Category Archives: RTW

#50 Visit Tiger Kingdom: Chiang Mai: Thailand 100 Family Travel Experiences

I couldn’t wait to see Tiger Kingdom. The little kid dream of seeing a tiger up close. When I saw that Thailand had several places one could visit with Tigers I knew I would go. I read the reviews. I read about responsible tourism. I debated myself about whether I should go. In the end, I knew I had to go. I had to see it for myself. I had to have the experience. 

Tiger Kingdom was well managed and clean. Much like many zoos one goes to the tigers are in pens. The tigers on display have larger areas to roam and I saw no evidence that they were drugged. On the contrary, they were active and engaged in play with the handlers. They had toys, games and other activities to keep them busy. Nocturnal by nature, some tigers were asleep but would occasionally get up to wander. 

My kids were not allowed in with the largest tigers. My son stayed with the babies. He got to bottle feed them. My daughter enjoyed two different sizes. We encountered the largest.  Following our guide, he stated that we were to stay with him at all times, not make sudden movements and to stay behind him. Equipped with only a large prod, it was clear there was little he was join to do if our tiger decided to turn. We went in and our Tiger was might and magnificent. He lay down, head raised and we were guided to sit beside him. We could rub his side, touch his back and paws. Another guide took pictures. Anything our guide said, we did. At one point he said to lie down and put my head on it’s belly and I did. I kept thinking how My mother would kill me if she saw me doing this. All of a sudden, he jumped up and lunged at the cage in front of us a wheel chair went by. Clearly he saw the wheels turn and wanted to play or attack them. He paced back and forth watching the oblivious person in the wheelchair. We backed away.

We walked around to several other tigers. Each one allowing us to visit and touch them. One sleeping tiger was our guides favorite and he showed us his huge teeth. It was about then that I snapped back into reality and realized I was in a cage surrounded by tigers. 

I have since recommended Tiger Kingdom to friends. Yet, I do so with reservation. Please understand that I truly believe in responsible tourism and the importance of understanding what it is you are impacting when visiting places like this. It is also important to truly take time to understand the plight of the tiger. 

So if you do visit, or just find this blog post interesting. Please take time to help the Tigers.



#54 Visit Orangutans in Borneo At Sepilok Rehabilitation center, Sabah, Borneo: 100 Family Travel Experiences

#54 Visit Orangutans in Borneo , Sabah, Borneo

We spent a lot of time in Borneo jungle. Surrounded by Palm oil plantations, I was so saddened by the shrinking natural habitat that was visibly disapearing before our eyes. Even deep in the remote jungle, well off the beaten path, one could hear the sounds of trucks passing on a road as clearly as a cloud leopard roaring in the distance. There isn’t much left for the orangutans and I don’t have much hope that Borneo will be able to preserve the remaining habitat before their time runs out. 

Visiting the jungles of Borneo is an amazing experience. We were able to do a homestay there. It is a great way to learn about local cooking and dance. We took long walks and boat rides through the jungle and got up close with the wildlife. We visited an orangutan “rehabilitation” center that give you an amazing glimpse at these marvelous animals. I put “rehabilitation” in quotes as I question the real rehabilitation of the animals. They are fed daily and never really return to the wild.  THhis is in part because the remaining habitat is so scarce, there is now nowhere left to return. It is more of a tourist center than anything else – but still an experience I will never forget.

I wonder about the fate of the orangutan. Of all the places in the world we visited I felt like their habitat was the most severely threatened. 

If you feel like you want to help there is an organization committed to them below.

#64 Visit FC Barcelona At Cmp Nou: 100 Family Travel Experiences

Watching an FC Barcelona game was at the top of my son’s bucket list. We had ordered tickets in advance once we realized our visit to town coincided with a home game.  We were hopeful that we would get to see Lionel Messi play. What I was unprepared for was the amazing tour that you can take of Camp Nou – the FC Barca stadium. The “Camp Nou Experience Tour and Museum” is a fascinating history of the football club and plenty of up close and personal moments to thrill a football fan. We loved walking through the orange hallway like the players do before a match and getting right down to the field where the players sit.  It’s a brilliant tour and one that doesn’t disappoint!

Our day was topped off with a big Barca win and two goals by Messi – who also doesn’t disappoint!

As they say… FC Barcelona – mes que en club!


