited about an extra long spring break.

As soon as we started planning the trip, the first call I made was to Braden & DeNai for advice, which was beyond helpful. I felt selfish keeping their suggestions to myself, so read on for the full details of my conversation with the Jones’ and get tips for your own kid-friendly trip abroad.

Leigh: David & I are concerned about jetlag for the kids. It’s one thing for adults because we can just push through as long as we have an extra coffee. But that doesn’t work for kids!
Braden: I try and put the family on a sleep schedule during takeoff to give us a jump on the time zone we are traveling to, before we arrive. That tactic seems to help the boys with jetlag.

Fun things to do in Hong Kong when you aren’t working?
Braden: There are some great activities we do to get the boy’s legs moving; we like the Tian Tan Buddha, we visit the HK Zoo or ride The Peak Tram up the hillside. Ocean Park was a big hit with the boys too. Most of the time we just enjoy walking the streets, exploring temples, and browsing markets and other nook and crannies of the city.

How about the food? My kids like some Asian food, but they tend to rely on their go-to favorites like Pad See Ew and avocado sushi – does that even count as Asian food or sushi for that matter?
DeNai: Our boys usually enjoy trying new foods, but for those times when they aren’t feeling as adventurous, Cup Noodles is always an option. You can get these just about anywhere or bring them with you. I also like to bring granola bars wherever we go as back-up. When I can find western grocery stores, I’ll stock up there on things I know the kids will like.

I’m excited to take our 7-year-old to our factory outside of Bangkok. I can’t wait to show him how clothes are made! Plus, we have known our partners and their families there since Adam was born. I think it will feel like a family reunion! Our partners in Hong Kong have invited my family to join for dinners too. It will be a pretty amazing “take-your-kids-to-work-day”! Any tips?
Braden: Honestly, it’s an amazing experience for everyone. We first brought our boys along so that we could work for several solid weeks without having to be away from them for too long. It’s a very family centric culture, so bringing our kids really enhanced our relationships with our colleagues, friends, factories and staff. The boys join us for work, dinner and entertainment, and our partners love to see Miller and Sutton grow over the years. As hard as it is for them sometimes, I will tip my hat to my boys for being along for the ride and being great sports about it.

The Bangkok, Hong Kong, and Shanghai airports are a lot bigger than San Francisco… Not to mention the number of people and languages! Do you have any practical tips?
Braden: A time saver I suggest, is to grab a stack of Customs Cards (Arrival or Departure forms) and fill them out before you are in the customs line. It’s much easier to focus on keeping the family together when you’re not fumbling with the papers and passports. I also memorized all of the passport numbers, saves time for border access and if you lose a passport.

How about hotel recommendations? Any specific kid-friendly, designer-y hotels? You two always seem to find the perfect stylish hotels!
Braden: Finding a room with multiple beds in HK is hard, but it can be done. Most websites only allow you to add one child (not two) when you make your reservations. I suggest making the reservation with one child and then explaining (with a smile) that you need a hide-a-bed for your second or third child once you arrive. On the Kowloon side we tend to stay at the ICON Hotel. It’s new, modern, has every amenity for a great price. On the Hong Kong side we have stayed at the Hotel LKF right above LAN Kwai Fong. At this hotel you are right on top of the party street, restaurants and activities. Other child-friendly hotels we have visited in Asia are: The Racha Hotel in Phuket, Thailand, the Osaka Hilton in Japan, the Lotte World Hotel in Seoul, South Korea, and the Hotel Majestic in Vietnam.

Tips for packing? We’re gone for more than two weeks and I can’t bear the thought of packing enough clothes for such a long stretch! I’m not worried about clothes for the kids because Tea has that covered! Always easy to mix & match, comfortable and great looking. Next time you go, promise me you will call so I can send some Tea for your boys – I would love to see your Instagram pics with your beautiful sons in some Tea!
DeNai: We always pack a lot of black and gray clothes for the kids because they hide the messes and can easily dress up or down. We tend to bring about four to five days of clothes and use the laundry service at hotels to refresh the selection. We’d love to dress Miller and Sutton in Tea next time!

How about emergency kits? And I mean all types of emergency: medical, long layovers, sleepless nights….
DeNai: I usually pack my Petunia Pickle Bottom Wistful Weekender for traveling. It has plenty of storage space and I have a handful of emergency-type items stored inside for the boys: everything from a thermometer and Dermabond (liquid stitches), to small toys and a travel art set to fight boredom. Oh and Cleanwell hand spray is the best germ spray out there!

