YEEHAW!!! My ROADSCHOOLING book is available!!! #familytravel

It’s done!!! Roadschooling: The Ultimate Guide to Education Through Travel is only available in paper version at this point – John will get the kindle version done as soon as he finishes rebuilding the bathroom roof. But it’s ready!

I’ve been hearing great reviews from people so far, which is exciting. Please pass this on to anybody and everybody who is considering heading out traveling with their children.

CLICK HERE TO ORDER!!

Most parents contemplating the idea of full-time travel with their children are overwhelmed with questions about all facets of life. Perhaps the greatest worry is about their children’s education.

* Will my kids learn everything they need to know?

* Will I be able to keep up with my children’s education on the road?

* Will I harm my children so they’ll never be able to live a normal life?

This book is designed to answer those questions and put your mind at ease. In these pages, you’ll find background theory about what is happening inside kids’ heads when they learn, as well as concrete guidance about how to take advantage of your travels as the basis for your “curriculum.”

Head out confidently into the world, knowing that you’ll give your children a life-changing experience that they’ll carry with them their whole lives.

roadschooling: the ultimate guide to education through travel

books by Nancy Sathre-Vogel

Avoiding burnout: Finding your pace during long term travel

napping on roadside“I’m tired, Mom,” Daryl mumbled as we pedaled a remote Oregonian highway. “I want to sleep.”

“I’m sleepy too,” Davy added.

John and I figured the boys were just whining – they were eight years old, after all. We figured once we arrived at a town park the boys would be off and running, because… well, that’s what kids do.

An hour later, we pedaled into town, and shortly thereafter arrived at the park with a fabulous playground teeming with kids. We parked our bikes, and John and I found a nice bench to sit on where we could watch our kids play.

The boys took one look at the playground, and another look at our laps. Davy crawled into my lap, Daryl crawled into John’s, and they both passed out. Thirty minutes later, both boys were still sound asleep.

“What are we going to do?” John asked.

“I think we need to let them sleep,” I replied. “I guess they really were tired.”

We pulled out our sleeping pads, and gently laid the kids down. Four hours later, they finally woke up.

sleeping in the park

 

Finding our pace

John and I, as we watched our children sleep in that park, realized that our pace was not realistic. Prior to leaving, John had insisted that we needed to average 50 miles per day. AVERAGE. In other words, if we took a day off, we needed to do a century to make up for it. As John put it, “It’s not even worth going if we’re going to ride less than fifty miles per day.”

But now, three weeks in, we realized that fifty miles per day was too much for us. I was exhausted. John complained of the knife blade digging into his shoulders. The boys were being pushed way too hard. This was simply not doable – for us.

We faced a choice that day. We could either revamp our expectations, or call it quits. We could hang on to that random number John had pulled out of thin air, continue to push ourselves beyond our capacity, and eventually burn out, or we could change our expectations.

We changed.

Over time, we discovered that for us, a workable pace was 30 – 50 mile days, with at least every fourth day off. Preferably, we kept the mileage on the lower side of that range, and we took even more days off. That worked for us.

sleeping on a picnic table

This was another one of those periods where we started pushing too hard. After a couple weeks of long, hard days, the boys fell asleep before we even got the tent set up. We realized we needed to back off. It’s a constant struggle to find a pace that works.

 

What’s your pace?

Regardless of how you are traveling, you’ll need to figure out your pace. Are you heading out on a bike tour? Hiking the Appalachian Trail? Or the Camino de Santiago? Or are you heading out for a round-the-world trip to experience the wonders of our planet? You’ll need to find your pace.

I know a lot of people who have headed out for long-term travel using various means of transportation. And every single one of them started out too fast.

Know that you will probably do the same.

You’ll know it when it happens, and you’ll face a choice. Call it quits? Or revise expectations? Ultimately, it’s up to you. Avoiding burnout is a challenge, but can be done.

hiking colorado trail

 

What if there is no choice?

Sometimes, there is no choice. Maybe your visa is running out, or you have to get to a certain place to meet someone. Maybe the seasons are changing, and you’re racing to try to avoid winter. There are reasons for moving quickly – many of them, in fact.

When you’re in that situation, you’ll move fast. That’s okay, just know why. And make sure your kids know why as well.

In general, we traveled slowly. Very, very slowly. There were times, however, when we simply couldn’t. When we first left Alaska, we knew that we had 5000 miles ahead of us that we needed to cover before winter set in. All four of us agreed that we would rather travel fast than to deal with snow.

In Colombia, our visas were about to expire and we needed to get out of the country. That resulted in a mad dash across the country, fighting infection in Davy’s toe. Read the whole story here.

In a perfect world, those mad dashes would never happen, but it’s not a perfect world. Sometimes, we mess up with our planning. Other times, stuff happens. We deal with it, pushing ourselves harder than we want, but as hard as we know we have to.

That’s okay – just don’t plan on that being your long-term strategy.

hiking colorado trail 2

 

What about mental burnout?

If you travel long enough, you’ll find yourself in a mental burnout situation. Maybe you’ve been moving slowly, so physically you’re okay, but your brain is on overload.

While I have no scientific studies to back this up, my theory is that our brains can only handle so much. If you’ve been challenged by your surroundings for a while, your brain needs some time to catch up. It needs to process what you’ve learned, figure out a way to make sense of it all, and “clear some space.”

The best way to deal with it is to lock yourself in a hotel room and vegetate. For days, if need be. Give your brain the time it needs, and you’ll be happier for it.

Remember that long term travel is a marathon, not a sprint. You don’t have to see and do everything. Take advantage of the time you have, but don’t burn yourself out to the point where you’re not enjoying it.

Find your pace. You’ll be happy you did.

bike touring

 

books by Nancy Sathre-Vogel

Things to do in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

Many of you know that we lived in Ethiopia for seven years. Our sons were born during that time, and they spent the first 4.5 years of their lives in Addis Ababa. If you are planning a trip to East Africa, here are my recommendations for things to do in Addis Ababa and Ethiopia.

ethiopian traditional clothes and coffee ceremony

Addis Ababa, the capital city of Ethiopia, has a population about approximately 5 million. Addis, as it is commonly referred to, is home to the African Union, and is also the headquarters of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA). The city is known as the political capital of Africa because of its historical, diplomatic, and political significance. There are several airlines flying into Addis, including Emirates.

At nearly 8000 feet, Addis Ababa has a delightful climate – we used to refer to it as perpetual spring. It rains heavily in June, July, and August, but we were gone those months anyway ;)

Things to do in Addis Ababa

First on your list must be Lucy, the fossilized skeleton of the early hominid. It is estimated that Lucy lived about 3.2 million years ago. I will be the first to say that the bone fragments you’ll see at the Ethiopian National Museum are… well, shall we say underwhelming? Although there isn’t really much to see, it’s way cool just knowing that you’re looking at one of the oldest human remains ever found.

lucy the hominid

No visit to Addis Ababa would be complete without a visit to the Mercato – the largest open-air market in Africa. Organized like many markets around the world, this market has large areas for different things. If you are looking for fabric, ask around to find the fabric section of the market. Want plumbing stuff? Then head to that section. Although wandering aimlessly can be great fun, you’ll probably enjoy it more if you find the sections that interest you. Don’t be afraid to dig through piles of “junk” to find treasures – that’s how I spent many a delightful hour when we lived there!

Be sure to plan an evening out for traditional Ethiopian food and dancing. Served in the traditional manner, injera and wat come served in a large hand-woven basket called a mesob. There are several restaurants that serve great food, and have wonderful dancers performing a wide range of traditional dances. Ask around to find out where you should go.

ethiopian injera and wat

You shouldn’t have to go far to find a coffee ceremony but, if you happen to land in some sort of void, be sure to seek one out. This was one of my absolute favorite parts of living in Ethiopia. The coffee ceremony is performed every day, all over. It’s an integral part of Ethiopian life. When you’re drinking the coffee and eating kolo, think of me, ‘kay?

Meskel Square is another of those “must sees” in Addis, although there’s not much to see if there is no festival going on. Built as an open plaza during the Communist years, Meskel Square is the site for the annual Meskel ceremony – it’s well worth planning your journey to coincide with Meskel in late September.

The real strength of Addis Ababa, however, is just in the daily life of the people. Make a point of getting to know somebody from your hotel and you’re nearly assured to be invited to their house.

Out and About in Ethiopia

No visit to Ethiopia would be complete without a few side trips to great places in the rest of the country.

