Girls that Go! is an interview series with fabulous ladies coming from all backgrounds, ages and experiences, and Micki Kosman is no different!
I caught up with Micki as she was on the road across the Canadian prairies, and she had a lot of great insight into traveling, both as a woman and as a mom.
Read on to hear what she has to say about the thrill of Southeast Asia, transitioning to nomadic life as a parent and more!
GGG: Let’s start with the basics. Who are you and what sparked your interest in worldwide travel?
Hi, I’m Micki from The Barefoot Nomad, where my husband Charles and I blog about travel, fun and family (and how we try our hardest to combine all three). I’ve been interested in travel as long as I can remember, but I was almost 30 before I took a leap of faith and hit the road.
I came from a very traditional background, and tried for a long time to fit that mold. I was in my final year of graduate school in neuroscience when I realized that I just didn’t want to climb the academic or corporate ladder. As soon as I came to that realization, a lot of doors opened for me. I met Charles, who’d always wanted to travel as well, and within a year of meeting we somehow managed to gather the courage to take that big step and set out for a year long trip around Southeast Asia, Australia and New Zealand.
GGG: How do you think your first big trip changed the way you view travel?
For me, going on my first long trip was a huge leap. I had never personally met anyone who’d traveled for that long or that far from home.
For my family and friends, a week’s vacation at a resort in Mexico was highly adventurous, so going all the way around the world was completely out of my experience and my comfort zone. I honestly had no idea how I’d fare. During that trip, travel went from being something exotic and out of reach to an important part of my life.
GGG: You’ve made it through multiple continents and many countries, but have traveled extensively in Southern Asia. What drew you to that part of the world?
I think I was drawn to Southern Asia because it was so different than my upbringing on a farm on the Canadian prairies. Southern Asia was a different culture, environment, food and language, and that appealed to me.
It’s ironic that I was drawn to a place that I felt to be so foreign, as one of the biggest lessons travel has taught me is that people are the same all over. It’s something that sounds trite, but it was really brought home to me as I was invited to sit on a grass mat and drink coffee in a Sumatran hut. It reminded me so much of when my parents, who were farmers in Alberta, would invite people for a coffee into their living room. Completely different situations, but the warmth and feeling of family were the same.
GGG: What a great lesson! Now, showing your wee ones the world certainly must change your way of travel. What are the three biggest ways?
Honestly, it was a tough adjustment at first. I was determined to prove my family and friends wrong, as we’d gotten a lot of comments that traveling would have to stop once we had kids. So, for our first long trip with our son, who was about two at the time, we started out trying to live our old backpacker life, staying in cheap hostels and moving every few days. We learned pretty fast that our travel style would have to adjust to kids, and not the other way around.
The most obvious way our travel style has changed is that we’ve slowed down. We tend to stay in one area for a longer period of time, simply because of the logistics (and cost!) of moving around a family of four. Children have a way of teaching their parents, though, and we soon found that we are much more immersed in the local culture and community when we stick around for a while.
Our travel style has also gotten a bit cushier. It’s one thing to live in a beach hut with no air conditioning when you’re a couple, but it’s a lot harder to manage meals, bathroom breaks and heat rashes with little ones under the same conditions. But because we stay for longer periods of time, we can get much better deals renting apartments than renting hostel rooms.
Our little ones have also made us more aware of safety. After all, they’re so little that we’re entirely responsible for their health and well being. I try to manage the risk, rather than letting it stop us. I do things like make sure I know local emergency numbers, how to summon an ambulance and doctor in the local language and we carry a pretty impressive traveling first aid kit.
GGG: Probably all good things to know for every traveler! What is your favorite thing about being able to travel as a family?
Getting to spend so much time together is my favorite part of travel. It’s pretty common for parents to only see their kids for a few hours at night after work and on weekends, so I know we’re fortunate to be able to hang out with our little ones so much.
GGG: You wrote once about how you inadvertently broke your vegetarian diet by eating meat floss buns in Asia. Any other dietary accidents or odd things devoured on your journeys?
I have to say that meat floss looks deceptively like brown cotton candy. As far as I know, that’s the only major dietary accident that I’ve had, other than swallowing a few bugs on motorcycle rides. Vegetarian is a pretty tough concept to translate, as it seems to mean no meat, except for pork or chicken, in many countries.
I have ended up with meat in a lot of the dishes I’ve ordered. Luckily for me, Charles is an omnivore, though, and he quite happily eats what I’ve mistakenly ordered. I’ve discovered that the cheese sandwich seems be a universal food, though I’ve eaten enough cheese sandwiches for a few lifetimes.
GGG: How do you guys go about planning your next adventure, especially accommodating for the kiddos?
Planning is a huge endeavor in our house! I read a ton of travel blogs and even check out the old standby, the Lonely Planet, as a great source of inspiration on where to go. Because we travel for extended periods, we’re especially careful with our budget. It may not be glamorous or exciting, but learning to manage your money well (both during and before traveling) is absolutely essential for long term travel.
I like to think of myself as a travel budget ninja. Planning for the kids is mostly done when we select a destination. For example, we’re waiting to go to Africa until our little ones are just a bit older. I want them to be able to remember their first trip to Africa, and have a mature immune system.
We’ll look into everything an area has to offer, but just take it day by day once we’re on the road. You have to keep being spontaneous and open on your travels. Nothing kills the joy of travel faster than having to adhere to a strict schedule.
GGG: Okay, if you had to choose 3 places you’ve already been, where would you return and why?
Thailand first. Beautiful beaches, great on the budget, and the food. Don’t get me started on how amazing food is from Thai street vendors.
Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula. Again, great beaches and great food. We spent a few months in Playa del Carmen last year, and it really grew on us. It’s an interesting place, with little enclaves of nationalities from all over the world, and a thriving local Mexican culture (as long as you’re far enough away from the tourist zone).
Hong Kong is my third. It’s contrast after contrast. Lush, beautiful islands surround one of the most highly populated areas on earth. Many of the temples and traditional medicine shops in Hong Kong look as if they’re lifted straight from the third century, but all you have to do is turn a corner and you’re surrounded by sleek, modern buildings.
GGG: Very cool! What can we look forward to seeing and hearing about from The Barefoot Nomad in the upcoming year? Any exciting projects in the works?
We’re always up to something! We’ll be working hard on a series of posts that get deep into how we afford to travel, covering everything from budget travel tips to tips for saving money. We’re in the planning stages for a big trip this winter, which may take us to Southern Europe or South America for 5 or 6 months.
We’ll be writing about the entire trip, from the planning we go through, to the ways we save money, to writing about our travels. We’re working on a couple of other projects, including developing an iPhone app, and creating a site that gives independent travel insurance reviews for Canadian travelers.
I’m working hard on improving my photography, so I hope to have some great photos to share. I’m also doing a lot of work with our Facebook page, making it an interesting and fun place to hang out. The Barefoot Nomad has been growing so much faster than I expected. I’m just excited to see where next year might take us!
Sounds like a lot to look forward to! Thanks, Micki Kosman! To read more about The Barefoot Nomad’s travels, check out the webpage, follow them on twitter @BarefootNomads, and check out their Facebook page!
All photos are courtesy of Micki Kosman.