Families on the Move
We have been blessed to connect with many amazing families online, all of whom have adapted a travel lifestyle in one form or another. We wanted to take the opportunity to introduce you to them here and highlight the positive aspects travel has had on their families. Welcome our interview series called Families on the Move. Miro & I are honored to a part of this global community we consider our extended family.
Meet the Amazing Traveling Van Loen Family
We are a family of four from Seattle, Washington.
Noah is a project manager consultant in the computer field. He is 44, loves snowboarding, golfing, cooking, and embarking on adventures.
Anne is a 42 year-old part-time elementary school teacher and full-time mom. She enjoys being with friends old and new, contributing her energy to positive endeavors, and watching her family thrive.
Alex is almost 13. He describes himself as, “amazing, smart, and a good brother”. Playing “minecraft”, soccer, ultimate frisbee, and talking with his friends top Alex’s list of favorite things to do.
Leah is an animal lover. She is 10 and describes herself as, “quick like a bunny, cute as a duckling, and wise as an owl”. Loving, helpful, sensitive, and something of a worrier, Leah’s trust is hard earned but worth the effort.
Where are you now, where have you been and how long have you been traveling?
We began out trip on July 4, 2012 and have been in Peru since then. We began with 3 days in Lima and then 2 weeks at a Spanish School in the Sacred Valley. We then moved in with a family in Cusco and continued our Spanish classes. Since mid-August we have been renting a room at the South American Explorers Club in San, Cusco and plan to be here till mid-October.
Why do you travel as a family?
Yes, most people travel BEFORE taking on major responsibilities (20s) or AFTER they have fulfilled them (retirement) – We thought we would split the difference and share the expereince as a family. Travel teaches perspective – and we want that! Our kids bring so much to this experience! They are keen observers and excel at asking excellent questions. They also keep it real and remind us daily to live in the moment.
What are some of the benefits your family has experienced as a result your travels?
This journey is WITH our children and we have been learning how to exist as four individuals and members of the family team at the same time. TIME itself has been our greatest gift so far. We are no longer trying to fit expereinces and conversations in around school and sporting events. Our kids know that they pretty much have our full attention all the time so it has ceased to be an iissue – no need for drama or competition. What a joy to just BE!
What inspired you and your family to incorporate travel into your lifestyle?
Anne’s parents were both volunteers in the Peace Corps and she grew up hearing their stories, living with exchange students, and valuing other culures. Our life in Seattle has been blessed by friendships, prosperity, and joy. We had no real reason to leave except the desire to push ourselves outside our comfort zones and to grow as individuals and as a family. Long term travel seems like a great way to do that.
How do you address education while you are traveling?
(Anne) An excellent question and one that I continue to grapple with. As an educator I feel pretty well equipted to teach my kids. After all, compared to managing a classroom of 27, two should be easy, right? My vision of what “world schooling” looks like for us as shifted in the few months that we have been traveling. I have found myself resistant to the “fit it in” lifestyle and my teaching has followed suit. I’ve been thinking more about teachable moments rather than meeting set standards. I can’t help but ask the occasional “leading” question – for example, “so . . if children get a 20% discount on the 10 soles adult admission, how much will it cost the four of us to visit this museum?”. . . and encouraging reading (we have a family book group), I have been letting go of some of the panic that my kids will somehow fall behind or be disabled by missing seventh grade Social Studies. I don’t need a stanardised test to know that they are learning, growing, and happy.
How do you and your family experience being global citizens?
We hope to be involved in the communities we visit as we travel. In Cusco we are enjoying our volunteering time at an after-school program and we have made arrangements to work at an Elephant Sanctuary in Thailand, a Panda Reserve and orphanage in China. As much as possible we are trying to stay with and meet locals. Couch Surfing is a great option and we have been touched by the number of hosts willing to accommodate a family of four!
Can you share one of your family’s most memorable experiences?
Our four day trek to Machu Picchu ranks high on our list of memorable experiences.
We learned that, as a family we can be flexible, supportive of each other, and enjoy the experience of being part of a larger group. The trek was not officially “family friendly” and the other members of our group were all young backpackers. But we did it and were not the slowest! The kids were unfazed and positive – they even helped their new friends navigate Peruvian customs and menus. When we returned, exhausted, to Cusco we really knew we were in this together.
Can you share one story from your travel experiences when you and your family had an “aha moment”.
One aha moment so far has been about “stuff”. We really don’t need it to be happy. The people we meet have little by way of physical possessions and live joyful lives. As a family we have gone from a four bedroom house to a single room – and it feels great! We now have the time to experience entertaining ourselves by inventing games, listening to music, playing cards, and having real conversations. We are making lasting memories every day. What a gift!!
From here we plan to travel through Chile, Easter Island, Tahiti, New Zealand, Australia, Singapore, Malaysia, Burma, Cambodia, Thailand, Indonesia, Tibet, China, Mongolia and Russia.