Lalibela is probably my favorite place in the whole wide world. The rock-hewn churches are mind-boggling and well worth a visit.

Church of St George in Lalibela

Church of St George in Lalibela

 

Axum is a very historic city, and is rumored to be the location of the Ark of the Covenant.

Ark of the Covenant church in Axum Ethiopia

Ark of the Covenant Church in Axum, Ethiopia, where the Ark of the Covenant is believed to be held.

 

Bahar Dar is located in the north with Lalibela and Axum, and another frequent tourist stop. It’s on the shores of Lake Tana, and you can see the Blue Nile Falls, which are quite impressive.

Blue Nile Falls Bahar Dar

Blue Nile Falls in Bahar Dar

 

Gondar is worth a visit as well. Known as the Camelot of Africa, there are plenty of castles to be seen.

Fasilides Palace Gondar

Fasilides Palace in Gondar

 

And then there is the walled city of Harar. It’s fascinating to wander around, but you can also feed hyenas here – honestly.

feeding hyenas in harar

You can actually feed the hyenas – you go out at night and point the car lights toward the wilderness. It doesn’t take long before they show up wanting their meal.

 

PS (December, 2013): I heard from a friend of mine who is currently living in Addis. Here are the suggestions he had for what to do in the city:

Yod Abysinnia is the best place for traditional food and dancing. They have two branches in different parts of the city.

Edna Mall has current movies and is the main teenager hangout.

Sishu near Kera has the best hamburger in town-and basically serves only 3 versions of hamburger and a vegeterian hamburger in a big warehouse with lots of recycled (closed on Mondays, no beer served and there’s also a good ice cream shop outside in the same compound).

Born Free is an animal rescue place that was in National Geographic and only about 45 minutes outside of Addis. Taxi up to the top of Entoto Road and hike or just walk back down the steep, winding road with the ladies carrying eucalyptus branches on their backs and enjoy the views of the city.

Draft beer houses abound and they often have their own butcheries attached so you can order tibs right there too.

NGO Bazaar selling handcrafted items and organic foods from local NGOs is held one Saturday/month at the international church.

Right now the entire city is TORN up for the making of the subway. There are giant ditches and whole roads that are just a hole. Sometimes the direct route to many places is blocked. There’s also been a big uptick in foreigners getting pickpocketed and EVERYONE getting smart phones stolen, be sure to keep money and goods secure and hidden as they are very opportunistic. There is very little violent crime in Addis.

books by Nancy Sathre-Vogel

A traveler’s Halloween to remember

Halloween. It’s every kid’s dream, but can be difficult when traveling. Where do you go trick or treating? What do we use to piece together costumes?

bike touring Grand CanyonFor us, as a family traveling on bikes, Halloween has provided some wonderful memories. The boys and I were talking about Halloween the other day, and our conversation brought back some real treats. We all agreed our favorite Halloween ever was in Williams, Arizona when the boys were 8.

When we left the Grand Canyon that morning, we knew we had fifty miles to get to Williams. “That shouldn’t be a problem,” we thought. We thought wrong.

As it turned out, it’s uphill from the Grand Canyon to Williams. And we faced a stiff headwind. John, captaining our bicycle built for three pulling a heavy trailer, was struggling. We pedaled a few miles, then John stopped for a break.

“C’mon, Daddy,” the kids urged. “We need to make it to town!”

“We really need to get to Williams,” I told my husband. “It’s Halloween!”

John peeled himself off the ground and climbed back on the bike for another heroic effort. A few miles later, he collapsed on the ground again.

I could see the fatigue in John. The way his eyes glazed over, his shoulders slumped, and his exhausted speech. I knew how hard this was for him, but the boys and I sat around, chomping at the bit to get back on the bikes.

climbing hill in Arizona

Finally, we three miles to go to town, we passed a National Forest. “If you want, we could stop here,” I said as I pedaled alongside the triple bike. “The boys and I could walk into town from here.” I figured John would just push on in to town – it was only three more miles, after all.

“Are you serious?” he asked as he glanced sideways toward me. “You don’t mind?”

I was stunned. “Ummm…” I stuttered. “We’re close enough now. The boys and I could get into town.”

John ground to a halt and looked off into the forest. “I’m exhausted,” he said. “If you don’t mind, I would love to stop here.”

We pushed our bikes through the brush until we found a good spot for the tent. The boys and I grabbed a daypack and some plastic bags and were off. John would set up camp alone.

bike touring in Arizona

It didn’t take long for us to hitch a ride into town, and soon we were wandering the streets of Williams trying to get our bearings.

“Come to our Halloween party!” a witch said. “We’ve got a great party going on here at our church.”

We took her up on her invitation and, an hour later, walked back out with a couple bags full of candy, a plate of cupcakes, and two entire strawberry-rhubarb pies. One would think that was enough junk, but we were just getting started.

halloween costume

Halloween costumes tend to be pretty basic when we’re on the road as we can’t carry a lot of fancy stuff.

For the next two hours, the boys and I wandered the streets of Williams, knocking on doors. At each house, it seemed, they got a whole handful of candy.

It didn’t take long before their bags needed emptying, so we dumped it all into my daypack and they kept going.

Thirty minutes later, we emptied their bags again. My backpack was getting full.

By the time we finally called it quits, my pack was so stuffed we forced candies through a tiny opening in the zipper one by one, and each boy carried a full bag of candy. Plus we had the cupcakes and pies. Oy!

And then we faced a dilemma: how would we get back to the tent? We were three miles from “home,” and Daryl was so tired he could barely take another step. Try to walk it? That would take us all night. We headed out to the main road, hoping that someone would stop.

Within a minute of putting out my thumb, a van raced past us, then slammed on their brakes and started backing up. “Where are you going?” they asked.

And so it happened that the three of us climbed into a van full of fairies and princesses and pirates – they lived in a small village and had gone into the city to go trick-or-treating. Three miles later, I told them we needed to get out.

“Here? There’s nothing here!”

I assured them that Daddy was back there somewhere with our bikes and tents, and we climbed out of the van and waved goodbye.

It was pitch black, without a trace of a moon as we followed the dirt road back to a particular sign I had noted on our way out. We turned right, climbed over a rock pile and started counting steps as we stumbled through the woods. Sure enough, right at 227 steps, we found John passed out in the tent, and quickly joined him.

The following morning, with temps way below freezing, we remained curled in our sleeping bags as we sorted the candy and identified favorites. Then we crawled out of the tent and feasted on a “nutritious” breakfast composed of frozen cupcakes and frozen strawberry-rhubarb pie before discovering that our water bottles were frozen solid. Brushing one’s teeth with frozen water is a <erm> challenge.

As we prepare for Halloween a few days away, we remember that night eight years ago with many fond memories. My hope for every other family is that they, too, will create special memories that will be talked about forever.

Here are the boys’ journal entries from that day:

From Davy: We went trick or treating and got lots of candy. First we went to a church that had lots of games. They had a cake walk, bowling, basketball, football, hula hoops contest, and a bean bag race. Outside the church were a balloon popping game and a bounce house. I won a plate of cupcakes and a pie. I also won a bunch of toys. Then we went to the houses. We went to a lot of house. We got more than a backpack full of candy.

From Daryl: We went trick or treating. We got lots of candy. We went to a church. We did a cake walk. Davy won a plateful of cupcakes and a pie. I won a pie. Me and Davy’s candy combined was a backpack full of candy. It has lasted us 2 days so far. It will probably last a long time more.

bike touring with kids

See that backpack Davy is wearing? That’s the candy a few days later. There was no way we could fit it all in our panniers, so Davy carried it on his back. We had a LOT of candy!

 

books by Nancy Sathre-Vogel

Four destinations every family should take their children to before they grow up

I get asked on a fairly regular basis where people should take their children. Given the amount of traveling we’ve done, they ask, where are the best places for a family vacation?

That’s a hard question to answer because every family is unique and they have different interests, but I finally set myself to think about this. I decided my criteria for the list would be those places that, if I were to have children again, I would make sure I took them.

In short, these are amazing locations/events that every child should see and experience.

Northern British Columbia, Canada

The entire Alaska Highway is a great experience, but if you aren’t interested in the whole 1500 miles, I would recommend just one small segment – the 300 miles from Watson Lake to Fort Nelson.

watching bison in british columbiaWhen we set off to ride our bikes from Alaska to Argentina, not only did I never dream I would be pedaling next to wild buffalo, I didn’t even know wild bison still lived! I had seen bighorn sheep in photos – but to encounter them in the middle of the road?

