By Costas Christ
Virtuoso’s director of sustainability has some advice for seeing the world with small children: Start early and go often.
For most parents with very young children, traveling usually means an interstate road trip to visit the grandparents. It’s a worthy undertaking, no doubt, but my wife and I were already global wanderers when we decided to start a family 30 years ago. “Let’s just bring them along with us,” Sally said. And so we did.
Our first family journey was to the Seychelles, an archipelago in the Indian Ocean. Our oldest son, Tom, was 2, and we’d just had our second boy, Nick, who was 6 weeks old. There, amid seagrass beds with hawksbill turtles swimming by and rainbows of fish darting among bright corals, I taught Tom how to snorkel, a father-son bonding experience. While we practiced how to clear a dive mask, Sally dangled Nick’s feet in the warm tropical water, causing gurgles of delight. (He remains an avid ocean lover to this day.)
A wildlife safari came next, with eco-outfitter Conservation Corporation Africa, today known as andBeyond. Our boys were 3 and 5 when we announced our plans to startled coworkers. “You’re taking your kids … on safari? Are you serious?!” was the most common response. We were, and that adventure took us to some of the world’s most renowned ecolodges and private game reserves, including South Africa’s Londolozi, Ngala, and Phinda. We could hardly get enough of watching elephants take dust baths and searching for “magical kudus” – the name our kids spontaneously gave these majestic antelopes with their long spiraling horns.
Our explorations expanded to Borneo, Belize, Oman, and, closer to home, the rocky coast of Maine, where we helped pick organic herbs for the chef at Inn by the Sea while learning about native bee pollination. In Oman’s capital of Muscat, we met a local family who invited us to join them for lunch in their home. Seated on a carpet of woven palm fronds, we feasted on curried fish, grilled squid, and mountains of coconut rice – eating with our hands, to the delight of our kids.
That meal had a lasting impact Sally and I didn’t expect – when Tom was in college, he announced that he was going to Oman on a semester-abroad program. “It was my favorite country we visited,” he told us. And that African safari? Turns out, it ignited his passion for nature and ultimately led him to pursue a career that includes working as a consultant in sustainable tourism. For Nick, our family’s adventures along the Belize Barrier Reef led him to become a certified scuba diver, eager to explore the marine world.
What did we learn? So much – including that children are never too young to travel. What’s more, early journeys, whether close to home or across the globe, teach lessons in cultural exchange and sustainability that not only expand kids’ worldview, but also shape their future passions and career paths. Would we do it all again? Absolutely. These days, though, we’re more likely to ask our two globetrotters to please take us along.