Ice, Snow, and Fish

It was cold. Below freezing. Negative numbers. Cold in any temperature scale.

I prefer summer. We enjoyed 3 summers in a row (with a little springtime on the edges) while traveling the world, so why am I standing outside on a frozen lake?

Way black in the planning stages of our round the world trip, we asked Boy where he wanted to go on our travels, and at 7 years old, he named 3 things, one of which was Ice fishing. We did not make that stop while traveling and I’ve been delaying, hoping he would forget. But, he did not. So, making good on that long ago request, here I am, on a frozen lake with my now 11 year old.

We flew to Minneapolis from Dallas on an uneventful flight connecting through Chicago. No weather delays, but a sprint to our connection gate was still required due to regular travel hassles. This wasn’t our first visit to Minnesota, and we stayed downtown, in a place we had stayed before.

This trip was different, however. To begin with it was cold. Did I mention that? We stopped at the downtown Target store and bought an inexpensive sled and some long underwear. Properly layered, and barely able to move, we drove about 2 miles out of downtown to Theodore Wirth Park. A city green space and golf course in the summer, Wirth Park becomes a winter sports headquarters when the snow and ice arrive. We rented snowshoes for a trail hike and spent hours on the free, sledding hill, located on the 10th green.

The sledding hill

The Wirth Chalet, a place for trail maps and equipment rentals

Skis, ready to rent

Statues in the park

In a fortunate turn for ice fishing, the weather in Minnesota was well below 0 degrees F for nearly 10 days before we arrived. It was -10 most of our days, and dropped to -20 overnight during the time we were there. Except for a few flurries, it did not snow during our visit, but previously fallen snow was still on the ground.

After our day of sledding and snowshoeing, we FINALLY went ice fishing. We drove to Lake Minnetonka, just outside Minneapolis. I was most nervous when I had to drive my rental car out on the ice. Though I didn’t fall through or slide away, I never felt completely secure when I found out the ice was only 18 inches thick. Surely it should be 5 or 10 feet thick before people drive on it, right?

Our guide, Dan, provided all the gear and expertise. This included the hut, a semipermanent building, think small mobile home, with a hole in the floor. It was rather comfy, and heated. We sat on chairs and were effectively indoors to catch our fish. It was even equipped with an underwater camera, so we could see when the fish were interested in the bait. This increased Boy’s success rate exponentially! He caught dozens of fish. We released them all, as we had no plans to cook any fish in our hotel room. Boy worked on a Boy Scout fishing merit badge, and even I caught a couple of fish.

After some success indoors, we tried fishing outdoors and Boy drilled a new hole in the ice with the help of our guide. It was tougher work without the underwater camera, and was extremely cold, so after 20 minutes or so, Boy decided inside was better.

The shelter

Driving and parking on the frozen lake

Drilling a new hole, outdoors

A new hole in the ice

We finished our Minnesota trip by warming up at the INDOOR amusement park at Mall of America. I could finally feel my fingers!

Right, ice fishing is off the list. Now, let’s plan a warmer trip. Northern Lights and an Ice hotel can wait.

Our travel reading list

We have maintained our massive Worldschooling list of children’s books, we used while traveling here, but what about the parents?  What did we read?

Mom and Dad did our share of reading both before and after we started our travels. Our hometown library was a lifesaver, with tons of travel guides we borrowed both as physical books and through the library’s e-book program.  We were even able to continue checking out e-books while we were on the road.  Here is a selection of what we read:

Planning & General Travel

ONE YEAR OFF: Leaving It All Behind for A Round-the-World Journey with Our Children by David Elliot Cohen, Simon and Schuster, 1999

Europe on 5 Dollars a Day, by Arthur Frommer, Frommers 2007

The World’s Best Travel Experiences, by National Geographic, 2014

1,000 Places To See Before You Die, by Patricia Schultz, Workman Publishing, 2011

The Rough Guide to First-Time Around the World, by Doug Lanky, Rough Guides 2013

The Practical Nomad: How to Travel Around the World, Fifth Edition, by Edward Hasbrouk,  Avalon Travel, 2011

Vagabonding: An Uncommon Guide to the Art of Long Term World Travel, by Rolf Potts, Villlard Books, 2002

Travel guides: we liked and used Lonely Planet and Fodors for country research


Fiction – some travel themed favorites
Around the World With Auntie Mame by Patrick Dennis, Kindle edition, 2007

Eat Pray Love: One Woman’s Search for Everything Across Italy, India and Indonesia.  by Elizabeth Gilbert. Penguin books, 2007

