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Travel Lessons with My Family

In the past year or so I’ve traveled more than ever, for both work and family reasons:

  • A tour of southern Europe with 5 of our kids and Eva in summer 2012
  • NYC (with a vegan tour) with Eva in fall 2012
  • Maui with all 6 kids and Eva in January 2013
  • Japan, on an awesome train trip and cherry blossom festivals with Tynan and some new friends, in March-April 2013
  • NYC with all 6 kids and Eva, again sampling the vegan delights, in June 2013
  • Portland & Eugene for the World Domination Summit and to visit family, with Eva and some of the kids, in July 2013
  • Los Angeles with all 6 kids and Eva in July 2013

For me, a person who enjoys staying home and enjoying the simple pleasures, it’s been a bit crazy. I don’t normally think of myself as a traveler, but the evidence is against that. I’m a traveler now.

And during it all, I’ve been taking notes. I’d like to share them with you here — my lessons learned in the past year or so of traveling.

Traveling Lightly

For me, the traveling lightly philosophy isn’t just in what you pack (though that’s a good part of it), but in how you approach travel.

Here are some lessons learned:

  • For most people, a backpack of 24-, 18- or even 16-liters is enough. I’ve traveled with a 16-liter backpack for weeks with no problems. I think we tend to bring more because of fear that we might need more.
  • Wash clothes in the sink and hang them overnight. Bam. You just eliminated the need to bring a lot of clothes.
  • My packing list: I wear jeans, underwear, a T-shirt, socks and shoes (of course), and then pack 2-3 more underwear, another T-shirt/workout shirt, workout shorts (that I can run and swim in), 2 more pairs of socks, minimalist running shoes (that don’t take up much space), a Macbook Air and iPhone (with Kindle app so I can read books), cords and some toiletries. If it might be cool, a sweater or jacket.
  • I wear the same jeans over and over, and just wash them once every week, hanging them up at night to air out.
  • Packing lightly means traveling more easily, not having to drag around a roller bag or luggage. Honestly, you don’t realize how much this costs you in energy and happiness until you go without all the weight. Trips become easier, packing and unpacking takes a few minutes, and you aren’t tired or grumpy.
  • Traveling lightly also means you don’t plan out as many things to do, but instead just research possibilities. What do you do each day? You look at the possibilities, and explore. You might just walk around and see what there is to see. Don’t worry about a schedule.
  • Traveling lightly also means avoiding the tourist traps. Some tourist attractions are genuinely worth seeing (great art and architecture), but otherwise, just see the city and people watch. You avoid the lines, and again you are lighter and happier.
  • It also means resting. Built into each day: slowness and rest stops and picnics and lounging in parks and stopping to just be in a place.
  • Walk a lot to explore, and try public transit. Also go for a run. These are the best ways to explore a city.
  • Finally, let go of expectations. If you’re going to a great city like Rome for the first time, you probably have an idea of what it is like. You’re wrong, and because it won’t match your expectations, you might be disappointed or frustrated. Instead, go in with curiosity, to explore and to really see. You’ll enjoy every trip much more.

The Funnest Stuff

Here are some highlights that I’ve loved:

