A memorable day in Tavira, Portugal—and how my travel mindset has changed as a mom

When I was pregnant with my first child, we dreamed of sharing the world with our daughter. We envisioned living in Southeast Asia again—we’d lived in Vietnam before having kids—and talked about all the things we would experience together as a family. We imagined frequent international travel, long trips, and adventurous explorations together.

Then we became parents and quickly realized that our idyllic, carefree traveling lifestyle wasn’t going to fly. When baby number two arrived, and as we matured as parents and people, we reset our vision. Today, we focus on experiencing a few things in a place, for a shorter period of time, versus embracing the all-in, explore-till-you-drop style we had in our twenties. Our parenting is focused on raising empathetic global citizens who feel at home in the world.

And we have experienced the world together! Along with living and traveling in Thailand and Portugal, we’ve taken family trips to Singapore and Vietnam. The kids go to international schools with kids from dozens of different countries. And while COVID-19 slowed our grand plans to explore Europe, we’ve gotten to take short trips to places around the country. Including a day trip this past weekend to Tavira, Portugal.

A Day in Tavira, Portugal

The day started out with some whining (by the kids), pleading (by us), and refusing to put socks and shoes on (by my son). Kids, am I right? My husband and I packed lunch and snacks for the day—I am a big fan of packing food, mostly because of the hassle of trying to find food while traveling—and we finally made it out the door a couple hours later than planned. No matter! We were out to have a day of fun.

We made it forty-five minutes down the road before the kids started asking for lunch. Then we realized we only had a quarter tank of gas. So we pulled over at a rest stop, and I gassed up while my husband fed the kids. (Of course we spent the first ten minutes at a broken pump, but I digress . . . )

Finally, thirty minutes later, we pulled into Tavira. What a charming town! Because we were at the tail end of tourist season, we were able to easily find free parking near the city center and walk to the Praça da República, a lovely square complete with a water feature and amphitheater.

The kids loved exploring the Praça da República. So much space to run!

This close-up makes me laugh. You can see pure joy in their gaits as they sprint toward the steps!

After walking through the Praça da República, we crossed the Rio Gilão and explored the old town district. While it wasn’t much different from most of the old towns I’ve been to in Portugal, the river was a lovely complement to the old buildings and narrow alleyways.

The Rio Gilão riverfront was beautiful!

My youngest loves statues and insists on photos when we see especially good ones. This is in old town.

I mean, that river! Lovely.

After getting coffee and a snack along the Rio Gilão, we walked back to our car and drove to the nearby salt flats, known as a habitat to wild flamingos. There, we planned to catch a ferry to Ilha de Tavira (Tavira Island). On our way, a huge flock of seagulls flew over our car, and we stopped to admire them.

Later, when chatting with another couple, they asked if we were the ones who stopped the car in the middle of the road and yelled, “Wow!” over and over. Yep, that was us!

Shortly after, we boarded a ferry to Ilha de Tavira. It’s a short journey, only about five minutes, and we disembarked and walked the island for about an hour. The dunes were incredible—such a unique landscape!

The island has long boardwalks like this one so you can explore the length of the long beach.

I love this photo of my little guy! Look at the dunes to his right—they’re all over the island and are an important habitat for a variety of creatures.

My oldest bought a puka shell necklace! Took me right back to the ’90s.

Days like this aren’t about perfection. They’re about connection and presence with the people we love.

Walking back to the ferry after a riveting conversation about crabs. We named several of them.

On the way home, we stopped at the salt flats to get a better look and hopefully see more flamingos. While we only saw the wild birds in the distance, I love knowing they’re free to soar!

After an exciting day, my husband and I drove home with two tired kids, turned on Laurie Berkner’s Song and Story Kitchen for the kids (a favorite in our household!), and chatted about our next trip—maybe to Spain? The kids got to bed a little late that night, but it was worth it to have such a special day as a family.

Sure, travel looked different in my twenties. Yes, before I had kids, I thought we’d be having much more adventurous family experiences. But if you ask me, this was exactly the kind of day I wanted with two amazing kids my husband and I are trying hard to share the world with.

How about you? How have you grown or changed as a traveler? What family or personal experiences have you had recently that helped you feel present and connected?

 

One Comment

  • O’Connor Kevin Reply

    Yes! For sure. I have memories ( mostly good in retrospect) of traveling with kids who are now 37 and 39. Trips from our home in northwest suburban Chicago to Naples FL, Cleveland, bat caves in Carlsbad, NM, an active volcano in Hawaii, Grand Canyon, the Bay Area, Seattle, a Michigan cottage and numerous trips to Chicago. Glad I have those memories.

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