July 22, 2014

Long term travel with a family: You have to really want to do this

Camping with kids

“You really have to WANT to do this, don’t you, Dear?”

Ann’s words have echoed in my mind as her sweet, octogenarian face has pleasantly haunted my afternoon walks. We wandered slowly through the natural bridge outside of Waitomo with her and her husband, Ross. I quietly got the kids’ attention and encouraged them to walk more slowly behind him, and not press forward as he did his aged best to step over tree roots and up the rocky stairs to the high meadow where we laughed together about the crazy idea of standing in the presence of 3 million year old oysters. Tony gave him a leg up over the fences. He laughed, good-naturedly, when the boys leapt out from behind blackberry bushes with a roar, as he had undoubtedly done forty years before I took my first breath.

Ann was hand washing for the two of them in a little tub out the back of her camper van, using water that Ross was bringing, one bucket at a time from the bridge. He’d lower the bucket the twenty or so feet to the surface with a long rope and then haul it up, mostly full, hand over hand before delivering it to his white haired wife. By the time she was done rinsing he was there to help her wring out his trousers, one on each end, twisting hard, and hang the clothes from a line he’s strung under the awning.

She commiserated with me over hand washing for six, producing meals for an army on two burners in a three foot square space, and the difficulties of adventuring with children. She’d raised a tribe too, in her day, and they’d camped the length and breadth of their island homes. Perhaps she’s a premonition of myself.

You have to really WANT to do this.

I’ve been thinking about that statement, and the layers of meaning it embodies.

Truth be told, living this way is a lot of work. Staying home is far and away easier. But the best things in life are always the things that require the most from us, that we have to work our rear-ends off to achieve. The things we are proudest of mean so much to us because they’ve cost us the most.

Marriage is like that.

Raising kids is like that.

Traveling is like that.

All three together is the perfect storm of all that and two bags of chips.

There was so much encouragement in Ann’s face as we talked and washed and shared “mama” stories. The older I get the more I appreciate the stories of old women. I think because I’m just beginning to understand the many-layered thing that a woman’s life is, stretched thin over the better part of a century. Perhaps it’s because I can see myself in their eyes more clearly than I could at twenty, or thirty.

You have to really WANT to do this.

So many people give up. They give up on the thing they really, really want to do. There are so many reasons: It gets too hard. It costs too much. It hurts too badly. It isn’t what we signed up for. Someone else fails us. We fail ourselves. It’s inconvenient. It’s easier to stay home, in some capacity. We feel that we don’t deserve it, aren’t “worth” it. It’s a fight.

I’ve been thinking lots about the things I really want to do. The big things and the small things. The hard things and the harder things.The things that seem mundane, like staying married until I’m in my eighties, raising kids who are productive citizens and learning to write. The things that seem like pipe dreams too: seeing Antarctica, changing the world, and successfully handing my parents’ legacy to my grandkids.  I really, really want to do these things.

For tonight, the things I really want to do included cooking 3 kilos of meat, enough potatoes, cheesy cauliflower & salad for an army, making a double batch of ginger cookies and making my husband laugh until he was squirming to get away from me, which is an accomplishment. I want to sit and sip my tea, munch my still warm ginger treat and thank the gods that be for friends who love me enough to mail me the exact type of tea that keeps me from killing the children; who I want so desperately to strangle sometimes when we all are living in 126 square feet. And I’m willing to live in 126 square feet of rolling space because I really, really want, quite desperately, to make their childhood epic and not to miss a moment of it.

What do you really want to do?

Posted by | Permalink | Comments (0) 
Category: Family Travel, Oceania, On The Road

July 9, 2014

Vagabonding Field Report: flat tires and bumpy road adventures (while pregnant) in Costa Rica

Playa Bejuco - 21

Cost/day: $50/day

What’s the strangest thing that’s happened lately?

We left the beach life in Nicaragua and are housesitting in the mountains of Costa Rica, above San Jose.

I’m 8 1/2 months pregnant, but that doesn’t stop us from taking a trip to the beach after we’ve been here a couple of weeks. You can see the ocean from our house in the mountains of Costa Rica, but it appears deceptively close. What we think will be a short drive to enjoy the sun and waves, turns into a 2 hour bumpy, off-road adventure and a flat tire.

