Since we’ve been a family Lee, Reuben and I have visited six countries together. From each of them we learnt a little about ourselves, our family and how we want to live. Picking up a way of being from the culture, being inspired by a community we were visiting or learning the limit to which we could push ourselves as individuals or a family. We’ve tried out different styles of travel to see what works for us. We’ve laughed & cried, been exhausted & jubilant, sipped cocktails & ridden elephants – always together, always as a family.
Here’s a little lesson from the road from each country we visited:
It’s refreshing to visit a society that knows what it is and stays true to itself. All the special aspects of Japanese life are well-preserved and respected even by young people. There is a real sense of identity about Japan. It’s not trying to be anything else except Japanese. It’s OK to be yourself in Japan too – grown women dressed like babydolls, grown men playing video games, whatever weird and wacky thing you’re into is fine so long as you throw yourself into it wholeheartedly. There’s reverence in the little things in life. Great care is taken to perfectly arrange strawberries in a punnet or to walk on the correct side of the subway stairs. Society is ordered. You can leave your umbrella outside a restaurant and no one would think about borrowing it. Fall asleep on a late night train and no one would think of pinching your bag. The overwhelming lesson from Japan would have to be respect. Respect for traditions, respect for your identity, respect for each other, respect your surroundings.
>>>>Check out this post for more unusual facts about Japan.
OK, technically Reuben wasn’t born when we visited Japan but I was six months pregnant. This was the first international trip that Lee and I took together. It was our honeymoon so Japan will always be special to us.
We’ve spent six of the last 18 months on the coast of sunny Queensland where wonderful weather means lots of time spent outdoors. When day breaks before 6am and there’s never a chill in the air, it’s easy to get out and about early. Enjoying fresh air and exercise first thing in the morning really starts your day off on the right foot. There’s lots of activity along the waterfront – walking, running, exercising in public space and plenty of kids at the playgrounds, all before 8am. In this part of Oz, where physical activity really is a way of life, it’s rare to see anyone who is grossly overweight.
We love America. Sure, it has it’s faults but every country does. If you can look past the crappy food choices and the obsession with consumerism you’ll find a country full of positive, outgoing people. Everywhere we went the American people were friendly and engaging. In everyday situations, people were interested in who we were and what we were doing. People aren’t shy or reserved. It’s easy to strike up conversations on the bus, waiting in line or in a restaurant. We took a lot from the American outlook at life and now try to approach life positively and speak to strangers.
I’ve been to Thailand over a dozen times. It’s my go-to country when I want to relax, eat well, get some sun and just enjoy life. I wanted to share all this with Lee but what I wanted more was for him to live outside his comfort zone. His travels have always been spent in four hotels, luxury beach resort and ski towns. Apart from our honeymoon in Japan, he hadn’t been to a non-English speaking country for 10 years. I wanted him to see how the other half lived and to realize you can enjoy travel without splashing tonnes of cash. We stayed in $17 a night guesthouses, ate street food and rode in crammed minibuses. Although Lee found it difficult at the time, he grew from it immensley. He learnt he didn’t need to be comfortable 100% of the time and that he could enjoy himself on a limited budget. We also learnt that Reuben had his own limits when it came to travel and that culture shock in children exists!
Malaysia is a unique blend of cultures – Chinese, Malay and Indian all living together seamlessly. We were impressed with the amount of tolerance and diversity we witnessed in Malaysia. Christians, Buddhists, Hindus and Muslims all co-exist in what seems to be a society that respects and celebrates it’s differences. Where else in the world can you munch a chicken satay stick, outside a Bollywood theatre while listening to the call to prayer? The world could learn a thing or two about how Malaysians live.
After two months on the road moving quickly, we found ourselves in Singapore worn out and exhausted. We were done with travelling quickly, living out of a suitcase and on top of each other in a cramped hotel room. We looked forward to going home and having a kitchen, a comfy bed and a bit of space. Our learning wasn’t so much from the place we were in but about how far we could push ourselves. I wanted to give Lee a good introduction to South East Asia but I planned way too much. We know now that slow travel is the way to go. One or two weeks on the go is about all we can handle before we need to unpack, spread out and settle into a little routine, if only for a few weeks.
Other families on the move share what they have learnt on the road:
Bohemian Travelers – Travel Lessons: Can You Embrace the Unknown
The Nomadic Family – I Know Nothing (and 99 Other Things The Road Has Taught Me)
Pearce On Earth – 5 Life Lessons Learned from Traveling
Travel with Bender – So it’s been 6 Months – You won’t believe what we have learnt!
Life Changing Year – Life Lessons From The Road – A Little Bit Of Planning Goes A Loooong Way!
