We’ve always been big on making a game out of learning new skills, and turning even the ho-hum into an adventure for our kids. When they were tiny and we were preparing to take them to exotic places for the first time, we came up with a series of games we played at home to get them ready. Even big kids have fun with these:
Tooth Brush Drills
Perhaps the number one way people become ill when traveling is from ingesting local water that contains contaminants, or parasites, or some other ugly, microscopic critter. Remembering not to drink the water is easy.
Remembering not to rinse your toothbrush, is not. Tooth brushing is one of those things we do on autopilot, and we have to retrain ourselves NOT to use sink water when we do it.
Our youngest child, at three, was the toothbrush police when we traveled. He’d be the one yelling loudly from the bathroom, “DON’T DRINK THE WATER!! DON’T RINSE YOUR TOOTHBRUSH!! YOU’LL BE SORRY!!!!”
Many parents worry about their children’s eating habits as they travel. Some children are very difficult when it comes to meal times and encouraging flexibility and dietary branching out can be a real challenge. One of the ways that we encouraged a broad palate in our children, from the time they were babies, was to have an international dinner at least once a week.
These are the tiny steps that are easy to take in world schooling our children without ever leaving home.
We often tried to schedule the international dinners to coincide with evenings when we were having guests for dinner. Other families are often eager to join the party and bring something they’ve learned about that country to share. If you can find an actual PERSON to invite to dinner (or perhaps even cook with your family) so much the better!
The goal of this game is to make foreign people, places and their foods less scary to skeptical little people.
It is certainly fine for kids, and adults, to prefer some foods over others, and no child need eat a whole plate of lima beans if they truly dislike them. However, taking one bite of something before passing judgement on it is a requirement at our house.
There are cultures in which refusing food is the height of rudeness and our children need to be prepared to honor their hosts, be grateful for what is set before them, and try anything. Besides, sometimes they find that the slimy looking green stuff on top of their tacos (nopales-cactus paddle) is actually their new favorite thing!
Power Free Evenings
We’re a pretty plugged in society, in general. Rare is the household that doesn’t have a TV, game console, ipods, computers, DVD players or some configuration thereof. Some families have one of each in every child’s room. Kids who are used to so much electronic entertainment may have difficulty unplugging while on the road and declare themselves “bored” fairly quickly.
I am in NO WAY anti-media. But I am definitely in favor of the judicious use of it.
Our kids enjoy a movie night as much as anyone. They each have their own ipod. We have six computers in a family of six people. But we’re not emotionally dependent on these things for our happiness, or for contentment in the car, or at home, or anywhere else.
Unplugging once in a while has its merits, especially for children who need to develop a whole range of coping mechanisms for the rest of their lives. Self entertainment and the ability to be content with very little is not a small thing, and is relatively easily accomplished, simply by adhering to the “less is more” philosophy of stuff and tech time for kids.
Good friends of ours practice this with “power free evenings” once a week.
Every Friday afternoon at around 4 p.m. they unplug everything in the house but the fridge.
When our power was cut for three days in Africa, the children just assumed we were playing an extended game of “Power Free Evenings” and we had a lot of fun.
No Toys Allowed
Whether you are hiking to your favorite picnic spot in the woods, spending the day on the shores of a lake, or sunning yourself on the beach, try leaving all toys at home. This encourages kids to use their imaginations and make do with what is around them.
One of our kids created a game called “Kingdom Building” and is always on the lookout for a good pile of rocks to build his castles. With sticks for people and rocks for building material, what more could a kid want?
Children are notoriously amused by bathrooms, at home and abroad. I’ll never forget my oldest son’s first encounter with a bidet in Mexico City or the slightly disturbed and violated look on his face after attempting to use it for the first time! We never quite got over the jokes about squatties in southern Italy and Africa… but then, we have three boys.
In our usual vein of “let’s prepare them at home before being embarrassed abroad,” we practiced for “different” bathrooms at home. How? By posting a sign that informed users the bathroom was now in Germany and no one could use it without paying fifty cents, or Mexico and in order to get a few sheets of toilet paper one would need to pay a quarter to whichever family member had been designated the keeper of the toilet paper.
If you want to get really “authentic,” take the toilet paper out altogether and put a plastic coke bottle with a hole drilled in the cap by the toilet filled with water… portable bidet like we saw over and over in Tunisia.
This game is the MOST fun if you wait to play it until you have friends over for the day!
“Reading and restlessness — dissatisfaction at home, a sourness at being indoors, and a notion that the real world was elsewhere — made me a traveler. If the Internet was everything it was cracked up to be, we would all stay home and be brilliantly witty and insightful. Yet with so much contradictory information available, there is more reason to travel than ever before: to look closer, to dig deeper, to sort the authentic from the fake, to verify, to smell, to touch, to hear and sometimes – importantly – to suffer the effects of this curiosity.”