You are amazing! Thank you! Such practical, helpful tips. I couldn’t be more excited. Keep an eye on my Instragram! I hope to have lots of pictures to capture what will undoubtedly be a crazy & beautiful trip.
Note: Tea is currently hosting a fun baby sweepstakes, which includes our friends Petunia Pickle Bottom. Please sign up for a chance to win over $3,000 in prizes. Perfect for new mamas!

March 6, 2014

Leigh’s Family Is Traveling to Asia, Share Your Tips!

What Should We See & Do in Thailand and China?

I fell in love with Thailand nearly 15 years ago. My husband and I had a six week trip bopping around Southeast Asia & the South Pacific the summer before we started business school. We visited Buddhist temples and rode elephants and ate our way through the country.

And now we return… with our kids!  Maybe it won’t be as romantic, but I have a feeling there will be a ton of falling in love. This time we’ll get to see the Buddhist temples, elephants, and delicious food through the eyes of our 5 & 7 year old boys.

After a week in Bangkok and Hua Hin, we’re heading to China!  We’ll visit Hong Kong, Shanghai, and Yangshuo — and we want advice! We have our flights and hotels booked, plus lots of time planned with our beloved Tea vendors. But there is a lot of open time for sight-seeing and digging deeper into the culture.

So please share any must-see sights or must-do activities!  I have loved reading through advice on Oh Happy Day and Design Sponge — what other blogs are out there with insider tips, especially with perspective on family travel?

 

 

Preparing The Kids For The Experience

I think a lot about preparing my kids for life. Education, manners, planning ahead, keeping an attitude of gratitude, etc, etc. Of course I like to think that I have a huge impact on their lives through all of the thoughtful preparation, but sometimes I admit to myself that I am just here for the ride. Every day is a new world and new discovery for a kid.

I remember my first trip to Manhattan. I arrived via the train, then transferred to the subway with a friend from Long Island. We came up the subway escalator and I just kept looking up and up and up. I was in college and I had seen a thousand pictures of New York, but when I came out of that subway station, I FELT it.  I felt the height, the energy, and the life of New York. I was in love to the bone.

So, no matter how many maps and documentaries we show our boys, I have a feeling that I can never fully prepare them for the size, energy, and life of Bangkok, Hong Kong, and Shanghai.

Of course I still have to try.  So here is the plan (and I welcome your feedback)…

  • We have a huge world map on the wall in the boys’ room. That helps a little with the context. At least I think so!
  • David found a great documentary from 2008 about China. It is certainly dated and the population numbers are probably 20% higher now, but it is well done and riveting for all four of us. I keep wondering if it is stealing the power of the first impression…. and then I remember my escalator ride up from the subway in NY for the first time.
  • Adam takes Mandarin at school four days/week. We are trying to use common phrases for familiarity:  thank you, hello, and my name is…
  • We order in Thai food regularly. Does that count?
  • I’m researching ways the kids can take pictures & blog on their own. Maybe Kidblog.org? I would love to see what pictures and captions they would post. Plus, their friends could write questions and comments, which could create a fun conversation.
  • Of course we have to expedite passport renewals. You can see from these pictures that not only are the passports expiring, but the photos are a little out of date!

 

 

Traveling with Kids Overseas 

I have been asking globetrotting families for advice about the travel itself. Here are the tips I have received so far:

  • iPads. How did parents travel before Apple? The trick is that the kids really like to stream videos on Netflix, which won’t be possible for much of our trip. So I need tips on apps–both educational and entertainment. I am just not sure Star Wars Angry Birds will get us from SFO to BKK!
  • Adjust clocks when you board the first flight. Easier said than done of course. We depart at 1:45pm which is 4:45am in Bangkok. So do we get on the plane and I try to convince the kids to sleep??  When I fly to Asia each year for work, I usually try to sleep as little as possible so that when I arrive at midnight at the hotel in Bangkok, I can crash — even though my body will think it is 4pm the next day. I’m hoping those iPads are REALLY entertaining.
  • Snacks. Snacks are actually the cure to many problems wherever we are! I’ve heard Clif Bars, Tic Tacs, and soy sauce packets have gotten many families through China. Rice is available almost anywhere and with soy sauce, we should be okay.

