Travel and Random Acts of Kindness

by Dr. Jessie Voigts / Oct 31, 2013 /
Dr. Jessie Voigts's picture

Ever wonder what it is like to just pick up and go? To travel full-time, WITH your kids? We've shared many family travelers here on Wandering Educators, and there's always room for more - for each family travels in its own way, choosing what is best for THEM. We recently had a chance to catch up with Ruth Johnston, who travels full-time with her son. You can read more of their adventures around the world, at Exploramum & Explorason. It's the best of worldschooling, of learning on the road - and they epitomize the graceful traveler, as they focus on Random Acts of Kindness, wherever they go.

 

Guacamayo Ecolodge, Cuyabeno, Amazon Jungle Ecuador with an 8 year old

Guacamayo Ecolodge, Cuyabeno, Amazon Jungle Ecuador with an 8 year old

 

Please tell us about your site, Exploramum & Explorason...

We first decided to travel when I was working full-time - and actually coming home and then spending hours on my home business.
I was spending little time with my son, who at that time was 5 years old.

We talked and decided to make some life changes, and from that night, things seemed to evolve.

So I started my blog Exploramum & Explorason.

Even though it wasn't yet live, I was writing notes on the things to do to prepare for a world trip.

It also kept me motivated to work each day on at least one thing that would help us gain momentum, and move closer to our goal.

Now we have been traveling 16 months.

I try to blog on interesting places we visit, and also to include great places we stay.
If we take an unusual or difficult route, I include that, as I have found other travel blogs often give me hints on ways to travel that even the bus offices or locals will tell us is not possible. I read the sites of travellers who have achieved. Travellers who have done it, and made it through motivate me to explore the world less travelled.

 

Visiting Cuzco - an incredible Colonial city in Peru, South America

lsla Amanati, Peru

 

You focus on Random Acts of Kindness...can you please share more about your philosophy - and putting it into action?

My son was the first to suggest that a big part of our travels should be to perform Random Acts of Kindness.
When we were packing up the house, he put aside 40 kg of books, toys, and clothes to take to Fiji.
We contacted the airlines, who approved the extra baggage at no charge.

Once we arrived on our Fiji island, we were fortunate to stumble across a very remote village, which was quite poor.
So we hired a 4WD.  We raised funds from our friends and on our blog, and we bought the items that would help these people.

It felt so good to give.
In fact, we came back to our Fiji home (we were housesitting) and we wanted to give more.
We found two children whose father had died, and whose mother had left them.
We then bought what they needed for clothes, and helped with their food.
We paid for their education.
I loved the deep satisfaction when we helped others, and in fact giving became a bit of an addiction.

We then found a few people who gave us money to help the poor.
At other times, we just used our own funds.

We have been able to do food runs for the homeless several times on our trip.

We have also helped a lot of beggars, and a toothless grin, or a squeeze of a hand is a language shared.
I do remember we helped a beggar family in Bolivia.
She was as skinny as a rake. The children were filthy, and had head lice.
She was knitting a scarf to sell.
I was able to give her $50 and her eyes nearly popped out of her head.
She tucked it in her top so fast and tried to give me her scarf.
I declined, and she had tears in her eyes.
When we give, it is so important to do it so it really blesses them!

 

It is better to give than to receive - the poor of Cochabamba, Bolivia

It is better to give than to receive - the poor of Cochabamba, Bolivia

 

How do you and your son best learn, while doing long-term travel?

It has taken time for me to relax and not to force education.
We started out with my son going to school in Fiji.
We then changed to homeschooling.
Then I discovered world or unschooling.
I encourage my son in some areas, and I am amazed at what we have learnt as we move around.
I do find a trip to a museum or ruins is a great 'field trip'.
He writes a journal of his travels.
He knows countries, he can speak some Spanish.  We draw the flag, and we learn about the culture.
We use our budget for maths as well as currency conversion, among other things.

I have in the past tried to force formal studies, but it really isn't fair when we are already out all day exploring.
He may have a different education, but he is a smart boy in many areas.

Interestingly, the past two days we have connected with a family who are also traveling the world.
To see my son and their son exchange stories of the things they have seen and done is just so wonderful to listen to!

 

Las Peñitas, Nicaragua - and releasing 1 day old turtles

Las Peñitas, Nicaragua - and releasing 1 day old turtles

 

How can travelers best dig deeply into a culture/new place?

One of the best times we had was to go and stay on an island with a traditional Peruvian family.
The house had no electricity.
The island had no cars, and no roads.
We ate the food they ate, and we sat in their little room as she cooked over an open fire.
We then had a chance to dress in their traditional clothes and go to a fiesta.

I also stay at small hostels, hotels, or we Couchsurf.
This gives us the chance to meet 'real families'.
Most have been so kind and giving.
It helps us learn language and culture.

We also try to go to out of the way places.
The road less travelled.

We have found we often make friends like this and don't want to leave.

My son may go to the playground and meet the local kids.
They will then come back and play at our place.
I then get to talk to the parents, and sometimes we even get invited to their home for a meal.

We try to hire cars, or go by bus.
This way you see the landscape - not just fly to the next big city.

 

Uros & Amanati - Lake Titicaca, Bolivia; and a near mishap on the lake in a storm

Uros & Amanati - Lake Titicaca, Bolivia

 

What do you recommend parents that are looking into long-term travel do to prepare their kids?

Right from the start, my son and I made decisions together.
We talked through where we wanted to go, and how we would do this.
We planned and made decisions on what to keep and what to sell.
I never sold one item he didn't agree on (but we did have only 2 items he later regretted selling).

We prepared the house for sale together.
We made agendas.
I talked to his school as soon as I had decided and had meetings with them.
I then kept him home a few days so we could practice homeschooling.

Then we spent each weekend going for hikes, wearing small backpacks and learning what we needed.
We were so unprepared the first few times, but each time I came back with more of an idea of what we did and didn't need.
It also helped us to get fit.
We also worked together on trying to find activities that didn't cost money, so we could save.

I do think parents need to have realistic timelines, agendas for travel, and plans that will not exhaust a child.
But also the parent/s need to be able to paint a picture of an exciting new adventure you will be having together.

 

Is there anything else you'd like to share with us?

Travel is something anyone can do.
I hear people say they can't do it for all sorts of reasons.
But I believe if you want to dream big, you will achieve big.
My suggestion is to tell only a few people at the start that will motivate you to reach your goal.
It takes discipline.  It takes commitment.
But I now have a life that is a lot less stressful.
We don't live the high-life, in fact we live off an average of $50 - $60 a day excluding airfares.
We eat well, and I enjoy a glass of wine, and we buy new clothes as we need them.
But we are not wasteful.

We have learnt to treat ourselves when we meet up with friends.
We often haggle prices and ask for discounts at hostels and tours, and 9/10 times we are successful.

We still have a plan for next year.
We still plan for our next chapter in our travels.

I am proud that my son can now draw a map and plan routes for our travels.
I am proud he is a confident and happy child that can interact with others from many countries.
And I am proud of us both, because we had a really difficult life, and we made the decision to change it.
And now we are living our dream.

 

 

 

 

All photos courtesy and copyright Ruth Johnston

 

 

 

Full time travel - and random acts of kindness - with Ruth Johnston and her son - exploramum and explorason

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