The Best Vacation – Puerto Rico

The Best Vacation – Puerto Rico

By
Lissette Cardona

As a family we decided on going beach hopping in Puerto Rico, the kids had never been, well except for my son but he was only one at the time, so according to him, it didn’t count. We didn’t have a plan other than to rent a car and see where the road leads. Let the fun begin!

We had two rules on this trip; BE ADVENTUROUS, and NO phones!

In the Moment

One of the first beaches we went to was Playa La Pocita in Piñones, a beautiful beach surrounded by breakwater where the waves of the Atlantic Ocean crash up against it, and the wind carries the mist coming off the rocks through the air. My husband and I were relaxing at the edge of the water, watching the kids play. All of a sudden, it started to rain, my first inclination was to grab all our things and run; but the kids weren’t phased by it, we were already wet, so we stayed, and I’m glad we did. Kids have this way of living in the moment and enjoying every second of a new experience. So, instead of just watching them, my husband and I joined them, and for that moment we were kids again except this time our babies were right there with us, and we played in the rain together. By the way, we were safe; the sun was shining bright as it played peek-a-boo through white clouds, and we saw a rainbow in the distance.

We’ve collectively decided to add a new rule. BE IN THE MOMENT!

New Experiences

Now we’re off again, this time the car ride is a little longer, we’re heading to La Parguera, on the southwestern side which is surrounded by the Caribbean Sea. We’re on our way to meet my husband’s cousin; it’s their first time meeting in person. After a quick bite, we went to his boat for what we thought was going to be a nice boat ride; it turned out to be one of the most Ahhhmazing day’s we would have on this trip.

It’s a short ride through floating houses and a mesmerizing blue sea to a nature reserve called Cayo Caracoles (Snails Cay). The kid’s eyes lit up when we pulled between the mangroves, and Dee’s cousin says, “alright guys, go ahead, jump in!”  Huh? I thought and kind of said out loud, then I was reminded we’re on an adventure!  It was a beautiful thing to see the excitement and fearless wonder of the kids as they jumped into the crystal clear, shallow, and calm warm waters of this nature reserve in the middle of the sea. My husband decided to join them, and they made their way to a rope hanging from a tree between the groves, one by one they climbed slowly up the tree, grabbed the rope for dear life, swung, and jumped in. After that first jump, they raced up the tree trying to get as many swings in as possible. It was spectacular to witness!

My husband’s cousin has one more place to show us, so the kids hurried back in the boat before the sun began to set, and we made our way to Playa Rosada. A great picnic area with a pier that extends out into a natural pool of seawater. What do you think we did?… Of course, we jumped in!  The sun was beginning to dip into the horizon, and the sky glowed with bold, vibrant shades of red and orange all around us. Pure Magic!

Just Keep Jumping!

Our last leg of this trip brought us to the Northwest side of the Island; we’re going to Crash Boat beach in Aguadilla. Not sure any boats crashed there, though, the U.S. used it during WWII for the Crash Rescue Boat Squadron. Now, remember how in Finding Nemo Dory just keeps swimming well in our case these kids and my husband just keep jumping off the ridiculously high dock. Initially, they were fearful of jumping, but fear is a good thing; the release of adrenaline gives us that fight or flight response, it let us know we’re alive. The question is, will you take the chance and jump in, or will you sit in fear?

As a kid, I’d spent a few summers in Puerto Rico with my grandparents and family but had never met the island, the people, and the ocean quite like this. Everything looked and smelled familiar, but there was a more profound connection now that my family and I were exploring and immersing ourselves in it all together. I’m glad we decided to disconnect from our phones, be adventurous, live in the moment, and not let fear stop us from having the time our lives together! You may or may not be wondering, why I didn’t join in on some of the more adventurous moments on this trip; well that’s because I was pregnant and this was our Family Baby Moon.

Our Unforgettable Oaxacan Family Memories

Our Unforgettable Oaxacan Family Memories

By
Maria Buchanan

During the summer of 2016 my family and I visited the beautiful city of Oaxaca.  For some time, my husband David and I, along with our two daughters, Saraí and Isabel had been longing to for this family experience.  Located in southern Mexico, Oaxaca is known for its rich history, culture, cuisine, and art. We enjoyed staying in a hotel that caters to local people from the countryside, who come to the city to sell their cacao beans to process nearby, which are  transformed into the best chocolate that Mexico offers; from dark chocolate to chocolate mixed with cinnamon. The history of chocolate around the world traces its beginnings to Mexico, and used by the indigenous Zapotecans of old.