I hope I don’t go into labor. ;)

Playa Bejuco - 06

Describe a typical day:

Our days have been spent at home at the mountain house, preparing for the birth of our sixth child.

But today we decided to take a trip to the beach today. Two bumpy hours and a flat tire later we finally arrived. The beach was large, the sun shone high, we picked fresh coconuts from the tree and found sand dollars in the sand.

Playa Bejuco - 41

What do you like about where you are? Dislike?

Like: Costa Rica is a beautiful country. We love being back (we lived here in 2007-2008). We’re excited to explore it once more — the beaches, rainforests, oceans, waterfalls and rivers.

Dislike: After living in Guatemala, El Salvador and Nicaragua for the last 1 1/2 years, Costa Rica is comparatively more expensive — housing, food and activities… but I think we’ll adjust. We’re loving it here.

Playa Bejuco - 32

Describe a challenge you faced:

I’ve had all my babies at home (except for my adopted daughter ;) ) I’d like to have this one at home in Costa Rica, but we’ve been working out logistics… can the midwife make it in time? Is there a hospital nearby?

Greg Rachel Pregnant Costa Rica

What new lesson did you learn?

Every travel experience offers joy and disappointment, pleasure and pain, beauty and the unsightly. Traveling well is learning how to embrace both… still true.

Where next?

Staying put here for a while… I’m sure you can guess why. ;)

Learn how to become location independent this year, connect with me on Facebook, or join our Fantastic Family Fridays.

Posted by | Permalink | Comments (1) 
Category: Central America, Family Travel, Vagabonding Field Reports

June 11, 2014

Vagabonding Field Report: Living the beach life in Las Peñitas, Nicaragua

IMG_2459

Cost/day: $30/day

What’s the strangest thing that’s happened lately?

After crossing two borders in one day, and hanging out in León and Las Peñitas, we’ve finally found a place to stay for a little while.

My oldest son discovered a bat on the floor in the room where’s he’s staying in our rented beach house. He tried to let it go outside, but it doesn’t fly. It crawled up a coconut tree, then glided into the attic of the neighbors house… oops. Sorry neighbors.

Describe a typical day:

In the morning we do study time with the kids, then they spend a few hours working on their projects (like creating with clay or drawing and coloring) while my husband and I do our work (with breaks for meals, which we eat together). Every evening we take a walk on the beach and watch the sunset. When we need groceries, we drive into the colonial city of León.

IMG_2442

What do you like about where you are? Dislike?

Like: Loving this beach. It’s great for beginner surfers (like my husband and kids — I’m not surfing, because I’m 7 months pregnant). It has beautiful sunsets, great sand and is good for wading and swimming at low tide.

León is a quaint city, with dozens of cathedrals. Doing our shopping there is a pleasure.

Dislike: Mosquitoes. Bats. We moved here in November and it was mosquito season. We were eaten alive. Hundreds of mosquito bites. Ahhhhh! And there’s a couple of families of bats that have taken up residence in the roof.

Las Peñitas has a great beach, and a great surf, but the town itself is run down. It’s up and coming, and there are a couple of nice rentals, but many of them are sketchy.

IMG_2749

Describe a challenge you faced:

Dealing with the mosquitoes was an annoying challenge, until we moved into a house that was on the beach. The ocean breezes helped to eliminate them, although we still put on pants and long sleeves in the morning and evenings, and slept under mosquito nets.

Oh, and I’ve had to take multiple cold showers per day, and sit in front of a fan from 10 am until 5pm. That’s what comes of living on the coast while 7 months pregnant.

And where will we have this baby??

IMG_3113

What new lesson did you learn?

Every travel experience offers joy and disappointment, pleasure and pain, beauty and the unsightly. Traveling well is learning how to embrace both.

Where next?

A housesitting opportunity has come available in Costa Rica. I think it will be a good place to have a baby.

Learn how to become location independent this year, connect with me on Facebook, or join our Fantastic Family Fridays.

IMG_2466

 

Posted by | Permalink | Comments (2) 
Category: Central America, Family Travel, Vagabonding Field Reports

May 15, 2014

Is the phrase “be careful” making us less safe?

