Getting Your US Passport

Disclaimer: This post may look like a beast, but I promise it is composed in a way that the information is easy to access, and all inclusive for your specific situation. Bear with me and I will help you navigate the waters of the US bureaucratic mumbo jumbo.

 

Before you can hop on a plane to a fabulous international destination, you need your passport. It used to be that if you were a US citizen and you were traveling to a bordering North American country (Canada or Mexico), all you needed was a birth certificate. But things have changed, and now you need your US passport any time you go outside of the country. You will need a passport for each person in your family, including of course your children. You need to start this process far ahead of time, especially if you are planning on traveling around the holidays because the Department of State gets a lot more applicaions around that time. Normal processing takes about six weeks, but it can take longer. You can also pay for expedited services, but who wants to spend extra money?

So how do you go about obtaining one of those blue, shiny books with your picture and information in it? Here are step by step instructions on how to get your US Passport. Read more

Creating A Legacy

Since this is my 100th post on Sprouts En Route, I wanted to make it a really special one. Thank you all you readers out there that have stuck through the transitions that have happened this year, and to all of the new readers out there that frequent the site every day, welcome, please pull up a chair and stay a while.

The last few weeks I have been thinking a lot about what it means to be a traveling family, and although I did a short article last year on why you shouldn’t wait to start traveling with your kids, I wanted to do a more comprehensive follow up about how traveling with your children creates a legacy in their lives.

When I was young, I was really blessed to have parents that made traveling at least once a year a priority. My brother and I were exposed to new things, new places, and encouraged to have adventures. It wasn’t until recently that I thought about how those opportunities have shaped who I am as an adult. Even though we never went out of the country, my parents took advantage of the diversity of the different environments in and around California, and I have many fond memories of discovery and intrigue. And yes, when I was 11, I was still using words like discovery and intrigue, that’s how committed I have always been to nerdiness.

My husband, Travis, was also blessed to have opportunities to travel as a child since his father is a pilot, and as a result of that, there have been many adventures he hasn’t been afraid to tackle, or he was afraid and it did it anyway (like the bridge walk in Australia… he is really freaked out by land based heights). One of the best things about traveling is that you have the opportunity to push yourself (and your family) out of your comfort zone, and with that comes the lesson that doing things that make you uncomfortable is worth it because you learn new things about others and more importantly about yourself. This morning as we were leaving church Ksena pointed up at the Acropolis (her favorite place in the world) and said, “There it is! The Acropolis!” I spent the next five minutes trying to explain how blessed she is to be able to see something so full of history every Sunday, and how she has so many amazing opportunities that most adults don’t have. I listed off all of the historic and beautiful destinations she’s visited, and experiences she’s had. I’m pretty sure she didn’t understand what I was saying, but someday she will.

Last week we were talking about roller coasters and land based heights, and Ksena said, “I know you are afraid of roller coasters Mommy, but you will still go on one with me when we go to California.” I confirmed her statement. Then she said, “You and Daddy are afraid of heights,” to which Travis added, “Land based heights.” Kati added her opinion into the mix as well, stating that she was also afraid of “highs.” Seriously, 3 year olds are so cute! Then Ksena said something that surprised me, in a good way.

“You are afraid of heights, Daddy is afraid of heights, and so is Kati… but I’m not. I’m not afraid of anything!!”

That is a pretty bold statement for a 5 year old, and I am convinced she meant it. I know that eventually a time will come when she will be afraid of something, but I can’t help but be excited by the effect of our lifestyle on our children. Ksena isn’t afraid to try new things. She understands the value of experiencing different cultures in places all over, whether it is home in Athens, Greece or visiting her grandparents in California, USA. What kind of legacy are you leaving for your family?

To 100 additional posts (and hopefully more) in the coming year!

Happy travels,

Kristin

Rain, Rain, Go Away?

I am normally a rain appreciator. I love the rain… the sounds that it makes as it drops down on things, and the clean smell it leaves after it is gone. But there is nothing worse than encountering rain on your trip and not being prepared.

