Do you strive to raise citizens of the world? As you and your children begin to navigate the planet together, sharing your knowledge, while teaching them to make their own way, will create confidant and compassionate travelers for the future.
Here are a five tips for empowering the next generation of explorers:
How and why one Colorado family left it all behind and found what mattered most.
All while traveling "Children Class".
There are two classes of travel: First class, and with children.
- Robert Benchley
He's right, you know; there is no posh, no pamper, no true relaxation when traveling with children.
When we grownups travel or walk into an office or a sit in a pew or stand in an elevator looking anywhere but at someone else, it is because we have been trained how to behave in certain situations or settings. Children, haven't a clue. And so when traveling they are as exasperating, frustrating, entertaining, and exhausting as any other day of their lives.
What is different with travel is that we grownups finally have the time to be properly trained by them. For example, when children take a break from study or chores or other responsibilities, they do not seek out a hammock with a Mai Tai Kool-Aid with a wee umbrella sitting close by. No, they seek play, which is really just work with a different purpose. We grownups tend to think that proper relaxing is the complete cessation of all physical exertion (save for waving down the pool boy for just one more Mai Tai). Relaxation, our children continually try to teach us, is not rest but the freedom to pursue your own purpose.
Children couldn't care less about physical rest, and when they do, they usually settle down to something calm yet mentally engaging and creative, like drawing or building (or for boys, wrecking). And when children are active, there is no relaxing for parents (until after that second Mai Tai).
In order to put into practice, then, what our children have been trying to teach us all these years, my wife, Diana, and I decided to take a 14-month family sabbatical in Ecuador, to travel Children Class. We quit our jobs, stored our stuff, rented our house, and moved to Cuenca, Ecuador. The kids attended local school, we all learned Spanish, and we spent much of our non-school time traveling and discovering Ecuador and its people. We played and learned. We engaged and studied (Salsa lessons, Internet marketing, Ecuadorian cooking).
That's the short version.
We have since returned home but have not returned to our old jobs. Diana is now an independent marketing and communications consultant. I am writing and have also started a website to inspire and help other families to take their own sabbaticals. Everything we do now is designed to remain independent, flexible, and mobile. Our time away not only inspired that life change, it gave us the time to learn how to do it. (By the way, here's how to do it—just do it! We've discovered all the important learning comes after you've begun anyway. Everything before that is just to give you the confidence to do it.)
So here are 10 reasons to take your own family sabbatical:
1. Spend more and better time together as a family.
2. Get to know yourself and your world by leaving the life you know for a bit and viewing it from the outside.
3. Give your children a rare and valuable education beyond the school walls and their usual borders.
4. The chance to reinvent yourself. Find a new and better career, income, or skill. Learn guitar, painting, or cooking.
5. Looks great on a resume (if you ever need one again). Creatively reference the skills you needed or learned—creativity, improvisation, bold action, planning, budgeting and financial management, independence, self-sufficiency, flexibility, list making.
6. It's a down economy; why struggle to make money? Go live somewhere less expensive and come back when the money hose turns back on.
7. Learn another language.
9. Liberate your life from stuff.
There is no perfect age for the kids to do this. It will not get easier if you wait. It is not as difficult as you imagine. But, it is more amazing than you imagine.
And the Buddhists might be wrong—this may be the only life you get.
Matt Scherr is the editor of Radical Family Sabbatical and more importantly, married to Diana Scherr.
Together, they parent two world wanderers, Piper and Duncan.
Each year, Spring Break offers the opportunity to explore new places and deepen family bonds. Here are five ideas to consider this year:
International Adventure with Intrepid. The way the folks at Intrepid Travel see it, most kids are master ice-breakers, eager to ask questions and make new friends. That’s why they’ve created a series of family adventures that include homestays with a multigenerational family in Morocco or meals at a tucked away trattoria, known only to resident Tuscans.
Many departures are keyed to school holidays so families can plan a cross-cultural experience to dreamy destinations like Brazil and Botswana. English speaking, kid-friendly, local guides will assist your small group in uncovering the most authentic experiences in your chosen destination. Contact: 800-970-7299; IntrepidTravel.com.
Whistler Blackcomb. Whistler, BC, CA. Enjoy a high altitude holiday with the kids in this pristine mountain enclave where kids can tap into a ski school experience designed for their specific age group. The whole family can check out the tubing park, cat skiing, and scenic sleigh rides as well as dog sled and snowshoe tours. For those eager to up the thrill factor, ask about winter zip lining and heli-skiing. Contact: 1-888-882-8858; EnjoyWhistler.com
Southampton. Bermuda. Have you ever built a seaside castle from pink sand? You and your family can do that and much more when spending your Spring Break at this luxurious island resort situated on 100 lush, flower-strewn acres. The Family Getaway package includes a complimentary adjoining room for the kids, a welcome amenity for the family and complimentary access to the Explorer’s Camp for kids. Hop aboard a jet ski, play golf and tennis and explore historic forts. Contact: (866) 540-4497; Fairmont.com/southampton-bermuda
Sedona, AZ. Movie nights, game nights, Twinkle Toes pedicures, ice cream socials and pizza-making with the resort’s Sicilian Chef, are all in your family’s future when you book the Hilton Sedona Resort & Spa’s Family Spring Break Spectacular. Plan to spend plenty of time outside in the art and nature lover’s mecca USA Today called the most beautiful place in America. Check in with the Adventure Concierge to plan off-road Jeep tours, balloon rides, mountain biking or a helicopter tour of the stunning red rocks for which the region is famous. Contact: 1.877-273-3762; www.hiltonsedonaresort.com.
