India FamilyTravel.com Volunteer Travel

So often as parents we provide opportunities that aren’t valued until long after our children have left the nest. That’s why I was especially pleased to hear my teenaged daughter’s inspirational speech about voluntourism to her high school class. Not only was a volunteer vacation a life-changing experience for our family, here was proof that these lessons would play an important role in my daughter’s future. 

Kayla Foyt offered these observations:

So you may have seen me walking around school in these crazy harem pants and laughed with your friends about them behind my back. Well if you saw me walking the streets of Delhi in these pants, you wouldn’t think I am crazy at all. 

Over the summer I had the opportunity to travel all over India and Nepal. Visiting these two countries was the biggest culture shock that I have ever experienced. Before getting off the plane, I thought that women only wore colorful, flowing saris at Epcot in Disney World. But actually they are really common among Indian women. 

The people in big cities like Delhi dress a little more westernized in tee shirts and jeans. For example, while visiting Kathmandu I discovered that the Nepalese people had an obsession with the iPhone app angry birds. You couldn’t walk down the block without seeing several people rocking the angry bird tee shirt, backpack, sunglasses—you get the picture. 

However, in the smaller villages angry birds was not as popular.  My family and I went trekking in the Himalayan mountains near Pokhara where most of the women dressed in traditional saris, in fact our guide said that nobody in his family owned a computer or iphone, so he had no idea what angry birds was. Women in the small villages where we slept during our trek, cooked organic rice and Dal bhat over a fire place in the same way that their ancestors had for generations. And by “organic” I mean that they grew every single ingredient themselves. This was a type of living that I had only ever seen on the History Channel, and I didn’t realize people still lived like this. I’m so used to microwaveable ramen and dining hall food, that women squatting to cook over a fire from wood gathered in the forest looked prehistoric. 

At a school I visited, the children had no desks and even the high school students sat on the floor. Yet despite their lack of books and school supplies the kids were all incredibly smart. They actually loved going to school every day, which made me feel like a spoiled brat. 

Family Travel.com Children in school Jaipur India

I mean I can’t wait for long weekend. And the worst part was that when I visited a 2nd grade classroom, I was asked some simple mental math. The kids got it right away but I had to use my calculator. In all the small villages I visited, my braces always amazed the people. Although my Nepalese and Hindi were limited, and very few people we met could speak English well, I understood their confused looks as they pointed to my teeth. One lady gave me naan to see if I could still eat with the metal in my mouth!  

It was the same lady who I watched hold her newborn baby as it peed on the dirt floor. I suppose diapers aren’t very common in the villages because everyone just let their babies pee soak into the earth. 

FamilyTravel.com Beautiful woman in orange sari

Back in Kathmandu, a large city in Nepal, my dad flew in for a medical mission. He is an ear doctor, and hearing loss is a big problem in this developing country. He received a grant from the cochlear implant company, as well as from the company of another type of hearing aid called a Baja. I got to watch in the OR as my dad gave children the gift of hearing. He helped 4 children who would never have been able to afford this surgery without my dad. However, around 250 people come to this hospital that need this surgery every year yet only about 10 are able to actually afford it. It is very common for the Nepalese kids who do receive the surgery to have infections afterward because the operating rooms are so unsanitary. The doctors in Nepal give the kids far more antibiotics than they do in America to avoid infection. But I still thought it was kinda crazy for the head surgeon to sip a cup of tea, directly next to my dad while he was preforming the surgery. I suppose that is just a cultural thing, because people drink a lot of tea in Nepal and India. 

FamilyTravel.com - Boy receives ear implants and can now hear.

Watching a 2 year old boy hear for the first time in his life, and hearing his father thank mine for giving him a gift they could never afford, really touched me. My dad had done such a great thing to help this boy, even if it’s only one less deaf child out of the 250. It got me thinking about what I could do to help the people in Nepal. The reason that more people suffering hearing loss aren’t helped is that it is such and expensive luxury which neither the hospital nor the patients can afford. So I thought about ways to make it cheaper. What if the $11,000 drill only cost $250? What if they sterilized implants from dead people to give to the deaf children in Nepal? I am currently working on projects to hopefully make both these dreams possible, but there are so many more things that I could do to help the people in India and Nepal. What if I started a diaper donation for the women in the small villages? What if people gave books and school supplies to the Indian mini-Einsteins? And what if an affordable method of ortho-denture were brought to the lady who gave me naan? By traveling and seeing a world so different than my own I was able to pick up many things that could be done to make it a little better. 

