INTERVIEW: The Johnson's + The Essence of Black Family Travel
This month I had the opportunity to interview The Johnson family and the essence of Black family travel. I have been following The Johnson family on Instagram for some time now. They truly embody what it means and feels as parents to expose their children to the global world and learn through traveling! Check out this interview on how The Johnson family sees the importance of black family travel for their children and the sacrifices they make to do so.
When did you fall in love with world travel?
As a child, I was always curious to learn more about life outside of Philadelphia, my hometown, however, growing up in a single-parent household, I didn't have the opportunity to travel much. My only experiences outside of the US were very brief trips to Canada and Mexico. I was a very late bloomer regarding international travel and didn't go abroad again until I was 30 on a trip to Istanbul. That trip had a profound impact on my life and shattered so many misconceptions about international travel.
As parents, why do you think it is important to expose your children to world travel at such an early age?
Travel is such a broadening experience, and we believe strongly that it is one of the most valuable experiences we can give our children. Travel changes how we see the world, how we see others, how we see our community, and depending on the journey, helps us to truly appreciate the many gifts we have living in the US. World travel also gives a better context to many of the subjects taught in school and life. Like never before, we live in a global society, and travel teaches our children how to engage with others from different walks of life.
Can you paint a picture of how Black families can travel, why they should travel, and what benefits the family and children get from traveling together?
We try to be very intentional about family travel - about the purpose of the trip, the lessons we want to teach the children, and the experiences we want to expose our children to. Our children are ages 9 and 7 and on a practical level, we try to have a family calendar - keeping aware of the important dates and schedule around this. We also try to spread out the costs over time to have less impact on the budget. For example, we will often purchase the airfare, nearly a year in advance of the trip, the hotel six months after this, and then prepay for activities to minimize our out-of-pocket expenses during the trip.
We hear this all the time, but children grow up so fast. I can remember the day like it was yesterday when Zoe, my 9-year-old was born. Some of our most memorable experiences are on our family trips. You also have concentrated time together on international trips, and they are great times to have the meaningful conversations and reconnect with your spouse and children.
What is one of the greatest changes and outlooks that you have seen in yourself and your children through traveling?
We saw that our children have very high confidence and self-esteem from traveling. Travel tests you in ways that few other things can. You are forced to trust each other, to be resourceful, to be patient, to press past exhaustion and our children are much more aware of the broader, global context - meaning that when they hear about news in France - it has a deeper meaning because they have explored much of the country.
To be transparent, what are some of the greatest challenges you and your wife experience traveling the world with children?
There are several problems with global travel and cost is always a factor. We are buying airfare for a family of 4, and that is always the largest expense. We try to monitor air fare prices and subscribe to Rachel Alerts :-) to obtain affordable airfare. Our son has asthma, so we have to be very thoughtful about the destinations and the impact with medical care. Lastly, as a father, I'm the protector of my family, and we have to be very wise, especially when we travel to second and third world countries, being aware of the safety factor.
In your opinion, what are some of the best countries to take children?
This is a hard question as each country offers something a bit different. If the children have never been outside of the US, Canada is an easy one - and depending on where you live, can be accomplished without airfare costs. The Caribbean is also another safe option - affordable and short trips, and minimal culture gaps which could cause a challenge. If you are a bit more adventurous, the UK and France are great options - with slightly longer flights but less cultural / language differences, especially in the UK.
One of the greatest challenges I hear from people who read the blog is that “traveling with children is so hard… so expensive…” Can you please shatter that myth pretty please?
Traveling with children is not cheap, but it is such an impactful investment. There are some ways to address the costs - such as travel alerts, AirBnB to minimize lodging expenses, or even a home exchange - an option we chose during our stay in France. We also were very purposeful about our eating which can be a huge, hidden expense. When possible, we shopped at the local market and cooked food at our rented house, which significantly reduced the costs.
We also were very purposeful about our eating which can be a huge, hidden expense. When possible, we shopped at the local market and cooked food at our rented house, which significantly reduced the costs.
What is some of the greatest travel advice you can give parents who travel or want to travel with children?
Just do it! Seriously, as a parent, it is easy to overanalyze an issue and had we thought too deeply about the risks of traveling, we would have never have done it. You would be amazed at how it will transform your children and their outlook on life.
Any budget advice for parents? What has allowed your family to have so many travel experiences?
See above :-)
If we want to follow the journeys of the Johnson Family, where can we find you?
Family travel is an area I am truly passionate about and happy to connect with other families to provide additional guidance. You can follow our journeys on Instagram at @kmjdotcom and @upwardmagazine.
Thanks so much Johnson family!
What are some of the ways traveling has impacted your family?
Let me know below!