Fun Stuff

October 23, 2012

Galapagos Islands: Fun Facts

Blue Footed Boobies!

I admit, before I went to the Galapagos myself there was a lot that wasn’t clear to me about these islands. But there are so many interesting things to know! Maybe if you start now you’ll absorb more while you’re there. Amaze your friends with these Fun Facts:

The Galapagos Islands are a volcanic archipelago belonging to Ecuador, set 550 miles west of its mainland.

The islands are considered one of the most active volcanic areas in the world. Recent eruptions include Cero Azul on Isabela in 2008, and on Fernandina in 2009.

There are 13 main islands larger than 1 square KM; 3 small islands; and 107 rocks and islets.

Only five of the islands are inhabited; Baltra, Santa Cruz, San Cristobal, Isabela, and Floreana.

Isabella (the largest island) and Fernandina (the youngest, at 1 million years) are still forming.

Espanola is the oldest island – 3.5 million years!

Floreana was one of the first islands to be inhabited, and since the 18th century whalers have dropped their letters off at its ‘post office ‘- a wooden barrel!

Isabela is the only Galapagos island the equator runs through, and it is the only island where penguins can be found in their natural habitat in the Northern Hemisphere.

The Humboldt Current brings cold water to the Galapagos; June – November the water can be 22C / 72F. December – May the water warms up to about 25C / 77F (brr!)

A REALLY interesting book about life in the Galapagos is My Father’s Island by Johanna Angermeyer. The Angermeyer Inn is still family run today on the island of Santa Cruz.



October 5, 2012

What’s Happening for the Holidays (v. 2012)

Paddle into the Underworld in Belize

Traveling over the holidays is a popular trend. Some families do it as a personal celebration; some do it to get away from the rush at home. But ALL families love seeing how other countries celebrate in their own way. Here are a few ideas:

Did you know that if you go to Baja over Christmas you may be invited to our guide’s home to help decorate the Christmas tree, Mexican style. Then afterward, how about hunting for scorpions with a black light? Pretty cool, yes? Or travel on our December 26 trip, and have the opportunity to celebrate New Year’s Eve with a bash at the famous Hotel California – we have a few tickets we’ll include with your adventure!

On December 24th the largest and best Christmas pagent in all of Ecuador takes place in Cuenca. If you join our Galapagos Islands and Inca Ruins December 22 you’ll have the chance to partake of the Pase del Niño festival, an all day event filled with music, floats, and costumes. Or try the Galapagos MultiSport Adventure December 25, and enjoy a miraculous New Year’s Eve stargazing from your campsite on the beach.

Belize will be celebrating an event we just might not ever see again. December 21 represents the end of the Maya calendar, and the end of the 13th B’ak’tun, the Maya’s linear long count cycle of 394 years. Though recently Maya calendars have been found that continue on in time, no one disputes this is expected to be a great time of change and transformation, and the festivities will be plentiful throught out the month. Arrive just in time for ‘the end’ on our adventure December 21, or come later (December 27) and celebrate New Year’s Eve on the beach. Either way, it’s a Mayan adventure from beginning to end.

Peru, Costa Rica, Panama – all of the South and Central American countires have deep traditons surrounding Christmas and the New Year, and each country tells the story in their own way. There can be special markets, festivals, fireworks. No matter your own traditions and holidays, why not learn how others do it?

Really you should be planning for December 2013 – so if you haven’t figured it out yet for THIS year it’s time to make a plan!



August 20, 2012

10 Things Kids Bring Home from a Family Trip

Jessie, Ed, and Lillie in their front yard.

Thanks to Jessie Voigts, our special Guest Blogger for this excellent perspective on family travel:

You spend a lot of time planning family trips – and coordinating said trips! Between teens off with their ipods to dealing with toddlers and diapers, how do you KNOW that these family trips are worth it? But wait – your kids bring home a lot more from family trips than you think. Take a look…

1) Memories. Of course! But it might not be the memories you suspect – of whitewater rafting, or seeing the Eiffel Tower, or hanging with their cousins. It might be the cute squirrels at the local park, the best meal ever, discovering a new food they love, or learning something new.

2) Photos. Be sure to give your kids a camera to take photos. You will be surprised at both the angles (closer to the ground? Or super high, if you’ve got a teen taller than you are!), and the subject matter. Our daughter takes a little stuffed ugly with her, and photographs it wherever we go. Little Ugly has been in a lot of strange places.

3) Humanity. Whether your kids are upset about the stray or mistreated dogs in Nepal, Barbados, or Bahrain; or visibly learn about animal and human rights wherever you are (we’ve all fielded the homeless question), travel is a great chance to teach about humanity. By learning that others are less fortunate than we are, and trying to act on such knowledge, they are on their way to becoming good global citizens.

