Posted on April 13, 2017
I can’t really say much about everyone’s daily life in Morocco. Like many countries, it is diverse in its population. There are people who live in the mountains, in the desert, the country and the city. I am fortunate to have a host who is very warm and welcoming. We are staying very near the capital city and this is a glimpse into the daily life of many city dwellers/ middle class families here in Morocco.
Around 5:30 A.M.-
The first call for prayer resounds throughout the neighborhood. The muezzin, or the person who calls every to pray, is on a loud-speaker in the mosque. He can be heard in many neighborhoods. There are many mosques within blocks of each other, so often there is a chorus of muezzin waking me up in the morning. If I happen to fall back to sleep, then the birds begin their song.
The birds have a fascinating sound. There are many that sound like any other bird outside my window in Chicago. There are others that are very unusual. They are the ones that catch my attention. The really loud bird that goes Whoop-Whoop-Whoop over and over. There was an adult bird that sounded like it was teaching its baby how to make the correct bird call the other day. I would love to have seen them in action. I wonder if they look like Bean and I when I am trying to teach her something. Do birds get impatient with their children?
I finally crawl out of the bed because the bright sunlight is slipping through the window shade. Bean usually sits up in her bed and declares “Time to get up!” Maybe it is time for her to get up, but many days I want to sleep a little longer. I put on my running clothes and take a walk to the Atlantic Ocean for a run.
I have been different all of my life. Every time we travel to a new location, I feel like the new kid in school all over again. Imagine, if you will, going for a run on the beach with your western athletic clothes when 98% of everyone around you is covered from head to toe in traditional Moroccan dress. I figure if they can be out and running, I can too. If fact, I am proud of these Moroccan women (and men). I have not seen so many people out in the morning getting their daily exercise.
One the path that I happen to run, there are at least, and I am not exaggerating, one hundred people families, friends and solo exercisers. There are even a couple of group exercise classes taking place close to the cliffs of the Atlantic Ocean. The women don’t seem to do much running or jogging, but they are out en masse walking in groups of girlfriends, with their significant others and children. These people are serious about physical activity.
Bean and I sit down for a traditional breakfast. We drink our mint tea and eat our bread which we dip into olive oil. It is simple; it is perfect. Through the open window, we can hear the men on the street walking by with their wares for sale. They have a cart and a donkey. They are full of bread, eggs, potatoes, strawberries, bananas or oranges. You don’t need to go to the market; it can come to you.
Everyone is headed to work or school. You can see the city bus going by completely packed with people headed to the city. Often the bus doesn’t even stop because it is so full. The little van comes by to pick up the children for school. Bean has begun to ask if she can take a school bus when she goes back to school. They are so cute, what can I say but “yes”. The neighborhood is a mix of tradition and modernity. There are gentlemen and ladies headed to work in their foreign cars.
Many of the families living in this neighborhood have someone in the family who works for the government. They drive 4x4s, mid-sized cars of all makes and models. There are the families who live in the villas who drive the luxury cars. In the morning, everyone and their car is on the road, headed to work. Horns, traffic and dust everywhere…and no one crosses the street at the corner. People choose a place to cross and they go.
When I first got here, I was petrified as we walked through the neighborhood. We went over bridges, across streets and around the corner. We just followed behind our host. She took off in the middle of the four lane avenue, cars coming from both directions. I asked if maybe we could cross at the light or the corner. She said, “This is Africa. We just cross wherever we want.” While I am hesitant, I have began to relax a little about crossing the street. I still look both ways at least four times before crossing with Bean, who is usually talking and oblivious to the dangers.
There is usually a call to prayer around this time. At first, I seemed to hear every call to prayer. Now, it is just another background noise. Sometimes I notice it, sometimes I don’t. Bean has usually finished her work and I have finished mine. We eat our lunch and get ready to head outside. For most of our stay to date, the weather is nice and getting hotter. I can’t complain, as everyone says “It’s Africa.” We put on our most comfortable shoes and go out to explore the neighborhood.
