A Travellerspoint blog

December 2011

Victoria Victory!

Initial steps on the path to being an international traveling family

Canada_Bear.jpgIt's been a while since we returned from our trip to Victoria, and I wanted to answer the pressing question - "did we get arrested at the border trying to smuggle in a Chilean exchange student?"

In short, no. Thanks to all of Anne's pre-work at the consulate, the border crossings in both directions went very smoothly. Lesson learned to put in the time to figure out what paperwork you need for travelling, and persevere through the red tape...

Other lessons learned:

  • Speaking calmly and smiling is your best bet for smooth experiences with Border and Customs Control officers
  • Keep ALL your documents, and keep it all handy (e.g. keep your Victoria Clipper boarding pass for parking garage discount)
  • You can usually count on your fellow traveller - don't be afraid to ask
  • Don't be afraid to say "I don't know" to the kids
  • Don't be afraid to say "Let's try it" with the kids
  • Take a chance - you might like it (like Leah with the zip lines at WildPlay - she was totally scared of the unknown; but once known, she wanted to do more MORE MORE)
  • Carry paper copies of bus schedule, a good map, etc -- you can't count on wi-fi or GPS to work.
  • Talk to the locals, get suggestions, set out without specific agenda . . . you will find the best adventures that way.
  • Kids are driven by food. The smell of popcorn, the sight of a Starbucks -- leads to the immediate need to purchase! There's always a delicate balancing act between packing food and hoping to find en-route.

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Challenges:

  • From the kids: "it's nice to travel, but I'm really looking forward to going 'home'" -- what if "going home" is over a year away?
  • Packing: we still packed big bags for 3 days... but, we were able to carry it all. Re-emphasized that carry-on luggage is the way to go (we got to get off the Clipper first while the people with checked bags waited...)
  • Being there on time: as hard as we tried, we were pretty late getting to the boat to depart Seattle. However, we did get lucky with our "special room" on the Clipper to Victoria (primarily because we were late - and that the Clipper crew took pity on us)

Overall, a great trip. The city of Victoria is a fun place to spend a long weekend. We loved Roger's Chocolate, Miniature World (as cheesy as it sounds), walking through the Fairmont Empress, having lunch at the Parliament building, visiting the Royal BC Museum, seeing Sammy the Seal at Fisherman's Wharf, and swimming in the pool at our Worldmark hotel.

We're looking forward to going back to Victoria soon!
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Posted by noahv 10:44 Archived in Canada Tagged travel planning lessons Comments (2)

T.M.I. - Can We be Plugged in Without Being Tuned Out?

Navigating the Dark Side of Mobile Technology as We Travel

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pres·ent
n.

1. A moment or period in time perceptible as intermediate between past and future; now.
2. Now being considered; actually here or involved.
3. Readily available; immediate.
4. Alert to circumstances; attentive

For our upcoming adventure, one of my primary goals is to be present. I want to be open to new ideas, people, and experiences. I'm looking forward to being "out of touch" with my comfortable Seattle life sometimes as we explore the larger world. Ideally, my family will be on the same "Carpe Diem" quest – but will technology help or hinder us? I am anticipating some challenges . . .

Challenge #1

ME

I will start right off by confessing a dependent relationship with my iphone. I treasure the ability to call up Google Maps and just follow the purple line to my destination. I love having a portable calendar that is synched with Noah, three schools, and two soccer teams. I rely on my contacts list and the ability to "google it" anytime. Yesterday I called up my sister in Singapore and chatted with her on Skype face to face ON MY PHONE -- for free! How cool is that??!

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Although I admit that in many ways technology has made my life easier, I also get a bit sentimental about the days when DVD players didn't come standard in mini-vans and face-to-face conversations between people occurred regularly on trains and in coffee shops.