A Walk in the Woods, by Bill Bryson, Broadway books 1998

In a Sunburned Country, by Bill Bryson, Kindle edition 2011

Neither Here Nor There Travels in Europe, by Bill Bryson, Kindle edition

The Innocents Abroad, by Mark Twain, Kindle edition 2011

A Room with a View, by E.M Forster, Dover Thrift Editions, 1995

The Razor’s Edge by W. Somerset Maugham, (Vintage International) Kindle Edition, 2011


A Moveable Feast, by Ernest Hemingway, Scribner, 1996


News Articles

“Senior Nomads: A Grand Tour With 46 Oases” by Steven Kurutz, New York Times, February 26, 2015 

“Traveling the world with grandchildren” by John and Sally Macdonald, Seattle Times, October 9, 2015

“These 7 Families Will Change How You Think About Taking Your Kids On The Road” by Erin Bender, Sept 20, 2015 Matador Network.

“Now Working From Home Can Be Working While Seeing The World” by Molly Osberg, Wired Magazine, December 2015

“Family ditches classroom to take learning on the road” by Ethan Gilsdorf, Boston Globe, November 30, 2015 

“Gee and family sell everything to travel — and give back” by Molly Blake, December 15, 2015, 

“Retire? Not this D.C. couple, who spent 17 weeks trekking across the globe” by Travel Editor, Dec 3,2015, Washington Post 

“Why Are Americans So Afraid of Vacation?” by Laura Dannen Redman, December 21, 2015, Conde Nast Traveler 


Safety while traveling

Safety is a concern while traveling, but has to be balanced with being open to new experiences.

Leaving the USA, friends and relatives expressed concern that the world can be a dangerous place, and we would be exposed to too much risk, though we found we often felt more safe outside the USA than within it.  It was California where we witnessed a police chase, and Texas where my son was astonished to see someone carrying a handgun. Our closest encounter with the Ebola scare came when we had to travel through Dallas, TX on the way to a family event in Houston. It happened to be the month when there was an active Ebola case in Dallas, so upon LEAVING the US, we were subject to extra health screenings for Ebola before we could enter China and Singapore.

That is not to say our travel was entirely uneventful.  Once or twice we got lost in a less than desirable area, and had to backtrack to a major road quickly.  My husband was pick pocketed once, losing some cash. Our credit card was skimmed once, and it was a challenge to get a replacement card delivered to our small town in Greece. We were in the country of Australia when there was a terrorist shooting at a café, though we were hundreds of miles away from the event, and we had some uncomfortable moments in large crowds in India.

We had several strategies we followed to limit risk.

  • As we were traveling with an elementary school child, we made sure he always had a laminated card in his shoes and in a pocket with his name and passport info, our passport and phone numbers, the address of our home apartment in that country and emergency contacts in the USA. We helped him memorize our phone numbers, and that he knew to ask for the US consulate.  We always made sure we could all recite the address of our local “home.” My husband and I had similar laminated cards.
  • On arrival in a new country, we talked about and rehearsed what to do if we became separated when in a crowd or boarding a vehicle. We had a plan for who would stay put and who would find the other if the door closed when boarding a train, for example, and set a meeting place in crowded locations.   We learned a few key words in local language to ask for help and identified what the local police or security force uniforms looked like.
  • Our key documents were photocopied and kept in multiple locations. We also had digital copies saved online that could be retrieved if needed.
  • We tried to be aware of our surroundings, kept a close eye on our belongings, and researched our local city and country well before we arrived to know what was and wasn’t considered safe.
  • We also had an emergency fund, separate from our traveling money, of about three months expenses. We did end up calling on this fund, though it wasn’t for medical care, as we feared. We unexpectedly had to return to the US for a family matter, and were most glad to have the emergency funds accessible quickly. Thankfully, we only needed the emergency fund once
  • And on days we were moving from place to place, airport and train days, we all had a specific job, one person watches luggage, one person handles tickets and documents, and the third person navigates the airport or station, reading signs and determining where to go


Here are some safety strategies used by others traveling with kids:

Some of our favorites

We are often asked about our favorite or best stops along the trip.  Each place had its moments, but here is a selection of our most memorable experiences.
Cape Town, South Africa: The Best Scenery

Rajasthan, India: Nothing Like Our Expectations

The Amazon: A Local Village Carnaval Celebration and the Amazon Jungle

Athens, Greece:  “Please, can we go to a museum?”


Movies Around The World

We have been enjoying some internationally themed family movies while we travel. Occasionally, we have needed a quiet evening in after a long day, or had time to fill during long waits for planes and trains.

Chosen for entertainment, not educational value, our family movies are loosely themed by location and have to be something we can all enjoy together. This means no toy themed, or strictly children’s programs, but rather something adults and children can both appreciate. Our choices are G and PG, with nothing too scary, as Boy isn’t a fan of fright.

