Taking a year off to travel the country (or the world!) with your children was once considered outrageous and/or crazy. These days it is becoming increasingly popular, with global jet-setters often sharing their intrepid adventures via a family travel blog.
Take my sister and her family for example. A few weeks ago, the 4 of them set off on a 1-year round the world trip starting in India. Within a few weeks they have already experienced Diwali in Delhi and the Taj Mahal, not to mention sampling an array of street food, and the odd game of cricket.
I really admire my sister and her family, and all the other global jet setters on the road with their kids (and yes, I am a quite jealous). But taking young children around the world is not for everyone. The cost of the trip alone makes it totally prohibitive for many families (including mine).
So what can you do to give your kids a taste of global travel from the comfort of your own home?
Since the day my sister and brother in law announced that they were setting off on a global adventure I have been plotting an adventure of my own. I want my children to experience the world too – and since we can't take them round the world – I am bringing the world to them.
1. I purchased an enormous map of the world
It doesn't have to be a map, it could be a globe or an atlas. I chose a huge map that takes up most of our kitchen. We are using stickers to plot the stops on my sister's journey, but the map itself has also become a bit of a talking point.
2. I became acquainted with the travel section at our local library
We have been active library members for some time, but until recently we stuck to the children's fiction. The reference section has been a revelation to my children who are very eager to see pictures and hear stories about far off lands.
3. I sourced some educational YouTube clips
YouTube is a great way to explore the world. There are a host of short educational film clips that focus on different places, cultures or tradition. I sat down with my girls and showed them some photos of their cousins celebrating Diwali and then I found a short clip that explained more about Diwali.
My children are still quite young so I have been looking for clips that are 3-5 minutes long. People do put some odd stuff on YouTube though, so my advice is to watch all clips in full before showing them to your children.
4. I have been cooking up a storm
Food is a great way to get a taste for another country. As we have started with India it was tempting to cook up some delicious curries – but with my two fussy eaters I decided to start small.
Chapattis are so easy to make that the kids can join in too and they are scrumptious served warm for afternoon tea snack.
5. When I am feeling brave, we will visit some restaurants
Restaurants are another great way to get a little taste of another country and in Australia we are blessed with a vast selection of cuisine from around the world.
However, my children are not the best at sitting still so I'll need to psyche myself up for this one.
My plan is for my girls to follow their cousins as they travel around the world, but the beauty of living room travel is flexibility: If my children wake up one day and point at Brazil or Wales or Tanzania on the map, we can 'go there' straight away.
Travel is great for children. And with a few props and a bit of imagination, you don't need to let lack of budget or time off get in the way of an adventure that the whole family can enjoy.