Doi Suthep, Thailand

Soaking in hot springs to weaving in between rush-hour traffic on 125cc scooters to showering in beautiful waterfalls, Chiang Mai was the Perfect place to vacation. If you’ve been following this blog, you know that my daughter and I travel a lot together. This time, however, we were joined by a third-generation of Demski: my father. Here’s a breakdown of our two weeks in Thailand,
week number one.

san kamphaeng hot springs entrance
My daughter, myself, and my father in Thailand

This will be the first of two posts remembering our two weeks in Thailand.

The best hotel with easy access to BKK (the international Bangkok airport: Suvarnabhumi).
We landed in Bangkok (a city with heaps to do but we passed over for now) and stayed at the best hotel for quick visits next to BKK: The Great Residence. For $5, the hotel provided us with a shuttle that took just 5-10 minutes to reach the hotel. I’ve stayed at this hotel several times so I knew what to expect: a warm pool beside a lazy river with panfish nipping at the surface, a delicious and healthy continental breakfast, clean, colorful rooms with comfortable beds, but best of all was the easy access to the Bangkok airport (BKK).

Bangkok, Thailand
My daughter and myself dressed in our finest. Check out The Great Residence hotel in the booking.com link provided below!

I highly recommend this hotel to anyone needing a quick transfer to or from BKK. The next morning, we were flying out to Chiang Mai so there was no reason to enter the heart of the city just yet.

Arrival in Chiang Mai

If you’re looking for a quiet place to stay with free coffee and a pleasant garden to drink it in, take a look at Naruncha Greenhouse just outside of the Old City in Chiang Mai. It’s not luxury by any means: for us 3 it costs less than $15 per night so what would you expect. But, it’s relaxing, comfortable, and the people who worked there are incredibly helpful.

The Grand Canyon Waterpark

chiang mai, thailand

After renting a few motorcycles and in been pointed in the general direction, we headed out to the Grand Canyon Waterpark in Chiang Mai. After briefly getting lost and having to stop to ask for directions–a complicated 30 minutes of poorly drawn maps, wild hand gestures, and imperfect translations–we eventually found our way there. In all of the two weeks in Thailand we spent, this was funniest and equally frustrating interaction I had with locals.

grand canyon water park
A shot of the waterpark from the lockers.

Approaching the waterpark, we came along the road that looks down into an ancient quarry filled with over 100 feet of water, with a floating waterpark bumping hip-hop. For $30, we received lockers and entry passes for all three of us before a quick golf cart ride brought us to the park. People are jumping off cliffs, zipping down slides, and bouncing off obstacles as their friends laughed at their belly flops.

grand canyon water park
My dad, Auburn, and my sunburn all together. You can see the sign for the Grand Canyon Water Park in the background

So there’s a kids pool for the little ones, Auburn wanted to enjoy the adult part with her dad and grandfather. Climbed on the inflatable’s, bounced on floating crocodiles, and fell in more times than I can count. Don’t worry, she was wearing a life vest.


Booking.com

The San Kampaeng Hot Springs

san kampaeng hot springs, thailand
San Kampeng Hot Springs, the primary spout and pool

The water park was exhausting so on our next day trip, we needed somewhere to relax. If you spend two weeks in Thailand, hot springs are a must. I’m a huge fan of hot springs; the warm water, the minerals rushing into your skin, and the atmosphere surrounding them are a few of my great loves. The San Kamphaeng Hot Springs was no exception. The primary sprout and its pool are nothing to soak in, that is unless you’re an egg. For about $1 we bought two woven, bamboo baskets of eggs, attached them to hooks in the hot springs, waited about eight minutes and had ourselves a delicious boiled lunch.

san kamphaeng hot springs
The hot spring for egg boiling. You can see the hooks and baskets along the edge. Notice the white trees in the background. They’ve been bleached by the constantly sprouting spring nearby.

After indulging our taste buds, we decided it was time for a soak.
For a few more dollars, we entered the hot spring’s swimming pool. A peaceful pool, there’s a small waterfall pouring into this 40°C mineral-filled pool. Auburn climbed onto my back as I descended the steps into the relaxing waters and we swam around and played on the waterfall and she giggled and splashed me. She’s a brave little girl, then when she decided to walk around the pool’s edge by herself I wasn’t surprised or worried. That is until she fell in.

san kampaeng swimming pool
The hot swimming pool that Auburn fell into and survived; the ‘waterfall’; my 3-hour-old sunburn

Initially, her whole body disappeared beneath the milky waters before her head popped back up, she grabbed a quick breath before her buoyancy gave out again. Her nose and mouth sank below the water line. Thankfully, she’s had swimming lessons so she’s quite strong in the water, but not strong enough on her own.

She bobbed up and down, her face half submerged. Her eyes had a frightening look of terror as she kicked and paddled at the water trying to get another breath. In total, she was probably scrambling like this for less than eight seconds. But as a parent, those eight seconds terrified me. Luckily, her grandpa wasn’t far from her and made it to her quickly.

Pulling her up from the water she let out a cry which assured me that she hadn’t swallowed any water. She was scared. As grandpa handed her to me I commended her for her strength and bravery as she explored on her own.

A few hugs, a few kisses, and a few reassurances later, she was giggling about how she had bobbed up and down like the eggs we had boiled in the primary hot spring. It’s probably her favorite memory of two weeks in Thailand. 😛
She relaxed, explored some more, and enjoyed the waterfall before we headed back to Chiang Mai. It’s an hour-long trip on a motorcycle for the hot springs to Chiang Mai, and apparently, we caught rush hour. I’ve been riding motorcycles and dirt bikes since I was about 10 years old, but never through traffic like that. It’s incredible to see how Thai people move their cars and bikes like fish in a school during such a congested traffic.