Winston, NM. Check into the Geronimo Trail Guest Ranch in the heart of the Gila National Forest for a genuine old west adventure. Ride the same trails once traveled by Billy the Kid, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid as well as famed Apache Warrior Geronimo. Stay in a cozy cabin and play games next to a warming fireplace. Ask about special family discount weeks. Contact: 575-772-5157; www.geronimoranch.com.
Sea Kayaking in the Sea of Cortez. Loreto, Mexico. Snorkel with brilliant king angelfish and lobster, watch plunge-diving blue-footed boobies, and search for 90-ton blue whales. Discoveries abound as you paddle your sea kayak through the islands of Baja’s Sea of Cortez and the Loreto Bay National Marine Park. Because of their volcanic ash layers, unique rock formations, crystal waters, and teeming wildlife the area has been compared to the Galapagos Islands. Discounts for those under 18. Contact: Sea Kayak Adventures, 800-616-1943; www.seakayakadventures.com
Why wait for Spring Break to explore the world?
What are single parents looking for when planning family travel? Like most parents, they want minimal stress and maximum time together.
Here are five possibilities:
1 Consider a farm vacation.
Slow down at Feather Down Farm, one of three working farms in the United States and 50 in Europe that welcome families interested in learning about sustainable farm practices, healthy eating and life with chickens, goats and lambs. A parent might head out for a hike or settle in with a book, while the kids learn to churn butter or collect eggs for breakfast. Visit the Honesty Shop where family members can peruse local produce and other items, sign up for what looks interesting and perhaps craft a dinner from their purchases. Spacious tents, furnished with authentic detail, offer a private room for adults as well as a cozy “cupboard bed” where kids can tuck away for the night.
Contact: 716-226-6323; featherdown.com
2 International adventure.
Single mom Michelle Kingsley O’Neill and her triplet sons spent a month exploring Ecuador and brushing up on their Spanish skills. With a rental home on the beach in the coastal town of Olon as their home base, the family of four took language classes and enjoyed side trips to Cuenca and other sites of interest. They also sampled local cuisine and learned to surf and zip-line. The result? With high school on the horizon, O’Neill agreed to the boys’ request for home-schooling this year so they could fit more travel into their education plan.
3 An all-inclusive deal.
Single parents checking into the all-inclusive AAA Five Diamond Grand Velas Resorts in Riviera Maya and Riviera Nayarit will have the single supplement fee waived when traveling with their children. In addition, one child will stay at a 50 percent discount. Expect a state of the art kids’ club and airport transfers, as well as day and evening beach, eco and sporting activities that will engage adults and children throughout their seaside vacation.
Contact: 1-888-323-4294; rivieramaya.grandvelas.com
4 Ride the rails.
Train excursions provide one parent traveling with kids a relaxed and stress-free opportunity to enjoy one another’s company. On board Via Rail, Canada’s premier passenger rail service, kids will love visiting the panoramic dome in the Skyline or Park car for a unique vista. They also can join other junior explorers for movies and games. With discounts available for children, choose from cross-country adventures or itineraries that offer some gorgeous scenery.
5 Ranch relaxation.
Adventuresome parents eager to share their passion with the next generation will welcome a stay at this secluded guest ranch in central Idaho’s Sawtooth Mountains. Choose from activities that include fishing in the Salmon River, an overnight pack trip, swimming in a pool fed by hot springs, cycling and river floats. Evening children’s programs enable mom or dad to carve out quiet time or join in weekly barbecues, while the kids enjoy new friendships. The ranch is open mid-June through mid-September.
Contact: 208-774-3544;idahorocky.com; duderanchers.org
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
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.
How about turning your next time away from work into a travel sabbatical – a real break from work?
With a one or even a two-week vacation we barely get relaxed and stop looking at emails before it's time to go home and back to work. A longer break allows you time to reflect, to get to know yourself, to reconnect with family and friends and your dreams.
While you are away on your next vacation, spend some time dreaming about a longer one. Assume there are no boundaries. You have the time, the money to do anything or go anywhere. Answer the question “if you had two or more months off, how would you ideally like to spend that time?” That’s the beginning of your plan. You will have to shape it, but start with what you really want to do.
According to the 2011 Fortune Magazine survey, 21 of the best companies to work for offer formal, paid for sabbatical programs. Even if your company doesn’t offer one, you too can do it. I have taken four “Reboot Breaks,” as I call them, and I have interviewed over 200 men and women of all ages and from many different types of careers who have had the courage to request time off from their work. Each person said they came back better professionally and personally.
