The Pandemic, Traveling and the Power of NOW

The Pandemic, Traveling and the Power of NOW

World Moms Network changed my life.

The first time I traveled out of my country was in 2013. Jennifer Burden, Founder of World Moms Network, celebrated. She couldn’t stop talking about it on social media. I went to Chicago to collect the BlogHer International Activist Award on behalf of World Moms Network (at that time we were still World Moms Blog). That trip was life-changing.

Less than a year later, I went to Brazil on a reporting project, also representing World Moms Network [WMN]. It was my third time out of India. Jen sent me a card that said, “Report your heart out.” The words have stayed with me ever since and every trip after that continued to be life-changing. 

Now the world has changed and travel is restricted.

As I write this from India, we cannot travel to the next block or even the supermarket. So what of travels on planes or cars or trains, or even trucks? 

From an early age, my father used to take me on trips all over India, a few times every year. We used to attend a lot of the Heartfulness events, which happened all over India. I enjoyed not just the pleasure of a trip but also connecting heartfully with new people. Being part of events and celebrations, and networking with people for a purpose, for altruism, for serving humanity has always been part of my life. Perhaps being part of the World Moms Network, is a naturally joyful process because of that lifelong experience of trying newness, initiated by my father. 

So, traveling to the USA, or the UK or Brazil, and other countries was an extension of my childhood. The evolution of learning; the journey of growing as a person; the joy of seemingly tiny moments, continued.

Traveling is a privilege not a necessity.

Let me make a few things clear before I continue. First, I was not born into privilege but to a middle-class family. We saved money for our travels across India. That felt important to my father and as an extension to us. Second, now that we travel outside of India, we still save money, because that continues to be important to us as a family.

Also, I would like to point out, if you make intelligent financial decisions while planning travel, you can make it more affordable.

Also, for those who have challenging financial situations, I am not saying it is imperative for you to travel to find meaning in life. I would never say that. That would be thoughtless. I am not one to judge anyone. I am merely sharing my heart, my experiences, and my joys.

Adrianna and her son in Brazil

Traveling has made my heart softer.

Though not born into privilege, I lived in a very privileged atmosphere within my family, with all my needs fulfilled as well as some wants, and even a few luxuries. Though we were just a normal middle-class family, we were also content, satisfied, and always joyful – my father made sure of that. So, I have never had a need go unmet.

These days, every time I come across a mother in the slums, I am constantly reminded of Adrianna from Brazil, whom I met during one of the reporting trips. I wonder if all her 11 children are fed and receive an education. I wonder if she has a good job. I wonder if she is happy. I wonder if she had any more children. It makes me think of not only her but also about many other people Around the world.

I also think of Karma, the guide I met in Bhutan. He told us that, at the juncture of every Buddhist shrine, he is going to pray to Buddha so that he gets admitted to a university in Paris for his postgraduate degree in tourism. I wonder if he got in, and if he did, what is he doing now? And what happened to him when the world went into lockdown, with the tourist industry being the worst affected of all.

With Karma in Bhutan

Just before lockdown, my family and I traveled to Egypt. In Luxor, we met Abdul, our guide. He had just had a baby and was always impatiently (and endearingly) waiting for us to wrap up our day, so he could rush home to his wife and baby. Where are they now? How are they managing their livelihood? 

Traveling makes us think.

It expands our horizon; it helps create empathy; it has made me care more. I care for Abdul’s family. I care for Karma’s aspirations. I care for Adrianna and her babies. But I also know that my caring for them alone is not going to help them. A larger force is necessary for the world to get back to normal, to defeat that tiny microscopic invisible virus, now mutating into other variants. 

Traveling instills joy.

And now, not being able to travel, has made life very different. I look for joy in other things. I have discovered the joy of long walks. During the beginning of lockdown, there was just a ban on international and domestic travel but we could still move freely within the city and state. I used to go walking here in Chennai by the banks of the River Adyar. I spent nearly 2 hours every evening, walking beside the river. The narrow dirt road, the setting sun, the buffaloes bathing in the river, cranes and a few exotic seasonal birds hopping by to say hello, and me listening to my favorite Laurie Santos podcast. Now, even these are nostalgic these days.