The morning after our arrival, we awoke to the delicious smell of fresh hot chocolate being ground, ready to be sold. With our breakfast we were served fresh hot chocolate mixed with fresh cinnamon. This delicious first experience was served in bowls, instead of the accostumed cups.

After breakfast we headed out for the Benito Juarez and 20 de Noviembre markets.

where we discovered many different kinds of a traditional Mexican dish known as “mole”.

Even though I am Mexican I was only familiar with the two or three types of “mole” known in the region of Central Mexico where I grew up, and now discovered that this market sold about 7 different types of “mole”. What a surprise for us all. The best vanilla in Mexico comes from Oaxaca and this market offered fresh vanilla bean pods for the modest price of one dollar, with local men and women from the surrounding countryside presiding over the many small stalls in the market, also selling all kinds of exotic foods, from chapulines (roasted grasshoppers), eaten as snacks, to large tostadas called tlayudas, served with beans, cheese, and meat.

From the food market we made our way to the artisan market, and saw native garments and jewelry with traditional indigenous designs.  The eye-catching colors and designs, amidst the background of the various native Indian languages, woven into the broken Spanish spoken by the indigenous vendors, was an audio and visual delight that stimulated the senses.

The smells, colors, flavors and textures of that visit prepared us for our trip the following day, to the archaeological city of Monte Alban, with its pyramids and buildings, true vestiges of one of Mexico’s important, ancient civilizations, whose greatness speaks of the intelligence, capability and knowledge, science and architecture of its people.

After a long day of walking and enjoying this ancient city we also enjoyed returning to one of Oaxaca’s restaurants on the Plaza, and the delicious food they offer.

And after dinner it was interesting to stroll through the main plaza, and then met and talked to the local people and youths, as we sat in the plaza.

The next day we visited the Zocalo, and later in the day, ex-convent of Santo Domingo.  This building now houses a museum that displays the history and culture of Oaxaca.

Oaxaca is definitely a city not to be missed when visiting Mexico, so be sure to wear comfortable shoes and clothing, and be prepared to walk and explore this beautiful city and region.

David, Saraí, Isabel and I were very happy to fulfill our dream of visiting this beautiful place together, as a family.

Never a Dull Moment

Never a Dull Moment

By
José-Andrés Alegría

Family is everything, especially on 31st Road. Growing up, I could take a two-minute walk down the street to find someone to help escape the clutches of boredom. My mom and two of her sisters all decided to buy houses on the same street. They also happened to all have kids around the same time. So you can’t even begin to imagine, to the dismay of the neighbors, the shenanigans and mischief my cousins and I got ourselves into growing up. But the one thing I want to make clear is that my cousins, although they are technically extended family, are more like siblings to me. We have always been close and will always be close. We scattered in every direction. A few of us in Chicago, some in California, a couple in Florida, and the rest in Tennessee, but we all make sure that we know what’s going on in our lives. And when we get together, there is never a dull moment. I mean, what trumps family?

My favorite vacations always involve family. Thanksgiving in California when we visited my oldest sister while she was pregnant with her second kid. Going to the Dominican Republic for Abuelita’s 100th birthday party. Visiting family in Chicago as a kid and being taken to all the cool spots in the city. But the greatest of all these hits was Christmas 2012. It takes a lot of planning and mental fortitude to get my mom and her five sisters (The Sisters) and their families in one place. Everyone is always busy. Life can get crazy like that, but this year everyone was on a mission. My Abuelo was sick, and we were scared that this was his last Christmas. The Sisters wanted to make this one as memorable as possible. And they did just that.

 

On some mountain in Tennessee, (Maybe it was a really big hill. What do I know? I’m from Florida.) in the middle of winter, we crammed all 27 of us into this magical cabin. I remember being worried that I wouldn’t be able to have any fun with my cousin. I had torn my ACL, and when this vacation was over I was getting surgery. But then I remembered that my family, although they enjoy adventure and fun, is a group of bums who like to sit on a super comfy couch and do absolutely nothing. It’s awesome. Also, it was waaaaay too cold to go outside. (Again, I’m from Florida. The second it hits 65 degrees the whole state is in jackets and sweats.) Locked in a cabin with family and no end in sight? To some, this sounds like an especially evil version of hell. But we filled the time with board games, catching up, and food. There was enough food to feed a small army. There was never a dull moment. Someone was always telling a story. Stories that we all have heard a million times but were still funny nonetheless. Like the time I got hit by a car. And finding out later, that it was my oldest sister who was driving the car. Or the time my dad decided he didn’t want to take me to the hospital. So instead he took my cast off himself…with a chainsaw. (Child Services if you are reading this, please disregard the previous statement). Or any of the other crazy stories my family has in their back pocket.

