This weeks interview is from Mary from BohemianTravelers.com. She and her husband are travelling full time with their three sons while also homeschooling them at the same time. Check out their stories on the blog, twitter, facebook, or google+.
What was your travel style like before you had children?
I suppose it was a bit more “free”, as I only had to worry about what I wanted out of any trip. My priorities were simply what pleased me at any given moment.
I have always been a budget traveler, trying to eat and lodge locally in order to connect as much as I can with any given area. I preferred hostels, eating in what some would consider dives and taking public transport rather than taxis.
What ages were your children when you started travelling with them?
When we moved to Central America and started exploring there the boys were 7 and 3, I then had our 3rd boy in Costa Rica and when we became completely nomadic the boys were 12, 8, and 4!
Why did you decide that exposing your children to travel was important?
While living in the US we started realizing that the consumerist ways of most people, us included, was not a good thing. We primarily wanted the kids to know that there was a huge difference between what they need and what they want. This little tidbit seems to be missing from so many in the US at least.
As we made our way out of that lifestyle what they have actually learned has been amazing, so many intangible lessons that it would be hard to describe them all in one place. Simplifying our lives and being able to see, first hand, that people are all the same around the world no matter what their religion, race, or culture are probably 2 of the things we were most after and 2 of the lessons we are most proud to be learning together.
What is your travel style now that you travel with children? How did it change from before you were a parent?
Honestly it has not changed much at all. We need more space so we now stay at hotels more than hostels, and we need to slow down a bit as well. We are older so part of the slow down is about us as much as it is for the kids. We still try to stay and eat in more local areas and avoid tourist places but when you travel you inevitably end up there some times.
We also still travel overland but we find that we use taxis a lot more. To be honest a lot of times a taxi is cheaper than a subway as we can pay for the car rather than per person. We have found hostels to function in much the same manner.
What has been the most difficult thing about travelling with children?
The most difficult part is trying to balance everyone’s needs. It is not really specific to a travel lifestyle but I think it often times is exaggerated when you travel. I suppose it isn’t really specific to children either, as we all function differently and need our space sometimes. That can be tough when everyone is sharing a room.
Day to day things like bickering children, or restlessness on a long car ride are the same when traveling as when you live a stationary life. I think with multiple children there is the cost factor but other than that I don’t think there really are difficult things.
Perhaps if you are used to a lifestyle where parents work, kids are at school all day, and you live in a comfy house, switching to being together all the time and moving from small room to small room may present many challenges and take some adjusting on everyone’s part.
What has been the most rewarding part of travelling with children?
The lessons we see them learning are really quite rewarding but I think letting them take the lead and showing us how to step outside our comfort zone is amazing.
Being home schoolers we have always spent a lot of time together but this is different. I won’t pretend we don’t get on each others nerves sometimes but at the end of this life I think the time that we spent with them traveling will end up being one of the most rewarding aspects to parenting in general.
What is your favourite travel memory of travelling as a family?
When we were in Laos, we went out exploring and came upon a limestone cave. It was narrow, wet, dark, and to be honest scary as anything. I did not want to go in, I made excuses, and I may have whimpered a little.
Sounds great right? Well it was scary, but it was also a moment of such deep pride in my boys. They helped each other through some really difficult and dangerous areas, they encouraged me to face my fears and through their own fearless nature brought out the absolute best in each other and in us as parents. It was one of those moments you never forget!
According to your child, what is their favourite part about travel?
My oldest sons both say that what they enjoy the most is visiting new places, seeing that the world has vastly different landscapes, cultures, and religions but that its people are all the same…just seeking out happiness and comfort for their family.
According to your child, what was their favourite place you have travelled as a family?
Laos was our favorite spot, Vang Vieng in particular. It is one of the least developed areas we have been to (when you left the main town at least) and we all felt so free. We explored, hiked, caved, spoke to locals, visited temples…I mean it had everything. I think it was the spot we meshed together best as a family.
According to your child, where in the world do they most want to travel to next?
They are all really excited about South America. It is sort of our goal I guess and since an opportunity has arisen for us to go they have all been thinking about it a lot. We research places all the time and South America is where we are most focused on at the moment.
We all speak Spanish and so we are wanting to settle down, eventually, in a Spanish speaking country. I like to involve them and give them a nearly equal say in what we do and where we go. I think it helps them learn the most, get excited about the next move, and gain the most perspective out of our travels.
What tips would you offer parents when it comes to travel with children?
Probably the most important thing is to relax. Try not to carry the fears and perception from home with you out on the road. Keep an open mind, relax about what others are thinking about your lifestyle, and laugh! Some really difficult times can be made a lot more bearable if you just smile and know that it will pass and usually will make a great story, although some stories take quite a while to laugh about!
There was this one time on an overnight bus in Laos….yeah that one took months to get over.
Are there certain destination or holiday types you would recommend for parents travelling with children?
I think it really depends on how you travel and what you hope to gain from it. For us no destination is off the list, but we do try and access how everyone feels about any type of travel. Be honest with yourselves. In the first month we thought we could stay in really inexpensive hostels but it just was not comfortable for us. The first few months will paint the picture quite messily of exactly what type of travel will work best for your family. Be sure to let go of the fantasy in your head and listen to the signs. There is nothing wrong with changing how you are traveling! And then changing it again….
And finally – what are you upcoming travel plans?
Well if you ask anyone who knows us they will chuckle at that question. We change our plans often! The plan at this point is to spend 2 more months in Asia then to move on to Europe and by June head to Peru. Our oldest son (14) is headed to an unschooling retreat there by himself in May so it only makes sense to move over there to meet him. I mean I can’t let him climb Machu Picchu without me, can I??