What else should I keep in mind?
Leave a comment below — I welcome all feedback & suggestions and can’t wait to hear from you!

January 8, 2014

Sayulita: Culture, Exploration and Family

To help everyone at Tea “go there,” we make a yearly contribution to each employee for international travel and exploration. Upon their return, our Tea travelers write blog posts to share their adventures with all of us (and the world).

Cristina , who helps create beautiful product (with exceptional fit!) here at Tea, spent a week in quite Sayulita, Mexico with her family.

Our family was in need of a vacation (not having taken one since before our daughter was born). It was important to us that we went somewhere we could relax, yet share with our daughter a little culture and sense of exploration. We settled on Sayulita, Mexico an eclectic beach and surfing village with exceptional people, arts, activities and culinary offerings.

1_Countryside

A 45 minute scenic jungle drive along the Pacific coastline from the Puerto Vallarta takes you into Sayulita.   The small town consists of 3 to 4 main streets all centered on the village square with a striking church.  All destinations are within a few minutes walk to the beach.  The city is full of wildlife, especially iguanas.

Sayulita, Mexico via Tea Collection's Studio T

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December 16, 2013

A Peaceful Sanctuary in Mexico

To help everyone at Tea “go there,” we make a yearly contribution to each employee for international travel and exploration. Upon their return, our Tea travelers write blog posts to share their adventures with all of us (and the world).

Tami, one of Tea’s creative guru’s, took a week to herself to indulge in a simple, quieter way of life.

I recently became intrigued with the idea of a yoga retreat in an exotic locale far removed from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. My initial research came up with options in Bali, India, New Zealand, Costa Rica and Mexico.
I chose to go to a retreat center, Prana del Mar, in Baja, Mexico because of its amenities and convenience (a short 3-hour direct plane ride from San Francisco). Close to Los Cabos, Prana del Mar a far cry from the wild party scenes of Los Cabos. It’s located in the middle of the Mexican desert with the mountains to one side and the ocean with a private beach on the other. Run completely off the grid and on solar power, it’s an eco-conscious slice of heaven that doesn’t skimp on comforts.
Baja Mexico
In addition to the location, the retreat itself was really made special by the trip organizers, Alchemy Tours. Silvia was the yoga instructor, meditation guide and general life guru. Jake coordinated all the activities, assisted in yoga and was always ready for any question with a great sense of humor. The two of them eased any fears I had of traveling on my own to practice yoga with a group of strangers.
Soon enough, those strangers became friends. We got to know one another pretty quickly as we practiced 2-3 hours of daily yoga/meditation and explored Mexico on the many planned excursions. There were lots of firsts for me on this trip: first time surfing (glorious fun!), first time horseback riding (scary at the beginning but so peaceful by the end), first time ocean kayaking, first time holding a puffer fish while snorkeling (adorable–it looked like a Japanimation character!) and first time whale-spotting.
We were also able to visit a small, sleepy artist town called Todos Santos. Full of artist galleries, shops, cafes and restaurants, it was a nice chance to get a taste of Mexican culture beyond its stunning nature-inspired activities.
Baja Mexico
With the perfect balance between solo nature time and group activities, this trip was truly a relaxing and mindful experience for which I am so thankful!

August 8, 2013

Exploring Spain And The French Riviera

To help everyone at Tea “go there,” we make a yearly contribution to each employee for international travel and exploration. Upon their return, our Tea travelers write blog posts to share their adventures with all of us (and the world).

Meet Tara, she’s part of our merchandising team. Today she’s sharing a piece of her trip to Spain and the French Riviera with us.

The last couple of years I have made international travel a must – This past summer I visited Spain and the French Riviera!! I started my trip in San Sebastian. It was a cute, beach town in northern part of Spain. The beaches were beautiful, the food amazing and the people know how to party and have a good time. On a Saturday night streets were filled with music, drinking and laugher until 6 in the morning. After getting a taste of the Basque Country, I took a 6-hour train ride, enjoying the breath taking Spanish countryside, down to Barcelona. There was so much to explore in the city. From all the amazing works of Gaudi, great neighborhoods to the beautiful coastline, I definitely will need to go back to see it all. Park Guell and La Sagrada Familia were by far my favorites. At Park Guell I felt transported into a different land with beautiful structures and was able to see the entire city from above. At La Sagrada Familia I stood in awe of the beauty of the light shining through the stain glass and the massive structure. I learned every part had been carefully thought out and designed down to every last detail. So incredible!!

