A Travellerspoint blog

By this Author: annevl

Cool Animals!

Leah's Story and Pictures of Animals We have Met in Peru


First of all, this is Leah and I LOVE animals!
One of the best things about being in Peru is that there are animals everywhere! Here are a few of my favorites.

Mr. Gibbs the Bunny

I met Mr. Gibbs at our very first hostal in Cusco. The owner told me that he was named by her daughter for one of the sailors in "Pirates of the Caribbean". My Gibbs was a playful rabbit and totally fine sitting on our laps. There was a garden in the courtyard and Mr. Gibbs liked to go there and eat the plants. I wish I could visit him again.

Socks the Cat

Socks is an interesting cat. She has mysterious patterns on his fur and sometimes knocks things over. Socks lives at a cafe called "The Meeting Place" where she likes to hang out with people and take naps. Socks gets mad when a dog comes inside. I like Socks because whenever she sees us he runs over to welcome us. She likes being curled up on a lap and has a great puuurr.

Mattias the Dalmation

Mattias is a really crazy dog! He belonged to the family we stayed with for a month. He hated fireworks and would do anything to get into our room if he was scared. He liked to jump up on our bed and on people. His hair got on all our clothes! There was a baby gate so that he couldn't get into the kitchen or living room. Zillah is way better behaved but it was nice to have a dog in the house. Mattias was certainly entertaining!
As a thank you and parting gift, we bought Mattias a new ball. I think he liked it a lot! Here is a video.

Federico the Flightless Parrot

On our trek to Machu Picchu we stayed with a family in the Jungle and met Federico. You have to be careful with him since he likes to nibble on your fingers and has a sharp beak. He is also very loud when he squawks. It was fun to hold him. He treated my finger like a tree branch.

Llamas etc.

We have seen lots of llamas and alpacas, sheep, cows, chickens, guinea pigs, and horses as well. Here are a few pictures.

We See Dogs Every Day


Thanks for reading my story about animals!

Posted by annevl 01:17 Archived in Peru Tagged animals peru kids dogs cusco Comments (7)

A Day in Our Life

A Glimpse at What We Do and Experience During a Typical Cusco Day

It has been a month since we first arrived in Peru - a month packed with new sights, sounds, experiences, and learning for us. Each day continues to provide unique moments and discoveries but we are also striving for some sense of normal. I can't promise you exciting - but here is a snapshot of a day in our life.

Good Morning!!!

On weekdays we wake around 7:00am, get dressed, use the munchkin bathroom etc. Showers are especially exciting. There is an electrical heating unit in the shower head that provides between 4 and 7 minutes of warmish water - depending on the strength of the pressure. We found that if you touch the knob with wet hands you get an electric shock. We now keep a dry washcloth nearby to use, much like an oven mitt.
Alex and Leah are not always super excited to get out of bed (it IS cold in their room). Note: there ARE 2 beds . . .


No surprises here. Breakfast is our most predictable meal. It looks exactly like this every day:
Our host family provides rolls, jelly, margarine, manjarblanco spread (toffee flavored), juice, tea, and coffee. We have bought ham, eggs, and yogurt to add to the selection. Gluten free eating is very difficult here - white carbs (potatoes, rice and bread) are an integral part of most meals.

On Our Way

By 8:10am we are out the door and looking to catch the eye of an approaching taxi driver. With Noah in the front of the taxi and the kids and I in the back, we embark on the 10-15 minute ride to school. As our Spanish improves, so does our conversations with taxi drivers. They are always surprised that we are staying in Peru for more than a couple of weeks and that we have not been to Machu Picchu. We have yet to meet a driver who has heard of Seattle - but there is always tomorrow. The rules of the road are still somewhat of a mystery - we only know that they involve invented lanes of traffic, horn blowing, and no turn signals. The trip costs 4 soles ($1) and saves us 45 minutes of walking uphill through the fumes of the morning commute.


