A Girl with Big Dreams

It was the spring of 2004. I was standing in the kitchen at my parents' old house, my childhood home, envelope in hand. I recognized the logo in the top left corner but couldn't help but think, "The envelope is so small. It can't possibly be the answer I'm looking for."

Isn't it amazing how we can remember the exact place and time when significant events in our lives take place? 

You see, in my hands was the letter I had been waiting for. It was the letter that would potentially help shape my future. And when I opened it, I found out it was the letter that said I had been accepted to the university of my choice, into the program of my choice.

Heritage Education Funds Heritage Heroes

Ever since I was a little girl, I have had a strong affinity to the outdoors. Particularly, the water. Like many, as a young girl I had big dreams of becoming a marine biologist. Except, unlike many others, I was bound and determined to make it happen.

And, in a sense, I did.

Heritage Education Funds Heritage Heroes

Four years following that event in my parents' kitchen, I graduated with a degree in Marine and Freshwater Biology and the tools to begin a career doing what I had always loved, being outside.

Fast forward a decade to where I stand today – I’ve worked with dolphins, pet a wolf, dived with sharks and have seen polar bears in the wild. And while I may not have the official title of "Marine Biologist,", saying yes to that letter I held so tightly in my hands has led to some pretty amazing experiences and opportunities doing what I love.

Heritage Education Funds Heritage Heroes

Yes, there have been some bumps and road blocks along the way. I would be lying if I said there weren’t. But, I powered through them. And, if it weren't for the hard work I put in (literally blood, sweat and tears when field work is involved) and my parents investing in my future through an RESP, who knows where I would be today.

Heritage RESPs has a goal to make college and university affordable for every child. Now, in celebration of Canada's 150th, they're launching the Heritage Heroes Campaign, which will be a series of in-depth coast-to-coast features sharing the stories of those that have used a Heritage RESP to kick-start their careers without being mired in student debt. The features will showcase what these grads have accomplished so far in their field of practice/study and community, what they hope to achieve in the future and how RESPs have given them a leg up. Stay tuned!

Heritage Education Funds Heritage Heroes

What's your story? How did you get to where you are today? I'd love to hear!

*Disclosure: As a Heritage Ambassador, I received compensation in exchange for this post. However, all opinions and advice shared are 100% my own. Thank you Heritage!

Tips for Traveling While Pregnant

As summer comes to an end, the travel planning wheels in my head have already started turning with new ideas and destinations for the year that lies ahead. 

We have Alaska coming up in the fall, with thoughts of a joint Iceland/Scotland venture in the near distant future. I'm also currently dreaming of these luxury homes in Italy. Oh, Italy. How I would love to go back.

Traveling to Europe While Pregnant

Our family trip to Italy two summers ago was one for the memory books, and one that will be hard to top. For many reasons.

We ate, we drank, we laughed, we relaxed, we took in the sights. And, I did it all pregnant. (Ok, minus the drinking part.)

You may not know it by looking at my vacation photos, but I was hot, I was uncomfortable, I was irritable, I will slightly nauseous, and man, oh man, was I tired. A “total trooper”, as my mom called it.

Traveling to Europe While Pregnant

Despite being in my first trimester on my family’s vacation to Rome, Napoli and the Amalfi Coast, and despite not being able to drink all the wine, enjoy all of the cappuccino and devour all of the meat and cheese, being pregnant did not affect my experience or the amazing memories made.

Tips for Traveling to Europe While Pregnant

Just because you're pregnant doesn't mean you need to pause your travels. Here are some things to consider when traveling while pregnant.

Before You Go

Talk to your doctor.

First and foremost, be sure to talk to your doctor before booking your vacation. Zikka, malaria and other viruses with fancy names are all things to consider. Your doctor will know if you require vaccinations based on the country you're visiting, what medications you can and cannot take while pregnant, what foods to avoid and what to do in case you run into issues.

Check your health insurance.

Ensure your health insurance plan covers out of country medical, in case you need take a trip to the clinic. If not, purchase an additional package so that you are covered. 

Select your seat.

Flights to Europe are long, and plane seats are uncomfortable. If the budget allows, upgrade your seats to one with more leg room, or opt for an aisle seat which will make it easy for you to get up and down to the bathroom and to stretch throughout the flight.

Pack light.

You’re already going to be tired, so the last thing you want is to lugging a heavy carryon and suitcase around the airport and to and from your destination. Make a packing list and check it twice. Chances are you won’t need all of that stuff anyways. It’s always helpful to lean on your travel buddy to assist when needed. 

Get some rest.

When flying from North America to Europe, flights are typically overnight. And if you’re anything like me, that doesn’t mean I’m able to sleep. Despite the pregnancy fatigue. Make sure you get plenty of rest in the days leading up to your trip. 

Traveling to Europe While Pregnant

Travel Day

Drink lots of water.

Not consuming enough water while flying often leads to nasty side effects such as cramping, swelling, fatigue and jet lag. Prepare ahead by consuming plenty of water before you board (with a pit stop at the washrooms). Bring your own reusable water bottle and fill it before you board the flight. That way, you don’t need to rely on the flight attendants for a small glass of water whenever you need a drink.

Bring snacks.

Being hungry on a plane is the last thing a pregnant woman needs, so load up on snacks before going to the airport. Protein bars and dried fruits and nuts are good options. Also prepare for nausea. Since I could not take my old reliable Gravol or Dramamine, candied ginger was helpful for me. 

Give yourself lots of time.

Some cities (such as those we experienced along the Amalfi Coast) have many, many stairs. Take your time. You don't need to set a personal best. Everyone in your party will understand if you're a bit slower, or need to stop more often. Giving yourself time also includes sneaking in a few extra bathroom breaks. 

Request a pat down.

The TSA says that body scanners, which use imaging technology with low levels of radiation are safe for pregnant women. However, if you are hesitant, instead ask for a pat down from a female guard when going through security. 

Remember to stretch your legs.

Flights to Europe are long ones and plane seats are not comfortable. So, don’t forget to get up every once in a while to stretch your legs, whether a trip to the bathroom or just a quick stretch in the aisle.

Traveling to Europe While Pregnant

During the Trip

Wear comfortable shoes, and clothes.

The best way to see Europe is via your own two feet. Which means you need good walking shoes. 

Don’t over schedule yourself. 

Wake up when you want and go to bed early. Limit yourself to one activity per day to minimize the amount of stress on your body. Don’t be a hero. If you can’t fit everything on you ‘must see list’ into your trip, Europe will always be there. Planning in activities in advance of your trip will help with this. Your body will thank you. 

Stick to bottled water.

You may think it is silly avoid tap water in certain countries. But these counties may also have different standards and regulations when it comes to drinking water than we do in North America. Bottled still and sparkling water are the safer bet.

Avoid certain foods. 

When you spoke with your doctor about your travel plans, they should have alerted you to what you can and cannot eat. Alcohol, unpasteurized cheese and cured meats may be tempting, but are best to avoid (especially alcohol). When eating out, ensure you know how to communicate your pregnancy with the wait staff.

Listen to your body. 

The most important thing to do while traveling pregnant is to listen to your body. You know it best. Rest when you need to rest, eat when you need to eat and drink water when you are thirsty. Go with your gut. If something doesn’t feel right, take a break or visit a local clinic. 

Have fun!

Did I miss anything? Do you have any tips for traveling while pregnant? I'd love to hear!

*To & Fro was provided compensation in exchange for this post. All opinions are 100% my own. Thank you for your continued support!