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Kids CornerTravel

Did You Know The Incas Were Thought To Be the Sons of the Sun?

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Fun Facts for Kids from Around the World

Spencer Says:

…..Guatamala, Bolivia then Argentina, and Ecuador, Chile and Brazil!!

Are you a lover of Animaniacs? Because I am! I learned all the countries of the world from one of their videos called “The Nations of The World”. It’s pretty cool since we are travelling the world as a family and have been in a number of those countries and learning new things. 
One of those countries is PERU where we visited Machu Picchu.
Did you know that Machu Picchu is the home of the Incas and known to be the sacred place of the sun?
The Incas were the “sons of the sun”. Get it? Lol.

 

They were a culture a long time ago in the 1400’s who were very smart and made really cool buildings. The incas were a conquering tribe, whose empire stretched across modern day Peru, Columbia, Bolivia, Chile and Ecuador.

According to the Inca’s, the sun gave life. When they built their city it was based on the sun’s positioning against the mountains to determine the seasons, the orientation to ensure maximum sunlight, the moon and the stars.

The Inca’s were super good at farming and agriculture. The levels you see at Machu Picchu are called terraces they used for gardening. Coca leaves, peanuts, potatoes, chilli peppers, sweet potato, passion fruit, avocados, apples, tomatoes and other foods were all grown there. 

 

 

We have learned a lot about farming in Peru. Terraces are very different than what we have at home in Canada
We have learned a lot about farming in Peru. Terraces are very different than what we have at home in Canada
There was a time when the Spaniards (who were called Conquistadores) came to take over the land but because Machu Picchu is high up in the mountains, they never found them. However, the Inca’s and their culture still got destroyed during that time and that was the end of the road for them.
The city of Maccu Picchu was lost for 460 years, discovered in 1911 by a professor from Yale, named Hiram Bingham. Can you believe there was only one piece of gold found after its discovery? Someone had gotten there first!
Did you know that Hiram Bingham was sponsored by National Geographic on the expedition to Machu Picchu which is SO NEAT because we are National Geographic Kids Ambassadors!!! I really love researching stuff with them and especially like facts about Blue Whales, Airplanes and cool places to go. 
Hiram Bingham FOUND Machu Picchu as part of a National Geographic Expedition!!!!!!!!!
Hiram Bingham FOUND Machu Picchu as part of a National Geographic Expedition!!!!!!!!!
Today, Maccu Picchu welcomes over 3 million visitors every year, and must work to make sure that the site is taken care of and not effected by too many people. We don’t want the ruins to get ruined!
Spencer LOVED climbing around the ruins (WHERE ALLOWED :)
Spencer LOVED climbing around the ruins (WHERE ALLOWED 🙂

Spencer is 10 years old and 1/2 of the Cuppa Kids part of this family. He has a heart is full of gold and because of his Autism, sees the world so differently than most. He believes there is so much good out there and everyone is meant to be kind and friends. His passions include this trip, airplanes (especially the Airbus A380), family & friends. Spencer’s curiosity, generosity and kindness has won the hearts of many a person we encounter as we travel. We joke about creating the #SpencerFanClub but there really and truly is one starting to emerge.

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Changing the WorldTravel

Why We Are Visiting Places That Will Likely Disappear In Our Lifetime

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The Many Faces of Travel

When we finally made the decision to take this trip around the world, a big part of the planning process became “where do we want to go?”

Each family member was given a choice of 3 priority destinations that would fulfill a lifelong dream of theirs.

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If you could pick 3 places to travel in the world, where would you go?

Our loose, plan not to plan itinerary is to see the world in all its glory. Yet we realized that many of the places we wanted to see are also ones that are being threatened by over-tourism, climate change and the influence/intrusion of man.

The Giant Tortoises once ruled the Galapagos, until man brought invasive species along to the islands. In turn, the food & water resources were consumed by other animals greatly depreciating the tortoise population into endangered status
The Giant Tortoises once ruled the Galapagos, until man brought invasive species along to the islands. In turn, the food & water resources were consumed by other animals greatly depreciating the tortoise population into endangered status

We feel like we’re in a bit of a juxtaposition. Our goal was to intentionally visit sites that we believe might disappear in our lifetime. After seeing how tourism is affecting many of those areas, we are unsure if our attendance might be hastening their demise.

