Monthly Archives: September 2012

September 4, 2012

The Kilgoris Project

Travel with Kids

The Kilgoris Project educates and feeds the children of a Massai village in southwest Kenya. They partner with the community to operate schools, provide daily food and clean water, and foster economic development. Tea was lucky enough to learn of this great organization through the President and Co-founder of the Kilgoris Project, Caren, as she left with her bags full of Tea to set out to Kenya as one of our Foreign Correspondents.

To help this great cause, Tea donated activity books and art supplies to the school Caren and her family volunteered at.

Travel with Kids
Learn more about The Kilgoris Project and how you can get involved at www.kilgoris.org.

September 3, 2012

Travel Sanity Tips from an Insane Travel Mom

One of our Foreign Correspondents has returned from her travels! Caren and her family traveled to Kenya this summer for a service trip. Caren is the President and Co-founder of The Kilgoris Project, a non-profit that runs schools, medical programs and economic development efforts in rural Kenya. We outfitted Caren’s family with a suitcase full of Tea before they left, asking them to share their adventures with us upon their return. Below is part one of their adventure.

Travel with Kids

Photo by Jennifer Fletcher

You’re crazy! That’s the usual reaction I get to traveling halfway around the world with kids.

Once I flew solo to Sydney with a two year old, while limping along with my own foot in a boot cast. This year I brought two elementary schoolers for a month in Kenya sans husband.

These might sounds like prescriptions for the loony bin. But having taken kids to every continent, except Antarctica, I’ve developed a few strategies for getting home without losing my mind.

1) Build in unscheduled time- Flights, meetings, tours and museums don’t run on child-friendly schedules. And there’s always a temptation to pack in whole cities in a day. Grown ups may be fine with this. However, kids need more breathing room. Fight not to fill the days. It’s ok to horse around in a hotel room for a couple of hours or just watch an iPad movie during a layover. The world will still be there when you’re done.

Travel with Kids

Photo by Jon McCormack

2) Find ways to play- The moving parts of travel bore kids and adults alike. And buses, trains and taxi don’t offer space to work out any wiggles. But if you’re willing to look silly in public, you can create fun anywhere.  Take turns finding yoga moves that fit into economy class seats. (This is far easier for the kids.)  Play Follow the Leader at an airplane gate. Make up ballet dances while the tour van fills the gas tank. I’ve done them all.  My kids are happier for it. And I often find the release helps me, too.

3) Relax the rules, but not too much- Travel days are never going to run like days at home. So it’s ok for the rules to shift a little to compensate. Pringles and peanuts will keep a child alive for a day. Everyone can stay up until 11:00PM for a few nights. Just go easy on the anarchy. If you create a free for all, you’ll pay when you need control. Sometimes you do need to lay down the law: No, you cannot pinch your sister during an immigration check. You’ll wear your seatbelt for take off and landing. And yes, you’ll be quiet when the tribal elders speak.

4) Give kids a little control- My children are much happier traveling when they feel like they make some of their own decisions. It helps to balance the powerlessness they feel at the structure of getting from A to B. We start trips with each girl having a stash of sugar-free gum to be chewed at any time. They have their own packs of markers and magnet dolls. And as their ages allow, they get to hold their own boarding passes.

5) Put your own oxygen mask on first-The airlines are on to something with this one. None of us can be in top form all the time. It doesn’t happen at home. And it’s even less likely happen when you’re jetlagged. Do what you can to carve out a little alone time, even if you can’t physically leave the kids. Take a bath. Walk hotel hallways on your floor with the room door cracked. Put your headphones on. Pretend to sleep on the plane. Just do something for yourself.

These tips, combined with humor, prayer and few deep breaths, keep me sane as I lead my kids to become citizens of the world.

 

10 Things the Kids Love about Kenya

One of our Foreign Correspondents has returned from her travels! Caren and her family traveled to Kenya this summer for a service trip. Caren is the President and Co-founder of The Kilgoris Project, a non-profit that runs schools, medical programs and economic development efforts in rural Kenya. We outfitted Caren’s family with a suitcase full of Tea before they left, asking them to share their adventures with us upon their return. Below is part two of their adventure.

Travel with Kids

Photo by Jennifer Fletcher

While we involve our kids in service travel for the noblest of reasons—developing empathy and discovering the joy of helping others—I love how their experience remains uniquely childlike.

From the mouths of the four cousins, ages six through ten, their favorite things about Kenya:

Travel with Kids

Photo by Jennifer Fletcher

1.  Squealing at baboons on the side of the road- Driving from Nairobi to the rural Transmara area often brings flashes of a safari, including sightings of baboons, gazelles, giraffes and zebras.