Without blasting their horns or flipping each other off, Thai people gently look out for one another, cut each other off, and steadily make progress down the highway. Perhaps, all of them had just come from Hot Springs, relaxed, or perhaps, the mindset of Thai people is much more communal and forgiving than that of stressed-out Americans. This two weeks in Thailand really showed me how calm Thai people are.

Our Trip to Doi Suthep, or as close as we got, anyway.

Doi Suthep, Thailand
My dad, Auburn, and I just outside of Chiang Mai in Doi Suthep National Park

Doi Suthep is a Wat that sits on top of the mountain overlooking Chiang Mai. It’s surrounded by a national park filled with waterfalls and places to hike and explore. This is the very reason we never made it to Doi Suthep. There’s just too many awesome things to see before you’ll ever encounter Doi Suthep.

doi suthep thailand
Auburn and I checking out a waterfall

With views overlooking the city and incredible waterfalls to climb, we never made it all the way up the mountain. Our longest derailment came in the form of one of the most beautiful waterfalls I’ve ever seen. Unfortunately, I can’t remember its name. However, if you want to find it simply head up towards Doi Suthep and find the waterfall that costs 100 Baht to enter. Hike up to the second level of the waterfall and you’ll enter a holler where a chilly waterfall offers a cool shower on a hot day. Bamboo, fruit trees, and a thicket of green ensconce the entire area and give you an incredible place to relax, meditate, or if you like take further into the mountains, but for what I couldn’t tell you; it was time for us to go home, it wasn’t the end of two weeks in Thailand, but it was the end of a beautiful day.

Doi Suthep, Thailand
Auburn and I enjoying a nice cool shower

If you have any questions about Chiang Mai or any of these activities I’ve mentioned, please feel free to contact me today.

cost of living in thailand

So you want to live on an island in Thailand? You’ve seen the pictures of coconut trees backdropped by a beautiful blue sky with people snorkeling in the turquoise waters, right? If you haven’t seen it, check it out here, courtesy of Matador Network.

koh tao cost of living
Koh Nangyuan, just 15-30 minute boat ride from Koh Tao

If you’ve gotten this far and you think, I can’t live abroad, you’re wrong. I’m a single parent and I live abroad with my daughter partly by running this single parent blog.

Thailand islands are as gorgeous as every backpacker blabs they are. Honestly, I didn’t want to write about the cost of living in Thailand, especially on the islands, because I like to keep my secrets to myself. So, foregoing my general feelings of disdain towards spoiling the places I love, here is the cost of living on Koh Tao for me and my daughter over our course of six months there. So you’re wondering about the cost of living in Thailand? Here it is, specifically for Koh Tao.

If you’re looking for a place to stay on Koh Tao, click here for a few ideas! It’s an affiliate link that costs you nothing but helps support this site. Cheers, my friend!

Essentials Included in the Cost of Living in Thailand, per month

Buying a Motorbike: $300

You need to be mobile. I bought a motorbike for $300 and when I sold it before I left Thailand, I sold it for around $290.

On the islands, there seem to be mafia-style price controls that make it far more expensive to use a taxi each day than to simply invest in your own motorbike.

A few caveats: you’ll likely be driving illegally, random checkpoints will pop-up where police may stop you and fine you for XYZ (though this never happened to me once in 6 months, not even riding in Chiang Mai on vacation last month), and if you don’t already know how to drive a motorcycle then don’t try to learn in Thailand; you’re going to hurt yourself and possibly someone else.

Renting a Motorbike: $75

You can also rent a motorbike; it will cost you around $75/month or more depending on the bike you rent.

Gasoline: $15

Gasoline wasn’t a huge expense because Koh Tao is quite small. You can drive from the north to the south in about 30 minutes pretty easily.

Food (local Thai food, western food, groceries): $300

Island food is a bit more expensive than the food you’ll find on the mainland, of course (you’re paying for the shipping costs, essentially), but it’s still incredibly cheap. Overall, food is likely to be one of your largest factors when calculating your cost of living in Thailand.

For breakfast I recommend stopping at a smoothie stand, they cost between $1-$1.33. Add on a barbecued pork skewer or fried chicken leg and at most, you’re looking at a $2 breakfast.

A pad thai will be as little as $2. A margherita pizza can be $3. A burger and fries will be about $5. You can go up from there, it just depends on your taste and spending habits.

Ice creams are as cheap as $0.45 in 7-11, or $0.66 from the guy who drives a scooter around selling coconut ice cream.

I’m giving you my budget based on usually eating pad thai or something similar, pizza once a week at least, and occasionally some monster BBQ skewers at a beachfront restaurant for $6 at sunset. Add in that I also have to feed a child and our food budget was about $300 each month.

You could easily eat three meals a day at $2 a piece and keep your food budget under $200.

Rent: $150-$600

Rent depends on what you want to rent. Do you want a tiny, ant-filled bungalow like I did? Or do you want to stay in a resort?

I’m not telling you where I found a place to stay for $150 per month on Koh Tao. That’s privileged information and it’s difficult to find. If you scour my blog and do the footwork on Koh Tao, you’ll be able to find it. However, you can easily find a bungalow for $200 per month almost anywhere on the island.

The best resorts on Koh Tao serve up a price tag of around $600 per month. They are gorgeous. You can get a private villa with a pool overlooking the sea where you can watch the sunset in privacy surrounded by palm trees for that price.

Utilities (electric, wifi, water): Free-$??

Many places don’t charge you at all for utilities. Other places do. If you find a place that charges you, you’re never going to pay more than $50 per month for electric, wifi, and water. If you do, you’re either getting ripped off, or you’re blasting your airconditioner non-stop.

Fresh Water: Less than $5

You can purchase heaps of one-liter bottles if you want but you shouldn’t. It’s bad for the environment, it’s a waste of resources, and a waste of money.