Start by giving yourself permission. Did you recharge your cell phone yesterday? What about your laptop? Have you taken your car in for a check up lately? When was the last time you took time to recharge your battery? Not just for a day, a week or even a month - when was the last time you took at least two months for yourself? Think of this not as ‘time off’ but as ‘time on’…investing in one of your companies most important assets – you!
Now that you have given yourself permission, here are seven tips on how to fund your travel sabbatical:
1. Create a Reboot Break account. There are several ways to do this. You can approach your company and ask them to pay you ¾ of your salary for now. They, in essence, defer paying you that money until you are on your travel break. This helps with tax flow as well.
2. Create your own savings account. Fill it with a monthly deposit out of your paycheck. This should not strap you, but should be a commitment that you stick to over the time before your break.
3. Ask family and friends to contribute in lieu of birthday and holiday gifts and deposit that savings to the account.
4. Use a "windfall," such as a bonus, tax refund, or inheritance. Sell assets you don’t need, such as a second home or car, and use it as a windfall.
5. Make money while on your break:
• Writing your own travel blog and getting it sponsored
• Working as a travel companion
• Being a guest lecturer aboard a ship
• Getting a grant for research while you are off
• Teaching English as a Second Language
• Offer to drive a car across the country
• Rent your home for a year
6. Cut expenses while you are on your vacation sabbatical. Examples include:
• Trading your home or apartment for one in another area if you are going to be away.
• Selling your car - or park it and cancel the insurance temporarily.
• Stopping your cable service and cancel club fees temporarily.
• Exploring ways to entertain yourself that are free while you are at home or on travel.
7. Learn to live light. Simplify your life so your load is lightened both financially and psychologically. The concept applies to packing light when traveling, to reducing the dependence on material things, to focusing on personal growth.
About the author:
Rita Foley is a co-author of Reboot Your Life: Energize Your Career and Life by Taking a Break. She is a Corporate Director, retired Fortune 500 Global President, and a committed leader in numerous organizations dedicated to improving the health and lives of individuals. She has taken 4 sabbaticals and loves to travel. For additional information please visit her website: www.rebootbreak.com.
52 Books For Travelers of All Ages
Great reads and grand gift ideas for the intrepid explorer or the armchair traveler.
Introducing your children to other cultures is a wonderful gift.
Here are tips provided by the folks at Ethical Traveler that will help your entire family leave only footprints...and a positive impression.
1. Be aware of where your money is going.
Patronize locally owned inns, restaurants, and shops. Try to keep your cash within the local economy, so the people you are visiting benefit directly from your stay.
2.Avoid giving gifts directly to children.
Give instead to their parents or teachers. When giving gifts– everything from pens to pharmaceuticals – first ask what’s needed, and who can best distribute these items in the community.
3. Learn basic greetings.
Learn to say “please,” “thank you,” and as many numbers as you can. It’s astonishing how far a little language goes toward creating a feeling of goodwill
4. Remember the economic realities of your new currency.
A few rupees one way or another is not going to ruin you. Don’t get upset if a visitor who earns 100 times a local salary is expected to pay a few cents more for a ferry ride or an egg.
5. Bargain fairly and respectfully.
The final transaction should leave both buyer and seller satisfied and pleased. Haggling is part of many cultures, but it’s not a bargain if either person feels exploited or ripped-off.
6. Learn and respect the traditions and taboos of your host country.
Never, for example, pat a Thai child on the head, enter a traditional Brahmin’s kitchen, or open an umbrella in a Nepali home!
7. Curb your anger, and cultivate your sense of humor.
Travel can present obstacles and frustrations, but anger is never a good solution. It’s perversely satisfying, but won’t win respect or defuse a bad situation. A light touch, and a sense of humor, are infinitely more useful.
8. Arrive with a sense of your host country’s social and environmental concerns. Our site will direct you to good profiles of many popular travel destinations. It’s also very useful to read the political background section in your guidebook, and the local English-language papers.
9.Learn to listen.
People in other nations often feel underestimated or patronized by travelers from the developed world. This fosters anger and resentment. Be aware that good listening skills and respect help shape the world’s view of your country.
10. Practice conservation.
Never be wasteful of local resources – especially food and water. Your efforts at conservation will be noted and respected by your hosts, and will set a good example for your fellow travelers.
11. “Can you please help me?”
This is the most useful phrase travelers can learn. Rarely will another human being refuse a direct request for help. Being of service, and inviting others to express their kindness, is what the phrase “global community” is all about.
12.Leave your preconceptions about the world at home.
The inhabitants of planet Earth will continually amaze you with their generosity, hospitality, and wisdom. Be open to their friendship, and aware of our common humanity, delights, and hardships.
13. Remember Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.’s best line.
“Strange travel suggestions are dancing lessons from God.” Go with the flow, and give free reign to your sense of adventure!
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
A little rain. A cancelled flight. Lost luggage.
In our family, when things don’t go according to “plan”, we say, “it will make for a better story later”. Still, sometimes we welcome a little inspiration. Some perspective.
A gentle reminder of why we travel and how fortunate we are to see so much of the world.