Vacation on a plate

Want to travel the world and expose your kids to distant cultures, but don’t have the money or vacation time? Everyone has their own timetable for living life, with obstacles like money, health issues, limited paid time off, and family obligations. But you can always find a way to broaden your experience and take a mini-vacation.

When our kids were in elementary school I had the itch to travel but we couldn’t afford international travel. Even if we could save up the money, work and school got in the way of an extended overseas adventure. So, I decided that every month we would go on a “mini-vacation” – dinner someplace specializing in food from a country we dreamed of visiting.

Plate of mussels in a olive oil and tomato sauce
Visit a Belgian restaurant to try mussels or have them at a Spanish tapas place.

We started with the easy cuisine – Mexican and Italian. By going to an authentic Mexican or Italian restaurant we trained our taste buds to enjoy flavors beyond Taco Bell and Pizza Hut. By the end of the year we were taking on exciting new challenges like Ethiopian food. Our visit to a Moroccan restaurant led to an annual tradition of going to that restaurant for my birthday each year. The kids weren’t always thrilled with the food, but they learned to try something and usually found something they actually liked.

Apple tart with coffee
You can never go wrong trying a new bakery or pastry place. Try a French, German or Scandinavian shop!

Our mini-vacations to new restaurants exposed the family to new cultures, music, odors, and vocabulary words, which would come in useful during future travels. Look for affordable options so you can continue saving for an actual trip! The specifics don’t matter as much as the development of skills needed for travel, like the ability to choose from a menu of unfamiliar items, the flexibility to try something new, and embracing foreign customs like eating with your hands or sitting on cushions on the floor. Look at it as being travelers-in-training.

You may not be able to travel internationally as much as you’d like, or at all, but there’s always a way to expand your perspective, even with young children in tow.

 

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Already visited all the local international-flavor restaurants? Think further afield. Is there a place in the nearby big city that offers something new, maybe an Asian grocery store or Jewish deli?

Take a day-trip to a nearby town that has something unique. Who knew that college town that’s an hour away has the most authentic french bakery this side of the Atlantic? (I’m looking at you, Fort Collins, Creperie and French Bakery of Fort Collins.)

Keep exploring – that spirit will lead you to world-wide travel, or at least a world-wide perspective!

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