In today’s world, a little kindness goes a long way. And research shows that teaching kids to be kind has a positive influence on a slew of academic, health and social outcomes including increased self-esteem, motivation to learn and resilience.
Here are five ways to incorporate random acts of kindness into your next family vacation.
1. Pack an attitude of gratitude.
Leave impatience and judgment behind and showcase an attitude of gratitude. Lead with a smile and offer thanks to those you meet along the way. From harried flight attendants, pilots, TSA agents and front desk personnel to tour guides, bus drivers, restaurant servers and room attendants, encourage the kids to say thank you whenever appropriate. Consider leaving a handwritten note or crayon drawing along with your tip, an extra effort sure to garner a smile from the recipient. If you loved your hotel stay or cruise ship experience, leave a note congratulating the whole crew for a job well done.
2. Be aware of your surroundings.
Encourage the kids to take note of the pregnant woman, the elderly or handicapped who might be standing in a crowded bus, airline terminal or hotel lobby while the young and able lounge in chairs. Discuss (and model) how offering a seat, a hand or opening a door can be helpful. Encourage the heavily laden or parents managing a cranky child to go ahead in line. Perhaps a strong teen can assist a frail adult with removing a heavy piece of luggage from the overhead compartment.
In the queue for a soda or coffee? Quietly pay for someone in uniform or an elderly person behind you in line. By simply taking notice, opportunities for extending kindness will multiply.
3. Pack for a purpose.
Reserve a little space in your luggage for books, clothing or school supplies that will make a difference in the lives of others in your destination. The non-profit organization, Pack For A Purpose, works with hundreds of hotels and tour operators in 60 countries to help travelers contribute to those in need. Whether you stow pencils, a deflated soccer ball, a stethoscope or pet supplies in your bags, you and your family will return home knowing you’ve helped spread kindness beyond your own backyard.
4. Walk, run or bike for charity.
Research your destination to determine if there is an opportunity to combine healthy exercise with the chance to give back in your getaway spot. Ask your hotel about opportunities or connect with the local tourism organization for ideas. The Humane Society may be able to suggest events that will help homeless animals. If there is a charity you support or have interest in at home, give them a call to see if they can provide a contact in your intended destination. LiveStrong has combined a list of nationwide events on their website. Peruse the options for a match. Contact:
5. Take a volunteer vacation.
Whether you offer an hour, a day or a week, giving back of your time and resources makes for a meaningful holiday. Spend time reading to kids at a nearby school, help save sharks or turtles, share the gift of language or scoop ice cream and assist with pony rides for kids with life-threatening illnesses staying at a non-profit resort.
Contact the Random Acts of Kindness Foundation for more ideas. https://www.randomactsofkindness.org/
Single parents looking for time with the kids might welcome the chance to connect with other adults while traveling.
Here are five ideas to consider:
1 Check out a dude ranch.
Join a cattle drive, learn to rope a calf, play games or enjoy a picnic in the hills. You’ll savor time together in a pristine setting with as much activity as suits your personal style. Join other families at mealtime or around an evening campfire to share stories and plan the next day’s adventures. Many ranches have kids-only programs that give grown-ups a chance to learn a new skill or recharge on their own.
Contact: bestduderanches.com; www.duderanch.org
2. Stay in an all-inclusive.
Leave the credit cards behind and feel comfortable on the beach, at dinner, and pursuing paddle boating, water-skiing, sailing and snorkeling with and without the kids. At Curtain Bluff, a relaxed yet luxurious family-owned resort in Antigua, you can pamper yourself at the spa or sway under the palms in your hammock while the youngsters enjoy a tennis clinic or Creative Camp.
Contact: 1-888-289-9898; www.curtainbluff.com
3. Raft a river.
Cast a line in the water in between rapids in on the Middle Fork of the Salmon River. Warm up in hot springs along the way and check out Indian pictographs. Join other parents and kids in camp for a short hike, organic seasonal fare and conversation around the campfire. For a luxury-in-the-wilderness experience , parents can treat themselves to a riverside massage.
Contact: 832-755-7661; far-away.com
4 Volunteer together.
Forge a parent-child bond while giving back to others. Learn about community-based tourism through a cross-cultural exchange that includes home stays, family-style meals, exploration, adventure and time with locals in indigenous communities. Opportunities include building schools as well as assisting with the pressing need of the moment in Peru, Guatemala, Kenya, India and beyond. Closer to home, venture into America’s breathtaking backcountry to rebuild or create trails, shelters and cabins in more than 50 locations with the American Hiking Society.
Contact: crookedtrails.com; www.americanhiking.org
5. Plan an adventure.
Interested in exploring the rain forest in Costa Rica? Perhaps you’d rather cycle together through Ireland, see lions and leopards in Africa, or learn about the natural world in Yellowstone. When joining small-group family adventure trips, the details are handled and you can enjoy time with the kids, other families and the destination at hand.
Contact: www.austinadventures.com; www.tauck.com
"How we define the "experiences of a lifetime" for ourselves and our families is as diverse as families themselves. So what matters to you? What are you aching to experience with your clan? As you plan for grand family travel, here are a few ideas to consider:
1. Reflect your values.
The travel choices you make can send a strong message to your loved ones about what matters most to you. Consider the bucket list as a thoughtful and deliberate reflection of your own values, hopes and dreams. So before you begin listing desired destinations, ask yourself what aspects of the world - geographically, spiritually and culturally - you want to share with your children, grandchildren and perhaps other friends and family members.
2.Identify Priorities and Passions.
