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Mambukal Mountain, The Philippines

Waterfall at Mambukal Mountain from Travels With Lulu on Vimeo.

As we are nearing the official start of winter, my mind is brought back to Southeast Asia, specifically to the Philippines. It was deliciously hot when we visited last winter– which inspired me to armchair travel today back to Mambukal Mountain.

Mambukal Mountain is on the island of Negros Occidental, outside of Bacolod City. We took a long drive through the Philippine countryside to arrive from Bacolod. The landscape was a rustic blend of rice paddies, skinny palm trees, tall fields of grass, and brooks of murmuring waters. The cars and buses we passed wore brown layers of dirt from driving along unpaved roads. Children sometimes roamed the streets in flip-flops, dressed in sleeveless t-shirts and worn gym shorts, or in neatly pressed Catholic school uniforms. Multiple people piled onto bicycles. It was a welcome contrast from city life, either the urban chaos we witnessed in Manila or what we live daily back in New York. The quiet foreignness of it all made it a soothing drive.

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When we arrived to Mambukal, we discovered a deep dive into nature. The surroundings are filled with lush tropical vegetation and flowers. Seven waterfalls beckon, although with Lulu, we only made it to see about three (to see all seven, the climb to each was more challenging than the next.)

At the trail's entrance

At the trail’s entrance

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An army of bats asleep in trees, awaiting the night

An army of bats asleep in trees, awaiting the night

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Waterfall #1

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Waterfall #2

Waterfall #2

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The youngest hiker on these trails

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IMG_0654IMG_0682There is something about the mountains, no matter in what country, that makes me feel alive. Perhaps it’s the back-to-nature aspect, to be surrounded by such rawness, the earth as it is and as it should be. To observe living creatures in their natural habitat, whether welcome or unwelcome (at one point we stopped to watch hundreds of bats furiously swirl around each other in an open cave) gives us a different perspective. In this rural part of the Philippines, it was a refreshing detour from touring mostly urban areas.

And considering what I learned previously about the country, mostly about its congested capital or its spectacular tropical shores, discovering this abundant mountain, tucked away in a quiet pocket of the Philippines, made for an extremely satisfying day.

If only I could trade in these upcoming frigid days of winter, for the hot, sweaty, challenging climb to the 7th waterfall of Mambukal Mountain…

A Louis Vuitton Scooter & the Unpredictability of Life

DSC_1623See this scooter? This beautiful, never-been-used, Louis Vuitton-branded scooter from the turn of the century? Meaning, circa 2000. I was working at Louis Vuitton at the time, heading the PR for North America. We were asked to create a Louis Vuitton scooter for the lead character of a little movie in the making, called Zoolander. They wanted Ben Stiller’s character to ride around in an LV scooter. So if I recall correctly, after receiving our request in the Paris office, they custom-made 5 of them. (Mr. Blue Steel did not end up using it in the film though, unfortunately.)

It was a crazy time then at Louis Vuitton, endless launches, countless events, new products newly designed by Marc Jacobs. I remember working around the clock. Six months alone were spent day and night working on a massive Classic Car Show that took place in New York’s Rockefeller Center. I lived downtown then, 40 blocks away. Days leading up to the event, we stayed in hotel rooms midtown just so we were that close to Rock Center and the work site. We had booked Aretha Franklin as the headlining entertainment act, and threw an incredible party where the skating rink sits.

Somewhere in this time frame there were also store openings on Fifth Avenue, LA, and San Francisco. And fashion shows in Paris. I had to be everywhere organizing U.S. press. I look back and can only attribute my energy to youth and passion. I loved my job, I loved fashion, and I loved to work. I also had nothing else going on in my life, but that–and a relationship with someone living in London that was quickly going sour mostly due to my A.D.D. Somehow I still found the time to entertain other potential lovers who didn’t even live in New York.

But back to the scooter.

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My boss gave me one of the extra scooters that winter as a token of gratitude for all my hard work. What am I going to do with this? I thought. I might as well keep it and store it away. I just might have a daughter one day who will want to use it.

This is nearly 15 years later. I now have a daughter. I am a freelance writer. I write about travel. I have no idea what the latest trend is for F/W or S/S 2015. And I now look around my apartment, my world, and feel like all the things I accumulated in my years in fashion I no longer have use for. I have started a closet purge, and I found this scooter again. Do I keep it? I have a feeling there is someone in this world who would appreciate it, far more than me, and far more than my equally other-minded daughter. At the age most preschoolers are already fussy about what they wear, she couldn’t care less about what I dress on her in the mornings.