Like every big group, my family has its cliques. The Sisters consists of my mom and her sisters, and they talk about family chisme. It’s usually about some cousin or aunt that I didn’t even know existed. The White Uncles gathered in a corner, fend for themselves in a sea of melanin. The Latin Uncles get together, and either brood in a corner (cause they have some past trauma from a world us 2nd generation kids would never understand) or they talk about the Bible and Church for hours. Then you have the Big Kids, which is where I fall. We are the first group of kids that popped out. There are seven of us. Then there are the Little Kids, at the time they were six strong, but some new ones have popped up over the years. The groups mingle and mesh. But since there are so many of us, there is usually always someone in the kitchen cooking. Which means there is at least one group in the kitchen. And there is, at any given time, at least five different conversations going on. And this is where my family is weird, we all, for some reason, cram into one room. Oh, there’s a group in the kitchen? Well, you can bet that everyone is going to make their way into the kitchen. There’s a table for six? We can fit 10 more people on the table. Who needs elbow room?

But what made this Christmas memorable? It was a chance for all of us to see my Abuelo’s legacy. On top of all that he did in his life, I like to think that his greatest achievement was us. The family he loved, and that loved him. This vacation wasn’t just a destination that we went to and explored. It wasn’t about sight-seeing. It was about drinking hot chocolate in a room filled with people that you love. It was about reminiscing the good times and laughing at all the embarrassing dirt we have on each other. It was a vacation, sure. But more than anything, it was a reminder that family, my family, is never dull. And without them, I don’t know where I would be today. And for that, I will always be grateful.

For more tips on relationships, follow Family Bridges on social media @familybridges
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Jose-Andres Alegria is an intern at Family Bridges who does whatever the boss tells him to do, but if he can’t be found it usually means that his face is buried in a book somewhere or that he is taking a nap and you should come back later when he’s not “busy”.

Follow him on…
Twitter: @No_Way_Jose11

Best Trip So Far

Best Trip So Far

By
Omaira Gonzalez

If you are like me, you have probably watched the movies “Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants” or “Mama Mia” and dreamed of one day visiting Greece. I finally made it in May 2018 in celebration of my 31st anniversary, and I fell madly in love with Greece, making it one of my best vacations yet.

It was spectacular, and I learned a few things on this trip. Here is what I discovered.

Be ready

I do not mean be ready in the sense of clothes, shoes, and that sort of stuff. Yes, of course, pack light, wear comfortable shoes and wear lots of sunscreen lotion. However, I mean more like be ready to experience every facet of Greece. I was on a boat with my husband, and I decided to stay inside as it was very windy and cold. My husband, on the other hand, decided to remain on the deck, and he witnessed Dolphins jumping alongside the boat. I could not believe I had missed it. I learned a valuable lesson that day: do not focus on the present situation, if you do, you might miss amazing opportunities that may not repeat themselves.

Be open

Greece is full of culture, amazing people, and let’s not forget the delicious food. Fresh Greek salads with bread and virgin olive oil. Yum. Practically everything you eat there is like an explosion of flavors in your mouth. I tried different dishes, and I was never disappointed. However, I also enjoyed walking down those beautiful streets of Santorini, Mykonos and Athens. As we strolled down the streets, we ran into people from almost every part of the world it seemed. At times, it was challenging trying to navigate through the language barriers. I learned that a smile, a kind gesture and a warm greeting is a language we all can understand. We met some great people along the way that made this trip extremely memorable.

