Father and Son…Traveling the World, Walking on the Wind

Tigger and Talon Windwalker

Talon and Tigger Windwalker, father and son, are traveling the world and having the time of their lives. They’re living an alternative American Dream of sorts–one in which freedom, traveling light and being in the moment are what it’s all about.

Right now, they’re in Honduras where Talon has been working as a dive instructor and Tigger’s been enjoying diving. But they’re leaving soon and heading further south, hoping to be in Peru for the winter solstice at Machu Picchu.

To learn more about the fascinating father and son duo, as well as the the practical–and spiritual–aspects of their unique journey, check out the interview below.

What led you—and your son—to take the round-the-world journey you’re currently on? And what made you decide to extend it?

After my trip to the Philippines a few years ago, my desire to raise my child in a foreign country was rekindled. After going to Peru by myself, I met the Vogels, a family who rode their bicycles from Alaska to the bottom of Argentina, and was inspired by them. I decided that Tigger was old enough to do some travel and planned a 2-1/2-week trip to Africa.

Then, we planned for this trip and began our new life in May 2011. We’ve been to Mexico, Cuba, Belize, Guatemala and have been living in Honduras for the last 6+ months. Within a couple of months of traveling, it made sense and felt right to keep it going. It is now an indefinite nomadic lifestyle.  

You’re currently in the process of “unschooling” Tigger. Tell us more…

I adopted him when he was 6, and in February we’ll be celebrating our 4th year as a family. He had some major anxiety issues prior to our journey. I’m pleased to say that spending so much time with me and without the stress of the classroom has helped him progress to a point where he is completely off all medications.

You’ve referred to Tigger as a “global citizen.” What role has travel played in his education so far?

While traveling, he’s been learning a lot about ecology, physical sciences, biology, history, and social studies. He has progressed with math via working with different currencies and learning to do monetary conversions in several countries. Through scuba diving, he has learned a lot about the marine world and had a nice introduction to physics.

Being exposed to a variety of cultures around the world has broadened his view of people in general. Living on a small island has given him a level of independence that would be next to impossible in the U.S .where we lived. Playing with other children who don’t speak English, or at least a version he knows, has helped him learn to get past communication barriers. Carrying all of our possessions in our backpacks is teaching him how to live with less and to re-prioritize.

Traveling together and getting to share all these experiences and adventures with him has been simply amazing. And it is wonderful to get to see the world through his eyes.

What’s the most “off the beaten path” you’ve even been?

When I went to Peru, I spent 5 days in the Amazonian rain forest. There was electricity for only a few hours a day. Every morning I awoke to a cacophony of parrots, macaws, toucans, and howler monkeys.

On this trip, we’ve been in Caye Caulker, Belize; Flores, Guatemala; some small towns in Honduras, and have been living on a small island in the Caribbean. They all feel off the beaten path really.

But I think we probably felt it the most when we went to Cuba. Due to the situation with the U.S., we had to bring all the money we might need for the entire time we were there since American debit cards won’t work there. Internet is $8/hour for WiFi, so that meant very limited contact with the outside world.

You describe yourself as an “eclectic Zen Buddhist.” Can you define that and explain the role it plays in your life and your travels.

I’m extremely eclectic in most things, and when it comes to spirituality I haven’t stopped there. Zen Buddhism is the closest label I could find that matched my views. I like how malleable it is and the focus that it gives on being in the moment. I actually am an ordained Zen minister and have been ordained for about 8-1/2 years.

As far as travel goes, we have no plans, no itinerary, and we have tons of room for spontaneity. Scuba diving, when I’m not instructing, is extremely meditative. The very nature of the activity requires you to be focused on your breathing and what’s in front of you that instant.

When you get that little sense and turn around to find a shark, devil ray, turtle, or spotted eagle ray swimming behind or above you, you learn to listen with your inner sense more.

Having a travel blog requires a certain commitment to social media. How do you balance this with traveling and being in the moment?