Depending on how long it takes us to get out of the house, Bean and I may walk for many hours. As soon as we are out, Bean immediately begins to ask for her gouter, or snack. I convince her that if we take time to see what there is to see and do some exploring, we will find a boulangerie and get a gouter. That satisfies her.
The main thing that we see are stray cats. The neighborhood is overrun with them. I am not a cat person,so I really get tired of hearing “There is another cat”. The good thing about them is that if there are cats, there will not be rats. There are men and young boys who go through the trash and take out the recyclable items. I am not sure if they sell them or use them. Trash is sometimes just thrown on the street. However, there are still no rats that I have seen.
On our walks, we have seen the shepherds herding the sheep across the city bridge. They then allow them to graze in the vacant lots that do not yet have a villa. We walk along cliff tops. We do as the locals do and walk over the huge bridge to get to the city center. Bean was thrilled when we found the little park close to the house. I would have been thrilled if there was a place for parents to sit!
To Be continue….
Posted on April 7, 2017
Bean and I are in Morocco! I wanted to visit a country where Bean could make progress in learning French in completely different environment. We are enjoying the sun, noise and flavors of Morocco. If only the pictures could share the beauty of this country adequately! We are having many “first” here. Next week, I look forward to telling you about a few of them.
Posted on March 31, 2017
I have read many blogs about zero waste and find the concept interesting and appealing. However, as I look at our lifestyle and the life of the French, I wonder if it can really work here in France.
I know that in order for any way of life to be effective, it is necessary to commit. France, like any other western country, provides a level of convenience that many people often embrace. When I lived here over ten years ago, I don’t remember there being so many convenience foods in the stores, as many big box stores, and rampant consumerism of today. It may have been there, but my focus was different. I didn’t notice it.
As I think about zero waste, and traveling without leaving such a large footprint, I wonder is it possible. We are interacting with many families. Most people take reusable bags to the store. That is a given. They may own 100 reusable bags, but they will remember to take one to the store. Some families eat only organic food(another trend that was not apparent in France ten years ago). Some families are just shop for their favorite foods and buy what appeals to them in the moment.
It is possible to go grocery shopping and use nothing but your own bags, boxes and bottles, if you are in a big city. You can also do this if you live in a city or town that has an organic store and a market. Not every city or town has a market or an organic store. It seems that EVERYTHING you buy in the store comes in a package. What do you do then? Buy your items and take off all the packaging in the parking lot? You would certainly have zero waste at home! You could eat a raw vegan diet. You will only have compostable items remaining.
However, I am not trying to focus on what others can do. What can Bean and I do if we were to adopt a zero waste lifestyle as we travel? There have been times when we have stayed in rental apartments or hotels. I have gone the route of convenience and purchased ready-made fun French foods. I have bought Bean her favorite Jasmin scented shower gel. I have allowed her to buy silly plastic toys that she forgets about in a few days. I don’t feel guilty about it per se, but I do not want these things to become a habit. Otherwise, I would not feel as if we were living in sync with our values.
As I reflect on what I can do better in the future, I realize that I have not thought big enough. I rejected zero waste living as an idea that is not practical for a traveler or for our little family. However, I still find it appealing. Here are some things that I have discovered we can do.
1. Buy more fruit and vegetables- We always eat fruit and vegetables. Bean calls me the Vegetable Queen. I buy fresh fruit. I cheat and buy frozen vegetables. I buy bagged leafy salad greens. I find it hard to find loose tomatoes; though I try to only buy them in season. I can do better and commit to only buying fresh.
2. Buy bar soap- Shower gel is easy. You buy the bottle never need to worry about finding soggy soap in the shower. You don’t have soap scum after a bath. There is no soap film on the shower door. I could commit to buying natural ingredient bar soap. I might need to clean more, so hold that thought.
