50 States, My Son and Creating #Lunchbox Chronicles: Raising a Conscious Black Boy in America
I am always interested in stories about women who are movers and shakers, who push themselves to achieve success while balancing the demands of life and by all accounts, are indeed trailblazers.
I had the distinct pleasure of meeting Tai Hall, a mom, multiple business owner, best-selling author of : “#Lunchbox Chronicles: Raising a Conscious Black Boy in America” and an international massage therapist. If that isn't enough, she's also an avid traveler! Personally, I consider Tai the epitome of today's "go-getter" and a true "boss". So, it's with excitement that I share a little bit of what I discovered about her during our interview for this blog regarding her love of travel, juggling motherhood and her businesses.
From her very first trip to Atlanta, GA, to cruising the beautiful islands in the Bahamas, Tai found her “real love” - which is traveling. I wanted to know specifically about Tai's first travel experience and her discovery of her "real love", and here's what she said: "My very first trip was to Atlanta about 10 years ago. My best friend relocated to the ATL and we would take turns trekking to and from celebrating birthdays and family events. A close friend of ours invited us on a cruise to the Bahamas a year later and I fell in love with my scuba instructor (lol). He was ALL kinds of fine! We were only docked at Nassau for one night so he and his best friend took me and my best friend around the entire island. We laughed and danced and partied til port call. He and I exchanged contact info via whatsapp and kept in contact. He owned the excursion company Carnival contracted the events for and flew me out at the end of every month for the next six months until I realized I couldn't handle a long distance relationship. But through that relationship he introduced me to my real true love: traveling. I've been hooked ever since. "
Everyone has that first trip that really sets the tone or creates the yearning for more travel. In Tai's case, it was her trip to the Bahamas that did it for her! Here's how she describes her love of the islands of Bahamas: "Bahamian culture was (well still is) so rich and pure. Aside from the tourist attractions, I fell in love with the minimalistic lifestyle in being happy with the riches of the land; the contentment in family and friends, of music and basic things entitlement robs us of. I ate fruits I had never seen before; tasted beers we could never have in the states. I saw flowers for the first time in person that I grew up seeing as computer screen savers. And the people were so nice! I found myself smiling all of the time-sharing in their love of life with no strings attached. It's a 'life high' that you can only appreciate through experience and exposure." After this description of the Bahamas, clearly I should have consulted with Tai first before taking my trips there, I have never tasted fruit or beer from the Bahamas! But now I plan to. How about you?
As I described earlier, Tai is also a mother of a wonderful son. I am a believer in investing in our children and their interests, therefore Tai's fascinating story about her son’s excitement when he learned about all 50 states was nothing short of amazing. Tai actually described what happened when her son learned about the 50 states and how he wanted to explore each and every one of them, here's specifically what she said: "My son came home one day from school stoked on a life high because he had just found out that there were 50 states... and he wanted to go see them all. I was taken aback because as a single mom all I was processing was how expensive this was starting to sound lol. He went in his room and offered me his piggy bank to get started. If his selfless heart could give me his last as a token to delve into his dreams... then so could I. (This is discussed heavily in her best selling novel: #Lunchbox Chronicles: Raising a Conscious Black Boy in America as it tracks their travels and journey across the country. ) It’s one thing to hear about disparities and cultural differences that people are faced with on a daily basis... but to witness them is a totally different story. To envelop your mind around racism first hand, to experience being treated differently because of the color of your skin, to witness modern-day class-ism and mental bondage in 2018 changes you forever. It’s humbling and refreshing all at the same time, and has also created a platform for me to offer my son a more well-rounded pedigree."
As you might imagine, giving your child/children these kinds of life experiences certainly creates well-adjusted, educated, and open-minded children. Tai describes the influence and impact of providing a "traveling education" on her son like this: "My son is more mature than most kids his age. Maybe not even mature mentally as I will say emotionally. He is extremely understanding and compassionate; empathetic to others. He is kind and loving because of what he has been exposed to. The premise of my book delineates the impact simply moving from the suburbs to the inner city has had on him in expanding his mind to how blessed he is. There are things he has experienced that they haven't even begun to teach him in school yet but when they get to it he is twice as engaged in the conversations because a lot of it he has lived first hand."