The pristine, hardly-touched beach of Tortuga Bay in Galapagos could change in a heart beat if the wrong people are supporting the tourism plan for the islands
The pristine, hardly-touched beach of Tortuga Bay in Galapagos could change in a heart beat if the wrong people are supporting the tourism plan for the islands

We have already witnessed it as we visited The Galapagos Islands and we have seen in again in Aguas Calientes, the base town for traveling Machu Picchu.

Being able to walk through lava tunnels gave us such an incredible perspective on how the Galapagos came about
Being able to walk through lava tunnels gave us such an incredible perspective on how the Galapagos came about

In the Galapagos, we opted to do a land-based visit to maintain our RTW budget and support local providers where possible. The concept of land vs cruise tours is still quite new in the Galapagos. It was very simple to book island tours for the next day, the competition becoming increasingly fierce for the tourist dollar. While the Ministry of Tourism, Environment and other government agencies are working hard on regulations around environmental considerations, amount of tourists and the way they tour, you can already see how more tourists in the Galapagos has the potential of messing with an already fragile eco-system.

We were able to come so close to the marine iguanas that you know they have become VERY familiar with tourists
We were able to come so close to the marine iguanas that you know they have become VERY familiar with tourists

A few things that really did impress me about The Galapagos:

  • Tour organizers like Galapagos Alternatives work very hard at designing a personal custom tour for you WHILE ensuring that where possible the eco-impact is considered.
  • The government has a limited allocation of taxis currently running with gas on the island. Any resident purchasing a car in the future on the island must purchase an electric car.
  • Seymour Airport on Baltra Island is the first Ecological airport, running entirely on renewable energy resources like solar power and wind. 

Machu Picchu is one of the most majestic places on earth. It truly does take your breath away when you turn the corner and see it for the first time. Unfortunately, parts of the ruins as well as the road on the way up are starting to deteriorate and the geological concerns are hitting a critical mass. Areas are starting to become off limits, walks to the Sun Gate are now restricted to 2 walks up per day and must be booked months in advance, the Intihuatana stone (The Hitching Post of the Sun) no longer allowed to be touched.

The Temple of the Condor in Machu Picchu was fascinating in their beliefs and rituals surrounding it, yet too much activity can start to cause damage.
The Temple of the Condor in Machu Picchu was fascinating in their beliefs and rituals surrounding it, yet too much activity can start to cause damage.

We were told that according to recent studies, the road has less than 17 months left before it will be impossible to drive up to the top. There has been consideration  for a cable car up to the top but the local economy is against it, bolstered largely through the employment offered from construction, tourism and buses driving up the mountain. For Aguas Calientes their sole economy is tourism. Without it, this town has no other resources to rely on. The push for an increase in tourism will continue but at what price?

The market in Aquas Calientes is so very full of the usual tourist chotchkes. We get it. It's the only source of economy in the town.
The market in Aquas Calientes is so very full of the usual tourist chotchkes. We get it. It’s the only source of economy in the town but it quickly changes the beauty and authenticity of the experience into feeling like a dollar sign. 

We are trying hard to be careful in how we are traveling. To support sustainable travel & local economies but without getting caught in the “vicious cycle” that plays out with popular tourist destinations where we can.

Lake Titicaca is so incredibly beautiful but it is said now that locals are putting on a “show” to appease expectations for tourists when its no longer real

We have a few other precious destinations on our list. Patagonia is seeing many of its glaciers retreating at an alarming rate, the Great Barrier Reef is dying, the Sumatran Orangutans are endangered, pushed out of their natural habitats due to deforestation, logging and poachers and the Maldives will likely be under water within the next few decades due to climate change.

This trip is a series of life lessons we are learning along the way. One which we hope will connect for us, for our kids and for our readers alike.

Machu Picchu is SUCH a sacred place but it feels very close to that sacred piece being hurt along the way
Machu Picchu is SUCH a sacred place but it feels very close to that sacred piece being hurt along the way.