It is important to learn and experience cultural differences, because understanding the world you live in will help you to make it a better place. Emma Willard gives us all this unique opportunity to experience different cultures first hand. From celebrating Holly day with colorful powder, to enjoying FASO dinners, to just hanging out with a girl from another country. I hope everyone here, American or international, takes full advantage of these opportunities to learn about the world, and uses them to think of something they can do to make the world a little better.

Sandra Foyt inspires lifelong-learners to change the world. A former education advocate and enrichment coach, she lived in Buenos Aires, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, Washington, D.C., New York City, and Southern California before settling in Northeast NY with two teens, an outdoorsy husband, and a well-indulged Chocolate Lab. Sandra contributes to Being Latino, and her portfolio appears at www.SandraFoyt.com. Also, check out AlbanyKid.

 Get close to creatures of the sea for a wild family adventure. Here are five ideas to consider:

1. Swim With Whale Sharks. Swimming with the largest fish in the sea is a thrill worth seeking. Whale sharks are massive, reaching lengths of 40 feet and 15 tons. Despite their imposing presence, the gentle creatures peacefully share the warm seas with visitors who arrive via boat from the shores of nearby Cancun. Two at a time, along with a

Published in Family Travel Blog

    

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1. Just do it!

In addition to expanding your child’s awareness through travel, exotic family vacations inevitably strengthen family ties and create dinner conversations to last a lifetime.

2. Visit schools or sports events: Nothing helps a child understand a destination better than meeting their peers. I love to arrange school visits or visits to local community sports events. Usually the local kids are just as fascinated by my kids as my kids are by them! 

3. Don’t sweat the small stuff: Now is not the time to worry about a balanced diet or the usual house rules. It’s a vacation. Rest assured that your kids are gaining invaluable exposure, so if they eat nothing but fish sticks and French fries for two weeks and it makes them happy (yes, one of my kids did this once in Indonesia) they will come out of it no worse for the wear. 

4. Have a great guide – Part 1: Having a knowledgeable guide is like bringing a wonderful educator along with you. They can truly bring the destination to life through their stories and knowledge, making a lasting impact on young minds. Case in point: I was in Dubai and Istanbul last year with my daughter. Most people don’t think of culture or history when they think of Dubai, but we had such a wonderful and passionate guide that my daughter and I walked away with a great respect for the Emirati people and their culture. Meanwhile, we were on our own in Istanbul, a city that one normally thinks of as being filled with amazing history, but my daughter did not make the same connection there. She actually wants to move to Dubai when she is
older.

5.Have a great guide - Part 2: Yes, there is something to be said to wandering around lost in a new city, but if you are traveling with kids who can get tired, hungry and grumpy, everyone’s sanity can be saved by having a guide take you around who will not only impart knowledge, but will pick up on when little ones are tired or hungry and adjust the schedule accordingly, sometimes getting you back to the home base or nearest restaurant as quickly as possible!

6. Scheduling is everything: Don’t overdo it. Include some downtime in every day for your family to digest what they are taking in, and move at a slower pace than you would if you were on your own. It may be your first trip to China, it doesn’t have to be your last!

7. Hotel Selection: Picking the right property is critical so that when you have downtime you aren’t crammed into a tiny hotel room. Look for hotels that have a great indoor or outdoor pool, bigger rooms, or are located near parks or open areas to run around!

8. TV is a cultural exchange: A little TV viewing can give the parents a welcome break and your kids can see another aspect of the culture you are visiting. My kids still talk about familiar cartoon characters speaking in Thai and the crazy Japanese TV shows they have stumbled upon.

9. Don’t force it: If your kid doesn’t want to do something, let them have a little ownership of the situation. My 7 year old opted out of a monk cleansing in Cambodia once, and as the rest of us stood there in sarongs freezing and wet, we had to think she was the smart one.