There is a lovely view of Cusco from our classroom window. Classes begin at 8:30am. Noah and I are enrolled in group classes. The school is international but our current group includes fellow American Gabby (high school student from New Orleans) and Andrew (professor at UPenn). We are with one teacher 8:30am -10:20am and another from 10:50am -12:30pm. Lessons are a mix of grammar and conversation with some peruvian culture and history thrown in as well. Class begins with a review of the homework and questions from the previous day. New material is introduced and we have reading, writing and speaking activities.
Alex and Leah have a teacher to themselves and are in class from 8:30am -10:20am. They really like profesoro Alfredo who makes balloon animals, does card tricks, and keeps them learning Spanish. Noah and I meet them at the break and share a snack. They are then given either a math or writing assignment for the remaining time while we return to class.


After classes our first priority is finding a place to eat. Our family home is too far away and the school serves lunch only to residents - so we are on our own. There are at least 30 cafes to choose from within a couple of blocks. We've discovered that our best value option (besides Chinese food) is to find a good menu of the day.
At this cafe we each got fried wantons and a big bowl of soup as an appetizer, a main dish, a drink, and fruit salad for dessert. Total bill for 4 =40 soles ($16) - YUM!

Homeward Bound

At about 2 or 2:30pm we head out in the general direction of home. Any walk in Cusco involves at least a few stairs . . .
and diversions . . .
We usually stop at a market to pick up more water and/or other essentials. This one is our favorite because it is well lit, inexpensive, and close to our host family's apartment.

Afternoon & Evening

By the time we get back we are quite tired and tend to relax for the first hour or so. We check email and facebook, do our Spanish homework, watch the Olympics, read, etc. The four of us tend to hang out in one room (the warmest). Here is my view:
Dinner is served by our host mom between 6:30 and 7:30pm. After dinner we get organized for the next day, read, play a game, or choose a movie to watch as a family. Bedtime is around 9:30pm - which is quite early by South American standards but works for us. Ah, sleep . . .

Thanks for reading!
All the Best,

Posted by annevl 15:29 Archived in Peru Tagged food peru kids spanish school budget cusco Comments (7)

World Schooling -- Act 1

Homeschooling on the Road - Doing Our Homework

Getting ready to write part 2 - so re-posting part 1 for those who might want to read them together . . . IMG_1244.jpg

Act 1

"Education is not preparation for life; education is life itself." -- John Dewey

When we talk to other parents about our "year off" they usually say that they would LOVE to do something like that . . . but . . . what about school?

Schooling Doesn't Need to be a Deal Breaker

Doing OUR Homework

We've found that requirements for Home Schooling vary with each state. Washington is pretty easy. The Law basically states that:

  • We must file a declaration of intent with our local school district.
  • We must work with a certified teacher who meets with your student on the average of an hour a week. (Hey! Cool! Mom IS a certified teacher)
  • We must teach 11 required subjects -- reading, writing, spelling, language, math, science, social studies, history, health, occupational education, and art and music appreciation.
  • Students must take some sort of assessment annually (supervised by a certified teacher - could be Mom again)
  • We should keep some sort of records (not specified) of student instruction and progress.

We are also fortunate that Washington State's Grade Level Standards are spelled out for us to consult periodically. I will be meeting with the 5th and 7th grade teachers soon to let them know about our plans and get their take on essential skill areas we should cover. I bet they will have some creative project ideas for us as well.

Embracing a Teaching & Learning Philosophy

Just like when I was searching for the "perfect fit" Kindergarten, it has been easiest for me to start with what I DON'T want.
I don’t want . . .

  • schoolwork to be a separate and imposing add-on to our experience.
  • to lug around a bunch of workbooks
  • my kids to be bored or restless
  • them to return unprepared for their next year of school

We have a HUGE jump on making this happen because our kids have always loved their time at school. They have thrived at Thornton Creek academically, socially, and emotionally. I credit the Expeditionary Learning Outward Bound Model and excellent teachers for fully engaging them. My plan is to take what has been so positive about their experiences there and apply it to the world classroom.

