Travel mom and writer Lori LeRoy writes at Maps Memories and Motherhood, giving tips and tricks for traveling with kids. Her love of travel happened at an early age and now she’s passing it along to her young boys.
Where did your love of travel come from?
My wanderlust was influenced by a myriad of places as a child.
My great-grandmother, Mimi, was a teacher and avid traveler. She was often in Germany and Yugoslavia visiting relatives, and could cross the border without showing her passport because her German language was so good. She ventured to the Middle East, all over Europe, and, at 65-years old, she took a freighter to Japan, spending weeks aboard the ship. She explored the world well into her eighties. I loved hearing stories from her travels and getting unique trinkets from her journeys, that I still treasure. She made me want to see more of the world, and encouraged me to do so.
This sense of travel rubbed off on my parents. While many families always went to Florida for vacations, we went all over the place – often with educational bents on our family vacation. We chalked up 25 or 30 states as well as trips to Canada and Mexico by the time we were in high school.
And, I used to pour over geography books when I was a kid. I loved learning about other cultures and how people lived in faraway places. Our World and Our Fifty States by National Geographic had worn book spines because of the many, many times I read and re-read them. This has rubbed off on my 8-year old son as he would rather look at an Atlas than any other book.
Why do you take your kids everywhere?
My wanderlust stems from my childhood and was furthered by studying in Japan and traveling overseas as a newlywed. We have lived in the U.S., Canada and China. Travel is very important to me and my husband. My sons are from Vietnam and China, so we have been traveling with them internationally literally since we became a family. I want our boys to see the world so that they have an appreciation and understanding of all cultures and peoples. Experiencing new things and learning from different environments will give them an education they cannot get inside a school’s walls. I believe that travel broadens your mind, grows your heart and inspires your soul.
Best advice you have been given and by whom?
“You’re a risk taker. Don’t be afraid to take a risk because you may always wonder what could have been.” – Wise words from my great-grandmother, who was an avid world traveler.
What is something you’ve done traveling that you didn’t think you could do?
I am terrified of heights, but have ziplined in Quebec, in the MegaCavern in Louisville, Kentucky, and off the Great Wall of China. The zip off the Great Wall was particularly long and high, and having lived in China, I wasn’t sure of the safety standards of this operation, but decided to do it anyway tandem with my husband (plus, most of it was over a lake and I figured if all else, I could fall in the lake and swim to shore). It’s still one of my most favorite things I’ve ever done.
However, the biggest challenge I’ve had travelling was moving to China for 10 months – I had no friends (except my husband), didn’t speak the language, and had never visited before. We were given the opportunity through my husband’s job and decided to move because we decided we needed to shake things up. We were in a pretty tumultuous time of our lives – the adoption of our son from Vietnam was at a standstill, and we were becoming more and more embroiled in a battle to get him home (which finally happened two years later).
I knew I could do it, but wasn’t sure if I would like it. Turns out that I LOVED living in Shanghai, and it left me wanting more. And in fact, just three years later, we brought our second son home from southeast China.
When were you surprised by the kindness of others during your travels?
Honestly, I believe that most people are good and willing to help. So I haven’t been surprised by the kindness of others, but I do remember special moments where someone went out of their way to be helpful while we’ve been on our journeys.
On our honeymoon, we had taken a train from Lisbon to the lovely town of Estoril at the recommendation of my great-grandmother. While touring St. George’s Castle, we met an older American couple who had rented a car. They offered for us to ride back with them to Lisbon instead of taking the train back, saving us some time and money. Plus, they had done the reverse of the trip we were embarking on and gave us some great tips and suggestions for a restaurant with the best paella ever and a charming little hotel on the Algarve.
While in Tokyo, we were a little lost looking for the Samurai Museum, a must-see for my boys. A very nice businessman went out of his way to walk us (almost a mile) directly to the entrance.
Traveling with our children, we really have been met with kindness at every turn – from pilots and flight attendants to locals helping us with doors and offering their seats so that the boys can sit on the subway and people offering to take family photos.