3. Reuse paper Bean loves paper just like I did when I was her age. Like most children, she will write or draw on one side and be done with the sheet. She might make a small picture and be finish with it. She will do her homework, not like the outcome, crumple up the paper and start a new sheet. I don’t want to manage paper, so I have let her do this. I could make sure every paper is completely used.
I am not sure what more we could do because we already travel very light. Just as we did when we were in Chicago, we visit the Le Relais boxes when we find them and donate items that we no longer want or need so that others can use them. We find them in most towns, regardless of the size of the community. Even if the town is too small to have its own market, the Relais box is there. I find that to be a positive sign.
I know that minimalism is not about deprivation. I am not about deprivation. I have no interest in missing out on something that brings me joy. I have no plans to exclude events or experiences that I love. I have done that in my past and now I want to live to the fullest. I do, however, want to make sure that I am honoring my core values wherever I am so that I never get caught up in the rat race again. Maybe a waste free lifestyle could offer something I could use. If you are familiar with Zero Waste and have ideas to share, please do. I would like to see ideas for people who travel.
Posted on March 23, 2017
When we began our homeschooling journey, Bean and I had some intense days of struggle. It was her will against mine. I am the adult, so I determined to win. I am also a planner. I had a list of educational milestones that I wanted her to accomplish in a certain time. I read that others had done it,why not us? As with the beginning of most things, it was slow. I needed a little while to figure out the simplest way to implement independent learning with Bean. I am a minimalist after all.
After a few months, I was feeling a little discouraged. Bean was getting pressured to perform by other people in her life. I knew that we did not have the option of enrolling into schools all over the country. It would also be a shame to let her skip school at this age. Her mental capacity is practically limitless. So I continued on.
A few weeks ago, after the mean man incident, as we call it, I had the time to reflect and review. Bean is doing great!I wasn’t sure when we would get to this day. Her work in all areas that I focused on show considerable progress. She is not bogged down with schoolwork. She has a few important things to do. She knows what they are and she does them. Every day is not an easy one where she sits at the table and tackles her work,but the work is getting better. The difficulty sometimes lies in the fact that there are children who are outside playing or taking breaks when she is doing her work, but the joy comes in knowing that she is making progress.
Bean is reading better than she has ever read. As she finishes every new story, and I clap my hands for her, she is so proud of the work she has completed. As she uses her brain to do her math problems and realizes that she CAN do math, she is proud of herself. As she works on her cursive writing and sees that she can read cursive and write like her mother, she is proud of herself. It isn’t much. It isn’t rocket science, but the simple act of learning has given her confidence in herself. I wish this for all children who home school in France and around the world. Simple tasks that exercise their brains and increase their knowledge of the world, so they too are proud of themselves.
Our home school program is simple. We work only on the basics. We need time to get out and explore after all. We focus on reading, writing, math and foreign language. Bean writes in cursive from one of the stories that we already completed so that the words stay fresh in her mind. She then copies a new writing sample from a book she enjoys reading. Then she reads it. For math, Bean does a bit of review. She is introduced to one new math concept a week. This is the goal, though we don’t always reach it.
Often, foreign language seems like the simplest task of the day. Bean just needs to talk to people or play with children. If there is no one around with whom we can interact, Bean plays games and watches language learning videos. This,of course, is her favorite activity of the day. I try to save it till the end of our homework time so that she is inspired to continue working.
I wish I could say that even though we have our routine down, we never have problems. However, children like adults, have off days. There are days when Bean does not wish to get out of the bed. There are days when she takes her math papers and crumples them up. There are days when she sits at the table and draws a million pictures. I have to take the long-term view that inch by inch, learning is a cinch. It seems the inches add up slowly, but in time, they become miles.
Homeschooling in France, like any other place we might be in the world, takes time and patience for success. I am committed to the education of my daughter. Not just for her to know about people and cultures around the world,but also for her to know how to count, read and write. I am thankful that as a minimalist, focusing on only the essentials, has made the process easier. When we return to traditional schooling, I will look back on this time with pride knowing we did our best!
