Living With Kids: Tara Harvey

By Gabrielle. Family photos by Tiffany Kokal and house photos by Lisa Kellenberger.

We first met Tara two years ago when she talked about balancing her travel company, Knowmad Adventures, with her new baby, and mostly the idea that travel — and babies — can make us better people. Back then, little Trey helped Tara and her husband with their work-life balance: “We had a real problem letting Knowmad seep into every aspect of our lives. I actually had to make a rule once — no business in bed — so we wouldn’t talk about it until the wee hours of the night. I really wanted to be present for Trey when I was with him, every moment of every day.”

Trey is still a fabulous influence on the family’s company and daily life, I’m pleased to report! Come see. Welcome back, Tara.

Our family started one snowy night in 2004 when Jordan kissed me after my parents’ annual Christmas party. Jordan and I, now coming up on seven years of marriage, actually knew each other from growing up. Orono, Minnesota is a small, lakeside town — one of the last stops from Minneapolis before you’re in farmland. Everyone knows everyone there and Jordan and I actually went to the same preschool, then flirted with each other through high school, and then went separate ways for college.

He was drawn to the mountains in Colorado and I went East for the big cities. It wasn’t until my last year of university that we reconnected at home and began our adventure together as a family.

Fast forward and the Harvey family has added some members: two-and-half-year old Trey, rescue-dog Luna, and our kitty Izzy who we lost last year and miss dearly — she’ll always be a part of our clan. I write about when Trey first became a part of our family, my pregnancy and babyhood, in the post Growing A Family: Trading Adventures.

This toddler stage is such a delight. That’s not to say that we don’t deal with all the challenges this stage brings like any other parent though, but watching his little personality emerge is amazing. Trey’s a warm, kind-hearted, and very verbose little guy!

Some days the chaos is uncontainable and one of our favorite things to do when nothing seems to be coming together is to huddle together for a group hug and shout, “Wolfpack!” while howling “Ow, ow, ooooow!” It always makes us laugh and slow down for a second. Sometimes we just do it for no reason at all!

After crisscrossing the globe for about ten years — traveling extensively through four continents and teaching English in Thailand, ski-bumming in Vail, and starting our adventure travel company,  Knowmad Adventures, in Chile — we hunkered down back in what some call fly-over country, our home state of Minnesota.

It was a hard decision, actually. We’d been so focused on being elsewhere for so long that what seems like a natural decision for most — both our families are here, friends, and the quality of life is great — was agonizing for us. We were also really drawn to ski towns, but knew we had to be in a decent size city to get our company launched. In the end, we came to the realization that we needed a lot of help to realize our dream and Minnesota was where the grandmas were!

After renting for a while we bought our 1908 home in South Minneapolis. Minnesota’s winters are cold and long, true, but us locals don’t mind that outsiders have the impression that it’s a frozen tundra here. We consider this northern land the United States best kept secret. Personally I love the four seasons; it helps keep me grounded.

We’ve got four lakes within a 30-minute walk of our house and of course they’re amazing in the summer for swimming, paddle-boarding and splashing in, but they’re most magical in the winter. Frozen over, we cross country ski across them and it’s truly special to be in the middle of the city and experience such vastness.

We love the walkability, bikability, farmer’s markets, cafes, independently-owned shops, diversity, and the energy of our community. Of course, our travel legs are always itching and we can’t help but talk about the next big move, but Minneapolis will always be our base and we feel lucky to call it home.

I love old things and adamantly refused to even look at a house newer than 1940. At our price point, though, we walked away from a lot of showings cringing at the ruined woodwork, popcorn ceilings, and general decay. That was until we saw what we coined The Beautiful House. The woman selling it had grown up there and a total of only three families had lived there ever. It was well loved and well cared for, but still way over our price point. We wrote the owner a letter, telling her our story. She really wanted to see her home house another growing family and we got it!

When we come home after traveling I love to see our house nestled under the two huge elms in our back yard. It helps me realize how comforting cozy and familiar can be.

I keep trying to get my role in Knowmad to decrease now that I’m a mama but it doesn’t seem to quite work that way! As our family has grown a lot in the past couple of years, so has our company. Our US-based team has grown from just Jordan and I to a total of seven Knowmaders. We’re moving into a new office this fall and I’m really looking forward to that project. My role has changed a lot from being focused mainly on marketing, to setting up systems to handle the details of about 200 trips that go annually, to creating a work culture that keeps everyone happy, healthy, and friends.