Instead, buy the giant, cooler-sized bottles from Green Fresh or the ice place in Sairee (not far from the main crossroad). The initial purchase of the bottle is $5, but you can refill it for about $0.66 each time. You’ll probably only have to refill it once or twice each month.

Pro tip: Place the bottle sideways where your feet go on your scooter. You’ll lose some water on the way home, but not much. Drive slowly and safely, no one is racing on the island. If your legs get tired, stop to take a break instead of risking your safety.

Laundry: $10

Charged by the kilo, you can get your laundry washed, dried, folded, and ready the next day (or same day for a slightly higher cost) for about $1.33-$2 per kilogram. I don’t travel with many clothes so I was spending between $2-$4 per week on laundry.

School: $300

My daughter attended school on Koh Tao when she was 3 and 4-year-old. There are a few kindergartens on the island. They are both around Sairee. Both have their ups and downs. One requires you to sign a contract that sticks you if you need to leave early, the other doesn’t. One has a brand new playground, the other is quite small in comparison. All the staff of each are lovely. If you are looking for specific recommendations or have any questions about the schooling on Koh Tao, ask away!

There is also a local school which I’ve heard charges around $70 per month. You’ll need someone who speaks Thai to help you enroll in that school, I’ve heard.

Lifestyle Choices: $200

Everyone needs entertainment in their lives. The question is: what kind of entertainment do you enjoy? Koh Tao has a mini-golf course, rock climbing establishments, windsurfing, scuba diving, snorkeling, hiking, loads of bars and beer on the island.

Your cost of entertainment simply depends on what you like to do.

If you’re looking to smoke marijuana on Koh Tao, you can, but be careful, it’s illegal and fines can be steep. Jail time, I’ve heard, is worse. There are some bars that let you smoke openly and will sell prerolls, but do so at your own risk. Smoking pot in Thailand is safest on the islands, but be as discreet as possible; Thai police don’t take kindly to people smoking weed.

Other drugs: be forewarned, if you think Thai police will be harsh on you smoking marijuana in Thailand, try getting caught with anything harder. I’ve heard some horror stories.

Visas: $100/3 months/per person

This is actually more confusing and costly than it sounds. The initial tourist visa is going to cost $40. Towards the end of your first two months, it will cost you another $60 to extend it for the third month. You also have to go to Koh Samui to do this, so add in the cost of your boat ticket, taxi to the immigration department, and the time lost spending a day doing this. Unfortunately, visas and visa runs can add significantly to your cost of living in Thailand.

Health Insurance: up to you, $100 for me

When considering the cost of living in Thailand, you should likely invest in travel insurance. You can receive travel insurance through your credit card, airline, or through the service I prefer: World Nomads. I pay about $100 per month for both my daughter and me, and that covers anything I’m worried about.

 

Total Cost of Living in Thailand for My Daughter and Me: ≈ $1200 per month

This price tag doesn’t include flights in and out of the country and is a rough estimate based on the information provided. Either way, for living on such a beautiful island, with healthy food, and a great place to raise kids, it’s well worth it.

There, I’ve given you the keys to my favorite place in Thailand to raise children and live–so when are you moving there?
Cost of Living

Top 5 Educational Toys for 2017

If you’re like me, you’re never entering a toy store with your child. Why would you torture yourself like that? It’s the third level of hell. Most of the toys you’ll see are pura caca: they’re cheaply made, un-educational, and going to die a slow death crushed to pieces under the weight of all the other crap smashing it in your toddler’s overflowing toy box. Worse, your child is going to pull boxes off the shelves, shout about wanting every toy, and you might accidentally impulse buy a drone because, let’s face it, those look pretty sweet with the VR Helmets and attachable NERF rockets.

Thankfully the web helps us avoid those problems, but, being a parent is difficult enough without having to sift through the internet looking for the top educational toys for your child. Luckily for you, I have some free time today so I’ve compiled my favorite list of toys that I’m considering buying my toddler for the holiday season this year.

Top Educational Toys for Children for the 2017 Holiday Season

SmartMax Start XL 

If you’re looking for a toy that will encourage your child’s spatial and logical awareness while building and replicating awesome structures with a long-lasting toy, then the SmartMax Start XL is the best choice for you! The pieces are large enough that it’s safe for children as young as 1-year-old, but they’re colorful and engaging enough for an older toddler. Your little architect can learn about the power of magnetism while practicing their engineering skills. Seriously considering this as the next toy for my little Auburn! Click the image to check it out!

Amazon Fire 7 for Kids

Honestly, I’m tired of my daughter taking over my Kindle to play her games, I wanna play my games! So it’s about time I get her the All-New Fire 7 Kids Edition Tablet with Kid-Proof Case so we can play together! For less than $100, this is perfect choice for my top educational toys! It comes with a two-year guarantee that if your child breaks, they’ll replace it, which is the best peace of mind you can offer us parents, in my opinion! It includes a free year of FreeTime, which gives them access to educational videos, games, books, PBS and Disney, for starters. And if you’re looking to buy more than one? There’s currently a variety-pack promotion that you can buy two of these tablets for just $149.98!
You know the drill, click the image or the links to check it out!

Mini Kick Scooter with Light Up Wheels

Okay, I’ve been geeking out over these Mini Kick Scooter 3 Wheels! So jealous I’m not a little kid and would probably crack the axels of one of these because I’m a chubby, old man super handsome, stacked, 30-year-old. I see other kids whipping around on these, wheels flashing multicolors, leaning to steer and slaloming between pedestrians, uggggh, I wanna do that! The next best option is buying one for my daughter so her childhood can be happy and I can imagine mine was, too. Without one of these scooters, however, I can’t lie to myself, childhood sucked. But how is this educational you ask? Duh! It teaches kids how to be awesome-looking. Also, balance and depth-perception are important parts of physical intelligence. 