One time we had visitors to Athens, and we only had a few hours to show them the sights. The only problem was it was pouring down rain, our stroller got a flat wheel, and the couple we were with didn’t have rain coats (or coats at all) or an umbrella. They shared our umbrella, Ksena ended up on Trav’s shoulders, and Kati stayed in the stroller which I managed to push about on two tires instead of three. You know how predicting the weather is… that’s why it’s called a “prediction” and not “absolute weather truth.” So here is my list of things to bring on a rainy day adventure, and hey, if you are driving somewhere it’s not a bad idea to keep this stuff in your car anyway, just in case.

-Rain coats for all. Yes, for everyone. Even if one of those “rain coats” is actually an obnoxious yellow poncho that you can carry in your purse. It can be difficult to find really small rain coats for a 1 or 2 year old. The place I finally ended up finding an affordable and practical one was Target, the Circo brand. I haven’t been to Target in a while because I live in Europe now, but I share that info just in case you want an idea of where to go looking. I also love that most strollers are water resistant and will keep your little one dry. Of course, you can also buy a rain cover for your stroller, but since I own a Phil & Teds stroller and my only option was to spend $100 on one, I opted out.

-Umbrellas! We keep umbrellas in the bottom of the stroller if we are walking somewhere. If we are driving they go into the car. We bring two adult ones and a kid sized one just in case one of the kids is walking. Of course you will have to adjust your numbers depending on how many people are in your family. A good place to shop for umbrellas in Europe is Ikea! They have really nice ones for a really reasonable price in their family section. We sport a black one, but they offer many different colors.

-Water resistant shoes. Travis and I each have a pair of Columbia “Omni Dry” tennis shoes that are semi comfy for walking, and keep out rain and snow. I wouldn’t wear mine for a marathon or anything like that, but they are great to wear around on a rainy day when I don’t want to sport rain boots. For the kids we just put them in rain boots. If it is raining, it is likely that they won’t be doing a lot of walking, and their boots are so cute, they will use just about any excuse to wear them.

 

If you are taking the stroller (yes, we obviously learned this the hard way… lol):

-Make sure you have the hood attachment (if yours comes off), the rain cover, or any other thing that makes your stroller more rain friendly. Even a blanket will work for light, short term showers.

If you have air filled tires on your stroller:

-A patch kit (just a plain old bike patch kit will do for a quick, temporary solution)

-A small tire pump. We carry one of these in the bottom of our strollers at all times anyway. Travis bought it when he used to bike to work, but it works great for the stroller as well.

 

So there you go. If you are only going to be in a travel spot for a short time, don’t let the rain stop you! Go explore and get your time and money’s worth out of your trip. Of course, stopping by a cafe after your little adventure to warm your belly with a cup of coffee or hot chocolate is warranted, so enjoy!

 

Making It Count: First Impressions

I’m posting a day early because tomorrow we will be going on a trip with the team to Ancient Cornith 🙂 Hope everyone has a great weekend!

I was recently reading a wonderful book titled, “Foreign to Familiar” about different types of cultures and the ways that different cultures approach different situations socially. It is a really awesome book for anyone, but especially those that plan on traveling anytime soon. In the United States alone I can definitely see the impact of these two distinctive types of people groups. I will be reviewing the entire book in a few weeks for you, my lovely readers :).

But today I wanted to talk a little bit more about a topic the author covers very well in this book: greetings. I have already talked about general language study and importance of greetings in A Little Goes A Long Way, but I wanted to be more specific about ways to greet people.

Say “Hello!”

It is so important to take the time to learn greetings in a different language, but there are also behaviors that you want to make sure you keep in mind. You only get one shot at making your first impression, and often your first impression with one national will be carried onto other nationals if they are acquainted with each other. If you are traveling to a small place in hot culture climate, your very first encounter can determine what kind of time you are going to have. People in these climates tend to be extremely social and dependent on one another. If you get one approval, chances are the entire village will welcome you. If you give the impression that you are a snobby tourist, you are not going to get the same treatment. The chances of you insulting someone increase because you are not familiar with what is insulting in other cultures. So here are few suggestions that I believe will help you enjoy the hospitality of your host culture in a way you probably never imagined. Read more