4) Funny stories. Nothing brings a family together more than camaraderie, which is, in turn, fostered by going through experiences together. From the funny assistant at the airport, to ordering a meal in a foreign language (mostly via sign language), to finding out that people in a certain country just LOVE babies and will hold them for hours and parade them around like a rock star, travel is packed with experiences that will provide great stories…for life.

5) A desire for peace. Our daughter, when seeing cultural differences up close, has gained a strong desire for peace and people to get along. She thinks that intercultural differences are fascinating, and has pledged to learn more about different people and cultures around the world, firsthand.

6) New Experiences, new friends. Whether it’s ziplining, scuba diving, hiking, camping, snorkeling with turtles, or viewing great art, new experiences bring people together and can foster a lifelong fascination or hobby. As well, you can make new friends from group travel, or through meeting locals. These can become friends for life.

7) Learning more about your family. You can learn a lot about people from being in close proximity to each other for an extended period of time. You can also learn about how people react in any situation – often surprising us, how well they can deal with a crisis. By learning more about your family, everyone becomes closer due to these shared experiences. Your teen might ask you to read and talk together about a book about a place you’ve visited, or your 5 year old might surprise you by painting, from memory, a piece of art they saw in an art museum on your travels. You might surprise your kids and husband by jumping first off the cliff into the deep water below, or your father might show unexpected depths while riding a chicken bus.

8) New cultures. Our daughter’s best friend, when asked this question, noted that in Hawaii, she was amazed to learn of the Hawaiian culture. She loved the luaus, the colorful fabrics, and how they utilized the hibiscus flowers in welcoming people. Our daughter loved watching kids tv shows in Ireland – she learned some Gaelic, as well as how kids learn and play in a different country.

9) Love of new foods. It might be roasted tarantula (doubt it), Thai food, boiled peanuts in the south, new jams and pickles, or recipes. Wherever you go, I’m sure you’re eating locally – and shopping at the grocery store whenever possible! You’ll find new foods you love (and probably new foods you dislike). Bring them home, and incorporate these new foods into your meals and snacks!

10) A desire to travel more. Long after the sand has disappeared from your swimsuits and suitcases, and the special candy you brought back is digested, you’ll find something not so surprising. Your whole family will have a desire to travel more – to learn and play and experience the world together. And that’s what family travel is all about – having new experiences, and discovering new cultures and people – together.

Jessie Voigts is a mom who loves sharing the world with her daughter. She has a PhD in International Education, and is constantly looking for ways to increase intercultural understanding, especially with kids (it’s never too young to start!). She has lived and worked in Japan and London, and traveled around the world. Jessie is the publisher of Wandering Educators, a travel library for people curious about the world. She founded the Family Travel Bloggers Association, and the Youth Travel Blogging Mentorship Program. She’s published two books about travel and intercultural learning, with more on the way. You can usually find her family by water – anywhere in the world.



August 3, 2012

How Good Can it Be?

Action on the Mediterranean

I try to speak with each family when they return from their Thomson Family Adventure, but sometimes it just doesn’t happen. I’ve always known it’s never too late to hear the stories and see the photos, but today I got a great reminder of that. Here’s the email I received from Lisa in Virginia who traveled with her family last summer to Turkey:

Dear Moo,

I know its been almost a year since we came back from Turkey and I’m just now getting around to sending you our pics and thoughts. Time really gets away from you. I guess the best way to sum up the trip was when it was time to plan this year’s vacation, both my kids and my husband all said, “Can we go back to Turkey?”

It was an absolutely amazing trip and I can’t thank you enough for recommending it. Every single person we told that we were going, or had gone, to Turkey had the exact same reaction……Turkey??? with a look on their face somewhere between confusion, disbelief, and “are you serious?” Which was coincidentally my same reaction when you suggested it. If I had had to name a top 20 list of places to visit, I can pretty much guarantee that Turkey would not have made the list.

Now, looking back, I can say that I have never been on a more enjoyable or diverse trip. I’m sending just a few of our favorite pictures for you to post or pass on to anyone else who may have the same uncertainties that we had.

My daughter, 10 years old, downloaded an iPad app to learn some Turkish before we went, and she was right in the Grand Bazaar bartering away for what she wanted. It was such a thrill to see a foreign culture through the eyes of our kids. Even our son, who is bored by everything it seems, had a phenomenal time. I was surprised, but they both said the 5 days on the gulet was their favorite part.

Thanks again for the wonderful, unforgettable vacation.

