10 Questions For (20): Debbie Dubrow of Delicious Baby

Happy to present to you a celebrity traveling mom, whose Delicious Baby blog currently ranks as the first single writer Travel Blog on my version of the T-List.

Delicious Baby Family in Barcelona
Delicious Baby Family in Barcelona

1) Who Are you?

I am a mom to two young kids (ages 2 and 3 1/2) living in Seattle, WA. I write a blog called Delicious Baby about traveling with young kids. On the blog I share my personal travel stories and my travel tips. My city guides list kid-friendly activities, restaurants and hotels around the world with a focus on finding places that both kids and parents will enjoy.

Before I had children, I was a Program Manager at a large software company. I was responsible for designing and shipping consumer focused software.

I live with my husband and two kids in a home near Seattle’s Lake Washington. We think it’s the perfect blend of urban living and a nature filled retreat. Squirrels and the occasional possum frolic in our yard and we can walk to the beach, but there are also a small market and a handful of restaurants within walking distance. Seattle’s International District (packed with Asian and African restaurants) and our beautiful downtown are a short ride away.

2) What do you like about what you do?

While I sometimes miss the day to day hustle and bustle of the office (and the opportunity to build products that millions of people use), I truly enjoy the immediacy of blogging and the close connection with my readers. It has been tremendously rewarding to build my own site from scratch and help it grow. I particularly love trying out new things, and getting immediate feedback about what works and what doesn’t.

I also love the fact that having a blog gives me a platform to share some of the causes I care about. Having seen poverty around the world first-hand, I am committed to supporting organizations take a practical approach to chipping away at its causes.

3) What don’t you like about what you do?

As a blogger, it can be easy to get caught up in the easy-to-measure indicators of success like traffic and RSS subscribers, and loose focus on the bigger picture of what you are trying to build and what relationship you want to develop with your readers. I find that I need to take a step back about once a month and re-focus my efforts around one or two big-picture goals.

Deliciuos Baby sleeping in the Airplane
Deliciuos Baby sleeping in the Airplane

4) Please tell us all about your blog and your aims with it.

I started planning my first trip with my son before he was born, and admittedly I was worried about the logistics of getting on an airplane with him and being in a foreign country with a newborn. I was shocked at how little published information there was about traveling with babies and young kids, and how much of it was either beside-the-point or discouraging. The best information came through word of mouth from friends who had actually traveled with their young children.

Once my son was born, we found that we truly enjoyed traveling together as a family, just as my husband and I had enjoyed traveling together before he was born. As we traveled, friends started to come to me for advice (just as I had gone to other parents for advice) and it just seemed natural to write down my tips and put them in the same place as our travel journals. Over time, I realized that I should share the advice beyond my small network of friends and family members and Delicious Baby has gradually grown into what it is today.

I try to take a step back and remember what it feels like to get on a long-haul flight with a child for the first time and what my concerns were. That insight, along with email and questions from readers, guides the topics I discuss on my site. With each trip we take, we learn a new trick or two and I share them with my readers. As the site grows, one of the most rewarding things for me is that my readers contribute their tips and ideas too. I get tons of great ideas from my readers that make my own travels better and more rewarding.

Chicago Jazz
Chicago Jazz

With the city guides, I focus on finding activities that help all of us (parents and kids) get the most out of each place we visit. I’m not particularly interested in visiting the world’s amusement parks, and it is important to me to try to connect with and understand each place that we visit. That means that on our recent trip to Chicago, finding a Jazz Club with smoke-free Sunday matinees was more important than riding the ferris wheel at the Navy Pier. Finding the best Churros and Chocolate in Barcelona was more important than the nearest Mc Donalds or Starbucks. I take notes about every place we visit so that I can share tips about what the kids enjoyed at each spot (and what they didn’t).

5) Your top 3 destination experiences you’ve ever stayed to date and why?

In Namibia, we rented a car and drove around the country. While the roads are (mostly) not paved, they are in great condition, and it was a wonderful way to explore. After having taking guided safaris in other parts of Africa, we particularly enjoyed the freedom of being able to visit Etosha National Park at our own pace. At one point, we spent almost a full day watching elephants at a single watering hole, and it was also fascinating to watch the predators start to rouse themselves in the late afternoon and early evening.