Travel with Kids

Photo by Mike Knowles

2.  Stopping for Kenyan fast food- Roadside vendors sell fire-roasted ears of maize from a coarse, starchy type of corn. It tastes like popcorn on a stick.

3.  Saying good morning to the happy sisters- We stay at a convent-turned-guesthouse run by a lovely group nuns from the Little Sisters of Saint Joseph order. Their smiles and morning singing are a joy.

Travel with Kids

Photo by Jon McCormack

4. Sleeping in our “cousins room”- At the guesthouse, we turn a conference room into a dorm, with a bed for each girl. It has the feeling of a month-long sleepover.

Travel with Kids

Photo by Jennifer Fletcher

5.  Playing with the neighborhood kids in the afternoons- The guesthouse lawn makes a natural playground. Neighborhood kids drift in after school for pickup games of Frisbee and soccer, twirling hula hoops and chasing bubbles.

Travel with Kids

Photo by Jennifer Fletcher

6. Picking passion fruit straight from the tree- The kids love the sour pucker and the availability of quick snacks.

7. Brushing our teeth with sticks- Fibers from branches of salvadora persica, known as the Toothbrush Tree, form bristles when chewed. The sticks have a spicy taste and contain a natural antiseptic.

8.  Drinking soda- Some of our usual healthy habits get relaxed for travel. Rural Kenyans often serve soda, a store-bought treat, as an honor to guests. The kids know it’s polite to indulge.

9. Seeing weird, creepy things- A tourist jaunt to the Karen Blixen home, a Nairobi Museum, showed the fruits of old-style safari hunts. The décor included mounted horns, tiger- and cheetah-skin rugs and an elephant’s foot stool. Parts of the classic movie “Out of Africa” were filmed there.

Travel with Kids

Photo by Jon McCormack

10. Being silly with the little kids- Our kids often help the preschoolers when the service team is leading stories and crafts. Drawing and gluing often lead to making goofy faces and tickling.

Travel with Kids

Photo by Jon McCormack

September 1, 2012

The Unexpected Benefits of World Travel with Kids

One of our Foreign Correspondents has returned from her travels! Caren and her family traveled to Kenya this summer for a service trip. Caren is the President and Co-founder of The Kilgoris Project, a non-profit that runs schools, medical programs and economic development efforts in rural Kenya. We outfitted Caren’s family with a suitcase full of Tea before they left, asking them to share their adventures with us upon their return. Below is part one of their adventure.

Travel with Kids

Non-profit work in Kenya makes world travel a regular part of my life. The office is in California; the groundwork happens half a world away.

Unlike some working moms, I often get to take my children with me on business trips. Since my work is service, there are great lessons for them to learn from my efforts.

Yes, I want my daughters to know about a big world beyond suburbia. And I want them to care about the less fortunate in it. But there are some unexpected perks that delight me every time we haul ourselves around the globe.

Here a few benefits I noticed on this trip:

Free play—There’s a freedom to rural childhood that my kids get to taste for a few weeks at a time. Maasai kids don’t have playdates; they just play.

Travel with Kids

They wander in fields with cows and sheep. They build houses for stick dolls under palm trees. They play catch outside after dark. My kids easily fall into this rhythm, and I love the creative play that ensues.

Family bonding—My two sisters-in-law also happen to be colleagues. They bring their children on our longer business trips, too. So the cousins, who live across the U.S. from each other, get more time together abroad than at home.

Travel with Kids

The younger girls all sleep in the same room. The older ones give piggyback rides and help tuck in mosquito nets at night. They giggle and fight, sing and annoy each other, tell inside jokes and make rabbit ears above each other’s heads. I’d like to think these growing bonds will keep them well connected when they’re older.

Cultural comfort—The more we travel, the more I see my kids at home anywhere. They’re learning to take language barriers and different customs in stride. They played peek-a-boo with a Pakistani toddler on the plane. They remembered to cover their arms in Dubai. They offered their heads for Kenyan elders to pat.

Travel with Kids

In years past, not understanding a local language or being presented with unfamiliar food would have thrown them more. But now they’re rising to new occasions.

On this trip, we visited a possible new school site, so remote that many local children had never seen Caucasians.  They took the curious touching of their skin and hair in stride. Soon they were jumping rope with new friends. I love when my kids inspire me like this.

Travel with Kids

World travel with children can be stressful, but I’m blessed to be able to do it. The great surprises outweigh any obstacles.