I also enjoyed watching a futbol match, Barcelona vs. Brazil, in a local sports bar. It was interesting to find more Brazil fans than Barcelona in Spain! The energy while watching was unbelievable.  The food continued to be amazing, I was stuffed at every meal! After exploring for a few days, I continued my trip to Cannes, France to experience the French Riviera. It was a great place to end my trip; the last of my days were spent laying on the beach looking out into the Mediterranean, taking a break only to walk the adorable streets filled with shops. I made sure to enjoy a bite to eat at a quant beach café.

My last night there they had the festival of fire works and the sky was filled with light and music filled the air. It was the best firework show I have ever seen! I had so much fun and saw so many wonderful places. I absolutely love to travel and explore new things and I cannot wait until my next adventure!!

 

July 30, 2013

Diving Into Life’s Unexpected Opportunities; Peru.

To help everyone at Tea “go there,” we make a yearly contribution to each employee for international travel and exploration. Upon their return, our Tea travelers write blog posts to share their adventures with all of us (and the world).

Meet Diane (she’s pictured below – the one in the middle!), our amazing marketing manager. Today she’s sharing her most memorable day from her Peruvian vacation with us on Studio T.

I love traveling abroad because it opens my eyes to new cultures, new people, and new adventures.  I am normally an organizer; my itinerary is methodically planned and set up prior to my departure.   This time, my travel adventure started out a bit reckless for me with a spontaneous invitation from my two friends to join them in Peru.  I thought, “why not?” Sometimes, you just have to dive into life’s unexpected opportunities! How could I know that I would get so much more out of it than I could have ever planned for? Here is the story of my most memorable and authentic day in Peru. It began with a bit of intuitive trust and a desire for adventure.

When we arrived at the Puerta (port) at Lake Titicaca at 7am, we had no tour planned, no ferry scheduled, and no time to do the standard overnight tourist stay on one of the lake’s popular islands. But, we were hoping to piece together a plan and a boat tour for the day.

We approached the first man we saw on the dock… keep in mind that between the three of us girls, we speak only broken Spanish and certainly no local dialect.  The man was small in stature and seemed to be in his 50’s or 60’s.  He spoke no English and very little Spanish, so even limited communication in a common language was out of the question. His native language was Quechua – a South American ancestral language of the indigenous people.  With hand gestures and the help of some of his friends, we were able to arrange a day trip to explore Lake Titicaca by boat with this local man whose name is “Victorino.”  We were able to discern that he would take us to visit the Floating Uros Islands and Amantani Island. But, that was all we could figure out from the conversation. The rest was going to be an adventure!  So, we put our trust in this weathered but gentle man and we journeyed on.

We climbed aboard an old, rickety, double-decker ferry and set off on our adventure. The 3 hour boat ride to the Uros islands was breathtaking.  The water was crystal clear and glass-like, and the snowcapped peaks on the horizon reflected in the water like a mirror.  The sky was the bluest I have ever seen with the contrast of the spotted bright white clouds to intensify the sky blue.

Sweeping views of the 3,200 square mile lake set at 12,000 feet above see level

Victorinio steered us toward the less-explored Uros Islands – the ones that few tourists ever visit.  Here we were able to walk around the floating islands made entirely of reeds.  When I stepped on the surface of the island, the water of the lake squished under my feet like a sponge.  It was like walking on a water bed. It was amazing to think of them floating out in the middle of the lake.  We even took a little ride on a canoe that was made of the reeds.

The Uros islands are floating islands made of reeds. The inhabitants of these islands speak Quechua and they make their living selling souvenirs to the few tourists who travel off the beaten path to visit these incredible islands.

The next stop on our tour was to the island of Amantani. The vastness of this island could not be deciphered upon first glance because of the mountainous landscape. When we got off of the boat we hiked up a steep hill – behind us, a panoramic breathtaking view of the lake. We trustingly followed Victorino up cobblestone paths through a tiny village. The people who live here fully sustain themselves with resources found on the islands. It was a walk back into a simpler time. Victorino welcomed us into his own family’s home where the walls were made of adobe, and the doorways and ceilings low. One tiny room housed Victorino, his 3 children, his brother in law and his grandson. Such a simple structure with minimal comforts, but with million dollar views of the massive lake.