This section of road was something dreams are made of.  Caribou… bears… moose… bison… bighorn sheep… I would say British Columbia and the Yukon are just as exotic as Africa.

Whodathunkit?  Not me, that’s for sure.

If seeing all these animals in their natural, remote setting isn’t enough, you will also find Liard Hot Springs in this segment of highway. A beautiful place sure to enthrall kids of all ages, you’ll want to spend a few days playing in the delightfully warm water. Liard is a natural hot spring that hasn’t given into development and concrete pools – you’ll soak in natural pools in a natural setting.

Ica, Peru

stone museum ica peruThis destination, more than any other we’ve visited, sparked the most fascinating family discussions and led to many a brainstorming session.

I’ve written about the area before, so will just recap here. Please see this blog entry about the whole mysterious area for more details.

In short, this part of the world piqued our interest in ways nothing else ever had before or since. Starting with seeing conehead skulls in the regional museum, then on to mysteriously carved stones found in the desert, and culminating in a flight over the Nazca Lines, this area will get you questioning some very basic “truths” about our world as well.

In addition to the mysteries in the sand, one of the highlights of the area is being able to go sandboarding on the huge sand dunes in the area. You’ll head into the desert in a dune buggy, then surf down massive hills. The best part? The dune buggy meets you at the bottom so you don’t have climb back up.

 

Southern Taiwan during Chinese New Year

Seeing the Chinese New Year celebrations should be a must for every child! It’s amazing. Fantastical, actually.

chinese new year dragon

Notice the poles the dragon is standing on? As the performance progresses, the dragon will be leaping and flying and twisting and turning, landing on one pole, then another in the most spectacular show ever.

While you could see the celebrations in pretty much any Chinese area, I am familiar with those in southern Taiwan, and know them to be over-the-top spectacular. We lived in Kaohsiung, a city of 5 million that has pretty close to zero tourism, so we saw the real deal, rather than some hyped-up tourist version.

It would be worth being in the area for the whole week, in order to see the build-up to the actual day, but the real treasure is the day the stores reopen – I think maybe two days after New Year’s? Hang around in downtown Kaohsiung, waiting for the large department stores to open. That’s where the magic happens.

The larger stores put on the most spectacular shows prior to opening. I mean – THE. MOST. SPECTACULAR. Dragon dances with a twist, shall we say. Prior to the dancing beginning, look for a bunch of poles set up in front of the stores – that’s your cue that the magic will be happening there.

And once they start, you’ll know what I mean. The dragon, consisting of two men working together under one dragon suit, will be leaping and jumping from pole to pole, making it look absolutely effortless. It’s an extraordinary sight watching the nimble dragon twist and turn into all kinds of contortions in mid-air before landing on other poles.

Unfortunately, I didn’t get any video of the spectacular dragon dances in Khaosiung, but was excited to stumble upon an event a few months later with the poles set up. The dragon got up on the poles and then got down – apparently, the poles were not set up correctly and were wobbly. So – no video of the flying and leaping, but you can see the poles here to know what to look for.

While not watching the New Year’s celebrations, there isn’t much to do in Kaohsiung itself, but you’re only a quick hour away from the beach at the southern tip of Taiwan. Who doesn’t enjoy a day at the beach? Eat lots of seafood for me, will ya?

Ecuador for New Year

This is another one of those celebrations I would like to see every kid experience. And every adult, for that matter. Ecuadorians know how to do New Years right!

dancing with viejo ecuador

Dancing with a Viejo before burning him at midnight on New Year’s Eve.

We were just outside of Quito for New Year, but from what I’ve heard, similar celebrations happen throughout the entire country. I would imagine you could pretty much throw a dart at the map of Ecuador and find a nice celebration to take part in.

There are quite a few wonderful traditions in this part of the world, but my favorite is that of the Viejo. All day, Ecuadorians drive around with stuffed dolls tied to their cars. They’ve got stuffed dolls sitting outside their houses and businesses. Stuff dolls are pretty much everywhere. Those dolls represent the Old Year, hence the name Viejo (Old).

At midnight, the Viejos will be beaten and kicked to get rid of all the bad stuff from the previous year, then burned. It’s a pretty fun tradition and one I keep thinking I might adopt up here in the USA.

There are several other very cool traditions that are part of the Ecuadorian New Year as well. I leave you with this video I created of the event. It’s not a perfect explanation of it all, but will probably do better than I could manage with words.

*** This post is brought to you in collaboration with HostelBookers.

books by Nancy Sathre-Vogel

Why travel with young kids? After all, they won’t remember it.

reading“I never bother to read to my kids because they won’t remember it.”

“Why would I bother to play with blocks with my child? He won’t remember it when he’s older.”

“I certainly wouldn’t bother taking little Joey to the supermarket. Why would I? He won’t remember it anyway.”

I don’t think anybody would actually say those things, and yet I hear this all the time:

“Why travel with your children? They won’t remember it.”

Why bother? Only about a million reasons. Or maybe 85 billion is a better answer. (That’s how many brain cells your child has.)

sphinx

Why do we do anything with a small baby? Why do we rock him and cuddle him? Why do we change his diapers and put clean clothes on him?

We do all that so that he will grow up knowing he’s loved and cared for. Will he remember the hundreds of times we changed his diaper? If your child is anything like my sons, the answer is no. And yet we do it anyway – because we know how important it is.

It’s important that our child feel secure and loved when he’s one year old. That feeling of security will affect what risks he’s willing to take when he’s two. And after taking those risks at two years of age, he’ll feel confident to tackle new challenges at three.

There is no question that a feeling of being loved and taken care of allows children to reach higher, to attempt new things, and to trust in themselves.

Even if they don’t remember it.

ethiopia

We take our children shopping with us when they are toddlers so they aren’t nightmares when they’re older.

We play with our children to help them develop coordination and spatial awareness.

We read to them so they develop a love of story that will be with them forever.

Our children don’t remember doing those things with us, but the benefits last a lifetime.

And the benefits of travel as a young child will last a lifetime as well.

What children do and see and learn when they are two impacts how they perceive what they do, see, and learn when they are three. And that will impact what happens when they are 4. Although they might not remember it when they are 15 or 20, the impact is there anyway.

My sons went to Kenya when they were two years old and they were able to feed giraffes from a platform there. They LOVED it!

When they were three, we traveled to Thailand. “Can we feed giraffes?” Daryl asked. Although we couldn’t find giraffes to feed, he was thrilled to feed elephants and an orangutan – a desire directly linked to the giraffes he had fed earlier.

elephant

Daryl’s experiences feeding animals when he was three contributed to his comfort around animals when he was four. He loved being around sheep and cows and any other animal he could find.

riding a cowBy the time my sons were six, they no longer remembered feeding giraffes from the platform, but we knew that experience drove the way they thought and acted when they were three. And that affected what happened when they were four.

If we can give our children unique experiences with various cultures, foods, languages, and religions, they will grow up accepting that as normal. The fear that so permeates American society will be tempered by personal experiences. And that can’t be anything but a good thing.

All of those varied experiences that kids have perform together in their brain to create a mystical dance that will be unique to that individual person. We will never know exactly what impact any individual experience has on our children, but we CAN know that it will have an impact.

leigh and lilaLeigh Shulman, founder of Cloudhead, an art & technology NGO dedicated to educating and inspiring change through collaboration, tells this story about her daughter Lila: My daughter Lila was two years old when my husband Noah and I made the choice to leave our home and life in Brooklyn and explore the world. We traveled non-stop for three years. I didn’t make the choice to travel because I wanted to create lasting memories Lila will hold onto for a lifetime. That’s a Disney tagline.

We traveled, because it made the most sense for our family taking all family members into account.

What did Lila get from travel? She met new people, tried new foods, saw animals, landmarks, and places most kids only read about or see on television. The world became her classroom, and that forms the core of who she is today.

Will she remember it? At first, she remembered every single detail. Many things, I didn’t remember until she reminded me. Now, some things are a blur, but I see the impact travel has made on her as a person. She’s more open to people, open to differences in food, place and culture. Mostly, though, she’s extremely adaptable and a natural traveler. We just got back from 3 weeks traveling and volunteering in Bolivia, just me and Lila. I was so impressed by her. She is so independent, confident and mature.

 

melani roeweMelani Besler Roewe, a traveler, teacher, author, composer, philosopher, wanderer, artist, musician, wife, mother, dreamer, goalsetter and goal achiever put it this way:

Travel is beneficial in so many ways, but especially for children. It opens their eyes and minds to the wonderful diversity of cultures, flora, and fauna on the planet.

