Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Tuesday Topic: Travel fears

Please send in your questions! This is all I have queued for now.

Heather L. asks: "As a mom, how do you deal with fears associated with international travel, especially as they concern children? I hear so much about child trafficking and hatred toward Americans, it all makes me a little worried. My husband and I have both visited Nicaragua on mission trips, and plan to take our young children (4 and 2 yr) soon. I was completely excited until we started working on trip details and I realized I would be leaving the safety I feel in the Southern US."

(If you have a “Tuesday Topic” question, please email it to me at fylliska@gmail.com. Provide your blog address if you would like to be linked to, or specify if you would like to remain anonymous. Thanks!)


  1. Traveling with kids definitely comes with so many more emotions than traveling pre-children! I'll be praying for you about this. I know those worries!

    Three things come to mind for me:
    -Pray and trust in God's call as you go to serve him as a family. God has not only called you, but he has called your children too, and we know that the best place to be is in the center of God's will. It certainly takes faith, but if God has called you, his plan is good!

    -At least from what I have heard and experienced, being a foreigner with children really does a lot to counter much of the cultural negativity that you might experience for being a foreigner. It seems that there is a world-wide compassion for children and families. I have experienced this more in foreign countries than I have in the US, and have heard the same of many other countries. I would expect that you will receive some extra special treatment just because you are there with your kids! People will be so much more willing to help you and more compassionate toward your needs.

    -As for fears about crime and such, I would say that common sense about keeping a close eye on your children really will eliminate almost all risk. Most of the terrible stories that you hear are when a child has been left unattended, have gone away from the parent's watch, or have been left perhaps napping while the parents stepped out (like in a hotel while the parents go to the restaurant, etc.). Also, the unknown is so much worse than actually being there. Things will feel much more dangerous until you actually arrive and become familiar with your surroundings. Even in places with higher crime rates, the vast majority of people are decent people, and it is easy to feel this once you are able to actually interact with people. As even in the US, it is wise to stay away from isolated areas, stay with people that you know when possible, and not to go out too late at night. It also might be good to practice "staying close" with your kids before you leave. I have done this with my kids and made it kind of a game. They get into it and have gotten good at staying together when we go out in crowds.

    I am really curious if anyone in South America has some other specific insights!

  2. I think Ashley covered it all. I'll still add a little. :-)

    The biggest practical tip I can think of is to talk to your own children, in whatever way they need. I have one who tends toward being fearful, so the most I'd ever say to him is to stay close to us. (And practice that beforehand, like Ashley said.) I have another who is actually too outgoing and has never met a stranger. Sometimes I have to scare her a little. Recently we were in Austria for an overnight layover. She was wandering far away in dark crowded streets. I called her back to me and asked her if she knew how to say "where is my Mama" in German. Her eyes got really big, and she stayed close after that. We also spent a day in the DC airport. Our children were running back and forth to the bathrooms by themselves and playing all over. I reminded them several times that we didn't know the people around us, and that they didn't need to be talking to everyone.

    We've never had any experience with crime or anti-American sentiment. Now, we've also never been to South America. However, most of our experience has been in a country that is known to be xenophobic. It just doesn't affect us personally. Being nice and friendly and having children with us has always helped.

    We'll be happy to cover your family in prayer when you travel.

  3. Hi Heather! I live in Central America and we actually took our then 2 and 4 year olds to Nicaragua last year. We were in Granada and I felt fine, but we had them with us at all times. I will say this about all Latin Cultures, the LOVE LOVE LOVE kids! We feel it even in the Miami airport when we get to the gate heading to Costa Rica. People around you will want to help with your kiddos, help put shoes on, give them cookies or crackers, greet you with an "Ahhhh! Que Lindos!!" meaning "Ohhh, how lovely!!" I have always felt better with my kids around me when it comes to petty crimes like pickpocketing and what not, because of the Latins' love for kids. Pedestrians don't have the right of way in Costa Rica, but with my big double jogging stroller, people always stopped so we could cross the street.

    I think the other girls are right. Keep them close. Talk to them about holding your hand, or keep them on you in a wrap or backpack or in a stroller, strapped in if they are climbers. And airlines let you gate check strollers for free, so you can bring it right up to the gate and get it right when you get off the plane.

    I know that at the beginning I was more fearful because I couldn't speak the language and didn't know all that was going on. But the longer we live here the more comfortable I am with our situation. Are you going for a few weeks? Listen to what the others around you are saying, as advice of the missionaries or your hosts.

    What an opportunity!! I love it when my now 5 year old says, "hey Mom, remember when we went to Nicaragua? Such a perspective at such a young age!"

  4. Thank you ! Thank you ladies! I really appreciate your time to answer my question. Liz, how funny that you took your kids to Nica at the exact age my kids will go. Hmmm....perhaps one of those great God coincidences I needed to hear :-) We will spend most of our time in a small community on the coast near Leon. However, we may spend a day in Granada also. Granada was my main concern bc of the child trafficking that goes on there. My understanding is most of that involves parents actually selling their kids (WOW!).
    I will definitely be wearing my little guy and keeping my daughter close by. I never want to let fear drive my decisions b/c fear is not from God. However, I want to make wise decisions for my kids as well.
    I really am feeling much more at peace about going. We do feel God may ask us to move to Nica at some point and taking our kids is just one of those steps of faith we have to take.
    I know most kids in Nica do not use carseats. My husband sees no reason to take a carseat, but I did wonder if any of you took them for your little ones? I would only take one for my 2 yr old.
    Again, thank you ladies.

    1. We didn't take car seats because we were in a charter bus from Costa Rica. I struggled with that this whole last year, but we didn't really use them. We didn't have a car though and taxis and car seats are a pain, especially since you are lucky if you get a taxi with seat belts! We will be buying a vehicle when we get back to CR this fall and then all the boys will be in boosters or car seats for sure! So I guess it will depend on your mode of transportation once you are there. If you are in a micro bus or charter bus, I would say don't bother. Also if you are going to be relying on taxis, don't bother, but pray for taxis with seat belts:) If you will be using a personal vehicle, sure bring it. It also checks for free, and you can check it at the ticket counter. I would make a bag for it (something like a simple draw string back out of cheap durable fabric) because they do get beat up in the luggage compartment.

      And you are right, those steps of faith! I always try to remember, in the hard and easy times, that for my boys to grow up into the men that God wants them to be, they need to experience what we are doing as a family. Not that we are foolish, but you are right, not acting out of fear. Showing wisdom, but realizing sometimes we need to walk into a scary situation.

      Granada was fine. We stayed at the hotel most of the time,but we did go out walking after dark on the main drag in town for dinner. This was a switch for us because in the city we were living in in Costa Rica at the time, you really didn't go out after dark.

      Anyway, hope that helps. Oh, and here's the blog post I wrote about our weekend there. http://nlkamper.blogspot.com/2011/06/to-nicaragua-and-back.html