This model is less expensive than some its better-known competitors but doesn’t sacrifice on quality. I honestly think the only difference in price (this is one better!) is the cost of marketing. Probably because they get free marketing from thoughtful parents like yours truly.

Check it out via the link or the picture, it comes in several different colors!

Tegu 42 Piece Magnetic Wooden Block Set

I’m having a very difficult time choosing between the SmartMax Start XL and this 42 Piece Tegu Magnetic Wooden Block Set! I honestly can’t recommend one over the other because they both look awesome, have a sturdy build, and will teach your child about magnetism, engineering, and spatial awareness. I would like your feedback in the comments to let me know what one you like better to help me decide!
Again, click the image to check it out!

Super Nintendo Classic Edition 

Yup! I’m going there, the Super Nintendo Classic Edition is making my list of top educational toys for 2018. Firstly, don’t give me your ‘video games aren’t educational!’ nonsense. You obviously haven’t ever played video games, researched their benefits, or been crushed by a rival in Mario Kart. Video games teach kids all sorts of things: eye-hand coordination, pattern recognition, increases memory skills, improves brain speed, and if you’d ever been crushed by an annoying rival in Mario Kart, then would know that it teaches you humility and improved social skills. 

Also, I grew up on a Super Nintendo so maybe this is just my nostalgia speaking, but Star Fox is the greatest game ever invented. You might disagree, but that’s because you’re an idiot. Click the link or the image to see what other games that come included you could incorrectly argue are better than Star Fox.

Conclusion

Whether you’re looking for the top educational toys to help your child build, improve their balance, or increase their eye-hand coordination, any of these can help your child grow into a more complete human.

I don’t take my choices for the top educational toys lightly. You’re welcome for doing your holiday shopping. 

Shopping for children is a serious business of making smart choices–choose wisely.

How Traveling as a Single Parent Kills Your Children

I felt it coming, but I didn’t know what it was. My stomach was cramping, my head was spinning, I could feel my blood pressure dropping, and my only thoughts were of my sleeping 3-year-old and how she would wake up to her daddy dead on the floor then she would die a week later of starvation.

Thankfully, I did not die. Or did I? And I’m writing this from the grave, you decide.

single parent travel
Me, happy to not die

Questioning the Idea of Single Parent Travel

Bad dad jokes aside, food poisoning is no laughing matter. In fact, it made me seriously reconsider my efforts in single parent travel. Why? Well, what if I did die? What would happen to my daughter? What would her memory and experience be? When you think you’re dying from food poisoning, these thoughts burst into your head and rip apart your moral foundation, convince you that you are a fool, and shred your sense of self-worth.



For me, the poisoning came full-force as I stumbled into the bathroom of our bungalow. Cautioning my readers here: it’s about to get graphic. Without aim, purpose, or an ability to control any bodily function, I painted the wall, floor, and wash bucket with vomit. I literally had no idea my body could hold that much inside of it. At this point, I was sure I was dying, and it happened, again and again, throughout the night. Seriously, how does my stomach hold that much fluid in it? I’m not sure, it was nasty you guys, for real.

single parent travel
The bungalow I nearly died in

Before this, I’d had food poisoning before, twice, in fact. But this was serious. What had it been? Auburn and I had eaten the same food, but she didn’t get sick thankfully. There’s only one food it could have been: street food in Thailand, specifically, grilled chicken and pork. I can’t remember who ate what, exactly, but Auburn and I definitely ate together and shared our food. Thankfully, I ate the bad part and suffered the consequences. She slept through the night.

Every time my body convulsed and ejected another round of fluids, I can remember thinking, ‘this is how I die, and Auburn will wake up to find her Daddy dead in a pile of his own puke, what a fucking mistake this was.’

Single parent travel
Somebody who loves Thailand: Auburn!

Surviving the Qualms

As with any negative horrible experience, you gotta push through, just like I did. I spent the whole night convulsing, the next day in shambles, and far too much time pondering the mistake I had made moving to Thailand alone with my daughter, but it was all worth it.

Yeah, cliché right? I don’t want to ever catch food poisoning again, but if it means that my daughter will get to see the world and grow up outside of any bubble that society can place her in, then that’s a life lived right and a parenthood I can be proud of.

single parent travel
A great reason to live in Thailand, the people! They’re super nice. This lady stopped her bike just to smile at Auburn 😀

I would recommend single parent travel, or duo-parent travel for that matter, to anyone who has children. You’re going to suffer along the way, yes, but you’re going to suffer no matter where you are, it’s just a point of choosing your suffering. I choose food poisoning over a 9-5, the loneliness of living outside of the USA over the comforts of it that make me fat and stupid, and I choose for my daughter to see the world over any desire I have to fit in with anyone else.

I have my best friend seeing the world with me, bring on the pain!


Traveling with children makes children as wise as it makes the parents strong; wisen-up the kids, strengthen yourself.

 

A Daughter Abroad: Language-Learning, Dancing, and Dissing on Dim Sum

We’ve been in Hong Kong for roughly six weeks now and Auburn has been going to a local Kindergarten for a month. What do I mean by ‘local’ kindergarten? It means it’s not an international school where everyone speaks and is spoken to in English, as is very common for Western children to attend while in Hong Kong. So what does this mean for my little Auburn?

She’s Learning Cantonese

Being half-Chinese, with grandparents who don’t speak English any better than I speak Cantonese makes it difficult for her to get to know them. Also, it makes it difficult for her grandparents to discipline and take care of her.

So? She’s going to be spending this year learning Cantonese!


After one month, I’ve already seen some improvement in her Cantonese abilities. She’s definitely understanding some things and able to translate a bit of it and she’s able to chorally repeat things she hears even though her understanding and ability to come up with Cantonese phrases on her own isn’t there yet. If she’s asked to repeat something in Cantonese, she can follow the tones well, use the correct words most of the time, and it makes people here giggle!