There is a moment on every trip where I recognize just how embedded in my being the cultural norms from my home country really are. Like most travelers, I seem to see norms revolving around eating, social interactions, personal space, even pace of walking pop up around almost every corner as I explore foreign streets. But every once in a while a “bigger” norm comes into focus and I start pondering whether I am happy with the price I am paying to have it rent space in my brain.

One of the concepts that has been embedded the deepest in our collective American psyche is fear.

Fear of strangers, fear of immigrants, fear of change, fear of accidents, fear of pain, fear of sickness, fear of being taken advantage of, fear of being judged. We seem to love our fear, wrapping it around our language, our interactions, and our opinions like a much-loved blanket. We base our biggest and our smallest life choices around the concepts of “fear” and “safety”- it’s not even just a concept or a feeling anymore, it’s a way of life. Where to buy a house, which school to send our children to, what car to buy, what advice to take, which job to accept, how to treat our illnesses, who we interact with, even what clothes to buy are all decisions we make on a daily basis, out of fear. By far, the #1 reason I hear from people as the reason they do not travel, especially long term, is fear- fear of the unknown, fear of danger, fear of things that are different.

Perhaps worse than the understanding that fear is a big part of our culture is the realization that we communicate our fear continuously in the simplest of ways. Take for example our constant need to shout, “be careful!” to any child climbing a jungle gym, running in the park, wrestling in the grass, digging furiously in the sand, climbing a tree, eating an ice cream cone with gusto, turning cartwheels, jumping on a trampoline, balancing on a curb, or otherwise using their bodies and exploring their own limits.

IMG2072

What is the constant reminder from an outside source to “be careful!” doing to our kids? Could we possibly be making them LESS safe? I think so.

When we shout “be careful!” we instantly divert a child’s attention from the task at hand. They are no longer paying attention to that last rung on the ladder, they are paying attention to us and trying to dechiper what we want them to do. Every time we say those two words we rob them a little bit more of the freedom to assess their own ability and push themselves just a little further. Soon thoughts of escapades involving far off lands, climbing very tall trees, and balancing on curbs that are obviously really Olympic balance beams, turn into thoughts about what may or may not be “safe”. We are wiring their brains to look for danger instead of possibility and to seek outside understanding of “safety” and fear instead of looking within to find their own compass on their individual limits.

So, why does this matter to a traveler? Because if you really think about it, most of us carry around the accumulation of all those adults yelling “be careful” as we climbed, explored, and got just a little closer to breaking free. It holds us back, if ever so slightly, from fully engaging. Many long term travelers are re-wiring our own brains. We are taking stock of our culture and the baggage it brings- both positive and negative- and learning to listen more to our guts than to our embedded culture. We are starting to recognize that bad things (and extraordinary things) can happen anywhere and that a culture with a strong basis in fear might not get us as far as we want to go.

IMG4650

But what about everyone who is too scared to venture out? Could all of those exclamations of “be careful” be a part of the weight that binds them to their “safe” corner? What if one of the best ways we could encourage a new generation of travelers was to hold back as many “be carefuls” as we could?

Don’t get me wrong, I have fears too. Like most people, I have fears about difficult journeys and “dangerous” places that need to be almost continually unraveled so that I can enjoy and participate fully in my own journey. I’m not immune to fear, I am just starting to recognize that a good portion of this fear may not be mine. But what I am most afraid of is communicating to our children that this world is too scary to explore and perpetuating the thought that we should be focusing on being careful and not on the experience at hand.

I wonder, could creating a culture based on exploration rather than fear be as simple as reflecting on the language we use and changing it where appropriate? It just might be. We can argue that there are so many other factors involved, and there are. But considering the fact that one of the most common expressions of our culture is our language, it’s probably a good place to start. We control our language. We choose what we communicate and how we influence our youngest members in society. It’s a choice- a choice that is adjustable on an individual level.

Be Free

So, to all the climbers, jumpers, dreamers, tumblers, diggers, runners, and explorers I say this…. be engaged, be confident, be dedicated to discovery, be wildly idealistic, be adventurous, be creative, be free, be brave enough to listen to your own inner voice, and as much as you can, be consciously aware. But whatever you do, don’t “be careful.”

How have your fears affected your journey? How have you overcome them?

