Modern Family

June 20, 2013 15 Comments »

mongolia family

How do you define family?

I look at the little square on the electronic form and my mouse hovers over the top of it. I hesitate, think about my life as a solo, independent woman, husbandless, childless, boyfriendless – and I suddenly I feel bold. A smile forms across my face and I click the mouse on the box that reads “Family Travel Blogger”.

I’m never going to have kids. That’s my choice – my clock never woke up and that’s just fine – I’d much rather travel then be a mother. But I still stand by my mark on the form – yes – I’m a childless family travel blogger. I boldly believe there is nothing wrong with this because the definition of family is evolving and I’m one of the many (growing) people in this world who defines family in an untraditional way.

What Does ‘Family’ Mean?

According to the dictionary, family means “A group consisting of parents and children living together in a household.”

This is quite a modern definition since it doesn’t even mention the words mother and father, or define gender differences. However I’m pretty confident in stating that most people still consider a family to be a mother and father. Regardless – of mother-father, mother-mother, father-father, mother only, father only – there is one thing that’s always included…children – presumably your own children.

So – how can I be a family travel writer when I don’t have children?

I have nieces.

In fact I have 6 nieces and I take them traveling with me all over the world.

family travel

My 6 nieces…my ‘children’

Not everyone wants kids – even if you can have them. I can’t really explain how I turned 43 and never once looked at a baby and thought…”God I want one of those.” My clock never started ticking, or maybe I was just too selfish, or maybe I was to worried about being perfect, or maybe I just didn’t want to commit to anything that stayed with me FOR LIFE. After all – I am a huge commitment-phobe and kids are the ultimate commitment. Actually choosing to have kids is more daunting than choosing a mate if you ask me.

But I’m not the only one who feels this way –

“In 2008, about 18 percent of women ages 40-44 weren’t mothers and were hitting the end of their child-bearing years, up from 10 percent in 1976, according to a Pew Research Center study of Census figures. And among child-free married couples including a woman of childbearing age, about 20 percent say they are voluntarily planning to stay that way.”

These societal trends in addition to things like the (hopeful) acceptability of same sex marriage means that there are a number of people like me – people whom like kids, but don’t want their own. But here’s the kicker – I still want a family – without kids…is that possible?

I believe it is.


Building a family around me

I choose to build my own family not with children but with my nieces. They don’t need another mother, and I really don’t want to be their mother – but I want a deep relationship with them. One of the ways I’m trying to build that is to help them get a diverse view of the world. As children we typically adopt our parent’s values and views (I voted Republican until I was 30 thanks to family values – coincidently that’s also when I got my first passport). But I feel that it’s important for kids (specifically my nieces) to develop their own point of view as early as they can. I think there’s no better way to do that than to travel.

I hope that being exposed to other cultures will broaden their knowledge of the world and bring to life what they are learning in school, or help them make decisions on what they want to study in college. I want them to witness all of the paths that people can take to be successful – something that I always sort of feel like I missed out on as I grew up. I had to discover much of that on my own in my late 20s and 30s. I’m quite different than the rest of my family – so I feel like I provide a different viewpoint for them to consider and hopefully appreciate.

I also believe that travel is one of the best celebrations of family there can be. Other cultures have different views on family and family responsibilities. I find it utterly refreshing to see families (including aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, and cousins) supporting each other in other cultures – mainly because it is so deep rooted in their traditions and values. The idea of sending a family member to a home to live out their life is not the norm in the rest of the world. Granted – I don’t know if I could adopt their way of thinking nor do I expect my nieces to – but I do want them to see how families in other parts of the world relate and take care of each other.

Nepal family

A family I met in Nepal poses for a photo

But in true selfish female-without-kids form, a great part of this is what they do for me – they keep me young. They give me insight into youth, they make me think, they make me tolerant, they give me energy, they make me smile, and they make me believe in possibility again. They have their whole lives ahead of them and the mid-40-only-getting-older-me wants to live vicariously I suppose. And most importantly – they are my lifeline as I get older – something I think about often.

snow games

My nieces keep me young!

New Definition of Family Travel

Not only has the definition of family evolved, but I believe the definition of Family Travel is also changing. Gone are the days where family trips means going to Disneyland, Six Flags, all-inclusive resorts, or the Wisconsin Dells. As my generation grows older we are challenging the definition of family vacations and are starting to look for unique experiences, learning opportunities, and ‘real life experiences’ that you can’t get at Disney.

This isn’t just the crazy aunt in me talking – there are a growing number of people who are talking about and changing the definition of Family Travel. They are bold parents such as Keryn at Walking on Travels whose tag line is “When you won’t let your kids stop your wanderlust”, Mara from Mother of All Trips who is proud to call her kids ‘Global Citizens’, and Bootsnall who just launched a family round the world trip planner!

Childless family travel blogger – yes – that’s me. I have 6 kids who I travel with finding meaningful, unique experiences around the globe. And I’ll be taking off with another one of them very soon.  We will be taking a family oriented tour in Vietnam – I wonder if we will be the only aunt/niece combination? You don’t need kids to have a family – but family, however you define it, is one of the most important things in the world.

What’s your definition of Family Travel? Please share in the comments below!

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