Dad Says:

Ok, so did you get the T-Shirt?  That is the question that keeps circling as we make our way through South America.  Every stop has weavings, pictures, purses and ‘real’ Alpaca products for sale, all handmade if you believe the tales, and dyed in the time-honoured tradition of the region.  Or not.  There is way too much similarity to vouch for the claims, and you wonder if this schtick is as transparent to others as it is to us.  Sadly, I don’t think so, with the amount of offerings and marks milling through the markets.

This is the part of travel I don’t like.  The commercialization of these magical places, the continual drive to relieve me of some currency. No, I don’t want a: hat, blanket, hammock, or picture of you in your traditional regional garb.  I want to climb to the top of a mountain and imagine the footsteps of those who went before, take a picture to bolster my failing memory, and think of the journey over a glass.  No T-shirt required…

 

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Family MattersTravel

It’s the Journey…

Sea turtles in the Galapagos

And so ours begins.

How to stay present while traveling.

Mom Says

I wasn’t sure how we would approach writing about this adventure. Social media is so engrained in my world (both professionally and personally) that of course I want to share everything with everybody because it’s just all so beautiful and so different. We hope to spread the good word about unique places, spaces and experiences that we think you might enjoy. The kids eager to pass on lessons we have learned on the road, taking on the responsibility of sharing information with their class & friends as part of their experience.

Sea lions in the galapagos
The mere proximity we had to wild life in The Galapagos made me cry ALL the time.

We believe in sharing openly and honestly about this journey. Writing without censorship the awesomeness and the challenges of family dynamics on the road might help in planning for your own adventure. Traveling with special needs for us is not about focusing on the disability but about providing an ABILITY to see the world in a different way. The Good. The Bad. The Ugly.

Here’s the kicker. We barely ever get to ugly. It hasn’t ever really been a part of “us”.

The one bad I have been holding on to is that we haven’t written much. The truth is we haven’t written much YET because we (especially me) are learning to be present.

Swing at the end of the world views
This was the sun setting as the kids and I waited for them to venture on the Swing at the end of the world in Banos. IT was epic.

It’s so much more difficult than I realized.

I am in awe of the beauty mother nature has created here and listening intently to what the she has to say. These moments are gifts and I am concentrating on staying in the moment. To be still, breathe it in, recognize what it is and be grateful for all the beauty that sits before us. Admittedly it has brought me to tears so often that Chris is wondering if I’m going through “the change”.

Having Frigate birds soaring only a few feet away had us all choked up
Having Frigate birds soaring only a few feet away had us overwhelmed from the beauty of it all.

A dear friend gave us great advice before we left. Live fully in that moment for as long as you can, because the minute you bring a camera lens into the picture, all of the specialness you are witnessing disappears. A wise woman is she. A wise, wise woman.

Penguins in all their glory on Isla Isabella had me bawling
Penguins in all their glory on Isla Isabella. Penguins..Can we just say Penguins?

Dad says:

So here we are: all of the above is true, and now, this thing is on.  Real time events, reactions, and fun times ahead.

We arrived in Quito in the evening to a never-ending river of light as the city sits surrounded by so many mountains.  I am now speaking more spanish than ever, which was previously restricted to resort replies such as ‘si, yo es mucho macho’ and ‘uno mas’ and some upsizing at Taco Bell.

The city is awesome, foreign and fun.  Look for more posts to come as we comb through the notes and find the best stuff for you all.

This sunset happened minutes after we witnessed humpback whales breaching a mile off shore. We all were overwhelmed with emotion
This sunset happened minutes after we witnessed humpback whales breaching a mile off shore.
I don't know what we loved more. Having an Eagle Ray float by us or the Kids singing "Oh Let's Name the Zone" from Finding Nemo on the way back. So far above everything else, being in the moment in the Galapagos has been one of those true chances of a lifetime kind of gifts.
I don’t know what we loved more. Having an Eagle Ray float by us or the Kids singing “Oh Let’s Name the Zone” from Finding Nemo on the way back. So far above everything else, being in the moment in the Galapagos has been one of those true chances of a lifetime kind of gifts.

