Often, people believe they have 2 choices in life. Settle down and have a family; or see the world and live a life of adventure. But why does it have to be one or the other? Sure it’s harder to travel when you have a child, or a few. Costs a lot more, sometimes it’s harder to get decent accommodation for a budget price and you might even find that many of the places you want to visit are not really child friendly. So you weigh up the options… one or the other. Surely you can’t have both?
The Zapp family would like to prove you wrong. “Their message to one and all is simple. Live your dreams. If you don’t live it now… so… when?”
The Zapp family have been travelling the world on a non-stop road trip for more than 13 years and includes father Herman Zapp who was born in San Francisco and raised in Argentina; mum Candelaria Zapp, born in Buenos Aires, Argentina; and their four children Pampa, Tehue, Paloma and Wallaby. Herman and Candelaria met each other when they were 10 and 8, respectively, starting to date at 16 and 14, and married in their 20s. It was after this that they decided they wanted to travel, and their journey began. And did I mention they are travelling in a vintage car? With a top travel speed of 50km/hr, you might find it surprising to know that they are still going – 42 countries and 250,000 kilometres later!
Herman said: “my grandpa always said to me, ‘If you want to get far… you need to go slowly…’ And what could be more slowly than this car?!”
Outer Edge Managing Editor Tara Tyrrell caught up with the family as they traversed through Matopos in Zimbawe and asked them some of the questions we all want to know about adventure travel with kids.
“Just because you have kids, doesn’t mean the adventure has to end”… Right?
Life is an adventure and someone who doesn’t seek adventure is not living the real life. What can be better for the children than to see their parents doing what they love to do? What can be better to see your parents happy? Many people think that once you have kids your life will change and that you are not going to be able to do what you like to do. Some people even don’t want to have children because of this reason.
Children will only change your life if you allow it. You are the only one, they aren’t. The kids don’t want to be the excuse for their parents to not go for their dream. Many times we hear “I would love to do…. But I can’t because I have kids, high school fees to pay, etc, etc” Happy parents, happy kids, that is the formula.
In our case, what could be better than accomplishing our dream of having our kids during our big dream? Two dreams at the same time! We never planned to be parents during the journey. But if you think for a moment, the best things in life are not planned. When we started we thought it would be impossible to travel with children, so we said first we would travel and then when we come back home we will have kids. But we also never planned to be on the road for so many years. Because we were feeling so happy doing what we always wanted to do we wanted to share this happiness with somebody else! We welcomed our children aboard our dream and now, we enjoy it together. They haven’t stopped our dream, they made it better and every day they make it better.
Why did you decide to take your kids travelling with you, rather than “giving up” or cutting back on travel?
We didn’t want to give up our dream when they were born. They are part of the journey and now, we can’t imagine how it would be without them. We see that they are enjoying it as well, so why should we cut back on travel? When we started to travel in the year 2000 we had been married for 6 years and had no children. After 2 years of traveling we decided to have them along the way because we were feeling so good with our life as a couple. Imagine to be able to accomplish your dream with the person you love the most… we were feeling happy and we wanted to have kids so we did. Also we realised the journey we thought would take only 6 months was taking years… and if we wanted to be parents, we needed to include them to continue our journey together.
What is the best part about travelling with your children?
The best part is the quality time we get to spend with them. We have them and they have us – through everything. It is amazing how deeply we know each other and the bond we all have. Between the kids exists a strong bond that will last forever. We can see that even when we will not be here in this world, they will be always together. Throughout the journey, they take care of each other, they know themselves very well – what can hurt their feelings, what they like and what they don’t like. All together we are all a team, today we do something for you, tomorrow will be for the other one. Today they will need to help us to sell books being well behave and tomorrow we will go to the beach to have fun. We are all a team. And each of them has their own duties so that in the end, we can all do what everybody wants.
Also, another best part is that we see the world from another perspective; we see it with our own eyes and also from our children’s eyes. They make you live and do different things. For example we stop now in a river just to throw rocks whereas before, we would never have stopped there. We go to different kind of museums, science, dinosaurs, we stop more often, we go to water parks, amusement parks, and the list goes on.
How do you think travel is benefitting your children?
Our kids are seeing all that we are doing to be able to accomplish this dream – I think this is something very precious for them. This way, they know that anything they dream IS possible if you are willing to do it.
And we don’t leave the children at home and go to talk with a shipping company or immigration or customs, or to give a speech to sell books, to pay different things, to fix the car, to have fun, and so on… They come with us and they see how we deal with the shipping, load the car in a container, or do visas. They are there learning all the time and they see every movement that we need to do to be able to keep going in our dream. They go through the challenges with us.