I was reared on military bases around the world. Dad also had his pilot’s license, and on weekends would rent a twin-engine from the local Aero Club and we would island-hop or visit other destinations depending upon our starting point. Whenever he was received transfer orders, the family would travel “the long way ’round” to get there in order to take advantage of seeing as many different locales as possible.

The folks would also invite over for dinner a family from dad’s squadron who had recently returned from wherever we were being transferred. They would bring their photo slides or 8/16mm home movies and tell stories about life in the destination and we would become not only informed, but so excited we couldn’t wait to get there!

Growing up, I never knew that prejudice existed. My friends and classmates were children of ethnically diverse blended marriages. Some were native residents of the locations. It was not unusual to know someone who was Greek-Mexican, Polynesian-AfricanAmerican, Puerto Rican, Samoan, German-Spanish, etc. It made no difference to any of us from where our bloodlines derived. We didn’t even know to wonder about it!

I encountered prejudice and bigotry in its fullness only when returning to the United States upon my dad’s retirement from the military when I was 16. For the first time in my life, I met with forced bussing, schools only recently integrated, and strong views on which were the “right” or “wrong” sides of town. Incredible, sad, and frightening.

Eventually, I became a teacher, and I can definitely say that exposure to travel influenced my career choice. I left the classroom after 20 years to begin a travel career designing custom vacations for individuals and groups.

 

Billie Frank, a freelance travel, food and features writer based in Santa Fe New Mexico, and blogger at Santa Fe Travelers said:  Our son, now 38, remembers an experience he had when he was four. We were on Cape Bretton in Nova Scotia and we took a walk in the woods. My husband told him if he sat there and didn’t make a sound, he might be able to see a wild animal. He sat there silently and got rewarded. A HUGE snowshoe hare hopped by about 5 feet of so from where we sat. He called it the “woods trick,” and to this day, remembers it fondly.

 

Freelance writer, cultural anthropologist and instructional designer Justine Ickes, who specializes in international education, travel and cultural exploration tells this story of how her travels got started:  Long before I ever set foot abroad, I was already a traveler of the mind, thanks to my grandpa’s View-Master.If you grew up in the 60s, you too probably had one of those red plastic stereoscopes, plus the cardboard disks of 3D photos.viewmasterGrandpa had a large collection of reels with titles like “Tulip Time in Holland” and “Africa – Cairo to Capetown”.

On sticky insufferably hot summer days, we’d blast the air-conditioning and marvel at the sights.The forests of giant sequoias in California. The Hanging Gardens of Babylon. “The Seven Wonders of the World”.

And the names?! Kathmandu. Samarkand. Barcelona.Each was so evocative – magical, even. I was only a toddler but I was hooked.

Years later, when I was living in Madrid and traveling the world with the Peace Corps, I realized what those mind travels taught me – The familiar in the unknown. The power of imagination. The beauty in wandering.Sadly, Kodak discontinued the iconic red View-Master a few years back, opting instead for newer pop culture-inspired models like Dora the Explorer or Nascar.

But that hasn’t dampened my memories of my stereoscopic travels with Grandpa. Or my wanderlust for sites and cultures unseen.

 

Another friend, Lisa Lux, explains the importance of traveling while young like this:  I came from a very large family with very limited income. Regardless, every summer my mother would pack up the family van and hit the road, while my father stayed home on the mountain for a month. My mother had an extremely adventuresome nature, my father was a homebody. They found a way to respect each other’s’ differences and satisfy their needs; my mother’s wanderlust/ my father’s need for quiet and reflection.In order to fund the ‘adventure’, my mother used all sorts of ways to get to where she wanted to take us, we would help a local church with landscaping then get the run of the church that night, or camp in yards of friends, or volunteer and make new friends to have dinner with. And, the list goes on.

Here is what stayed with me: an unconventional nature, my wanderlust that never seems to be satisfied, and resourcefulness; I never let lack of funds stand in my way when I want to do something. I’m not sure I’d have those qualities if it weren’t for all the traveling I became addicted to as a child.

 

Freelance writer Theodora Sutcliffe has been traveling the world with her son, Zac, since he was a few months old, and living nomadically since he was nine. – All childhood experiences shape the people we become, not only those we can consciously remember. No one would ever say, ‘Why cook that meal for that child? They’ll never remember it as an adult.’ So, why use that same argument against travel? Young children experience travel differently from older ones, and babies won’t remember it at all. That doesn’t mean it’s not worthwhile.

 

Annie AndreAnnie Andre, another world-traveling mama, is convinced her travels as a youngster have had a dramatic effect on her adult life: I was born in northern Thailand in a city called Udon Thani. (My father was French Canadian and my mother was Thai). I spent the first five years of my life in Asia until we moved to San Jose California where I learned English and began to integrate into American life.

I can’t prove it and I know it sounds impossible because I was so young when I lived in Asia but I think being exposed from an early age to multiple cultures shaped me and opened my mind in ways that it could not have been opened had my parents raised me in a protective bubble say just the US or Canada.

By the time I was 10, I noticed that I was different than other kids. I had a wider set of interests than my American and Canadian counterparts. I wanted to learn Chinese, Japanese and I dreamed of having a job that would allow me to interact with different people from different cultures. Food wise, I loved eating spicy Kim chee and Bok Choy just as much as Nutella or roast beef. Contemporary music was fun to listen to but I also enjoyed Chinese pop music. I felt more at home when we went away for the summer to Taiwan or even to Quebec to see my Aunt and cousins. Like I said, I can’t prove it but I think once your mind is stretched and challenged to different ways of doing, being and living, you forever have that need to keep stretching your mind.

Other bloggers are writing about this same topic as well! Check out these posts about how much kids learn from travel:

Catherine et les fées: Travel Memories

Living Outside of the Box: But will our kids remember?

Break Out of Bushwick: Why travel isn’t wasted on kids

Flashpacker Family: Is traveling with young kids worth it?

Edventure Project: Why travel is not wasted on the very young

Living Differently: The gift of travel

Portable Professionals: Why I don’t care if my child remembers our travels

Barts go Adventuring: Will kids remember travel? Is it worth it?

Where’s Sharon: Why travel when your kids are too young to remember it?

Raising Miro on the Road of Life: Do you doubt that travel has value?

Adventure Bee: Traveling with young kids who “don’t remember”

TravellersPoint: Selective Memory – What will they remember?

We Travel Countries: Why travel with they won’t remember it? Experience vs Memory

Simon Says: The world is my playground

Bohemian Travelers: Is Traveling With Young Kids Worth It?

The Expat Experiment: Why Travel When Mak Won’t Remember?

 

 

books by Nancy Sathre-Vogel

Sihpromatum – A review

SIHPROMATUM (Sip-row-may-tum): A blessing that initially appears to be a curse

I love travel stories. Family travel stories are even better. And a family travel story as told by the kid? Pretty amazing.

Sihpromatum

Sihpromatum: I Grew My Boobs in China is a travel memoir told by Savannah Grace. It is the story of her reluctant introduction to extended travel through China and Mongolia.

The book starts off when Savannah’s comfortable teenage world is shattered by the announcement that her family is about to take off for a year of travel. Her teenage angst, rebellion, and utter devastation at the fact that her life was about to fall apart was an interesting take on the family travel idea. For me, as the parent in the traveling family unit, her tales made me wonder just what was going through Davy and Daryl’s minds when we talked about leaving it all behind for our travels.

I really enjoyed the book when Savannah and her family first arrived in Asia. Her vivid descriptions of what I’ve come to accept as typical third-world mayhem and pandemonium took me back to my early days of travel. Once upon a time, I, too, wandered the streets in wide-eyed amazement, taking in all the exotic sights, sounds, and smells of a new world. It’s been so long I had forgotten all about that sense of wonder.

Savannah also brought me back to my teenage years (way back in the dark ages!) with her stories of boy-crazy shenanigans. I guess it’s only natural that Savannah and her sister – both teenage girls – would fall madly in love with young men they met throughout their travels, but I had completely forgotten about those times. She had me giggling, thinking about what it would be like to go through that period while traveling rather than being in a stable environment where I saw the same boys every day.

There was really one aspect of Sihpromatum: I Grew My Boobs in China that I wasn’t thrilled with. Savannah is a gifted writer and has a knack for painting a beautiful picture with her words, but she hasn’t quite learned when to stop. The first few chapters of her adamant refusal to head out were wonderful; by the time they finally hit the road I was saying, “Enough already.”

