November 5, 2014

Vagabonding Field Report: Children’s Museum — San Jose, Costa Rica

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Cost/day: $2 for adults, $1 for children

What’s the most exciting thing that’s happened lately?

We recently had our sixth child, at home, here in Costa Rica.

Today was our first outing since she’s been born. We went with grandma and grandpa to the Children’s Museum (Museo de los Ninos) in San Jose.

Describe a typical day:

We’re staying in the mountains of the Central Valley, with a gorgeous view of the ocean waaaay off in the distance. Grandma and grandpa have come to visit, for the birth of our sixth child.

Before she was born, we took a trip to the chocolate farm.

It’s been a couple of weeks since Saige Journee was born, so we’re ready for another (little) adventure — the Children’s Museum in San Jose, about 45 minutes away.

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What do you like about where you are? Dislike?

Like: This is our second time living in Costa Rica. It’s a beautiful country with beautiful, friendly people, idealized in their most common saying, ‘Pura vida’ (pure life).

It’s a country with a lot to offer — mountains, beaches, cities, country. Living in the mountains, we’re not too far from all the conveniences of a major city.

The museum was wonderful. So much to see and do, and lots of learning — chemistry, biology, natural history and tons more. An old helicopter to explore, a ‘banana plantation’ to work, a big mouth with teeth chairs… a great time was had by all.

Dislike: The mountain roads from the house down to the city are windy… I feel a little nauseous.

Describe a challenge you faced:

There was some confusion about how to get to the museum, but after asking directions a couple of times, we found our way.

And we should have gone earlier in the day… we didn’t have enough time to see everything before the museum was closing up!

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What new lesson did you learn?

Sometimes we put labels on countries — first world versus third world. But all countries have cities, towns and ‘states’ that are in varyied levels of development.

Culture, refinement and fantastic infrastructure can be found in many countries that are labeled ‘third world’.

And the worst internet we’ve found in our travels (so far) was in Homer, Alaska, USA — a ‘first world’ country. :)

Don’t be too quick to judge.

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Where next?

Staying put in Costa Rica, but we’re having a humble lunch at the home of a Nicaraguan friend.

Learn more about Worldschooling, Education and Funding Travel here.

You can also connect with me on Facebook: DiscoverShareInspire and WorldschoolFamily

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Category: Family Travel, Vagabonding Field Reports

November 4, 2014

Family travel: 4 strategies for waiting with kids

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We spend a lot of time waiting on things:

Planes, trains, buses and more. We’ve gotten good at waiting over the years. Our secret weapon? Games. We play games while we wait. We always have.

When the kids were little we played “I spy” and sang nursery rhymes and told jokes while we waited. We counted things and looked for patterns and we read stories and made shadows with our fingers.

When they got a little older we went nowhere without our chapter book. We plowed through Ben Hur and Watership Down, the Narnia series and the Jungle Books while we rode in the car and waited at doctor’s offices.

Since we’ve been traveling full time we’ve elevated waiting to an art form. If you’re looking for a few activities to fill the long minutes that stretch into hours with kids as you wait, we have a few suggestions:

Play Cards

We play a lot of cards in our family and we have for generations. I remember learning the fine art of bluffing over the euchre table from my grandfather and uncles as a small child. We play Five Crowns, War and even travel with a little fold up cribbage board. The kids learned a little Poker from their cousins last time we were in Indiana. I much prefer euchre. Last month we spent a few minutes between pick-up truck rides explaining the finer points of the game on a dirt floor patio on the banks of the Mekong in Laos.

Reading

If you’ve been paying any attention at all, you know that our family reads aloud a lot. Since the kids were little we’ve read aloud over meals, sneaking in much of their history and literature study while they chewed. Tony always has a “fun” book going, and he’s the kids’ favourite reader, because he does voices. We’ve had whole train cars full of enthralled listeners as Daddy plows through the next chapter of The Princess Bride on a train in the Czech. Carrying books and reading individually can be a great way to pass the time, but reading aloud to, and with, your kids is a great way to bond as a family and to pass on a rich culture of literacy from generation to generation.

Nature Drawing

Charlotte Mason introduced me to the concept of Nature Notebooking when my kids were small. I loved the idea of studying science in the early years by drawing things from the natural world that interested each of us individually. We’ve long made a practice of finding something small to draw: an acorn, a slug, paying particular attention to it’s breathing pore, a squirrel. It doesn’t really matter. I carry a pad of tiny blank papers, 3.5 X 5 inches, and water colour pencil crayons at all times. The best nature drawing we’ve done recently: painting the sunrise over the main temple complex at Angkor Wat last month. Stunning.

Something To Share

My kids are big now. A 14 hour bus ride doesn’t phase them. No one asks when the bus is coming or if we’re there yet. They just ride and find ways to pass the time. But they were little once, and they remember what it’s like to feel tired and bored to tears. Time always passes more quickly with friends and we learned early to pack a few things with “share potential” in our bags: marbles, cars, an inflatable ball, balloons, and plastic animal toys are all examples. Our kids still do this. Then, they look for little children who are struggling with the wait and they offer to play and share with them. Everybody wins! Elisha is the best at this, he is never without a pocketful of treasures for newfound friends!

