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Family Travel: Seeing the World As It Truly Is

Created by: Robin Borrud

I’m a mom; so naturally, I think my children are amazing. However, I often wonder if all parents do the same. Do all parents think their children are amazing? Do we only see the beautiful things about our mini-mes, and not their flaws and non-amazing bits that absolutely live in them? In reality, when I consider it on a deeper level, I know that the faulty and non-amazing bits mixed with the good bits are actually what make my children the most amazing children in my eyes. This is the way I try to see the world – as a whole, noticing the good and bad bits.

But I often wonder if I have been educating my children about the world as it truly is. As an adult, I know we can’t have light and beauty in the world without darkness. The key for me is to stay more focused on the positive, while acknowledging and attempting to understand the negative.

Keeping my children physically and emotionally safe is paramount and has always been my first priority in parenting. However, about five years ago I started questioning what “safe” really meant. Did it mean “sheltering” them from understanding that there are other places in the world where people live very, very differently than we do? Did it mean not being honest with them about the atrocities, inequalities and disparities that exist in the world? As I started on the path of questioning what it meant to keep my children safe while still allowing them to see and understand the world as it truly is, I started to look for ways that I could show them - and not just tell them - about the real world.

I realized immediately that one of the best ways to do this is through traveling. And not just the kind of traveling that we had done with the children when they were younger – at a resort, lying on a beach or around a pool, with no greater goals than relaxation and enjoyment. Now that they were older, I was more interested in an adventurous and cultural type of traveling that opened their eyes and informed them. We were ready for travel experiences where we got to see the real side of the destination. We were ready to learn about the culture, history and current conditions while still experiencing the beauty of the people and country.

In 2011, I met Kelly Campbell and was introduced to her company, The Village Experience. Soon after, I had the pleasure of traveling with her to Haiti for two weeks on a cultural and service trip. While I was on that amazing trip, I realized that this was the way I could show my children the world as it truly is – both the lightness and darkness of a people and a country.

In December 2013, my partner and I took our children to Kenya for the first time with The Village Experience. This would prove to be the first of many family cultural and service trips that we would experience. Since then, we have traveled to Guatemala, and made return visits to Haiti and Kenya.

Our latest trip in April 2016 took us to Thailand and Cambodia, all arranged through The Village Experience. It was one of the most exciting and interesting trips with the girls yet. During this trip, I traveled with my three daughters (ages 15, 12 and 10) along with our German exchange student to Thailand and Cambodia on a cultural exploration. We spent the first five days in the beautiful riverfront hotel, Riva Surya, and explored Bangkok’s temples, including Emerald Buddha Temple and The Grand Palace. We learned to cook Thai cuisine at Bai Pai Cooking School, which was a highlight of our time in Bangkok. We also explored outside of the city, visiting the salt fields and the floating markets.

Next we traveled to Cambodia, which for all of us, was our favorite part of the trip. We started our Cambodian leg of the journey in the north in Siem Reap, where we were treated to the most glorious sunrise at Angkor Wat. You’re never quite sure if booking a sunrise tour that requires you to wake four children up at four o’clock in the morning is a good idea, but as we sat and watched the sky change color over the temple, it was clear that we had made the right decision!

Angkor Wat. Photo by Robin Borrud

In preparation of our visit to Ta Prohm (the Tomb Raider Temple), we watched the “Tomb Raider” movie starring Angelina Jolie the night before. When we visited Ta Prohm, the girls had fun picking out the exact location of where Angelina’s battles took place.

We ended our time in Siem Reap with a tour of the land mine museum, where we saw hundreds of different land mines and learned about the complex land mine issue that Cambodia has been dealing with for decades and about the devastation it has caused. The girls were fascinated by the construction and mechanics of the land mines, as well as why and how they were used. I was impressed by their level of understanding of the current problems and by their overall compassion for the Cambodians in dealing with this issue, which continues to persist.

Ta Prohm. Photo by Robin Borrud

From Siem Reap, we traveled down to Phnom Penh. Here we were met by our lovely and well-informed guide, David. Our time in Phnom Penh was spent mainly touring the sites of the S21 prison site and the infamous “Killing Fields.” Trying to understand and digest the unbelievable brutality that took place at the hands of the Khmer Rouge in the 1970s was a challenge we all handled differently. It was a sobering and sad reality to see the evidence of the genocide that took place in the county and to hear our guide’s first hand account was an incredible gift. Needless to say, this was a heavy and emotional experience for all of us, yet the girls handled it with curiosity and compassion.


I have no idea where our next adventure will take us or in what way the girls and I will be changed and affected by the experience. I do know that through the explorations of travel and learning we’ve encountered with The Village Experience, we have awakened a little more every day and gained a greater understanding of the world, its history, and of humanity’s capacity for good and evil. Seeing the lightness and darkness of humanity through the eyes of my children as they travel around the world is one of the most rewarding things I have experienced as a parent.

Phnom Penh Bike. Photo by Robin Borrud.

All photos by Robin Borrud. Learn more about Robin Borrud and her stories here.

Learn more about the Village Experience and its travel experiences here.

August 5, 2016

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