The same was true in China. Those first few days were told in delightful detail, but eventually the detail was no longer necessary. And in Mongolia, it was the same. I found myself skipping over pages of narrative looking for the next section where she moved the story forward.

The end of the story was somewhat of a disappointment as well. It just… ended. After a few months of travel in China and Mongolia, the family was ready to move on to Russia – and that’s it. I would have liked some sort of conclusion; a wrap-up of the lessons she learned, a summary of how her travels had changed her, or something along those lines. Instead, we got nothing. I understand she is writing another book in the series about the next few countries of their travels and I think the intention was to set us up for that, but I found myself wanting an actual conclusion to the book.

Overall, I would recommend this book to a friend. It’s a charming story, told by a giddy teenager, of a fascinating family adventure.

CLICK HERE TO PURCHASE SIHPROMATUM

In celebration of the release of Changing Gears, we are holding a giveaway of the following prizes. One lucky winner will win a copy of Sihpromatum! Enter below to have a chance to be one of three lucky winners that will split all these prizes.
CarHire
This giveaway is open to U.S. Residents and will end at 11:59 pm on March 27th.

Three winners will be chosen. Each winner will receive a subscription to Women’s Adventure Magazine and their own copy of Changing Gears. Remaining prizes will be divided among the finalist.

This event was organized by Victoria at Drive Me Crazy Family Adventure on behalf of the author, Nancy Sathre-Vogel.

 

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books by Nancy Sathre-Vogel

Travel is good for kids – except when it isn’t

Travel is good for kids. It allows kids to see that not everyone lives just like them. It allows them to see that we’re more alike than different. Travel allows our children to stretch their horizons and learn new things. Travel is good for kids.

Except when it isn’t.

burma ox cart

Experiencing life in other countries is a great way to learn about the world.

If you’ve read my blog, you’ll know that I’m a huge proponent of family travel and, especially, long term family travel. I’m a big believer that getting kids out in the world can change the world. It will promote world peace and global understanding. I truly believe that long term travel is good for kids.

But not all kids.

I am fully aware that all kids are different. They’ve got different ways of thinking and different needs – just as we adults do. Just as some adults can’t fathom the idea of leaving everything behind to travel the world, so are there kids who feel the same.

burma marketSo what’s a parent to do? You’ve dreamed big and committed yourself to a Round-the-World journey. You’ve spent hours comparing hotels on discount websites and booked your RTW tickets. You’ve quit your job and rented out the house, yanked the kids from school, and set off to live your dream.

And your child hates it.

My husband and I are fortunate that our children enjoyed our travels. Our biggest fear back in 2006 when we set off for our first year-long family bike ride was that our children wouldn’t enjoy the bike touring lifestyle. We had made big changes and spent enormous amounts of money to make it happen, and if they didn’t like it? Fortunately, that didn’t happen.

Not all parents are so lucky. Some parents find themselves on the other side of the world with a child who just wants to go home. And then what? Erin Tullis and her husband are in exactly that spot right now. Here’s her description of what’s happening:

eiffel tower

For some children, long-term travel is great. For others it doesn’t work.

It was about 2 years ago when I first came up with the half-baked idea to take a year-long sabbatical to travel the world, spend time together as a family, and refocus our priorities. From idea to realization, it took us about 16 months to actually hit the road. My husband, myself, and our 5-year old son were all brimming with excitement and anticipation as that first plane took off. We were off on our adventure.
As the months turned and the countries changed, I began to notice behaviors in my son that were not typical. At first, I wrote them off as he was missing family and friends and made sure to get extra Skype calls in that were just for him. We also slowed our pace, giving us all more downtime, and tried to stay in each housing situation for a week minimum (in some cases we stayed a month…and once we stayed two).
There were obviously things we had hoped to see in each locale, but the sightseeing wasn’t nearly as important as our son’s happiness. We opted to let Tyler plan special days where he could choose what he wanted to do (within reason).
Things did improve temporarily until a “moving” day approached. No matter how much preparation we gave him, or how slow we went, or how much we tried to make it a game, his behavior on these days was horrendous and anger-filled. I’m talking screaming, violent fits in the middle of train stations, subways, buses, and airports. And did I mention all while my husband and I both had large backpacks strapped to our backs?
Each night, I tried to talk to my son and ask him about how he was feeling. I asked him if he wanted to go home. Each and every time, he said he wanted to keep traveling. Until one day, he said he wanted to go home.
So now, here I sit, literally on the other side of the world, with a son who just wants to be back in California. As a parent, the last thing you want to see is your child unhappy. I will admit, too, that I am ready to be done with the tantrums and the stress. I am done with my hair falling out and staying up nights reading parenting books on how to help him cope with his anger.
As much as I would love to spend time exploring the rest of our itinerary, my son needs a controlled environment surrounded by friends and family. If he is angry, he needs the space to be angry. It is a challenge to find that space in a 100 square foot hotel room. Even outdoors, there are few places we have found where he is able to wander freely without us trailing him. Just as it would be at home, as parents, we make sacrifices to ensure we do what is best for our children. Though it wasn’t at all what I had planned, right now, what is best for my child is to find a way home.
The time on the road has given me the confidence to know that we can travel anywhere in this world at any time. I no longer feel restricted or tied down. It also helps to have learned loads about traveling on the cheap!
Maybe one day, we’ll make it a whole year. But for now, it’s time to go home.

Erin is not the first parent to call off a journey because her child wasn’t enjoying it. Joel and Cindy set off on a 5-month adventure only to decide it simply didn’t work for them at this point.

cindy and JoelWe were fulfilling a life-long dream, so we thought. We traveled with our three sons now aged, 5, 3½ and 2.
We hoped for a 5-month adventure in southeast Asia. During that time we would have Joel’s daughter join us to travel during the Australian school holidays. In addition, Joel would return to Australia to visit Georgia during the midterm break. This meant that I was alone with the boys for a week at a time. Without the support of friends and family during this time I found it very difficult indeed.
The children got homesick and started asking for their sister and friends. Georgia came and joined us in Vietnam and we all spent a great ten days exploring but when Joel and Georgia left, the boys really struggled knowing it would be ten weeks before they saw their sister again.
Other factors that impacted on our situation are but not limited to :
  • We struggled in small hotel rooms. Our boys are early risers and we were ever mindful of neighboring guests. We opted for apartments when available and this did improve things dramatically.
  • Eating out was challenging. Eating out two or three times per day got exhausting at times.
  • The heat of SEA affected the kids. They perpetually seemed tired and fatigued.
  • The change in their diet no doubt impacted on their energy levels.
  • We went too fast, too early. Travelling to three countries in the first month was crazy!
We tried everything to make things easier for the children. We slowed the travel down and stayed put for several weeks in a nice apartment for them to recoup but things did not really improve. Their behavior was getting worse by the day.
Not listening, struggling at bedtime, eating minimal amounts of food. Constantly asking to go home.
We decide to go home to (a) re-establish a routine for them as that is what they were used to in Australia and they seemed to be lost without it, (b) mum and dad needed some support, (c) we thought that the five-year-old needed to be back in the structure of school.
So what now? For us it is an issue of timing.
Our children are very young. We have decided to spend the next year or so allowing them to learn the social skills of eating out in public and to mature a little so they better adapt to change. This time will allow the children to get over those difficult two-year-old, and worse still three-year-old stages.
This time should also see the parents ‘recovered’ and feeling stronger to cope with any issues that should arise.
On our return to Australia we purchased a campervan so as of next week we start our short travels around our local area and we are in the midst of planning a central Australia tour for early next year, all being well.
We think that six weeks of travel to one country at a time will work for us while the children are young so we hope to continue travel but not in the way that we first planned, nor is it the most cost efficient way to travel but it’s the compromise we make while our children are young.

Sometimes, people change their plans before they even start. Melissa Banigan had big things planned for herself and her daughter, but then… well, the universe stepped up and changed things.

In the end, Melissa came to the conclusion that everything comes at a price. Although the travel was good, it would have meant sacrificing other things. There was no right or wrong, just plenty of shades of gray.

In the end, there is no right and wrong – just different.

For every choice we make in life, we opt out of something else. Sometimes those decisions are easy; sometimes they are anything but. There are advantages and disadvantages to each of those choices. In the end, we have to make a decision. We have to choose for one and against another. That’s just the way it is.