Do you have strategies for passing the time? What do you do while you wait?

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Category: Family Travel, On The Road, Vagabonding Styles

October 28, 2014

On returning: Things change

My Dad's photo of Lago de Atitlan, 1973

My Dad’s photo of Lago de Atitlan, 1973

It seems the nature of humanity to freeze a moment in time. 

We remember a person, a place, an experience, as it was when we were last present with it. It is frozen, forever, in our minds; like the fading koda-chrome slides my parents took across the north of Africa forty odd years ago. We return to these places often, in our memories; the tastes, the smells, the sensations in our bodies as real as they were years ago. The characters remain eternally young. The buildings never deteriorate. The music in our minds never changes. Until, we return.

It’s a funny trick our minds play, allowing ourselves to remain fluid, to move forward, to constantly evolve, and yet expecting, somehow, that the places and people of our past experience remain the same. It takes a great deal of presence as a traveler, to remain conscious of this ongoing illusion, this magic trick that we play on ourselves. Returning is dangerous business.

There is a witchcraft in some places that weaves a web that continues to draw us back. When we return the spell is often broken and we find ourselves living in the past, wishing for people, or experiences, or a particular vibe that has come and gone. I’ll admit that there are place to which I refuse to return, simply because I love my illusion too much. The memories made on the first pass are so powerful that I wish to preserve them just as they are.

When we do choose to return, we must do so with an open hand, not grasping at what was past, an open heart, ready to receive what is new, and with open minds, allowing for the growth that has occurred in our absence. It isn’t fair, to a people, or a place, to expect it to remain locked in some eternal nostalgia that we’ve created around it. Of course it’s not the same; progress is the nature of things. Roads will replace foot paths, cell phones will be tucked inside native dresses. Nikes will replace woven sandals, electric lights crowd out the daily use of candles. It would be usurious of us to expect a place to exist at a lesser stage of technological development because it fills a particular emotional need or provides us with a sense of the exotic, or an escape from our real world.

The world changes, so do we. Just as a place will change in our absence, so does the person we bring back to the location. The eyes with which we see now are not the same as the lenses we experienced the spot the first time, or the last time, we attended it. It’s worth considering that for a while as we prepare to return.

My Dad and I had this chat four years ago, as we were settling into our favourite little spot on Lago de Atitlan, in Guatemala for the winter. We were returning for the first time, following a 10 month absence. He was returning for the first time after a 36 year absence.

“You can come, Dad,” I said across the crappy phone connection between ends of the continent, “But you can’t complain about how much it’s changed. It won’t be the same, but remember that for the children this is all it’s ever been, and they get to experience it in their own way, without our biases.”

I could hear him nodding his head in his office in our log home at the edge of the fall snow in Canada. And so, they came, the people who brought me to this lake for the first time in-utero just as the country was beginning to descend into a decades long civil war. It was as much of a joy to watch my parents rediscover the lago they’d long loved as it was to watch my children come alive to the Mayan culture for the first time.

This winter we’re back, all three generations of us. The lake has changed. The people have changed. The village we love the most has changed. We have changed. And yet, the magic remains, so long as we allow the world, and ourselves, to be as we really are.

Lago de Atitlan- 2014

Lago de Atitlan- 2014

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Category: Ethics, Family Travel, Vagabonding Advice

September 9, 2014

What I learned from five months of travel

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Five months of extended, slow travel taught me valuable life lessons that I never could have learned from a one week vacation or a weekend getaway. Once I got past the initial lure of traveling to new places (including Guatemala, Taiwan, Australia, and Ethiopia), seeing new things, and doing different activities, the time spent traveling really became a deeper, personal experience; travel became introspective and a journey within to make discoveries about myself and my place in the world.

These are the lessons about life that I have learned after five months of travel around the world…

Be a little nicer to others.

When you travel, you make yourself vulnerable by leaving your comfort zone and putting yourself out in the world. You need help because you normally don’t know where you are, what to eat, and how to speak the local language. People are out there to help you, as long as you let them. You’ll see how people will open themselves up once you show some compassion and kindness.

I once heard a 103-year-old woman answer the question, “What’s the best advice you can give to others on how to live their lives?” She simply replied, “Be a little nicer to others.” All those years of experience and wisdom and she understood that life at the core is made of all the interactions and connections, big and small, that we have with others.

Be nice. Be extra nice. Bring out the best in yourself and others around you.

Money doesn’t buy happiness.

You don’t need a ton of money to travel and you don’t need millions of dollars to be happy. If you’re always comparing your net worth to others’ net worth, you’ll never be happy.

Happiness starts from within. If you’re pursuing things that you’re passionate about and give you purpose, you’ll be happier. When you help others for unselfish reasons, you’ll be happier. And when you connect with a purpose that’s bigger than you, you’ll truly be happy.

I’ve met some of the happiest people in some of the poorest countries in the world and I’ve met some of the most depressed people in some of the richest countries in the world. Money doesn’t buy happiness. Living life on purpose will give you all the happiness you’ll ever need.