  • In New York City, definitely don’t miss Hack the Museum. My friend Nick recently started these super fun tours of the Met, and I took my whole family, not because I like tours (I usually hate them), but because they make a normal museum experience into an extraordinary one. Highly recommended.
  • In Portland, go on a run in Forest Park. Really lovely, miles and miles of trails through a real forest, right within the city limits.
  • In Japan, go during Cherry Blossom season, because it’s gorgeous. It gets crowded, but people watching is part of the fun. You also don’t need to go on the exact weekend when they have the festival, because Cherry Blossom viewing (hanami) seems to go on for weeks. Go with a few friends, lay down a blanket or tarp, bring Japanese picnic food and drinks, and have an amazing time.
  • In Rome, St. Peter’s Basilica blew me away with its grandeur.
  • The Cinque Terre in Italy — five towns tumbling down cliffsides into the Mediterranean, linked by a train and walking trails — were beautiful and worthwhile.
  • Sunbathing on the beaches of Antibes (southern France) was very nice, and I loved the romance of being where Hemingway and Fitzgerald also played around with their hip friends.
  • In NYC, we truly love Candle 79, Candle Cafe, Hangawi, Blossom, Dun-well Doughnuts, Babycakes and the Cinnamon Snail. Vegan heaven.
  • People watching: Central Park in NYC, beaches at Antibes and Barcelona, Osaka Castle, Ueno Park in Tokyo, Hachiko statue at Shibuya Station in Tokyo, Williamsburg flea market.
  • In Japan, you can buy a weeklong train pass and ride the bullet trains everywhere. Tokyo is amazing, but there are other great places, from Osaka to Kyoto and Uji to Miyajima to an organic tea farm outside of the town of Fujieda, that you should definitely see. Bullet trains (shinkasen) are amazing.
  • Portland has amazing vegan food! My new friend Ami Baio, a Portland vegan, took me and some friends to some terrific places: Canteen, Portabella Vegan Trattoria, Blossoming Lotus, SweetPea bakery, and the vegan mini-mall! Oh my goodness. All are highly recommended.

Traveling with Kids

Traveling with kids isn’t always easy. But we love traveling with ours. Here’s what we’ve learned:

  • Talk to them before the trip about mindset. We explained to them that things will go wrong, we’ll get tired, we’ll walk a lot, we’ll get lost. It’s all an adventure. If they have this adventure mindset, things will go much easier.
  • Talk to them about complaining. Again, we’re on an adventure, and complaining isn’t a part of that. Instead, be grateful you’re in this new place, exploring and seeing amazing things.
  • Bring sketchbooks. We brought sketchbooks to NYC and would take breaks in the park and draw. Lots of fun!
  • Walk a lot at home, for training. Our kids walk a fair amount here in San Francisco, so when we travel and walk a lot to explore, they don’t tire so easily. They still tire, but at least they’re in decent shape.
  • Rest. Kids need rest. Build that into the plan each day.
  • Gelato — they’ll go anywhere if you reward them with gelato!
  • Let them help with the planning. If you’re just dragging them to places you want to see, then it’s boring. But if they helped plan out the trip, including a list of places to see, they’ll be more interested.
  • Be each other’s tour guides. When we went to MOMA, we each picked an artist, learned about it, and then had to explain the artist to the others, like a tour guide.
  • Get an apartment. We used AirBnB to get apartments in each city. It’s more comfortable for a large family, and cheaper than getting several hotel rooms, plus we could get groceries and cook at home for some meals, rather than eating out all the time. Also, there’s often wireless internet and washer/dryer (if you choose well).
  • Kids can travel light too. Our kids each brought a small backpack each, one that they could carry (our younger ones had really small backpacks). They’re responsible for their own stuff. We’ve experimented with this on several trips, and it works out well.
  • Give the kids responsibilities. They’re not passengers sitting back enjoying the ride — they’re helping plan and find their way around public transit and pick restaurants and get us to trains on time, etc. They’re learning to travel, and as adults they’ll be really good at it.

These are just a handful of the lessons I’ve learned. I’ve loved every place we’ve visited, and have met some lovely readers in each city, and it’s been excellent. Thank you to everyone we’ve met.

