Who Am I?
The question “who am I?” is a loaded one. As part of this introductory blog posting, I need to try to introduce myself without sounding like my usual elevator pitch. So, who am I? I am a marketing professional who focuses on the multicultural and diversity aspects of branding with an emphasis on the Hispanic/Latino and LGBT communities and a Travel Writer. In addition, I am often asked to speak at conferences and events, in order to motivate and train others. I am a social media junkie and avid traveler and I write for different magazines and blogs and because above all, I am a Dad, I write from the LGBT family’s perspective.
My Traveling Companion
I have lived and studied in three different continents. Overall, I have visited five continents, over 15 countries and countless US states. Therefore, I think it’s safe to assume that I love to travel. About nine years ago I met the man who would later become my life partner, Jose, and we enjoy traveling and creating memories. Jose is a history buff, and I love architecture and photography, therefore, our travels often revolve around these topics of interest, which led us to some beautiful and off the path places. We became Domestic Partners in 2011, a few months before New York approved marriage equality.
Surprised Additions to Our Family
We have always known we wanted to be parents, and so during the wedding planning process we decided to also take foster parenting classes. On Sunday, July 24, 2011, our phone rang and before we knew it we were driving to pick up a child, who would eventually become our foster son. At the time Max had just turned 13 months old. His sister, Jaslene, who was only three-years old, had gone to one of their relatives. Max was barely able to sit or stand due to severe neglect, but with love and patience, we taught him to sit, stand and walk in about two weeks. About a month and a half later, Jaslene came to live with us too. Both kids are New York-Ricans, just like my partner.
Needless to say, our lives completely changed overnight. What was once a white love seat, became a brown, easy to clean, oversized couch for four people. Where we once had a hallway with fragile collectibles became a place where toys reside. Our guest bedroom quickly became a nursery. Our days went from watching scary movies, to watching Barney, Dora, Diego and the Bubble Guppies. Suddenly, traveling became a thing of the past, distant memories documented by the thousands of pictures I love to take every time we travel.
Traveling as an LGBT Family is an Unforgettable Adventure
Jose and I managed to be able to function as working adults during the day, while taking turns with the night feedings and bedwetting incidents. I, actually, took a year off to bond with and take care of the kids. Before we knew it, the itch to travel was slowly creeping up on us, so we took advantage of a great Groupon deal to travel as a birthday present for Jose and to Puerto Rico we headed, as first time parents, as first time gay parents, but above all as a first time gay family! We were forced to face my partner’s relatives and friends, as if bringing home your partner isn’t stressful enough, we did it as a family. It was basically an on-the-job training in traveling and life experience, which I will explore on a later blog.
I suggest to get state IDs and/or passports for the kids, this makes for a smoother check-in at the airport. The best time to travel by air with kids is early flights, which means waking the kids up and leaving the house even earlier. Our flight was scheduled at 6 am, and we left the house around 3 am. We managed to keep them up on the way to the airport, and about 30 minutes into the plane ride, their first plane ride excitement wore off and they slept the entire ride to Puerto Rico.
Always pack extra everything for kids: diapers, clothes, bathing suits, inflatable life protectors, snacks, coloring books, DVD player with kid-friendly movies, but don’t forget some of the obvious things like extra baby butt paste and sun block, we spent a lot of money getting these at the hotel gift shop. So do yourselves a favor and don’t forget the baby butt paste!
Prior to flying, make all of the arrangements and requests necessary, such as advising the airline of lap children, making sure the rental car companies have baby seats available (some companies/locations have a limited amount so reserve them in advance), and requesting a crib for the hotel room. I have found that although I request these in advance, I always need to remind hotels upon checking in that I need a crib. Also, a cheap umbrella stroller can easily become your best friend, they’re easy to carry and store.
What Does the Future Hold?
Our wedding plans have been placed on hold, until we can finalize the adoption process. Our late nights, became showering the kids by 7pm, putting them to sleep and us getting to bed by 9pm. Our weekends of waking up late, turned into 7am feedings and early ballet classes. The times we spent exploring gay bars in different cities around the world, turned into exploring theme parks and family-friendly restaurants. But, we have truly enjoyed the experiences and would not change any of it. Since our first trip as a family in November of 2011, we have ventured into long road-trips, train rides and even cruises. Traveling is cool, traveling as a family is better, traveling as an LGBT family is an unforgettable adventure, so I will continue to share our journey and to document our family adventures in upcoming blogs.