In this installment of the Traveling Mom Spotlight, I interview Christina Riley. Christina is the mother of Charlotte, a full-time travel writer, and the owner of popular niche travel site, NC Tripping.
Let’s start with you introducing yourself and your family.
My name is Christina Riley and I am a full-time travel writer with my husband, Carl Hedinger, and 3 year old daughter Charlotte. My husband and I have been traveling and writing together for almost 8 years and our daughter took her first overnight trip at 6 weeks old.
What made you decide that you wanted to provide a life of travel for your family?
When I met my husband we were both living in our college town and unhappy- feeling stuck. Three weeks after I met him he asked me to go to Korea with him to teach abroad. I broke up with him… But I eventually came around and after being together for a year we both moved to Korea to teach. There, we traveled as much and as often as we could. When we moved back to the US after five years we decided to treat our new home state of North Carolina like we did Asia. We travel as much and as often as we can.
Are your friends and family supportive of you and the travel lifestyle you live?
Yes! When we moved to Korea our parents were all concerned for our safety, but neither one of us have ever been people who sat still long.
How is you daughter educated while you’re traveling?
I look at our travel as education. Our toddler attends Montessori school so we look at the environment around us as learning opportunities. She learns about different food, sees new museums, learns about colors and plants while on hiking, and meets all sorts of people along the way.
How has your daughter benefited most from traveling?
I believe that travel has made Charlotte more flexible. Because our job often requires us to cram a lot into a day, she’s been able to transition easily when it is time to move on to something new.
What has been the best “kid-friendly” city you’ve visited? What made it the best?
We are probably the outlier, but we don’t really believe in “kid-friendly”. We want to show our daughter the world which is something not as inviting. We’ve taken her to art museums, up steep mountains, and places where kids aren’t usually seen. While we still do the kid activities while traveling, we didn’t want to alter the way we explored just because we had a child, and I think she’s adapted because of that.
Have you tried any foods on your travels that you or your daughter absolutely love?
When we first moved to North Carolina I became obsessed with NC barbecue. I went on a mission to eat at as many historic barbecue restaurants which meant our daughter ate A LOT of pulled pork! Thankfully she loved it because we ate at over 20+ North Carolina Barbecue restaurants in a year!
What’s the biggest criticism you’ve received about your choice to live a life of travel?
Honestly, the hardest part as been accepting that we haven’t been everywhere or eaten at every restaurant. We run a North Carolina specific travel website and have quickly made ourselves an authority- but we are upfront about the fact that we weren’t born and raised here. Our travel site grew from us exploring our new state which means we still have so much to explore. Unfortunately, this means we get some criticism sometimes for leaving out a city, restaurant, or somebody’s uncle’s brother’s fried chicken joint.
Do you have any travel goals for your family that you’ve set out to accomplish?
I think the next step for us is to slow down a little while traveling. We’ve been so focused on growing our site to full time that we often jam a lot into our trips. We want to go back to travel for work and pleasure and sometimes take a deep breath and enjoy it all.
What’s the worst part and the best part about traveling with your daughter?
The worst part is when we have a threenager. She’s still learning and developing and sometimes our plans get in the way of that. It becomes hard when we are in a time crunch on an itinerary and Charlotte decides there is something else she would rather do.
But the best part is that I get to do this with her. Not many people can say that they get to take their kids to work with them. She is such a large part of our story and sometimes it is beautiful to see travel through her eyes.
What advice would you give to someone who is nervous about traveling with their kids for the first time?
The best advice I ever got was actually advice I had once given a very tired mom. She reminded me of this when I was nervous about traveling again after a couple of months break. “Routines are for routine places.”
It is impossible to expect our children to take a nap in the middle of the day in a place that isn’t theirs the same way they would at home. It’s a lot of pressure to feed your child the best possible food in a hotel room or during a 5 hour road trip. It’s unlikely that they will act the same while traveling as they do at home (and sometimes they act better while traveling!) If you are nervous the first thing you should do is reframe your expectations and give both you- and your child- a little grace.