Zen Habits

Leo Babuata
Chapters
Neither Averting Nor Craving in Each Moment
How Taking Care of My Finances Changed My Life
Tips for Traveling with Kids
My Grand Travel Experiment
The Parent I Aspire to Be
The Best & Less-than-Best Motivations for Learning
The Miracle of Suspending Mis-Belief
7 Strategies for Dealing with Toxic People
Finding Motivation on Important But Non-Urgent Tasks
Learning Tips for the Top 8 Learning Challenges
The 30-Day Learning Challenge
The Place Where You Are
Feeling Determined to Change
Practicing Non-Judgment
Hold Your Own Feet to the Fire
Don’t Waste Your Opportunity
How to Beat Procrastination with Daily Training
The Time When We’ll Be Present & Content
A Simple, Powerful Self-Compassion Method
When Others Frustrate You
Your Internet Habits Create Your Reality
The Case for Replacing Exercise with Play
Leave Yourself Wanting More
Fail Faster at Habits
The Anti-Bucket List
Getting Started with the Discipline Habit
The Case for Caring About Your Work
Questions of Priority
The Futility of Always Pushing Myself to Be More
Pare Down with the Declutter Habit
You’re Not Doing Life Wrong
Getting Lost in Just Doing
An Addict’s Guide to Overcoming the Distraction Habit
The Source of Contentment
Savor Discipline: Merge the Interests of Your Future & Present Selves
What You Can Say Instead of “I Don’t Feel Like It”
The Things That Get in the Way of Doing
The Girl Who Saw Through the Illusions
A Gradual Approach to Healthy Eating
Unconditional Acceptance of Yourself
My Typical Day: How I Get People to Think I’m Productive
The Contentment Habit
The Delightfully Short Guide to Reading More Books
In Praise of Limits
The Art of Being My Dad
5 Ideas to Create an Amazing 2015
Essential Zen Habits of 2014
Karate Chop
Practicing Slowness & Being Present
Overwhelmed by All the Changes You Want to Make
My 2014 Successes and Failures
Finding the Motivation to Change Your Entire Life
When You’re Lonely
The Brain’s Fast Mode
5 Questions to Simplify Your Life During the Holidays
The Zen Habits Holiday Gift Guide
The Four Hidden Habit Skills
The Power of Delay
Overwhelmed & Rushed? Do a Stress Assess
Writer as Coder: The Iterative Way to Write a Book
Please Support the Zen Habits Book
Are You a Lift or Drag Force?
When Resistance Smacks You in the Face
When Your Plate is Too Full
The Quickstart Guide to Quitting a Bad Habit
The Zen Habits Book is Almost Done
A Quick Guide to Gaining Confidence When You Socialize
The Empty Container
The Realization
A Guide to Changing Self-Destructive Behaviors
Pushing Past the Terrifying Dip in Motivation
It’s Not Too Late to Change Bad Habits
The Smart Way to Stick to Habits
My Most Effective Learning Tools
What I Do When I Fail
How to Put Your Writing in Public
The Productive Sprint
The Biggest Reasons You Haven’t Changed Your Habits
Seized by the Thunderhold of Fear
What to Eat for Fat Loss
The Heartbreaking Cruelty of Comparing Yourself to Others
A Brief Guide to Overcoming Instant Gratification
How to Get Motivated After a Vacation
7 Strategies for Facing Your Internet/TV Addiction
How to Breathe
7 Discipline-Mastering Practices
7 Rules That Keep My Life Simple
An Education in the Majestic Sierra Nevada
The Lies Your Mind Tells You to Prevent Life Changes
How to Believe in Yourself
Don’t Waste a Moment
How to Find Your Life Purpose: An Unconventional Approach
How to Be Great
Making Yourself Work
Inhabit the Moment
How to Master the Art of Living
The Delusional Fantasies We Live With Each Day
Living the Simple Life
How to Be Prepared for Anything
Turn Toward the Problem
The End of the Day Philosophy
The Painful Beauty of Impermanence
How to Change Other People
Pursuing Happiness When It’s Already Within You
