“Every time we visit a new country or a new place or do new activity together as family, we always have that feeling of vigor, of expanding our horizon, of being reborn (in a non-radical-religious-kinda-way!)”
That’s every single time. Insert music, tale as old as time…
Family travel offers a tremendous potential to learn – learn from local people and fellow travellers, learn from history.
For us, learning from history is one of the best way to learn. History is never boring when we visit actual places where certain events actually happened. We get to see or even touch artifacts and memorabilia. We get to breathe the same air (almost!) of people involved in the events of the past. We get to feel the eeriness , of solemness , of the haunted or happy past.
Ain’t that the truth, even on personal level, learning from people’s history gives us enormous potential to self check if we are walking on the same path, doing the same mistakes and gives us the chance to correct our wrongdoing. That is a mark of a matured individual, however. And yeah, there are lots of mature people out there.
In a way, we get to see the full picture of the past and how it’s domino effect is reflecting in the present.
Exploring Europe with kids gives opportunities to see the beauty of the industrialized circulations, almost ancient countries enjoying the technologies and way of life for hundreds of years, magnificent buildings, spectacular way of living (even third world countries in Asia and Africa are yet catch up.)
On the other side, exploring Europe with kids? for us, also pave the way of magnified “narcissism” or worse “psychopath” tendencies of world leaders.
It’s not easy to explain to kids how the magnificent Neuschwanstein Castle is where the “unfit to rule” King Ludwig II was arrested and how the history has declared him “certified insane” despite of all his inclination to beauty, good architecture and love for landscapes.
Walking in his castles, it’s difficult to imagine, how can someone be lonely with all the extravagance and beauty of God’s creations.
Exploring the Danube River on the Pest side of the beautiful city Budapest, the kids learned about horrific Shoes on the Danube Bank. We stand on the very side where at least 500 people where asked to take off their shoes and got shot at the edge of the river.
The beauty of Europe is, yes, beyond stunning. On the other side, the humanity which created the civilization is almost always beyond words.
How do we explain to kids the horror of wars and wrongdoings of world leaders of the past?
For now, we focus on lessons. On people and government (kinds, queens, world leaders) to not repeating the same horrors of history.
Have your ever walked in a fancy shop, get frowned upon by the staff and ended up buying something just to show that discriminatory staff that his or her opinion of you is biased and wrong?
Sadly, most of us have been there, at least the first part, that “being judged” part because of the race we belong, the way we dress or just how our body language rubs off to people.
How we react to snobbish biases is something commercial corporations have studied to the letter. Some branded, signature, fancy shops, even hire customer agents who can intimidate customers, so they will buy their products. It’s that same reaction mechanism, that their marketing strategy capitalizes on.
We know someone who walked in Louis Vuitton shop, received a You-can’t-afford- look from sales agent and needed up buying his first branded bag which he didn’t even like.
We also know a family who walked in a fancy restaurant, and asked how much the lobster special was and received a reply “Very expensive.” from the snobby waiter. The family ended up buying special lobster for every family member and one of them needed up with allergic reaction to lobsters.
Gladly, these things happen to our family when we travel, and we have developed the maturity to nod off the discriminatory looks of customer service agents. We know that any person’s biases is a reflection of who they are and does not, in any way, define who we are.
The Filipino side of The Turknoys , most of the time, have biases attached. Domestic helper, village people attached to it – to name the worst. Full of talent, great customer service, awesome hospitality traits – to name the best. We have a global reputation, good and bad. Such reputation gets magnified when we travel. And traveling with kids, nonetheless. If we have a dollar, for every discriminatory comment, said to us, in front of the kids, we’ll be traveling the world for free!
However, the rude customer service and blatant offensive discrimation combined, as a reaction to a traveling incident involving kids is something very difficult to master. At least for the Filipina Mom.
Picture this incident – a biracial family, with a Filipina mom (add in jetlagged with no shower and messy hair!) dining in a restaurant when one child got sick and vomitted all over the fancy restaurant?
How would a customer service person react?
