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 Windwalkers
I’m the dad, Talon, age 43. My son Tigger is 10. We’re both adventurous spirits. Tigger got his nickname because he doesn’t just walk, he bounces, and he’s all about having fun and keeps me laughing.
Where are you now, where have you been and how long have you been traveling?
We are currently in Utila, Honduras, and have been here for 7 months. We began traveling in May 2011 and have been to Mexico, Cuba, Belize, Guatemala a couple of times, and Honduras.
Why do you travel as a family?
We are full-time nomads currently. We began this journey because I wanted my son to be more of a global citizen, to feel connected to the larger world rather than just his native country of the US. I also see so much value in how other cultures view community and family and wanted him to grow up with those same values. In addition, I have worked in health care for many years and have been around the dying for long enough to have heard a common thread with many people who on their death bed look back at their life and remember all their regrets. I decided I’d rather get more living into my life NOW. On my death bed should I have the ability to still reminisce and communicate with my family, I’d rather we spend that time going over all the adventures we experienced than the all the things I wish I had done but didn’t.
What are some of the benefits your family has experienced as a result your travels?
Tigger had some issues significant issues with anxiety and had to be medicated to make it through normal days in public school. Since we have been traveling together he has been able to be removed from all meds. He is also extremely more functional, far more independent, less anxious, more carefree, more social, and has a much broader level of acceptance of others. We have been able to spend some serious quality time together. He also became a junior open water diver and so far has logged 27 dives, something we wouldn’t have been able to afford back home.
What inspired you and your family to incorporate travel into your lifestyle?
I have always loved travel. A couple of years ago I went to the Philippines as part of a medical mission to do surgical repair of children with cleft lips and palates. While there I was so awestruck by their sheer joy in the face of so much poverty, their fierce sense of community, how they take care of each other, etc., that I decided I wanted my child to be raised in other cultures. I was concerned about his ability to handle that with his anxiety, but then in 2010 I went on a trip to Peru and while there got to meet with the Vogels, a family bicycling from Alaska to the bottom of Argentina. Nancy is a special ed teacher, and we had a nice chat about her observations, experiences, etc., and it really got me thinking. I returned home intent on expanding my son’s experiences and we planned a trip to Africa that rapidly evolved into our current lifestyle. As a single parent I really wanted to get more quality time with my son, and that wasn’t going to happen with me working 8+ hours a day and him going to school and daycare. I wanted to be able to give us both more of a life together than a few passing hours each day.
How do you address education while you are traveling?
We have a LOT of teaching moments. We make travel decisions together and talk about areas we’ll be visiting. I think our biggest one was when we decided to go to Cuba. That opened up so many areas to address prior to our departure. His math skills have improved by getting used to doing foreign currency exchange for each country we’re in. On our little island where we’ve lived the last 6 months he has a great amount of independence, and so he can do some grocery shopping, go pay the utilities for me, etc. This has exposed him to much more than he would’ve experienced in the States. He has learned some history by personally visiting Mayan ruins, Cuba, etc. We use some online curricula, some educational TV, teaching moments, etc. He has had a nice intro to physics through learning to become a scuba diver as well.
How do you and your family experience being global citizens?
Through everyday life. We are exposed to the culture of the place we live as well as to many different cultures either through the dive shop where I work or through CouchSurfing. He is constantly evaluating the way others live compared to his current knowledge and reassessing what he values. We have an open communication style between us, and so he isn’t afraid to discuss observations and process them with me. I try very hard to not put my own way of thinking on him but to ask questions that help him flesh out what he thinks, feels, and believes, and I validate what I can and leave myself open to learn from him as well.
A bit unrelated but I also enjoy that our lives are contained within the 2 backpacks we carry when traveling. He is learning that life is not improved by “things” but by experiences.
Can you share one of your families most memorable experiences?
There have been so many, but one of my favorites was when we had been in Cozumel for a couple of weeks. He expressed to me how he had been very nervous when beginning our journey because he was afraid people would not be so nice. When I asked him what he thought now, he responded “Why can’t Americans be more nice?” He has seen how the world is really full of amazing and wonderful people. My second favorite experience would probably be when he saw something on TV that said they were located in Havana, Cuba, and he turned to me and said “That isn’t Havana!” He was right, and I loved that he knew that.
Can you share one story from your travel experiences when you and your family had an “aha moment”.
The first thing that came to mind was when we were in Cuba. There are many people who sell food out of their homes. They are called peso shops since you buy it with the Cuban peso rather than the more expensive CUC. We had stopped at one place and bought some breakfast. They hand it to you through their window and you eat it while you’re standing on the sidewalk. Cubans LOVE children. When the woman saw Tigger trying to balance a plate and a drink, she couldn’t bare it. She opened her front door and had us come into her home to eat. As we talked she told us if we ever needed anything, there was trouble, whatever, to come straight to their home. She wouldn’t let me pay for his food either. Another time Tigger was thirsty. I stopped a man walking by and asked where we could buy some water. He started guiding us and saw a man sitting on his doorstep. He told him the boy was thirsty, and the man got up and brought my son a glass and some water to give to him. The fact that my son was experiencing TRUE community like this first hand hit me hard, and I knew I had made the right decision. Every time he says “Remember when in [insert country]. . . “ I can’t help but smile.
Your guess is as good as mine. I have been applying for scuba instructor jobs in other countries. However, if nothing comes up with those by the time we feel it’s time to move on, then we will head back to Guatemala. I really love that country and want more time there. Then we’ll continue our journey southward until the wind blows in a different direction.