Be surprised

Upon our arrival to Santorini, my husband and I had booked a room at a lovely hotel. The staff learned that we were celebrating our anniversary and, upon our arrival, greeted us with Champaign and hugs…yes, hugs (loved it). The biggest surprise was when they shared that the owner has several hotel establishments, and when he learned about our anniversary, he upgraded our stay to a 5-star suite. It was gorgeous and had amazing views. I witnessed some of the most beautiful sunsets and sunrises. I learned that life will surprise you with some good – do not question it, do not be suspicious, but receive those blessings and recognize how much God does love you. I also learned that the sunrise is just as beautiful as the sunset.

Be Adventurous

We thought it would be a good idea at Thira, Santorini to walk down the steps with the donkeys instead of waiting for the cable car line or riding a donkey down. Not quite the adventure I was hoping for, as I was extremely nervous and scared. Many times, donkeys would surround us, I could feel my heart beating in my chest, and I desperately made my way out. Here is what happened next: we took the cable car up. That was the end of that adventure. We also rented mopeds and rode around the island, visiting the different beaches and enjoying the scenery. It was breathtaking. I learned that getting lost can be more fun, will lead you to discover more and will give you some pleasant surprises. I also learned that you might not always enjoy every adventure you embark on, but have them anyways.

I am convinced that I will revisit Greece once again, and I would love others to plan the trip as well. It is full of history, culture, adventure and many surprises. Be ready, be open, be surprised and be adventurous.

For more tips on relationships, follow Family Bridges on social media @familybridges
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Omaira Gonzalez is the COO for Family Bridges. Omaira and her husband of 30+ years love adventure, long walks and Broadway shows. With their two kids Yomari and Omar, and new granddaughter, they enjoy great meals and playing board games. But look out–losing is not an option!

You’re broke. I’m broke. We’re all broke. But let’s have fun anyway.

You’re broke. I’m broke. We’re all broke. But let’s have fun anyway.

By
José-Andrés Alegría

So you want to travel but are too broke to go through with it? Yeah, same. I’m seeing all of my friends getting married, having kids, or traveling the world. And yet, I am, somehow, at home not doing any of those things. Granted, I only want to do one of those right now. But I just finished school and just started to make money, how am I supposed to travel like everyone around me? The first step is that I have to accept the fact that I may not be able to go to Greece and have the trip I want right now at this point in my life. It doesn’t mean I can’t start thinking about it and start to plan it. It simply means I have to live within my means (which sucks), meaning that instead of a long trip far far away maybe I take a day trip or staycation.

Try a Staycation

Staycations are pretty awesome. The city you live in seems to drastically change when you stay in a hotel on the other side of town. Do all the fun stuff that you take for granted because you live there. Growing up in South Florida, I never went to the beach unless I was forced to go with family. (I really hate sand.) So I planned a trip to the Keys with my friends and experienced my state from the perspective of a tourist. Well, I had way more fun. Or maybe you can wait for a fun event to come to your city, like a concert or comedy show and plan a weekend around it. We tend to think that we know our city. So eventually, we get bored of it, however, if you go into a staycation with the same explorative sense of adventure that you would have had had you gone somewhere else. Then maybe, just maybe you’ll be surprised by all the fun you might have from home. You just have to treat it like a real vacation. So what do you enjoy?

Eat your way around town

I like to plan around food. I love food. I live by the philosophy that eating food is an activity we do at least three times a day, every day so I might as well enjoy it, right? So I will look up the best places to eat and plan around them and fill the gaps between meals with boring stuff like hiking, museums, and sight-seeing. Okay…they aren’t boring per se, but food is the best. There is nothing quite like going somewhere and eating what they are known for. Going to Miami? You’d be a dummy if you didn’t go out to eat some seafood or some Cuban food. It’s like traveling to Chicago and not trying deep dish at least once before you leave. It’s almost sacrilegious.

Travel in a group

If you don’t want to go alone, then check out tour groups or travel groups. I know, it sounds a little weird, but you might be surprised at the people you might meet. Another great way to meet new people is by staying at a hostel. They are usually cheaper and have an array of people coming and going. You might have to be a little more social than expected, but it can be a fun experience.

Enjoy a resort experience for cheap

Not looking to go out and do stuff? I get that. ResortPass is this cool website that lets you buy a day pass to a resort for pretty cheap. They have different packages that offer various amenities. You get access to all the cool perks of staying in a hotel without actually staying. So if all you want is to unwind by the pool, sipping on a Piña Colada, reading a book, then this is the best option for you. I went one time and got a day pass for $35 and chilled all day on the beach and relaxed.