We could have chosen to stay in Idaho and the boys would have played on soccer teams and swam on swim teams. They would have eaten lunch in the school cafeteria and ridden the bus to school and raced outside to play tether ball at recess. They would have had sleepovers and played video games with friends. They would have been part of chess club and boy scouts. Those things aren’t bad.

Or we could take off and travel the world and allow the boys to climb on Mayan pyramids and Incan temples. They could swim with sea lions and scuba with turtles. Fly over the Nazca Lines, see the mysterious Ica Stones and conehead skulls, see ships rise and fall in the Panama Canal. They could see real life penguins and guanacos and rheas and armadillos and foxes and bison and musk ox and big horn sheep and reindeer and iguanas in their natural habitats. They could stay with indigenous families in the Bolivian highlands and with migrant workers in Mexico. They could go sand surfing and real surfing. They could eat lomo saltado and carne asado and drink mate. Those things were wonderful, but they came at a price.

A price that, for some kids, might be too great.

EVERYTHING comes at a price. Whenever we choose TO DO something, we choose NOT TO DO something else. The trick is to choose wisely and spend our time doing the things that will most benefit us and our children. In the end we feel that, overall, our choice was the right one for Davy and Daryl. They have amazing life experiences that will benefit them tremendously throughout life, but are still just normal kids.

The important thing is that we, as parents, provide the experiences that will most fully allow our children to grow into capable human beings who can contribute to society – whether those experiences come from traveling or a more stationary life.

This is a sponsored post.

books by Nancy Sathre-Vogel

How has technology changed travel?

KathmanduIt wasn’t all that long ago that John and I boarded that plane to Pakistan to spend a year cycling around the Indian subcontinent. 22 years, in fact. In technological terms, that’s an eternity.

It was June, 1990 when we checked our bikes and panniers in and climbed into a plane for the long journey to Asia. For the next year, we explored the back roads of Pakistan, China, India, Nepal, and Bangladesh on our bikes. It was adventure at its finest.

Travel was different back then. Affordable international phone calls and VOIP calling were unheard of. In fact, during that year of travel, John and I made exactly one phone call to our parents – to tell them we had gotten engaged. Those two calls cost us a small fortune.

Twenty years ago, travel meant disappearing. We hopped aboard a plane and vanished, then reappeared at some later date with stories to tell.

Now, things are different. When we left Alaska in 2008 we carried laptops capable of connecting with the world from any of the many wifi spots around the world. And many travelers chose to carry iphones or other portable devices capable of connecting from virtually any place on earth. Communication is instant; stories are told immediately.

As much as I enjoyed blogging about our adventures and being connected with old and new friends alike, in some ways I think something is missing from travel these days. I’ve tried to put my finger on what it is that’s missing, but can’t quite capture it. Is it the feeling of being “out there”? Of being totally immersed in foreign cultures? Or is it that the world is smaller these days whereas it used to be bigger?

What do you think? In what ways has travel changed with the introduction of today’s technology?

*with cooperation from Rebtel

books by Nancy Sathre-Vogel

Holidays on the road: Making holidays special for a traveling family

halloween costumesHolidays are most definitely one of the highlights of everybody’s year. We all have our little traditions we stick to and, as kids, look forward to all of them. I used to measure my years by all the holiday traditions we had – making our own valentines… putting up a shamrock tree… the 4th of July parade… Thanksgiving with Grandma’s Cranberry Salad… opening presents on Christmas Eve… Magical indeed!

Celebrating holidays while traveling was one of the concerns I had when we made the decision to make travel a long-term lifestyle. We quickly decided the smaller holidays wouldn’t be an issue, but the biggies – we had to think of something! Fortunately, all is well in that department and the kids look forward to holidays just like any other kid in America.

Because we never know where we might be for any given holiday and have no idea what the circumstances might be, we have learned to be flexible and creative. We strive to make the holidays special, but how that special-ness will come is the exciting part of it all!

A Halloween Push

One year we were just leaving the Grand Canyon when Halloween was coming. Halloween had always been a favorite of our boys, and we were determined to get them someplace where they could go trick-or-treating. It was touch and go as to whether we could do it or not, but we made the decision to try – that was all we could do.

As it happened, the road to Williams, Arizona from the Grand Canyon is all uphill and we fought a terrible headwind. We “only” had 50 miles to pedal, but 50 miles uphill and against a headwind can be a battle. John, captaining the triple bike with our boys behind him, gave it a valiant effort, but was exhausted beyond belief.

Every mile or so, John slowly climbed off his bike and slumped to the ground. I could see the exhaustion in his eyes and weariness in his shoulders. He was trying – but would he make it?

Our sons, anxious to get to town for the big night, gave it their all. I watched as their legs pumped and they leaned into the wind to get traction. During each of the many breaks, the boys paced around, checking the clock to see if we still had enough time to make it in. “C’mon Daddy!” they urged excitedly. “We’ve got to get to town!”

As the hours passed, John’s pace slowed to little more than a crawl, but he somehow kept going. He was just as determined as the rest of us to reach Williams. But finally, three miles from town, he was done. He could go no farther. We pulled into the national forest outside town to call it a day.

The boys and I left John there in the woods and hitched a ride into Williams where we trick-or-treated until our feet nearly fell off, then hitched a ride back out to where John was waiting, snuggled up in his warm sleeping bag against the freezing temperatures.
The following morning, we feasted on frozen cupcakes and pies, stashed the candy in our panniers, and set out once again.

Christmas on the road

Santa has always managed to find us, wherever we may be. As teachers, my husband and I have always had Christmas off from work, and we have always traveled during the holidays. Once the boys came along, we continued with our travels and created new traditions for the holiday.

As we are never home for Christmas, we don’t bother with a Christmas tree or decorating the house, but we try to make the holiday special in other ways. No matter where we are – whether we’re in the Burmese mountains or a tent in Baja – Santa has always come. There were times when we wondered how, but somehow it always happened.

The boys have gotten their treats from Santa in a wide variety of manners – from actual Christmas stockings hung up in a hotel room to decorated bags left outside our tent to on top of a pile of grass – but they always wake up Christmas morning to find some kind of treat.

Our newest tradition is that of decorating our bikes. Every year I buy a bunch of garland and mini-Christmas trees and we enjoy making our bicycles festive. The boys have a blast decorating them, and we enjoy having our own little holiday spirit with us no matter we go!

Make the holidays your own

The important thing to remember when traveling with children is to be creative and celebrate the holidays somehow. Your old traditions of holidays at home will influence what you do, but think of new and exciting ways of making holidays special no matter you are. Your kids will always remember them.

books by Nancy Sathre-Vogel

Is long term family travel for you?

elephant in ThailandIn the back of your mind you’re thinking you would love to quit your job, sell your house, and hit the road with your family. It would be wonderful to travel the world with your children, exploring the Egyptian pyramids, the Taj Majal, and maybe even make it to Timbuktu.

But then reality pulls you back – you need to be a ‘responsible’ parent and work 9 – 5 and take the kids to soccer practice in the evenings. Or do you really? Traveling as a family can be a fantastic experience for all members of the family – regardless of the age. For parents, the opportunity to spend time with your children rather than behind a desk is a gift. For children, the opportunity to see the world and spend their short childhood with their parents is the best gift any parent can give them.

Long term travel isn’t as expensive as you probably think it is. While you are thinking there is no way you could possibly quit your job and afford to travel, you might be surprised to learn just how cheaply you can travel for. We, as a family of four, travel the Americas on our bicycles for about $2000 per month. That’s less than $25,000 per year!

You, too, can ditch the normal, expected path through life to make your own way if you want. Take some time to research options and talk with others who have made the transition. There are as many ways to be a nomadic family as there are families wanting to do it. Live your dreams today!

4-Hour Work Week

Vagabonding

books by Nancy Sathre-Vogel

8 Reasons why biking with kids is good for them and you

biking the Dalton HighwayTravel is the best education a child can get. I’ve been a classroom teacher for 21 years and, although we do the best we can in the classroom, we are limited by those four walls around us. By getting out and seeing the world first hand, children will have a much deeper understanding of the world around them.

Travel is good for kids in so many ways, and traveling on bicycle is even more beneficial. There are many reasons I feel seeing the world from the seat of a bike are good for both parents and kids:

1) Determination. One of the most important skills for people today is the idea of sticking with a task even though it may be hard. Children learn determination when they try to climb a tough hill or battle fierce headwinds. They learn that by taking baby steps they can reach their goal – it may take a while, but they’ll get there!