Lisa



July 31, 2012

Look Who is Multi Sporting in the Galapagos…

Karen, Elaine, Rachel, and Ben - Let's Go!

Meet Karen and her fabulous kids Rachel, Ben, and Elaine. They’re excitedly getting ready to explore the Galapagos Islands in December. They’ll fly into Quito and spend a few nights on the mailand. They’ll horseback ride, hike, and visit the Equator, small villages and famed Otovalo Market. Then off to the Galapagos Islands for a unique land -based discovery: kayaking, snorkeling, communing with fascinating sea life and watching soaring birds like they”ve never seen before. With two nights in a hotel and two nights camping under the Southern sky, plus a private catamaran to cruise the best spots for snorkeling this is a fantastic, up-close way to play in these islands. They’re looking forward to being a small flexible group, avoiding the crowds, finding unique adventure in out of the way places.

Now, who wouldn’t want to join them?

You can!!! December 25 – January 2. Call us now!

800-262-6255



July 26, 2012

A Safari Cabbage Soup Recipe

Cooking Adventures on Safari

Catch the video here! (And bear with our technical difficulties)

Some of our families just returned from a awe-inspiring, heart-stopping, life-altering safari this week (they’d be glad to chat with you if you want more information!) I always love the stories and the photos, but what came back with this group really got me excited. Read on to see what they were up to at Gibb’s Farm (told by 13 year old Maxwell in an email to his friends and family):

Hi Everyone,

As you all know, I was in Tanzania on a Safari. One of the lodges we stayed at was called Gibb’s Farm. Gibbs Farm is in the mountains of Tanzania. It is a fantastic place to stay with a farm, coffee plantation, livestock and much more. On my trip Sofia and I met some really nice kids around our age. Their names are Rada, Allison, and Isabella. We couldn’t believe our eyes when we saw the vegetable garden. We were running around the huge vegetable part of the farm wondering what to do. Then we came up with an idea to make cabbage soup. All of us got supplies from the nice Scottish chef and we went around the farm picking veagetables such as carrots, turnips, corn, cucumber and etc.. They let us cook the soup at the staff kitchen. We renamed the farm in our own minds and called it IRASM’S FARM & CO. Me and the rest of the kids could pretty much conclude that this was probably the best part of the trip. Here is the recipe. We hope you enjoy!

IRASM’S CABBAGE SOUP: ( pronounced IRSAM’s) THIS SERVES ABOUT THIRTEEN PEOPLE

- One large green cabbage sliced into thin shreds

-Six big red potatoes chopped in small bits

-Seven large carrots cut in thin circles

-Two white onions diced

-A handful of chives , cut it with a scissor

-A few strands of anise leaves only, do not add the bulb

-Six cobs of corn, slice off the kernels and don’t keep the cob

-Two or three cucumbers sliced in thin circles

- Three turnips chopped thinly

-Three small pieces of garlic

-salt and pepper to taste [pepper it generously]

-1/8 a cup of olive oil

-One large pot

-Fill pot half with water and the other half with chicken broth

—Put all the vegetables washed, chopped, sliced, and diced in a bowl together. Fill a large pot half with chicken broth and the other half with water. Put all the vegetables in the pot and cook on a high flame until all the vegetable are cooked thoroughly. Every five minutes poke a fork through the vegetables to see how they’re cooking. If it cooks too fast, lower the flame down to a medium heat level. This whole cooking process of the soup will take about 40 to 45 min. We hope you enjoy your soup. Make it on a chilly day when it will warm you up and taste at its best! Thank You!

Sincerely,

Maxwell, Sofia, Rada, Alison, & Isabella :)



May 15, 2012

The Amazing Kenedy

Kenedy's Butterfly

This year the Children’s Cancer Fund created a special Inspiration Book to help support pediatric cancer research. We are so proud to share with you the artwork of our friend Kenedy. Now a seventh grader, Kenedy says her drawing is about her safari hunt for butterflies on her Thomson Family Adventure to Panama. It was her favorite trip ever, and she loves butterflies!

To purchase copies of this book, please call Children’s Cancer Fund at 972-664-1450 or visit their website ChildrensCancerFund.net.

Click here to see Kenedy, aka Liquid Sunshine on video when she was presented the Spirit of Tom Landry Character Award from the Lymphoma/Leukemia Society of Texas.

Kenedy, you are an amazing girl and we are so happy to see you strong and happy.



April 7, 2012

Art in Adventure

You can do better, right?

Does the fresh smell of spring and the renewed warmth of the sun ever make you think of poetry?

