How To Keep Your Family's Travel Spark Alive Between Trips
For those of us with a solid case of wanderlust, it can be tough to be too long between travels. Your ears search out exotic notes in the voices around you, your belly begs for street vendors and ethnic take-out and your passport looks down right pitiful gathering dust, it's last inking a distance memory. For my husband and me, it is great to be home for long stretches of time, but it is also terrific to have a trip on the horizon. We began traveling together in 2005 on our honeymoon. We circled the globe, hitting 18 countries and four continents in less than six months. As a boy, my husband traveled quite a bit with his family due to his father's work as a research scientist; while I was rooted to an equally wonderful childhood, growing up on a 500-acre working farm in Michigan. The nature of farms and it's high demands meant that my family took few vacations when I was growing up and lengthy international travel was out of the question. I got my first passport for our honeymoon and I was transformed by my first travels. I became deeply, irreversibly connected to the nomadic side of myself. My sweetheart and I made a pledge that we would do our very best to leave the country at least once a year for the rest of our lives. And so far, we have. We have planned our travels to accommodate the changes in our lives---traveling to Colombia during my second trimester of pregnancy before heading home to get nesty and prepare for the birth of our son. The next year, we traveled to the Mexican central highlands to celebrate my birthday and our son's first. This year, we head to Guatemala to celebrate our birthdays again. It has been almost a year since we last packed our bags, and while the homesteader in me is glad for the chance to garden and to live the easy life at home close to family and friends, the gypsy in me aches for unfamiliar people and far away lands. Here are few ways that my family and I keep our family's travel spark alive and burning between trips, or at least until the next tickets are booked. 1. The Visual Traveler We get the colors and sights of our favorite far-away places through travel documentaries, movies and YouTube videos that have been shared by other travelers. Our favorite countries to travel to are India, Mexico, Turkey and Tibet, so we look for everything and anything featuring these countries. The British Broadcasting Company (BBC) and the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) have produced some terrific travel documentaries and series, like the Story of India hosted by Michael Woods and Himalaya hosted by Michael Palin. For localized fixes, or special spots off the beaten path, search for videos that fellow travelers may have shared on YouTube. The odds are good that what you are looking for will have been shared here by others who have been to the same area. As an example, there is a wonderful foot bridge in Rishikesh, North India, that I absolutely love and when I need a peek at the happy hullabaloo of passing cows, tourists and saris, I go to YouTube and search out Laxman Jhulabridge. Search out your own favorites when you need a mini-trip. 2. BooksThere are so many incredible books ranging from travel memoirs and historical fiction, to spiritual and religious routes and pilgrimages. Check out your local library and book sellers to soak up these printed adventures. For women who dream of traveling there is a wonderful memoir entitle, Tales of a Female Nomad, by Rita Golden Gelman. There is also the world-wide best-seller, Eat Pray Love, by Elizabeth Gilbert. Another excellent book is, Exotic Travel Destinations for Families, by Jennifer and Bill Nichols that showcases 23 exciting countries in six different regions: Europe, Africa, Asia, Central America, South America and French Polynesia. Also look for travel-minded reading groups at your local library. Your library may already host a travelers' book club that highlights books that you and fellow wanderlusters would love to read and discuss together. If one is not already organized, ask if you can post a flyer about starting one to gauge community interest and build it from there. It takes just one person to start it up, so be open to that one person being you. 3. Local Travel Shops Visiting your local travel shop to prepare for your upcoming adventures is a great way to get what you need while putting money back into your own community. This is also where you will find solid recommendations from people whose business is travel. Most shops will carry guidebooks and maps, as well as travel supplies and comforts that make those long, hard travel days a little easier. I like to browse through my local shops to see what is new and useful, and also to talk to other travelers about their upcoming adventures. A cool thing that our local shop does, is host community slide shows and trip presentations events. You don't need to be a professional storyteller or photographer; they just ask that you put together a sample of your favorites photos and stories to share. These events are always packed with people who are wanting to go to a particular destination, and others who like me, may need a little touch of the places they love. As with the book groups, if your local shop doesn't already host these community presentation events, ask if you can give one a try to build interest and encourage others to offer their own. It is a win-win for travel lovers and the hosting store owners who will likely get new customers from the event. 4. Online Travel Communities There are many excellent family travel blogs that chronicle the lives of families living out their dreams of travel. Familiesontheroad.com is a blog roll of some incredible and resourceful families who are traveling together by land, air and sea. There are also online travel communities to inspire you and where you can ask and answer questions. Lonely Planet's Thorn Tree is a free travel forum that gets heavy participation and top-notch replies from travelers in the know. Boba Family is another great family travel resource, so be sure to check out our travel-centered blogs. Included are interviews with families who do extended travel or "live on the road," loads of tips from seasoned travelers and many how-tos---all free and available to you at BobaFamily.com. 5. Cooking For me and my family, one of the best parts of traveling abroad is enjoying the local food. We look for cooking classes in the cities and villages where we are staying. Most classes will include a guided trip to traditional, neighborhood markets where farmers and other artisans bring their meat, cheese, fruits and spices to sell and trade. These tours help you discover how a particular dish gets that unique flavor and which kitchen tools help produce the most traditional results. When we travel, we always try to bring home indigenous honeys and specialty spices. Check your home country's regulations on any possible restriction for what you can bring back with you. Once home and missing our favorite flavors, we head to our own kitchen to recreate (As best as we can!) the dishes that take us back with each bite. My husband is also a master packer and has been able to bring home several pieces of specialty pottery from our travels around the world. My most treasured pieces are a black Chambra soup pot from Colombia and a comal from Mexico that offers the most authentic flavors when toasting spices and chiles. Hopefully, these tips will carry you between your travels. And until your next journey, I wish you happy homesteading and lovely reminders of your travels past and dreams of travels to come. Remember, your love of travel is a wonderful thing to share, so take part in your community at home and encourage everyone to dream of travel. The world is big and beautiful and just waiting for you to discover yourself in it.