–Paul Theroux, The Last Train to Zona Verde (2013)
What’s the strangest thing you’ve seen lately?
Sidewalks! Living in Latin America for the past year and a half, sidewalks are unseen and non-existent… but not in Antigua, they have sidewalks to walk on, even if they are skinny and crowded.
Describe a typical day:
In the morning we head out to walk around the city’s (cobblestone) streets. We explore the cathedrals and other colonial buildings, and gawk at the nicest McDonalds we’ve ever seen. Later, we visit the large local market to shop for produce and to eat lunch. In the afternoon we watch a procession celebrating Dia de los Muertos.
What do you like about where you are? Dislike?
I love the overall cleanliness of the city, and the colorful homes and buildings. Antigua takes pride in it’s city. I didn’t dislike anything about our visit.
Describe a challenge you faced:
Trying to decide whether to stay an extra day so that we could do some extreme bungee action. (We decided to stay.)
What new lesson did you learn?
The city life can be a refreshing change after living in remote places for awhile. It’s good to have a mix.
Next we’ll be heading to the border of El Salvador and Guatemala.
by Don Blanding
West of the sunset stands my house,
There… and east of the dawn;
North to the Arctic runs my yard;
South to the Pole, my lawn;
Seven seas are to sail my ships
To the ends of the earth… beyond;
Drifters’ gold is for me to spend
For I am a vagabond.
Fabulous cities are mine to loot;
Queens of the earth to wed;
Fruits of the world are mine to eat;
The couch of a king, my bed;
All that I see is mine to keep;
Foolish, the fancy seems
But I am rich with the wealth of Sight
The coin of the realm of dreams.
I found the book, Vagabond’s House laying on my friend Powell’s coffee table and couldn’t resist curling into her big white sofa for a read while the relentless rain washed the memories from Kailua Beach’s sands with yesterday’s footprints, leaving a blank canvas for tomorrow.
I read the dedication and smiled:
To the restless ones
To all the gallant frantic fools
Who follow the path of the sun
Across blue waters
To distant mountains
I dedicate my book.
He wrote this book for me. In 1928.
I love that about books, the transcendence of space and time, how the words, the thoughts, the very heart of a man can reach through lifetimes and touch mine. That’s a miracle, if there ever was one.
Don Blanding is well known as The Vagabond Poet; in his day, he traveled to all of the places I’ve come to love best, across Europe and Central America before settling in Hawaii, where he kindly left one of his books for me to find.
His poetry sings to my soul. The simple line drawings he penned to accompany them captivate me. I’ve fallen in love with a man who was gone a decade and a half before I arrived. I love that about books.
Looking for a poet to inspire your vagabonding? This is your guy.
I have only been broke once- right after my divorce. I made it out of that rut pretty quickly because A) My new business took off, and B) I had family and friends nearby who occasionally brought food or baked goods.
I am cautious with my money, especially while being out of the country. I have always had enough in my savings to fly the kids and I home on a moment’s notice in case of emergency, or in case I just got sick of being away. I never want to feel “stuck” somewhere, so I manage finances responsibly.
However, the end of the year poses extra challenges because my clients get too busy to pay me on time, and holidays are always expensive. This year, though we spent next to nothing during Christmas, while we celebrated in Costa Rica, I had other unexpected challenges. I had to pay lawyer fees in regards to my ex-husband trying to sabotage our travels, and we had a LOT of travel expenses that needed to be paid for immediately. I completely wiped out my entire savings, paying for airline tickets to go home for a visit and to make a court appearance, leaving a few Colones in change to pay for food.
As a mother, I felt like a complete failure. We already live on a strict budget, and I make good money, so how did this happen? This was my #1 fear by far before I left the states, and here it was, a reality. A very scary reality. Survival mode kicked in, and I had to quickly turn my thoughts towards abundance- imagining a full pantry and refrigerator, and a re-plenished bank account.
The first few days were the roughest, but a neighbor (who did not know our situation) brought us a bunch of homemade tamales. I cried out of gratefulness.
A couple of days later, Jonathan got paid for a job he has been doing here, so we paid our final month of rent here, and bought 2 days worth of food. I just kept hoping something more would come through, someone would pay their invoice, or I would find a hundred dollars on the street. I tried to remain hopeful, but I was also feeling desperate.
One night last week, we all shared a meal of cabbage, eggs and rice, and I cried through the whole meal. I get emotional even thinking about it. The kids didn’t know our struggle. They always had 3 meals a day, and knew nothing of the couple of meals I skipped so they could have enough. This, to me, is not even close to ideal. I was so angry with myself, but felt helpless to do anything about it but wait.
Finally, someone paid an invoice, so we were able to buy more food, and another large chunk of money I was expecting will be available in less than 24 hours.
