Meet Natalie Adams Bolden. Her children had passports before they could even walk. She’s an educator in New York.
Why do you love to travel? My father always said, “Learning doesn’t have to happen within the 4 walls of the school building. Sometimes the best teacher is a life experience.” These words coming from a teacher! But this is also the man who gave me some of the best cultural experiences of my life, both in this country and abroad.
How many countries and U.S. states have you traveled to? I’ve been to 39 countries outside the U.S. and 30 U.S. states.
What’s your favorite travel destination? It’s difficult to choose one trip as my favorite. When I was 13, I went to Senegal for a week and did a homestay, becoming immersed in the culture. I got to practice my French and it was my first trip to Africa. Clothes that I had made for myself are still in good condition (my daughter wore one of the dresses recently). When I was 25, I did a 10 day trip to Egypt that included a cruise down the Nile. Seeing all the National Geographic pictures in real life was a sight to behold. How do you put into words the grandeur and artistry of the Pyramids and temples? Getting off the boat, walking down a path and turning the corner to see the Temple Abu-Simbel… I can’t even begin to explain it. Going to Guatemala with my children and getting to help with a hands-on science workshop (led by my dad) for children was phenomenal. Watching my children (who didn’t speak any Spanish) find ways to communicate and interact was a moment I dreamed of. I’ll remember the laughter and smiles as they learned and had fun. My trip to SE Asia was a trip of a lifetime as well. Seeing Angkor Wat at sunrise…the beauty of the sky. The peacefulness of walking through the temples and hearing the chanting. Going to the Killing Fields and seeing how a country owned up their horrific past. Having my children ask, “Mommy, how could people let this happen?” Have it touch their souls and make them think of what they have…unbelievable. Each trip I’ve taken has brought something to my life and I’m immensely thankful for having had those experiences.
What’s on your bucket list? I’ve always seen pictures of the Maldives and Seychelles in vacation travel brochures, and the beaches are calling me. I’ve got a Pinterest page called “Bucket List” and they’re just 2 of the places on my list.
Do you have any packing tips to share? Having recently traveled with someone who needed a wheelchair and I had to handle all the luggage as well, I’ve learned to pack very lightly. Packing one or two bottoms that can go with multiple tops is necessary. You can always wash things out in the hotel sink or shower.
How do you cope on a long plane or train ride? As a reader, I always have to have a book with me. Because I can go through them like water, I have my e-reader stocked with plenty of material. When traveling with my kids, they bring their tablets with reading and gaming materials.
How do you avoid jet lag? To avoid jet lag, I try to take night flights and take small naps, not full-blown sleep. Once I get to my destination, I get going until it’s bedtime at their local time. I’ve never really had an issue with jet lag.
Where do you prefer to stay when traveling? Having only stayed either with family or in hotels, I don’t know any other way. I’ve been lucky to stay in some magnificent hotels where the service was impeccable…fit for a queen.
If you didn’t have to worry about money and could live anywhere in the world, where would you live? I’ve had a recurring dream where I find myself living in London. I don’t know if I’m retired or still working, but my mind and heart keep going back there. It could be that travel to other countries from London is easier and cheaper, but I wouldn’t mind being there for an extended time of my life.
You introduced your children to travel at an early age. What advice do you have for those who may want to wait until their kids are older? I’ve traveled with my kids since they were young. Their first flight was to Trinidad for Carnival in 2007. I brought a bunch of coloring books, snack items, and quiet things they could play with. My mom, who went with us, sat next to one child and I sat next to the other to soothe nerves and irritable moments. I got the kids involved in the packing by having them bring me what they wanted (if they needed 5 shirts, I had them choose which 5 shirts they wanted, etc.). They pulled their own wheeled suitcases and we made it an adventure.
What do you wish you knew when you first started traveling? I’m not sure that there’s something that I wish I knew back when I first started, but as a new solo traveler, I just wish I hadn’t waited so long. My dad used to say, “As long as you’ve got gas in the car, money in the bank to get more gas, food, and a safe place to rest, just go. See what you can while you can. Make every day a learning experience.”