Expeditionary Learning

Expeditionary Learning focuses on teaching in an engaging way while emphasizing learning by doing, character growth, teamwork, and literacy. The approach is experiential and project-based, involving students in original research -- with experts whenever possible -- to create high-quality products for audiences beyond the classroom. All subjects center around an assigned expedition that will spark students’ interest, support critical literacy, promote character development, create a sense of adventure and foster an ethic of service.

My experiences as both a learner and as a teacher have made me a believer of the effectiveness of this approach. It is easy to see how our trip itself can become our year long "Learning Expedition". I admit to being excited about the challenge and fun of guiding my own small class in the coolest classroom ever.

Gathering Materials


Both kids go through books like crazy and we can't imagine taking enough paperbacks with us - so we decided that investing in e-readers seemed prudent. After some research, we found that Nook Simple Touch made the most sense (Thanks Grandma and Grandpa for the Christmas gift!!). The reviews generally put the nook ahead of the Kindle because of the touch screen and lower price ($79 special offer).

We like that it has 2GB of internal memory and that we can expand that memory with a microSD card (up to 32 GB) -- That’s a TON of books! Noah figured out that we could get FREE e-books directly from the Seattle and King County Public Library and other sites - even overseas (I had my sister in Singapore try it out). There are advantages to being married to a technology geek. We can also share the same book on multiple devises - I'm thinking family reading group!

Our Favorite Portable Somewhat Educational Activities

A lesson learned from our travel experiences so far - there will be time to kill - so come prepared! Here are some easy to travel with games/activities that can be pulled out in the airport, train, bus station, cafe, etc.
Rory's Story Cubes and Rory's Story Cubes - Actions (We combined the sets for even better story making).
Crossword Cubes and Bananagrams (Word Games)
Ken Ken Math Puzzles both kids love and I find really hard! (We like the Will Shortz series) Puzzles are also available online.
Zeus on the Loose
Apples to Apples

Learning from the Experts

Some Great Family Travel Bloggers Have Written About Schooling While Traveling:

On Preparing for the Trip
On "UnSchooling"
On Learning Opportunities While Traveling (with 4 kids!)
Volunteering as a Family

I've found the reflections of Traveling Families once they have returned to be extremely valuable. Their End of Year "Report Cards" on schooling especially so -- Thank you bloggers!!
Wander Mom
Travels With A Nine Year Old
Six in the World

Home schooling Resources

Washington Home school Organization
Simple Home schooling
ADPRIMA (provides links to a variety of other Home schooling sites


Tune in Next Time!
Act 2 - Setting Ourselves Up for Success
What Will World Schooling Look Like for Our Family?


Kids Are Ready to Go!

Posted by annevl 17:00 Comments (2)

Volunteering as We Travel

Anne's Thoughts on Voluntourism

No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted.
(Aesop, "The Lion and the Mouse")


I think of volunteering on our world trip not as a chance for us to change the world – it is more like giving the world the chance to change us.

Why Volunteer?

I came upon this compulsion to volunteer quite naturally. It may be genetic. My parents are Peace Corps Volunteers (I don't say "were" because even though their actual volunteer time was over before I was born - I've always considered it an integral part of their characters). My three sisters and I were raised in a home brimming with guests from different cultures, exchange students, and expectations of community service. Their stories of volunteering in Malasia (Mom) and Thailand (Dad) were filled with anecdotes of how much they had to learn - rather than accolades of what the locals learned from them. I have taken that to heart.

Volunteering provides a unique opportunity to get involved in something bigger than ourselves – to forge relationships and open portals to understanding. I do believe that we have something to contribute, but I expect that the line between teaching and learning will be blurry at best. I am most looking forward to the people we will meet and the experiences we will share. I have SEEN things that have changed my perspective - but it is in the DOING, that risky leap of faith, the willingness to LEARN – that changes lives. I want that for myself and for my family. We can stretch ourselves to be more than tourists. For me, volunteering as we travel is more important than merely “seeing the world”.