The view from our lunch table.

As house guests, we were seated at the brightly colored table while the rest of the family sat down on a mud bench beside us in the kitchen area. Victorinio’s daughter had prepared us a homemade feast – she presented us with a traditional quinoa soup, fried trout, root vegetables, potatoes, cucumbers and coca tea.  The soup was a meal in itself and full of flavor!

After lunch, Victorino’s son showed us around their little village – pointing out the Plaza de Armas, the school, and the quaint homes. We spent the entire afternoon sightseeing and communicating effectively without a common verbal language.

When it was time to leave and head back to the mainland, Victorino sent us off with his son-in-law who escorted us to the ferry. The ferry carried the local people of the Amantani Island to the mainland. We climbed on board, unsure of where we would end up.  We had put our trust in Victorino’s family and so we continued on with his son-in-law. When we docked, we looked around and it seemed like we were in the middle of nowhere. By now the sun was on it’s way down, and we were a little uneasy about how we were going to get back to our hostel. Within a few minutes, out of what seemingly nowhere, appeared a van that would take us an hour down to the road to Puno, our final destination.  As the bus stopped to pick up locals making their way home from a long day, we imagined we looked a bit out of place with our fair skin and North American features.  We hummed along to the radio with a feeling of pure contentment from the unexpected adventure of the day.

What began as an uncertain, haphazard attempt to tour the islands turned into an unexpected, incredible, authentic, one-of-a-kind, adventure!  It was the most memorable and heartwarming day of our entire trip.  Not only did I have the opportunity to see new cultures and new people, but I experienced the local lifestyle on a personal and intimate level.  Victorino and his family will forever be etched in my heart and mind for taking us under his wing, showing us his corner of the world, and welcoming us into his home.

 

July 24, 2013

A Parisian Affair

To help everyone at Tea “go there,” we make a yearly contribution to each employee for international travel and exploration. Upon their return, our Tea travelers write blog posts to share their adventures with all of us (and the world).

Ana, who handles all things photo, took a getaway trip to Paris!


It has become a little tradition for me to visit Paris in May! It’s my birthday month, Roland Garros happens and I get the chance to spend time with my sister and my two year old niece. Win-win all around! This year I got the chance to land in Paris on my birthday and as a special treat I got to pick up my niece at the Crèche, her day care. It was so special to see her happy face in person instead of our weekly Skype sessions. She might have had a little shock to see Tata in person and not on the computer screen.

For the first time in years, I was able to experience life more as a Parisian than a tourist. Spending Saturday morning at the park with my niece watching all of the things she can do – never taking her eye off of the Ménage, knowing it would open soon. Her and every other child in the park waited for the lady who operated it, knowing soon they’d have to run to grab their favorite seat on the merry-go-round. That afternoon we stopped by my sister’s usual spot for cheese, fruits and vegetables.

Another day we decided to venture to the Jardins des Plantes to visit the zoo. It took a little while for my niece to warm-up to the park, but the minute we bumped into the local manège she was ready to go explore! We walked around the botanical gardens and then explored the zoo. The day flew by and I missed the chance to see the exhibit of the evolution of men… But there’s always next year!

Of course, I couldn’t miss the chance to watch some tennis. So rain and all, I spent 2 days at Roland Garros watching some great tennis. This is the only grand slam I’ve ever been to so I can’t compare to the other ones, but I will say it’s a very special place to watch tennis. I always get tickets for P.Chatrier, the main court, and then spend the day watching a few matches there, then jump around the annex courts. This year I got to watch Ferrer front row on court #2 and he made it all the way to the finals. I also was able to watch Federer, my dream is to watch Nadal so I’ll just keep going back until it happens!

On my last day, I had to get a bit of fashion in so I went to explore the Paris Haute Couture exhibit at the Hôtel de Ville. From the minute I walked in until the moment I stepped out, I was completely captivated by the pieces and how the space was designed. It was amazing to see how dresses were grouped by style, not years or designers, and for the most part they looked current, not dated at all. My one regret was not bringing my sketch book, but I ended up scribbling some sketches on my exhibit guide!

