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Making Travel Dreams a Reality in Asia

And on being that girl gain...

Please welcome Holly Rosen Fink, social entrepreneur, blogger and theater producer. This post is third in a series about Holly's travels to Asia.

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How travel helped Holly find herself again

It's been a few months since I went to Vietnam and China without my family. It was so beyond my everyday life that it almost seems like it didn't happen.

stunning imagery everywherestunning imagery everywhereBut it did. And I have the memories and photos to prove it.

While I was traveling, I wasn't as avidly using social media as often as I usually do. It was time to disconnect and "look up". It was my time to regroup and decided I would benefit from a break from real life. I didn't carry my computer, which is generally attached to me like a band-aid.

self discovery adventureself discovery adventureBut there was one tool that I kept up with: Instagram.

I had never been in such a visually stunning place in my life, so photography became my best friend and I filled my stream with dozens of images daily. I wasn't showing off that I was there while everyone was back home working, taking care of kids or just experiencing the daily grind. I wasn't trying to say, LOOK AT ME. I was letting everyone know that not only was I okay, but I was doing something good for myself. Plus, I was in a part of the world that not every American visits AND THEY SHOULD.

feeding my wanderlustfeeding my wanderlustSome people, like Jen Maidenberg, author of one of my favorite blogs, I Made Aliyah, really got it. About my trip, she wrote:

I am struck by the pictures my friend Holly is sending back to us from Hong Kong and Vietnam. She's feeding her wanderlust with banana pancakes, dim sum, and gorgeous panoramas, while feeding our desire for travel photography "porn."

exotic foods at the marketexotic foods at the marketI was feeding my wanderlust. But it was more than that. It was about reconnecting with myself on a very visceral level that needed to be experienced without children in tow. While I was traveling throughout Asia, my backpack attached to my back, I was Holly Rosen again. I was that adventurous traveler that existed before I had kids. The girl that tried and tasted everything, and jumped to travel every chance I could.

My friend and I were so ecstatic about our travels. Every day we would turn to each other and tell each other how surreal the experience was and we felt compelled to post photos every chance we had. The comments on Facebook in response were hilarious. Here are some verbatim:

Instagram inspirationInstagram inspiration"Holly your pics are gorgeous!!! What r u doing in Asia?"

"Beautiful photos. Why North Vietnam? How did you get your husband to agree? Mine would want to come along!"

"I've never met Brian, but he's obviously an awesome husband!"

"You'll have to tell me how you managed to get away!"

As I read each comment, I laughed. And I sighed. And my friend and I agreed that every mom should get away and reconnect with their inner beings every freedom to explore ... mefreedom to explore ... meonce in a while. I know that some people thought that I was going through a mid-life crisis or that I had some great desire to get away from my family, but that could not be as far from the truth as possible. I just wanted an adventure of my own. I had been dying to go to Asia for the last nine years since I had kids and my husband and I agreed that they were not quite ready for the kind of traveling that I wanted to do. I wanted to take nighttime trains. I wanted to sit and eat street food all day. I wanted to jump on boats and rush off for seafood on remote islands at night. I wanted to hike, kayak and ride motorbikes.

unique and foreign culturesunique and foreign culturesAnd I did all that and so much more. My husband had been to Asia several times before, and he wanted me to have the experience. He was very happy and supportive of my traveling solo and stayed home and followed my adventures along with everyone else.

While I was away, my mom stayed with in my house and I felt confident that everything was running smoothly. The few times I did Skype or Facetime home, my son would say, "Mom, I can't talk now. Grandma and I are watching a movie." or my daughter would say "I'm busy, talk to Daddy." They hardly noticed I was gone.

experiencing new thingsexperiencing new thingsWhen I heard that my daughter and husband fell ill several days after my departure, I felt no guilt. Whether I was home or not, I know that everyone would survive. And they did more than that - they thrived! The only time I felt slightly guilty was when my daughter emailed me that her ear was bleeding. She had pierced her ears a month before my trip and one was infected. Her email read: Mom, please help me. You're a girl!  But by the time I phoned to find out how she was, she was 100% fine and it had all been forgotten.

And we've since had her ear re-pierced.

The hard truth about coming home

long road to travellong road to travelWhen I returned home, I guess a part of me was still in Vietnam. I was tired. I felt a wave of exhaustion like none other I had ever experienced. It lasted two full weeks. I would fall asleep at odd times and wake up at even more unusual times. I wasn't quite ready to make meals and clean the house after staying in hotels and guest houses, so I kind of let things go, which is very unlike me.

But now after being back for a few months, I am getting up and making things happen. I have a new perspective on life. After what I have seen - there was beauty but also extreme poverty - I feel changed. I cannot get the trip out of my mind and I can't wait to travel again. There was so much that left a lasting impact on me. The food is stuck in my brain (ahh, the street food!). The architecture, the landscapes remain etched in my mind.

great people we metgreat people we metBut most of all, I remember the people that we met along the way. Not only the people we met who were traveling but also the people who live in Vietnam.  I will never again sit idle in America without helping the ethnic minorities in some way, particularly the women and children.

I have also noticed a big difference in my parenting the last few months. I am more attentive. I am putting my work aside when I'm with the kids. I'm focusing my energies on them far more than I used to. My break in Asia did far more than I could have ever asked for and reconnecting with the side of me that pays more attention to the little people in my life was something I needed. One day my son came home from school soon after my return, ecstatic over a magic trick that he learned in his after-school club. He proceeded to spend the next four hours doing the trick over and over again for just me. I let him. And I enjoyed it.

Ttake the time to discover YOU!take the time to discover YOU!hree amazing women we met in Halong Bay called our trip "pediatrician prescribed". They were doctors, of course. And it was. I recommend a break for all moms in the world. Whether it be for one day, two days or two weeks if you can afford it or have childcare (believe me, scraping the childcare together was HARD - we have no family support where we live but my mom was able to come, which was a blessing). I'm not saying it's easy to leave your kids, and maybe you think it's wrong to do anything without them, but for me, it was valuable to the way I parent, the way I live and the way I will make decisions moving forward. 

Read Holly’s other stories on GoGirlfriend:

Have you ever taken a life-changing trip like Holly? We'd love to read your stories so please share a link or considering writing them here on GoGilfriend. Find us on Twitter or Facebook and let's start talking!

About Holly Rosen Fink

Holly Rosien Fink ~ @theCultureMomHolly Rosien Fink ~ @theCultureMomHolly Rosen Fink is a Marketing, Communications, Public Relations, Branding and Social Media expert with over 15 years experience increasing brand awareness and sales at leading publishing houses and media companies.  She is the founder of TheCultureMom.com and has been a contributor to Family Vacation CriticA ChildGrows, Ciao BambinoCBS New YorkThe Savvy SourceKidzvuzTravel Savvy Mom and Project You Magazine.

Last year she edited Come Closer: How Tourism is Shaping the Future of Nations and associate produced the off-off-Broadway hit The Best of Everything. She's currently producing the NYC production of Listen to Your Mother.

Catch up with Holly online:

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