Can you be a volunteer and a tourist at the same time?

Yes, of course! However, all you have to do is Google "volunteer thailand" to come face to face to face with the overwhelming number of options out there. I've found that narrowing them down requires time, patience, and clear personal "want/don't want" criteria.

While researching volunteering possibilities, I've found the term "voluntourism" or "VolunTourism" used predominantly by tour operators marketing a "unique experience" and a chance to "give back" to the communities involved in their specific trip. The package deals seem to cater to mostly "gap year" backpackers and retired folks - but some accommodate families - and look really cool. It is certainly tempting to have someone else in charge of arrangements - but I would say that paying to have the volunteer experience quickly went on the "don't want" list. There is no shortage of free or almost free volunteering opportunities the world over - they just require a bit more creativity and planning to arrange.

Our Version of Voluntourism

Well, we ARE on a budget, have limited time, and are travelling as a family - so we pretty much need to piece together our own opportunities. If we can do it - anyone can! Here is the WHERE, WHEN, WHAT, and WHY of the volunteer experiences we have lined up so far . . .

  • PERU July - October 2012

Cusco - We have made a personal connection and enrolled in 6 weeks of classes at an immersion Spanish School (AMAUTA) and their affiliate Travel Agency (DOS MANOS) in Cusco, Peru. We love that they have arranged for us to stay with a Peruvian family, the rates are super reasonable, and that Alex and Leah will have a teacher all to themselves. They also have contacts with local volunteer projects including a school. After 6 weeks of class we will be free to decide how to spend our time and where to stay - we'll be leaving ourselves open to opportunities. I'd especially love to put my ESL Certification to good use. Our hope is that spending four months in Cusco will give us time to participate in the community, learn some of the language, and appreciate the culture more richly.

  • CAMBODIA March/April? 2013

Ponhea Kraek - Our sponsored child, Neng, lives in this rural Cambodian village. We have been exchanging letters for the past 2 years and are excited to meet each other in person. We are asking Plan to make arrangements for us to spend time volunteering at the local school and hanging out with Neng and her family.

  • THAILAND May 2013

Chiang Mai -
Elephant Nature Park Oh, yeah, the kids are super excited about this one!
To volunteer here as a family we submitted an application, were accepted, and signed up months ago for our two weeks in the middle of May. This experience will be not only about the elephants. We will be living in a hut with no running water, getting up early, helping prepare communal meals, and putting in full days of labor - How could we not learn and grow from that? There is a fee associated with volunteering but the money goes directly to supporting the rescue and advocacy efforts of Elephant Nature Park - so I'm OK with that.
More articles about the Elephant Nature Park:
The Nation (Thailand)

  • CHINA June 2013

We are still working on setting up specific arrangements for volunteering in China - but we have a couple of great contacts there who have offered to help us with placements at:

a Panda Sanctuary outside Chengdu, and

an Orphanage near Beijing

Staying Connected

It is inspiring to read about the adventures of other travelling families. The Earlywines are my favorite. Here is a link to their blog about volunteering in Peru. Vagabond Family is also proving to be a great tool for connecting with families engaged in long term travel. Special thanks to BootsnAll for their Indie Travel Challenge and "giving back" blog posts that inspired this one.

I hope that we will all catch the volunteering bug during our trip - and don't recover from it when we return to our life in Seattle.

Thanks for reading, I look forward to your comments.

Posted by annevl 15:33 Tagged peru thailand china spanish family volunteer teaching esl language_school Comments (6)

"Must Have" Travel Gear

Anne's Favorite Things


As we prep for our trip - my ears have been to the ground for news of gear and products that could make our travel lifestyle easier.
Behold some of my old tricks and new discoveries!

