Nicole Smith is a Victoria-based parent and founder of Flytographer—one of Victoria’s most successful tech startups and winner of this year’s Forum for Women Entrepreneurs’ “Pitch for the Purse” competition. Flytographer connects vacationers with professional photographers in over 200 cities globally to capture their stories and memories. Suffice it to say, Nicole knows a thing or two about globetrotting and found a way to give her children a special commemorative experience while offering them a glimpse into her professional life. Here’s what they did and why, in her words.
I’m a single parent, so for me, I’m often feeling torn between my two kids and the business. So, it’s hard to give my kids focused attention. I got the idea of taking each child on a birthday trip from a blogger in the US who I follow. I decided that when each of my sons turned ten, I would take him on a trip to the destination of his choosing—and fill his bucket up with love for a week.
Ten-year-olds still believe in magic.
I chose ten as the age for the trip because I feel like it’s a nice turning point. They’re of course not in diapers, not throwing tantrums…but not teens—no mood swings or cynical attitudes just yet. Ten-year-olds still believe in magic. They’re curious and excited about the world. A ten-year old also has the capacity to travel well and remember things. They also love time with mom at that age. And they grow up so, so quickly.
Half the magic of travel is the anticipation.
For the first trip, with my older son, we went to Palm Springs. We began making our plan months in advance. We did lots of research online; we looked up facts. He thought about the foods he wanted to try and we picked out restaurants. I think planning and anticipating really helps you get the most emotional mileage out of these trips—by the time we got to the destination, anticipation had been building for months. We rented a yellow VW bug together and he learned how renting a car works.
Because of my business, I always meet up with local photographers wherever I go. So my son got to meet a photographer, get a look into my business, learn about the daily life of a local person. That stuff matters.
When it was my younger son’s turn, he chose Maui. So we made a plan to stay at this hotel that had epic water slides. We planned all the slides we wanted to go down. We learned whales were migrating at the same time and worked that into our schedule. We sampled Hawaiian foods. We laughed a ton.
Why it’s important to go 1:1.
I think it’s important to do individual trips because there’s no competition for mom’s attention. Nobody’s fighting; it’s rare to get that much undivided face time with a child. A bonus is you get unfiltered conversation. We’d have conversations at night—both of us tired, in the dark, just laying there talking from one bed to the other. They would share their fears and dreams in a way that’s vulnerable; I couldn’t have gotten there back home, and certainly not with the other sibling around.
And then there’s the fun of being “partners in crime” – experiencing the trip as a duo, coming up with inside jokes. On the Maui trip with my younger son we made up this gag routine; every time we got into the elevator when we were alone, we’d break into a spontaneous dance party. But as soon as the door opened we’d suddenly be super solemn. It was hilarious. A month after we got home, we did the same routine at Jusu when the smoothie maker’s back was turned. Little moments like that—moments you can’t plan for—is where the tapestry of connection gets woven a little deeper.
It’s about time, not distance or spend.
There are ways to create these special experiences without spending a lot of money on a faraway destination, or pulling yourself out of your work for weeks. It’s not about the distance, it’s about carving out time—going on an adventure together, planning it, and really just connecting. Giving a kid your undivided attention or a period of time. It could be 1-2 nights at a campsite, an hour’s drive away. Staying at a friend or relative’s house. Whatever you can afford in time or money, this is the best investment you can make.
Make the memory last.
And of course, don’t forget to take photos! Then, when you get home you can create a memory scrapbook with your child, or create a digital album and have it printed. Include highlights, funny stories and anecdotes from the trip along with the pictures or other memorabilia. Look at the album anytime you need a lift—or for inspiration for the next journey.