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Cross-Cultural Staycations: Visit 5 Countries Without Leaving Home

Published on: July 10, 2013

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Girl with globe

This summer take your family on a trip around the world while enjoying an economical stay-cation. Mini-trips increase global awareness, get your kids ready for traveling, and are just plain fun! Try one of our five mini-trip ideas below or create your own.


Eat: Start a trip to Cuba by visiting your local Latino grocery store to pick up special ingredients and spices for creating a delicious Cuban meal. A traditional avocado mold and Cuban rice and beans take time, so you might want to start in the morning.

Listen: Download and listen to Cuban music to help get you into the cooking mood. During the day, while the avocado mold gels and the rice and beans simmer, consider a visit to the beach if it’s warm enough outside.

Cuba carLook: If it’s not a beach day, and if you're in Seattle, check out native-Cuban artist Juan Alonso's public art installations throughout the Seattle area.

Learn: In the afternoon, spend a little time learning about the politics of Cuba, past and present. Why is it difficult to visit Cuba? How is their political system different from ours?

Read: High school kids might enjoy The Firefly Letters: A Suffragette's Journey to Cuba about an activist’s journey through Cuba, or Cuba: My Revolution, a graphic novel about the choices a teenage girl has to make in Castro’s Cuba. For younger kids, there are lots of Cuban folktales available in Spanish and English such as The Bossy Gallito, Dance, Nana, Dance and Martina the Beautiful Cockroach.

Watch: After enjoying your delicious Cuban feast, settle in for a movie filmed on location in Cuba. Viva Cuba, about two kids traveling alone across the country, is available on Netflix and a great way to see the landscape while learning about the culture.

Next: France>


Eat: The portal to Paris is food, and in particular, the croissant. Start your French day with a selection of croissants and your kids will wake up happy. The French Bakery at Crossroads mall in Bellevue is delicious and just added a large indoor seating area; Le Fournil on Eastlake is also very good and sometimes you can even watch them baking the croissant next door. On July 13, Seattleites can get a big dose of French culture and eats at Madison Valley's Bastille Bash.

Look: After breakfast, head to a museum in search of Impressionist paintings. Stand very close to each painting and slowly step backwards, taking in details that only become evident with perspective. Head home and let your kids try their hand at creating an Impressionist masterpiece of their own. While you’re The Red Balloondriving, listen to a French music or language tape from your local library.

Eat more: Savory crepes make for a yummy dinner followed by a sweet dessert crepe. They’re not hard to make, or you could try a local crepe restaurant. In either case, a French cheese sampling makes a great hors d’oeuvre activity.

Watch: There are so many French films to choose from that it’s hard to know where to begin. Everyone needs to see The Red Balloon at least once, but it’s just the beginning. Here are ideas for nine more great French children’s films. There are good French-themed bedtime stories too. Madeline, Adèle & Simon, and Ooh-la-la Max in Love to name a few.

Next: Turkey>

Turkey mapTurkey

Do your kids know where Turkey is? It’s amazing that for such a large country, Americans tend to know very little about Turkey and its culture.

Map it: Start with a globe or atlas to explore the geography of Turkey, its neighbors, and its strategic location between the Black and Mediterranean Seas, and between Europe and Asia. Color a flag and a map.

Learn and do: Listen to snippets of the Turkish language, try a Turkish-inspired mosaic craft, or create a Hamsa.

Cafe TurkoEat: Seattle is lucky to have an authentic Turkish cafe, Café Turko, in its Fremont neighborhood where you can enjoy kebabs, stuffed Turkish bread, and even delicious Turkish coffee for mom or dad. Café Turko also has imported Turkish goods and hosts Turkish cooking classes! Or try some Turkish recipes at home on your own.

Read: In the evening, enjoy National Geographic videos on Turkey (Globe Trekker: Turkey) and read Turkish folktales at bedtime (Watermelons, Walnuts, and the Wisdom of Allah; Nearly Nonsense: Hoja Tales from Turkey).

Next: Bosnia>

Bosnian dancersBosnia

Map it: Begin exploring Bosnia with a Google Earth flyover and explore the region from the air. How big are the cities? Are there mountains? Consider the ecology of Bosnia and the similarities with the Pacific Northwest.

Listen: Put on some traditional Bosnian folk music and let your kids dance around the room. How is it different from and similar to American folk music? What differences do you hear when compared to other traditional Bosnian music?

Dance: There is a thriving Bosnian culture in the Puget Sound area. If you “travel” on a Friday, you can participate in weekly Friday night dances hosted by the Seattle Balkan Dancers. The Kentwood Branch of the King County Library System is even initiating a story time in Bosnian.

Bosnian flagRead: Visit the library to search for children’s nonfiction books about Bosnia. A great resource is Tales from the Heart of the Balkans (World Folklore Series) which contains a short history of the area and 33 stories representing various regions within the Balkans. Ask older kids why there might not be many books about Bosnia in the library and perhaps encourage them to learn more about the history of Bosnia.

Eat: And, there’s a bakery in Bellevue where you can enjoy a taste of Bosnia (1502 145th Pl S.E.). The sign outside says Fuji Bakery, but it offers authentic Bosnian specialties such as hearty breakfast sausage, delicate stuffed cabbage, and a huge selection of pastries. Delicious!

Next: India>

Indian kids doing yogaIndia

Sip: Your day trip to India starts with chai. Find it at your local coffee shop, or make your own.

Do: Yoga is a must too and it’s everywhere these days. There are classes for kids and adults, sometimes available on a free trial basis. Or you can stretch out yoga mats at home and borrow a kids’ video from the library, or watch short clips on YouTube. just produced a quick, fun yoga routine inspired by the sights and sounds of Rajasthan. It’s perfect for younger kids.

Read: Fun children’s books about India include Going to School in India and The Drum: A Folktale from India.

Get a tattoo: Show your ‘tweens and teens just how cool exploring cultural diversity can be by offering them henna tattoos. Henna is a traditional bridal decoration in India often applied to the hands and feet. But small and temporary henna art can be applied anywhere, anytime.

Indian foodEat: Indian food is delicious, and there Indian restaurants everywhere. To sample unusual specialties, look for an Indian restaurant that specializes in preparing cuisine from a particular region of India. For an economic alternative, visit an Indian grocery and pick out an assortment of frozen Indian food to try at home.

Watch: There is no better finale to an India day than a Bollywood movie extravaganza. Billu Barber is a great place to start, with a thoughtful plot, interesting characters, and thrilling, outrageous, spontaneous dancing.

Of course, this is only a beginning. You can visit any country or culture for a day. Happy travels!

About the authors: E. Ashley Steel and Bill Richards of wonderfully diverse Bellevue adore family travel and co-authored Family on the Loose: The Art of Traveling with Kids.

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