Staying Fresh

I always travel with body powder (I get sample size bottles of Gold Bond) as a quick fix for moisture issues. It really helps with stinky shoes and sweaty backs AND can even get stubborn sand off your feet. I had not, however, heard of a powder shampoo. Turns out there is such a thing and it actually works! Oscar Blandi Pronto Dry Shampoo is perfect for transforming that day 3 without a real shower greasy hair into a more fresh smelling and presentable look. Love it!
Wet Ones Wipes and Pocket Pack Kleenex hang out in my purse whether I'm travelling or not but I have found them especially wonderful to have in scary bathrooms and napkin free eating situations - definitely "must haves".

Water Bottles

- Our house favorite is from contigo. You don't have to unscrew the top or squeeze the bottle, it doesn't leak, is PBA free, and the top is a built in clip.

Sun Protection

Protecting our fair skin is really important and not something to skimp on while travelling. We will bring and acquire the bigger containers of sunscreen lotion - but I've also found a good portable towelette for those times when we forget to bring lotion or need to reapply. We tested the SunX 30+ Towelettes this summer and I'm thinking they will come in handy for faces, necks etc. when we are exposed to the sun but not hanging out on the beach.

An Australian friend recommended these sun hats (Outdoor Research Oasis Sombrero), and although I feel a bit odd wearing them here - supposedly they are a standard wardrobe item down under. She insists that they are less expensive to buy in the US than "back home" and she was stocking up! Who knew?

Washing Up

Travelling light means there will be times when we'll be washing our clothes in the sink. Success in this endeavor comes down to 3 things in addition to quick drying clothes. . .

  • stopper for the sink - Any "universal plug" will do - but I've heard that they can be hard to find overseas.
  • soap/detergent The "Tide" Travel Sink Packets work pretty well and don't need to conform to the liquids requirements for carry-on luggage.
  • a drying system - We got the Rick Steves' Travel Clothesline which is basically a braided stretchy line that requires no clothespins.



Living in Seattle means we are all about comfort and layers - a good fit for travel, I'd say. Conveniently, we have both REI and ExOfficio stores nearby - so I can troll the sales. It is hard to believe that one (carry-on friendly) set of clothes will work perfectly for a Cusco Winter, Great Barrier Reef Summer, and a Mongolian July - but here is what I have collected so far . . .


ExOfficio Storm Logic Coat Love Love Love this coat! It is light (20 oz) but warm, has great pockets, and even folds into a built in stuff sack to become a travel pillow!
Ibex Women's Shak Vest - a soft-shell, stretchy, and less bulky option to the fleece vest. I've been wearing mine for both work and fun for over a year with virtually no wear and tear.


ExOfficio - absolutely the best.
Long Underwear - Lands End Silk



  • Women's BugsAway® Baja™ Long-Sleeve Shirt - I bought this on clearance and was then tickled to see primatologist Dr. Biruté Mary Galdikas in Borneo wearing the same shirt while hanging with orphaned orangutans in the "Born To Be Wild" movie - took that as a good sign.
  • Tank Top with built-in "real" bra - These are great for those of us who need more than the elastic "shelf" provided by most tank tops and want the connivence of an all inclusive lowest layer. I have the Perfect-Fit® Cami but am still on the hunt for a more perfect fit . . .

Also bringing a couple of light cotton T's - just because . . .



Royal Robbins Discovery Skirt (23in) -- Has a flattering fit, just below the knee, quick dry, lots of pockets, modest but still light - seems like a good choice.
ExOfficio Women's Nomad Roll-Up Pant - Had the best fit for me of all the convertible travel pants I've tried.
Women's Go-To™ Palazzo Capri - So comfortable and versatile I wear them to work AND use them as PJs. I think they will be perfect for jumping on scooters and nice enough to wear out to dinner.

BIG QUESTION -- Jeans or No Jeans? Please weigh in on this important decision!


A buff!