 

If I’m completely honest, my ideal staycation is to lock myself in my room, take long naps, eat an asinine amount of Chinese food, and watch movies till my eyes hurt. And when my eyes start to hurt looking at the TV screen, then I will binge whatever book is closest to me.

I’ll leave the comfort of my room every once in a while to let people know that I am indeed alive. It’s like my version of a system reboot. Sometimes, you need to restart your brain. For me, that means no human interaction and getting lost in some weird, wacky book or tv show. But if that sounds like literal hell to you (I’m looking at you extroverts) then simply remember there is always something to do. You just need to be like Dora. Go explore. Grab your Boots and go. I’ve recently moved to the Chicago area, and there is so much that I already want to do.

For more tips on relationships, follow Family Bridges on social media @familybridges
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Jose-Andres Alegria is an intern at Family Bridges who does whatever the boss tells him to do, but if he can’t be found it usually means that his face is buried in a book somewhere or that he is taking a nap and you should come back later when he’s not “busy”.

Follow him on…
Twitter: @No_Way_Jose11

Keys to a Peaceful Family Vacation

Keys to a Peaceful Family Vacation

By
Eva Fleming

Family vacations are great for several reasons. The number reason though, is that they help us form bonds and strengthen relationships with our loved ones like few things can. In a world where so many things demand our attention, a time and place dedicated to strengthening those bonds are priceless and necessary. As parents, we must collect our children. Vacations give us the ability to reassume our roles as the mentors and nurturers of our kids. They allow us to get into our children’s spaces in a friendly way. As love partners, we must also collect the attention of our lovers. Vacations allow us to rekindle the love we feel for our partner away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. Vacations allow us to make our families a priority.

But peaceful vacations don’t just happen. They must be planned, as logistics and emotions can play a big part in their success or failure. Four years ago, my family went to the Dominican Republic. When we arrived at the second location on our itinerary, our hotel had lost our reservation and my husband, a strict organizer, got so distraught that it took him almost six hours to compose himself before relaxing enough to enjoy the rest of the trip. When things go wrong, our attitudes suffer, and as a result, our vacation can turn to chaos.

Here are a few tips to keep your vacation stress-free and peaceful.

Plan Ahead

The first rule for a peaceful family vacation is to plan ahead. If possible, decide where you are going and pay for things ahead of time. One year we went to the UP in Michigan, I paid for our hotel accommodations, plane tickets and car rentals beforehand. I also planned all of our hiking trips way ahead of time. It was great not to have to worry about upcoming credit card bills, which can easily ruin one’s vacation. Since nature is so pure in that part of the U.S., it was a relief to be able to choose activities that the whole family could enjoy without having to spend a fortune.

Make Sacrifices

Secondly, you must be willing to make sacrifices. You need to enjoy your time together and shut up about the inconveniences or the things that may scare you or bother you. I hate water activities because the ocean makes me nauseous. But while on an extended family vacation, I went kayaking with my sister despite my reservations, and enjoyed the experience even though my first instinct was to stay on the shore under an umbrella. I may or may not have had to throw up the minute we got back to the beach, but I will never forget the experience, and how much closer and connected I felt to my sibling.

Save on Food

Third, if you are not traveling on an RV of sorts, try to book a place that has a kitchen. Most children need to eat three meals a day, and trying to coordinate all that eating and paying for it can be highly stressful. But if you can eat in at least two simple meals and leave the eating out for only one time a day, you will not only save money but also reduce the amount of stress eating out can cause.

Take Time to Relax

Lastly, if you want a peaceful vacation, don’t overbook your schedule. Doing something every second of the day is not good for the introverts in the group or the very young ones. Plan some downtime, where everyone can just relax, read, play cards or nap. That downtime will recharge you to keep going and minimize the complaints of crabby children and whiny adults.

It’s highly unlikely that you will travel as a family and not get on each other’s nerves at least once. But many of our annoyances are the result of poor planning. Learn ways to take steps beforehand to minimize those annoyances, and you will create precious memories that your family won’t soon forget, but even more importantly, you will strengthen the family bonds, and that’s priceless.

For more tips on relationships, follow Family Bridges on social media @familybridges

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Eva Fleming is an expert educator and curriculum developer. She has over 25 years of teaching experience and has taught all age groups including, preschool, elementary, middle and high school children and adults. When she’s not teaching, she’s cooking something delicious or driving her children around.