Posted by | Permalink | Comments (1) 
Category: Ethics, Family Travel

May 14, 2014

Vagabonding Field Report: Crossing two Borders in one day (and running out of money)

IMG_2357

Cost/day: $100/day

What’s the strangest thing that’s happened lately?

We left El Salvador and crossed the Honduras AND Nicaragua border in one day with our five kids (and ran out of money at the Nicaragua border.) Oh, and I’m six months pregnant.

Describe a typical day:

This was an untypical day…  after being unable to find a house we wanted to rent in El Salvador, we decided to head to Nicaragua to find a place. Since there was only a small portion of Honduras we needed to pass through, we opted to cross both borders in the same day.

What do you like about where you are? Dislike?

Like: There’s something special about being on the road, on the move. It feels good to see new places.

Dislike: Literally, the moment we crossed the border into Honduras we were stopped by police who attempted to get us to pay a bribe. Then we were stopped 5-6 more times that day before reaching the Nicaraguan border… not cool. (But we refused to pay one single bribe, so that’s good.)

Describe a challenge you faced:

There was a little bit of cash left in our wallet, but most of it had been spent on groceries. If necessary, we planned to withdraw any money we would need at the border. When we arrived, the entry into Nicaragua was more than we had remembered/expected ($12 per passport, and there’s seven of us.)

My husband attempted to withdraw money from the ATM to pay the fees, but the machine ONLY accepted Visa… and the only cards we had were Mastercard. We could not access our money, and the nearest ATM that accepted Mastercard was an hour into Nicaragua, or a couple of hours back into Honduras. What were we going to do?

Soon my husband spotted some European backpackers and thought he better take advantage of any opportunity he might have. He struck up a conversation, then asked them if he could offer them a ride to León, Nicaragua, in exchange for a loan to pay our visa fees (and a promise to pay them back as soon as we found a Mastercard ATM.)

Thankfully, they agreed. We paid the fees, then made room for our new friends and drove into Nicaragua. By this time, however, it was getting dark and starting to rain. The drive was a little intense, with lightening flashing, pedestrians walking in the rain, and the reflection of headlights off the wet asphalt.

At last we made it to León, made a withdrawal at the first ATM, paid back our friends then dropped them off at a hostel.

What new lesson did you learn?

Always have enough cash on hand before you arrive at a border crossing.

Where next?

We’ll be renting a house in the beach town of Las Penitas.

Learn how to become location independent this year, connect with me on Facebook, or join our Fantastic Family Fridays.

 Dennings Antigua Guatemala

Posted by | Permalink | Comments (2) 
Category: Central America, Family Travel, Vagabonding Field Reports

April 9, 2014

Vagabonding Field Report: The coast of El Salvador

el salvador beach

Cost/day: $55/day

What’s the strangest thing that’s happened lately?

Between my husband and my son, they were stung three times during the one week we were in El Salvador!

Describe a typical day:

We’re driving most days, exploring the coast and searching for a place where we could possibly rent a house. Stopping at towns along the way, such as El Zonte, San Blas and Liberia, we check out the beaches and rental prices.

The roads are windy along the coastline in the north, with cliffs that offer vistas of the sea. Sunshine reflects off the ocean. The breeze blows, the windows are down and our favorite tunes are playing on the radio. It’s great to be alive, exploring this big, beautiful world!

IMG_2188

What do you like about where you are? Dislike?

Like: There are no speed bumps! After being in Guatemala for so long and their countless tumulos it’s refreshing to be able to drive without slowing down for speed bumps.

The people are super friendly, and love the children. They are constantly coming up to us every time we stop and asking questions.

We also found a great little place to hangout in El Cuco… a great campground with a pool and a short jaunt to the beach.

Dislike: We’re shocked with the prices here — food is about 20% more than Guatemala (we’d heard it was cheaper), and rental rates are outrageous! Prices are high, but the ‘niceness’ of accommodations are not. This was not at all what we expected. We can only surmise that rates are being driven up because the coast of El Salvador is very popular for surfers.

Describe a challenge you faced:

We’d hoped to find a house to rent for a month or two, but all rental rates were outside of our budget, and even if they hadn’t have been, nothing we found would work for our family of seven (soon to be eight.) Given my condition of being 6 months pregnant, I was disappointed by having my expectations unrealized.