10. HAVE FUN: That’s really the point isn’t it? Relax and enjoy and your kids will remember the trip forever.

 

Leslie Overton is a mother and the General Manager of Absolute Travel.

 

 

Published in Go Global

Visit an eco lodge where adventure is encouraged, eco-friendly practices are in place and community support is essential.

Here are six to consider:

Patagonia Wildlife Safari - Visit southern Chile to experience a thrilling combo of wildlife and scenery in one of the most isolated regions of South America. Check out an expansive penguin colony near the town of Punta Arenas before exploring the jaw-dropping beauty of Torres del Paine National Park.

Wear yourself out exploring the park, then return to your EcoCamp. You’ll chill in large igloo-shaped tents built to minimize environmental impact while providing a comfortable setting. You’ll be cozy as you plan for your next adventure via candlelight, snug beneath feather comforters. Contact: www.adventure-life.com/tours/patagonia-wildlife-safari-1355

Rosalie Forest Eco Lodge. Dominica, West Indies. Explore the volcanic island on foot or on the back of a local donkey. Hike to secluded waterfalls, spend the dayrosalie eco lodge family travel surfing or go turtle or whale watching. Later return to your tree house, cabin or cottage, tucked into the rainforest and surrounded by organic gardens. Learn how British owner Jem Winston, uses wind power to provide light and how his reliance on community resources enriches both locals and guests. Contact: 1 (767) 446 1886; www.rosalieforest.com

Playa Viva. Juluchuca, MX. Stay in this family friendly, all inclusive, coastal lodge near Ixtapa, where the owners operate an onsite Turtle Sanctuary. Last year, guests helped save and release more than 100,000 baby turtles. The solar powered lodge was constructed with the help of local craftspeople, using indigenous materials. Your family is invited to join the chef for a visit to the nearby farmer’s market. Later, learn how to craft local specialties. Contact: (650)292-0432;www.PlayaViva.com.

Nature Inn at Bald Eagle. Howard, PA. Through their every day practices, which include geothermal heating and cooling, solar hot water heat generation, rainwater harvesting, native habitat restoration and the use of rain gardens, guests can look forward to an eco-friendly retreat. The entire family will enjoy the beauty and wealth of activity and wildlife in the area. Look forward to hundreds of miles of trails, paths and trout streams in the Pennsylvania Wilds. You’ll also find a large elk refuge, local artisans and pristine natural beauty. Contact: (814)625-2879; http://natureinnatbaldeagle.com/; www.pawilds.com

The Borneo Rainforest Lodge. Stay in one of 31 individual chalets, amidst a pristine rainforest that is part of the Danum Valley Conservation Area. From eco-savvy quarters, families can plan for outings that include scouting 300 species of birds, 120 species of mammals and 200 species of plants per hectare. Animals roam freely so be prepared to spot orangutans, pygmy elephants and Bornean hornbills. View the pristine environment from a 1,000 foot long, multi-tiered canopy walk, suspended 85 feet above the ground. Contact: 60 88 267637; This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.; http://borneonaturetours.com; www.tourismmalaysiany.com/

ft shakti himalayaU Shakti 360¢ª Leti . Himalayas, India. Unplug and soak in the stunning views from your cabin in the foothills of the Indian Himalayas. A strong commitment to the local community includes employment of local guides, chefs and porters as well a determination to use traditional building techniques. The company has introduced solar heating and lighting, water reuse programs and created a foundation to foster local renewable energy, education and cultural projects in the community. Hike to your heart’s content and learn about the culture of this spectacular mountainous region. Contact: 1 (866 )401-3705; www.shaktihimalaya.com.

Published in Lodges & Inns

jordan 

Irene Lane, founder of Greenloons, offers her picks for ten compelling eco destinations:  

1.  Jordan’s eco-lodges combine local heritage and educational experiences while exploring a mix of modernity, ancient wonders and nature. Think horse or camel safaris, Bedouins, the endangered Arabia oryx, Petra, the Dead Sea and trekking through Dana Nature Reserve. 