Did you know Billy Collins (two time Poet Laureate) is Smithsonian’s poetry consultant? In a recent posting in the Arts and Culture section of their online magazine, Billy Collins wrote a wonderful poem (below) describing a traveler’s anguish with a camera.

But on our Smithsonian Family Adventure in Photography you’ll have help! With a professional photographer and all kinds of support traveling with you, every one of you can be sure to take home photos like you’ve never done before, along with a lifetime of memories from your family safari.

Meanwhile, for more Billy Collins to lighten and brighten your day, you’ll find it all here.

The Unfortunate Traveler by Billy Collins

Because I was off to France, I packed
my camera along with my shaving kit,
some colorful boxer shorts, and a sweater with a zipper,

but every time I tried to take a picture
of a bridge, a famous plaza,
or the bronze equestrian statue of a general,

there was a woman standing in front of me
taking a picture of the very same thing,
or the odd pedestrian blocked my view,

someone or something always getting between me
and the flying buttress, the river boat,
a bright café awning, an unexpected pillar.

So into the little door of the lens
came not the kiosk or the altarpiece.
No fresco or baptistry slipped by the quick shutter.

Instead, my memories of that glorious summer
of my youth are awakened now,
like an ember fanned into brightness,

by a shoulder, the back of a raincoat,
a wide hat or towering hairdo—
lost time miraculously recovered

by the buttons on a gendarme’s coat
and my favorite,
the palm of that vigilant guard at the Louvre.



March 22, 2012

A Few Reasons to Discover a Family Art Adventure

Narda Boughton, Fabulous Artist

1) Your kids are open books, blank slates soaking up new ideas. Why not expose them to a new way of seeing the world around them? They might already love to draw and paint, or they might never have thought of it before; isn’t this an important thing to learn? And have fun in Costa Rica at the same time.

2) We’ve had adults go on an art adventure thinking they will never participate in the art, and they end up being the star creative forces. You never know what new thing you might discover about yourself when you step into something new. Try it.

3) Meet Narda Boughton, our favorite visual artist, who will take you along on these journeys of wonder and discovery. Here’s what we recently learned from her:

Where are you from? Originally from Bayside, WI.

How long have you worked in travel / and how long with TFA? I started working with Thomson Family Adventures in 2009.

What is your favorite part of the job? I love teaching art (and making art)- combining that with exploring fascinating places and meeting interesting people- well, it just doesn’t get any better than that. Thomson takes the “work” out of travel. Every detail is thought of and prearranged. All of your needs are taken care of- which allows you to enjoy everything to the fullest.

What is your favorite food, and favorite color? This changes all the time~ but today I’d have to say eggplant and yellow :)

Do you have children / pets? No kids, but always a lot of students. For pets I have 2 Australian parakeets and 2 cats with a Burmese Mountain Dog puppy on its way. Given the right set-up, I’d have a whole menagerie if I could. Love animals!!

Anything else you want us to know? One of the most satisfying things about my experience of teaching Art Tours with Thomson has been teaching people who didn’t plan on painting or drawing at all. Many times, parents will join us because their kids love art. More often than not, they’ll end up painting, too, only to find out how much they enjoy it. They walk away saying…”Wow!! I can do this!!”



December 12, 2011

The Grey Whales of Baja

Families love the curious grey whales migrating through Baja

Oh, to pat a young grey whale!

Whether you spell it grey or gray, these whales are mighty interesting.

Descended from filter feeding whales that developed over 30 million years ago (30 MILLION!!), grey whales consume ocean worms and crustaceans from the ocean floor and filtered through their baleen.

Growing to 50+ feet long, and weighing as much as 80,000 pounds they are certainly formidable. But curious and friendly too as you can see. Grey whales can live up to 50 years or more, and every year they perform the longest known migration of any other mammal. Their summer feeding grounds are in the icy Arctic waters of the Bering Sea, and in winter they move to their breeding grounds, the warmer waters off the coast of California and Mexico. All along the Pacific coast you can watch their glorious journey.

Thus, thousands of grey whales arrive each year in Baja California. The warm temperature, shallow depth, and limited access to the open sea make the lagoons the ideal places for these marine mammals to mate and to give birth. This environment protects them from the Orcas who use speed when hunting – and speed is hard to obtain in these conditions. A perfect safe haven for the grey whales and their young!

The gestation period for grey whales is 11 – 13 months. The dimply, shortened face is typical of young grey whales, and up close you can see the facial hair on the babies. They can be so curious, they will leap from the water to get a closer look at you – and yes, move in for contact too. A February vacation week is the ideal time to catch this migration in Baja, when the moms and babies are plentiful.

There is someting about the mystery, magic, and curiosity of these giant beings that just makes me want to hug them. How about you?