What new lesson did you learn?

Expect the unexpected. You never really know what a destination has to offer until you hit the ground. Besides, everyone’s desires are different, so it can affect what their experience is like.

Where next?

We’re heading to Nicaragua where we hope to find a house on the beach that we can rent for a few months.

Download 101 FAQs about our travel lifestyle, connect with me on Facebook, or learn step-by-step how to fund travel.

IMG_2281

 

Posted by | Permalink | Comments (2) 
Category: Central America, Family Travel, Vagabonding Field Reports

March 12, 2014

Vagablogging Field Report: Extreme Bungee Adventure in Guatemala

IMG_2143

Cost: $22/adults $12.50/kids

What’s the coolest thing you’ve done lately?

Extreme Bungee!! Get strapped into a harness and shot into the air with up to 4G forces pressing against your body… basically you’re a human catapult. That’s extreme bungee.

Describe the experience:

We are picked up by Lionel who owns and runs Xtreme Bungee. He drives us a few minutes outside of Antigua where he has an incredible human catapult machine set up.

IMG_2116

One by one, all the members of my family (except for the two youngest and me, the pregnant mommy) take turns being shot into the air, reacting with screams and funny facial expressions while G forces press against their bodies and free falls turn their tummies. (The video is hilarious!)

IMG_2109

IMG_2126

IMG_2151

IMG_2132

What do you like about the experience? Dislike?

I loved watching my kids and husband as they experienced something new and faced (and overcame) fears and uncertainties in order to create great memories, build confidence and have unexpected fun!

I did not like the music that was played at the site. It was in English and inappropriate for children. However, the owner has since stated that he will be more aware of that in the future.

Describe a challenge you faced:

Convincing my oldest son that he could not have more than two turns!

IMG_2152

What new lesson did you learn?

Giving children an opportunity to get out of their comfort zone and try something new is ultimately what travel is about. It helps their confidence to grow, and expands their minds.

IMG_2102

Where next?

Next we’ll be heading to El Salvador.

See more family travel adventures on my blog, or connect with me on Facebook.

Rachel Denning Lake Atitlan 500

Posted by | Permalink | Comments (1) 
Category: Central America, Family Travel, Vagabonding Field Reports

January 21, 2014

Traveling Wisdom: NTAF

Chicken Bus

You can trust me when I say that any morning beginning with vomit and a side order of anti-diarrheals with breakfast for two thirds of the family is a harbinger of things to come. Add the words “chicken bus” to the breakfast conversation and it’s the perfect storm of endlessly horrific possibilities.

Every single chicken bus ride is worthy of it’s own blog post somewhere. I’ve yet to ride one in which I did not have a near death experience, sit within a whirlpool of humanity that just begged for comment, or just suffered enough to feel justified in a good rant; and that’s without giving time to the animal passengers that enliven the experience from time to time.

There really are no words adequate to the experience of being whisked aboard an old Bluebird bus, painted like a time machine, pimped out like a seventies low-rider and covered inside with enormous neon coloured stickers of the Virgin Mary and others reading things like, “God bless your entrance and exit of this bus,” “Please don’t mistreat the signs,” “Your children’s safety is our priority” (a Bluebird original) “Jesus is my co-pilot” or “Driving slowly saves lives.”

Taking a page out of the Mayan mujeres book it seems entirely reasonable to genuflect slightly to the Mother Mary sticker, cross one’s self and say a quick prayer to the patron saint of the slightly insane for deliverance from this necessary evil.

The bus up from Antigua to Chimaltenango gets a gold star for being the most harrowing thus far. I really did see my life flash before my eyes, and I was reminded of the tornado scene in The Wizard of Oz as I, like Dorothy, watched the swirl of cows, bicicleros, old men with goats and numerous small cars whirl just out of the way of the flying bus. More than one expletive was uttered, in more than one language by the passengers and there was a muttered undertone, that didn’t need translation, as to the appropriate description for our confident driver.

Getting seven people ON to one chicken bus is one adventure. Making sure you get the same seven OFF at the same stop, is quite another. I confess, on our previous exchange in Chimaltenango, to actually chasing the departing bus down the main street shouting, “HEY!!  I’ve got one more kid on there!! Dang it!!” in Spanish before realizing that there were actually two kids, and Daddy too, being whisked away at lightning speed.

