You may be familiar with this weeks travelling with children interviewee, Bret Love, from his ecotourism blog Green Global Travel. But you may not be as familiar with his experience as a travelling father who seeks to educate his daughter about other cultures and the environment through travel. To learn more about ecotourism around the world, visit the blog, or follow them on twitter, facebook, pinterest, stumbleupon,
What was your travel style like before you had children?
Pretty much the same as it is now: Outdoorsy and adventurous, with a focus on wildlife andecotourism. It’s basically been the same for most of my adult life.
What ages were your children when you started travelling with them?
I took my daughter on her first trip, to Florida’s St. George Island, when she was just 3 weeks old. We have always traveled at least once a year, and once she was five I started taking her out of the country fairly regularly. She’s 11 now, and has been to five foreign countries so far.
Why did you decide that exposing your children to travel was important?
To expand her worldview, open her mind, and expose her to beauty of cultures very different from our own. I think travel for kids is the best possible educational experience, and I want my daughter to be able to see and explore things that most kids only get to read about in textbooks. We’re extremely focused on environmental conservation, and you really need to go to the mountains, to the rivers, to the coral reefs and the rainforests of the world in order to truly understand how vital it is that we protect those ecosystems for future generations.
What is your travel style now that you travel with children? How did it change from before you were a parent?
It honestly hasn’t changed. I never saw any reason why it should! I’m divorced, so if Mary and I are going somewhere that my ex might consider dangerous we don’t take my daughter with us. And there are some places, like Africa, for instance, that I want to wait and take her to when she’s older so that she’ll be able to fully appreciate and remember the experience. But in general my travel style hasn’t changed at all.
What has been the most difficult thing about travelling with children?
Her school schedule is probably the biggest problem we have to deal with. Holidays and summertime are usually the only times when she gets lengthy school breaks, and of course those are the most crowded times for family travel. I’ve ended up taking her out of school to travel a few times, but our school system refuses to recognize travel as an excused absence, even though most of our trips are extremely educational (like when I took her to Bermuda to study with the Bermuda Institute of Ocean Science).
What has been the most rewarding part of travelling with children?
Everything about it is rewarding! I get such joy seeing the look on her face when she gets to swim with dolphins, snorkel with parrotfish, parasail, feed sea turtles, and hike through jungles filled with monkeys and sloths. I see her growing in confidence, shrugging off fears that hold many adults back. I know that we’re planting seeds that she will sow for the rest of her life, and it makes me proud that I’m able to provide her with those experiences. It’s truly a blessing.
What is your favourite travel memory of travelling as a family?
Probably the first time Mary, my daughter and I went to Sanibel Island together. My daughter and I had been going there since she was a baby, and to see her wanting to show Mary the ropes of our special place just reinforced the fact that we WERE a family. For years it had been my place, then it was a home away from home for Alex and I. The fact that now the three of us all treasure Sanibel makes the trips we’ve taken there feel truly special.
According to your child, what is their favourite part about travel?
Alex Love: I love getting to see all of the different places we get to go, and all of the different things there. I get to learn about culture, and history, and wildlife, and I really like learning. When you get be in action and explore see it for yourself, it’s different from reading about it in a book.
According to your child, what was their favourite place you have travelled as a family?
Alex Love: I liked Costa Rica because there’s a lot of different wildlife there that you can’t see in the U.S., and I loved seeing the rainforest. But my favourite is Sanibel Island, Florida. I’ve been going there since I was a little kid, so it’s like a tradition for us. I love going through Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge because you get to see raccoons, turtles, birds and beautiful sunsets. The beaches have a lot of shells, and we also see dolphins when we go on the dolphin cruise. I know this might seem kind of silly, but I also really like the grocery store there (Bailey’s). It’s awesome!
According to your child, where in the world do they most want to travel to next?
Alex Love: I really want to go to Australia because there’s so many different climates there. I want to go to the desert, the beaches, and go snorkeling. I’ve been snorkelling since I was 5, and I used to be scared to do it. But now that I’ve done it so much, I really enjoy it. The Great Barrier Reef would be really awesome to see because there’s just miles of coral and lots of sea creatures.
What tips would you offer parents when it comes to travel with children?
Don’t be afraid! Kids are capable of so much more than we give them credit for. I personally believe that, by challenging their boundaries (and our own) and allowing them to explore their natural curiosity for adventure, we provide them with tools they’ll take with them long after we’re gone. My daughter is so much more mature than her age, and I think it’s because we’ve never talked down to her or made her feel like she was incapable of doing extraordinary things.
Are there certain destination or holiday types you would recommend for parents travelling with children?
No, because I think everybody has a different travel style. We really enjoy communing with nature, getting close encounters with wildlife, and basically being outside as much as possible. But we know many people whose idea of a good vacation is a cruise, or going to an all-inclusive resort where they never have to leave the hotel. Those folks think we’re crazy for traveling the way we do, but exploration and adventure are really what make trips exciting for us.
And finally – what are you upcoming travel plans?
Mary and I are headed to see polar bears in the Canadian Arctic in two weeks, but we don’t have any big family trips planned just yet. My goal is to take my daughter to Mexico in 2013 to swim with whale sharks and explore the Mayan ruins, but at this point we’re not sure where or when we’ll make that happen. Luckily, the Universe seems to help things fall into place when the time is right!