Next week my family is heading for Thailand for the Christmas holidays. We are all very excited to be heading to a destination that combines unique culture and great people with delicious food and tropical beaches. This will not be my first Thai experience however, but that does not make it any less exciting.
I first went to Thailand in 1989, on my way east from traveling for several months in Nepal and India. I was initially disappointed at how easy it was to get around. I could jump on a water-bus on the Chao Phraya River to get to most places that I wanted to go in Bangkok. Or catch on a cheap minibus on Khaosan Road to get to almost any place in the country that a backpacker would want to go – north, south, east, or west. There were no people aggressively asking me for money or competitive jostling in long lines to buy tickets. It took me several days to relax. Read more
We’d love to visit Cuba. Given the obstacles, it’s not in the cards for us at the moment but we’re working on experiencing Cuba anyway. We’ve made Cuban found, explored Cuban artists, and hosted a Cuban dinner for close friends who recently took their kids to Cuba. We followed it all up with a Cuban family movie. Cuba, Cuba, Cuba!
Experiencing Cuban food was a fabulous success. We found recipes at www.tasteofcuba.com and assembled three into a special dinner. The most essential element of the meal was Cuban Black Beans or Moros y Cristianos. Black beans sound boring but these are not; they are complex and delicious. They also sound vegetarian. They are not. The recipe calls for a pound of smoked ham hocks and a lot of chicken stock. The beans take a long time to cook and they smell delicious all along the way. They were too steamy to photograph well but perhaps the steam captures something of the essence of these delicious beans. While the beans were cooking, I prepared an avocado mousse. This recipe brought Read more
There really are windmills in The Netherlands.
The whole third section of our book is devoted to reinforcing the memories of a trip well taken and exploring the cultural diversity offered in your own hometown. But what I neglected to include in those chapters is the memory boost offered by electronic blasts from the past. Every couple of months I get an e-mail message from Nederlands Openluchtmuseum. Even before I open it, it brings me a little smile.
Making paper at the Openluchtmuseum.
Back in 2007, when the kids were seven and four, we took the whole family to The Netherlands for a scientific conference. On an off day we took a train and a bus to a museum that was supposed to be fun for kids while documenting the everyday cultural heritage of the region. We had a great afternoon walking through the period buildings of the “Open Air Museum” and interacting with people in period costumes doing traditional labor like milling grain or smithing. Read more
Me at Boulders Beach, a beach known for it’s odd shaped boulders (of course) and the thousands of penguins that inhabit it
As our own children transition from infants to kids to teens, we are becoming more and more interested in the teen perspective on travel. What are the best ways to prepare for a trip and what kinds of experiences are most memorable? A great example of a teen trip well taken is our friend Fiona’s recent adventure in South Africa. Fiona is 13 and, while she was traveling, she wrote a fabulous blog about her adventures. We enjoyed reading all about her trip so, when we caught up with her over the holidays, we asked her some questions about her trip, about how much she had prepared, and about what she learned and enjoyed most. Read more
We think about cultural and historical education when we’re on the road with kids. We remember to take our kids to art museums, historical landmarks, and famous icons. But what about music? Music differs all over the world, it’s everywhere, and it’s often free. It’s something that can be hard to find time for at home so take advantage of being on the road to expand your child’s vision of what music means.
There are street musicians in almost every tourist hotspot around the world, local concerts, special cultural performances, and musical history. Try saving some focus for street musicians on your next trip. They’re in fairly predictable places so plan a visit and take some time Read more
Jacobo at Pikes Place market, Seattle
Eva wasn’t our first in-home travel experience. A few years ago, we hosted a 21-year-old boy from Columbia. He arrived in the middle of the night, looking very foreign, and clutching a bag of fast food take-out. “Oh boy” I thought. “What have we gotten ourselves into?” We had to communicate by writing everything down for the first few days but we were able to communicate better by the second week. His mother ran a restaurant so he made us a few absolutely delicious Columbian meals. Read more
Eva carving her first pumpkin
What’s the mirror image of a trip around the world? Hosting international guests. You experience the trip from the other side. International guests teach you about their culture (and also about yours). They can expand your way of thinking, help you learn a language, introduce you to new foods, and become lifelong friends. Sure, hosting takes time (and some money). Why do you think there haven’t been any posts for five weeks? But, as a host, your kids stay in school, you don’t have to buy plane tickets, deal with jetlag (much anyway), book hotel rooms, and you can keep your job. Why not consider it?
Eva, our recent guest from Hungary flew home yesterday morning. She was only here for five weeks and was busy training in karate much of the time. Yet, her spark made the time fly by and she was quickly incorporated into the fabric of our family. The first week, she started calling me “Mom” and referring to our girls as “sisters”. At first I was taken aback … I am so not old enough to have a 23-year-old daughter. But, I grew to love it. Last night, she called Bill “Dad”! She was better than a sister for our girls. She had insight into their psyche that only everyday familiarity can extend; yet, no sibling rivalry. Read more
Pictures of Earth from space are always impressive. We gain perspective, learn geology, see our own hometown in a new way, and maybe even pick up a little geography. On your next plane flight, why not spend more time looking out the window with your kids?
What you see will depend on both when and where you are. If you get a cloudy day, too bad. There’s not too much you can do about that. But on clear days and nights, you can see the world from your Read more