Learning To Dance

Auburn started dance class yesterday. She’s begun her ballet! So how did the first day go? It was a rough start, but it ended with a giant smile on her chubber- face! Btw, she asks me what I mean when I call her ‘chubbers,’ and I just tell her it means super-cute, but really it means her cheeks are squishy and kissable cuz they’re a bit chubby!

A daughter abroad
Look at the chubbers!

Luckily, she had a classmate/friend in dance class with her, but that didn’t get her too warm because all the other girls had on their ballet costumes when we got there. Auburn was not happy about this, she did not want to dance without her costume so she crossed her arms, left the room, and walked to the door saying that she didn’t want to dance.

Luckily, her grandma had purchased her dress, tights, and they just needed to size her shoes to get her a pair. Once she saw she would be able to get into a sparkly, purple dress, her mood quickly changed, as is common with my little monster girl.

A daughter abroad
Dancing outside…with a mustard stain!

After dance class, she spent the evening showing her grandma and me all her moves and making sure we were practicing them, too. She slept in her tights and insisted she wore them to school this morning. Fair to say she’s obsessed and I might regret this decision in the future! We’ll see how it plays out, though. Auburn already has what Hong Kongers call ‘gong zhu bang’ (pardon my horrible pinyin), or what roughly translates to English as, ‘Hong Kong Princess Disease,’ and I’m certain letting her into ballet will only reinforce her princessy-ness. 

So what is it like to raise a daughter abroad? It’s complicated 🙂

She Hates Dim Sum

If you’re not sure what dim sum is, it’s a traditional Chinese cuisine that is made of unrecognizable food if you’ve only eaten Western food, served on plates that everyone eats off of at the same time. I know my first time eating it in Hong Kong I thought it was slimy, bizarre, and a struggle to eat and understand the etiquette of. Now that I’ve had it probably 10 times, I know it’s delicious, healthy (mostly), and I have no problem sharing plates with people anymore.

A daughter abroad
Auburn as a youngster at a dim sum restaurant 🙂

Auburn, however, does not appreciate anything that comes with eating dim sum. Except, that is, for the Chinese donuts that come with a sugary, creamy sauce she can dunk them in.

A Daughter Abroad: I’ll Keep You Informed

Month-by-month I’ll be keeping you updated on Auburn’s experience and, most importantly, how she is coming along with her language-learning. I hope you stay in touch!

Do you think it’s important to teach children a new language? I do! Let me hear your thoughts in the comments 🙂

Considering traveling abroad with children? If you are, then I’m sure you have a million questions jetting around inside your mind: is it safe to travel with children? Do you children adapt well to new cultures? Should I travel with my child? Most importantly, why should I travel with children?

Let me give you a quick answer to the penultimate question: absolutely, you should. There are always things you can do beforehand to prepare, so, prepare.

Now, let me tell you why you should travel with them. First, I’ll hopefully ease your fears, then give you two more important reasons to take your children traveling abroad.

Safety Concerns

Like any parent who is asking themselves the question if they should travel with their child, I have been concerned about my daughter’s safety abroad. More importantly, I am more concerned about her safety in the United States. It seems that every week there is a massacre of one type or another, a horrific act of violence, or a ‘mistake’ that ends in the death of a child.

Traveling with children
Auburn playing safely in Hong Kong, safety equipment and all

So if you’re worried about your child’s safety abroad, I can assure you, they are as safe as anywhere you would take them in the United States. Obviously, travel with caution and diligence; it’s probably not a good idea to take your child to Syria, Somalia, or Iraq, at the moment.

However, don’t be afraid to take your child somewhere that has historically been belittled by American/Western media. Auburn and I have been to Colombia and Vietnam, places I had heard from other Americans (who’d never been there) that I shouldn’t go there because it’s ‘dangerous!’ Now I just laugh when I hear this because I’ve never been to a place outside of the USA that felt more dangerous than living in the USA itself.

Traveling with children in vietnam
Auburn playing with her new-found friends in Ho Tram, Vietnam. I’m pretty sure this sand pile was for construction purposes so likely not the best example of traveling safely 🙂

Learning Opportunities

Can your child get a solid education in the United States? Sure, if you send them to a private school you know and trust. I may sound like a hater in this regard, but the American education system sucks, it sucks big ol’ donkey hooves.

So you think I’m a hater? Not true, I love the United States, but I also love and respect other places for knocking us around in the education department. Take for example that American education ranks just 14th in reading, 25th in maths, and a sad 17th in science.

Traveling with children, class in Ho Chi Minh City
Auburn enjoying her birthday in Ho Chi Minh City, summer camp 2016!

Now I’ll hand you over to my personal experience in public education: donkey hooves. I grew up being taught the letter ‘w’ could sometimes be used as a vowel, that Christopher Columbus was a class-act, and that the USA had never lost a war. Let me scribble that out for you: (1) is B.S., (2) is vomit-inducing, and (3) is utter nonsense. A university-education and the internet have taught me heaps more than what I could have ever hoped to learn (unlearn) from the over-lavished, sub-standard, American public education system.

Now take for example that if you travel with your child, they’ll have the opportunity to learn in a different culture (avoiding common mistakes), see things from a new perspective, and pick up on languages that you probably won’t be able to speak. Get them to put down the new iPhone, the latest gadget, and get outdoors and meet some new people! The new language alone is the best investment you can give your child. Aside from the fact that it might cost $10,000 in the future to learn a new language from a university and you can save that by simply immersing them in the language and culture, but learning a new language also changes your brain, makes you more open, and helps you understand things that monoglots cannot.

Memories Increase Your Lifespan

So maybe you don’t care about your child’s education that much or learning a new language isn’t really on your radar of things you want your child to achieve. Fair enough.