2. Borneo’s jungles, beaches, caves, exotic wildlife and more than 5,000 diverse and endemic plant species are revealed by, among others, trekking the relatively untouched Mt. Kinabalu and exploring the Kinabatangang River, home to wild boar, orangutans, elephants, king fishers, macaque and proboscis monkeys.  Award-winning eco-lodges harvest rainwater, use solar power and manage wildlife rehabilitation. 

3. The Philippines is among National Geographic’s 20 Best Destinations and Palawan Island its top eco-destination.  Among 7,000 islands guests swim with whale sharks, discover endangered sea turtles, spy on the rare Philippine eagle and discover the mountain-to-sea ecosystem of the Puerto-Princesa Subterranean River National Park. Eco-lodges serve locally sourced food and wildlife education.  

4. Belize offers more than 87 distinct types of ecosystems, making ecotourism the lifeblood of its economy.  Along with 150 identified species of mammals are rainforests, Mayan temples, the world’s second longest barrier reef and an abundance of eco-lodges educating travelers about the fragility of its ecosystem.  

5. Botswana favors low volume, high quality, environmentally conscious safari travel into the Okavango Delta and Kalahari Desert, the savannahs of the Moremi Reserve and the forests of Chobe and Linyanta Game Reserves.  Guests enjoy game drives, walking, elephant/horseback/bicycle safaris and boating, plus youth explorer programs emphasizing conservation and bush survival skills. Tented bush camps are environmentally friendly.  

6. Poland has mountains, rivers and wetlands and is a haven for hundreds of thousands of migratory birds as well as avid hiking enthusiasts. With 23 National Parks and forests covering nearly 30 percent of the country, Poland has its own Big Game: the European bison, lynx, stoats, martens and red deer.  Guests can enjoy eco-ranch lodges. 

7. Croatia’s eco/agritourism focuses on culinary tours with locally sourced organic produce and family farm stays. Activities can include hiking, biking, rafting and canoeing.

8. Guyana’s mountain ranges, savannahs and jungle canopy walks combine with river and rainforest eco-lodges for close-up views of exotic birds, jaguars, red howler monkeys, giant river otters and other wildlife.  The famed Karanambu Ranch rehabilitates orphaned giant river otters so they can be released back into the wild. 

9. Argentina is home to Glacier National Park and the active Perito Moreno, one of the world’s only advancing glaciers, as well as the tropical rain forests of Iguazu Falls near Brazil, the Antarctic environment of Tierra del Fuego, the Andean mountains, the wind-swept Patagonian steppe and the coastal marine habitat of the Valdes Peninsula. Eco-lodges are crafted from local materials to integrate with the environment. 

10. Ethiopia may be a trek across the Roof of Africa through the virtually untouched Simien Mountains, home of the Gelada baboon, Walia ibex and endangered Ethiopian wolf. Or it may be Rift Valley Lakes and Blue Nile Falls or Lalibela, considered to be one of the greatest spiritual-historical sites of the world. Eco-lodgings are built in the traditional “tikka” style and solar-powered.

Photo: Petra, Jordan 

Published in My Travel Style

travel Taipai

Try a Vacation "Made in Taiwan" –

Ten Family Things To Do  ( Plus Three Insider Tips!) 

Family Travel Taiwan Lanterns

Taiwan is a small island with large vacation potential for families that want culture and nature with all the modern comforts. Kids can be exposed to the Japanese and Chinese influences as well as Taiwanese ways.

Transportation is efficient; first-rate accommodations and food are prevalent; English is spoken most places, and the people are a pleasure. 

Below are ten of the many family-friendly activities you'll find in Taiwan:
> Don a hardhat and go through the tunnels of a gold mine, then touch a real, large bar of gold in the Museum of Gold at the Gold Ecological Park, Linguashi in northern Taiwan. The views are also spectacular.
> Spend a day at the Formosan Aboriginal Culture Village – home of five themed amusement parks with rides, a fun gondola ascent, and an entertainment center with indigenous dances and shows. It’s not Disneyland, but offers an intriguing combination of entertainment, supporting diverse cultures and tourism.