Background – This happens to our family a lot. Our handsome traveling boy’s stomach react to processed meat and/ or cold chocolate drink. He likes eating and drinking them and can’t hold himself. He gets stomach flu and sometimes accidents happen.
In the Middle East, Southeast Asia and South Asia (add in our one off experience in Africa,) our experiences were all pleasant. The restaurant staff’s first reaction is to ask whether the kid is okay. Automatically after that, sends in the cleaning crew to sanitize the place . We had to reassure the managers and crew that the restaurant didn’t serve anything bad, yet, we get that VIP treatment.
In Europe, however, we get the cold shoulder, cleans up the place and move on. On rare occasions, we get the “Is he okay? “question.
On to our 28th country, in Eastern Europe .. we received the worst reaction to a kid vomiting in a restaurant.
So, how did the fancy restaurant staff react to a sick boy and worried mom?
Out of the violent reaction, the paying haggard Mom was asked to clean up the mess by an irate waitress. With lots of OMG shouting at her and the kid.
Seriously this happened. Shout out to that not so cheap breakfast buffet cafe in Budapest (Antre!)
Of course, after few minutes of realization, she back away and called the janitor to clean up and sanitize the mess.
Our life goes on, we learn, we adapt, we mature to people’s reactions, biases and perspective.
However, this Filipina mom is so jet lagged and so irate, not to NOT write about this incident.
“And the turtles, of course… All the turtles are free, as turtles, and maybe all creatures should be.” -Dr.Seuss
The turtle nesting season in Qatar starts April and since 2015, the Al Fuwairit Beach is closed during the season until the cute teeny tiny little turtles are off to their place in the ocean.
The beach normally opens again first two weeks of August. That would be a tad hot to swim, not too hot to appreciate the sunset, the fine beach and the calm sea water.
Maybe it’s our perfect timing to visit the beach, maybe it’s our instinct way from crowd, but we never really see Al Fuwairit Beach crowded. If we are to describe the beach based on our experience, it would be the adjectives “desolate” and “serene.” We usually go right after work hours of the week day to watch the sunset or Saturday afternoon when everybody might be heading back to the city for the work week.
The Al Fuwairit Beach is almost 50-km away from center of the city through Al Shamal Road. There are no facilities such as shower, toilets or supermarket but there will be at least two fuel stations with convenience stores for stop over along the way .
The kids always have a blast swimming or just running around the long stretch of white beach.
We sincerely hope that the visitors will not leave their trash behind to preserve the beauty of the Al Fuwairit Beach. Just like anywhere in the world, nature preservation is the responsibility of every one of us. If we can’t contribute, the least we can do is not cause any damage.
Enjoy Al Fuwairit Beach, but please.. please.. leave only footprints and adventure memories.
“Being Malaysian is about embracing cultural diversity and harmony between different people and religions. Malaysia will always be my home.” – Jimmy Choo, Shoe Designer
Looks like Philippines, feels like Turkey, Malaysia feels like home to the Turknoys!
Turknoy Dad has been to Malaysia more than 1o years ago and he fell in love with the country right there and then. The people, the beaches, the coconut trees, the localities, the green environment and yes, even the humidity! It was understandable that he was very excited to show us around the country for the first time.
During our travel to Johor Bahru and Kuala Lumpur, he was the happiest one! Our itinerary was very simple as our time was very limited much to the Dad’s disappointment yet we tried to have a taste of everything the two cities has to offer, but not the beach! The beaches of Malaysia for sure will require another adventure for the family.
We went to Legoland coming from Singapore which took less than an hour! That was a really pleasant surprise. The family stayed at Legoland Hotel for two nights as a treat to the kids and so the parents can rest! We ended up enjoying more than we expected. Legoland offers Malaysian hospitality at its finest!
Even the 5-hour-bus ride from Johor Bahru to Kuala Lumpur is a delight! Seeing all the greens and the organized highways. Every now and then, we discuss how countries with similar resources be so different in economy and international passport recognition.
