The Best of “Our Traveling Life”

Family travel is all about adventure, education, and bonding!

The Hodges family kept a blog while they traveled the world in 2016 .

“Our Traveling Life” has posts from England to Egypt, but here are a few of my favorites…

Biking with the Bats in Zion:  a parent’s epiphany

Stepping off the shuttle with my two boys in total darkness, my stomach clinches. Our plan was to take the shuttle to the top of Zion canyon and bike the nine miles down in the evening light. Evening light – light being the operative word. It is now dark. As in no light, no twilight, nothing but darkness.

“Watch out for deer on the road,” our driver says to us as we unload our bikes from the shuttle’s rack. We are the only passengers. “Last year a woman came up here and thought it would be fun to bike down in the dark, without a headlight, and hit a deer. Both ended up hurt pretty bad.”

“Yeah, ohh-kay,” my husband says as I adjust the boys’ headlamps.

Exploring in Zion National ParkWhat the heck have we done? I ask myself as I send my children off ahead of me. Leading the way is Bryce, our fearless 15 year old, with the brightest head lamp clamped to his helmet. Colin, our 12 year old, puts himself in the middle and my husband, Malone, and I share our tandem bringing up the rear as we ride through the darkness. With only three headlamps, I am given the third as it is the only one with a “red tail light.”

The views, they said, would be amazing in the falling light. I can’t really say. Can’t see anything but the reflective seats of the two bikes ahead of me. And that is what I do the entire way – shine my light hoping to illuminate their way as we make our way down the canyon.

We have the ride of our lives. The bats come out and fly with us. The deer stay on the side of the road, thankfully, but we see their glowing eyes as we whizz by. There is no one else around and we get to experience this part of the canyon alone – quite a feat for a park that gets over 30,000 visitors a day this time of year.

And it dawns on Malone and I – the metaphor of this ride. The kids are fearless, the path clear, the sky dark but we have an experience of a life time. We both know that not all of our trip will be this successful or amazing – nerve racking and sanity checking yes – but it’s nice to know that every once in awhile we get it right.

The REAL life, on the Road

(in Starbucks in Salt Lake City) We have set up a virtual office/classroom for the four of us. Bryce and Colin are working on their PADI certification and we are working on paying bills, building blogs, and answering emails.Laos’ Pak Ou Caves

Youth Burn (Burning Man) by Bryce

Crazy scene at Burning Man for FamiliesSHHHHHHH, BOOOM! Fireworks! Cheering and clapping, the playa burst into sound, voices cried over the thumping music of the art-cars, no one voice could be pulled out of the din.

With a flash, the fire was lit. And, boy, did it burn. It started small, but as the fire got bigger it started to melt the wire supports holding the arms suspended above the man. With no warning they snapped and the arms fell, one at a time, more screaming and cheering ensued. It burned for quite a spell before the all the outer wood had fallen and just the frame remained. It stood tall and proud before it fell.

The Bahamas: Traveling into a Hurricane:

As our family travels around the world, we expect to run into flight problems but flying towards a hurricane?

As is almost always the case with an around the world ticket, any change we make involves a fee and having the remaining legs of the ticket “repriced.” Even though we could see the Hurricane and Jet blue acknowledged that yes, the flight would probably be cancelled into Nassau, there was nothing to be done but get on the red eye flight from San Francisco and head to New York.

Flight board during hurricane Bahamas Once we were “in the system” in New York we would become Jet Blue’s problem, even though, as they acknowledged, it made sense for us to go south to Florida and swing in behind the Hurricane.

We arrived in JFK at 5:25am NY time and our flight to the Bahamas was still scheduled to fly. After a quick airport breakfast we boarded the flight….and then…they cancelled it. No one was terribly surprised.

…Then a panting jet blue employee appeared waving her hands while exclaiming, “quick if you are on the Bahamas flight get back to the plane! If we can close the door in 10 minutes you can go!”

Nearly 100 of us moved in mass at a quick march down the concourse. I have never seen a plane load so fast. Folks were cheering each other on, “let’s go!, “let’s go!” I was slinging other traveler’s bags into overhead compartments and folks were diving for their seats.