Posted on March 16, 2017
I don’t know if I have mentioned it before or not, but Bean is doing her schoolwork by homeschooling this year. I have written about the many forms of education that are available to children. Some seem to conflict with mainstream ideas, some seem to be a great compliment. As with so many things that we choose of doing these days, there are groups of people advocating for and against the many different methods of learning. Homeschooling is right at the top.
Honestly, I am not a big fan of homeschooling because I have rarely seen it done well. I know your family probably does a great job at it, if you are homeschooling your child. What I mean is, I have read books about families who have homeschooled their children and enrolled them in universities at very young ages. I have read blogs by people selling their home school curriculum. In my life, have met less than a handful of families whose methods I would want to replicate in my family. They are the shining stars and examples many would do well to follow.
When I decided to go on the road with Bean, deciding to home school was a BIG deal. I researched the best method so that she could self teach. I did not want to be chained to her side showing her what to do. This is not what teachers (most) do in public schools and not something that I find beneficial as a teacher myself. I feel it is important that she learns to THINK and problem solve on her own. How will she learn what she needs to know if I am always there to give the answer and tell her how to find the solution. I was fortunate to find a method that I felt would work for us.
Coming to France with a homeschooler was another thing altogether. The first time that I visited France, there was no such thing as a homeschooler. Well, maybe, but not in the circles that I frequented. I asked about it. Many religious people in the United States often seemed to home school their children. At the time, everyone here in France told me that they thought it was illegal. No one they knew did it.
This year, with surprise and disappointment, I find homeschooling on the rise here in France. When I began to look for families in France with whom Bean and I could share time with, I wanted to find families with children. There were many to choose from that also homeschooled their children. “Great!,” I thought. Bean is such a social child. She could interact with other children and do her schoolwork as well. This way, I felt that she would not miss her school too much. She had been at her small private school for over two years, attending the summer camp program as well. She liked every social aspect of school. I knew she missed it, but we were happy for the opportunities she would have here in France.
The first family that we interacted with were not only homeschoolers, but unschoolers. I had spoken with the mother in advance and she said that the children did real lessons. I imagined Bean working at a table with other children who would urge her to do more challenging work. I was appalled to find that, no, in fact the children did not do lessons often. When given the directive to sit and actually do some work, the children yelled, cried and screamed. The mother eventually gave them the answers to all the work they should have done. Poor Bean looked amazed. She sat at the table and finished her work as I will not have that type of behavior in my family.
This wasn’t the only family. We have met many homeschooled children in France. I wish I could say that my mind has changed and homeschooling, and more specifically unschooling, is an amazing way to educate children. I am sorry to say that I have yet to find a great example here. I know this is a new thing in France. I know that there are not as many curriculums available as in the United States. There may be other challenges as well. In spite of it all, surely there is something better than what I have seen. These children are not educated at all. They run wild and may have great imaginary adventures. Often, they are sitting in front of screens wasting the day away. They not aware of the world outside of their home. Really. Some have never seen a map. It is a pity.
I understand that some parents feel that the school systems are not giving children adequate education. I understand that they want to give their children a childhood filled with joy and fun and hands on learning opportunities. These are all good ideas, but to me, they are just an idea. I have not seen this type of schooling executed successfully. These children are the same ages as my nephew and nieces. However, they can barely read. They can barely write. When they speak, their speech is full of grammatical errors. I am horrified. What will they become? What can they do when they are grown? At least they can count to one hundred.
My nephew and nieces go to school. They do schoolwork, but they are also some of the most free-spirited children that I know. They can literally bounce off the walls. They travel, they run around and play for hours at a time. They use electronics and interact well with other people from all walks of life. They read tons of books and have so many activities I get tired thinking about it. It is not that their parents make them do these things, they want to take part in these activities. They have fun and enjoy life as children.