#88 Take a Rock and Roll Walking tour of London -100 Days of Family Travel Experiences

There are lots of amazing and historic things to do in London, And yes, the West End theatre district is amazing. We had a very busy and fun time in London and other adventures are on this “100 Days” list – but we can begin with a Rock and Roll Walking tour around the city that we really enjoyed. Our guide was a lifelong music fan and true Rock-n-roll historian. He took us through the streets, back alleys, and shops of London where rock history was made. We listened to the stories and visited the sites where the Beatles, the Stones, Jimi Hendrix; and The Who (and many others) played, hng out, got their start, or recorded. My husband is a music history fanatic and was very excited. The kids and I also enjoyed the tour as our guide was a great storyteller. The London streets came alive as walked Denmark Street, Carnaby Street and stood on the steps at 3 Saville Row – the location of Apple Corps Ltd. where the Beatles were headquartered and held their last live (rooftop) performance. Sometimes hearing about a city from a specific time or subculture opens your eyes to streets in a new way. We just happened to top off our day with the lucky opportunity to see Sir Paul McCartney himself. There is nothing better than going through London on a Rock and Roll Tour and then actually seeing a Beatle!

At apple studios:


#91 Visit a coffee farm Guatemala: 100 Family Travel Experiences

#91 Visit a Coffee Farm in Guatemala

Any opportunity to learn how something is made is a great experience for a family. It always amazes and delights to learn the process from start to finish and somehow it makes you appreciate the products a little more. My kids feel that way about Guatemalan coffee. Taking a tour of Finca Filadelfia coffee farm is a day of fun and education. We started with an amazing zip line through the Guatemalan tree canopy. It was Fast paced and loaded with gorgeous views.

My kids were not sure they were going to like the coffee tour but they were mesmerized once it started. Coffee in Guatemala is grown on the volcanic soil and grafted from two different plants. The process is fascinating. You can see is drying in the sun and watch the hand sorting. Taste testing at the end is just as fun as the coffee is some of the best in the world. We bulk order it so we can enjoy it at home now!
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The Happy Wanderer: My Travel Style #DailyPost

Daily Prompt: The Happy Wanderer

by Krista on March 19, 2014

What’s your travel style? Are you itinerary and schedule driven, needing to have every step mapped out in advance or are you content to arrive without a plan and let happenstance be your guide?

My Travel Style: By Anne Helmers

After a year on the road with my family it has definitely evolved. We had been the type to go for the organized, pre-planned, “ducks all in a row” type travel itinerary but that changes on the road. Being schedule free allows you to enjoy the road and the adventures that come from not scheduling. Deciding where to spend the night based on how far you want to go or how much you like a place is part of the joy of long term travel. It opens you up to meet new people, try new things and explore new places. Learning to adapt to weather because it is part of life and not make it a reason to stay inside is also part of this process.

We are back home now. We are back to a much more scheduled American lifestyle but I’d say we have a managed to keep a nice blend of the required pre-planning that the one week vacation during spring break requires and the relaxed “come what may” style we learned from our round the world adventure.

American travel… add CHICAGO to your list of cities to visit with your teen.

Traveling in or to America?  Add CHICAGO to your List of Cities to visit with your teen.

A day in Chicago.

I love Chicago. It’s in my Top Five cities to visit in the USA.  It is a great city to spend a day with your older kids too. I just spent 24 hours in the city with my 15 year old while we had some extra time around her dive competition.

A quick L ride into the city from the outskirts (cheaper hotels) had us downtown in twenty minutes. Once on Michigan Ave. we had all of downtown Chicago at our fingertips. The kids wanted to go shopping. It’s not necessarily what I like to do with a day in the city – but sometimes you do what they want to do. Michigan Ave. does not disappoint shoppers.

The people of Chicago are friendly. It is a mid-western town and people are generally nice. They  actually help out in stores. There is service with a smile in restaurants and people smile and make eye contact on the streets. It’s a cool place.

Chicago also does not disappoint “foodies”. I had an amazing dinner at The Drawing Room with handcrafted cocktails and some winter squash crepes that I will never forget.  They even had great mocktails for the kids.  We all loved it!  It was one of several great meals over the weekend. The kids enjoyed cupcakes from a Cupcake ATM that literally delivers gourmet cupcakes from Sprinkles Bakery through an “ATM machine”.

The Chicago skyline is spectacular and you don’t have to go far to get an extraordinary pictures.  Just look up.  We snapped many, including one  that contained both the oldest building to survive the great fire and the majestic Willis Tower.  It’s the little things like these that make your kids think a city is grand!

With more time, a visitor should see the “Bean”, the murals, the museums, a football or baseball game, and tour the diverse neighborhoods, eat deep dish pizza and take full advantage of the thousands of opportunities Chicago has in store.  We have done those things on longer visits and are highly recommended. But on a single cold March day with my teen  – Chicago’s accessibility and hospitality didn’t disappoint.

If you read my article about the Long Term American Road Trip you know that most people rarely included Chicago.  The southern route is a lot of fun, especially if you are driving. But consider rerouting through Chicago or if you are touring the USA and plan to fly out west – make an extended connection in Chicago.  It is always worth a visit!!