Stay balanced.

Fulfilling work, quality time with your kids, “me” time, nutritious meals, regular exercise, eight hours of sleep every night, and meaningful travel are all the ingredients of a healthy life. You can have it all, as long as you make balance your goal.

Sometimes you overwork yourself for weeks without end. You sleep less. You don’t go to the gym when you should. You eat junk foods and load up on coffee. Then you crash. Hard. And your body needs two full days to recover. You need balance every day all the time.

Too much of anything isn’t healthy or sustainable. Balance is essential to healthy living.

Live your life.

Your life is yours and yours alone. Be who you are. Follow your passions. Trust your gut. Don’t compare yourself with others. Stay true to what you believe.

The key is to live. Many people are dying a slow death in a profession they are bored with; others are in destructive relationships; some are using escapes from actually living by abusing drugs, alcohol, TV, Internet, etc.

You need to choose to live your life. That choice begins with trusting yourself and moving forward with your heart.

Love the journey.

Life is not a race, so enjoy the journey. Each step you take and each personal connection you make hopefully gets you closer to your truest, most authentic self. When you value the journey more than the destination, you are grateful for each step and blessing. You realize that failures exist not only as small lessons, but also as opportunities for mercies to come through. And you are present in every moment.

When you let your heart lead the way, you’ll be on the path towards realizing your dreams. Sometimes what we want isn’t what the world says we should want, what our parents say we should want, or what our peers say we should want, but your path ultimately is the product of your choices.

Stay the course. Listen to your heart. Let the love flow.

Love the journey and you’ll be on your way.

For more about Cliff’s travels, visit his website: LiveFamilyTravel

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Category: Family Travel, On The Road

August 5, 2014

Third culture kids

Third culture kids

People often ask us if there’s a social deficiency for our children, being raised on the road, weaving in and out of so many different cultures. It’s a serious question, and it deserves serious consideration.

My answer is always, “No, growing up in the world is the most socially healthy experience any child could have.”

They learn to adapt, respect differences, navigate generation gaps, live flexibly and develop language proficiencies that will make them infinitely more socially comfortable in our ever shrinking world than they would be if we spent our entire life in the little town we left. Nowhere was that more apparent than playing in the pool this week with the Korean delegation using the same techniques they’ve perfected for playing with kids when they are the ones who don’t speak the language.

There is not a social deficiency for our kids, or others that travel for a living, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t differences.

Our kids are what’s called Third Culture Kids:

“Someone who, as a child, has spent a significant period of time in one or more culture(s) other than his or her own, thus integrating elements of those cultures and their own birth culture, into a third culture.” According to my passport, I’m coming home, by Kay Branaman Eakin

These kids create a culture for themselves that’s a blend of their experiences, the upside is flexibility, adaptability, a high comfort level just about anywhere they’re dropped and the ability to roll with the punches like few people can.

The downside: they don’t entirely “fit” anywhere. My family traveled a little, just two winters of my childhood, and we straddled the international border between the US and Canada as a dual nationality family. Even that relatively small amount of cultural diversity I can relate to the third culture experience.

We love being “home,” in the USA and Canada, because so many of the people that matter most to us are here. Our children’s dearest friends are very “fixed-location” kids and they embrace one another as if not a day has passed and the cultural divide just doesn’t matter a bit to them, or to our kids, for that matter. But that doesn’t mean it’s not there.

We’ve witnessed this several times, with families in Germany & the Czech Republic, other traveling families in Central America and most recently when our virtual friends became real world friends. There is something that happens with Third Culture Kids meet other Third Culture Kids that is inexplicable unless you’ve seen it with your own eyes. There’s an understanding, a belonging, of sorts, between complete strangers that bonds them deeply, and it’s such a joy to watch.

This weekend our worlds collided. The very best of our chosen family joined us for an Independence Day camp out. We laughed, swam, told stories, and caught up after a long winter on opposite ends of the continent, and it was GREAT. And then, two of our favourite traveling families joined the party and added such an interesting dynamic. It t was such a joy to have them all in one place and to have, for just a few hours, both of our lives intersect in one place. There was a “wholeness” that we sometimes lack in the time spent with all of them.

Our kids miss people wherever we go. This is a common experience for Third Culture Kids. Not a day goes by abroad that they don’t wish aloud that their fixed-location friends were there to share an experience. When we’re “home” it’s the same, they wish for their abroad friends to share the day’s joy here. Jeremiah, one of Hannah’s best friends, is spending the week with us. Last night he made a comment that stuck with me: “I’ll bet you guys could fill this whole campground with the people you wish were here!” And he’s right, we could. The very best and very worst of travel as a lifestyle is that no matter where we are, we make dear friends, and no matter where we go, we miss someone we love!

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Category: Family Travel

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?

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Category: Family Travel, Oceania, On The Road

July 9, 2014

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

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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. ;)

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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.

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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.

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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?

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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.

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Category: Central America, Family Travel, Vagabonding Field Reports

June 11, 2014

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

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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.

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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.

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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??

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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?

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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

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Category: Central America, Family Travel, Vagabonding Field Reports
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