Finding joy in other ways

On Thursdays, I would take my weekly WMN Editors’ call as I walked. Sometimes I would have just returned from my walk, with a fresh mind and joy in my heart, I would bond with my WMN girlfriends over a cup of hot ginger chai. On other days, I used to walk my feet off, and it felt good. Walking was my substitute to travel, it felt like trekking or hiking. But now, with my state entering complete lockdown, I miss my walks too. I miss the goats and buffaloes walking towards me and meeting occasional friends on the walking trail.

Lessons learned

One thing I have learned through all the travels, through all the walks, through all the lockdowns—which India is now so famous for—is to be in the HERE and NOW. To be present. The planning of the relaunch of the World Moms Network was the highest point in my life. I say the highest because I was at my lowest possible and it was these wonderful women from WMN who perked me up EVERY. SINGLE. TIME. That gift was the most important for me then. The relaunch? Yes, of course, now that Is also a gift but the invaluable presence of the planning phase was when I felt the greatest joy. 

Have you ever experienced the joy of a trek? I have. When we rowed the Phewa lake in Nepal and then trekked over a hilltop. We took breaks in between to drink chai from the village chai shops. When we finally reached the top of Peace Pagoda, it was like deja vu. I am sure you understand that. The joy of the journey of the NOW was the greatest. The sights and sounds and smells of the NOW were more precious than any future sightings of a heritage site. 

Traveling has made me appreciate the power of the now. 

But what of the NOW we are all going through? I will not be surprised if I feel nostalgic someday about the NOW of the pandemic. I already missed my girls last Thursday, when we did not meet (because of conflicts) for our editorial meeting. 

What else will I miss? Surely having my son around all the time. He is having a great time with two monitors attached to his laptop—one with online chess and the other with online school—as I holler in the background to close the chess window and focus on the school. I am sure I will feel lonely when he is back to full-time school and away from home for 8 hours. 

It is best to stay here and enjoy and be grateful for all that I have now.

Yes, I do miss traveling but I think I enjoy drinking chai every evening with my neighborhood girlfriends on the terrace of my house. And no trip can replace the soul-stirring conversation we have every day. 

Travelling gives me joy, zest, but this lockdown has given me so much rest too. It makes me take leaps of faith into the unknown. Lockdown has restored my faith in humanity too when I witness so many random acts of kindness between strangers. Travelling has made me realize that I know so little of this whole world and that there is so much more to know and experience and eat and see and do.

But this lockdown has also made me realize that I know so little of myself, of my family, of what we can do together when cooped up in a house for such a long time, of all the loves and joys we derive in each other’s company.

So, as I wait patiently, to start traveling again and to start walking beside the river again, I take a few deep breaths and let go…of myself, so I can enjoy the present and experience the joy of the NOW.

Purnima Ramakrishnan

Purnima Ramakrishnan is an UNCA award winning journalist and the recipient of the fellowship in Journalism by International Reporting Project, John Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies. Her International reports from Brazil are found here . She is also the recipient of the BlogHer '13 International Activist Scholarship Award . She is a Senior Editor at World Moms Blog who writes passionately about social and other causes in India. Her parental journey is documented both here at World Moms Blog and also at her personal Blog, The Alchemist's Blog. She can be reached through this page . She also contributes to Huffington Post . Purnima was once a tech-savvy gal who lived in the corporate world of sleek vehicles and their electronics. She has a Master's degree in Electronics Engineering, but after working for 6 years as a Design Engineer, she decided to quit it all to become a Stay-At-Home-Mom to be with her son!   This smart mom was born and raised in India, and she has moved to live in coastal India with her husband, who is a physician, and her son who is in primary grade school.   She is a practitioner and trainer of Heartfulness Meditation.

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BRAZIL: What to do when our role models die?

BRAZIL: What to do when our role models die?

I believe that everyone, in some way or another, has a second (or more) set of “parents”. This is a broad definition of parents I am using here – they may be people who cared for you when your biological parents were having problems, such as grandparents or aunts and uncles, or even godparents as is the custom in some places. They could be people who took you to the movies or to fancy restaurants if the money in your family was tight. They could be people close to you whom to others might seem commonplace but to you were heroes. They could be teachers, formally or not. The common characteristic among these people is that they were role models for you and had a big (positive) impact on your life in one or more ways.

I was lucky enough to have several such wonderful people in my life during childhood and adolescence, but one couple stands out.