 

Special discoveries on this trip:

  • Librairie Gourmande: I’m no cook but spent over an hour going through all the cookbooks!
  • Palais de Tokyo: We checked out a special Chanel No.5 exhibit one night at 10pm. It was pretty cool to be in a museum that closes at midnight and then be able to have a drink!
  • Mariage Frères: I’m don’t drink Tea, but I wanted to bring back a special tea as a gift since my sister recommended this place. The packaging is beautiful and the recipient of my gift gave it five stars!

July 17, 2013

Maps & City Illustrations

Maps; They get you from place to place and remind you of all of the places you’ve been. They’re both beautiful and educational. On our designer’s inspiration trips they’re constantly sketching the beautiful places around them – whether it’s a floral pattern they find in a market or a design they’ve spotted on city tiles. We thought it would be fun to round up a few of our favorite hand drawn maps and illustrations. Don’t forget to bring along a sketch book on your next trip! Have sketches from past trips? We want to see! Send images to blog@teacollection.com.

 

Clockwise [Starting at the top left corner]:

Berlin –  Die Weitwoche Stil –  Edinburgh Towers –  Jamie House Design –  Marisa Seguin –  Tim Hopgood –  Hennie Haworth

June 10, 2013

“We Go There, Too!” featuring Jill Amery of UrbanMommies.com

We go there – we explore and dig deep into other cultures. We know you go there too. This new series will feature stories from world travelers; they’ve taken their first flight over seas with little ones, they’ve traveled back to their native country to introduce their children to grandparents, they’ve packed up only their necessities and traveled to developing countries. Here, you will find their stories and learn about how they’re going there too.

Kicking off this series, we have Jill Amery of UrbanMommies.com sharing her trip to Liberia. It wasn’t necessarily an easy one, but you’ll see that it was a trip that’s changed her life forever. Thank you Jill for sharing your story with us on Studio T!

I had the privilege of traveling to Liberia in February as a parent ambassador for Right To Play, an organization that helps children learn crucial life lessons through sport and games.  The experience affected me deeply and I can still smell the heavy West African air.  The kids who touched my ‘soft hair’ and reached for my hand are now part of my history.  They grace screensavers and watch me from silver frames.  The polish of the silver juxtaposed with what I witnessed is disconcerting and constantly reminds me to not take my blessings for granted.

The adults and teenagers I met in Liberia had experienced terrible things in their lifetimes with a war that ended very recently.  Some had lost parents and raised themselves.  Most had a loved one who experienced sexual assault.  And every adult associated with Right To Play worked tirelessly to restore hope for the next generation.  Every day the same volunteers (many had no employment themselves but chose to devote their days to teaching children through Right To Play activities) emerged into an empty space and performed magic.  It was like a slow motion film.  The waiting children would all turn, smile and organize themselves into a ‘great big circle’ so they could begin.  The rhythms of their responses to the leader of the game formed a percussive music.  The empty, litter-filled space had become vibrant and full of life.

When I think about the diversity in cultures brought to mainstream culture by Tea Collection, I smile.  Each outfit I see my kids wear reminds me that we are all connected in this small world.  The women of Liberia donned incredible colors and patterns.  Their bright eyes and huge smiles pierced through the grey sand and cracked concrete.  Standing in front of corrugated metal shacks with red, yellow and purple wraps, these women provided what mothers always do – hope and comfort.  Dressing my boys in similar colors and styles gives a nod to these women;  A sign of respect and awe.  And these women deserved nothing less.

One sign on the side of the road has haunted me since my return.  This one advertisement was a definition of ‘Mother’: a person who ‘makes something out of nothing’.  That is exactly what I witnessed.  These women generated a meager income buying bleach in bulk and selling it in small bags, buying a case of water packets and a block of ice and hoping for extreme heat so they may sell a few individual bags of water to quench thirst in their community.

Hope resonated everywhere – through the games, the smiles, the handmade toys and the tiny children playing hide and seek with this North American girl who seemed so different.  I was brought back to the basics of life:  drink fresh water, keep your clothes and environment clean to prevent disease, help your neighbor.  A young boy bathed meticulously in a large bucket by the side of the road.  A woman carrying a huge bundle on her head picked over potato leaves in a market to find the best choices for her family.  It was all about hope.

As a mother, I can make a promise.  I will never stop visiting other cultures and allowing them to penetrate my own motherhood.  I will share the songs and bright fabrics with my children.  I will try to not take my life for granted.  And more than anything, I will remember that hope is all one needs.

