Traveling with Children and International Experience; An interview with Keri Wellman

by William Wellman / Oct 21, 2012 / 0 comments

To get a glimpse into family travel and the importance of international experiences, I sat down with Mrs. Keri Wellman, a mother of four and an accomplished international traveler, who shares the authorship of Bottles to Backpacks: The Gypsy Mama's Guide to Real Traveling with Children with Jennifer Miller.


Wellman family



How long have you been traveling?

I have been traveling for over 20 years. When I graduated high school, I sold my car, and used the money for a trip to Europe. I have never regretted it.


When did you decide to write Bottles to Backpacks: The Gypsy Mama's Guide to Real Traveling with Children?

The idea cropped up when I met Jennifer Miller during her family's year-long bicycle exploration of Europe. We realized that between the two of us, we had a lot of travel experience (mostly learned the hard way) that would be helpful to young families. Since we are both writers as well as educators, a book seemed logical.


What are the advantages of traveling with your children?

I love traveling with my kids, even though it is a lot of work when they are young. But kids tend to see things that adults do not, so one advantage is that as a parent, your children teach you to appreciate interesting details of any given location, from the sneer of a gargoyle to a peculiar pattern on an inlaid floor. These are things that adults can miss. Another advantage is that having kids with you can garner preferential treatment. Many times our family has been escorted to the front of the line at museums and so on, almost as if we qualify (with our 4 kids) as a school group. Another advantage is that kids get excited about things, and their enthusiasm has a positive impact on us as parents. Childhood is a very short time in the scheme of things, and so to be with my children as they experience new things is priceless to me.


Do you think that having international experiences will help your children in future?

Having international travel experiences has already shaped the way my children see the world. They are not leery of different cultures, but are curious about them. Any culture has good and bad things about it, and seeing those things in action helps my children to take the best things and apply them to their own lives.

Furthermore, traveling abroad opens many opportunities for my children that other kids may not have--such as easily studying overseas or having the boldness to explore the world on their own.

Travel gives my children a broader view of the world, and therefore they are better equipped to put good things back into the world, whether it is dealing with humanitarian issues or excelling in their own creative fields.

I also believe that international travel has taught my kids how to be flexible--a skill that is highly useful as they launch into adulthood.


Did you ever travel internationally as a child?

The only traveling I did as a child was within the continental US, and that type of travel came mostly in the form of tortuous family 'vacations,' which ironically stressed out everyone. During that time period, I learned a lot about what NOT to do when traveling with family.

However, when I was sixteen, I went on a trip to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico with the Spanish club, and while watching the sunset on the beach, my gypsy blood began to stir--I knew I loved travel and I wanted more of it. Not only was it my first airplane flight, it was the first time I needed a passport--very exciting stuff for a Midwestern girl!


Would international experience have helped in your previous jobs?

International travel would have helped tremendously when I was a graduate assistant at the University of Alaska--particularly when I was tutoring in the Reading/Writing center. If I would have had a better grasp on foreign language as well as insight to different cultures, it would have helped me to better meet the needs of the students. Furthermore, knowing another language would've helped me better understand English grammar--an understanding that could have aided me when teaching introductory English classes.


How has experience with international travel changed your life?

It has made me less afraid of the world and more likely to think out of the box.

When you get to know a culture, you discover what motivates people. And when you know what motivates people, it is easier to understand their actions and behaviors. That makes you more empathetic and more concerned with people who may be radically different from you.

I know that international travel has made me a bolder and yet more patient person. It has also had great ramifications in my profession as a writer.

Travel inspires me and stimulates my creativity, which is particularly useful in fiction writing. On a practical level, traveling and learning new languages gives you a broader vocabulary and allows for more unique word play when writing. I love tossing German words into my writing, assuming the reader can glean meaning from the text.


Is there anything you’d like to say in closing?

I wish that every child in America had the opportunity to travel abroad. It would open their eyes to the needs of their fellow human beings and help foster understanding between cultures. Amazing things would happen if children in the West today got to know their brothers and sisters across the globe.



You can find the digital version of Keri's book here:


And at






William Wellman is a member of the Youth Travel Blogging Mentorship Program


Photo courtesy and copyright William Wellman