Situations are temporary. A lot of people live paycheck to paycheck, and it is perfectly normal to skimp on even essentials sometimes. Here, families make the best of it. I have been incredibly fortunate that this has only happened to me one time in 2 years. Not only that, but for me, I knew it was only a temporary situation, as I knew I had plenty of money on its way to me within a few days or weeks.
Money comes, and money goes. People even here in Monteverde spend their last Colones every pay period on food, and know that more money is coming. They don’t worry. They don’t live their life around money and how much or how little they have. As long as they are working hard and enjoying their lives, they know money will find its way to them when they need it. And it always does.
Karma seeds sprout when needed. One of us must have done something good for someone because we were given a bunch of tamales that fed all of us for 2 meals. People here have friends, family, and neighbors here for them, and with such a small community, everyone pitches in to help. Had we expressed even the slightest need, people here would have delivered food by the tray- I just know it. Their hearts are pure, and they feel responsible for each other in their small community- even to us as visitors. They also know that when they are in need, their community is here for them.
We will always make it. It was terrifying. I felt like a complete failure, and I had no other options except to ask someone to borrow money (which, had we gone any longer, I may have). But we used the resources we had, and we made it. Jonathan is very creative with the most off-the-wall ingredients, and when I had just about given up trying to make it all work, he stepped in, and made a meal out of very little. He encouraged me, and reminded me that I was not a failure, and we would be more than ok. He was right.
I am not immune to hard times. Just because I feel like Super Travel Mom on my best days, I don’t always have it all together, and I can’t make everything work perfectly. Things happen. Money needs to be spent. Invoices are paid late. Lawyers demand payments. Kids get sick. I think what made this situation more difficult for me is the fact that I am not home, surrounded by friends and loved ones. I have my little family with me, but no one outside of the situation was here to provide support or encouragement. I felt all alone in a foreign country with nothing left, and it was a humbling experience to say the least.
It is all part of the journey. Last night when I whipped out my calculator to make sure we really were ok, Jonathan gently grabbed my hand and told me that this was part of the experience. We could have stayed home and had plenty of money, friends, and extra support. But we gave it up for something-not necessarily better- but different. We chose another path full of different experiences, and there are ups and downs, just as there were ups and downs when we were in the safety of our home towns.
Living without increases awareness. I was intently focused on money or the lack of it during the last couple of weeks. Once I had literally worried myself sick about it, I realized that I needed to use the resources I had and to maintain a healthy atmosphere for my family. I had to ground myself in the present circumstances- all the positive and the negative- and be acutely aware of my body, my mind, and my emotions. I was creating more turbulence by walking around with a frown on my face, complaining about an empty bank account, worrying about tomorrow, and crying. One night, I chose to focus on the good, the present, and the meals we were fortunate enough to eat that day. The next morning, I woke up with money in the bank.
Has this ever happened to you while you were away from home? What resources did you use to get past it? How long did your predicament last? How creative were you in solving your dilemma?
“He is richest who is content with the least, for content is the wealth of nature.” -Socrates
“As is often the case when I travel, my vulnerability — like not knowing what the hell I’m supposed to do upon arrival — makes me more open to outside interactions than I might otherwise be when I’m at home and think I know best what needs to be done. On the road, serendipity is given space to enter my life.”
–Andrew McCarthy, The Longest Way Home (2012)
I admit it, I have been lacking a few posts and overall been bogged down with work (yes, work, because even to sustain a life abroad we need some, in a form or the other), and I beg your pardon. To start off the New Year right, I believe you might love reading some quirky, wicked travel narratives from around the world.
You might take this as a shameless example of self-promotion, but the third issue of Wicked World, an alternative digital magazine I edit with British travel writer Tom Coote, is finally available as a great eye candy: just love the gloriously wicked Ethiopian Mursi warrior on the cover!!
As well as a range of alternative travel articles and photo features, for the first time we have also included some travel related fiction. At one end of the story telling scale, is a traditional Moroccan folk tale, The Red Lantern, selected by Richard Hamilton. In a more contemporary vein, where the lines between fact and fiction blur, we are also showcasing The Death Kiss of a King Cobra Show by Jim Algie.
At the reportage end of the travel writing spectrum, in Barbed Wire Scars, Marcello Di Cintio encounters desperate African migrants determined to make their way across the razor wired walls at Ceuta, in the hope of making it to the promised land of Europe. Equally contemporary, E T Laing investigates recent political upheavals in Bangladesh in A Savage Fundamentalism. (more…)
Happy 2014 to all of you vagabonds!
As the dawn of another year begins, we here at Vagablogging are seeking out new contributors to join our ranks, sharing our vagabonding wisdom with a growing worldwide community of long-term travelers.
