A lot of life can happen very quickly. The year 2020 was as life changing for us as it was for many people. For us, it was the year our baby girl joined our family! We are thrilled to discover what it’s like to adventure with her at our side. We’re learning, making mistakes, and ultimately growing along the way.
We are the Alsops, a family of three doing our best to get out there and see what the world has to offer. We run into bumps, curveballs, and glitches along the way and do our best to learn from them. Especially in this post 2020 world, we are navigating the mysterious waters of travel opportunities, responsibilities, and restrictions. We know it might be rough, but that’s all part of the journey!
And yes, our little girl will be there every step of the way.
We commonly get the question, “Wait, you’re bringing her with you?” Of course! She’s all part of the adventure! Far from limiting our options, she makes life richer and more meaningful. There’s something deeply gratifying about introducing your kiddo to a life experience. My favorite is when we experience something new together, so we can share in that childlike wonder.
We want to bring her behind jungle waterfalls and under northern lights. We want her to smell seaweed and guano and fresh made curry. We want her to embrace new foods as if it could be her next favorite dish. We want her to fall asleep to the peaceful sounds of mountain rivers and city metro tracks.
All the experiences I desire for myself, I want for her more.
2020 also opened the doors to remote work. This has launched us into opportunities beyond what we were ever able to do before. Instead of taking short trips that are go go go as fast as you can all day long, we can take longer trips where I work for the day, then go out and enjoy the evening. This really slows down the pace and makes it more doable with the logistics of having a little one. I feel truly grateful every day for this luxury.
We’re brand new to this parenting thing and would love to avoid any setbacks if we could! Comment on the articles with tips or pointers you’ve discovered along the way. I’m fully aware of the experienced parents out there who have certainly learned a thing or two! Let’s figure this out together.
We landed and got through customs without a hitch. Picked up our bag that got 3 corners shattered and one wheel broken off! 😅 negotiated the rental car (such a pain) and made it on the road. We stopped at the first restaurant we saw to get done lunch. Tried a sampler platter with fried plantain, banana, ham, pork rinds, beans, fajitas, and some delicious cubed vegetable . It was good! We were thrilled to see a toucan and woodpecker so close to the airport! It promised some good animal sightings during our stay. Savannah was so happy to be able to make as much noise as she wanted with the restaurant being outside and all.
We made the drive to Monteverde along the windiest, most beautiful road. Savannah had HAD it by then and was very sad by the time we finally pulled into our airbnb in the dark in the rain. It was a cozy place and we were all so very grateful to finally arrive.
Getting there is very exhausting–especially with a little one.
We loved our airbnb In Monteverde!! We could see so many amazing birds right from our living room! Savannah loved her crib and practiced standing and talking to us. The backyard had this amazing garden that the host showed us his plants, orchids, toucan nest, tarantula holes, pineapple plant, and mot mot nest. We really enjoyed learning to recognize the different birds sounds. I LOVED working outside and soaking in the amazing ambience. Hummingbirds would frequent the flowers nearby–dazzlingly blue and strikingly purple–like little jungle jewels in the air.
Each new birds sighting was thrilling–the magnificent mask and tail quills of the mot mot, emerald body and yellow banana break off the toucan, bright yellow tummies against a jet black back on there birds at the feeder, small blue birds flitting about. It was a bird watchers paradise.
And so many shapes, sizes, and colors of flowers! The cloud forest shows off its diversity of orchids, burmilliads, vines, and other flowers I couldn’t name. I loved watching the clouds roll in and past. We were basically living in a cloud for a week.
The mot mot is such an amazing, exotic bird and I loved how he just flew around the yard. Our host would put out bananas and the birds would come have a treat. Apparently the mot mot has a nest in a pipe in the backyard, so it hangs out. I loved seeing it so often!
El Tigre Hike
This Airbnb experience was WAY at the top of the cloud forest mountain. And it was SO worth it! We hiked down through this incredible canyon, past breathtaking waterfalls and across the sketchiest hanging bridges! I loved the adventure of it all–and bringing Savannah felt very daring. She was a trooper and totally loved the hike. She loves being in the carrier–she shrieks and laughs as we walk along–totally enjoying her own little experience. We saw the majestic morpho butterfly 🦋 that you just have to stand still and watch flap by. We sent the drone up and almost lost it 😅 but got an amazing shot anyway. It opened up and poured rain halfway through and we just embraced it. An umbrella is the best rain gear btw. Crossing the tall log bridges made me anxious and I held Savannah tight. We did it together!