The Quickstart Guide to a Decluttered Home
Parental Zen: How to Keep Your Cool as a Parent
Looking for Love
How to Stop Your Habit Changes From Getting Derailed
Why We Have Regret
The Essence of Fatherhood: 6 Simple Lessons
A Call for Revolt: Advertising is the Anti-Minimalism
The Frustratingly Slow Pace of Making Changes
My Struggles with Eating Boring Food
The No Procrastination Challenge
Creating a Lovely Morning
A Father’s Manifesto: Raising Young Men Who Respect Women
Turn Inspiration Into Action
Coming Back From a Setback
The Gift
A Guide for Young People: What to Do With Your Life
No Excuses: Minimalism with Kids
How to Make a Marriage Work
Love Notes
Flavorless: My Month of Food Boringness
The Letting Go Ebook, Free
The Miracle of the Self-Compassion Habit
How I Tackle a Big Writing Project
The Habit Action List
The Reality of This Moment
Confidence in Your Business
10 Ways to Do What You Don’t Want to Do
On Making It Through Tough Journeys
The Hard Stuff Often Matters Most
What to Think About During Exercise
You’ll Be OK
The Most Important Two Minutes of Your Life
A Call for Compassion for the Defenseless
The Cure for Your Distraction Syndrome
You’re Not Worse Than Other People
Being Mindful of Your Stress
What if You Didn’t Have to Worry About Yourself?
The Universe of a Single Task
Simplifying Is Painful
Becoming Emotionally Self-Reliant
How I Cleaned House & Simplified My Work Life
The Busy Person’s Guide to Reducing Stress
My Month Without a Smartphone
What I’ve Learned as a Writer
What the Exercise Habit Did For Me
Fear is the Root of Your Problems
This Moment
36 Lessons I’ve Learned About Habits
The 3 Do-What-You-Love Conundrums
How I Conduct My Business
Constant Task Switching
The Habits of Five Amazing Founders
The Incredible Importance of Sleep for Habits & Motivation
What Really Motivates Us to Stick to a Project?
I Tried to Quit & It’s Too Hard!
Unwired: A Month With Limited Internet, & Now No Cell Phone
Procrastination is a Mindfulness Problem
Letting Go of Judging People
Don’t Scratch the Itch
Become Happy in the Face of Physical Misery
How Repetition Can Kickstart a Habit
Zen Productivity
When You’re Feeling Self-Doubt & a Lack of Motivation
The Child That Holds Us Back
Stateless Mindset
My Month of (Almost) No Internet
12 Changes for 2014
Essential Zen Habits of 2013
The Fear of Being Alone
The Calm Approach
Things Every Man Should Own
Family Gatherings: The Ultimate Mindfulness Training Ground
Letter to an 18-year-old on the Career Path Less Traveled
A Method to Find Balance
16 Surprising Lessons from My First 50-Mile Ultramarathon
The Simple Fitness Habit Holiday Challenge
Struggles with My Morning Internet Fast
Surrender, Mindfulness & Entrepreneurship
How I Learned to Stop Procrastinating, & Love Letting Go
Finding Focus
When You Run Out of Ideas
The Necessary Art of Subtraction
Jealousy & Suffering
How Creativity Works, & How to Do It
Self-Discipline in 5 Sentences
Make It Your Job
Developing Selfless Compassion
Lyrical Learning, & Why We Learn Habits Wrong
A Month Without Sugar
Why I Read (+ a Dozen Book Recommendations)
12 Indispensable Mindful Living Tools
Burn Down the Farm
My Most Minimal Travel Setup Yet
The Exquisite Habits of the Founder of Blue Bottle Coffee
3 Little Tricks to Deal With People Who Offend You
My Healthiest Travel Routine Yet
Startup Founder Megan Casey’s Habits of Priorities
My Pursuit of the Art of Living
A Month Without TV or Video
The Way of No Debt
Letting Go: How to Live With the Loss of a Loved One
The Way to Be
Ramit Sethi’s Entrepreneurial Habits
The Time to Shut Down
The Pain & Beauty of Life Changes
8 Creativity Lessons from a Pixar Animator