Most of my social media is done during downtime, while sitting at the dive shop, etc. It’s enjoyable for me as well since I get to stay connected with other travelers, parents, and people all over the world. Tigger has a Facebook account, too, but he but rarely visits his page or updates his status. I think he’s too busy enjoying himself.

What was your role–and experience–as a volunteer with Uplift Internationale, an organization that provides surgery to children with cleft lips and palates?

My role was unique. I was part of the outreach team, but my primary function was to blog and photograph the mission. It was incredible to watch these children’s lives be transformed by the surgery. Learning their stories changed how I view myself. When you watch a family member break into tears at their loved one’s first smile, you can’t help but be touched.

And I was amazed by the Filipino people. There was extensive poverty, but I have never seen people who were more truly joyous than they were. There was an incredible sense of community.

I cried on the way to the airport when it was time to leave. Our work may have changed the lives of the children and their family, but it changed me deeply as well.

How did that experience affect you personally?

One of the major impacts was how it changed how I view my body. Having been overweight since I was a tween, I have some body image issues, but being around these people and seeing how they dealt with it I realized how petty my own concerns about my body image really were.

What has been the best part of your travel experience so far?

The best part has been spending more time with my son–watching him grow and mature and come into his own, seeing his personality develop, and getting to see places and cultures through his non-cynical eyes.

I get a big smile every time I hear him say “Remember when we were in Mexico…” or any other place we’ve been so far, or when he was watching a TV show that said they were in Havana, Cuba, and he looked at me and said “That isn’t Havana!” And he was right.

Then there are times like recently when we were coming back from a dive and happened upon some bottle-nose dolphins in the harbor. They were curious and playful enough that we got to get in the water and had an amazing, up-close, intimate time with them. As he was gathering his items on the boat to be able to jump in, he yelled, “I’ve been waiting for this my whole life!” The look on his face when he got back on the boat was absolutely priceless.

Any unexpected challenges? If so, how did you overcome them?

I’ve had some typical challenges. My debit card had some fraud on it after Mexico, and naturally it happened while I was in one of the few places that FedEx simply won’t deliver to, so getting a replacement was quite the exercise. I’ve had some dental things go wrong. Our trip to Honduras from Guatemala was absolutely awful, but nothing that seasoned travelers haven’t experienced at some point.

What have you learned about yourself during this journey?

I’ve definitely learned that believing all situations will get resolved and work out for the best makes my life easier, and it’s true. I’m glad we stuck with it and stayed on Utila because it’s been an amazing experience that I wouldn’t trade for anything in the world.

What I’ve learned about myself is that I’m a better parent than I thought I was, I’m more patient than I imagined, and I can seriously just go with the flow. Often just riding the wave that life tosses at you is so much more enjoyable than bitching about it, worrying, fretting, etc. And once it passes, I’ve always found a hidden treasure from the experience.

Where are you and Tigger going next? What will you be doing there?

I have no idea. I’m not trying to go all Zen on people. I just seriously am not planning anything. When it’s time to leave here, we’ll most likely head back to Guatemala to see more of that beautiful country before continuing down south more. However, I’m also applying for scuba jobs in other countries, so we could just as easily end up somewhere like Mozambique or Thailand. Who knows?

What advice do you have for parents who’d like to travel long-term with their children?

Kick every doubt to the curb. You CAN do this! Don’t listen to the naysayers. Live YOUR dreams–not someone else’s.

In the end you and your child(ren) will have a much stronger bond, irreplaceable memories, and will have learned lessons that no school or other situation could possibly teach. I was lucky enough to have friends and loved ones who were well accustomed to my adventurous spirit and were extremely supportive when I announced my decision. I know others who haven’t had as much support.

Join the online communities. The amount of support, ideas, etc., that I’ve received from the Twitter travel community has been absolutely incredible and extremely valuable. We also have a Facebook group for families planning or currently doing long-term travel. Feel free to message me on Facebook  for more info on that group.

I’d also say don’t fall into the trap of endless planning. Pick a date within the next year or two & put it on the calendar. Give yourself permission to move the date closer but not further away. You’ll be amazed at what unfolds for you.