 

April 25, 2013

Equipo McKinstry en Mexico!

To help everyone at Tea “go there,” we make a yearly contribution to each employee for international travel and exploration. Upon their return, our Tea travelers write blog posts to share their adventures with all of us (and the world).

Amy McKinstry, Senior Sales Executive of Department Stores here at Tea, traveled with her family to Mexico to enjoy sandy shores and ancient ruins.

When my husband and I were deciding where to vacation this year with our kids, we went back and forth quite a bit.  France was high on the list, having never been to Paris (shameful, I know) and also wanting to see the French countryside as well as the beaches.  We considered Portugal.  We talked about local destinations in the US as well but having not been on a proper vacation for several years, we wanted to go a little further away – insisting however, on a combine of relaxation as well as some great cultural influence (sitting pool side in the confines of a massive resort was not what we had in mind.)  So we landed far, but not too far – on Soliman Bay, Mexico.  Probably one of the best kept secrets on the Maya Riviera (about a 90 minute drive south of Cancun)  Soliman Bay is a secluded beach just 10 minutes from the magnificent beach town of Tulum – and with so many terrific cultural activities to choose from on any given day!

I feel compelled to first paint you a mental picture of Soliman Bay – a beach so beautiful and secluded that we were challenged to find even 2 more people sitting on the sand or kayaking in the crystal blue water on a regular basis.  Kayaking and snorkeling became my every day exercise and source of meditation – I found myself in “vacation mode” nearly the moment my toes hit the sand.  Palapas (the Mexican thatched roofs) dotted the beach and each villa (be it modest or luxurious) had its own unique beauty and charm.  A little hut at the end of the beach referred to as “The Fish Shack” served lobster, ceviche and ‘the like’ on modest plastic tables under palm trees and could rival the very best seafood restaurants in Manhattan.  Our kids swung on hammocks and played in the sand at our feet as we waited for our food and enjoyed some cold Modelos.  Needless to say, we were happy campers and gloating over our choice of destination almost immediately…

Of course, we soon felt the need to explore the area and with some guidance from a good friend who had been drawn back here year after year, we enjoyed a few wonderful experiences worth mentioning.

The Tulum ruins (again, just 10 minutes from our location) was our first stop.  These ruins sit along the shore of Tulum and are one of the few elevated locations along the coast (so the views alone, as you can imagine, were just beautiful.)  With a terrific Mayan tour guide leading the way (Senor Miguel) we learned about the significance of each ruin, their location within the walls of this
“city” and the carvings and traces of paint that amazingly still remain on so many of the ancient walls.

Another great experience was our visit to a Spider Monkey Sanctuary that had only been open to the public for about 6 months.  This property, spanning 67 acres of jungle, is a safe haven to protect this dwindling species of monkey.  The kids enjoyed feeding these amazing creatures (they took peanuts right out of their little hands) and just watching them in their habitat.  We hiked the property to also discover small alligators as well as a Cenotes (the underground rivers which are a very popular attraction in the area and are often referred to as the sacred waters of the Maya Riviera.)  My husband and I reluctantly jumped into the Cenotes with the other in our group (and if you knew us, and our collective fear of heights and small spaces… you’d be impressed.  Trust me!)

And of course, there is Tulum… a more perfect beach town I challenge anyone to find.  The beach itself is just beautiful – eco friendly and relaxed, it is a beautiful hybrid of an authentic Mexican surf town, and the most sophisticated of locations all in one.  Local artisans sell the most wonderful handmade jewelry on the streets and airy cabanas and palapas line the beach along with amazing bars and restaurants.  A great spot during the day or for a night out – heavenly!

We were inspired daily during this trip with the cultural as a whole – the vibrant colors of their textiles, hand embroidery, Mayan art, beautiful architecture, amazing food and the graciousness of the locals.   So many little things brought me back to Tea’s visit to Mexico and the wonderfully authentic details that they included in their designs just a few seasons ago (and before that, during their first visit to Mexico back in the earlier years of Tea!)

In short – it was a wonderful family vacation full of relaxation, culture, amazing food and fun activities.  I am also so grateful to Tea for reminding me, through their own inspiration & travel, to always recognize the small, beautiful details of the world around us – in every culture.  It is such a special place to work and such a special practice to pass along to our children.

So if you are considering a trip to this region of Mexico, I’d say… pack your bag.  Go there.  ENJOY!