Traveling is always good for everybody. You can see other ways of living that open your mind so much and you can learn a lot about yourself, how capable you are to do things you never thought you could do. So, in the kids I can see how they absorb everything like a sponge. They take in everything they see, experience and learn in a beautiful way. Some other benefits and important is that they are very independent, confident and adaptable to everything. If you want to succeed in this Modern World full of changes you have to adapt! Sometimes our 11 year old and 8 year old stand up on a stage and in front of 350 students they make a 45 minute speech about their journey, answering all the questions like its nothing, and even making jokes in the stage to integrate the children.
For them to be surrounded by people they never met before is something normal. They are not afraid of people, they are not afraid of trying new things. In our journey we normally don’t stay in hotels or other accommodations we stay in family homes with the locals. So nobody can tell our kids “be careful with people you don’t know, or be careful with those people that pray different or dress different, or who look different or are a different race” because these kids actually prepare a bed for them, they prepare a meal at their table, because these strangers, or people who are “different” took us to their churches and they offer us their biggest fortune “their home, their hearts” – and because they help us to accomplish our dream.
When we left home everybody warned us about the people and told us not to trust anyone. But nobody told us about the people who WOULD be there for us, and that the people would be the best part of this journey. We spent 2,500 nights in family homes already in our 13 years of traveling. One day in a simple house, the other one is in a Mansion, in a cottage, in a hut, etc. We even learnt to sleep in the floor in Korea and Japan!
Do you feel they have benefits that other children don’t have because they have travelled and seen and done so much?
Well, they do have some different benefits. The children that haven’t travel so much or seen so much also have different benefits of living in a same place. I will not compare so much. It’s just different. I can tell you what the people tell me about my children – they say that they make friends very easily, they enjoy any kind of meal and they are motivated by all the things they see and they are confident.
What do the children love most about travelling adventures?
Pampa: I like it because I like to make new friends all over the world, visiting new places. I love to go for adventure walks and having lots of fun. Play with my brothers in the car and read books while we travel. My favorite spot in the car is next to the book box. I love to visit National Parks.
Tehue: Making new friends and go camping with them, invite them to sleep in our car or go to their tents. Play and dress up in costumes. Go to the beach, water parks and amusement parks.
Paloma: Likes to take pictures with her new friends. Play inside the car. I like to hang my face out of the window while we drive. I love to see the impalas (in Africa). I love to cuddle animals.
Wallaby: Go to places and stick out my face from the car window. My favorite animal to see is the giraffe. Play with my sister Paloma.
What are the biggest challenges about travelling with children?
The education. To find a routine to study certain hours a day when you don’t have a routine, is hard. It is a challenge to finish the year with all the studies done for the year. To have 3 children in different levels (Wallaby starts school in 2015) – that is a big challenge. We finally enjoy it but it’s a challenge.
What would be some of the biggest highlights of your travel so far and why?
The biggest highlight is the people we meet because we share beautiful moments.
What plans do you have in the future?
We don’t plan. The best surprises in life are not planned. Our idea is to finish Africa in Egypt and then finish our journey in our last continent, Europe, and then return back home when our children will be teenagers and write our next books.
Can you ever see your children settling down to a ‘normal’ life after they’ve grown up or are they destined to keep on travelling?
We are very anxious to know what they will become. They will be able to settle down for sure if they want to. But what is normal – to go live your dream or to stay in comfort and try to pay the bills? Why did we come to this planet? For what reason? Did you ever ask yourself who you are? Why you are here? You are your dream – that is what you are. And you will realise yourself when you’ll accomplish your dream. We have to be serious about life, because this is it! People are worried about spare parts for the car, but what about life? Where are you going to find a spare life? This is it and life is too short.
What advice would you give to someone who is considering taking their children around the world with them?
Go for it!!! There is nothing better than discover the world together. It will be a very special legacy for your children. If you are worried about disease or any other worry, just remember that where you are going, there are many children as well who are perfectly fine!
If there is one thing you could change about your life right now, what would it be and why?
I am thinking… and thinking… And nothing comes to my mind. But I wish I could have had the Faith that I have now, before we start the journey because the most difficult moment in our journey was the first day, to leave the place where we know how to manage and to go to the unknown. That was very difficult!! When I mean by Faith is: Faith in humanity, Faith on us, Faith that everything will be there for us and Faith in God, whoever your God may be.
The Zapp family’s book Spark your Dream is a true story of personal inspiration that explores the inconveniences and the solutions that are presented at the beginning of a dream. Sales from the book help to support the family’s travels throughout the world. You can purchase it online at amazon.com.