Emily Lancaster is doing what so many of dream of, but what so many of us are afraid to do. She's learning the art of slow living and travelling with children, through exploring the world with her little girl Sienna.
Creator of lifestyle blog, Shine A Life, Emily hopes to inspire other single parents and families to break out of the normal family life routine, and dare to wander and explore the world and their dreams with their children alongside them. Travelling with children and creating a slow lifestyle with a young family can sometimes seem like a unattainable vision, but we chatted to Emily to find out how she did it and how she continues to create a life full of wanderlust and adventure, whilst sharing it all with her daughter.
What inspired you to travel with a child and how did you get started?
I think that travel is just something that I have inside of me. I am very curious and love discovering new cultures and the ways in which people live differently. I believe that travel helps us to be more open-minded because we become aware of concepts, traditions, and ways of life that are completely new to us. And so when my daughter, Sienna, was born I didn't even think twice about travelling with her. Having lived in three foreign countries prior to her birth, I had lot friends abroad that I wanted to visit and introduce Sienna to and that was that! We travelled to France by Eurostar at four months old, which was a perfect way to ease us into international travel as the whole process is pretty effortless compared to travelling by airports. I quickly learnt that travelling with an infant meant disrupted sleep patterns and that Sienna wouldn't always nap ‘on time’. If I stressed about that then she would become even more unsettled and cranky so the trick is to just go with the flow as much as possible.
Where has your journey taken you so far? What cultures and countries have influenced you the most?
Sienna was conceived in Chile where I was living with her father at the time and we went back to live there when she was eight months old. So it's safe to say that my Chilean chapter was life changing!
The Chilean culture is very different to anything I had ever experienced before in Europe and North America. Traditionally women stay at home alongside a (low-paid) maid whilst men go to work, and as an aspirational ‘mompreneur’ at the time, I found everything about that difficult to accept.
However, my life in Chile helped me grow so much as a woman. The modeling opportunities that I had out there meant that my self-confidence and self-love increased, and it is a country where so many of my dreams became a reality. Being so far away from your home country and not just being able to hop on a plane whenever makes you stronger and more resilient too.
What’s the most joyful and challenging part of traveling with a toddler?
Travelling with a toddler definitely helps you live in the present moment and slow down to their pace, which means you start to see things through their curious, observant eyes. You realise that travel isn't about all of the tourist attractions you can fit into a day (thank goodness!), and small children are usually free tickets to the front of a queue, plus you get help when you need it, and a lot of attention along the way! The sense of achievement is also amazing and I think travel is a really great way to bond because you did all of that - together!
Travel logistics are more challenging with a little one. I struggle to remember my toothbrush let alone the extra passport, and then carrying all of that baby paraphernalia just in case is not fun! An extra pair of arms or two would come in handy!
What’s the ethos behind Shine A Life?
Shine a Life is an authentic lifestyle brand, which is a positive reflection on the difficult challenges of being a young, single parent. I would like to show that you can build exactly the life that you desire no matter what cards you have been dealt. We all go through hard times but I believe that how we look at them and deal with them is essential to our day-to-day happiness.
Shine a Life was initially inspired by my solo travel with Sienna but has evolved along my journey as a creative and is now an outlet I hope helps to inspire, empower and educate women, mothers and families. If there’s one thing I hope to achieve in this lifetime it is facilitating others’ personal growth and doing it with a lot of love!
You place an emphasis on slow living, slow travel and wellbeing – what was the motivation to create this kind of lifestyle and how do you transfer this type of living into motherhood?
Slow living is something that I fell into by accident, depending on how you look at it! I had been charging down the fast lane of life in England in a full-time corporate job, commuting over 3 hours on a daily basis by bus with my daughter (this was the only solution when the office hours were 08:00-16:00 and nurseries open at 07:30...), and despite the financial stability that came with it, I couldn’t help but dream of a different life in which I could enjoy my rapidly growing little girl more.
Having lived almost 6 years abroad, I struggled to integrate to life back in England and I’ve always had a non-conventional outlook on how I want to live. So that was that, after months of visualisation and late-night research and planning, we jumped on a one-way flight to Lisbon ten months ago and literally haven’t looked back since. The atmosphere is very calm, and all of the extra sunlight meant that I started meditating almost by accident. I realized in retrospect that back in England I dedicated almost no time to self-care, which is not the example I should be giving to Sienna, and this caused me to have health problems too.
I am now very conscious about the way of life that I am displaying to my daughter, especially being a lone-parent, and I don’t think that children are ever too little to learn self-care techniques. I try to take Sienna into nature often, prioritise cultural activities over consumerism, and show her the importance of simple things like fresh, homemade meals and keeping active.
What tips can you give for other single parents or families looking to travel with young children?
My number one tip for any parent looking to travel with their little one, either with their partner or alone, is to trust that everything will turn out just fine. There are so many potential problems that can occur, but you’ve got to have faith and focus on the positives. Whatever happens, you have everything that you need to handle it - you! That is the absolute truth.
Travelling with children is a choice that we make on their behalf and so I believe that for the sake of them, we need to keep it all together as much as possible. You’ll start to see just how beneficial travel is for your child in the way that they become aware of new languages, adapt really quickly to different modes of transport, and how sharing with different people of different races and cultures is consequently second nature to them.
Having travelled to nine countries, on over 30 airplanes alone with Sienna, I can fully recommend just taking the leap. And only look back when you’ve got those unforgettable memories you shared together!
Follow Emily and Sienna's journey over on Shine A Life
Shine A Life Instagram
Interview by Jessica Duffin