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:


Worldschooling?  What is that?

Worldschooling is an educational philosophy of using the world as your classroom.  Using elements of experiential learning and unit studIes, worldschooling is recognizing that education does not only take place inside the four walls of a school room, but is instead all around us.  One can learn anywhere.

This was a philosophy we found helpful while traveling, though it can be done in a single location just as easily.  Some use worldschooling as a way to describe “unschooling,” where children follow their interests rather than a set curriculum.  We did not use an unschooling approach, but rather, used the philosophy of Worldschooling as a way to organize location based learning.

Practically, while traveling we implemented a parent guided, “read it, do it” approach.  We would read a book about the place we were living or visiting.  This could be fiction, like a novel, folktales, or local myths, but could also include biographies, history, and even science and math books on occasion.  Then we would go and see the places described in the books.  For those familiar with homeschooling, our work was similar to a unit study, with a whole lot of field trips.  
What did this look like in practice?  Here are two examples from Europe.  This was targeted for a third grader (age 8-9).


We spent just under a month in Italy, visiting Rome, Florence and Venice.  In Italy, for science lessons,  we studied Galileo and Leonardo da Vinci.  We read biographies of both men.  Then, we visited the Galileo Museum, a hands on science center where where we tried recreating his experiments.  In Florence, we visited the Da Vinci museum, where we touched and tried full scale models of his inventions.  For math, we studied Roman Numerals, and then went to Rome, where we found and translated as many as we could.  Our history studies focused on Ancient Rome and Marco Polo.  We read books and stories about Rome and the gladiators, and then we went to the Coliseum, the Forum, and Pompeii.  We read about the adventures of Marco Polo, and then went to find his family’s home in Venice.  In art, we read about Renaissance artists and then went to Florence where we went to the art museums and looked at the architecture.  In Venice, we made our own Venietian masks and toured the glass makers of Murano, where we saw glass being blown and tried it ourselves.  Our language work was one week of traveler’s Italian and two weeks of Latin word roots.  English practice was daily journal and postcard writing.  

Even though we only formally studied Ancient Rome in Italy, we enjoyed seeing Roman ruins in other parts of Europe, as we continued our travels.  Over the course of a summer, we covered about half the Roman world and really got a sense of how far they went.  England: “look they were here” France: “hey, more Roman walls” Spain: “oh, Romans again”


We spent six weeks on the Vikings, following them on their path from England, to Denmark, and Norway.  We read Viking myths and histories.  The British museum in London had a huge Viking exhibit with many family activities, like writing in runes and designing Viking style jewelry.  We toured Viking sites in York, where we participated in a hands on archeology dig at the Jorvik Viking center.  In Denmark we visited a Viking village, dressed in Viking clothes, swung a Viking sword, and saw more museums than we could count with Viking artifacts.  In Norway, we walked through stave churches, rowed a Viking ship across a fjord, powered a bellows for a blacksmith’s forge, and hammered decorative patterns into a metal Thor’s hammer necklace.  

I have no doubt that Boy will retain more of these studies than if he simply read a textbook and completed a worksheet on Viking ships and their explorations.  Dad and I learned a fair amount, too. Dad swore he never wanted to row a Viking ship, again.

For more examples of our content and curriculum, check out our book selections here:

Here are other families who teach while traveling:

What is worldschooling?

Traveling homeschool families

Road schooling

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?”