Teaching Traveling: Interested in educational resources and family travel tips to raise multicultural kids?
Let’s welcome an expert in this field: Lynne Raspet! Lynne, tell us about your background.
Lynne: Hello! Prior to marrying my husband (who is active duty military), I was a bilingual kindergarten teacher in Southern California for seven years. I was fortunate to work in a year-round school (a month break every three months) and definitely took advantage of the time off to travel.
Now, I own a small business with my sister, Suzee Ramirez, called MulticulturalKids.com, where we strive to teach children to appreciate and celebrate all humans all over the world.
We also published Beautiful Rainbow World (affiliate link), a photography sing-a-long book of children from around the globe. Because my husband is in the military, we’ve lived all over the states, and currently live in South Korea.
TT: Wow! Tell us more about your multicultural education family travel.
L: While living in Asia for the past two years we’ve visited Japan, Saipan, Cambodia, Vietnam, Taiwan, Indonesia and Thailand. We have a trip to Hong Kong planned for this November, and Sri Lanka, China, and Hiroshima as well as returning to Vietnam are on our wish list before we move again next summer.
We absolutely love living in South Korea and have learned so much. Because we live here, we’ve had the opportunity to immerse ourselves in the culture. I think the strangest and also best part is how it has all become so normal now and that despite the language barrier we still have had so many opportunities to connect with people.
There are countless times that folks have extended generosity to us or have an expressed a desire to understand us despite our inability to speak to each other. We relish having the opportunity to experience how people live their lives in different countries and have definitely adopted habits from many of the places we’ve visited.
One thing we appreciate is the “shared food” experience. We enjoy eating family style and have adopted the practice of pouring drinks for each other as is the practice in Korea. It all makes eating so much more pleasurable and it’s such a lovely way to connect with people, even when it’s just our family.
TT: Lovely! What are your tips for planning family travel?
L: Our main focus while living here has been to experience as much of Asia as possible. Next, we look at what everyone in our family enjoys and take that into consideration, and of course cost is also an issue. I belong to several travel groups on Facebook and I also use websites such as TripAdvisor (affiliate link) to help set an itinerary.
The more we travel, the more savvy we’ve become at supporting locally owned businesses. As we come up with a plan, we spend a lot of time researching where we will stay and who will provide our tours, etc.
We want to make sure that our money goes back directly to those that are providing us services and/or are doing something to give back to their communities; we discovered in both Cambodia and Vietnam that there were several tour companies catering to people from their own country.
Through our travel guide and upon further research, we were learned that this tourism model doesn’t positively impact the local economy as much which has guided our thought process in other travel plans as well.
We also ascertained that guided tours that are booked at kiosks in heavily trafficked areas are usually owned by the one or two large companies, even if there are 10 or 20 small offices in the same area, which is also why we try and practice our due diligence ahead of time and make sure we are booking with an ethical and responsible company or individual.
An added bonus to this model is that we have found that their customer service is top notch because someone is personally invested in our experience and we have the pleasure of remaining in contact with those that have made our travels so memorable.
TT: Great advice. How do you fund your family travel?
L: We are fortunate to be able to have the money to travel based on my husband’s income, but we also have made a deliberate choice to dedicate some of our expendable income to traveling and cut back in other ways to do so.
We are aware that when we go back to the states, we might end up choosing a smaller house, purchasing a used car, etc. as we now know (after living in much tighter quarters) that we can do so and live well.
Traveling with our kids is at the top of our list as far as priorities go, and we spend our money accordingly. We only have a few years here in Korea and know that we probably won’t get another opportunity like this with our children so we are going with it!
TT: Well said. Can you share a multicultural family travel moment that was particularly powerful?
L: Truthfully, there have been so many experiences that I’ve found impactful, it’s hard to choose one. In Tokyo, we were lucky enough to be able to attend the Tori No Ichi Festival in Asakusa at Ootori Shrine.
I wasn’t sure what it was all about, but my husband insisted we stop by. The festival dates back thousands of years, but in its current state hundreds of vendors sell heavily adorned bamboo rakes of all sizes (mere inches to 10 feet tall) which individuals purchase to provide good fortune throughout the year.
When a rake is purchased, the vendor, passersby and the buyer do a clap and chant together. As we wandered the aisles echoes of chants could be heard all over. Of course we had to participate and it was such a joyful experience clapping and chanting and proudly toting our rake around.
As we made our way home that evening we saw several people on the subways with their rakes and knowing where that we were able to share the experience with strangers was uniquely special.
Another occurrence that stands out was during winter break of 2017. We were surprised by an elaborate Christmas Eve dinner provided in the kitchen of our Buddhist Vietnamese AirBNB host, Kiet and his family, complete with Santa hats, French and Australian guests, and a never-ending stream of delectable Vietnamese food.
Christmas day was spent on the backs of scooters touring the Vietnamese countryside. To add to that, we’ve also been awed by enjoying lunch in Prek Toal, a Cambodian floating village which included a visit and blessing from the local monk; kayaking with our Malay Muslim guide through the karsts (limestone cliffs) in Krabi, Thailand, sharing it only with the lovely creatures we encountered (monkeys, mudskippers, lizards, birds, fish); and releasing sea turtles on the beach in Bali.
There are so many great experiences around the world, it’s hard to narrow it down!
TT: Yes! Now, how has family travel changed you as a multicultural educator and as a person?
L: As a mom and the owner of business that promotes the appreciation of other cultures, I’ve always dreamed of taking my children to different parts of the world and I feel so grateful that we’ve had an opportunity to make that dream come true.
I delight in watching them interact with the world around them and listening to what they’ve gleaned from having these experiences. As far as for myself, I’ve feel I’ve become more sensitive and respectful of other cultures, even though I thought I already was — what makes someone human becomes clearer and clearer.
I find it’s so easy to travel and not really connect with wherever you are, and the more we travel the more we seek human connection and a better understanding of the places we visit through that connection. We try to be better listeners these days.
TT: So true. What advice do you have for people interested in multicultural education around the world and at home?
L: A couple of things: traveling doesn’t have to be extreme, and anytime you get out of your own environment you can experience something new. Before we lived in Korea, we moved all over the United States and we found ways to better experience what makes even local areas unique and interesting.
There is so much to see and do everywhere. I also would say that it is worth prioritizing a budget for travel, possibly by simplifying in other areas. I would rather drive an older car and own less clothing to have the opportunity to visit new places.
The more we travel the more we desire to travel, and in fact have re-framed our lives in a way that we hope will allow us to continue to have opportunities to see the world.