As a single parent, I admit that I am also a strict parent. I feel that I must have rules and consequences as I am the sole disciplinarian. Giving Bean boundaries makes life simpler for both of us. From what I see, many parents who choose unschooling are lashing out at their upbringing and the authority that was in their life as young people. They often focus on making a living and neglect the education of their children. I have so much pity for their young children. Because their parents don’t want or choose not to tell them what to do, they don’t know the basics of so much of what is important in life. They haven’t been taught table manners. They jump on the chairs and lick their plates. At least they come to the table! They have trouble concentrating on a task, running from one thing to the next every few minutes. The way in which they interact with the outside world leaves much to be desired. I wish I were exaggerating, but I am telling the truth.
I feel a little sad to share this as I had such high hopes for homeschoolers here in France. In fact, this is the downside of wanting to know everything about a country. You are no longer enamored with the picture perfect idea that you have been given through memoirs and travel videos. You aren’t a tourist. You see the place as it is without the rose-colored glasses. In spite of it all, the land is beautiful. The people we meet are generous. Their choices are their own, as mine are my own. I can only hope that their children will receive what they need to mature and cope in the world as adults.
I know the right to educate our children as we see fit can be a volatile topic of discussion. However, I would like to know your thoughts about education for children. Next week I’ll tell you what Bean and I do to keep things simple and learn at the same time.
Posted on March 9, 2017
For the longest time, I have not eaten meat with four feet. I find it difficult to eat something that could be a pet. There are movies about pigs as pets, horses, rabbits, and cows also. In the United States, it is normal to have cats and dogs as pets. Therefore, I find it very difficult to even think eating them.
We travel so much in different types of homes, so I have tried to become more open about the foods that I eat. There are travelers who insist on only eating organic foods, staying vegan and following a strict diet. I know how much stress that causes a host, so I try not to be that person.
When we were invited to come to this place so that we could speak French and maybe help out a little on the farm, I said yes. There are children with whom Bean can play. There are animals for her to touch and follow around. She can feed them if she wishes or do her own thing. There are pigs, cows, ducks, chickens, cats, and geese. There aren’t a lot, but she can see more here than at a petting zoo.
The lady of the house let me know that if I came, they would be killing a pig so that they would have the meat for the rest of the year. I have always heard terrible things about the way animals are killed in factories. I have also heard the way animals are killed on organic farms. In my mind, I found it difficult to have a concrete idea of what it would be like to be present when an animal was killed for food. I wanted Bean to see the process so that she would be aware of where meat comes from as she is already knowledgeable about vegetables and fruit. I also wanted a concrete understanding about the killing of animals.
We woke up early in the morning and prepared to see the event. The butchers arrived with the pig and put her on the table. The men of the farm strapped her down and held her along with the “killer” as he is called in French. He thanked the pig for her life and for giving her life so that they could have meat. After which he killed her very gently but forcefully. It was only slightly uncomfortable to watch as it is truly a part of life which has taken place since the beginning of time. I think once I understood that, along with watching the pig give her life, it wasn’t as difficult as I imagined it would be to watch an animal be killed. Bean wasn’t happy about it, but she didn’t scream or throw a fit. She didn’t beg for the life of the pig, which were all possibilities. It was a real life science lesson.
The women of the house took the blood to make blood sausage and the butchers continued to do their job. I stayed as I found it fascinating how the animal transitioned from a living being to food meant to nourish a family. The butchers remained respectful throughout the entire process. Watching them, I realized that all the time I have spent not eating this type of meat, I had forgotten about their job.
The butcher must know the location of each organ and where to make the correct cut so that he doesn’t chop up something that might be used for a specific recipe or a particular cut of meat. They do this by memory. They don’t have a chart to show them where these parts are on each different animal, whether big or small. That is amazing. They did a beautiful job.
After the animal was carved and taken to the cave to cool down until the next day when the family would make sausages and salt the meat for the coming year, we all went a had a drink: Pastis. I have heard it was very strong and not at all nice to drink. I enjoyed my glass. I drank with the real men of the Aveyron region of France. I feel special. They told me that normally the men drink and the women keep on working. This was a joke as everyone took time to have a drink.