Sleeping with Roosters – Sleep deprivation at home and when traveling

I didn’t realize it until we were several months into our Round-the-World trip, but my whole family (my husband and two children, ages 14 and 10) were sleep deprived. We had been that way since before the kids were born because we live in a society that rewards sleep deprivation.

We were a typical American family – we were hard working, hyper-scheduled, and generally just plain busy. We tried to keep a balanced schedule, sit down for meals, eat healthy and put our kids to bed (after sports and homework) at a decent bedtime.  But typically the kids got about 8 hours of sleep (or less) and we got about 6.

A few months in to our schedule-free trip around the world and  I could see that on an average night my kids needed 10 hours of sleep and we needed at least 8.  Every night. This seems to be on track with actual research. (See the latest CDC article below)foghorn-blue-maran-rooster-crowing-in-fruit-orchard-81

Despite often being in remote places like Bali where the roosters crow all night long or Guatemala where there is a constant barrage of fireworks, we slept more and better. I do suggest you travel with ear plugs as the sounds of life (including traffic, roosters, fireworks, laughter, and occasional drunkenness) are part of the world.

After a year of moving and adapting to all kinds of sounds (and getting plenty of sleep) it was a rude awakening to return home to be delivered to a nasty note from a neighbor.  The anonymous neighbor  was angry because our children were playing outside on a summer night after dusk.

” Please bring your kids inside after dark, some of us have to get up early for work in the morning.”

Being hyper-scheduled and sleep deprived doesn’t make us more productive. It can, it seems, make us more grumpy.

We make getting a good night’s sleep part of our healthy home routine now. We are more aware of how sleep affects all of us.

Five reasons I think I was healthier while traveling

Everyone asks me “Did you get sick while you traveled around the world?” and I can honestly answer “No”. We really never got sick, or had any major injuries. BUT since I’ve been home I seem to have every cold, flu, or crud that comes through town. What was it about traveling that was different?  How did we manage to stay healthy?  Why were we healthier “on the road” than at home?  I’ve compiled a list of my educated guesses.


1. Living outside:  Most of the places we stayed we lived much closer to the elements. Open windows, no A/C, outside in nature most or all of the day. We definitely got our daily dose of Vitamin D and we weren’t cooped up in a germ factory.  Our kids were out of school and probably less exposed to every germ and bug that passed through town. Even with all the plane rides we took our immune systems seemed to get a boost from our daily outdoor life.

2. Exercise as part of daily life. Many of the places we lived required us to walk to the markets, to town or to (and through) the places we wanted to tour. We spent more time hiking, walking, snorkeling, or swimming each day than we ever do at home. Being active was part of our daily living and it felt good.  We drove considerably less. Being home it requires much more of an effort. I admire those friends who ride their bikes to work and walk to the grocery or adhere to a regular exercise time schedule. You have to make it a priority here, or you will lead a less active lifestyle than when traveling.

3. Stress free. Yes, I can’t ignore the fact that we left jobs and school and activities behind for a year. We were living a much less stressful daily existence and it was healthy. There are still real pressures while traveling but being “unplugged” was healthy and provided for a valuable lesson about the stress we tolerate here. Trying to reduce stress and too much structure (over-scheduling) has been part of our return plan – but the reality is that living in the US with jobs and two children makes for a hectic daily schedule.  That reality has added stress to our lives and we continue to try and find the elusive “balance”.

4. Eating healthy. Part of traveling is enjoying the food. It is ironic that it is often the food that makes travelers sick. We were part lucky but we were also vigilant about monitoring what we ate on the road, making sure to visit any health food store that appealed to us over the street food.  I attribute our not getting sick to that. In many places, we never drank the water unless it was bottled.  Not even to brush our teeth.  We also avoided fruits you couldn’t peel and salads.  If it was fried or cooked we generally ate it. We tried most things in every country – including occasional “street food”. In sum, we ate a lot of organic, local, fresh food throughout the world and very little processed food. Eating healthy in the USA is definitely possible – but compared to many places it is more expensive.  Also, there are also plenty of ways to eat poorly here at home and it is difficult to avoid the temptation of quick, processed, fried, fatty and fast foods.

5.Good healthcare. We had our shots before we left. We took anti-maleria meds where we needed to. We had everything we needed before we left and were able to find pharmacies around the world to get us staples when we needed them. Preventative healthcare, our general good health, and a lifetime of good healthcare prepared us for a year of traveling. I can’t say enough about starting with a good foundation as a means to help you stay healthy.

So as I sit here, congested with a head cold, envying how warm it is in Fiji in February, I will say that traveling was a healthy experience for us. I’m going to have to work on making life at home just as healthy… or I’m just going to have to get back on the road.