Then, for a moment, imagine a life without memories. Or, more common, a life with the same memory over and over again. How short is that life? Painfully, in my experience.

Traveling with children
Me, my daughter, and my sunburn, all together. Koh Tao, Thailand

I can remember spending each day waking up at the same time to go to the same job at the same place through the same amount of traffic. In my memories, months can pass without any significant change, and that’s where your life gets lost: when you’re not making new memories.

I don’t want to pretend like every day will be different traveling and you’ll remember everything, no, that’s not true. You can fall into routine traveling or living abroad as well. But the move itself, the plethora of new sounds, sights, smells, tastes, textures, people, all add ages to your memory. A year will no longer feel like it flies by when you live or travel abroad, a year can actually feel like a proper year, imagine that?

Traveling with children who sleep on your head
Auburn sleeping on my head in Hong Kong, a memory I won’t forget and she won’t remember 🙂

Travel, Travel Now

So your child will learn more than your standard American B.S., will pick up a new language, will be as safe as ‘back home,’ and you’ll expand your lifetime through an increased diversity of memories? That’s right; if you do it right.

Give me a shout out if you have any questions: do you agree? Disagree? Leave a comment 🙂 And don’t forget to sign up for reminders of future posts through the submission form at the bottom of the page 🙂

Traveling with children to U.P. Michigan
We didn’t have to travel far for this one, just a few hours north of home. Kitch-iti-kipi, Michigan. Simply gorgeous, though it’s better in color, to be honest.

By: Julie Morris 

If you’re a single parent, you may think that single parent travel is out of the realm of possibility. There are always commitments and reasons to put yourself on the back burner, but the truth is, taking time to travel by yourself can be extremely helpful in getting to a place of self-discovery. There’s no reason to feel like you need to be forgiven for this.

It’s difficult to be our best selves when we’re faced with daily stresses and a schedule that never eases up, so in taking time for yourself, you’ll be doing something to help your relationship with your children… and yourself. So do some single parent travel and be a better person for it. 

single parent travel
Get out and enjoy yourself!

The key to traveling solo is planning. Safety is always a concern, especially when you’re in a new country, so being prepared is essential. Packing the right items and knowing how to get around once you’re at your destination can help your trip go smoothly, as well.
Here are some of the best tips on traveling solo and staying safe while having fun.

Single Parent Travel, Plan Well

Do some research on your destination to find out local customs, such as how they handle tipping or shaking hands, and find out what the local scene is like. Is it customary to wear certain items of clothing?

single parent travel
Get lost if you have to, but stay safe

If so, come prepared so you won’t have to go shopping once you get there. It’s important to be able to blend in when you’re in an unfamiliar place, as tourists are often targets for theft or are taken advantage of because they don’t know any better. The more educated you are on where you are traveling to, the better off you will be.

Work out a budget

Solo traveling doesn’t have to break the bank, but you don’t want to find yourself in a tough position in a strange place, so work out a budget ahead of time and stick to it. If you’re in a foreign country and exchanged currency when you arrived, try not to carry too much of it when you go out. Ask the hotel manager if you can keep some things in their safe, including any expensive jewelry (though it’s best to leave these items at home if possible), and your ID and passport, which you can make copies of to carry with you. That way, if you lose your bag or wallet, you’ll still have the originals.

Focus on yourself

When you’re a single parent, your focus is likely almost always on your children: making sure they’re well fed and rested, taking care of anything related to school and childcare, dealing with illnesses. There’s very little time to focus on yourself, so make that a priority on your trip. Book activities that you’ve always wanted to try, and explore areas you’ve always wanted to visit. Bring a camera and journal to document everything and solidify your memories.

single parent travel
Find yourself by putting yourself in perspective

This experience is especially helpful if you’re going through recovery. Substance abuse, grief, and anxiety can take a toll on our bodies, minds, and emotions. Focusing on yourself during a solo vacation can help you get back to a healthy place and can lead to some self-discovery, which is an important part of recovery. Spending time in a new place can really help you see what areas you want to work on and eliminate from your life when you return.

For more information on how traveling can help during recovery, read on here.

Improving Yourself Improves Your Family

Remember that this trip is all about you, but that doesn’t you reap all the benefits. Find the best ways to enjoy yourself and relax, but remember to make your safety a priority at the same time so you can return safely to your children. Stay connected to someone back home and let them know where you’ll be at all times, especially if you’re going exploring.

 

 

 

From planting a garden, to swimming at the lake, to camping and canoeing the Tahquamenon River, we have had a refreshing and relaxing summer, mostly.

Of course, I came home to make sure my mom was fed and kept on her meds while she recovered, but it wasn’t the only thing I did. Now that she is starting to get back on her feet again, I feel I have finally have enough time and energy to get to updating you on our life and a relatively mistake-free summer.

The Garden

We started our summer with getting some plants in the ground. The garden beds needed some TLC and Auburn was happy to help. She helped shovel in new soil, plant some vegetables, and put in this beautiful sunflower that is now standing taller than me!

_DSC3775

What We Grew

From tomatoes to kale, marigolds to other types of marigolds, the garden did quite well this summer. That is, except for the tomatoes. Why? Because we planted a few varieties with indeterminate growth and didn’t have a trellis system in place to support them. So what did we do? Improvised!

Gardening tomatoes, growing tomatoes
An old chair that I axed the seat out of to use as a support system for the tomatoes

Gardening is a learning process year-to-year. To me, it doesn’t matter if the garden looks professional, is well spaced out, or has an particular aesthetic to it. As I’m trying to learn in life and gardening: plant your seeds, care for them, and make due. If people want to judge you, oh well, that’s on them. Set your own standards and you won’t be flailing for reassurance from anyone else. The tomatoes will turn red either way, and they taste no less delicious.