Our two night-stay in the capital city, Kuala Lumpur was spent exploring the Petronas Twin Tower, KLCC, observing people, walking around the city and eating Nasi Lemak! Oh yes, we just can’t get enough of Malaysian food! The coconut and pandan flavoured rice, the sambat (red chili paste) , fresh cooked chicken and fresh vegetables. We gained more than 10 kilos together as family after this trip!
Personally, we didn’t know this can be done, yet Malaysia made us see that this is possible – using the country’s resources, promoting the unique Malaysian culture to the world and becoming so successful at it and yet, encouraging diversity and at the same time harmony and respect among all people with different backgrounds, ethnicity and religions. We have been to some metropolitan cities, yet Malaysia gave us that authentic feeling of accepting diversity with respect to all people. You can’t get that genuine feeling with any effective tourism marketing. It is deeply embedded in the Malaysian culture!
To use own unique talents and traits, to accept one’s identity, to be accepted for one’s real identity while accepting other ideas of life, culture and religion and having no judgment at all, if we can all be this, maybe world peace is possible.
Indeed, a country Truly Asia! We’ll be back for more of Malaysia!
“I consider space to be a material. The articulation of space has come to take precedence over other concerns. I attempt to use sculptural form to make space distinct.” – Richard Serra
Another favorite weekend place for our family is the Brouq Nature Reserve especially when the the Richard Serra art installations of four steel plates, over fourteen metres in height each with their perfect alignments has been completed in the reserve. Modern steel art in our favorite country by a well-respected artist in his field. That sounds spectacular to call Qatar home for us.
The art by Richard Serra is titled East-West/ West- East. We love the desert nature reserve and wide desert space with its unique limestone formation all over the art installations. The landscape is simply breathtaking. Especially we look far out and see the span of Persian Gulf and walk along its beach line.
Add in a good desert weather, amidst the season, hot and humid or cold and windy, it’s a full day out for the family. There’s no wrong weather, only wrong clothes, as we always say, so we always come prepared whenever we come to Brouq Nature Reserve.
This place never fails to make us appreciate the beauty of desert landscape and its wonder. There is always beauty in our surrounding, even without the green! The grass is always not better when it’s greener. At some awesome times, the grass is better when it’s wild, free and growing in the desert.
The present moment is significant, not as the bridge between past and future, but by reason of its contents, which can fill our emptiness and become ours, if we are capable of receiving them. –Dag Hammarsköld
After three years, we came back to Europe to explore the beautiful countries and this year (2016), we went to explore and enjoy the Scandinavian Region.
Our first stop was Sweden, which easily became our favorite country… so far. We’ve seen the country in two seasons, February winter and July summer! Both seasons are spectacular, our family travel memories just piled up with awesome moments of awe, bliss and oh-my-goodness!
With our weirdo family members aged 39, 37, 9, 6, 3 it was a dream come true to witness the wonders of nature up north. Truth be told, it was a bit scary for us, desert dweller family, to bring the kids in a negative-degree-Celsius climate but we went ahead chasing dreams. We wanted to see the Northern Lights and the parents were determined to enjoy this spectacular nature show with kids. With our hot cocoas and while kids were snowboarding in the dark, there up the wonderful round sky (it’s that far north!) we first witness the twinkling green dancing lights, until it gets brighter and brighter, like it was dancing only for us, to welcome us in Sweden! We can only hear the steady beating of our hearts and the inhaling and exhaling of the kids full of wonderment and amazement for full five minutes. After that, they were too cold not to complain. It was magical yes, mixed with the human shortcomings of not being able to bear extreme cold weather even in the state of bliss!
It was truly a magical experience, watching the Aurora Borealis dance in the sky for three consecutive nights. We explored the town Abisko and Kiruna scared yet with wide eyes opened how the life happens in freezing temperature. Our family had read so much books about the winter in the North before embarking on the trip together yet nothing could every prepare us for the wonderful nature at work.
Maybe that’s life. We can prepare the best we can, but with grateful hearts and wide eyes open for all possibilities, nature and our destiny with God’s magical will, life is still full of magical surprises.