Yes, like "Survivor". I know, it seems a bit gimmicky - but Leah and I both got one for Christmas and have become converts. Here is Leah modeling her's:
Pashmina Shawl / Wrap / Stole - I've had enough veteran travelers tell me that this will be an indispensable accessory (blanket, scarf, pillow, etc.) that I went ahead and bought one. I'll keep you posted on its usefulness during our trip.


I've been testing out a number of different brands and styles and found 2 that top the list (Both Men's and Women's) for durability, comfort, and breathability :
My favorite darker, cool weather sock: smartwool (wool blend)
A great lighter, warm weather option - that feels like cotton but holds up much better and wicks moisture is ecosox (made of bamboo fibers).


Help! I am at a loss here. Can I travel in my 18 year old Sambas?
I don't plan on packing hiking boots and have heard that flip-flops work well for SE Asia, but is there such a thing as an every day sturdy shoe that can look presentable with a skirt and still survive the Inca Trail? I bought these Jambu Cherry Terra Sandals on Sale at REI but am open to suggestions.
What are your favorite shoes?


A valuable piece of advise I received from a travel savvy friend was to "test drive" and "beat up" our luggage before our trip. New luggage becomes a target and untried gear, a liability she said . . . I believe her -- So -- behold our luggage!

  • Travel Purse --Pacsafe MetroSafe 200 Shoulder Bag -- Juanchi gave me this for my Birthday and it has been my "go to" purse ever since. It has everything I need -- cross shoulder, medium size, not too many pockets, security features- basically a great bag :-)
  • Noah as the big Daddy gets to shoulder the responsibility of our biggest bag. It is flexible -- duffel, wheeled bag, or backpack-- but will need to be checked when we fly. The High Sierra 26 Inch Drop-Bottom Wheeled Duffrite can carry our liquids and overflow items that wouldn't otherwise fir in our carry-on bags.
  • Convertible Carry-Ons (can be a wheeled bag or a backpack)

The rest of us have carry-on sized luggage - 2 Eagle Creek bags and 1 Tumi. It was fun to shop Ebay for the best deal.

Packing Cubes

In addition to a supply of ziplocks, we will be attempting to pack efficiently with cubes, etc. We have a couple from Eagle Creek and LewisNClarke. I especially love the colorful ones my sister sent.

Little Gifts

We are looking forward to volunteering and working with children in Peru and SE Asia and wanted to bring along something (NOT candy) to share with them. It helps to have a school teacher in the family. So far we've collected pencils, stickers, and blow up globes.

"Down Time" Gear


E-Readers & Portable Activities

We like that the Nook Simple Touch Reader has 2GB of internal memory and that we can expand that memory with a microSD card (up to 32 GB) -- That’s a TON of books! Noah figured out that we could get FREE e-books directly from the Seattle and King County Public Library and other sites - even overseas (I had my sister in Singapore try it out). We can also share the same book on multiple devises.

A lesson learned from our travel experiences so far - there will be time to kill - so come prepared! A deck of cards is a "no brainer" but here are some additional easy to travel with games/activities that can be pulled out in the airport, train, bus station, cafe, etc.

Rory's Story Cubes and Rory's Story Cubes - Actions
Crossword Cubes
Zeus on the Loose
Apples to Apples
Magnetic Travel Chess

How We Feel About Our Gear at the END of this Trip Will Most Likely Make for an Amusing and Informative Tale. Can You Hang in There Till Then?

We Have Officially Booked our Flights From June 2012 through January 2013 (Peru, Chile, Easter Island, Tahiti, New Zealand, and Australia) with the Remaining Adventures (Singapore, Indonesia, Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, China, Mongolia, and Russia) to be Arranged as we Go. It is Feeling REAL!

Please Share Any Thoughts and/or Insights! We Would Love to Hear from You!

Posted by annevl 21:11 Comments (5)

(Entries 11 - 15 of 20) « Page 1 2 [3] 4 »