Having traveled around the world for a year with my children, I will be the first to tell you that if your expectations of travel with children are the same as those of travel without children; then you shouldn’t venture any farther than your own backyard with your kids. That said, I would also be the first to tell you that Elaine Ee’s article in CNN GO, 5 Rules of Traveling with Kids, is nonsense. Maybe the essay is meant to be “cute and sassy,” but she definitely gives the impression that if you don’t plan a vacation around the kids’ wants and needs, you are heading for disaster; and that couldn’t be farther from the truth.
While I could make a case against any and all of the five of points in her article, the one I take the most exception to is the one titled “Travel to a Destination that Serves French Fries.”I whole heartily agree with this statement, if your original intent was to go to France. But if you had your mind set on someplace else, I wouldn’t let the lack of French Fries, or for that matter, any other typical American Kids’ foods, stand in your way. The reality is, your children will do just fine wherever you go.
You may beg to differ. What could I possible know about your children? You’re right; I know nothing of your children, or anyone else’s. But I know mine…
I was blessed with a daughter who is a picky eater. Trust me, I use that term loosely. I’m talking a child who is a vegetarian who doesn’t eat vegetables and only a limited number of fruits; a girl who won’t eat pizza since she doesn’t like red sauce; someone who doesn’t eat rice because it has a funny texture. I mean really, no rice? You won’t find any food more benign than white rice! I believe Avocet (my daughter’s name) is in my life for having committed the sin of judging other people’s parenting habits with respect to food, prior to being a parent myself. Paybacks can be hell!
Eating in a restaurant is a challenge with Avocet. No hamburgers, hot dogs, chicken nuggets or pizza are going to work for this girl. So if eating in a restaurant here in the United States is a challenge, whatever made me think we could travel around the world for a year and not come home with a malnourished child? Nothing! But I knew I wasn’t going to let my daughter’s eating habits keep us from making our dream come true.
The first trick was to relieve her of her fear i.e. that of having nothing to eat. As we researched our itinerary, I would read about the foods of the regions to Avocet. Invariable there was one food per country she could hang her hat on: pancakes in The Netherlands, pierogi in Poland, empanadas in Chile etc. We would also tell her about restaurants we discovered that served “American Fare.”Of course, that wasn’t a huge comfort since American restaurants were a stressful and often unsuccessful dining experience here in the U.S. Still, her tensions started easing; but not completely until we presented her with her security blanket – a large jar of peanut butter. Avocet carried a jar of peanut butter with her around the entire globe. She wouldn’t finish up a jar until a replacement had been purchased. We learned to say peanut butter in quite a few different languages and were able to find it in every country we visited with the exception of Argentina.
Given the fact that almost all countries have some form of bread and cheese: grilled cheese, cheese toasty, Panini, cheese empanadas etc., Avocet became a connoisseur in this area. She also learned how to order pizza without sauce (pizza sin salsa in Espanol) in multiple languages so she could order a white pizza; another form of bread and cheese. Pasta with only olive oil and garlic, know in Italian as Pasta Aglio Olio, was another standard and once again we learned to order this in a number of languages. Frankly, I was completely bored with her diet, but she was just thrilled to be eating!
If we had to eat three meals a day for 365 days in restaurants, I don’t know if we could have done it. Fortunately, eight out of the twelve months we traveled, we stayed in apartments, which enabled us to cook our own meals. It is much easier to find a variety of healthy (or semi-healthy) foods for a picky eater in a supermarket, than it is in a restaurant. If we were willing to splurge, we could often find American products, like cereal, which we bought when it wasn’t too great of an expense. Since we were saving money by not eating in restaurants, we could justify the luxury a little more readily.
At a minimum, we knew Avocet could obtain her calories from sweets. She has almost never met a dessert she didn’t like. And, after all, cake is just bread with a little added sugar right? For the most part, we didn’t have to sink that low, but there were a few Nutella and bread meals here and there.
In the end, we made it clear around the world with a healthy and still growing daughter. She even picked up an appreciation for additional food items along the way, like cucumbers in China. Avocet learned she could venture out of her own backyard and not starve and we reinforced our belief that our children’s needs should be considered when making our travel plans but not control them. Everyone came out a winner.
And, it was all done without a single French Fry!
When it comes to a difference of opinion with Elaine Ee’s CNN GO article, I am not alone. See what others have to say…
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