January 30, 2013

Making The Most Of Vacations Abroad

One of our Foreign Correspondents has returned from her travels! Cathy and her family traveled to Zimbabwe this winter to visit family. Cathy is a teacher who took leave from her position during the birth of her twins. When her children were toddlers, she filled her time by acting as a founding parent of a charter initiative to open Birchtree Charter School, a Waldorf-inspired school in her  hometown of Palmer, Alaska. Since the school’s opening in fall 2010, she has acted as the treasurer on the Academic Policy Committee. We outfitted Cathy’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.

Time is always an issue when planning a trip overseas. How much time can the kids be away from school? Where can we travel to achieve maximum exposure, and once there how do we ultimately choose what we do?

Our home is gorgeous Alaska, but we relish any chance to escape the cold, dark winter environment. Many of our trips center around spending quality time with family and sharing our love of travel. Recently, we met up with my brother and his family who live in Zimbabwe.

Looking back, we found that incorporating a few simple things into our traveling routine improves our exposure and experiences.

1.     Educate ahead: We started our explorations of Zimbabwe, Mozambique, and Dubai months prior to our departure by reviewing maps and globes, learning about the animals we might encounter, and reading African folktales. Keeping on ongoing list of questions and predications about what we might experience helped focus our interests and potentially reduced culture shock.

travel with kids

2.     Learn some of the language- Simple phrases of hello, good-bye and thank you are fun for kids to learn and practice. In Zimbabwe, our children worked on counting to ten and singing a song in Shona, which became part of their Christmas concert performance. When the locals saw that we were trying to interact with their language and culture, they were inclined to open up so much more.

3.     Eat local- We set a goal to try something new at each meal such as crocodile and sadza. Keeping a list of new foods, how they tasted, and allowing, “it’s not my favorite” to be a reasonable response to a new dish provided a fun atmosphere for food exploration.

4.    Give back- We want to make sure that our children don’t ever leave a country with a resort view of the society.  One way we work to provide multiple perspectives of the country and people is to spend some time giving to others. On this trip, we visited a local orphanage. Our children, somewhat apprehensive at first, found that sharing the art of making paper airplanes was a bonding hit.

travel with kids

5.     Skip air travel and take to the road when possible: Our group learned much about Zimbabwe and Mozambique by taking the time to take to the roads. Experiencing police road blocks, pot holes, local markets and roadside food stands, gave us a better perspective of daily life for Southern Africans. You just can’t get the same perspective from 33,000 feet.

 

As we continue to ponder all that we saw and experienced, I can’t help but be thankful for the interactions we had along the way- Extended time with family, kind, generous and open individuals, animals galore, and breathtakingly beautiful venues!

travel with kids