Tony was off circulating between the tiendas up and down the block looking for ginger ale with real ginger for Ruth and Ez, who were both feeling green, while the rest of us held down our piece of sidewalk with the crowd of hopeful passengers waiting for their next bus on the corner of Washington and Jefferson on the main drag when it happened:

Ezra groaned, threw back his head in his signature “Oh man!” look and announced, “I have a personal problem!” Which is quite an improvement from where he started at three, in Mexico when he had “a personal problem” and threw himself down in the Cancun airport shouting, “I’m POOPING TO DEATH!”

I rolled my eyes on the inside and asked, as cheerfully as I could, “I’m sorry, what it it?”

“Remember what Dad said about never trusting a fart… well…” 

I rolled my eyes on the outside as the news passed between the children met with varying degrees of guffaw and disgust while Ruth just laughed. Tony wandered by, without ginger ale in hand, and muttered under his breath, “It’s a party now!”

After several moments of drama and debate that I’ll leave to your imagination I found myself standing shoulder to shoulder with my red haired cousin, our backs to a niche in the concrete wall, giggling, uncontrollably.

“You know all those people that send us gushy e-mail, wishing they could travel and have our life? THIS is totally what they’re missing. EVERYONE wants THIS life!”

Ruth, also giggling uncontrollably nodded beneath her straw hat and we peered over our shoulders just in time to see Ez finishing his clean up with what was left of his underwear and getting back into his drawers, commando.

Emerging looking only slightly scathed he settled under his Dad’s big eyeball trained directly on his two little beady ones and they made the agreement, one more time: Never, NEVER trust a fart.

 

Posted by | Permalink | Comments (0) 
Category: Central America, Family Travel

January 14, 2014

Preparing kids to travel? Play games.

Ez-Chichcastenango

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!!!!”

International Dinners

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?

Bathroom Fun

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!

Posted by | Permalink | Comments (0) 
Category: Family Travel

January 8, 2014

Vagablogging Field Report: Antigua Guatemala

antigua guatemala

Cost/day: $40/day

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.

IMG_2056

IMG_2611

IMG_2600

IMG_2157

IMG_2076

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.)

IMG_2152

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.

Where next?

Next we’ll be heading to the border of El Salvador and Guatemala.

See more family travel adventures on my blog, or connect with me on Facebook.

denning family

 

Posted by | Permalink | Comments (2) 
Category: Central America, Family Travel, Vagabonding Field Reports
Main

Bio

Books

Stories

Essays

Video

Interviews

Events

Writers

Marco

Paris

Vagabonding.net

Contact


Vagabonding Audio Book at Audible.com

Marco Polo Didnt Go There
Rolf's new book!


Vagabonding
   Vagabonding

RECENT COMMENTS

Peter Korchnak @ Where Is Your Toothbrush?: Agreed with Lynne, well said. The...

M.Jagger: Rod, Blimey….It was a blast partying with you at the local...

Ava Collopy: I’m currently working on a new book and website project to represent...

Caroline Macomber: I’m beginning to feel that it doesn’t end. But that I...

Stephen: Does it end, though? I’ve gone through several cycles of this over the...

Margie: I will never be a tour guide, but the prospective you have shown here will help...

Lynne Nieman: Well said! Although not a long term traveler like you, I have taken a few...

Dorje: Hi all. I was born in Kathmandu in ’71, my father ran the Rose Mushroom...

Gerry: Just reading Maureen’s comments [12thMay2014], My girlfriend and I had a...

jameselgringo: Perhaps you give too much emotional capital to money and its perceived...

SPONSORED BY :



CATEGORIES

TRAVEL LINKS

ARCHIVES

RECENT ENTRIES

Maximilian I on the journey of life
Enlightening Self-inflicted Ruin Travel
Thank you, Victoria Falls.
Lost in the crowd when traveling?
Can words hurt as much as sticks and stones?
Vagabonding Field Report: The Penguins of Phillip Island
Long term travel with a family: You have to really want to do this
Alden Jones on going back to the places that obsess you
My top beaches around the world
Skepticism and salvation in Cyprus


Subscribe to this blog's feed
Follow @rolfpotts