Pack Mentality

Austin author Tsh Oxenreider offers up her top five reasons for embracing family travel.

Tsh Oxenreider first started her blog, theartofsimple.net, in early 2007, when she was living in Turkey. It was a place, she says, to “catalog her experience of what it was like to live in a much simpler, slower culture.”  

Fast-forward seven years, to a household with kids and the approaching 2014–2015 school year, and Oxenreider decided to pack her bags and travel the world with her children—ages 9, 6 and 4 at the time—in tow. 

“We wanted to expose our kids to all our global diversity while they were still young,” she says of the decision. “We knew it would be a once-in-a-lifetime experience for family bonding and a widening of their worldviews, and we wanted to take advantage of both [my husband and I] having jobs we could work from anywhere, and the kids being young enough to be flexible and uprooted without too much upheaval.”

Today, Oxenreider co-hosts the podcast The Simple Show, on which she discusses her tricks of travel, love for home and passion for books, including her own, At Home in the World: Reflections on Belonging While Wandering the Globe, published by Harper Collins in April. 

“Not a day goes by that we don’t still talk about our adventure,” Oxenreider says of her family’s yearlong journey. Here, she offers five reasons why you should travel with family. 

1. The inevitable stellar education. “Instead of reading about the Great Wall of China in a book, you can feel its smooth stones as you walk along the ramparts and through its fortifications. Instead of talking about Aboriginal history, you can explore the oldest rainforest in the world with an Aboriginal guide, hearing first-account stories from his life in Queensland. History, geography, science and everything in between come alive through immersion. I can’t think of a better way to truly learn more about the world.”

2. An expanded worldview. “When your eyes are opened to a true day in the life in Ethiopia, your ears perk the next time the newscaster says the country’s name. When you know how it feels to travel at 223 miles per hour on a high-speed train between two Italian cities, you’ll take more interest in your own city’s transportation system. Traveling cross-culturally is an invitation to broaden your perspective and learn from others.” 

3. Stronger traveling muscles. “People balk at the thought of traveling with kids because of its challenges. But what’s the best way for kids to become excellent travelers? By letting them travel. Kids can teach adults a thing or two about adaptability, [from navigating] unpredictable bus routes and long airport lines to carrying your own backpack through crowded streets. As our world grows smaller and smaller, astute traveling becomes a necessary life skill.”

4. Living a minimal lifestyle. “Packing light is key with international travel, which means very few toys, perhaps no toys. It means just a few items of clothing, a book or two and little access to screens. Learning that experience trumps stuff when you’re young is a gift before moving into adulthood. Cultivating the habit of focusing on the present, wherever you are, is a vanishing skill. Traveling internationally provides a low-stuff, high-experience environment. Mastering this talent early reaps benefits the rest of your life.”

5. Family bonding like little else. “Our clan has shared experiences that no one else will ever know because we lived through them together. We all know what it’s like to skid along the gravel roads to the Maasai Mara in Kenya. We all remember our tiny guesthouse in Croatia that turned out to be part of Diocletian’s ancient palace. We have our private ranking of the best playgrounds in the world. And we’ve worked through the challenge of living in tight spaces, sketchy rental cars, strangers staring at us and being lost at midnight in the French countryside—together. It’s these experiences that have created our present-day memories and it’s the foundation for our closeness today.” 


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