I first met Elaine back in June when we both attended the Travel Blog Exchange conference (TBEX for short) in Toronto, a global gathering of travel bloggers and travel brands to talk shop, learn some new tools of the trade, and network and meet individuals we may have only had online connections with up till now. We were both at one of the kick off parties and instantly hit it off. As a wine blogger she had me at hello and over the course of the weekend we would bounce ideas off each other at the various workshops and let loose at the multitude of parties together.
I was inspired by her travel stories with her family (yay it’s possible once you have kids!), the decision and process to adopt her second princess (aka daughter) from Russia, some of her favourite wine-travel destinations and her overall down-to-earth, super chill demeanor. As someone who looks forward to the day when I have children of my own running around (but that’s still a while a way so don’t hold your breath), it was great to see someone who I could take some cues from and learn how to balance it all. No doubt the love for wine comes in handy every once in a while too.
I asked Elaine if she would be willing to be part of my Inspiring Travel Interview series and I was so excited when she happily agreed.
First off, tell us a little bit about yourself.
I’m Elaine Schoch (pronounced Shock). I began writing Carpe Travel after saying goodbye to 15 years in the corporate world. Those 60+ hour workweeks and 24-hour calls from clients left little time for me to focus on my passions – my family, travel and wine. While I’m still working, it’s on my schedule, which has allowed more flexibility and time to live the life I want to with my family. One filled with crazy, sometimes stressful and other times just plain fun adventures exploring this big world. At Carpe Travel I not only write about my family’s travel adventures but about wine. Yes, family travel and wine can be paired nicely with one another.
What is your earliest travel memory?
Galveston Island in Texas. My parents rented a beach house for a week in Galveston when I was around six-years-old. I couldn’t wait to go to the beach, build sandcastles, play in the waves, eat homemade ice cream and see my cousins who also were coming. All that excitement ended the first morning we walked to the beach. Picture dark, thundering clouds – of mosquitos. Ok, maybe I built those clouds up in my six-year-old memory but they were awful and looming and waiting to attack me. And they did. I was red and itchy the entire week but not from a sunburn. By the second day I was crying and begging my parents to take me home. I still hate mosquitos.
What is it about travel that you enjoy the most?
I think when you travel you are like an explorer discovering not only new things and places, but yourself. I’ve come to learn more about who I am, what I want in life and what/who I want to be by traveling.
You write extensively about wine travel. What has been your favourite wine traveling experience?
I’ve been to Napa Valley several times, Paso Robles, and explored the Texas and Colorado wine regions. I’ve also spent two weeks in Tuscany. The wines are so different in these places that it’s hard to really nail down a favorite wine region for me. They’re all wonderful in their own right. But, as for an “experience” it was in Montalcino, a small village in Tuscany outside the Chianti region. We hadn’t made reservations for any tastings and had been turned away by several wineries we stopped into. The final stop before giving up was Tenuta Caparzo vineyard, rated a five-star vineyard in my trusty book, The Italian Wine Guide.
Life is all about being in the right place at the right time and that was exactly the case when we entered the tasting room. Three travelers from Poland had just begun their tasting and we were invited to join their group. They were hilarious and such a delight to be with. What made it even more delightful was when one of them convinced our “host” to open a bottle of La Casa Brunello di Montalcino 2001, which at the time had not been released. Given they were purchasing 10-12 cases to take back to Poland, it wasn’t very difficult to convince him. The Husband and I were simply in the right place at the right time. It was like having a sip of heaven. Our Polish friends had an appointment at another vineyard so we parted ways. The next thing we knew we were being told someone at the vineyard would cook us lunch.
Grabbing two bottles from the tasting that were half full, our “host” lead us through the grounds and into a private room that is only opened for parties or importers coming in for a tasting. It was here we met our chef. Needing time to prepare the meal she escorted us to a veranda overlooking the vineyards. The wine, the view and the company was amazing…We had a four course traditional Tuscan meal. It was simple yet amazing and just being invited up for lunch was such a treat. This was one of those amazing days when getting lost and frustrated worked in our favor.
What’s the one ultimate wino-destination that you have yet to experience?
Right now it’s Piedmont in Italy. I’ve had a few friends return from visiting and rave about it. I’ve also tried several wines from the region and they are amazing. We’re planning to spend a few weeks there next summer (with the kids).
As a mother of two, how do your “Princesses” influence your travel decisions?
We call our two daughters “princesses” because they truly are in our world. Although, they don’t always act as a “princess” should. That said, traveling with our two kids dictates a lot of HOW we travel. Mainly by plane right now since a long road trip with two screaming princesses does not sound like something I (or they) would survive.
The girls are still young enough (ages five and three) to not have too much of an opinion on where we go (destinations), but they certainly tell us what they want to do when we’re there. Honestly, if we were to ask them where they would like to go to it would be Disneyland or Disney World every time. After all, they are princesses.
I’m sure as they get older they’ll have more of a voice in planning our travel destinations and I’m hopeful for that. I want them to be a larger part of the planning process as it will open their minds to more places in the world and what treasures it has to offer.
I would imagine it would be difficult to decide which is more enjoyable, wine travel or family travel. But if you had to choose, which one would it be and why?
There is a time for each and sometimes they overlap. We have been known to take the girls to vineyards and tasting rooms when we come upon them during our travels. If I have to pick one though, I would have to pick family travel. While I love visiting and learning about different wine regions, I discover and appreciate more about my kids and my husband when we travel than I ever can about a vineyard or bottle of wine. In the end that’s what I enjoy the most about traveling.
Your youngest Princess was adopted from Russia. How has that process changed your outlook on travel?
I think our adoption process and the travels to and from Russia so many times opened my eyes to so much more of the world than I ever thought it would. To really see beyond the beauty one typically sees and go inside the politics and the lives of its people; and to be a part of those politics. It’s definitely changed a lot of how I want to travel in the future and the types of things we see and do. Traveling opens your mind in so many ways, more ways than a textbook or newspaper article does.
But, and it’s a big BUT, I don’t think Princess Two being from Russia has changed my stance on traveling with my kids. If anything it’s made travel, specifically international and volunteer travel more important to do WITH them. You always want to give your kids the world, and we will by showing it to them.
Your website, Carpe Travel, is all about balance – balancing life, children, and travel. How do you manage to balance it all and get the most out of life?
I think that’s something everyone struggles with, including me. Sometimes I feel like an over caffeinated circus clown with way too many balls in the air just waiting to crush me. But some how I’m still standing, with a few bruises along the way. I don’t think there is a secret sauce, it just comes down to making living the life you want a priority. You can’t wait for things to happen to you in life. You have to make them happen for you. When my dad died, it was the first time I realized how short life is. I didn’t want to regret not traveling. Not falling in love. Not having kids. And so I stopped sitting on the sidelines and started making life happen. The life I wanted to live.
Elaine Schoch is a recovering corporate climber. She began writing Carpe Travel after leaving the corporate world to try to gain a better work life balance. Her writings at Carpe Travel focus on balancing life and work with her passions – traveling (with kids) and discovering new wines from regions around the world. She’s married to “The Husband” and has two little Princesses. You’d think her traveling days would have slowed down with two kids in tow, on the contrary, Elaine is determined to show them the world. The Princesses have already become two very well travelled little people who are earning miles and status before the ripe age of five years old. You can find Elaine’s travel tales, musings and tips on Carpe Travel. Or follow her on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.