This weeks interview is from Molly & Blake McHugh of southamericaliving.com. Their website has extensive information on traveling and living in South America, including free travel and living abroad guides for the countries Argentina, Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Chile, Colombia and Uruguay. They lived and traveled in South America for over 4 years, and have lived abroad for over 9 years. They are expert budget travelers and Molly recently completed a free 110 page eBook “Cheap Places in South America & Budget Travel Tips”. Email editor (@) southamericaliving.com for your free copy or visit the website: www.southamericaliving.com.
What was your travel style like before you had children?
I was a very young, eager-eyed, backpacker, going solo to Asia at the age of 24, visiting Thailand, India & Nepal. Then a trip to Europe at age 26 (worked at a bakery in Paris for a few months). When I returned home after my trips all I wanted to do was put the backpack back on and head out. The world was incredibly more exciting than jobs that hardly covered rent and college tuition loans!
What ages were your children when you started travelling with them?
My son Blake was around 2 years old on his first trip to Mexico, we got turned back at the border for lack of documentation that they hadn’t told us about so the airline comped us a few days in Los Angeles! Went to the LA Zoo, beach, it was pretty fun and I got two free round-trip tickets which I then used to take my Mom on a trip with us the following year (Puerto Vallarta). The next year it was Florida (Disney World, Kennedy Space Center, beach fun) – courtesy of good paying jobs in the tech field.
In the U.S. we took daytrips amost every weekend when my son was young; the train from Seattle to Vancover to go to their science center, ferry rides to islands outside of the city and hours at the beach, etc. I’m simply not a very sedentary person, like to be on the move and explore.
Why did you decide that exposing your child to travel was important?
At first it was just fun vactions kind-of thing, and of course trips to Disneyland and Disney World as it’s so fun with a young child. But then it became more of a serious, “It’s time to take a new direction in our lives and move abroad” kind-of thing, prompted by the U.S. economy, 911 and the re-election of George Bush, not my favorite president.
What is your travel style now that you travel with children? How did it change from before you were a parent?
We are hard-core, experienced travelers at this point… my son is now 15 years and has been to 4 continents and 17 countries. He has attended schools in Mexico, Guatemala and Bolivia and been on far too many bus rides. I began traveling slowly as a parent, too stressful – and expensive! – to jump from place to place with a child/teen in tow.
Plus, my son and I have always traveled with a dog – Buster the Rat Terrier who is now 13 years I’d be amiss to mention Tiger… the chihuahua-mix Christmas puppy bought in Ecuador 4 years ago. We are quite a crew 🙂
What has been the most difficult thing about traveling with children?
Increasing costs, more than anything. As he got older it was basically paying for two adults, and that is not cheap on a $1600 USD monthly budget that we lived off of for most of the time. I work part-time, but it was nothing stable to count on month after month, just extra-cash to have more fun when we had it.
What has been the most rewarding part of traveling with children?
Having time with my son. When he was younger I worked full-time and he had to be in daycare (age 9 months to 4 years); it was tough, though I did always put him close to my work location and spent almost every lunchtime going to see him, nursing until he was 2 1/2 years!
What is your favorite travel memory of traveling as a family?
We traveled and lived abroad for over 9 years so it’s tough to think of one or even a few but I can share a couple recent experiences from our last 1 1/2 year or so travel leg that were very special.
We spent a two months in Tupiza, Bolivia (2011) and Blake made friends with the local guides who take tourists out on horseback rides through the Cordillero de los Chichas – gorgeous desert area that surrounds the town. He not only learned to ride a horse (including bare-back!), but helped care for them at the ranch and helped take other tourists out on trips; pretty darn cool.
Another amazing time? The Galapagos. Getting a 2 night, 3 day free luxury trip on the M/V Santa Cruz and spending close to two weeks exploring the islands. Absolutely incredible, still working on a travel guide to put up on our new website.
According to your child, what is their favorite part about travel?
Blake says: “Seeing different cultures and meeting different people.”
According to your child, what was their favorite place you traveled as a family?
Blake says: “Argentina.”
Note from Molly: “Blake loved Argentina and if it had been easier to get a resident visa and less expensive, we would have lived there more than a year. We both have many fond memories of living there and the people we got to know.”
According to your child, where in the world do they most want to travel to next?
Blake says: “Australia and Greece or some parts of Europe.”
What tips would you offer parents when it comes to travel with children?
Plan as best as you can – there is an overwhelming amount of information on the Internet now with tips and advice for traveling with children – but then try to be as open as possible to new experiences. Be thankful for the time with your child or children that many are not able to have and don’t let the negatives (being ripped-off, crappy food, whatever) get to you.
Stay appreciative of the gift of being able to travel, thanks to the modern world we live in and the hard work of many who have gone before us. Those airplanes didn’t create themselves, you know…
Are their certain destination or holiday types you would recommend for parents traveling with children?
Tourist areas in Mexico, Ecuador, Peru, Chile, Argentina – Iguazu Falls is awesome. Europe. So many areas. I know the hot spot these days in Asia, but we have yet to go there as a family.
I personally want to travel more in the U.S. (Hawaii, Alaska, etc) and will be writing this year on many U.S. destinations. The drawback is cost – it is very expensive in general – but hope to figure out a way to take some fun trips.
And finally, what are your upcoming travel plans?
Travel in the U.S. as much as possible and of course, write about it. Improve my skills as a travel writer and photographer. Brainstorm school options for my son who is now in highschool (we homeschooled the majority of time living abroad) and wants to study abroad.