 

 

 

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Travel

Lessons Learned While Traveling the World as a Family

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We are two weeks in to this Round The World experience and already we have “learned” so much in the process. How we function as a family, how to school on the road, how to long-haul travel, the uniqueness of different cultural behaviours, different foods and 1,001 new & exciting discoveries have all been added to our repertoire.

Under the guise of life lessons mixed with travel experiences, I will list a few that we have already taken note of that will help both the global backpacker and the week long family vacation.

Write down where you are staying (on paper)

I know this sounds a little simple but we got caught with this the very FIRST day of our trip.

My partner in crime as we strolled around Quito

Spencer and I are early birds, so we left the AirBnb we had arrived at late the night before in search of coffee and breakfast first thing. I had opted to do an Easy ROAM day. This is an option TELUS (a Canadian cell service provider) offers as a solution to utilize while traveling. For $10/day you can simply use your phone similar to how you would use it at home. No panic on giant roaming charges. All in for $10. We are finding that we are opting for ROAM days on days where we are relying on Google Maps, Trip Advisor, AirBnb, Skyscanner or Booking.com. We love the ability to function like at home except here’s the kicker, sometimes phones don’t cooperate. As we were out and about, my phone started doing wonky things and suddenly just shut down. Which wouldn’t have been a problem, save for the fact that I had no memory of where we were staying. Nor did we have a way of contacting our crew. If it hadn’t been for Spencer remembering a landmark and the directional view we had been looking at it from the apartment window of the AirBnb we might still be wondering the streets of Quito.

Everyone’s got something to give

Case in point with Spencer guiding the way above, we have discovered the best way for us to work as a team on this journey is to respect that all our family can contribute. Spencer has been using mad skills searching for flights (which for a kid obsessed with airplanes is right in his wheelhouse) and has found us cost-savings of almost $3000. Lauren in the meantime is our Accoms expert. Given a budget and couple of parameters (we all agree wifi is ideal), she has been diligently searching out places to stay in a number of upcoming destinations. She saves to the wish list and as long as it nets out review and cost wise we book. Her last two choices, the Blue Door Housing in Quito and the Hostel Princesa Maria in Banos have both been awesome selections. Daily, we also appoint a decision maker. This means that ultimately if we can come to a decision or need to make a choice, the decision maker gets final say. It has worked for everything from attractions to go see or lunch spots to choose and gives the kids a sense of responsibility for the group & budget.

Blue Door Housing - A fantastic place to stay in the heart of Old Town Quito
Blue Door Housing – A fantastic place to stay in the heart of Old Town Quito

Trust & Flow

Things might not work out the way you expect it, but that is becoming part of the fun. It’s not worth getting all up and excited about delayed flights or missed opportunities. When we just let go and trust the flow, things always seem to work out for the better anyways. Our flight was delayed 5 hours coming home from the Galapagos but it meant the most extraordinary experience of an almost entirely empty plane for us to enjoy.

Could this guy look any happier?
Could this guy look any happier?

Our tour plans to Otavalo the previous Saturday didn’t work out (one of the kids were sick) but we ended up experiencing Otavalo in a far more intimate way 2 weeks later with an extremely knowledgeable tour guide. Alejandro not only showed us the market & gave us detailed facts on the indigenous population and local customs but also took us to a local Ecuadorian hole-in-the-wall that served amazing authentic food for $3/plate. Trust & Flow is a big part of who we are.

Getting a chance to see these colours and touch the beautiful textiles of Otavalo market was an experience we will never forget
Getting a chance to see these colours and touch the beautiful textiles of Otavalo market was an experience we will never forget

We can learn something every day.

This has become a mantra for all of us on this trip. We are learning so much about our family. We are learning so much about might be able to help change the world. We are learning so much about how we are all connected. We are exploring. We are adventuring. We are challenging ourselves daily. Whether its about where we are or who we are, this has most definitely has become our global classroom.