Growing tomatoes, unconventional methods
An old guitar stand I used to prop up another tomato plant

If there’s on plant I can’t recommend enough to grow, it’s kale. It’s a delicious superfood that goes great in smoothies, salads, and steamed with butter. It grows quickly, has a a solid yield per plant and is also quite attractive on it’s own. Gardening with children helps them learn about where food comes from as well. You may find your own children are more likely to eat vegetables with them grow them themselves. 

Kale, dew, gardening
Morning dew on the kale.
Tomates, gardening
Tomatoes growing

Marigolds are a great addition to any garden. They come in many varieties and colors and are incredibly easy to take care of. Give them water, and dead-head the dying flowers. At some point you might even be overwhelmed with how well they do. One of plants went from a tiny sprout to a flower plant nearly 2 feet in diameter with flowers sprouting from all over!

Marigolds, flowers
Marigolds: blooming and wanting to bloom.

Gardening with Children

Auburn has helped me create the garden at my Mom’s for several years now, but this was the first time she was actually helpful! Previously, she was keen to shovel out the soil I was shoveling in. This year however, she managed to fill several of plots all by herself and loved it! There’s nothing like watching a little kid get dirty and enjoy themselves, it makes me wish I was still a child sometimes. Aside from the fun they having gardening, there are numerous health benefits to it: fresh air, exercise, relaxation, and the microbes in the soil that get under your nails are beneficial to your immune system. Dig on, my child! And parents, try gardening with children and see how they do, it could be your next family activity 🙂

Gardening with children
Putting in work with her Auburn-sized shovel

 

end your travels early

 

Why should you end your travels early?

There’s always good reasons to end your travels. Sometimes it’s because you’re broke, sometimes it’s because you’re having a horrible time in a new country. The number one reason to end your travels early, however, is because your family needs you. We are going to miss the Chinese family in Hong Kong, but the American family needs us right now. 

family photo, Chinese family, smile
Auburn and her Chinese family, Grandpa, Grandma, and half-brother

Help Those In Need

This is the case for my daughter and me right now. My mother is relatively old, not in great shape, and has long-lasting injuries from a horrible car accident when I was 14-years-old. She was very lucky to survive, but the crash did damage that lingers, nay, worsens to this day. If your family is ever is need, I implore you to also end your travels early. 

 

I flew to Asia in February this year, not sure of how long I would be staying. I knew I wanted my daughter to experience new countries, new people, new food, and she has. Even better, she’s gotten to spend a lot of time with her Chinese family over the past 6 weeks. I know they are always thrilled when we can come to Hong Kong and this certainly will not be the last time we are here. For now, with the difficult decision of which family member(s) need me and my daughter the most, we will be saying goodbye to the Chinese family about 30 hours.

Returning to Home Base

We are heading back to the home I lived in during high school, the home my mother has owned since 2002, squatted in the middle of the woods and nowhere near a city or outside entertainment. It’s never difficult to stay extended periods of time with your parents when you are my age and have your own child. The dynamics are annoying and I like to be alone 90% of the time (except for my daughter) so living with another person, even family, is always hard on me. This isn’t about me, though. It’s about making sure my mom recovers from a recent injury. She fell, broke some ribs, deflated a lung, and hit her head quite hard. She’s not doing well, but hopefully with my help and my daughter’s laughter in the house, she will be strong by the end of this summer.

 

So what does a wanderlusting man like me do when I’m home? I have some plans. I will put together my mother’s garden again, planning to build a floating dock for her pond, and will work on a few books that I am currently writing: one on how I make myself a better parent, and another on how I ended the ignorance/intolerance of my mind that I grew up in (no offense to my parents, they are just from another time and weren’t prepared to raise children through the age of the internet). I can’t imagine what it’s in store for me raising my daughter through whatever world-shattering technological advancement is next. I’m sure I will be wholly unprepared for it and Auburn will have to outgrow my ignorance of it someday as well.

Prepping to Say Goodbye

For now, we are packing our bags, getting ready to give our last hugs, and spending as much time with the Chinese family as we can before we leave. It’s very difficult to leave Hong Kong and the love that I feel for Auburn from her Chinese family. Both her grandparents get huge smiles on their faces every time they see her. Her Aunt Toni is an incredible person who loves Auburn to no end and is one of the best people I know for keeping Auburn laughing and having fun. Sometimes I think Auburn loves her Aunt more than me! I guess I’m just not as silly and fun and she is.

Aunt and Auburn, family
Auburn and her Aunt swimming and playing

This has been the most rewarding time in Hong Kong for me yet, we had a blast in Thailand (Songkran Festival I hope to meet you again!), and I’m excited for what the future holds for us. The most important thing now, (and the number one reason you should end your travels early if you find yourself in a similar situation), is that we help my mother recover and get healthy in whatever way we can, even if it means ending our travels and returning to home base for as long as that takes.

Museums in Hong Kong, skyline

Guide to Visiting Hong Kong’s Museums

One of greatest parts of visiting any big city is the access to museums and the wealth of knowledge you can gain from them. If you’re traveling to Hong Kong, the museums here are no different, and only a loser would pass them up. Did you know Hong Kong was occupied by Japan for nearly 4 years in the 1940’s, and that the Japanese enslaved not only Hong Kong people, but also the Brits? Ever heard of the Opium Wars? Did you know some people of Hong Kong almost never leave their boats? These are just a few of the things you can learn about in an interesting and fun way by visiting the museums in Hong Kong. If you’re looking to visit the museums of Hong Kong, this guide will provide you with an economical and simple way to do so. Your first step should be getting a coveted museum pass. Don’t make a mistake you’ll have to forgive yourself for later; don’t pass this one up.


 

Get a Hong Kong Museum Pass: What is it?

