Travel is not for everyone. Not everyone enjoys it and not everyone is able to do it. Despite many articles and blogs saying travel is possible, for some people it just isn’t – whether due to health, financial reasons or family responsibilities. To be able to travel anywhere is a privilege and one that should never be taken for granted or lauded.
I ‘travel’ because I enjoy exploring and am insatiably curious; I get bored easily and am restless. Travel does not have to mean abroad or exotic; travel is any new destination or experience in a place other than home. I am as happy to explore my own backyard as I am far flung places. Travel is ‘the thing’ that makes me happy; for some people it is gadgets, shopping or the gym. For me, it is travel.
We explore with our children at home and abroad to show them beautiful, awe inspiring natural places, to give them enriching experiences to make them value nature and protect it, to meet people from diverse backgrounds, faiths and cultures to help them understand and accept others and to engender in them a sense of global citizenship (on many occasions I have heard them say in surprise “Oh, its just like home” or “We do that at home”). We do not travel to escape a stress free life – family travel is NOT stress free! And it is not cheap (leaving no money for gadgets, shopping or the gym!)
By travelling and by bringing (dragging) our children up hills and along beaches near our home, we also hope to encourage our children to be resilient, self reliant, adaptable, organised problem solvers. This is a work in progress – as it is for us!
How We Travel (as in travel style, not finances!)
I recently read someones’ personal travel ‘philosophy’ and realised that throughout our travels at home and abroad, there are certain things we always try to do – whether consciously or subconsciously – that we believe enrich our travel experiences. We try to do these things each trip to varying degrees of success! (We are not saying this is what you should do, this is just us sharing what we do!)
Consider yourself an ambassador for your country. People will form opinions of your country based on the people they meet from there. Try to change preconceptions and images gleaned from media portrayals, or from a previous negative experience. We have been told several times we ‘were not as expected.’ Be polite, smile, be fair and respectful.
Everyone is a citizen of the world. Everyone is trying to get by, provide for their families and be happy. Be open. Be understanding. People have more going on in their lives than what you see in the snapshot of time you spend with them.
Trust your instincts and act on them.
Travel well. Don’t litter, don’t scam, don’t barter over a price difference that is small change to you but to someone else means food for their family.
Vary accommodation types; it keeps travel fresh.
Stay local as much as possible, whether it is a locally owned hotel, homestay, Airbnb or campsite. Your experience will be less clinical, you meet local people and spread the tourist dollar. Be constructive and fair rather than critical when leaving reviews and heap praise on those doing ‘a good job’ as it raises the standard for all.
Visit a local market. We love mooching around local fruit, vegetables and baked goods but particularly love fish and flower markets. We spent one fantastic day of our honeymoon at the Tokyo fish market!
Don’t be afraid to ditch the guide book for accommodation and restaurant recommendations. An unmentioned restaurant is not a bad one, it is just ‘undiscovered’! If it is busy and locals are eating there, it will be good. Spread the tourist dollar!
Never arrive anywhere at night; we try to adhere to this but usually fail every trip. Getting your bearings and being alert when you are tired and disorientated is much harder in the dark. Plus it is not ideal when on arrival, you spend ages in the toilets with three children to discover all the taxis have given up and gone home for the night.
Visit at least one national museum (of whatever subject) and one art museum; you can learn a lot about a country from its art. Plus, they are warm in winter and cool in summer and will always have a public toilet!
Attend a religious service of whatever faith. We are church goers anyway but have had some wonderful experiences by attending local churches of different faiths.
From a tiny tin church in Patagonia, to doubling the congregation number in rural Canada, to a multi tiered theatre style church in California, to watching white clad children strictly disciplined for whispering in Fiji – we have been welcomed by song, by leis, by food. Some of my most special travel memories are from church experiences. Remember to pack something half decent, respectful and preferably clean to wear!
Try to visit places of worship different to your own. We have always been made welcome. We have been to mosques, Buddhist and Hindu temples. We stayed in a silence only monastery in Japan – looking back, it was an unusual choice for a honeymoon…
Try to lessen the environmental impact of travel. Carry reusable water bottles, recycle wherever possible, shop, stay and eat local. Buy locally made handicrafts or shop at co-operative stores or markets. Use public transport, walk or bike. Join local environment initiatives- we joined a pre organised beach clean in Hawaii much to the bemusement of the locals! Decline straws, remove litter when it is safe to do so, try to avoid using disposable cutlery and crockery (very prevalent in the U.S). Choose carefully and responsibly your animal interactions and experiences; do your research.
Travel light. We try to travel hand luggage only – we only brought hand luggage bags on our RTW trip. Yes, it makes it easier at the airport and reduces the risk of losing a bag mid journey but for me it is just easier overall to carry a light bag around rather than lug a multitude of heavy bags. Less to loose, less time and effort spent re packing and with three kids, less washing!
Always use a free, public toilet when you see one. You won’t see one when you need one. When travelling on public transport, use the toilet before arriving! However grim it may be, at least you know where it is as opposed to running around a station or airport searching for one! And it would avoid the situation we had in Iceland when, arriving at night on the last flight (see, I told you we fail on this), we spent ages in the toilets with the children to find that immigration had shut up shop for the night. We had to bang on the glass doors politely calling out “Hello, could someone please let us into Iceland?”
We travelled like this before and after children (though children necessitate other things being added to the list. You can read about that here!)