A few of our favorites follow, but not a complete list. Some are from iTunes and some borrowed from our home town library through Hoopla. If you have any suggestions for future movies, please give us a note in the comments!

Horrible Histories
Dr. Who
Disney’s Sword in the Stone
Disney’s Bedknobs and Broomsticks
Disney’s Robin Hood
Robin Hood with Errol Flynn

Disney’s Hercules
Disney’s Hunchback of Notre Dame
Disney’s Ratatouille
Hans Christian Anderson, with Danny Kaye
Court Jester, with Danny Kaye
Princess Bride
Mamma Mia

The King and I

Disney’s The Jungle Book
Rikki Tikki Tavi, by Chuck Jones
Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom

Disney’s Tarzan

South America
Rio & Rio 2
The Emperor’s New Groove

North America
Liberty’s Kids
Disney’s Cars

General Travel
Disney’s Cars 2
Doctor Dolittle, with Rex Harrison

Disney’s Finding Nemo

On Being The Tourist Attraction

While not venturing too far off the beaten path on our world tour, we have been to a few spots where we have found ourselves the center of attention.

Having been to China, both International cities like Shanghai and domestic cities in China, like Wuxi, on business in the past, both Dad and I had experienced the stares and photographs of people who had never seen a “Westerner” before. We told our stories to Boy, to help prepare him for this. While Hong Kong is a more mixed city, we had been warned by other traveling parents that Hong Kong Disneyland is a stop for many Mainland Chinese tourists on their first visit outside of China proper, so Western children sometimes experienced some of this type of attention there.

We found as we toured the sights in Hong Kong, like Victoria Peak, that we did not notice any unwanted attention, but whenever we passed a school group on a field trip, the children would excitedly say “hello,” and wave at Boy to practice their English. He was a bit embarrassed, but not distressed.

At Hong Kong Disneyland, we were pleased that we were not subject to much attention, at all. A few people pointed and giggled at his light hair, but Boy was not bothered. Just outside the entrance, we met another school group, with children his age and their teacher, conducting a short survey for their English class, The students greeted us politely, asked if we would help their school work, and asked each English speaking visitor three questions: which continent are you from, are you here for tourism or business, and what was your favorite sight in Hong Kong (from a list of 10). The teacher explained that this was to practice spoken English, and then they would graph the answers, when they returned to school. We enjoyed this little interaction, and smiled as we went on our way.

It never occurred to us to expect this attention in India, assuming that as a former British colony, Western people were not unknown. We found this was not the case everywhere we went. In Delhi, at several of the monuments, we passed school groups, who like the ones in Hong Kong, all waved and said “hello” to Boy as we passed. A few times, we were approached, and asked if we would pose for a photo. I declined. While walking about, I did notice several people surreptitiously snapped us, but Boy was oblivious.

By the time we reached Agra, however, the crowds and attention increased. Our guide told us, this time of year, many of these were domestic tourists, who had not seen non-Indians before. While the school groups still shouted “hello,” the tourists no longer asked permission before taking Boy’s photo. Schoolgirls reached out to touch Boy’s hair. While taking our photos, at the Red Fort in Agra we were often photo bombed. Sometimes while we posed, an entire family would surround us to take their own group shot with us in the middle. At the Taj Mahal, the more aggressive tourists would stop Boy, without asking, and grab his arm for a pose with them or their children. While standing in front of one of the world’s most iconic buildings, Boy was more interesting to some people than the Taj Mahal. He hated this part, and was glad when we left the Taj. Thankfully, after leaving Agra, the other places we have been in India have not been so intense.IMG_1676.JPG

And the chores

You might think international travel is quite glamorous. The reality is less so. As we each have about a week’s worth of clothing, we have to find a way each week to do laundry.

When we are able to rent apartments, we usually have a washing machine and clothesline, and once in a great while a clothes dryer. Occasionally, we spend time in the local laundromat. In other places, we have had to wash in the sink or bathtub with a bar of soap, hanging clothes on every available surface to dry. Jeans are the worst to hand wash and line dry. It can take several days in some climates before the jeans are dry enough to wear.

Grocery shopping is another chore that never goes away. As we try to eat inexpensively whenever we can, that means cooking or at least making sandwiches, daily. The trip to the shops is another task that we have to take care of several times a week. Finding appropriate ingredients in a language you don’t read, leads to some interesting dinners. Fish paste sandwich, anyone? How about some chips/crisps, they may be spicy, or they may be seaweed flavor, we just don’t know. The laundry detergent? Maybe it is detergent, or, it could be fabric softener. Either way, the clothes will smell better .IMG_0226.JPG