We’re looking for dedicated weekly contributors to post on vagabonding-related topics of their choice — from travel tips to destination suggestions to reviews of travel media.
The ideal writer should be familiar with Vagabonding and the philosophy behind it. To get an idea what we’re looking for in terms of content and style, take a look at our recent posts and archives. The best posts are informative in nature and conversational in tone. The deadline for submitting is January 31st. We’ll announce our new contributors on February 15th.
Though the positions are unpaid, it’s a great opportunity to build a readership, establish contacts, and create professional opportunities in the travel-writing realm. Vagabloggers who’ve landed lucrative gigs after writing for us include Tim Ferriss (who wrote a little bestseller called The 4-Hour Work Week), Justin Glow (who went on to full-time editing positions at Gadling and AOL), and a number of individuals who’ve landed paid freelance work at World Hum, the National Post, Gadling, US Airways Magazine, Travelers’ Tales, the Los Angeles Times, and other travel-writing venues. Kristin Pope even got a call from The Daily Show after her post about “staycations”.
To be considered for a weekly slot at Vagablogging, please email 1-2 previously unpublished sample posts (200-600 words each) to our managing editor, Ted Beatie (ted *at* tedbeatie *dot* com). To ensure Ted gets your submission, please include the word “Vagablogging” in the subject header. Also be sure to include a little bit about yourself, like where you’re from, your best travel experiences, and anything else you think we should know.
Happy New Year, and may it be one filled with adventure!
We travel a lot, you might have noticed that. Wherever we go we meet people and we’ve always had a family habit of inviting those people to eat a meal with us, even if it’s off foldable plates on a ground tarp because we’re cycling. I love listening to people’s stories, learning about their journeys and giving our kids the opportunity to learn from as diverse a people group as possible. I make a point of asking each of these people two questions:
There is generally one of two responses:
Deer in the headlights or immediately sparkly eyes.
The initial response tells you a lot about a person.
I sat with a young backpacker on the shores of Lago de Atitlan, in the highlands of Guatemala last winter and he asked, “Why do you do that? Why do you ask those questions, I’ve noticed you doing it over and over again.” He’d been around a while.
I laughed a little. “Why? Indeed.”
“Because those two questions are all that really matter. They cut to the essence of who a person is. And no one else thinks to ask. The two things that are at the heart and soul of who we are are somehow taboo topics for conversation in too many circles. So, it’s the first thing I ask.”
So let me ask you:
What are you passionate about?
What you are passionate about will be the thing the fuels your dream, fuels your whole life, if you let it.
The best dreams are passion driven. They are the natural outgrowth of that deeply rooted fire in your chest that, if you’re like most people, you don’t feed nearly often enough.
Find your passion. Maybe you have more than one.
For me, my passions include
If you read my blog you’ll see these themes through and through. These are the things I get fired up about, they’re the things I live and breathe, they’re the things that drive my dreams and my life choices.
These are my “Why.”
What is driving you? Look hard at what motivates you, what you get excited about, what you’re willing to joyfully spend your free time on. These are your passions.
It’s imperative in defining your dream that you define your passions & find your “Why.”
What are your dreams?
This is a tough question for lots of people to answer because they’ve neglected their dreams for so long that they honestly don’t know.
If you don’t know, how do you begin to know?
Take two hours and go somewhere alone. Don’t take your phone. Don’t take anything but a notebook and a pen.
For the first hour just walk. Quiet your mind, let go of the worries, the stresses, the daily nonsense. Acknowledge it as it comes to the surface and then let it go. Reclaim your brain space.
For the second hour, find a place to write.
If you’re half of a partnership then give your partner the time to do the same and combine the lists.
These are your dreams.
So now you’ve got a list of dreams. Good for you, that’s a start.
Now you have to pick one. Which dream do you want the most? Which one are you ready to sell your soul for (newsflash: you’re selling your soul for SOMETHING all the time… don’t you think it’s time to sell it for something you actually want?)
You have to believe that you can have it.
You have to believe that you are worth it.
You have to believe that you are, in fact, capable of greatness and find that inside yourself.
Do you believe those things? Even if you don’t quite, just yet, start speaking them to yourself.
It’s New Year’s Eve, my friends. We’re standing on the precipice of a whole new year and you’ve got the power to write its story however you like. Make this your year of living passionately and committing to your dreams!
“Because most tourists rarely penetrate beyond the boundaries of “tourist space,” they have few opportunities to experience and photograph that which is really “unspoiled.” Their limited knowledge of the culture and life of the indigenous people tends to narrow down their conception of the “typical” to the stereotypical. …Locals often stage themselves in response to perceived touristic demands for authenticity.”
–Erik Cohen, “Stranger-Local Interaction in Photography,” Annals of Tourism Research, Vol. 19 No. 2 (1992)