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—Photograph courtesy of Carrie Visintainer

Colorado Bookshelf: “Wild Mama”

Colorado author Carrie Visintainer reminds us it's important—and healthy—to foster passions outside of parenthood.

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Some preach that life as you know it ends when motherhood begins. To some extent, that’s true. Colorado mom Carrie Visintainer shares in her new book, Wild Mama (Thought Catalog, November 2015), the leap into parenthood is a chance to transfer your passion to your children—while still engaging in adventures of your own. Visintainer’s call to all parents is to “find your wild,” wherever that may be. It could be skiing, rock climbing, traveling or writing—it doesn’t matter what, just so long as parents work to maintain the parts of life that make them happy. We caught up with the mother of two as her family spends three months of exploration and discovery in the Caribbean.

What is your current adventure?
My husband and I, and our kids (ages eight and five years old), traveled to Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica on New Year’s Day and are living temporarily on the South Caribbean coast. We took one carry-on bag each (and checked our stand-up paddleboard), and it’s a combination of work and play. My husband and I both work remotely, and we’re “road-schooling” our kids while they’re away from their public school in Colorado.

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What do your kids get out of extended adventures like this?
I just asked them this question yesterday to get their perspective. Their top answers included: trying new foods, seeing wildlife every day, learning a new language, meeting all kinds of different people, and being together as a family a lot. I’d add that they’re also learning quite a bit about navigating uncomfortable situations. As in, our first housing situation was a bust, there’s been some torrential rain and very large insects and rodents, and it’s pretty exhausting and disorienting communicating in a new language. As we’ve done these extended trips over time, I’ve watched them become more flexible, adaptable, and independent.

What are you gaining from your trip?
First off, it feels good to slow down to Caribbean-style pace, making it easier for me to embrace the present moment. I’ve enjoyed stretching myself as I get to know this new community, and I find that I take such joy in simple things like watching the waves or finding a farmer’s market or learning about a good salsa dancing teacher. Every day, I love seeing the wonder in my kids eyes as they take in their surroundings. When I travel to a new place and stay awhile, I find that I connect deeply with who I am at my core.

What’s been your favorite part of your trip?
When we moved into our new space a couple of weeks ago, a group of about 40 howler monkeys—males, females, and babies—were hanging out high up in the apple tree a few feet away. They stayed there for several days and we got to watch their antics. It’s the most eerie/awesome thing to hear them howl early in the morning about 4 a.m. as they gather their tribe together. (Note: The apple tree I refer to is actually a manzana de agua tree, and the fruit tastes to me more like a pear.)

How does adventuring with your family make you a better mom, and more important a better you?
When I’m feeling happy and whole, I’m able to give my best self to my husband and kids.

How does entertaining “your wild” have an impact when you get home?
Well, it’s too early to tell, in terms of this trip. But as we’ve experimented with these extended trips over time, which I talk about in Wild Mama, the word that comes to mind is possibility. As in, I never thought my husband and I could pull off this kind of life, where we work remotely and pull our kids of school and travel a few months of each year. Yet, here we are. It sort of challenges my definition of “home.” Colorado is a stunning place and we’re happy to have roots there. Yet we also enjoy expanding our wings. It’s lovely to have both roots and wings. It’s a whole new “wild” way of thinking.

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Follow assistant editor Lindsey R. McKissick on Twitter @LindseyRMcK.

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