> Enjoy a mini-water park with slides and mineral baths in your hotel at Fleur de Chine –something fun for the kids and adults. The resort is located on the beautiful and historic Sun Moon Lake, which offers boat rides to islands and temples.
> See how traditional paper lanterns are made by three generations of a lantern-making family. You can have your name or favorite saying painted in Taiwanese script on a folk lantern you choose while you watch. Or you can place your order and enjoy other delights on Old Street in Lugang, then return for your unique souvenir or gift.

> Shoot up, up, and up to the top of Taipei 101, designed to resemble a bamboo shoot. Its Observatory is on top of one of the world's tallest buildings with one of the world’s fastest elevators. Children under 115cm (a little over 3 feet 9 inches) are free in the Observatory. The views from the top are stellar, but bring a jacket for the wind, and leave the chewing gum below. (It’s not allowed.) Find out the secrets of the “Damper Baby.”
> Visit the colorful Dragon and Tiger Pagodas set in a kind of imaginative outdoor architectural park on and around Lotus Lake in Kaochsiung, a great city for biking and a boat ride on the “Love River.”

> Explore dramatic (and photographic) rock formations at the seaside of Yeliu Geopark, a geological wonder realm with open spaces and pathways good for kids. The Queen’s Head and some abstract shapes seem to defy gravity; others look like they mushroomed from the earth.
> Join hundreds of Taiwanese school kids on their field trips at the Tainan Confucian Temple, also known as the Scholarly Temple, which was first built in 1665. Tai Chi may be underway in its courtyard with newcomers welcome, and unusual musical instruments are one of the fascinating displays in the hallways.
> Sip “Bubble Tea,” a fad in parts of the United States, after being invented in creative Taiwan. You can create your own flavor combos at corner stands and restaurants, then sip the bubbles and textures through a straw – which may conjure giggles.

For “small eats” in a friendly place and some of the best dumplings on earth, you can take your family to Din Tai Fung in Taipei. 

Three Insider Tips for Traveling to Taiwan with your kids:
>Bring a blank book to collect imprinted stamps. Throughout Taiwan, major sites have machines that press in inked images of the site to create a tourist's passport of memories. While you are enjoying the incredible pieces in Taiwan’s National Palace Museum, your children can see who can collect the most images.

 >Bring shoes that are easy to slip on and off and sturdy socks for the kids if you plan to visit some of Taiwan’s outstanding temples. You can also brief the children in advance of about temple manners and respect for other people’s religions.

 >In our quickly changing world, it’s good to check in advance with any trip overseas about possible health and safety issues in the country. Here’s a link to a convenient universal list of pre-trip resources provided by http://www.WorldTouristBureau.com/resources.html    

Happy Travels!  

How to get there:

China Airlines

http://www.china-airlines.com/en/index.htm

Grand Hyatt Taipai

Wonderful Hotels:

*Grand Hyatt Hotel in Taipei – great location, food and staff, ask for views of Taipei 101 http://www.taipei.grand.hyatt.com

 The Fleur de Chine on Sun Moon Lake had Japanese baths in the rooms, balconies above the lake and the water-theme park with mineral baths in the hotel. http://www.fleurdechinehotel.com
Ambassador Hotel is on the Love River in Kaohsiung, a bustling exciting port city bigger than Seattle and San Francisco. http://www.ambassadorhotel.com.tw/   

 

Links to help:

For more information to plan a Taiwan trip: http://eng.taiwan.net.tw/pda/m1.aspx

Formosa Aboriginal Culture Village: http://eng.taiwan.net.tw/pda/m1.aspx?sNo=0011367&id=R2&jid=138

Taipei 101 Observatory & “Damper Baby” games:

http://www.taipei-101.com.tw/en/DB/index.asp

Gold Ecological Park: http://www.gep

en.tpc.gov.tw/econtent/theme/theme.asp

DinTaiFung: http://www.dintaifung.com.tw/en/index.asp

National Palace Museum: http://www.npm.gov.tw/en/home.htm

Published in Go Global

Equal parts adrenaline rush and eco-tour, adding a zip line experience into your vacation itinerary can satisfy the adventure quotient for every member of the family.

Published in Global Excursions

The U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization works to preserve significant and inspirational places worldwide.

Designated World Heritage sites, they're as diverse as Yellowstone National Park, Shark Bay in Australia and the historic center of Vienna, and they symbolize the world's collective history, culture and landscape.