2) Life is not a bowl of cherries. Some days are the pits, but we push on to get through. When traveling on bicycle, you will face tough days and all you can do is plod through it the best you can. We also know most days are wonderful and that’s what keeps us going. That’s exactly how life is – we don’t stop living just because we have a bad day or two.

pushing bike against headwind3) There are no limits to what they can do. Self confidence is a wonderful thing that helps us accomplish so much in life. If a child can pedal across the state, country, or world, is there anything he can’t do?

4) Understand the unifying nature of all humankind – regardless of color/religion/language. People are people, and by traveling and meeting people from all walks of life children learn that ALL kids are fun to play with, even if they can’t talk with them.

5) Built in play things rather than idiot boxes. Most kids today spend way too much time with electronic entertainment. Who needs all that when Mother Nature’s toys surround you?

6) Creative. Children learn to be more creative with what they have when they carry few toys. They use sticks and rocks and leaves and pine cones and berries and…

7) Contextual learning. If you learn something in context it means a whole lot more than learning random facts and figures. When you travel, all those random facts come together and make sense.

8) Active. In today’s sedentary world, need I say more?

books by Nancy Sathre-Vogel

Why travel ISN’T wasted on kids

A while ago a reader pointed me in the direction of an article on MSN Travel about how travel is wasted on kids. I didn’t even have to read the article to know I seriously disagreed with the author.

The author, Bibi Lynch, said, “I don’t know how to break this to you, parents, but travel isn’t benefitting your kids in any way. Do you think you’re broadening their horizons? Well, yes, you would be — IF THEY COULD REMEMBER THESE TRIPS!”

in vietnam age 2What planet is this woman walking on? Has she ever been a parent? Surely, she knows nothing – absolutely nothing – about child development.

Seriously Bibi – travel benefits kids in ways we’ve never imagined and in ways we will never know. We can come up with some conjectures and all that but, truth be told, we will never truly know just how far-reaching the changes can be.

I can think of many reasons why one would believe travel isn’t good for kids. I could understand the belief that kids need to sleep in their own bed at night or that predictable food is critical to their growth. Some may feel that routine is critical to their development or that exposing them to different environments can compromise their health.

All of those beliefs would be perfect justification for keeping your children at home, but the idea that travel is worthless for kids because they won’t remember it is ludicrous. Flat out absurd.

babies held by ethiopian maidBibi maintains that parents should leave their kids at home because, as she put it, “travel is wasted on kids.” She feels small children won’t remember their adventures so parents should leave the kids with grandparents while they head out traveling. I think that is ludicrous.

“What exactly do you think your children will pick up from these travels? Malaria aside,” she continues. “A cultured international feel? A few key phrases in many languages?”

All that and much, much more. Travel is good for kids of all ages – yes, even babies. Here’s why:

Travel changes children’s brain structure

Environment has the power to enhance or minimize an infant’s potential

If one were accept Bibi’s reasoning for not traveling with children, there would be no reason to provide toys or walks in the park for their children. Hugs, smiles, and playtime would all be forgone because, after all, the child wouldn’t remember it. In fact, parents wouldn’t talk to their children either because the child won’t remember. Bedtime stories? Nope. The kid won’t remember so why bother?

The reason we, as parents, do all those things is to help our children develop both physically and mentally. Kids learn to speak by hearing others speak to them. They learn coordination skills by climbing on furniture and rock piles. All those skills are building blocks that will, in turn, be used for more complex skills later in life.

When children learn, the actual physical structure of their brain changes as they develop connections between brain cells. Those physical connections – called dendrites – grow in response to stimulating, challenging surroundings. Put a child in her playpen and few dendrites grow; take her to the park and she’ll grow more. Getting kids in new, exciting environments fosters the growth of those connections in the brain which lays the foundation for their entire life. Travel can provide that challenging, stimulating environment

Travel helps develop tolerance and acceptance

Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness. ~Mark Twain

blessed by ethiopian priestChildren learn to accept what they grow up with. If they grow up with people of many colors and languages cooing over them, they learn to accept people of all races. If they grow up eating a wide variety of foods, they learn to accept all those different tastes. Getting kids into circumstances where they experience those differences will help your children develop acceptance of them.

When children (and adults) know and love people from other races and religions, they are more likely to be tolerant of those races or religions as a whole. If my children – blond, English-speaking Christians – have good experiences with black, curly-haired Muslims, they are more likely to be tolerant.  When the media touts the evils of that entire cultural group, they will be better able to see through it.

While they may not remember being held and cuddled and sung to by that beautiful Ethiopian woman when they were small, babies’ attitudes and beliefs are being shaped as they grow. Those experiences, at six or eight months, lead to acceptance at age 1. Acceptance at age 1 means the fear is lessened and they are more accepting at age 2. And finally, as adults, they see lovely a person rather than an evil terrorist when they see a person of a foreign race.

Travel provides lessons in flexibility and adaptability

 Children are defined by what they take for granted

thailand age 3It’s easy for parents to take the easy road. Our children demand mac & cheese for dinner and we’re tired and don’t want a battle – so we give it to them. We have a ton of work to do so we park our kids in front of the TV rather than taking them to the park. We tend to do what is easiest, rather than always focusing on what is best for our children. It’s way too easy for us, as parents, to allow our children to get set in their routine and expect the world to revolve around their wants and needs.

While traveling, however, things rarely go according to what our children want. Nap time gets messed up because that happens to be when the flight is leaving, food is a bit late, it’s too cold or it’s too hot. While traveling, children have no choice but to adapt and accept it – so they learn how to do that.

Travel models chasing dreams

You are limited only by your own imagination

thailandIt seems that every parent I know says they want their children to chase their dreams. We tell our children with words that pursuing your passion and following your dreams is a good thing, but many don’t model that.

In one of my education courses at university, my instructor said, “There are three best ways of teaching: modeling, modeling, and modeling.” If we want our children to live their dreams, shouldn’t we, as parents, be modeling that idea? Can we realistically expect our children to chase THEIR dreams if we don’t chase OURS?

Travel gives our children options

All the world is your oyster

with trropical birds in baliWhen children travel at a young age, they learn that the world is their playground. Bibi has a point that toddlers won’t know the difference between Idaho and Thailand, but they will know the words. They’ll know that they had a great time playing with that group of children in northern Vietnam, although they have no way of knowing that Vietnam is on the other side of our planet. To them, any place is accessible for an afternoon play date. Growing up knowing those countries are options takes the fear out of them when you’re older.

If parents take it to the next step and provide a map as a play toy, toddlers will be able to point to various countries on the map, even though they don’t truly understand what they are pointing at. As those children grow, their comprehension and understanding of the maps and world geography expands.

I think my son, Daryl, said it best. When we crossed into Costa Rica as we cycled from Alaska to Argentina I turned to him and said, “Congratulations sweetie! You just crossed into your eighth country.”

burmaDaryl turned to me and said, in all his 11-year-old wisdom, “What difference does it make, Mom? A border is nothing more than a line on a map. It doesn’t change anything.”

When children travel they are learning that when you strip away all the wrappers – when you look beyond the language they speak, the color of their skin, the god they worship, or the currency they spend – that beneath it all, we are more alike than we are different.

If only people of all ages could understand that, this world would be a better place.

*******

There are plenty of bloggers out there that disagree with Bibi. Here are few:

10 Reasons to Travel when Your Kids are Little

Traveling Helps your Child’s Education

Learning about Conservation Through Travel

Why We Love Traveling With Our Daughter

Traveling is the Best Therapy for a Child with a Disability

What a 9-year-old has learned as an expat

Traveling teaches kids to be citizens of the world

10 Misconceptions about Traveling with Kids

Why Travel with Kids is Important

 

books by Nancy Sathre-Vogel

Slow Travel – The Best Way to Travel with Children

I’ve often said that slow travel is the way to go. In this post, Molly McHugh from South America Living tells us why.

Molly and her sonNot only is staying put for extended times in one location the most affordable way to travel – solo or as a family – it is the most enjoyable. More than the proverbial time to ‘stop and smell the roses’ it is a time for family time… relaxing family time as opposed to always on the go hectic family time, which is probably what you are trying to get away from in the first place by venturing abroad.

First World country luxuries (lovely home, decent car, expendable family income) are usually a result of an individual’s First World-level sacrifices (spending 4-plus years in University, working 50 hours plus per week). Maintaining a middle-class or higher lifestyle is usually at the expense of having quality family time with your children i.e. regular ‘non-rushed’ meals together, down time outside of school activities, sports, other commitments where there is no agenda to fulfill except to enjoy each other’s company.