Ecoziva (Brazil)

Eco, from the greek oikos means home; Ziva has many meanings and roots, including Hebrew (brilliance, light), Slovenian (goddess of life) and Sanskrit (blessing). In Brazil, where EcoZiva has lived for most of her life, giving birth is often termed “giving the light”; thus, she thought, a mother is “home to light” during the nine months of pregnancy, and so the penname EcoZiva came to be for World Moms Blog.

Born in the USA in a multi-ethnic extended family, EcoZiva is married and the mother of two boys (aged 12 and three) and a five-year-old girl and a three yearboy. She is trained as a biologist and presently an university researcher/professor, but also a volunteer at the local environmental movement.

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PORTUGAL: Your Baby Is Welcome!

PORTUGAL: Your Baby Is Welcome!

children playingI realize that in my last post I might have sounded just slightly negative about Portugal and the Portuguese. Let me just state clearly, so there is no doubt, that I absolutely truly love living in this wonderful country. And it’s not just about the food, the sun, the wine or the beautiful beaches. Portugal is one of the most child-friendly countries I know.

It is difficult for me to make a fair comparison to my home countries, since I have spent so long in Latin places (Portugal and Brazil) that my personality and culture has strayed very far from its Anglo-German origins. Just ask any English person who backs away when I enthusiastically greet them with a kiss! I’ve never tried to nurse a baby in England, never attempted to enter German restaurant with a pushchair. But it doesn’t get much better than what I’ve experienced in Brazil and Portugal.

Let’s start with pregnancy. In Brazil, you are automatically elevated to the position of demi-goddess. People in the street will exclaim how lucky and beautiful you are, no matter the size of your girth or breadth of your waddle. Little old ladies in cafés will stand in line to touch your baby belly, coo to the baby or pronounce a quick blessing. Granted, this can sometimes be a bit too much for someone who has clearly defined boundaries around their personal space (who, me?) but all-in-all being pregnant Brazil is like being wrapped in a comfy, welcoming social blanket (until you try and give birth…).

Then the baby comes.

If Mom is a demi-goddess, baby is Zeus and Hera wrapped into one. In Brazil, babies rule supreme.

Gone are the days when you could have a quiet dinner at a restaurant. Your baby may be fast asleep but every single passerby will want to lift the blanket to take a look. Random strangers will come up and offer to hold your baby, just because she’s so adorable. I’ll admit I found this difficult to adjust to: if I was uncomfortable having strangers touch my pregnant belly, I definitely did not want them carrying my newborn son around the shopping mall. But although new mothers have to learn to say “No” to little old ladies and be prepared to whip their babies out of the arms of strangers, the beauty of this attitude is that you and your baby are always welcome.

You can go to the beach, have coffee in your favorite coffee shop and even eat your favorite fancy restaurant. No waiter is too snotty to help you carry the push-chair over tables, smile at your squawking toddler and pick up his napkin the umpteenth time he drops it.

Portugal is pretty much my dream country in every single way, so I was delighted to find that this baby-friendly attitude extends across the Atlantic from Brazil.

Since moving here I have breastfed my baby in the local pastelaria,  at a fancy Christmas dinner and walking along the beach. I now breastfeed a rambunctious toddler who enjoys pulling the goods out for all to see (if you know what I mean) and still, no comment, no looks, no disapproval.

If you’re out and about on your own with baby, everyone is willing to lend a hand. Just the other day two tiny old ladies offered to hold my bike while I attempted the impossible task of holding my son while switching to the other side of the handlebars. A friend of mine recently flew from France to Brazil. On the way there the Brazilian couple next to her entertained both of her kids throughout the flight. On the way back, a French couple tetchily complained when her toddler accidentally knocked against their iPad.

Like I said, I don’t really know what things are like back in England or Germany. I’ve heard positive stories of playgrounds galore, soft play centers that open on Sunday nights, and cafés with special baby corners. But I’ve also heard friends talk about feeling uncomfortable when out of the house, and of restaurants that are specifically “adult-only”. The Brazilian-Portuguese attitude that “everyone’s child is my child” of course has its downsides: I was recently berated by a couple on the beach for allowing my son to walk barefoot.

But for the moment, I’m just going to count my blessings. My attitude to parenting is that my baby just comes with me wherever I go – how lucky am I to live in a country that gives me the freedom to do exactly that.