Are you a nature, history or art lover? Do you want your children or grandchildren to learn how to ski, photograph or scuba dive? Do you hope to share your love of baseball or botany with the next generation? Will volunteer vacations or heritage tours be an important part of your mix? Take time to consider these ideas that will expand your family’s horizons and weave them into your travel plan.
3. Identify places.
Americans get low marks for knowledge of geography. Begin with a good map or atlas and consider studying the globe an important part of your family travel education. While your list will most certainly change over the years, think about which destinations you hope to visit while your children are in the nest and beyond? And, when it comes time to involve the children in creating the bucket list, remember that kids don’t know what they don’t know. Certain theme parks and resorts will likely be on their radar screens. But they may not be aware of the glories of Yellowstone or Yosemite or the historical significance of Gettysburg or Montpelier.
4 About the money.
Choosing to make travel a priority is a decision that may require foregoing other luxuries or experiences. But the quality bonding time and lifelong memories are sure to be worth it. Consider creating a travel savings account. Opt for travel related gifts for birthdays, graduations and holidays. Encourage the children to establish their own travel fund. Saving for a specific trip can be an important part of the overall experience.
5. About the time.
Whether you begin by tossing up a tent in the backyard or strategizing to experience a safari in Africa, there is no time like the present to begin planning family travel. As children get older, their schedules become more complicated by their own commitments. Take advantage of school breaks. Consider off-season adventures when you will experience fewer crowds and lower prices, even if it means missing a few days of class. Is a month, summer or year abroad on your family wish list? If, so, begin the research now.
6. And now.
You’ve planned and prioritized. Now, have fun. Take pictures.
I don’t know why knowledge of this problem eluded me for so long. But I distinctly remember the moment, more than a decade ago, when it came front and center.
You might think I was deep in the African bush.
I was sitting in a coffee shop in Bozeman, Mt. when a young man shared with me his passion for raising money to help others have access to safe and clean water.
“Water?"I recall asking. I’d helped raise money for food, clothes, schools, books and medicine in the past.
But water? Truthfully, I am embarrassed to admit I hadn’t really thought about it.
And, you know how when you learn a new word, suddenly that letter combo seems to pop up everywhere? Well that is how it was for water.
In short order I learned that more than 3.4 million people die each year from water, sanitation, and hygiene-related causes. Nearly all deaths, 99 percent, occur in the developing world – in places like Haiti.
And that lack of access to clean water and sanitation kills children at a rate equivalent of a jumbo jet crashing every four hours.
Now I can hardly fathom that of the 60 million people added to the world's towns and cities every year, most move to informal settlements (i.e. slums) with no sanitation facilities. And women and girls spend the most time collecting water.
In today’s world, how is it possible that 780 million people lack access to an improved water source; approximately one in nine people.
I now understand that the water and sanitation crisis claims more lives through disease than any war claims through guns.
The next time you take a shower consider that an American taking a five-minute rinse-off uses more water than the average person in a developing country slum uses for an entire day.
Then consider that 2.5 times more people lack water than live in the United States.
And what does this say about our culture?
More people have a mobile phone than a toilet.
So recently I raised some money for Water.org. (co-founded by Matt Damon) And you can too.
Even if it is only ….one drop at a time.
PS: And if this water crisis was not on your radar before, just know, that now you are in the global loop when it comes to this five letter word.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
With opportunities from Montana to Malawi, there is a volunteer vacation to suit every family. Here are five organizations to consider when planning your next family voluntourism trip.
Help build a house in Mexico, save the turtles in Costa Rica or teach young children to read in Malawi. More than 61 million Americans dedicated 8.1 billion hours to volunteerism, according to a recent report from the Corporation for National & Community Service. And now Americans are increasingly taking their charity on the road.
Voluntourism, the concept of doing good while having a good time, is one of the fastest growing segments of the travel industry.During a recent trip to the Peruvian Amazon region, my school-aged sons and I, along with two family friends, traveled 90 miles by speedboat deep within the jungle. There we delivered much-needed school supplies to several communities along the river. In return, we enjoyed the students’ songs, dances and original poetry. Their creativity and energy were among the most memorable aspects of our adventure.
I-to-I offers volunteer vacation experiences in Honduras, India and Costa Rica working with sustainable, locally run community, educational and environmental projects. Its travel advisors will provide specific information about each country and project so that you can make the best decision for your family. Tel. 800-985-4852, www.i-to-i.com.
Founded in 1984, Global Volunteers offers short- and long-term opportunities in more than 20 countries. Popular family projects include working with the Blackfeet Indians in Montana, teaching conversational English, assisting in orphanages and working on building projects in Costa Rica. www.globalvolunteers.org
Craft your own family volunteer vacation from hundreds of opportunities provided on this Web site. You’ll find connections to projects and causes around the world. www.GiveSpot.com
Students gather for a group picture with their host families from the Tanzanian village of Itete.
American Hiking Society
On an American Hiking Society volunteer vacation, family members visit stunning backcountry locations to construct or rebuild footpaths, cabins and shelters. You’ll meet other volunteers while exploring and restoring some of the most beautiful outdoor places in America. American Hiking Society members qualify for discounts. www.americanhiking.org
Amazonia Expeditions subscribes to the philosophy that tourism companies have an obligation to invest in the well-being of the environment as well as native people. Dolores Arevalo Shapiama de Beaver, a native of the Amazon and the owner of a wilderness lodge, has worked to identify individuals with special needs who could benefit from medical or educational intervention. Visitors can provide and help distribute school and medical supplies, as well as clothing, while learning about the native people, conservation and the rainforest habitat.