Growing up in a middle class family of 5 in Ontario with two blue collar parents didn’t leave a lot of room for travel. Instead, we took day trips to Canada’s Wonderland every summer where my father would brave the roller coasters with me and my sister. I loved the rides, and we were always at our happiest there.
When I was 16 years old, we took our first family vacation. It was a road trip to Central Florida via Virginia where my cousin and her family lived. We visited Washington D.C. and saw the White House and memorials but it was the homelessness that stood out for me. Our trip continued onto Kissimmee where my parents had rented a trailer. The highlight of the trip was the trip to MGM Studios at Walt Disney World. We sat on a giant bug that was used in the filming for “Honey I Shrunk the Kids” and saw ourselves on screen, looking like tiny people on a regular bug. I loved the Backlot Tour and I couldn’t wait to go back, but travel wasn’t in the cards for me. Not then anyway.
I became a mother at 19 years of age, and I raised my son by myself for a decade. In that time, I put myself through college and dedicated myself to a career in social work. I dreamed of taking my son in an airplane to Disney World, but finances didn’t allow for it.
At 29 this introverted book worm married my polar opposite, an outgoing sports fanatic. Our family grew quickly, with a son in year one and a daughter in year two. At 35 I was pregnant with our fourth child, still working in social work and I was an up and coming doll artist. I had a natural talent for sculpture and was always trying to carve away a little time for the art. I noticed a lack of media support for this type of art in Canada, and the only other publication dedicated to doll artists was started by a doll artist based in the UK. I knew that if she could do it, I could do it. I shared my idea with a close friend and artist, and she immediately jumped on board. We studied online tutorials and became efficient at using Photoshop and InDesign. We learned about print photo quality, paper types and print methods. In just a few short months we had learned enough to send our first magazine to the printer. Our business took off quickly, and opened doors that I had never imagined it would.
One year later, my business partner and I, along with my infant son and my mother, all boarded a plane for the very first time, on a trip to St. Louis for a doll conference. It was a pivotal moment for me. I had put limits on what I felt could achieve, and flying anywhere had seemed like an impossibility. I was not poor. I had everything I needed, and I enjoyed my life, but things like travel had always seemed a little out of reach. That first trip swung the travel door wide open. I realized that anything is possible. More business trips followed until the magazine came to a halting stop with the recession, four years after it began. There are no regrets. It was a life changing opportunity.
While our magazine was still in operation, I started to blog as a hobby with the dream of reviewing some books and possibly a vacuum cleaner. In less than a year the blog was going strong and I started to focus on travel. Six years, several vacuum cleaners and some fabulous trips have come and gone since I started blogging. My blog is now my full time job. I have done solo trips to places like Mexico and New York City. I have visited places with one child at a time, including trips to LA and Albuquerque, and I have traveled with my family to many places in North American and the Caribbean. I take no trip for granted. I believe that discovering travel later in life has enabled me to truly appreciate just how fortunate I am. I want to drink up every moment and each new experience while I am away and it is rare that I will turn down an opportunity to try something new.
I believe that exposing my children to travel is helping them to be more empathetic and socially aware people. They have witnessed true poverty and discussed what we can do to make a difference. Even trips to luxury resorts allow for some life lessons. We teach them to treat everyone with the same level of respect, whether they are speaking to a hotel manager or the housekeeping staff. They are learning to tip generously and use people’s names when speaking to them. Unlike the small town where they live, they are exposed to different cultures when they travel.
The thing I value most about family travel is quality of the time we spend together. Everyone is together, without distractions. When we are away, we take walks together and eat all meals at the same table at the same time. We get excited about spotting lizards and seeing dolphins. We try new things like kayaking and paddle boarding. Learning shifts from the parents teaching the kids, to all of us learning together, and that is a whole new level of family bonding. We even go to bed at the same time.
A photo posted by Sheri McDonald (@familyenroute) on
Now we are looking forward to exploring further. New Zealand and Ireland are both near the top of my list. I love beautiful landscapes and history, which I am sure are abundant in both locations. I also have a great love of literature and movies, which would be deeply satisfied by a visit to the shire and Middle Earth. My son dreams of visiting England, which I believe has something to do with his Dr. Who obsession, and my husband wants to join him as long as he can see a football game while he is there. My daughter wants to float through the waterways of Venice, and my youngest son wants to go back to just about every place we’ve already been. Most importantly, they understand an important lesson: experiences, not things.