Zen Mountain: Leave It All Behind
Overcoming the Social Costs of Being Different
Finding Quiet and Mindfulness Through Food
My Failed Month of ‘No Sitting’
The Thinking Habit That Changed My Life
Liking Healthy Foods is a Choice
Unschoolery: My New Blog on Unschooling
My Advice for Starting a Business
Creating Your Habit Environment
Travel Lessons with My Family
Easier Decision-Making: Conduct Experiments
Simplify: Let Go of Your Crutches
The Fear of Being Found a Fraud
The Flexible Mind
Declutter Your Life
A Month Without Coffee
The Healthful Vegan Diet
Living the Quiet Life
The Art of Tasting Chocolate Mindfully
Why Fear of Discomfort Might Be Ruining Your Life
The Habits of Happiness
How to Keep Habits Going During Travel
A Year of Living Without
The Key Habits of Organization
I Failed
Vegan Guide to San Francisco
The Futility of Comparing Yourself to Others
A Secret to Dad Greatness
Habits: A Simple Change in Mindset Changes Everything
The Worry That You’re Doing the Wrong Thing Right Now
6 Steps To Being More Creative
How I Finally Faced My Weight & Debt Problems
Working with the Obstacles in Your Path
9 Rules for a Simpler Day
The Little Book of Contentment
The Obstacle is the Path
5 Lessons in Contentment from Billionaires Warren Buffett & Charlie Munger
Smile in Each Moment
A Guide to Practical Compassion
6 Steps To Healing Yourself
The 7-Day Vegan Challenge
Why You Should Write Daily
Achieving Without Goals
Flowing with the Stresses of Kids (or anyone else)
Habit Mastery: Creating the New Normal
Defeat Distraction: Refocusing with Purpose
Expanding the Envelope: A Method for Beating Anger
A Guide to Practical Contentment
The Practice of Work Mind & Vacation Mind, Simultaneously
How to Eat Real Food Without Spending Hours in the Kitchen
Quitting Your Habits
The 38 Best Methods of Successful Exercisers
How To Make It Impossible To Fail
The Not Knowing Path of Being an Entrepreneur
How to Change Your Life: A User’s Guide
Getting Your Family On Board with Life Changes
How to Stick to a Habit When Life Falls Apart
Zen Mind in the Middle of Chaos & Stress
Create a Sacred Space in Your Heart
Meditation: The Most Fundamental Habit
Creating the Genuine Connections We Long For
Tremors of Psychitude: One Little Trick to Find Purpose and Motivation
Create the Habits of Being Lean, in 7 Years
Walled-in: Life Without Facebook
The 7 Habits of Calmness
The Four Habits that Form Habits
Advice to My Kids
My 10 Essential Email Habits
The Daily Checklist
Sticking to a Habit: The Definitive Guide
The Meditation Diet: How I Lost 60+ lbs. by Savoring
The Power of Habit Investments
Discomfort Zone: How to Master the Universe
The Most Successful Techniques for Rising Early
Do Less: A Short Guide
How to Savor Life
What We Lack in a Hyperconnected World
Simplify the Internet
12 Rules to Live By
The New Rules of Fitness for 2013
52 Changes for 2013
The Unprocrastination Month, and the Relaunch of the Sea Change Program
Essential Zen Habits of 2012
The Other Person is Never the Problem
The Do Plan, or Why We Know But Don’t Do
28 Brilliant Tips for Living Life
The Clutter-free Holiday Guide
The Little Trick to Make Any Moment Better
Tim Ferriss vs. Leo Babauta Showdown: On Whether Goals Suck
The Work You Love is Waiting For You
The 7-Step Method to Find Focus for Writing
The Buy-Nothing Holiday Survival Guide
Challenge: Buy Nothing Until 2013
How to Learn Anything
Shaken By Life’s Beauty, Shaken
Untrack: Letting Go of the Stress of Measuring
15 Great Excuses Not to Form the Fitness Habit
How to Make Health Insurance a Bad Bet
Why the Fitness Habit is More Important Than the Plan
The Willingness to Think Differently
Create a Superhealth Community
A Vegan Tour of NYC