Pressing Questions for Myself

  • Do I really need the constant information and entertainment? Is being "bored" no longer an option? Staring out the window obsolete?
  • Does the fact that I CAN share experiences immediately via Facebook or Twitter make that a priority?
  • Is logging on to "Trip Advisor" better than asking locals or visiting the Tourist Office?
  • Will I be able to turn off the navigation system and fly by the seat of my pants?
  • Can I get OK with being lost or not knowing if the Sounders won?

Good thing we are writing a blog – and I can keep you posted.

Conversations with Strangers

When I was in my final month of Graduate school I was on a train from Boston to New York and struck up a conversation with the gentleman next to me (inspired by the books we were reading). Turns out he lived in Newport, Rhode Island and ran a sailboat chartering business. By the time we got to New York he asked me to send him my resume for a summer job. Despite the fact that I had never even been on a sailboat, I got the job -- and that one conversation led to two amazing summer adventures! I learned how to sail and got to live on Weatherly (a 12 Meter Americas Cup Defender) in Newport Harbor! How much I would have missed if I had been hooked into headphones on that train?

Challenge #2

NOAH

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My husband (and partner in crime) is an official computer geek and has worked in the wireless industry for over ten years. He will probably write a rebuttal blog entry extolling the virtues of modern technology tools.

He knows it bugs me when he chooses technology based connectivity over person-to-person conversation, looks up stuff on his phone during dinner, or worse – listens to his music on ski lifts with me! He usually respects my wishes. He may even make a solid argument about conversations via technology being no less valid. We shall see . . . .

Challenge #3

THE KIDS

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Does anyone else think it is strange to take a school age child out to a restaurant only to have him play on his DS at the table throughout the meal? I have seen this more and more in the past few years and was even sitting next to a family recently whose child was playing a loud game without headphones as the adults chatted over the noise. Crazy!

I drive by our local middle school almost every day and see a vast majority of the kids walking in groups but not talking to each other – they are either listening to headphones or texting. Is it unrealistic to hope that won't be my kids?

OK, so my kids don’t have a DS or a fancy cell phone, but I am not opposed to using the videos and games on my phone to entertain them during longer trips. I also think it can be positive for them to be able to "tune out" sometimes. listen to their own music, etc. We plan on purchasing e-readers for them before the trip (possibilities here) and will have my old Iphone loaded with their music - but otherwise we have some decisions to make.

Essentially I think that, for me, it comes down to manners. I am not OK with my kids being rude because they are distracted by their "devices". So we will have to set ground rules for appropriate usage. That will take a whole new post!

Challenge #4

Safety

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Tourists tend to make easy targets for crimes of all sorts.
Wikitravel has some good general tips for how to avoid being a victim as does the US Government.
Most major cities have warnings about pickpockets and scams.

The core message in these "alerts" is that we (as visitors) need to be alert and aware of our surroundings in order to avoid being a target of crime. I guess I'm thinking that pulling out an expensive tablet as a map or wearing headphones might make us seem wealthy, less attentive, and thus an even bigger target. What do you think?

Striking a Balance

When my sister and I travelled through Europe in 1988 it was with the ripped out pages from "Europe on $30 a day" as our guide. We called home every week or so, read whatever paperbacks we could find in English, kept journals, took lots of photographs (with film even), and sent postcards.

Our family 2012-2013 adventure will involve more sophisticated gear, but I believe that the essentials of travelling are the same. We can use technology to help us with all those things listed above and more. We will just need to balance our opportunities to "tune out" with our mobile devices (perfectly appropriate sometimes) with the goal of engaging with a new environment and soaking up the experience.

I think the key to achieving this balance and being more present is time. Our plans involve longer stays in fewer locations with community based volunteering jobs as well. We may cover less ground - but experience more.
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I truly hope my ramblings have sparked good conversations. Please share your perspective!!!

Thanks for Reading! Hope you get the "Presents" you Desire and We Wish You a Joyful 2012!

Up Next -- More on the Role of Technology as We Gear Up for "World Schooling" our Kids

Posted by annevl 20:30 Tagged children technology world trip safety Comments (6)

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