I agree with Tai, what she's exposing her son to at an early age (creating life lessons and permanent memories) can not be taught within four walls. Understandably, everyone's life isn't set up in manner where this can be accomplished, however, for those that are interested in pushing through and carving a path similar to Tai's and that of her son, here's some helpful guidance offered by Tai on how to pursue balancing travel, business and motherhood: "You fight for what you believe in; you make time for the things that are important to you. What shopping, drinking, or yoga do for some ‘travel’ does for me. It is my happy place. The ability to get lost in other lands isn't just a luxury but has become a necessity. Nothing else has the same calming, nourishing, replenishing effect on my mental health like travel does. To step off of a plane -- passport in hand... take a deep breath with a new adventure on the horizon; a semi empty camera in tow and a half packed suitcase waiting to be filled with souvenirs and memories? I have to make time for it. I make time to be happy. And my happiness revels in the form of travel. I also take pride in that a lot of people who follow my trips are unable to travel whether its due to economic constraints or physical ones. So e-vite them on my journeys and vicariously live for them. When something means THAT much to you, as well as other around you? You make time to make it happen.
The “how”: When my son is in school I try to schedule my trips on Fri-Mon. I’ll wake him before I leave, leave breakfast in the microwave, and preschedule his über to take him to school. I watch the über’s commute as I board my flight, and confirm with the school his attendance before the flight takes off (or have my parents call the school if I'm already in the air). I've also had my neighbor take my son to school for me. My parents live so far from us now they can rarely take him. He catches the public bus home and his aunt or his dad will pick him up from the house when he gets settled; he’ll spend the weekend with them until I get back. On trips when I am unable to schedule it around a weekend, I have someone stay at my home and take care of him while I'm gone whether it's a family member, a trusted friend, or his dad has come and stayed in the guest bedroom while I'm gone. As for work and client - I actually get a lot of last-minute overseas contracts and have to move client appointments around to accommodate them. There are always understanding. And in moments of last minute travel for pleasure— whether a great deal pops up that I want to take advantage of or I'm mentally drained and need to get away, I move commitments around to make it happen. Those that understand the last minute shifts -- Great! And those that don't? Great. Either way I'm still going. I would say start locally abroad in places that would heighten the amount of exposure and experiences but minimize the planning and expenses such as the Bahamas, the USVI, Puerto Rico, Guam, Alaska, or Hawaii as none of these places require a passport (that process can take some time, time that could be better spent traveling) -- they get to hop on a plane for the first time as well. Rent a car upon arriving at your destination which gives you control over their exposure instead of being stuck at a resort. Use trip advisor and yell to plan out the best landmarks to visit. Use Groupon or airBnB to book hotels and save a coin or two. And bring your children in on the conversation! Tell them what the travel destination options are and charge them to research each place; write a book report on each place and ask them which one they would like to go to. My son owes me a book report for every state we travel to; that's my payment in exchange for the trip. Once the children choose the destination, assign them to choose one excursion, event, museum, etc. each day to venture to. It starts teaching them to think for themselves, explore their likes and dislikes, how to plan! So many life lessons that they will use over and over again for the rest of their lives are acquired through travel. Raising a child doesn't come with a cookie cutter recipe of what to do. If the goal is to raise happy, smart, healthy children, including travel helps you to creatively cultivate all of those ideals, vesseling knowledge and culture all at the same time."
I learned a lot from this portion of my interview with Tai. I truly had no idea that the desire for travel could be likened to the desire one has to shop or dine out frequently; but it makes sense. I also learned how strongly travel is a part of who Tai is and there's nothing that will change that. She's strategically designed her life and practices around making a way to travel -- that is pure dedication. I also learned how Tai's love of travel is woven into her parenting style. She uses the many components of traveling (planning and executing of plans) to create life managment lessons for her son. Tai has found that "thing" in life that makes her more than happy - so much so that she's shared this lifestyle with her child. It's important for YOU reading this article to discover what it is in life that enables you to feel fulfilled and like you're living your best life. It may not be travel for you, like it was for Tai -- and that's okay. Just discover what it is, without comparison to the life of another and indeed live your life out loud -- just as Tai has managed to successfully do.
Tai Hall is also a successful international massage therapist and a sought after, successful author of the popular: "#Lunchbox Chronicles: Raising a Conscious Black Boy in America" you can learn more about Ms. Hall and her novel by visiting her website at: http://thelunchboxchronicles.com.