At the end we were met with a guide who had horses for us to ride back up the massive hill. He didn’t speak a lick of English and he seemed impatient that we had to feed Savannah first. Then, when we got up on the horse, we were trying to navigate changing the go pro batteries and he asked if we were ready to go. We very vitally said no and he sent the horses off. So basically we were super not ready. We asked if we could stop and the guide was like, no. Ha ha!
But the ride turned out to be fun and Savannah cooed and laughed as we went. At one point she started fussing and I realized that the saddle horn was hitting her in the butt with every step and she was tired of it! 😂 I’ve ALWAYS wanted to ride a horse in the mountains and it was everything I hoped it would be.
The meal at the top was warm, big, and delicious. Everything you want after a long, wet, incredible hike.
I would say that we all slept good that night, but Savannah had other plans. She still wakes up a lot and the hard floors echo her night cries loudly. Ah well, that’s just how it goes.
We took a slow Sunday. We had a picnic with the parrots and saw some amazing basilisk lizards. They’re big with some impressive fringes across their backs and arms. Supposedly they run across the water! We stopped at a few places to see what birds we could find and saw some toucans! They’re easy to spot with their white chest and unusual shape as they fly. I love how colorful their breaks are! We learned to identify their call and everything. We spied a bunch of parrots and parakeets–easy to find with their loud chatter. Thankfully they’re loud or else we’d never see their green feathers against the jungle. We also spotted the smaller green tucanet as well! We drove up further into the cloud forest and visited a gift shop that had hummingbird feeders outside. And they were AMAZING! Little dazzling jewels darting around the Misty air. Shiny sapphire and amethyst blending into emerald greens. And they weren’t afraid of us so we could get really good views! We spent quite a bit of time just enjoying hanging out there. We also spotted a troop of howler monkeys before we heard them.
This afternoon we just decided to start walking from our Airbnb and see what we could find. We ended up on some cool jungle trails. We found a capybara -like mammal called an agouti, Morpho butterflies, and whole trails of leaf cutter ants. I love following their trails to see where they go. It rained pretty good that night and we had some impressive thunder. It was so nice to be cozy inside! E we also made these awesome chicken wraps using the cabbage our host picked from his garden.
We spent the day exploring the hanging bridges park. They were impressively tall and unexpectedly long! We enjoyed spotting birds, monkeys, and even a tree viper resting on a bromeliad way up in the top of a tree. The home base had Internet, so we took a walk through the 3km loop and I worked for a few hours and we did the loop again! We did that several times and just made a day of it. It’s really cool to have such a flexible job.
I thoroughly enjoyed working outside in the yard, watching all the amazing birds go by. We played with a stick bug for a while and we get some hummingbirds to visit the feeder we bought in town. It was a rainy afternoon, so we walked through the souvenir shops in town and picked up food to have at home.
It was a full house at the Yocum home. W we had a total blast playing a BUNCH of games. Those guys are a hoot to be around. Our two families get laughing pretty good and the jokes just keep going. I love chatting with Olivia and laughing with Bree. The boys are always fun to play games with. Naomi makes us feel so loved and included. When we shared what we were thankful for around the table, it got nice and sentimental–it was nice. Luckily, Tyler accidentally forgot that the GoPro was on and we got the whole thing on camera. Ha ha! Good times.
We didn’t do tons of research beforehand and decided to let the day unfold how it would. We started at the Colosseum and moved along the Roman Forum. There is so much to see! Ancient columns tell of an ancient city that was impressively prosperous and powerful. The craftmanship of these structures was clear. The forum wasn’t open to walk into so the green lawns were clear of the clutter of people making a beautiful scene to soak in. I loved watching the green parrots swoop between columns and through the soaring archways. Who knew green parrots live in Rome?! After the Forum we were swept into one of the many inviting alleyways alive with festive Christmas decoration and a market spirit. Tyler ended up in a clowns street performance act and performed marvelously. I couldn’t believe it when we turned another corner and an entire carnival opened up to our view. A carousel spun in the center of the square and brightly colored booths stood tucked between the roman fountains so common throughout the city. We had to stop and buy a long piece of stuffed licorice from the invitingly colorful candy stand to munch on as we perused the shops and stands. I basically had to drag Tyelr away from the nativity building booths where you can buy miniature anything to build your own nativity village. It was tempting indeed, but the price would have racked up fast and our bags don’t leave much room for souvenirs. We passed the Pantheon and the Trevi Fountain, both of which earn their fame. By the end of the day, we were exhausted from walking all over the streets and tucked into some delicious Turkish kebab before snuggling in for the night.
