January 2020 Real Traveler Stories: A four-month family exploration of Asia

Real Traveler Stories: A four-month family exploration of Asia

Trying on tradition in Hakone, Japan.
Trying on tradition in Hakone, Japan.
Simon Greer and Sharna Goldseker turned to Virtuoso travel advisor Matthew Gill for a trip that promised to be as rewarding for them as it would be for their 8-year-old daughter, Sasha, and 11-year-old son, Owen. As Simon reports, the 18-week, nine-country adventure was more life changing than they’d even dreamed.
We picked Asia because we wanted a destination totally different from our daily life and to experience what it’s like being in the visible minority.

Bring less than you think you’ll need. You can always pick things up on the road, and often a local version – besides, finding laundromats was part of the fun.

Our best trick to get the kids to try new foods was starting with a cooking class, like making sushi or dumplings – they’re more apt to eat what they make.

To tune out work and distractions from home, I changed my phone number and didn’t check email. It’s incredible what we talked about instead — conversations about the economy with camel herders in the Gobi Desert; discussing Middle East peace, as a Jewish family, with a Muslim family from Dubai, while learning about sustainable living in Indonesia.

The first thing we learned about ourselves is that we’re more flexible than we imagined. We covered 27 cities and had many delayed flights and other obstacles. As long as our kids had a book and their favorite stuffed animals, and we were together, we were OK.

Matthew worked with Gerald Hatherly of Abercrombie & Kent Greater China to organize a kite-making class in Beijing; a fishing trip with locals in Vietnam; a visit to teamLab Borderless, the interactive, three-dimensional technology-art exhibit in Tokyo; and other fun activities that engaged the kids.

We knew it was worth it when Sasha struggled to crawl to the top of a giant sand dune in the south Gobi Desert on her hands and knees, and at the top said, “I feel accomplished!”

After visiting the Summer Palace in Lhasa, which the Dalai Lama fled in 1959, Owen asked how a country could take over such a peaceful place as Tibet. Our children’s innocence and curiosity about people and places gave us a fresh take on every experience.

I’ll never forget hiking to the top of a volcano to watch the sunrise on my 51st birthday, and Sharna and I holding hands while swimming and following sea turtles off Komodo Island.

But if you ask Sharna, she’d say Mongolia, for its vast untouched land – lush green in one direction, red-rock canyons and sand dunes in another.

We still laugh about mud-wrestling in Indonesia while learning about sustainable living at John and Cynthia Hardy’s Green School.


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