Need a break from all of that? Want to reassess your priorities and actually get to spend time with your children, and enjoy that time together to the fullest instead of stressing about all the work that needs to be done (school, business) and all the money that needs to be made to pay the bills? Move abroad. Rent out the house and take a year sabbatical on the road of life, leaving behind the dead-end of First World entrapments.

And what is the best way to move abroad or travel for an extended time as a family? Slowly. Find a starting point (country, city) and land with the intention of moving to other areas as your family desires, not in accordance to some pre-travel ‘we have to see everything to make this all worth it’ itinerary.

Everyone wants to hit a few highlights (Machu Picchu in Peru, The Eiffel Tower in Paris, Khao San Road in Bangkok) but try not to get all worked-up over every one that is within twenty miles from wherever you are located.  Often times the best highlights when on the road are the ones your family will discover on their own, outside of a guidebook or ‘Top 10 Attractions’ list you read online.

As an example, when we (my son and I and four-legged buddy) started a cross-country journey from Mexico to Argentina (2007) we spent a month in San Miguel de Allende to take a break and relax a bit. “No more buses!” was the general idea, at least for a short while. We found a lovely small hostel and rented a room at low-cost, connected with other families visiting the town and my son did a ‘circus’ gymnastics course for fun. But what turned out to be the highlight of our stay? My son becoming enthralled with a local ironsmith at the market whom he befriended.

Next thing I knew I was buying material for him to try his hand at making keychains and other simple items during his daily lessons with the lovely artisan. Was that planned? Of course not. I had no idea they even existed or that my son had an interest in the trade but that is what happens when you travel slowly and experience an area beyond the tourist zone or tourist mode of staying a night or two and then moving on… you get to actually ‘experience’ the area. Live it. Learn about it, meet locals, get immersed in activities other than those marketed to tourists and promoted by guidebooks.

You get to enjoy daily routines (not constant new challenges, which can be stressful) and family time together, without the mortgage payment hanging over your head or three hours of homework the kids have to finish. A time to enjoy life. What could be better?

 Molly McHugh is the publisher of South America Living and has lived and traveled abroad with her son for over nine years.  To learn more read:  About South America Living

books by Nancy Sathre-Vogel

Ten Things Children Learn About Life While Traveling

Today’s guest post is from Shannon Entin from Road Trips for Families. She’s summed up my feelings perfectly. Kids learn many life lessons from travel.

Traveling means many things to many people. Some value entertainment and night life. Some value relaxation or adventure. And some, like me, see travel as the ultimate classroom.

falling water with kidsVacations and travel are always exciting to children, though they might not realize the many lessons they are learning along the way. Here’s my top ten list of what kids learn about life while traveling:

1. You aren’t the center of the universe. When children travel, especially internationally, they gain a new perspective about their place in the world. They see beyond their own backyard and their minds are opened to different cultures, standards of living, and ways of life. Through travel, kids can learn that happiness can come in many forms.

2. Things don’t always turn out the way you planned. Surprised by a deluge of rain on your camping and hiking trip? Put on a poncho and make the best of it. Travel rarely goes 100% as planned, so kids learn to be flexible.

3. Trying new things builds confidence. While my daughter is always up for something new, my son would usually prefer to stay in his room. But when we travel, he experiences first-hand the sense of accomplishment that comes with trying something new, and that confidence transfers over into all areas of his life.

4. Reading a map is an essential skill. Learning to navigate, recalculate, and not be afraid of getting lost is a life lesson all kids need to learn. And this isn’t just driving a car without a GPS. Too many kids today fear the world outside of their own neighborhood. Travel can teach them that if they are armed with some basic knowledge, going outside their comfort level can be rewarding.

5. Being with your family can be fun! Travel time is a great opportunity to bond with your kids and share new experiences together. Instead of quieting your children with DVDs and headphones, share family history stories or play games. Sure, it takes more energy to keep kids engaged on the road but they will appreciate the attention.

6. Memories are made by people, not by places or things. Do you have memories of childhood family vacations? What do you remember most, the destination or some hilarious (or horrific) event you shared with your family? My grandmother traveled around the world – alone – when she was in her 60′s and the stories that meant the most to her involved the people she met along the way.

7. Patience is not only a virtue, it’s a necessity. Flights get canceled or overbooked. You have to wait in a really long line for a rollercoaster. We wait all the time, all through life. Travel helps your children hone this skill.

letterboxing

Letterboxing and geocaching are both great family travel activities

8. Games are a wonderful way to learn. My family has built some of our best travel memories around Letterboxing. We recently had to climb behind a bench and lift up some rocks and cinder blocks in a wall to find a letterbox at a zoo. The people walking by us probably thought we were nuts, but we were on a mission and it felt so good when we accomplished it! Geocaching is another challenging travel game loved by families worldwide.

9.History is alive and all around us. There’s nothing quite as captivating as a history re-enactment or a living history museum, especially with a “local” or historian that will talk to your family about your destination. Traveling can immerse your children in history if you take the time to look for it. Plus, seeing cannons fired in person may get children interested in a unit study on the Civil War and give it more meaning rather than taking the trip after the fact.

10. The destination is not always the best part. Travel can teach your children to enjoy the journey. Don’t rush through vacations or through life.

Shannon Entin is a homeschooling, traveling mom who loves a good road trip. She is the Northeast Editor for Road Trips for Families and her personal blog is 100 Routes Across America. Her goal is to drive through portions of all 50 states in the United States and bring her family along for the ride.

books by Nancy Sathre-Vogel

It’s all about perspective

It’s amazing what a difference perspective can make. Two people look at the exact same set of circumstance, but come to radically different conclusions. You know what they say…

When life gives you lemons, make lemonade

I’ve known a few military families in my time, and it’s always interesting to hear what they say. Some of them complain about it – they don’t like the “always moving around” aspect of military life. Some of them love it.

It’s all about perspective.

Sarah Vernetti, who blogs at Wandering Off has chosen to look upon it as an adventure. Each move their military family makes gives them yet another excuse for discovering another part of the country. She’s learned that “you shouldn’t judge a place until you get there” and lots more. Here’s Sarah:

Military life travelWhen my husband joined the military, we knew it would be a life-changing experience for our family of three. Rather than seeing the frequent moving and uncertainty as negatives, we decided to view this as one big adventure.

This lifestyle isn’t for everyone. We realize we don’t have the same freedom that most travelers do. At any time, we could be told to pack up and move to a new place; the timing and the destination are, in many ways, out of our control. We can’t decline the assignment and my husband can’t go on sabbatical.  Some people wouldn’t want to move as often as we do, but like many things in life, it’s all about perspective.

Each time we move, we use our new home as a jumping off point for nearby adventures, which has helped us explore much of the United States inexpensively. We still take “typical” 1 or 2 week vacations, but many of our travels come in the form of shorter weekend trips.

The moving process itself is also seen as an adventure, not an inconvenience. Whenever we move, I spend hours plotting our drive and looking for interesting sights along the way. If you piece together our various “moving routes,” we’ve practically driven from one end of the country to the other.

While these might sound like humble accomplishments to some, it has been an educational experience for my husband and I who both grew up in the Midwest and had never lived outside of a three-state radius until he joined the military. In fact, I was in my 20’s before I moved away from Missouri. By contrast, our four-year-old daughter has already gone through the moving process twice and has traveled more than some adults I know.

It can be difficult living far away from our extended family and feeling like we are constantly on a quest to meet people and make new friends. However, I’ve learned to overcome my natural tendency to be shy and reserved around people I don’t know. And I see our lifestyle reflected in my daughter, who is friendly and outgoing even with her newest friends.

One thing I’ve learned thanks to the military life is that you shouldn’t judge a place until you get there.

Some of our friends and acquaintances were skeptical about our move to Las Vegas. Why would anyone want to live in Sin City with a child? But we’ve enjoyed our adventures here so far, and this might even be my favorite place that I’ve ever lived. We’ve discovered that with a little effort, one can find plenty of kid-friendly activities despite Vegas’ reputation. We also see this as a great jumping-off point for nearby adventures in Arizona, California, and Utah. Luckily, it looks like we’ll be here for a few years, so we have plenty of time to explore.

Our goal is to eventually visit all 50 US states. My husband and I are about halfway there, and our daughter is not far behind.

Where will we go next? Who knows, but I look forward to the journey.

Follow Sarah and her family at Wandering Off

one way to get the most out of life is to look upon it as an adventure

books by Nancy Sathre-Vogel