I am very thankful for the opportunity that I had to experience this event. I have more respect for the people who kill animals for food,along with the people who prepare the food made from animals. I realize that when I refuse to eat certain types of food, I am also forgetting about the many people who make certain food possible for others to eat. I will remember this in the future and be grateful for what goes into my mouth. Who knows, one day I may even be able to eat a nice pork chop.
Updated on March 4, 2017
Between the weather and our complacency, Bean and I took a long time to get out and visit some of the sites in the Loire valley. This is a beautiful area, and if it didn’t rain nearly every day, I may have been more enthusiastic about seeing more. We were given two sunny, though cold, days last week. I went to the train station, bought our tickets and we were ready to go exploring. Though Bean was happy to see castles where princesses once lived, she was more concerned about what she was going to eat. While waiting for our train to arrive, we found bread and cheese and had a little picnic style lunch on the train.
Walking around the Chenonceau Castle, it hit me that I was living a dream. Since I came to France the first time years ago, I always wanted to visit castles in the Loire valley. I was doing it. In total, we have seen three of the many that are here. We walked from where we are staying to the Chateau de Tours, took the train to both Chateau de Chenonceau and Chateau de Amboise, though not all on the same day.
All of the castles were impressive, though the Chenonceau Castle was my favorite. We were not able to see everything that the castles offered since our visit was in the winter and many of the activities are not offered. I plan to come back one day when Bean is older and ride our bikes through the countryside as we continue to explore the Val de la Loire.
Posted on February 23, 2017
I was watching a documentary the other day and one of the men said something that stayed with me. He said that if many American people were given a long time to just do nothing, they would not know what to do. They are so plugged into social media, television and the daily rat race, leisure time would drive them crazy. I can relate to that. There are many people in my acquaintance who would not be able to just sit still and enjoy a beautiful sunset. Thankfully, because of my minimalist mindset, I am able to enjoy doing nothing. I have become quite good at it.
The few weeks we have been in this place of rest, I have been quietly content. I have had fun playing house. I consider it playing because at this stage in my journey, it is not something that I need to do “for real”. I have gone to the grocery store and bought groceries. Bean and I have cooked meals together, just for ourselves. We have taken long, long walks together. Bean hasn’t complained that there are not lots of stores to visit as we tell each other elaborate, ridiculous stories and sing silly songs. Sometimes, I even get out of my comfort zone and play follow the leader.
I know that there are beautiful castles to visit wherever we choose to go, however, I am mildly interested in it. For one, almost every day has been cloudy and gray. I don’t want to put forth a lot of effort to see a castle on a grey day. The way I see it, they have been here for hundreds of years. They will still be here when I come back again. We will see at least one before we leave, I am sure!
I am amazed when I think about my current self in contrast to my former self. My former self was all about maximizing every opportunity to do everything. My current self is content to just be here. My former self would rise early and plan every detail of activities for the day. My current self is content to know that we will be eating breakfast, lunch and dinner on time and the Bean is doing her schoolwork as she should. I don’t think that this current version of myself will last for the rest of my life, but for the moment, I am content with her.
I do my daily routine and many self-care activities. I eat well; I remain interested in life and people. I am ready to move on when the time comes to get back on the road. Just for this week, the itch is not as loud. However, as I write, read and research, I feel the wanderlust there, just below the surface. There is always someplace new that I have not yet visited. I still want to go.
Indeed, travel changes you. In the past, I found it amusing to need a vacation during a vacation. Now, it just makes sense. There is a great big wonderful world outside of the door, waiting to be explored. But today, it can wait.
Updated on February 10, 2017
Honestly, I do not know whether I am tolerant or not. Tolerance is something that most people strive to be these days. Tolerant of other’s religions, of their sexual preferences, of their food choices, of their political leanings and so much more. While people are the same everywhere, when traveling, most people stay in their own homes or hotels and they don’t need to interact too much with those who are different than themselves. Their level of tolerance isn’t tested too much. When we travel, Bean and I do our best to adapt to whatever the situation is, wherever we happen to be especially as we stay in other people’s homes so much. I feel as if my tolerance is continually tested.