Living Outside of the Box – 6 Life Lessons From the Road
A King’s Life – Two things I know for sure
Family on Bikes – Complaining won’t change a gosh-darn thing
Family Travel Bucket List – 3 Things We’ve Learned While Living Outside of the USA
Ramble Crunch – 15 lessons I’ve learned traveling the world
Grow in Grace Life – By Any Road – Lessons from the Journey
Our Travel Lifestyle – Travel: Teaching us about ourselves
The Lovely Travel of a Nomadic Dad – The 10 Things I Learned on the Road that I did not Want To
Practical Adventure-ology – 25 Lessons Learned Traveling & Living Abroad with My Family
I love how you went country by country! Great tales of the uniqueness of each country!
Thanks Mary. It’s funny because the day you proposed the topic for this series of posts, Lee and I had just been for a walk on the beach and were discussing what we’d learnt from each country we visited. Perfect timing really!
Great post Bethaney. I can’t imagine being Lee and jumping into Thailand like that! It must have been tremendous culture shock. And you’re 100% correct that kids can experience culture shock, too! Our 2 little ones were not used to all the attention blonde haired & blue eyed children get in Central America. It took some getting used to, that’s for sure!
Oh absolutely! I was prepared for Lee to struggle and find things overwhelming but I hadn’t actually thought about the affect on Reuben. It took me a few weeks to realise what he was going through.
I can so identify with your thoughts about Japan! I love that place too. 🙂
Japan is such a special country. It’s hard to describe it unless you’ve been there.
I agree…what a fun breakdown of how different countries taught you different lessons! And I LOVE the lesson about learning that it’s okay not to be 100% comfortable all of the time. That is a beautiful lesson that keeps giving through life!!
That was a BIG lesson for Lee to learn. It’s hard to realise that when you’re already set in your ways but he did a great job. Even though he moaned a bit at the time, on reflection, he knows it was so good for him!
Amazing how our takeaway from various countries varies so tremendously! I often say that my husband and I, although we traveled together, generally visited completely different countries 🙂
It is amazing that two different people can process a country, it’s culture and what they learn from it completely differently. A lot of the times it depends on our own state of mind when we’re travelling.
I love how you wrote this bethaney. We also can count the lessons we learn in each country and I love that you have ! Great post!
Lee and I often talk about what we’ve learnt from each country so it seemed like a natural way to process these learnings. I’m sure there are more from each country. I could probably write a page on what we’d learnt just in Thailand!
i agree with the ladies. the breakdown is lovely. i never knew that about japan- the respect the reverence, that ‘s so lovely. and for lee to go far out of his comfort zone, is great. we loved kanchanaburi! and the way you summarize the americans- i like that too. your work is lovely. thank you for sharing. gabi
Thanks Gabi! It’s the best way I could process my thoughts on our travel learnings.
Ditto – everyone else. Love how you’ve split this up by country!! I often think it would be cool to live in Japan and just be allowed to be. Want to wear your pyjamas? OK? Want to put glitter in your hair and wear pink stockings? OK! Want to dress like a rockstar even though you’re a grandma? OK! Thanks for this rundown – almost made me a tiny bit homesick for Queensland too!!
I could definitely live in Japan for a few months Tracey! No idea what I’d look like by the end of it. I’d probably turn into a real wackadoo!! I’m missing Queensland at the moment too. I miss the sunshine and fresh air and early morning trips to the beach. Siiiiigh!
This is fab – makes me want to head on over to Thailand so much – maybe when Misty is a little older – I’m not as brave as you guys!!
There are some great vegan dining options in Bangkok but outside of there you’d probably want to get a house or apartment with a kitchen so you could DIY your own meals. Now that would be an excellent addition to Fridge Scrapings!
It’s so refreshing to see world traveling with a toddler.
Bethany, I love this post and how you’ve broken down your lessons by country. I’ve always been generally interested in Malaysia and Japan, but your descriptions of both have made me bump them up on my list.
Any are SO right about the importance of recognizing the importance of culture shock in kids. I remember my daughter’s first week in Thailand (when she was about four.) Ultimately we had the best time ever, but I definitely underestimated her reaction to the heat and sensory overload that is SE Asia.
Such a fun way to learn some of life’s lessons. So cool that you and your family got to be a part of each country and culture and that you became aware of ways that it could shape you. I loved your lessons learned and hope to be able to have those similar experiences for my family.
I am an American and have heard from all of our International guests how they noticed that we are generally happy and friendly.
People I know from Japan are very much into respect ( but I feel sorry for them that they work too hard and spend too much time in school).
Have never been to Thailand ( almost though), but it sounds like a place I need right about now..good food, rest, beach, peace!
Thanks for the great article. Very inspiring!
Nice post. I long to visit japan and have never been to America but agree with the other concepts. Travel really does change you and widen your horizons. It has been more wonderful for our children than we ever could have imagined. Yet, we also are very much in love with our home. 🙂
Couldn’t agree more with Malaysia, Thailand and Singapore.
Although Bangkok wasn’t for me personally, I loved Thailand as a whole and learned so much there.
Your list made me bump Japan way up higher on my list than it originally was, so thank you for that. It’s interesting just how different each country has been to you, when you consider how close some of them are.