Hong Kong Museum Pass
My Museum Pass, hot off the press

This is by far my favorite part of Hong Kong. The museum pass allows you to enter the permanent and special exhibitions for free as many times as you’d like. The value that you get for purchasing a museum pass is bar none. Make sure you bring a form of identification with you to prove you are who you say you are when applying.

*There are ways to visit some museums for free on certain days, but I wouldn’t recommend going on those days; they get packed with people–including students’ field trips–and are much less enjoyable.

 

Museums in Hong Kong

There’s a lot of museums in Hong Kong. What Museums are included?

The museum pass grants access to the permanent and special exhibitions of the museums operated under the Leisure and Cultural Services Department. Here they are linked with the address to each in parentheses and their phones numbers in brackets.

 

Hong Kong Science Museum (2 Science Museum Rd, Tsim Sha Tsui East) [2732-3232]

 

Hong Kong Heritage Museum (1 Man Lam Rd, Sha Tin) [2180-8188]

 

Hong Kong Museum of Art (10 Salisbury Road, Tsim Sha Tsui) [2721-0116]

 

Hong Kong Museum of History (100 Chatham Road South, Tsim Sha Tsui) [2724-9042]

 

Dr. Sun Yat-sen Museum (Kom Tong Hall, 7 Castle Rd, Central) [2367-6383]

 

Hong Kong Space Museum (10 Salisbury Rd, Tsim Sha Tsui) [2721-0226]

 

Hong Kong Museum of Coastal Defence (175 Tung Hei Rd, Shau Kei Wan) [2569-1500]

 

Best Museum for Children in Hong Kong

The Hong Kong Museum of Science is one of the coolest museums in Hong Kong to take your child. There’s got to be 100 different stations they can interact with. Everything from toying with electricity and magnets, manipulating puzzles of all types (some of them are difficult!), VR systems, video games, and my daughter’s personal favorite: the construction yard for smaller children (technically the child must be between 80-120cms tall, but they seem to be quite lenient on this).

Museum of Science Construction Yard
Moving blocks around in the construction yard

The children are given a construction vest and helmet and can proceed to build a building with foam blocks, move blocks around with carts on and off a track set, operate a crane and way station, and more! They are allowed to play for 15 minute intervals at which point a bell will go off and they will have to get back in line if they want to go again. Get a museum pass to go on any day you want because if you take your child on the ‘free day’ everyone else and their child will be there and the line can get quite long. Get there on a Monday or Tuesday morning and you’ll likely see just a few kids playing at a time. Your little one can get right back in if they want!

Museum of Science
Operating and the crane/way station

 

Cost of a Museum Pass

Family pass (up to 4 people)…………………………………………………………………………………………………………..$100 HKD

Individual Pass……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….$50 HKD

Concessionary Pass (applies to full-time students, persons over 60, and disabled persons)………….$25 HKD

 

How Long is a Hong Kong Museum Pass Valid For?

1 year from date of purchase. They used to sell monthly and weekly passes, but those have been abolished.

It’s possible that the orders for passes may be backlogged and you will have to wait 2 weeks to pick up your official pass, but don’t worry! In the meantime, you can use the receipt for your purchase as you would the museum pass itself. Just don’t lose your receipt, you need it to get your pass once it’s ready!

And luckily, if you do ever lose your pass, you can get a replacement for $5-$10 HKD depending on the type of pass you have.

 

Where can I buy a Hong Kong Museum Pass?

You can buy your museum pass at the following museums in Hong Kong, address to each will be listed in parentheses, see above for links and contact information.

 

Hong Kong Museum of History (100 Chatham Road South, Tsim Sha Tsui)

 

Hong Kong Heritage Museum (1 Man Lam Rd, Sha Tin)

 

Hong Kong Science Museum (2 Science Museum Rd, Tsim Sha Tsui East)

 

Hong Kong Space Museum (10 Salisbury Rd, Tsim Sha Tsui)

 

Hong Kong Museum of Coastal Defence (175 Tung Hei Rd, Shau Kei Wan)

 

Dr. Sun Yat-sen Museum (Kom Tong Hall, 7 Castle Rd, Central)

 

Looking to Visit the Museums in Hong Kong for Free?

It can be done!

Firstly, some permanent exhibits have been opened for good. Secondly, the museums in Hong Kong without permanent displays open for free have free days you can visit. As stated before, this isn’t ideal because the museums get jammed with folks, but if you’re looking for free, be ready to join the hoards who are doing the same.

 

Which Hong Kong Museums are free?

Free Entry to Museums
Free? Get outta my way!

The permanent exhibits of the Hong Kong Museum of History, Hong Kong Heritage Museum, Hong Kong Museum of Art, Hong Kong Museum of Coastal Defence, and the Dr. Sun Yat-sen Museum are all open for free. The free entry does not include entrance to any special exhibits. That’s what the museum pass is for!

If you’re a full-time student, the Hong Kong Museum of Science and the Hong Kong Space Museum are also open for free to you.

 

Free Days for Hong Kong Museums

The Hong Kong Museum of Science is free to the public on Wednesdays. Beware, lots of field trips on this day, so come early if you want to beat the army of children that will be running and screaming throughout.

 

Other Perks of the Museum Pass

10% discount on souvenirs and publications purchased at the museums

Special offers at the catering outlets within the museums

10% discount on museum extension activities

Special offers on the Annual Pass to Ocean Park and the Magic Access of Disneyland

 

Conclusion

Hong Kong traffic
Museums are a great way to escape the congestion of the city

Visiting the museums in Hong Kong can be entertaining, enlightening, and an all around lovely morning or afternoon. I would highly recommend the museum pass if you plan on visiting multiple museums to see special exhibits, or if you plan on returning to the same museum more than once. I love to take my daughter to the Hong Kong Museum of Science at least a couple of times per week and the value of the museum pass paid for itself in the first few days.