This week’s childhood family travel memories interview is with Francesca from The Working Mom’s Travels. Francesca’s experience of vacationing in the same place every year as a kid made her determined to explore the rest of the world with her family.
You can find more childhood family travel stories, as well as our family travel goal stories, here.
A bit about Francesca:
Francesca is a lifelong Chicagoan with a serious case of wanderlust. She has stepped foot on 6 continents and visited 18 countries and 37 states. Along with her husband, Francesca places a priority on travel as an educational tool and aims to travel with her two children, ages 9 and 5, as much as possible.
What kind of travel experiences did your family do growing up?
We went to Florida every single year from the time I was 10. I stopped going at age 19 when I was in college but my parents and younger siblings continued to go. We’d spend 4-5 weeks in Clearwater Beach at a family friend’s condo. Those first few years, we flew down from Chicago but when we got older, we started driving down there. From Clearwater Beach, we would take day trips into Tampa, overnight trips to Disney World and Epcot, and multi-day trips to Miami to visit family. So, we got to see a good portion of the state and I got to go to Disney World about 8 times, Epcot even more.
Also, my younger brother started playing travel ice hockey at age 5, so we traveled often for his games and tournaments. Those trips took us to places like Michigan, Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Ontario. While hockey was the main focus, my parents tried to find something to do wherever we were that was entertaining and, at the very least, educational.
How has your family travel experiences growing up affected where or how you travel now?
Well, Florida isn’t high on my travel wish list. My kids have been there a couple of times, even to Disney World once, but I’ve seen enough of Florida to last a lifetime. I’d rather visit places that are new to me and/or my family instead of doing the same old thing all the time.
Not to sound like an unappreciative brat, but even as a kid, I wished we could have gone someplace other than Florida. I know why we went there and stayed for so long (my father was a Chicago Police Officer for 35 years; he wanted to escape Chicago for as long as possible every chance he had). But my sister and I would beg our father to switch up our annual family vacations a bit, maybe visit Washington, DC, or go camping. My father’s response to that last idea was, “I did enough camping when I was in the Army.” But even as a youngster, I knew there was so much more of the world that I wanted to see. Now, traveling with my own kids, we try not to revisit the same destinations again and again (unless it’s a place we REALLY love).
How has your family travel experiences growing up influenced your or your family’s travel goals today?
Our goal is to see as many new places as possible while having meaningful travel experiences. We do not aim or wish to spend a week at the beach; we would rather explore cities and countries where the history, culture, and learning opportunities are abundant.
Have you revisited as an adult any places that you first visited as a child? How was the experience different for you as an adult?
Yes, as I mentioned, I’ve traveled to Florida, including Clearwater Beach, with my own children. Much is still the same, though a lot has changed, as well. It was a lot of fun bringing my kids to the same restaurants and sites I visited as a child, allowing them a glimpse into my childhood.
If you have children, what do you tell them about your family travels growing up were different than now? What do they think is most interesting about the differences?
I tell them that we didn’t have DVD players in the car, and that we didn’t have smartphones and tablets to keep us occupied on the plane or on road trips. They seriously cannot wrap their minds around the fact that there was a time when all of this technology didn’t even exist.
What would you tell people who are parents right now about how your experience of childhood travel (or lack of experience) has impacted your life?
If your child exhibits any symptoms of wanderlust, do what you can to treat it. Our annual trips to Florida satiated my wanderlust to an extent. While it wasn’t my ideal destination, I was at least going somewhere. As I grew older, I knew that any chance I had to travel on my own, I’d make it a point to go places other than Florida. So, when I had a chance to take part in an Overseas Study program in college, I jumped at it! At age 20, I took off for Australia all by myself to spend a semester at University of New South Wales in Sydney. That was a defining moment for me. I like to tell people that I haven’t been the same since. Sometime during that semester abroad, I decided that I wanted to spend my life traveling. More than 20 years later, that’s what I’m doing.
Tell us more about your blog. Where can people find it, and how can they follow it on social media?
I started my blog, The Working Mom’s Travels, in 2011. When I was pregnant with my daughter, all kinds of people wanted to tell me how I’d have to stop traveling since I was starting a family. It was appalling but I also began to see it as a challenge. I was going to show these naysayers that I would, in fact, still travel after having kids! I was also working full-time outside of the home which was uncommon for the family-travel bloggers of the time (at least that was my perception). So, I saw that as another challenge: I was going to show that having a (non-travel, non-blogging) career, a family, and a travel lifestyle is possible!