Learning the transit habits of an iguana
Learning the transit habits of an iguana

 

Discovering the family dynamics of Sea Lions on the Galapagos
Discovering the family dynamics of Sea Lions on the Galapagos

 

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Changing the WorldFamily MattersTravel

Why National Geographic Is To Blame For All Of This

Charles Darwin Science Station

& How we are using Nat Geo as our best tool on the road

One of the most vivid, core memories I have as a child is running down the hallway of my grandparents house. Their dark blue, psychedelic carpet and powder blue bathroom sink stamped forever in my brain.

As my cousins and I play hide and go seek, I head to my favourite place to hide. A waist-high closet you had to crawl up in to at the end of the hall.

As I pop open the closet door, a secret world reveals itself to me. Stacks upon stacks of yellow bordered magazines sit at the base of the closet and I suck in my breath out of sheer wonder of it all .

National Geographic.

I’m not sure if my grandparents realized the gift they bestowed on us. Years of a National Geographic magazine subscription opened so many doors to discovery. Different cultures, natural phenomenons, extraordinary animals and a global group of people & their ways of life kept me company for hours. I was hooked. Every time I stayed over at their house I would sit in the closet, eagerly devouring so many incredible stories of our world.

Our love as a family for National Geographic runs deep.

Turtle breeding centre Charles Darwin Science Station

For my husband and I, it feels as much a part of our youth as pet rocks and smelly stickers.

For our children, the legacy has continued both traditionally and in an entirely new way.

For them, this whole wealth of information was introduced through a series of National Geographic Kids books on everything from ocean life, blue whales, sea turtles and Weird but True facts. These books are phenomenal and I can’t express enough how good they are for learning with your kids. We weren’t able to take the books on the road (*ahem*: 2 backpacks people..2 backpacks only for 8 months) but when we do have wifi, we are in fact tuning in from the road to the National Geographic Weird But True TV series that recently launched as both kids continue to love these quirky facts & are making it a game in searching their own on the trip.

How often do you find a real shrunken head in a museum along with directions on how to shrink them? Found at Solar Intinan beside Mitad del Mundo

Why blame National Geographic?

A beautiful piece of Autism is to become so deeply enamoured with a subject matter that you can’t hardly talk about anything else. Through the years of managing Autism with our son, we have seen many an obsession. When he started exploring those National Geographic Kids books, it created a love so deep for our oceans, for Blue Whales and for those “cool facts”, it became his go-to topic of discussion. It was a phenomenon to witness and one that we were happy to support his exploration of.

DYK: The highest density of Blue Whales is off the coast of Sri Lanka?

Neither did we. Until we heard about it for many, many months.

When the dialogue started about this round the world trip, that fact, was one of the first parts of the conversation. “What if we could take Spence to Sri Lanka to SEE the Blue Whales first hand? Can you imagine?” “How can we utilize both kids love of animals as a way to connect and engage with them?” “What if ….”

And so it began.

Nothing better to talk through volcanos and tectonic plates than by trekking up one on horseback. 4100m on Pinchincha
Nothing better to talk through volcanos and tectonic plates than by trekking up one on horseback. 4100m on Pinchincha

The New Way

If you want to get creative and engage kids, I can’t recommend enough following National Geographic on Instagram and SnapChat. Living and working in social media, I have to say their social engagement is some of some of the most impressive brand work I have ever seen in the social stratosphere. I started showing our daughter the incredible imagery & stories they post daily. As a 9 year old who is nowhere close to having an Instagram account (but thinks it’s wicked cool), it has become a way for us to get her engaged and create meaningful dialogue on different elements of the world.

I was lucky to meet the team from National Geographic at the Mom 2.0 Summit conference last year. In sharing stories of our plan for this Global adventure, we had the incredible fortune of being named one of this year’s National Geographic Kids Ambassadors. This role is a cornerstone in our global adventure and in fact has made far more of an impact than we ever thought possible.

These lovely creatures are native to the Galapagos but are being watched do to invasive species affecting their mortality rates. It's been hard to know that we, as humans are directly responsible for the demise of so many incredible animals.
These lovely creatures are native to the Galapagos but are being watched do to invasive species affecting their mortality rates. It’s been hard to know that we, as humans are directly responsible for the demise of so many incredible animals.

We have already begun to change.