Also in Namibia, we had the opportunity to go on walking safari looking for Rhinos. The safari was run by a local non-profit whose goal was to save the Rhinos from hunters by offering jobs in tourism to locals. Careful not to disturb the rhinos, we parked our jeep at the first sign of a Rhino and searched on foot. Our guides did not carry guns (Rhinos are endangered, people are not), so we had to be very careful not to make noise and to track the direction the wind was blowing. That was an exhilarating experience!

Taos Pueblo
Taos Pueblo

More recently we visited Taos with our kids. The natural beauty of Taos (and New Mexico in general) is stunning, and it would be hard to visit without taking a step back from your everyday life and a deep, refreshing, breath. In Taos, we jettisoned most of our sightseeing plans and just took it all in. The one thing we did not skip, though, was a visit to Taos Pueblo. Taos Pueblo, now a UNESCO world heritage site, is made up of a series of multi-story adobe buildings. The dwellings been inhabited continuously for over 1000 years, and even today some Native Americans choose to give up conveniences like running water and electricity in exchange for the opportunity to live a traditional lifestyle in their own childhood homes. In many ways, it was the most foreign-feeling place I’ve visited within the United States. What I truly loved, though, was that with the kids our visit was transformed from a cursory walk-through to a real exploration. The kids were fascinated with everything about the buildings, from their construction, to the ladders used to enter upper stories, to the crafts being made and sold inside many of the homes. Locals often open up to kids, and want to share their lives with them, so while the kids learned that not everyone lives exactly the way we do, we also got a rare first-hand view into these people’s lives.

6) Your top 3 accommodations you’ve ever stayed to date and why?

When we traveled through Asia, we used Bangkok as a hub and a place to refuel in between destinations like Myanmar, Cambodia and Vietnam. Most of the time we stayed in a small guest house off of Sukhumvit road, but because the Peninsula Hotel (now rated among the top hotels in the world) had just opened, they often had rooms for just $120 US per night. We splurged a few times, and the views of the river, the comfort of the room, and the food in the hotel restaurants were all unparalleled.

Before we had kids, my husband and I stayed at a tented Safari Camp in Botswana. I loved having the comforts of a hotel together with the close connection with nature. There is nothing like waking up in the morning to sunlight streaming in through your open tent flaps and a waiting pot of hot chocolate. One evening as we were getting ready for bed, I heard a sudden flurry of birds taking flight outside. I turned around to see an Elephant walking past the tent. For me, that was a magic moment, the elephant was so silent that I would have never known he was there if it wasn’t for the noise from the birds.

In Phnom Penh Cambodia we stayed in a small local guest house that had recently opened. The employees, new arrivals from the countryside were studying computers, practicing English and sending back a little money to their families at home. We absolutely fell in love with the welcoming guest house and the staff. I loved sitting on the patio in the afternoons, talking to the “girls” (they were young), and drinking tea. We had a post card of Seattle’s Space Needle and a few digital images of home, and they never tired of asking us to see those pictures. Over time we got to know their stories (none of them easy) and we developed such a strong feeling of connection to the country that we extended our time there. That is a connection I still feel today, and when I think of the work that NGOs are doing around the world to help lift people out of poverty, immunize them from disease,
and provide for basic human needs like clean water or sanitation, the images that come to mind are usually of people we met in Cambodia.

7) Your top 3 most memorable food experiences to date and why?

In Hoi An, Vietnam there is a small, locally owned restaurant called “Cafe Des Amis” We had heard about it over and over from other travelers, and of course we couldn’t wait to try it for ourselves. At
Cafe Des Amis you dine outdoors on a multi-course price-fixe meal (I think it was about $6) that included some of the most delicious Vietnamese dumplings I’ve ever eaten. My husband and I usually try as many different restaurants as we can when we travel, but the food here was so good that we returned three nights in a row, to a different meal each night, the final one including a duck that the owner says takes all day to prepare.

I used to travel a lot with a close friend who runs Tasting Menu, a popular food blog. We were invited to dine Daniel Boulud’s office, a skybox overlooking the kitchen at Daniel (one of New York’s finest restaurants). I always love watching people who are very good at what they do work, and it was incredible to sit and watch the kitchen turn out plate after plate of delicately prepared food. Secluded from the dining room, we were also able to relax more than we would have otherwise, and I still laugh when I remember my friend actually licking his plate just as one of the chefs looked up. Licking the plate is probably the highest form of praise you can give a chef, so instead of making us feel uncomfortable, the chef laughed, and then we all did too!

