Why did we decide to travel the world with our two kids? From a young age I would lay out a world map and plan my route – plotting which countries I would explore and then daydream about my experiences in each.
That dream lay dormant until it was awoken in my adult life. Responsibilities started to creep in – house payments, bills, long work hours, kids, school, extracurriculars and an influx of more and more stuff into our home and commitments in our schedules competing for our time with one another.
Over the span of a year, my husband, Chris, went from saying, “You’re so crazy!” to “Let’s do this!” Before we knew it, we had sold our house and many of our belongings. Chris quit his job, I unenrolled our sons from school, and we were on a flight to Tokyo. We flew from country to country for the first year, and then drove from state to state for the next two. We stayed at least one month in each location.
We let our days linger slowly, our kids learning through homeschool and from the world around us, while my husband worked on his own business. I dove into photography and my writing. We mixed in the everyday adventures that come with exploring a new neighborhood with the occasional tourist activity. This was our version of being modern-day nomads.
What we value most about travel, we can now apply to our everyday lives since settling in Los Altos. The most valuable lessons for us follow.
Stay in the moment
The jolt we feel when kids push the boundaries with shrieks and movement and messiness shocks us into the moment. Kids were born to be noticed. There is no mistaking their presence and their gusto for life. Kids want to experience life where movement involves us moving closer to them. They want us to experience the joy they feel when they bring us into their world. Their ways of experiencing life exhaust us at times, but also remind us life is more beautiful living in the moment and less in our heads.
We landed in Morocco, standing in front of the customs agent waiting for them to stamp our passports, when my younger son suddenly made a loud heaving noise and threw up all over the tile floor, and it just kept coming. Unprepared with no bag to give him, we could only stand there with him.
Some moments like these leave us no other option but to be in the moment. Not all moments in travel are enjoyable, but these standout moments are likely to be memorable, and you may even laugh about some of them later.
Schedule your time as if you had toddlers – you will likely appreciate one activity more than you will three.
From one activity to the next, life can become enveloped in a rushed routine. As adults, we want to plan for the next step, or move on to the next activity when kids love being right where they are. Filling our time with activities that require us to move from one thing to the next leaves little room to dive deeply into the things we love to do.
Our kids hauled their LEGO bricks everywhere we traveled, and they spent a good amount of time building and taking apart their creations. The Louvre or LEGO? They would choose LEGO bricks. Our compromise: “First the Louvre, over to the park and then your LEGO bricks.”
We spent a manageable amount of time as a family doing a scavenger hunt in the Louvre: “How many different animals can you spot in the artwork, kids?” Then I got lost in the Louvre alone while my husband took the kids to a nearby park. My husband and I switched roles, so he could then wander the Louvre. It was a win-win for all.
Get out of your bubble
Connect with people you don’t know. We are told from a young age not to talk to strangers. One of the joys of travel is connecting with strangers.
Kids have a way of trusting and being open to those around them from a young age. They also are more interested in jumping into play with kids they don’t know when playmates are few and far between in some travel locations. Our kids were at the age where they could chase around a kid, until that kid started to chase them and – voila – an instant friend.
My favorite memories of Bali were the conversations I struck up with the local taxi drivers. I loved asking questions and learning about local customs, family dynamics, tourism and their way of life. Conversations were had without any embarrassment, both of us knowing we were strangers to one another, and we had nothing to lose by starting up a conversation.
Strangers are good people, too, and most people have good intentions. There are many friendly people who are open to making time for a conversation.
We saw many beautiful places on our travels, but we quickly learned that where we go and what we see while traveling is less significant than how we connect with one another during our travels. There is something magical about the way kids see the world and the many ways they remind us to be in the moment.
By slowing down and opening ourselves up to connections, we experience life in a more meaningful way than our attempt at crafting our travel to fit a set of expectations or an Instagram-worthy post. Simple moments with our kids and connecting with those around us, wherever we were, were the most meaningful experiences during our travels, and in our rooted life.
Lori and Chris Gimenez and their 9- and 10-year-old sons are rooted in Los Altos until their next family adventure.