The only way I can describe it is noticing that everybody is pregnant when you become pregnant. I sense us already far more AWARE of the impact we as humans can have. Everything from how we travel, cultures, environment, climate, mother nature & more, we are discussing it often. Exciting and uncomfortable all at the same time, it feels like a necessary part of our journey to feel this discomfort in order to learn how we might be able to make a difference.

I jokingly blame National Geographic for all of this but I couldn’t be more grateful. Somehow connecting with them this early in the trip has opened our eyes to a more significant and deeper experience. So yeah, I blame you,  National Geographic and I thank you from the bottom of my heart.

 

 

 

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Real LifeTravel

Countdown to Departure on our Round the World Trip

Teamwork Couple Climbing Helping Hand

All The Feels

Mom Says:

People have been asking us often how we feel about our upcoming trip. If truth be told, for the past number of months, my mental image has been one of those windy, twisty, scary-as-f*&K roller coasters. We buckled in for the ride when we decided to do this round the world trip over Christmas holidays last year. Over the past 8 months, through selling our house, having surgery, getting vaccines, connecting deeply with friends, and putting our whole life in storage we have been climbing that trek to the top.

A couple of weeks ago, I could feel us in that moment.

You know, that split-second, moment of pause at the very top right before you tip over the other side, dive down a 60 degree slope, careen around corners, turn upside down and finish the ride with all sorts of vomit-inducing adrenaline tricks.

THAT.

via GIPHY

I wanted to puke.

When we left our house and moved into 2 bedrooms at a nearby friends, we transcended the hump. The universe gave us a gift in providing a landing pad that feels more like the world’s friendliest hostel rather than an inconvenient couch-surf. Props to Izzy and Angus, (2 recent college graduates) for being so chill and fun when they got way more than they bargained for by having 4 Powells thrust upon them for a month.

Today, at T-minus 3 weeks out, we can feel that thrill as we start our deep dive into our global adventure.

There is no escaping it now (not that we want to). We are all in. #TeamPowell is ready to rock this. The kids are excited and talking a LOT about the “When we go on our world trip” while Chris and I are running around frantically getting all of those “things” you never think about or usually put off done before we leave.

Our mantra: Nobody ever said they regret moving forward. Sure, you get stuck in the moments where it’s actually the change that is uncomfortable. Once you get to the other side of the discomfort, the world truly feels FULL of life and opportunity.

mark-twain

Someone asked me the other day if I was stoned. I’m not stoned. I’m just at peace.

I have been working hard at mindful living. Making effort to take notice of the little things (hot showers, cushy beds, abundant food, kind people, Kraft dinner, smells, tastes, you name it) as I know so much of what we take for granted here will be absent in our world over the next many months.

We are finally organized. Our 2 backpacks that will house a family of 4 for 7 months proudly weighing in at 30lbs a piece. Most of our life is now in storage and we have started our goodbyes.

I can feel the shift in all of us.

That fear of the roller coaster gone and replaced by the thrill of the ride.

And what a ride it’s going to be.

how-i-feel

Dad says:

Stoked.  Absolutely stoked.  I have never used that word before outside trying to seem cool on a double black run with the kids, and that was a total fake.  I was not stoked at that time, I think I pee’d a little, truth be told.

But I am now. We are closer to departing than ever, and have arranged some arrangements for our first destination…The Galapagos!  Oh yeah, out of the gate with a bullet!  Now, if it was just me/just Jenn and I, it would be done differently.  We would arrive as the sun is setting, having no plan or destination or place to stay for that matter.  Generally, that works out in the end, but I will admit there is a chance of failure and sleeping on a park bench.  Only happened once, but proof positive if you know what I mean…

With the kids, it seems like a good idea to wade into this adventure, slowly until the tender bits are past the point of no return. They are generally as excited as I am, but there are bouts of uncertainty that I need to acknowledge and address.  They are 10,  give or take, and we are stealing them away from friends and schoolmates to grow as people, dammit, and I guess we should appreciate that they might have some misgivings. Sleeping in the great outdoors night 1 might be a bit off putting, if you know what I mean.

BUT:  the bags are packed, we could leave now honestly. And not so secretly, that would be ok…

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