Rome Jan 2
I LOVED the Sistine chapel! I thought it would be more of an obligatory visit to complete our time in Rome, but that image of God, who was surrounded by people close by, reaching, straining out towards Adam, who was alone and casually lifting a finger towards God. Man, just reach a little harder dude and imagine the resources and support you’d have! It really hit home for me. I’m glad that image comes to mind often now as I go throughout my day. Do I decide to pray before climbing into a warm bed? Do I read a few passages of scripture before the facebook scroll? How can I strain and reach back towards God? I loved standing there, looking up at the painting a hundred feet above me and feeling the impact of the message potrayed.
St Peter’s basilica was impressive in a very different way. I didn’t feel the spirit the same way there though. But it was grand to walk through and admire the sheer magnitude of the world’s biggest church. Tyler got positively lost in the grandeur of the place. I liked it when the priests came out for mass and sang as they walked, filling the huge room with the echoing sound of their praying voices. It really added to the experience. I also loved the use of real candles all lit up along the sides to bring more light and warmth to the room.
We also got to go inside the Colosseum, which was way awesome! It was way easy to visualize big competitions and performances of sorts with thousands of people filling the stands to watch. That place is so amazingly massive—way bigger than modern sports stadiums. We explored as many levels as we could reach and made sure to soak in the view from each angle. It’s truly astounding what ancient engineers knew how to do. I’m fully convinced that they had some technologies that have since been lost and now we just go about things in a different way. The Incan structures at Sacsaywaman in Peru come to mind. After the colosseum, we climbed to the top of a hill and watched the light turn pink in the late evening all over the old columns and archways of the Forum. It was a perfect Roman day.
After 3 days of traveling, our train crossed over open water and pulled into the station. We stepped off the train and into a watercolor painting. Venice is an enchanting city. No cars and only canals that connect the city together. Boats of all shapes and sizes nudge along the river edge and jostle for position in the main canal. Somehow in the side canals, they slide past each other easily, with seemingly no rules on direction or approach, but somehow all the drivers understand. After gawking at the unbelievably picturesque dome across the canal that greets travelers just off the train, we crossed over the large bridge and were immediately plunged into a maze of narrow cobbled streets lined with shuttered windows complete with hanging flower beds. The walls were an authentic jumble of color flaking away to show charming brick beneath. Weaving through the maze of narrow alleyways, we often came to canals with just the right arched bridge to cross to the other side. We also came to canals without any bridge and had to turn around. It’s a wonderful place to get lost in.
We found our Airbnb right in the heart of the city and after several unusual doors that paired with even more unusual skeleton keys, we settled into our room on the top floor. It had two shuttered windows that opened up right over a bustling alleyway. I quickly realized that I could lay in bed and just listen to the sounds of Venice right outside the window: clinking dishes at the café’s, boots ringing on the cobblestone, pigeons flapping to dodge those passing by. I loved to just lay there and listen in the early hours of the morning when Tyler was still asleep but the jet lag robbed sleep from me. I didn’t really mind though as I could listen to the shop owners getting ready for another busy day.
We had no plan for Venice. And really, that’s the way it should be experienced. We left our place without a destination or an agenda and simply allowed the flow of the canals sweep us along. We found magical little corners that I’m sure no visitor has ever seen before. It felt like walking through an MC Escher painting with all the archways, bridges, and canals winding every which way. We sat on a bench at the park square and quietly observed how the city moves. We scoped out the best cafes and discovered Italian pizza, pasta, and panini’s. Tyler loved trying all the gelato flavors while I snapped pictures, failing to capture the emotion of the city. We took it slow and soaked in as much of the flavor of Venice as we could.
We debated for three days on if we should go on a gondola ride or not. It was 90 euros for half an hour and with the conversion rate and exchange taxes it would have been well over 100 to do it. We finally decided against it and enjoyed the city in our own way, which I honestly think was more romantic. I loved to watch them float through the canals like a living painting. I only heard a few singing, but Tyler and I were humming the only Italian song we knew from Lady and the Tramp often as we strolled along. One gondola had a guitar player which accompanied the viaual beautifully. One square we stumbled across had an accordian player which added to the ambience immensely. I couldn’t believe how enchanting the whole experience was. Sure, there were many tourists in the apparently famous areas, but my favorite was discovering the quite parts. We found the cutest little café with plants growing in a canopy over the small tables that sat right by a canal with gondolas sliding past. We ordered pasta dishes and asked for water that came out in a glass bottle that the smartly dressed waiter popped open to fill our wine glasses. It all felt very European.