There are three things today that I desire in life, more than anything I could have envisioned all those years ago.

1. To write books.

2. To travel.

3. To encourage an intellectually, emotionally, and spiritually abundant life for Lulu.

None of these involve the things I thought so very important back then. I am the same person, but my priorities have decidedly changed. Who would have ever guessed? I was so married to my work then, and thought my future as a mover and shaker in the fashion world was clear. After all, it had been all I ever wanted, ever since I was 10 years old.

If only I could give this luxury designer scooter to my 10-year-old self.

Have you changed so drastically from who your younger self thought you would turn out to be? What was the change, and what was the shift in priorities? If so, please share in the comments below…

“I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I have ended up where I needed to be.”
― Douglas Adams, The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul

Finding Design & Style in Travel With Kids

Our room at Relaix & Chateaux’s Eolo – Patagonia’s Spirit

When the shift came from traveling as a childless adult to travels with a baby, I found that besides the obvious challenges, there was also the challenge of finding accommodations that fit my taste. Hotels that are known for their attention to detail in their interiors, their amenities, and even in the food they serve, do not normally have patrons of the smaller size in mind. I remember on our first extended trip to Brazil in the spring of 2011, I had discovered a good number of the lovely hotels and B&Bs I had researched back at home (and intended to book) did not allow any children under 12 years of age.

As I love hotels, interiors, and appreciate style and good design, this was a big disappointment. I felt as if there was an element to our unique experience we were both missing. Instead I often turned to vacation rentals, which has become wildly popular since those first days 3 years ago, when Lulu was an infant.

More families are traveling together, and more children are traveling the world with their parents more than ever before. It says a lot about our global culture, and to my delight, it’s inspired a number of travel websites that take into account the tastes of both parent and child. Below are a few that I have used and have recently discovered. I hope they too can make all the difference in your travel experiences. Happy wandering and happy (temporary) nesting with family!

iescape

image courtesy of i-escape

www.i-escape.com – I have been using i-escape for years now. It’s a fantastic informational resource that highlights the high and lows of the hotels featured, specific details of individual rooms, as well as insider tips and special offers for i-escape guests who book through the site. There are accommodation choices of boutique hotels, villa rentals, or city apartments, and the site even breaks down properties by appropriate age group– genius for parent travel planners!

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www.ciaobambino.com - CB! was started by a mom determined to fill the need for a resource directed at parents traveling with kids. It has a ton of information on itineraries, travel tips, and booking options for kid-friendly accommodations for those with discerning tastes. Their editorial content is expansive and varied with lots of ideas on where to go in the U.S. and internationally– and what to do once you get there– perfect for travel ideas and inspiration, when thoughts of a vacation first come to mind.

www.kidandcoe.com – This vacation rental booking site has often been on my list of recommendations to friends who travel with their families. Specializing in property rentals that are kid-friendly, it offers stylish apartments and homes for families in various destinations around the world. Especially when first traveling with Lulu as an infant, I would often look for access to a kitchen and convenient laundry facilities. The options here take a lot of guess work out of the equation, without sacrificing aesthetics.

 

BlackTomatowww.blacktomato.com - Black Tomato is where expert travel planners do all the planning for you. They have a service dedicated to luxury family holidays– fill in their questionnaire to get started, such as where you are looking to travel, for how long, how many kids, and any other specific requests– and this will get the ball rolling to have an exclusive itinerary mapped out for your family. An amazing service for parents with little time (and patience) to plan, but with ample budget.

image courtesy of Ashley Muir Bruhn, Hither & Tither

image courtesy of Ashley Muir Bruhn, Hither & Tither

www.hitherandtither.net – This is the only blog I am including, as it is not a family travel planning site per se, but one that is full of inspiration. I’ve followed Hither and Tither for several years now, and Ashley’s blog is a treasure trove of ideas on design and lifestyle– especially her Travelogues. Between her travels and her overall taste, as well as vignettes of her life juggling family, home, DIY projects, beautiful photography and a blog (I don’t know how she does it), she manages to inspire readers to follow a similar life of good living. Alternatively, her Pinterest page is full of travel ideas for the design-conscious.