Somewhere along the travels of my life, I heard a saying I’ve tried to follow: We should strive to leave a place in better condition than when we found it. I loved this idea. In practice, though, it sometimes feels inconvenient. However, once I’m done helping, it’s a wonderful feeling that lasts much longer than that great massage. Since my kids are privileged compared to most people in the world, as most Americans are, it’s important for them to connect with the understanding that, because of their blessings, they have the power to help others live better lives than they had when we found them. Even if it’s in the slightest way, like sharing a book or a smile, or even in a bigger capacity, like helping to plant a garden or dig a well that will feed and hydrate countless families. Balancing a fun family trip with a few hours spent helping the surrounding community can leave kids feeling good about themselves and empowered — you can’t buy those gifts.
Somewhere between Sayulita and Punta Mita lies the efforts of one single mom of two. Nicole Swedlow came on vacation to Puerto Vallarta, ended up falling in love with the town next door and singlehandedly brought literacy and recycling to San Pancho, a village full of fishermen and house cleaners. Now, the children of this pueblo are going off to college and their parents are also learning new skills.
The idea was simple, if you have a skill, teach it and if you want to learn a skill, come take a free class. She started with her kitchen table set out in front of a storefront she rented to sell artwork created by locals. She took a lower cut of their profit if they agreed to teach classes to anyone interested. It became a community center, a central hub. The idea caught fire and donations started arriving in the form of books for her to create a library in the town without even a post office; secondhand clothes for a thrift shop that now funds their efforts; and the government donated an abandoned warehouse to expand their good deeds.
Families vacationing in the area could come for an hour, a day or a week. If you know a craft, come teach it. A sport you love, come demonstrate it. Bring backpacks full of school supplies for needy children because education isn’t free in Mexico so many poor families don’t send their children. EntreAmigos aids those families by providing scholarships to kids demonstrating a desire to learn. If you visit the center, there’s something for all ages to do. My sons sorted library books with their dad while I attached price tags to the displayed art. When the boys got bored, they wandered over to the indoor playing field and found a way to communicate with the local children playing soccer and engaged them in a game.
Email Gaelle at email@example.com to find out how your family could get involved.
Hawai’i has the highest number of homeless people per capita than any other state in the United States. It also imports 90 percent of its food. In 1974, a priest, a professor and a social worker came together to try and fix that. Together, they created Kahumana, which developed over time into a transitional housing program for homeless families, a site to learn new job skills and a farm to empower the island to cultivate and harvest its own organic food.
Today, the program offers a safe place for adults with developmental disabilities like autism to come and commune with the animals for the day, a child development center and a retreat for families who want to get back to the land and make a difference in Oahu’s future. Families, couples and solo travelers can stay on the farm and help out as they like. Visit kahuman.org for more information.
You may have heard the world’s coral is slowly dying from climate change. Some of the hardest hit areas lost 90 percent 2015–2017, but, in Fiji, they are doing something about it and inviting visitors to help. Build a fish house in one of the resorts like the Shangri-La to create a safe domain for fish to live in and reproduce; go underwater with Plantation Island Resort or Navutu Stars Resort staff to help transplant harvested coral into areas that need repair; or stay at a farm to learn about organic farming and permaculture.
Go to Visit.org or globalvolunteers.org/ to find opportunities to leave a place in better condition than when you found it in areas where your family will visit.
As the new year quickly approaches, family travelers are busy making lots of plans for a year of great travel and a healthier 2024. And what better way to combine the two than with a beautiful hike through nature at one of California’s most beloved state parks?
Filled with hidden treasures waiting to be discovered, Seoul invites travelers to unearth its many gems, and Seoul Tourism Organization is here to help travelers do just that. Through thoughtfully created initiatives like the Theme Tourism County Competition, Seoul Tourism Organization works closely with local districts to identify and showcase what makes each district unique and charming in all seasons.
Last month, Comfort Hotels, part of Choice Hotels brand, unveiled its first Rise & Shine prototype, a game-changer for family travelers seeking safe, comfortable and fun stays on the road. The new Rise & Shine was revealed in the opening of Comfort Inn & Suites in Mountain Grove, Missouri, located near Mark Twain National Forest.
When the National Zoo in Washington, D.C., sent its three pandas to China in November, it left only one other U.S. zoo with these fascinating animals. Families now must travel to Atlanta to see pandas, but even those will soon return to China.
As the only major U.S. airline to own a flight school, United Airlines already hit a major milestone, and now the carrier celebrates another important — and historic — step as the inaugural class of United Aviate Academy pilots graduates, leading the next generation of aviators. The 51 students in the graduating class were majority, at 80 percent, women and people of color — another stride toward United’s goal of training 5,000 new pilots by 2030 with half women or POC.
If you haven’t heard of Light & Nine, you’ve been missing out on great travel gear designed by a mom with kids in mind. The line of duffels with side shoe compartments, roller bags, backpacks and garment bags come in fun colors including Blossom Pink and Bistro Green. Made from easy-to-care-for perforated materials, they also come with Nimix characters and motifs, so your small travelers can customize their travel gear with movable/removable icons ranging from race cars to rocket ships, skateboards to paper dolls, rainbows to unicorns.