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Celeste Hamilton Dennis

I’ve traveled a lot in my life, but never with a kid to another country. It honestly freaked me out. Before we spent two months on sabbatical in the Philippines with our two-year-old daughter Hattie, I’d have visions of her fainting from bug bites, falling off boats, and worse, getting kidnapped.

I was anxious to say the least.

When we arrived on Panglao Island and later, Siquijor, my fear dissipated. The locals adored Hattie, and beach life was serene. The three of us spent our time eating purple ice cream and pork in all its forms, swimming with the fish and giggling in waterfalls, badly singing karaoke, and being entranced by the surreal sunset every night. It was quiet and relaxing, just what I hoped my sabbatical would be.

But were there times when I wished I was at the bar, swapping raucous stories with other travelers, or taking long boat rides through remote coves to swim with sharks? You bet.

As time went on, I realized that I had to let go of what visions I had of my past traveling adventures and understand it was now Hattie who made our trip magical. It was Hattie who introduced us to the fishermen and sea urchin shuckers nearby our home. It was Hattie who won the hearts of the wait staff at local restaurants, so much so they felt like an extended family. It was Hattie who encouraged us to dance with abandon at the Sinulog festival.

The adventure of the Philippines was being with a two-year-old, and seeing this new country through her eyes.

I’m now pregnant with our second daughter, who was conceived in the Philippines. She’s named after the woman who made the best chicken adobo we’ve ever had, and we’ll be sure to take her back there someday.

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