Interview with Ethan – a single dad traveling with his 2-year old son

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What are the odds that I´d meet in real life, just by chance, a single dad traveling with his 2-year old son and blogging about it, just like me? He´s also really devoted to teach his son CK a second language, how to swim and understand the wild nature of Costa Rica around him.

I obviously ran to check his blog, Seahorse Adventures and couldn´t stop reading it for a while. With such an unusual story and funny writing style, no wonder his blog started to become popular at its beginning (it´s only 3 months old). On top of that, Ethan has never read a blog before, which I think it´s just brilliant because he writes with such freedom and authenticity without any set of ¨must haves¨ about a successful blog on the back of his mind.

Ethan is the first single dad I meet in the physical world and I couldn´t help the curiosity to ask him about dating, how he deals with the toughness of being on his own and other inconvenient questions.

We talked in front of the Caribbean Sea, with his son playing next to us, while my daughter was in the Kindergarten. If this makes you jealous, that´s not the idea, be inspired instead, especially by Ethan´s story.

How did you decide on traveling alone with your 2-year old son?

Ethan: One of the main reasons is that I learned so much myself from traveling. I think traveling is education in its purest form. It was so beneficial for me as an young adult, imagine what it would do for a early developing brain…especially without the partying that often goes into traveling.  I really didn´t know what to expect traveling with my son. I didn´t know if it would be tough or not.  I have been solo with him for quite some time now, so I felt comfortable embarking on a journey, just me and him.

You started traveling in December and your blog one month later. How did you decide on starting the blog?

Ethan: Everybody told me to start a blog.  I had never written a blog before, let alone read one, but I´ve done some creative writing in the past and my family and friends seemed to enjoy it, so they told me to write.  Lots of people said I was crazy relocating to Costa Rica with my son and that´s another reason why I started the blog, so people can see that traveling with a toddler is possible.  It can be done.  Initially, the blog was an outlet for me.  He slept for 2-3 hours in the middle of the day and I had nothing to do. Once I started posting on the blog, after two weeks, I got so much good feedback, I started to think that maybe this could become a way of sustaining ourselves. But I don´t know how to make money on a blog, so I´ll figure that out later. I could write about him everyday regardless of where we are, it´s an adventure just being a parent.

How did you end up being a single dad?

Ethan: I was married, but my ex-wife got diagnosed with multiple mental illnesses and it became very dangerous for us to live with her, so we left when CK was 7 months old. We lived with a friend for 3 months before I found our own place.   Meanwhile we went through the whole divorce thing and all that stuff.  The court granted me custody and a permanent restraining order against his mom.  Until she gets adequate treatment and therapy, she can only see him under third party supervision. After about 2 months of supervised visits she left the town when CK was 15 months old.

The other day you were telling me that all you are doing right now is teaching your son a new language and how to swim.  Can you talk a bit of what you are doing here in Costa Rica?

Ethan: Initially I was gonna work. When I came down here I had a job lined up, but that fell through and I looked into finding other jobs, but I didn´t feel comfortable leaving CK with anybody, so I decided to budget the money I had, live frugally, rice and beans, and take advantage of this beautiful place and what it has to offer.  Puerto Viejo is an amazing mix of culture, language and beautiful natural surroundings.  Not many 2-year olds can hear a sound and recognize it as a howler monkey, but CK has learned a lot about the local wildlife and natural environment during our brief time here.  As far as language is concerned, when you travel, you have the opportunity to immerse yourself in the local culture.  By doing so, you learn quickly the necessary skills to survive, like speaking the local language. It’s similar to throwing a baby in the water to teach them how to swim.  You need to throw yourself into the mix and that’s how you learn the language.

You talk to your son in both Spanish and English, how did you start doing this?

Ethan: Living in Montana, it´s pretty homogenous…pretty white, there´s not a lot of diversity. When we moved out of our house (CK was 7 months old), that’s when I really started to introduce Spanish to him…when it was just him and me. Before, it was hard because his mom didn´t speak Spanish, but when we moved out I spoke only Spanish to him because it was just us two. My logic was that if I speak Spanish to him, everyone else will speak English, so he´ll learn both languages.  I got a lot of weird looks in Montana speaking Spanish to him, but learning multiple languages is super important, especially Spanish, because it´s pretty universal.

How did you learn Spanish?

Ethan: I lived in Ecuador for 6 months with a local family in Quito, about ten years ago.  I also worked in restaurants in Chicago where the majority of the kitchen staff was from Mexico, so I was able to maintain it.  I lost a lot of it though, but living here in Costa Rica has helped me get back to full fluency.  CK understands both English and Spanish, which is awesome, so I think I am doing something right.

You mentioned before to me that this blog has been a therapeutic experience. How is that so?

Ethan: There´s not a lot of adult social time being a single parent, as you know.  I´m kind of trapped and writing gives me an outlet to express myself, to relax, to use my brain.  It´s something I look forward to do every day.  Sometimes too much so and I can get a little crabby if I don’t get to write.  It´s my time, my alone time, I like spending it writing. I never read a blog before. I am just doing what I know to do, write creatively.

How do you socialize with other adults?

Ethan: It´s mostly with other parents (mostly moms) that go to the beach and CK plays with their kids.  That’s the majority of people I know in the States too. My hang out time is between 6 am and 7 pm, because I am ready for bed when he is and usually pass out putting him to sleep.  I tried dating, but I am clearly not ready yet.

What do you mean?

Ethan: It was hard to date because your girlfriend needs love too, right?  I don´t have enough to give to someone else right now.  I´m so focused on CK that I can´t take on someone else´s emotional needs. Part of me wants to raise him by myself too.  I don´t want him to fall in love with a mother figure if it doesn’t work out between her and me.  So I have not been with a lot of women since becoming a single parent.  I think it´s a bit of karma though, because I was a little crazy with the women when I was younger.  Now it´s coming back around.  It´s probably a good thing now though.

How do you like this waking-up-at-5-am lifestyle? How do you keep the balance?

Ethan: It´s hard, but I´m used to it.  I usually wake up before he does anticipating his immediate demand for breakfast anyway. Sometimes I don´t keep the balance, sometimes I get frustrated. You just have to step back and take a breath. I think he can feel when I am having a rough time, or if I´m losing my patience, because he responds very compassionately, petting my face or giving me a hug and a kiss.  We have become very close friends.

Do you have any advice for other single parents?

Ethan: Yes, advice that I should probably take myself:  MAKE TIME FOR YOURSELF!!  It’ hard to do and this blog has definitely helped with that, but family and friends are super important for this.  Take advantage of that if you can.  I don´t do that often myself, but when I do, I came back more fresh and a better parent to CK. It´s more difficult when you are traveling, you can´t just leave the child with anyone.

Do you plan on sending him to school or kindergarten?

Ethan: Eventually I do, I don´t have the money right now. Maybe before he turns 4 or 5. Who knows, I have this fantasy now that this blog has gotten a bit popular.  People have been telling me that I should write a book. I could get funding and money to travel more while I document what´s going on, and that would be his early childhood education…how perfect right?  We’ll see…

Thanks for sharing your story here Ethan, it´s really amazing.

Go on to his blog, Seahorse Adventures and have fun.

This article was originally posted on Tripping Mom by Marilia Di Cesare on April 4, 2011. Republished with authorization. Click here for all other posts.

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