How child-friendly is the country you live in? How do you feel about child-free restaurants?

This is an original post to World Moms Blog by Julie of Portugal. Photo credit to the author.


Julie, her husband and baby boy are currently living in Portugal, having spent the previous three years in the southeast of Brazil.
She considers herself a bit of an obsessive reader, and even more so since discovering she was pregnant. All that information has to go somewhere, which is why Julie started her blog, happy mama = happy baby, where she documents all the quirky parenting ideas she has collected so far.

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PORTUGAL: New Writer Interview – Julie

PORTUGAL: New Writer Interview – Julie





julieWhere in the world do you live? And, are you from there?

At the moment I live just outside a small rural village in the Alentejo region of Portugal. I say at the moment, because I have moved across the Atlantic from Brazil to Portugal and back again more times than I can count in the last six years. My background is even more complicated. I was born in a small village just outside Munich in Germany to an English mother and German father, meaning that I consider both England and Germany to be my home countries. As an added twist, my maternal grandmother was also born in Munich but emigrated to England just before WWII…I guess I have a multicultural, nomadic bent in my blood.

What language(s) do you speak?

English is the language I work in and speak to my baby boy, my husband is Brazilian so we also speak Portuguese at home – unfortunately, I now only speak German to relatives from my father’s side of the family. That doesn’t leave much space in my brain for the smattering of French and Spanish I learnt at school, which doesn’t stop me from trying whenever I get the chance!

When did you first become a mother (year/age)?

In July 2014 I gave birth to a beautiful baby boy in the city of Vila Velha, Brazil just a few months shy of my thirtieth birthday. We started trying for a baby about a year beforehand because we felt we would be happy to settle in our apartment by the beach for a while. Of course, life had other plans and we ended up moving to Portugal with a 4-month old baby in our hand luggage.

Are you a stay-at-home mom or do you work?

Both. I stay at home with my baby boy and work from home as a freelance translator. I feel very lucky to be able to do this.

Why do you blog/write?

Because I can! Teachers at school and university were always critical about my writing style, which meant I left higher education feeling that I was a complete failure at writing. That changed when I sat the UK translation diploma and chose Literature as one of my specialties. Passing this exam the first time gave me a super boost of confidence. Just perhaps those teachers at school had been wrong about me? I’m still finding out.

What makes you unique as a mother?

Everything and nothing. I’m a bit of an introvert and being a mother has made it much easier for me to connect to other parents – I feel that no matter our background, beliefs or culture we immediately have something in common. On the flip side, parenting can be quite isolating when you feel other people don’t share the same ideas on how to raise children. That’s why the internet can be such a great resource – when you feel like you’re on your own, you’ll always find a mother with a similar outlook blogging from somewhere in the world.

What do you view as the challenges of raising a child in today’s world?

Giving our kids the freedom to grow. Everywhere I look children seem to be limited in some way. Babies are taught to sit still in strollers. Primary school kids can no longer walk to school. School days are getting longer and more test-oriented. Afternoons are filled by a strict regime of activities. While all of these decisions are made in the best interest of the child, I feel it is limiting their ability to grow naturally both physically and mentally,.

How did you find World Moms Blog?

One of those lazy, rainy pre-baby days where you first click on one link, then on another, then another and suddenly find yourself at World Moms Blog!

These interview questions were answered by Julie from Portugal for World Moms Blog.


Julie, her husband and baby boy are currently living in Portugal, having spent the previous three years in the southeast of Brazil.
She considers herself a bit of an obsessive reader, and even more so since discovering she was pregnant. All that information has to go somewhere, which is why Julie started her blog, happy mama = happy baby, where she documents all the quirky parenting ideas she has collected so far.

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SOCIAL GOOD: World Mom’s Blog In the Classroom: How WMB has Influenced My Teaching

SOCIAL GOOD: World Mom’s Blog In the Classroom: How WMB has Influenced My Teaching

Screen Shot 2015-02-09 at 10.32.02 PMIn January of 2014, I was asked to write about MDG 6 for the Gates Foundation Blog. It was part of an initiative that WMB was taking part in to help raise awareness about the UN Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). At the same time, I was just kicking off a unit in my grade 3 class room about Social Activism.