The U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization works to preserve significant and inspirational places worldwide.

Designated World Heritage sites, they're as diverse as Yellowstone National Park, Shark Bay in Australia and the historic center of Vienna, and they symbolize the world's collective history, culture and landscape.

Reviewing the list of 911 World Heritage locations provides an impressive history lesson.

Here are five your family would enjoy.

 

Statue of Liberty, New York City. Calling Lady Liberty "a bridge between art and engineering," UNESCO emphasizes the symbolic value of this gift given to the U.S. by the French in 1886. Since then, Americans and immigrants have revered this symbol of freedom, democracy and peace.

Today, the statue's torch continues to shine on New York's harbor, and tours of the figure remain highly popular. Reservations are required to enter the pedestal or climb to the top of the crown.

Kids can learn why liberty is important to preserve and protect and can earn a Junior Ranger badge.

Contact: 212-363-3200; www.nps.gov/stli


Great Wall of China. The serpentine wall meanders 5,500 miles across northern China, spanning more than 2,000 years of history. Constructed primarily during the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) as a defense against invasion, the wall was designated by UNESCO for its "architectural grandeur and historical significance."

Parts of the wall now are damaged, disappearing or gone altogether. However, the segments that modern travelers can visit provide a window into Chinese culture and past. A variety of tours, from hikes to overnight or archaeological visits, gives families many options.

Contact: www.travelchinaguide.com; www.chinahighlights.com/ greatwall

 


Taos Pueblo, N.M. Continuously inhabited for more than 1,000 years, this remarkable community remains a prime example of American Indian culture, tradition and architecture. UNESCO notes the Pueblo Indians' ability to retain long-held traditions despite pressure from the outside world. More than 1,900 Pueblo Indians live full or part time in adobe homes in the community. Take a walking tour and learn the pueblo's rich history, view native crafts and see a unique way of life.

Contact: 575-758-1028; www.taospueblo.com;
www.nps.gov/history/world heritage/taos.htm


Carcassonne and Canal Du Midi, southern France. Step back in time on the cobblestone streets of Carcassonne, a medieval, fortified town on a hilltop in the Languedoc region. Children of all ages will be awed by the walled city, the castle and a Gothic cathedral complete with gargoyles. Tour the town, then head for a second World Heritage site just minutes away. From the Port of Carcassonne, embark on a barge tour of the scenic Canal Du Midi. Noted as an outstanding example of civil engineering and landscape design, the waterway was built between 1667 and 1694. Today's travelers enjoy day trips as well as longer cruises on the 150-mile-long canal, which connects the Mediterranean with the Atlantic via locks, bridges, tunnels and aqueducts.

Contact: www.carcassonne.org;
http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/770;
www.franceguide.com


Historic center of Riga, Latvia. Budding architects and design students will marvel at the art nouveau buildings that moved UNESCO to add this 800-year-old city to its list of heritage sites.

A charming capital alongside the Daugava River, Riga offers a mix of old and new, historic and creative. Visit the opera house, Vermanes Park for the kids, St. Peter's Cathedral and the outdoor markets. Riga is often called the "Paris of the North."

It's said the first Christmas tree was introduced here, in 1510.

Contact:  www.rigalatvia.net


View the entire list of World Heritage sites at http://whc.unesco.org.

UNESCO's World Heritage mission:

  • encourage countries to sign the World Heritage Convention and to ensure the protection of their natural and cultural heritage;
  • encourage States Parties to the Convention to nominate sites within their national territory for inclusion on the World Heritage List;
  • encourage States Parties to establish management plans and set up reporting systems on the state of conservation of their World Heritage sites;
  • help States Parties safeguard World Heritage properties by providing technical assistance and professional training;
  • provide emergency assistance for World Heritage sites in immediate danger;
  • support States Parties' public awareness-building activities for World Heritage conservation;
  • encourage participation of the local population in the preservation of their cultural and natural heritage;
  • encourage international cooperation in the conservation of our world's cultural and natural heritage.

Photo Copyright Lynn O'Rourke Hayes, Canal di Midi, France. 2010

Published in Global Excursions