Wouldn't it be great if Pancho Villa could step out of a history book and shake your hand on your first trip to Mexico? What if he told you tales of his revolutionary escapades? (Or his stint in Hollywood while they filmed them?) Or sang folk songs with his squad of rebels while his wife served roasted poblano peppers around a colorful table full of neighbors? Although we can't yet go back in time, it is possible to randomly meet his descendants at the Farmer's Market who could invite you to their home to share a meal or a Mexican coffee.
Photo by Cristian Newman on Unsplash
The sad truth is, though, most families wouldn't take that opportunity. Already in an unfamiliar and confusing land, if a family is unprepared, the differences they suddenly encounter can become a daunting barrier of fear and prejudice.
To combat this possibility, one travel loving mom created a program to build bridges through cultural barriers. Former graphic artist turned travel agent, Christie Holmes designed Global CommUnity to help families become familiar with a new destination before they even step off the plane. By introducing basic ideas and cultural practices through books, movies and toys she provides, families come prepared with a starting point for conversations with locals once they arrive.
What's the Point?
Holmes's motivation to start this business was to create those connections for her own family. Raised partly as an expat, Holmes spent her school vacations traveling to nearby countries with her family. When she married her husband, a man born and raised in the South, he didn't even own a passport. She realized she needed to make it easier for him and those like him, who were raised in homogenous societies, to feel comfortable in foreign surroundings. "If I didn't make an effort, all our vacations would have been trips to the beach," Holmes said.
Traveling Family in Costa Rica - (above) Christie, Alex, Clarke and Ella Kate (below)
For children, one of the best reasons to travel is to grow up understanding others, even if they're different. "The world is a classroom," Holmes said. Children are open to experiences that may thwart them as adults. The ideal way to support them is to give them at least a cursory understand of the community into which they will travel. I have a friend who prepared her family for a summer trip to Japan by downloading a bunch of Japanese movies, ordering books about the culture and reading every blog she could find about Japan. I am envious of her ability to prioritize her time, to make space to do that, because I prepare my children for our adventures by reading them a Wikipedia article about the country or city the morning before we leave.
How it Works:
Lucky for moms like me, Holmes took the time to create her Global CommUnity traveling program which makes the process of connection as easy as opening your mailbox and sharing the contents of the Global CommUnity packages with your family over dinner or fun family movie nights.
The program works like this: Each family member first fills out a survey which identifies their traveling personality type and helps develop a long term traveling map, identifying parts of the world the family should visit and when. The travel agent with whom the family is working partners with the Global CommUnity team to design an itinerary for a destination that satisfies each person. If a family doesn't have an agent, Global CommUnity will pair them with one. "Google can't come to the aid of a family if something goes wrong while they're traveling in the same way an agent can," Holmes said. Children under 12 receive a handmade doll (made by those who were once refugees, now absorbed into the Nashville community) that looks like a child from the area where the family will be visiting and has a storybook that tells about the life of a typical child that lives in that region.
Still in development, they plan to give older kids social apps to connect them to their destination so they can share their journey with their friends back home and stay in touch with the new friends they meet along their travels. Moms and dads get books and recipe cards to become accustomed to the tastes they will soon experience and understand the history of the people they will meet. Together, families watch movies from the country they will visit, strengthening the bonds with each other in addition to building new ones from their shared explorations. Global CommUnity supports the families each step of the way, from the minute they decide when they will visit their destination to having a private guide and car meet them when their plane touches down and escorts then them to all part of their trip. "I want to take families out of their comfort zone to see things they normally wouldn't with the help of Global CommUnity and their travel agents," Holmes said.
"Our goal is to introduce every culture to every family so they're not foreigners, they become acquaintances and once someone becomes an acquaintance, you dispel a lot of fear and the unknown about other cultures," Holmes said.
Travel Mapping costs $500 and a couple of alterations are included in the price as a family's needs may change over time. Overall trip prices are all based on a family of four having two rooms in four or five star accommodations. Each family is met at the airport and their tours are all guided and they have a car and driver throughout. Prices also vary from high season to shoulder and off season. More information can be found at http://nooneisforeign.com/