For Micki and Charles Kosman, founders of the fantastic Barefoot Nomad site, travelling the globe is a way of life. They have literally spent years doing it, and so when they decided to start a family they naturally came to the conclusion that rather than stop their world-wide explorations, they’d take their kids along with them. As a family they have so far made their way through Cuba, Hong Kong, the Philippines, Costa Rica, Mexico, and the USA with more adventures planned on the horizon. After a year spent in Canada, they have just sold their cabin in Lake Manitoba and are readying themselves to get out on the road again.
As they prepare to embark on their next great adventure, they kindly took time out of their busy schedule to answer some questions about life as a family ‘on the move’ and why it’s important that we allow our children more freedom…
Q: What is the importance of travel in your lives?
It’s honestly hard for me to imagine a life without travel. We love to explore new places, try new foods and meet new people. Our world is an amazing, endlessly fascinating place.
Q: The ‘Free Range Kids’ movement has begun to gain ground in recent years – do you have any tips for parents looking to raise their children in this way?
Free Range parenting is really interesting to me. It’s fascinating how parenting styles have changed in only a generation. I was essentially raised as a free range kid, but my Mom would probably just have called it taking care of the kids. It’s just how everyone was raised.
There’s a lot of fear in our culture today that doesn’t necessarily correspond to the reality. For example, people think that crime rates are increasing when crime rates across the US and Canada are much lower than in the past.
I think this culture of fear, this perception that we’re less safe than we used to be, has spilled into our parenting. We assume the world is an increasingly dangerous place (even though that may not be the case) and that we need to protect our kids from all the dangers.
Because we’ve traveled extensively with our kids, we’ve had a lot of first hand experience about the world that many people don’t have. I don’t see the world as a dangerous place. By and large, almost everyone we’ve met, in every country we’ve been in, is really only interested in living a peaceful life and protecting their families.
I don’t want to raise my children to have a fear that the world is dangerous, and that people aren’t to be trusted. That’s a sad way to live. At the same time, our kids need to be aware that dangers do exist, and how to deal with them. It’s a tough balance, really.
Our little ones are reaching the ages (seven and four) where they’re becoming more and more independent. I’ve been following the free range kids movement with a lot of interest. So many of my friends (and no judgement here – every family does what’s best for them) seem to be extraordinarily protective of their kids.
As we travel, I’m always trying to find the right balance between protecting our kiddos and giving them enough independence to become self-sufficient, confident people. I think you can do a lot of damage to a child’s sense of self esteem by being overprotective and not allowing them to make mistakes. It’s really a constant struggle; trying to keep our kids safe, but give them the freedom and tools to be independent and self-confident.
Q: What are the additional challenges you have to face when travelling with kids, and, more importantly, what do you discover and experience when you are travelling with children that you might have missed without them?
Before we had kids, Charles and I were the quintessential backpackers. We traveled light, moved a lot and stayed in plenty of dodgy hostels.
That kind of lifestyle just doesn’t work with little kids. Traveling with our little ones made us slow down, spend longer in one place and upgrade our accommodation a bit.
The end result is that our travels have really slowed down, which I’ve found that I love. It’s wonderful to be able to spend weeks or months exploring a neighborhood. We see a lot more of the little things now that we have kids – the local parks and playgrounds, the little independent mom and pop restaurants, and we get to spend more time with locals. All in all, traveling with kids has had some unexpected perks. Though I could live with out all of the extra luggage we heft around now that there are four of us!
Q: What motivates you as a family to head off travelling and how do you choose your next destination?
Our motivation is that we really just love to explore the world. There’s so much to see and do. Our bucket list of places we’d like to visit is probably three pages long, so we usually choose our destinations based on cost, weather (we love beaches and warm weather), and having a new experience. We’re just about to take off for a trip to the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico, and then we’re off to Madrid and Southern Europe.
Q: Being a slow-themed e-zine we’re as interested in the journey as in the destinations. Have you got a favourite overland journey you could tell us about?
We love the road trip! One of the most fun trips we took was in Costa Rica. We rented a little 4×4 in Tamarindo, and drove across the Nicoya Peninsula to some out of the way beach towns on the Gulf of Nicoya. It was a fantastic trip; we drove through a lot of the country that tourists never see, and even got to test out our little 4×4 on some pretty crazy off road tracks. Our kids loved bouncing around in the back, and they sure didn’t seem to mind all the stops for Costa Rican ice cream.
Click below for a short video on their off road trip from Montezuma to Malpais Costa Rica: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R-5FIAWe-1c
Words and pictures by Micki Kosman; Interview by Anna Rice
Micki and her family have perfected the art of taking long breaks from their everyday lives, and write about just how they manage to afford to travel for months at a time at TheBarefootNomad.com. You can also follow them on Facebook.