I’m never bored and generally relish in the challenge, although some weeks I feel like the juggle is too much for my capabilities. Those weeks I try to take a step back and focus purely on my essentials: enough restful sleep, healthy, whole foods, being outside, and the bigger picture. Trey always puts a smile on my face and I’m lucky to always have my husband on my team both at work and at home.

Travel isn’t just my job, or even my career — it’s my calling. As Elle Luna says when “standing at the crossroads of Should and Must, choose Must.” My must is to explore. I feel beyond blessed to have discovered this earlier than later and to have been born in a first world country where traveling to faraway destinations was an opportunity I could pursue.

When traveling I love the sense of freedom and wonderment I have at the most ordinary daily tasks. I love how willing we are to share our innermost struggles or joys with perfect strangers and how, every time, I come to the same conclusion — no matter our background, beliefs, or culture we’re all essentially the same. Beautifully human.

At home, I try to find that same essence of travel in my everyday and appreciate the differences in people. Treat a bike around the lake or even a run to the farmer’s market like a mini-adventure instead of routine. I think that widened perspective attained through travel helps me see the world through my toddler’s eyes and connect with him even on days that I’m too tired to find it amazing that there are ants in our kitchen!

At work, I love the energy of our travelers departing and returning with their stories. There’s also always one of our team that’s off on an adventure and we really back each other up with the office duties to ensure that each other can really revel in those experiences. I’m doing a lot less traveling than I used to now that our company and family have expanded and it’s definitely something I struggle with. When Trey was first born, I had been accustomed to so much freedom that catering to the every need of a helpless being was a big adjustment. I’ve grown so much in the process though — growth I could have never realized traveling.

Our routine always seems to be changing as nap schedules and nanny schedules (thus work schedules) evolve. Right now I’m working three full days (Monday through Wednesday) and Trey is home with a nanny. I’m the early riser in our household and wake up at around 6:30 to start my day off with a half hour to myself with just my own thoughts. I usually walk the pup Luna with a tea or stretch or sometimes just stare into space. Jordan and I try to fit our showers in and get something together to bring to the office for lunch before Trey wakes up at 7:30 — my favorite time of day.

We make it a point to start his day in a really happy and calm place and before rushing downstairs for breakfast or even changing his diaper, we all sit around and read books and drink lattes. Trey even gets his own latte (just foamed milk).

I ride my bike (or walk in the winter) to the office at 8:30 and then back home at 5:00. When you work in travel and aren’t actually traveling, it’s not nearly as glamorous as it sounds. It’s a lot of computer time, but our office is light-filled and our team is close. We all eat lunch together every day and get out for a team paddle-board or cross country ski at least monthly.

On my days off I fall into Trey’s routine and take things a little slower. We spend almost an hour eating breakfast and chatting nonsense and planning our morning excursion. Always season dependent in Minnesota, in the summer we love to bike to the beach and get an ice cream cone. In the winter, we frequent the library and museums where there are indoor play areas. We often drive west to my parent’s where there’s a barn with horses, kittens and, most enthralling for a little boy, a tractor!

Naptime is from around 2:00 to 4:00 and I make it a rule to do something for myself the second Trey falls asleep. Sometimes it’s just a shower, but even that can give you the moments you deserve (I made the mistake of working through every naptime for too long!)

After naps we’re generally in a pretty good mood and I can half focus on getting a healthy meal together for dinner. Papa gets home at around six and we trade off who cooks while the other plays, eats, and then we trade off again with who does bedtime while the other cleans up.

In Minnesota summers are insane. All social events are scheduled in a three-month period when the weather’s nice. It’s all fun, but also overwhelming. Our solution is frequent escapes into nature; weekend getaways on the lake up North at the cabin, a couple week trip to the mountains in Colorado, or the longer jaunt down to South America to really escape the routine.

I always knew I wanted a house that felt lived-in. I grew up with a mom that saw no point in putting a half done project away just because we were having company and I appreciate that even more now.

I wanted our house to tell a story: the story of us. Every mirror, dish, and painting has been collected over time and reminds me of that trip we took or that rummage sale we found. Inspired by the bold, beautiful colors from our journeys abroad, I painted the living room a deep teal and the kitchen’s filled with green ceramics and plants.

In an old house without much storage, I try to be practical with my décor choices. The open shelves in the kitchen contain things that we actually use and woven tapestries from abroad double as blankets, pillow shams, table runners (and sometimes scarves).