Want to learn more about Talon and his son Tigger?

You can check out Talon’s blog: 1Dad, 1Kid, 1 Crazy Adventure and follow him over on Facebook and Twitter. Keep up with his travels and see where he and Tigger are headed next. And if you have any questions for him, please leave them in the Comments section below.

Can’t get enough?

This is the second interview in the Experiential Traveler series. Check out the others, the first of which was about a Japanese traveler who resembles revolutionary Che Guevara and has traveled, Motorcycle Diary style, through Latin America.

11 Responses to Father and Son…Traveling the World, Walking on the Wind
  1. Emma
    March 11, 2012 | 8:30 am

    I really enjoyed this interview. What a fascinating life Talon and Tigger and leading! Yay, unschooling!

    Thanks for the post. :)
    Emma recently posted..What is Enough?My Profile

  2. Jenn Miller
    March 11, 2012 | 9:06 am

    GREAT interview!! Congrats Talon & Tigger on living your dreams. So awesome! You guys are an inspiration!
    Jenn Miller recently posted..What’s Your Dream?My Profile

  3. Linda
    March 11, 2012 | 9:53 am

    I’ve been following Talon’s blog since before they left on their current journey. It’s fascinating, and what great questions, because you have totally captured its essence, and I learned a couple of things I didn’t know before.

    I love his last tip – about not falling into the trap of endless planning. I know I have a tendency to do that, changing my mind far too much along the way, and over the years that has eaten into the savings which should have been for the journey.
    Linda recently posted..Hot Winds & Sahara SandMy Profile

    • CB Driver
      March 11, 2012 | 10:18 am

      Thanks so much for the feedback, Linda! I’m really happy to hear that I’ve captured the essence of what Talon’s journey is about. Awesome. This is a new series and I’m working hard to make it unique. For each interview, I’m really studying the person and coming up with customized questions.

      I think his tips are great, too! He’s a fascinating man and his son is one very lucky child!

  4. Rachel Cotterill
    March 11, 2012 | 3:41 pm

    Sounds like an amazing adventure! And I wouldn’t have imagined there was any electricity in the wilds of the Amazon rainforest, so you learn something new every day :)
    Rachel Cotterill recently posted..Petit Fours in ParisMy Profile

  5. Andrea Worthington
    March 11, 2012 | 3:57 pm

    What a great family adventure! My kids are grown but we traveled with them extensively. We never imagined not taking them! Children open doors to adventures that you would never imagine. I was in Berlin (before the wall fell) with my 3 year old son. We used the s-bahn to travel to all the parks of Berlin….and what experiences we had. (Germany has GREAT playgrounds). I recommend this to any family and Talon and Tiger have given great advice here on the attitude one needs traveling with kids.
    Thanks for this interview!

  6. Amy
    March 12, 2012 | 2:40 am

    I love hearing from Talon, he’s got such an interesting story.
    Amy recently posted..Sceale Bay’s Sea LionsMy Profile

  7. Jarrad
    March 12, 2012 | 2:55 am

    Hearing Talon talking about his diving makes me want to try it with my kids! What a great thing to do, Tigger is getting such an amazing child hood.
    Jarrad recently posted..Perlubie BeachMy Profile

  8. Aaron @ Aaron's Worldwide Adventures
    March 12, 2012 | 11:54 pm

    Love the concept of “unschooling” and that traveling has been so healthy for Tigger! I think most of us that travel understand what a huge effect it can have us as adults in terms of the way we see the world but it’s so great to see the sort of health effects it can have on kids!
    Aaron @ Aaron’s Worldwide Adventures recently posted..Visiting Disputed Territories: Israel’s Golan HeightsMy Profile

    • CB Driver
      March 16, 2012 | 8:56 am

      I feel the same way. I look at Tigger and think–wow. He already has such a different view of the world than most kids. I’m sure his adulthood will be highly enriched and the life he chooses to lead later will be an amazing one as a result of his unique childhood.

  9. Los Angeles Nanny
    March 16, 2012 | 3:51 am

    Looks like a very beautiful relationship!

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