I come from a pretty multi-cultural family. Within my siblings and me (and our spouses), our ethnic backgrounds include Indonesian, Norwegian, Filipino, Scottish, Irish, Ghanaian, Colombian, and even Native American. And when it comes to religion, we have people in my family who are Christian, Muslim, Jewish heritage, and even a few agnostics. Our family gatherings are often a hodge-podge of cultures. And it always takes people outside of our family by surprise when my brother (who is of Norwegian descent) and I (a full-blooded Indonesian) introduce ourselves as siblings.
But that’s what I love about our family. We are so diverse, and yet, we are all still family. A coworker once likened my family to the United Nations, and I think that’s the perfect description of what we are. A gathering of different cultures, coming together as one. Even within my own immediate family, we are a multi-cultural bunch. My husband is half-Filipino and half-European (and all-American!), which makes my kids Indonesian-Filipino-European Americans!
I suppose my multi-cultural background is what draws me to other multicultural families. A few months ago, I had the honor of co-hosting the #Africhat Twitter chat about Family Travel in Africa. One of my other co-hosts was Amanda from the MarocMama blog. I was instantly drawn to her because she’s part of a multi-cultural family too. Having grown up in the United States, Amanda married a Moroccan man, and now lives there with her husband and two boys. I love reading her blog and seeing how she navigates raising her kids within these two cultures.
Amanda writes mostly about Morocco and food, but she also writes about her travels to various countries around the world with her kids. I recently caught up with her and asked her some questions about traveling as a multi-cultural family.
You travel a lot with your family. What has been your favorite place to visit as a family?
I think my favorite family travel memory is the first cruise we took together. It was in the Caribbean and not really that “exotic” but it was one of our first international trips that wasn’t to Morocco to see family. The kids loved everything about the ship and it was a good mix of downtime and active time. Our favorite experience was renting mopeds on Cozumel and spending the day driving around the island, stopping to swim in a hidden local beach, and just enjoying each other.
Morocco is one of those countries that people sometimes forget is part of Africa. How often do you and your family travel around the rest of the continent?
This is so true. Until this point, we haven’t traveled a lot in the rest of Africa. As you know (though readers might not) flying within the continent is quite expensive and difficult to do. My husband has a real hesitance to go to other areas but not me! I’ve been to Tunisia and I’m taking my youngest son to Kenya in October. That leaves 53 more countries to visit! I’d really love to visit some of the Western African countries and also Madagascar is high on my wish list.
Where has been your favorite place in Africa, and what are some tips you have for visiting the continent with kids?
Well I think Morocco is the only answer for now! It’s a great country for families for a few reasons. First, it’s an easy entry point to Africa. Many people think of the Middle East when they think Morocco but there is a big African influence on the culture and way of life. Family is huge and you’ll have an even better experience visiting if you go with your kids. There is nothing people love more and they genuinely mean it. I think my biggest tip is to let go of whatever preconceptions you have. Africa is a gigantic continent and every country, and even region is extremely diverse and different.
How has being a multi-cultural and Muslim family influenced your travels?
We’re really open minded people in general. So where some people would be really worried about finding the right foods, or if there were mosques when they travel, we’re not. We live our lives like everyone else, and when we do travel we want to see how the people who live there live, and not try to replicate our daily needs. I think you can find a way to make something work no matter where you are. I really think this outlook has a lot to do with the fact that it’s been our way of living in general. We had no choice! When you bring two cultures together you have to learn how to adjust, bend, and adapt to different ways. It can be hard, but in the end it can be a really beautiful thing.
What impact has living in Morocco had on you and your family?
The biggest impact is what I see in my children. They have a much broader world view. They understand things in the US aren’t the only way the world works. The older they get the more I see differences between them and their peers who haven’t lived in another country or been able to travel.
What advice do you have for other families who want to live and travel abroad?
Don’t wait. We wish we would have done it sooner but there were a million excuses we made to wait. In the end if you have your priorities in order you will find a way to make things work.
I loved hearing about Amanda’s thoughts on raising multi-cultural kids, because they echo a lot of my own thoughts and feelings. In my opinion, being in a multi-cultural family helps kids to become more in touch with their various cultural heritages. But another unexpected benefit is that it primes them to be open to the diversity that the world has to offer.
My kids don’t see anything odd about having a different skin color as someone else, or speaking a different language as someone else, or praying differently than someone else, because they see those differences in their own family. Like other multi-cultural kids, their family experiences have helped them to be open-minded towards others. My hope is that it is this open-mindedness that will help shape them into fearless world travelers in the future.
Are you part of a multi-cultural family? How has that influenced your travels? Share your experiences in the comments!
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