In the last few months on the road, Bean and I have come across many families and individuals whose habits at home are not the same habits Bean and I share when we are home. I have done the best that I can to explain to Bean that even though we may be spending time with individuals different than ourselves, we will not be bringing their habits to our home. They are not acceptable. Does that make me intolerant?
In case you don’t understand what I am saying, let me make it very clear. We have stayed in the home of people who think it is no big deal to eat a bag of chips and leave the bag laying on the floor with the rest of the trash that didn’t make it into the garbage can. They see nothing wrong with having mountains of dirty laundry in every room. If they take off their dirty underwear, it can stay wherever it falls on the floor. There are others who don’t mind having six cats and a huge dog coming in and out of the house whenever they please, climbing on the table and counters, sniffing the food, shaking hair and dirt in every direction. Some people are not bothered by hundreds of flies buzzing in the house, falling in the food and crawling over the food they are preparing to sell at the organic market. I guess they feel it will add a little more flavor.
I like Bean to be around other children as well. This is also a challenge as there are so many parenting styles we must encounter. There are the parents who yell and scream at their children as the children yell and scream back at them. There are the parents who allow their children to demand them to obey and they follow their children’s orders without blinking. There are others whose children are allowed to hit other children or tell them how dumb they think they are. There are the parents who feel the best thing they can do with their child is give them an electronic device and leave them alone. That is just naming a few.
As I travel, I do so with the understanding that people do not share the same temperament. However, as I meet new people and stay in their homes, I am surprised that they are not as hospitable as you would expect of someone who is opening their home to others. There was the Airbnb host who demanded her guest to take out the trash. When the young lady said she didn’t have time, she demanded that she move from the room she was rented to another room. They didn’t reach an agreement, so the host followed the girl to her job and made menacing remarks to her supervisor. I was shocked. I spoke up for the young lady. This was unacceptable behavior! It didn’t put me on the host’s good list, but I felt it was necessary. The young lady moved out, which was for the best.
This past week was the most difficult. It could be that I am tired. I could be that I was trying too hard, but it really took something out of me. We were in the home of someone I knew to be difficult, opinionated and set in their ways. I still went to their home with the idea that I could help. I am overly optimistic that way. Bean and I showed up ready and willing to have another great adventure, but nothing we did was enough. There was no amount of adjustment to our situation that would have been enough, short of being completely subservient.
I was criticized because Bean needed new shoes, because I like to run in the morning, because we like to go the library and read books, because I drink mostly water, because we eat kiwi at night, because Bean and I hold conversations during meals, because I like the city more than the country. The list goes on. What upset me the most, but also lit a fire in my spirit, was when I was yelled at and told by this individual that he HATED single mothers. “Women need a man to tell them what to do!” This single mother, advocate for the rights of women everywhere, had enough.
Needless to say, we are no longer at that location. I have decided to take some time in the next few weeks to just hang out with Bean. I don’t really feel like meeting new people or interacting with locals. I just want to read, lay on the bed, watch lots of T.V. or do whatever I want for a while. I don’t want to help anyone with their projects at their home or to improve their language skills. I am going to be selfish for a few weeks.
We are in a beautiful area of France famous for magnificent castles. I didn’t choose the location on purpose; the price for the lodging happened to be really good. I am looking forward to going out in the next few weeks and seeing some of the places that have long been on my list of things to do. In my optimism, I see how great life is. One door shuts and another one opens. It leads you to the place you really want to be and you must step through it. There may be bumps in the road, difficult people and events, but in the end, life is beautiful!
Posted on February 2, 2017
I get asked often “How do you do it; travel so much with a child.” I don’t pretend to be an expert. I am only a single mom with one child who travels quite a lot. I strongly believe that travel with children is possible and an enjoyable adventure that every family, regardless of the size can undertake. Here is the thing I have discovered though: parents must believe that it is possible.