Yet sometimes, we get taken aback and get scared and prevent ourselves from experiencing the magical suprises. We are at peace with that experience still. We experienced the fear of walking in a frozen lake for fear of plunging to our death in the cold. Yet a lot of people were walking, skating even to their heart’s delight. We chickened out, yes, but we were able to stare at the wonderful frozen lake with family, while humming.. “Letting Go!’ Ha! We take what we can do.
Reindeers will always have Santa Claus and Santa Claus will always have his reindeers. We all know the story. Yet having our own family reindeer stories to cherish is just too precious, we have a field of reindeers in frozen lake and snow mountain view early in the morning in Abisko while the mother was shouting, reindeeers, until every breath of excitement ran outs. The kids will forever remember reindeers with their mom, full of life, chasing dreams and that is a more awesome reindeer story to remember. But maybe not as awesome as the reindeer pizza supreme we had for dinner while on the train heading out of the north of Sweden.
There’s also the moose, the snow wolves and snow mobiling under the Northern Lights while scaring the kids about trolls which lurk in the frozen lake and forest, all without photographs yet those memories always cross our minds every time we talk about Sweden.
From Abisko, then Kiruna town proper, we went to the Ice Hotel. This hotel was another level of awesome, spectacular adventure with kids. It is quite humbling to be able to see manmade innovations with kids and note the hope and admiration in their eyes. God-willing, they will be able to innovate from the levels of greatness they have witnessed already in their lives. Education through travel is the best education there is.
Stockholm, the capital city, will always be very special to our hearts. We stayed in a boat hotel and was a truly great experience for the kids. Walking in the Old Town and enjoying family activities in Junibacken and getting to know Pippi Longstockings who we love dearly already. We have all the books Astrid Lindgren, our family’s favorite kids’ books author!
We also enjoyed a lot of ABBA Music at ABBA Museum! Full day of fun and music!
Every family travel has a favorite story and our favorite story in Stockholm is after our visit to The National Museum of Science and Technology. The kids had fabulous time enjoying the exhibits in the museum that we got lost track of time and stayed at the museum until we were advised that the museum was closed for the day. It was winter and days are short and it was already too dark for us to walk. We went to the bus stop and waited for the bus in below freezing temperature. In the dark. Cold. With three hungry kids. We didn’t purchased the day pass for transportation access in all Stockholm because we were really enjoy walking around.
The bus stopped and we asked if we can pay cash or through credit card. Bus driver simply said, No, sorry! And drove away. Ouch, we were stunned and silent for whole five minutes. We are stucked and stranded in the bus stop with no means to get home!
Another bus stopped. We begged the bus driver. Without breathing, waited for the driver to respond. This driver has a cheery attitude. He said, Hop in, Don’t worry about it! And just like that, we were saved from a night of frost bite and death! Yes, we do exaggerate about this story a bit.
Our real take away is that in every city, there will always be that guy who won’t care and that guy who would. In everywhere we go, we want to be that guy who cares as much as we want to meet those guys who would care.
We can’t get enough of Sweden that we had to book another trip to Gothenburg and Stockholm again. Stockholm is called Venice of the North but yes, not really fond of Venice so we will pick Stockholm over Venice anytime.
We have explored the Volvo Museum, Haga and Botanical Garden in Gothenburg and we can’t get enough of the beauty of the city.
We were able to visit the Vasa Museum in Stockholm and we are impressed how a huge failure can be a big tourist attraction. We believe this reflect the peace-loving nature of the Swedes, they get over mistakes easily with no desires to blame or punish and just celebrate the lessons and the benefits of the mistakes. Because yes, we always get loads of benefits from the mistakes in our lives. In tourism, in education and in our everyday life.
We’ve experienced the Ice Hotel, stayed in the boat hotels, enjoyed cabin in winter and summer, got fluent with Sweden’s public transportation, train, metro, ferry rides, we can say proudly, that we really love Sweden! We really really do and we can’t wait to get back.