Our unit’s central idea was: International organizations and individuals can work together to have an impact on local and global issues. During this unit of study, the children would be working to answer the following questions: What are local and global issues? How do individuals and organizations address local and global issues? What are our responsibilities as global citizens? How can we use our interest, skills and talents to have an impact on local and global issues?

It turned out, the Gates Foundation piece was perfectly timed. I shared it with the children as an example of how I was using my skills and talents as a writer to raise awareness and they became inspired to want to use their talents to help make the MDGs a reality.

The children set off researching the MDGs, identifying the major issues, who was helping, and then started to ask if they could do something to help resolve some of the issues. They were especially tuned into development goal #1: Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger and #2: Achieve universal primary education.

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We had guest speakers from the United Nations and non-government organizations come in to talk with the children about the work that they do, we had Skype calls with people on the field, and then, as luck would have it, we had the opportunity to interview a young man from Brazil who started a newspaper in his favela when he was ten years old. The Paper’s goal was to raise awareness about issues impacting his community and to help bring about change.

Ten years later, that paper has become one of the most influential tools in impacting change on his favela, and has inspired other communities to follow suit.

My students were blown away by the fact that one ten-year old could have such an important impact on his community. They were motivated to help impact change, but how?

Sometimes, ours is not to know how, but just to have a desire and to ask the right questions. The “how” will find you, and in this case, it definitely did.

Through a series of serendipitous exchanges, at this time I was turned on to the work of two very inspiring people, Francis and Stephanie Lane and their Silent Tapes 50 Kids/50 Cameras project in Brazil. Stephanie and Francis were making their way to a favela in Fortaleza, Brazil during the World Cup to help children capture their world. They gave 50 cameras to 50 kids, and after they were taught photography skills, the kids were set free to capture their world. The project is part of a documentary initiative to bring awareness to the issues facing those living in the Favelas in Brazil. You can learn more about that here.

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I told the children about the project, and they felt strongly that it should connect to the children at our school, the United Nations International School. It was their enthusiastic chorus of “PLEASE! Let us get to know the children!” That set the next chain of events into motion.

What has followed is an interdisciplinary cross-cultural project that connected the children in Brazil to the children in my classroom.

In collaboration with Stephanie and Francis, we arranged a pen-pal exchange between the Brazil cohort and mine. My students engaged in the same photography curriculum and captured their world in New York. During the project, we extended our look at the Millennium Development Goals, learned how to write letters, and deepened our geography skills. Perhaps the most important and lasting lesson is that of empathy.

Through the letter and photography exchange, my children became very aware of the impacts of poverty, and the reality of how this shapes another child’s reality. My students have developed a connection with children elsewhere, and really want to work to help improve their lives.

The project has taken on a life of its own. Now having gained sponsorship from UNICEF, we will be hosting a gala in April to showcase the work of the children in New York and Brazil, and to raise funds to help build a community center where the Brazilian children can gain access to education. Finally, the children’s work will be exhibited in the UNICEF wing at the UN headquarters in the spring.

This all came from that one World Moms Blog’s post assignment in which I was asked to write about the MDGs.

The opportunity to serve and make a difference: This is why I became a teacher. To help foster a generation of children who are empowered with the knowledge and skills they need to help make the world a better place.  This is also why I started to write with World Mom’s Blog: to join a community of women who desire to help make the world a better place. When working together, we really can “Be the change we wish to see in the world.”

 This is an original post written by Erin Threlfall for World Moms Blog.

Has there been a serendipitous chain of events that led to greater things in your life?

Erin M. Threlfall

Originally from the US, Erin has credited her intense wanderlust and desire to live around the globe to her nomadic childhood. Every two to three years, her father’s work with a large international company provided the opportunity to know a different part of the US (VA, OH, PA, GA, SC, NY) and eventually Europe (Germany and Italy) and Asia (Thailand and Japan). Though her parents and siblings finally settled down in the heartland of America, Erin kept the suitcases in action and has called Ghana, South Korea, Togo, Bali, and now New York home. Single Mom to a fabulous seven-year-old citizen of the world, she is an educator and theatre artist who is fascinated with world cultures and artistic practices. Her big dream is to some day open a school focused on well-being and inquiry based learning to meet the needs of all her learners. In the meantime, Erin and her Little Man Edem, plan to keep investigating theatre and influencing education, one continent at a time. You can read some of her ramblings and perhaps find the common thread by checking our her personal blog, telling all about This Life

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