Oh, I see! moments
Travel Cultures Language

Inherited Wanderlust

by Eva Boynton on November 8, 2016

Three kids walking through a valley in Switzerland, illustrating how wanderlust is passed down in traveling families (image © Peter Boynton).

A family legacy can begin anywhere. My brother and I inherited our travel inspiration hiking through Lauterbrunnen, Switzerland.
© Peter Boynton

Traveling Families—At Home in the World

We travel not to escape life, but for life not to escape us.  —Anonymous

Do adventures need to end when a family begins? “Absolutely not!” say families who choose to spend months or even years connecting and learning as they travel the world.

What does it take to get the show on the road?

Share the wanderlust. Make travel a priority by putting value on the experience; if it’s important to you, then it’s important to show your kids.

Meet two traveling families, who share the kind of “Oh, I See” moments that can happen only on the road. They may inspire you to create your own family legacy of wanderlust.

The Bicycling Family

Chris, Julie, Leo, and Charlotte Conk began their family travels in the summer of 2011, cycling 1100 km (683.5 miles) around Lake St. Jean in Quebec. Leo was 6 (pedaling) and Charlotte 4 (pulled in a chariot).

But they did not stop there. In 2015, they jumped at their chance to travel for a year. They sold their home in Quebec, bought bicycles, and pedaled 7,400 km (4,598 miles) to Guatemala. Leo, now 11, rode his bike, and Charlotte, 8, who started in a tandem bicycle, changed to her own bike along the way.

Four family members on bicycles, showing how traveling families share their wanderlust. (image © Conk family)

Here goes the Conk family, spinning around the world on self-powered vehicles. 
© Bicycling Family

“Can you believe a family of four sold their home, bought bicycles, put everything on their bikes and pedaled to Guatemala?” asks Chris Conk.

Julie and Chris were both travelers before they met in Chiapas, Mexico. They recognize the personal importance of travel and the growth that comes from it. Chris explains, “We took this trip because we wanted to give our kids some perspective.”

A traveling family cycles on a dirt road surrounded by tropical plants, showing parents who share their wanderlust with their kids. (image © Eva Boynton)

Through cold mountaintops, dry deserts, and humid jungles, the Conks pedal forward.
© Eva Boynton

Julie adds, “It’s important to keep doing what makes you, you, as a mother. It’s important for me to share my deepest values with my kids and stay true to myself.”

Travel gave the Conk family a chance to imagine together . . . daily. For their children, it was education by astonishment, world schooling, living education. It was also the freedom to daydream.

A young girl, part of a traveling family, draws at a picnic table, as she experiences her family's legacy of wanderlust. (image © Conk Family)

Studying on the road takes on new meaning
© Bicycling Family

The Conks built their relationships with each other and the world. They teamed up to choose routes, find campgrounds and lodgings, try new foods, watch out for each other, and play together.

A young girl and boy playing in the water underneath a palapa in Guatemala, members of a traveling family that shares its wanderlust. (image © Sam Anaya A.).

Charlotte and Leo splash in Lake Remate, Guatemala
© Sam Anaya A.

On the road, they participated in random dance parties, drew their surroundings, wrote about their experiences, created cross-cultural connections, collected bottle caps in Cuba, and spoke three different languages across 8 countries. Most important, this traveling family came away with more dreams and fewer fears.

My Traveling Family

In 1938, our family legacy began with my grandfather, who traveled 3,000 miles around Europe by bicycle.

When my parents met, they explored Europe together, wandering through the Swiss Alps, French backroads, and Greek caves. My mother traveled overland from Europe to India (through Turkey, Iran, Afghanistan, and Pakistan) in 1977. My father started a tour company that took Americans (and his family) overseas to hike and cycle throughout Europe.

Little did they know, their travels were forming a family value that my brother and I would inherit.

Kids playing on a playground in Switzerland, showing how traveling families pass down inherited wanderlust (image © Peter Boynton).

Playgrounds, from Switzerland to Africa, make traveling families feel at home in the world. 
© Peter Boynton

My first memories of travel are of hiking and sliding in Lauterbrunnen, Switzerland, looking up at the surrounding snow-capped mountains. I remember cycling on roads with fields of lavender on each side in Provence, France. I complained about cycle travel then, though ironically it has turned into a life pursuit and my favorite mode of transportation and travel.

My brother and I grew up among the kindness of strangers. My mother explains being wonderfully surprised at how strangers “were so welcoming and interested when we traveled with little kids.”

A man carrying his son in France, showing the inherited wanderlust passed down in traveling families (image © Normi Burke).

My brother hitches a ride with my dad in Montignac, France
© Normi Burke

On one occasion, my parents were traveling with my brother as a baby. They entered a store to spend the last of their travel money. Without hesitation, the owners of the store, an Italian couple, began kissing my brother’s pudgy arms and legs. They refused money from my parents and sent them away with free snacks and souvenirs.

My brother and I inherited wanderlust at an early age from seeing the beauty of the world and being surrounded by different cultures and languages. It is a family legacy that I have continued today and that my brother intends to share with his children.

Oh, I See the Family Values

Traveling families—like the Conks and my own—see travel as a critical family value. As my mother explains, “It changed me to travel.  I became much more open-minded and aware of other people. Why wouldn’t I want that for my children?”

Through our family travels, I developed a comfort with change, the kind that comes from sleeping in a different bed every night. And I hold close the legacies of my parents—the wanderlust, the open-mindedness, and that comfortable feeling of being at home in the world.

Leo and Charlotte will likely know these legacies, too. And that’s a priceless inheritance.

Two silhouettes of people jumping in the Alps of Switzerland, showing how traveling families take advantage of their inherited wanderlust (image © Eva Boynton)

My brother and I return as adults to Lauterbrunnen, Switzerland. 
© Eva Boynton

Follow the adventures of Bicycling Family.

Want the secret to how families make travel happen? Check out 14 Nomadic Families. See more about the Conk’s trip in this video.

Comment on this post below, or inspire insight with your own OIC Moment here.


One thought on “Inherited Wanderlust

  1. Beautifully written and very inspiring. Your brother and I have already discussed giving your niece and nephew their “college fund” in the form of providing world travel. Hopefully, we’ll all begin traveling together sooner than that. Love you!

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