My husband is Persian, but his family left when he was a child and he has not been able to return. When were in Dubai, we were astounded at the huge number of Persian restaurants, and made a reservation at one of the finest Persian restaurants in the city. For me, it was merely an amazing meal, but for my husband, it was more emotional. Everything from produce to spices tastes a little different in the states than it does in the Middle East, so it’s never really possible to recreate the tastes of Iran in an American kitchen. When we finished our meal, my husband told me that he hadn’t tasted some of those flavors since childhood, and that the meal brought back all sorts of memories from his childhood. We spent the rest of the evening walking off the food and my husband told me all sorts of childhood stories that would have otherwise been lost to time.

8) Your 3 worst destination/ accommodation /food experiences to date and why?

In between a camping safari in the Serengetti and a walking safari beginning at the Ngorongoro Crater, we decided to splurge on a hotel at the edge of the crater, get a real shower and clean up before continuing on. I was sick, and there was no heat in the hotel, so we slept in our sleeping bags (on top of the beds) that night. The hotel’s big windows let heat out (unlike our cozy tent) and the shower in the morning was lukewarm. We would have been more comfortable camping that night!

We took an overnight train from Hanoi to Sapa in Vietnam (and back). I can sleep pretty much anywhere if I’m tired enough, but there was no sleep on those nights. We expected the train to be dirty and uncomfortable, but what really threw us off-guard was the hands that reached in through our (jammed) open window to try and grab what they could every time the train stopped at a station.

As much as we travel with our kids, you would think that I would have more nightmare stories than I do, but I have only one really terrible one… On an airplane, the air pressure can wreak havoc on a baby’s little tummy (everything is very close together in a person who is only 25 inches long!) On one one flight home from LA, what probably should have been a burp was instead a full bottle of spitup all over me, my seat, and the floor in front of me. I travel with a pretty full carry on, so I had a spare outfit for my son, lots of diapers, and even an extra baby blanket. The one item I was missing? A spare shirt for myself. Needless to say, I walked off of the plane with my jacket zipped all the way, and rushed to baggage claim!

9) Can you offer the readers 3 travel/ food / accommodation / things to do tips about the city you are currently living in?

If you enjoy modern architecture (and even if you don’t), our new downtown library is a great example of modern architecture that really works. The architect worked closely with local planners to design a space that really works, both as a public space and as a library. The light filled building is one of my favorite places to work, and my kids love the 15,000 square foot children’s area.

I love both the homey atmosphere and the delicious homemade pasta at Spinasse. When I eat there, I’m transported to Italy.

The Fremont neighborhood is a fun and quirky area that most tourists never see. The area is filled with public sculpture, like a huge, climbable troll lurking under a bridge, a rocketship, and even a sign
designating Fremont as the center of the universe. Quirky independent shops and restaurants make this a fun area to explore, and on Sundays you can find all sorts of odds and ends at the Fremont Market

10) Any Question(s) you’d expected me to ask that you would like to answer?

I thought you might ask why I think it’s worthwhile to travel with kids. We started traveling with our kids because we simply weren’t willing to give up travel just because we had kids. As they grow, I’m starting to look at travel as one of the many things we will do to help them grow into well-rounded adults with perspective that extends beyond their own neighborhood. I hope that as the kids grow, our
travel experiences will help my kids understand that their daily lives are hardly the norm as compared with other children’s lives around the world. I’d like them to embrace different lifestyles and cultures
instead of being afraid of them, and to understand that our responsibility to help extends beyond our own family and our own back yard.

Thank you very much Debbie. Your answers and your blog show great care and a great eye for detail. As we did more or less travel with the same attitude with our kids (on a smaller scale than you apparently do) I can assure you that it works. My two kids are over 30 now and have been and are traveling the world on a larger scale than I ever did and with a lot of interest in foreign cultures. I also envy you for having visited Taos Pueblo with its amazing adobe buildings. I’m an adobe addict and as building material it fascinates me to the extent I have applied it to the inner walls of our small hotel …over the wall heating system. It works for modern buildings as well as for ancient buildings! A great resource for modern application of Adobe is the blog Earth Architecture.

3 thoughts on “10 Questions For (20): Debbie Dubrow of Delicious Baby”

  1. I love reading about Debbie Dubrow of Delicious Baby and my kids are 13 and 16! She’s a wealth of information and happy to share her knowledge with everyone. Ask her why you should carry duct tape in your purse!

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