For parents, with children at home, reading about our adventures, wishing to do what we do, I would like you to know that it is possible. It is simple. The first step to leaving home is not when you are headed to the airport. The first step begins when you decide in your mind that it is possible for you and your family to take a trip together. After that, everything will fall into place.
As Bean and I go exploring the world, one of the most common phrases I hear is that I am a courageous single parent and that Bean is lucky. Bean is lucky, but most importantly, Bean has no idea that what she is doing is unusual. It is what we have always done. From the time Bean was five months, until now, she has been on the road. Her lifestyle, by design, seems normal to her.
I have been blessed with Bean. We have our difficulties as a mom and daughter who are together a large percentage of the time, but we share a love for the road. We work well together. I tend to be strict with Bean in terms of being polite and having proper manners, but for exploration, Bean is free to do as she pleases. Sometimes, I turn my head in the other direction so that she can REALLY do anything. I don’t want to say something to stop her exploration. I find that is the key to our travels. If I tell my daughter that she can do anything, I must allow her to do anything. I must what she does. I must demonstrate through my actions many things that she can do.
Here are a few things we do together to make travel with this kid possible:
1. We share activities and responsibilities- I realized early on that children can help out around the house. When Bean expressed an interest in sweeping, washing dishes or folding clothes, I let her do those chores. Even if they are not done properly, Bean can help with every day duties. When we leave the house, she carries her own bags.When she was too young to carry her bags, she helped me pull the suitcase, or carried her stuffed animals. Whether we are taking a walk around town, going to school or to the airport, Bean is responsible for her own things.
2. We choose locations together- as much as possible. Bean is learning geography as we go. She may also have an interest in places in the world I would not think to take her because of her age. If the price is reasonable, and the location is safe, if Bean says she wants to go and see something, we do it. In this manner, she feels as if she is part of the decision making process and is more likely to have a great time when we arrive because she chose to be there.
3. We interact with locals- By going places where the local people hang out, Bean gets first hand knowledge of what every day people do. When we go to conversation groups, Bean can share who she is and what she likes. She also feels as if she is helping people to speak like she does. At libraries, cafes and the park, Bean can interact with other children and make friends. We often use home sharing services when we are looking for a place to stay. We also use volunteering/ cultural exchange websites to meet people who are also interested in meeting us.
4. We do some of the same activities in every town- Everywhere we go, we take walks, visit bakeries, do school work, have movie night and the same bedtime. Bean may be in a foreign country, but the activities are not foreign, therefor making adjustment to different languages and cultures much easier. Once I discovered this secret to traveling with children, life became more tranquil. We do take the time to visit museums, amusement parks and other tourist attractions, but often we limit them to one a day. If there are many places that I simply HAVE to see, we take it easy by starting out in the morning with one attraction, lunch and a nap, another minor attraction in the evening, followed by dinner and bedtime. In this way, Bean is rarely exhausted to the point of displaying extremely bad behavior.
5. We keep it simple- Minimalism is the key. We each have one suitcase, and a few clothes. Bean has a few toys, a few books, some crafts. Everything we have and everything that we do is of value to us. We choose activities that mean something to us, not something the guidebooks and travel forums say that we MUST do because we are traveling with children. If we choose to go to a restaurant, we go because it is something that we enjoy. We choose a restaurant where the food and atmosphere is of interest to us both, even if it is fine dining. I accept that there will always be something that we did not do; something that we did not see. That fact does not bother me at all. If we saw everything, there may not be anything for which to come back.
I believe that life should be simple. Often, we make things more complicated than they should be. Travel with children can be enjoyable, interesting and possible. When more parents believe this and began to make plans by preparing their finances, choosing a location and getting out and experiencing it for themselves, Bean will no longer be considered so lucky…but she can live with that!
Please, share with us what you do when traveling with kids. If you haven’t yet traveled with children, but traveled as a child with your parents, what do you remember from that experience?