With a round of applause, the doors closed and we pushed back to get in a 25 aircraft line on the taxi way waiting for departure. We had made the push back deadline and as long as they didn’t cancel us in route we were headed south…

Learn to dive on vacation in the BahamasThe flight was uneventful with about 5 minutes of turbulence. (Ok, so Aleix and the boys are telling me my skills at judging turbulence are way off.)

We landed at the nearly empty airport with 80 degree weather and a reasonable 10 knot breeze. As you can see from the photo, we were the last flight in….

As so it is… New Years is Sydney Australia:

When the boys were young we had a cassette tape (remember those) of Australian kid songs. One of their favorites was “Christmas in Australia” that listed the joys of having Christmas in the middle of summer with typical Australian humor. As we set our plans to travel the world it made sense to spend Christmas in Australia and of course New Years in Sydney, ideally under Sydney Harbour Bridge.

Laos’ Pak Ou Caves:

The Pak Ou Caves are about 25 kilometers north of Luan Prabang on the Mekong. They have housed Buddhist icons for hundreds of years and continue to be an important place of pilgrimage. I was told that during the late 60s and 70s the royal family, whose capital was Luang Prabang, sought shelter in the caves from the ravages of the war.

Adventure to Pak Ou Cave in Laos

From the Great Wall in China (saved by a Marty Feldman impersonation):

Selfie stick chaos on the Great Wall ChinaMy father likes to say, “The difficulty with communication is the illusion it has been achieved.” In setting up our trip to The Great Wall we had asked to be taken to the least traveled portion of the wall that was accessible from Beijing.

Somehow what they heard was “we would like to see the most significant portion of the wall near Beijing.”

After a 90 minute drive we found ourselves in a traffic jam of buses full of tourists. A serious traffic jam.  The guide explained that with all the VIP traffic to this section traffic can be a nightmare. Oh boy.

After securing tickets, not a quick experience, we rode a gondola a short distance up to a higher point on the wall emerging into a crowd of Chinese tourists reminiscent of a group of SF Giants fans all in good spirits crowding through a tunnel jostling to get to their seats. (As a side note, of the 1.3 billion citizens in China, my data indicates about 1/3 are armed with selfi sticks ready to be deployed at a moments notice.)

About five minutes up the wall, I pulled everyone over to one side and we huddled against the railing. As the tide of happy tourists flowed around us I said, “Ok, clearly this is not what we envisioned.” Everyone’s eyes were a bit bugged out and Colin, being the shortest of us, was looking especially distraught. “We have two choices, we can be upset that this isn’t the experience we expected, which would be understandable. Or, we can decide to have a different experience, laugh at our predicament and embrace it.”

In my best Marty Feldman voice from Young Frankenstein I struck back with, “Well, it could be worse…could be raining.” That did it. We all laughed and the fun began.

Colin opted to embrace having his hair ruffled by the ladies who were declaring him cute, rather than groaning, and Bryce was a hit with the teenage girls asking for photos with him.

We came to a juncture in the path along a large barricade and boy do I wish I had photos of what we did next. If we could only get over the series of barricades we could get back to the entrance and then “flow” with the new arrivals back to our guide’s resting spot. A Chinese gentlemen was standing next to me, clearly pondering the same thing. Our eyes met and he jumped up on the wall and around the first barricade. Not hearing a shout from an authority figure I turned to my team and said,”OK, what the heck…Geronimo!” to which Colin responded with a grin as he jumped up on the barrier.

From Turkey (the song of Constantinople):

Some of you may be familiar with a song that talks about Constantinople’s name change to Istanbul. Throughout our time in the city, we were humming the tune. Younger folks will recognize the “They Might be Giant’s version” but the song was originally recorded in 1953 by “The Four Lads.” It is a catchy tune..

Istanbul was Constantinople
Now it’s Istanbul, not Constantinople
Been a long time gone, Constantinople
Now it’s Turkish delight on a moonlit night
….
Even old New York was once New Amsterdam
Why they changed it I can’t say
People just liked it better that way
We found Istanbul to be an incredible city of history. Having just been in Asia, Jordan and the United Arab Emirates, Istanbul was as advertised–where Asia and Europe touch.

If you love these stories, head on over to Our Traveling Life to read more.

And when you can’t resist the Around-the-World temptation anymore, email me at Rare Finds and we’ll plan a route for YOU!

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