My family has always loved our vacations, but they were very much just a break from the routine, sitting by the pool or on a beach. I was finding that they were not particularly relaxing. You think you can sit and read a book, but you can’t because the children get bored, they don’t want to go into the kids’ club – they need to explore!
Adventure is in our blood
For my husband and me, taking our family traveling for nine months felt like a huge decision. We had to take the children out of school, give up our jobs, and rent out our house. But we passionately wanted to do it, so we made it happen.
We both come from families who love to travel. My father worked abroad a lot when I was young, so I experienced a lot of unique things very early in life. I flew on a plane before I was one year old, spent my second birthday in Spain, and at 11 years old, I was canoeing in Florida. My husband’s family was also pretty intrepid.
It’s probably no coincidence then that each of my three children (now aged 8, 5 and 2) have been on a plane within eight weeks of birth. We made sure they were used to new experiences early, but this adventure is something different altogether.
First stop: Patagonia
We started in Chile, and the first three stops were with explora: Patagonia, Atacama, and then Easter Island.
At home in London, I’m always calling out to my children to stay close or not to go too far, but in Patagonia where they were trekking through forests and walking on glaciers, they had so much freedom. They learned to trust themselves, to trust how far they could go, and still find their way back. We let them make choices, such as, “shall we walk this way or climb up there?”
“The world has been brought to life for all of them in a way a textbook could never do”
Learning the art of exploring
Our children, particularly our daughter, were not originally natural hikers! But in Patagonia, they trekked happily. They enjoyed finding new sticks and stones at every turn, and the explora guides engaged with them and shared so much fascinating information about the environment: how high up we were, the names of the plants, what animals lived nearby, and more. The setting encouraged their exploration excitement too. Everywhere they looked there was something amazing to see.
The Atacama chapter
From Patagonia, we flew to Atacama. What a contrast! Fields of cacti, flamingos, the Moon Valley – the children were even licking salt off the rocks. Each child had a ‘project book’ where they wrote down what they could see and what they did each day. They learned so much about the history and geography of Chile from the guides, which is more than they ever would have learned in school.
A lesson in packing
Easter Island was next on our list, and unfortunately, the airline lost the children’s bag! They arrived with nothing but walking boots and the warm clothes they were wearing, which were totally unsuitable for the tropical climate on Easter Island. explora staff scoured the island sourcing sandals and t-shirts for them to wear, but thankfully we didn’t need much. Overall, our trip was a brilliant lesson in how little we actually needed to live. We got rid of so much stuff before we left, and between us, we only had three bags for the whole trip. The children brought one or two special toys or mementos from home in a little backpack, but for everything else, they found things to play with along the way.
The magic of Easter Island
From the volcanic crater to the Moai statues and the wonderful beaches, the whole of Easter Island was mesmerizing for us all. We went on a snorkeling expedition and the children jumped into the incredible purple sea from the boat. They just plunged straight in! And always, after our explorations, we would come back to the hotel and feel welcome and comforted, and loved meeting other travelers and sharing tales.
Explorers for life
The children’s confidence has grown so much since our trip, and as a family, it was a very special bonding time. My two-year-old may not remember it when he’s an adult, but I feel it’s helped shape his character. The world has been brought to life for all of them in a way a textbook could never do.
You can follow the Cresswell family’s adventures on Instagram @jecresswell