Mixing family with business and business with pleasure proves to be a genuinely intrepid concoction, but also a bit hectic. So I wanted the rooms of rest to be, well, restful. Our bedroom is a serene gray and the king size bed (hastily bought during the sleepless nights of Trey’s infancy) takes up most the room. I wanted the bathroom to remind me of the sea.

Overall, I’d define my style as worldly and eclectic. And, yes! It’s always, always changing the more I travel, but I’m also so inspired by design trends here in Minneapolis and the fresh, beautiful online content that’s so easily shared now.

I get all stressed out about the same things that every other mom does. I think having traveled so much helps me personally laugh something off as a first world issue a little sooner than otherwise but everyone has their own experiences that help them take life a little more lightly. For us, travel has a way of pressing reset in our lives and every time we come home from a trip we try to live more simply: buy less, make do with more, schedule less, be present more. It’s a wonderful influence on our family’s life and I’d say I’m in awe most days of this journey we’ve found ourselves on.

I hope Trey remembers a feeling of love, warmth, and safety. A sense of adventure. Happiness. I will have done my job and done it well if this is what he remembers of toddlerdom!

I wish someone had told me of how isolating and lonely motherhood, entrepreneurship, and I guess life can be at times. Maybe you have a few close friends but they’re spread out all over the world. Or maybe you have a lot and you just don’t feel that connected to them. Or maybe your friends are great, but what you really need is a sister.

I’ve often felt that I was doing something so different from everyone else that it was hard for me to find that closeness I was searching for. But remember — everyone is doing something different and everyone has love to give to a friend. Just do your own giving and it will, trust me, come back around.


That is the sweetest, Tara: “Everyone has love to give to a friend.” Thank you for sharing yourself with us.

As for your point about brushing off “first world issues,” I can tell you I have a friend who has lived in many third-world countries. It’s funny to hear her family respond to situations with “At least we didn’t get Malaria” and “Oh! You can drink the water from the tap here? How lovely!” Too funny. Tell me: What is it that helps you take life a little more lightly? We’d all love to hear your coping mechanisms!

P.S. – Are you living with your own kids in a unique way? Are you interested in sharing your home and experiences with us? Let me knowWe love to be inspired! And it’s a lot of fun…I promise! I should also mention, I have a goal to bring more diverse points of view to Design Mom this year. So if you don’t see yourself or your community reflected here, let’s make it happen — send in your details, or recommend a friend! Take a peek at all the homes in my Living With Kids series here.

19 thoughts on “Living With Kids: Tara Harvey”

  1. What a refreshing post! I especially love what you wrote about work-place culture. How we treat each other at work, and how we are treated, makes a big difference everywhere else in our lives. Wonderful that you understand this and make it a priority for your work “family.”

    Also, lovely, lovely home. Your location sounds ideal. We also live in a place where people don’t visit because they think the weather is inclement 9 months of the year (Seattle). We adore the rain, grey skies and foggy weather during those months, and appreciate the gentle summers. Our house is near the bay, so we hear fog horns on foggy days and smell salt air. A walk outside with the kiddos, a bike ride to the beach, a morning turning over rocks at low tide. I wouldn’t trade it for anything. :)

    From one working mum to another – kudos to you for finding the time for yourself, your child, your career, and your spouse. It’s exhausting and exhilarating all at once!

    1. What a sweet, sweet comment! My aunt lives in Seattle and whenever I visit I feel like it has a similar vibe to Minneapolis.

      Stand strong working mamas! “Exhausting and exhilarating” pretty much sums it up :)

  2. Pamela Balabuszko-Reay

    Seriously yummy green couch! I live very near you-by Lake Harriet. You may see me running around the lake while you ski it! Love how you speak about our wonderful town and state. And the seasons too! We do cram a lot into summer. We have to. Your wolfpack howl had me giggling. Thanks for sharing your reflections, home and family with us.

    1. Thank you for your comment Pamela. I hope I do see you around Minneapolis – we’re calling it a beach day today with this humidity and heat! :)

    1. Ha. Yes – I bought it from Urban Outfitters (online) about four years ago. I only laugh because I’d be lying if I said it was super comfortable and sturdy. I was definitely swayed by the color! And it was affordable and does fold out into a bed, believe it or not.

  3. I loved your quote about how no matter your background, your culture or your beliefs, we are all essentially the same. Beautifully human. How much wisdom your words sound in a time where we feel so divided. Thank you for sharing your beautiful home and life with us.

    1. Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!

      I don’t claim to have much wisdom to share, but that is the one thing I’ve learned to be true over and over again.

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