Living Without Regrets, Eating and Traveling with 1 Dad and 1 Kid
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Talon Windwalker is a single parent, author, writer, former hospice chaplain, Zen monk, ultra-runner, snowshoer, endurance cyclist, certified endurance running coach, scuba instructor, photographer, and lover of travelling, languages, and cultures.
Talon Windwalker is the man behind the successful travel blog 1Dad1Kid. He has traveled the world with his daughter and the two have now set up camp in Hungary. His travel knowledge has proved useful to thousands of readers, which is why we were absolutely delighted when he accepted to answer a few questions of ours. Read on and find out what living without regrets means to Talon!
BCV: According to the counter on your blog, you’ve been on the road with your kid for over 1,800 days. What made you want to pack up and start traveling?
TW: I’ve always loved traveling and experiencing new cultures and food. 2010 was a huge year of transition for me. During that time, I decided my child was old enough to start traveling, so we began looking at possibilities. The trip quickly evolved from 2-1/2 weeks to indefinite, the more research I did. I wanted to get more living into my life, and I wanted my child to be raised as a global citizen. I figured if I could make it work for 6 months, why did our journey have to have an expiration date?
BCV: Tell us more about your motto ‘Vivez sans regrets’! and what it means to you.
TW: I’ve worked in trauma, critical care, and hospice in various capacities over the last three decades. Throughout those experiences, I have heard so many stories of regret. For some reason, one day while sitting with a man who had terminal cancer, it really clicked with me when he said, “I had the opportunity to take a trip to Europe and I didn’t take it. I regret that now.” I decided in that moment that would not be me. I didn’t want to be surrounded by family during my final days wasting time pondering all the things I wish I had done. Instead, I want to reminisce about all the adventures we did have. Ever since then vivez sans regrets has guided every big decision. If we’re unsure about what to do, we ask “Will we regret not doing it?” If the answer is yes, then we know the course we need to take. Life is too short to have regrets.
BCV: Share with us some of the best moments you’ve encountered while on the road.
TW: There have been so many, but a couple of the standout ones were going shark diving with my child in Honduras and later taking her into her first wreck on a dive. We also lived on an oasis in rural Morocco for 2 months, and that was just an amazing experience from so many perspectives.
BCV: What about the struggles that you’ve had while on the road? And how did you overcome them?
TW: We thankfully haven’t had too many of those, at least none that were very significant. With all these travels you learn to be much more flexible and just roll with things. Minor ones just come with the territory, like not having a completely equipped kitchen, which is hard for someone who loves to cook and bake. Dealing with visas can be annoying as well, but as US passport holders we have it so much easier than many people; it’s hard to complain when our biggest frustration is having to leave before our time is up.
As a person who always did solo travel before taking my kid along, sometimes it is difficult to have no real space to myself. It’s great that we have a ton of time together, but I need my space and that isn’t always easy to get. Also, as a single parent, I have to be “on” 24/7. Back home I had friends who could give me a break over the weekend or something. On the road, I don’t have that.
However, now that she is older she can stay home by herself for longer periods of time, so it is easier for me to get breaks when needed.
BCV: Is it difficult to raise a child on the road? Any tips for solo parents traveling with their children?
TW: The hardest part is not having friends or other people around to give me a break. My child is very easy, but as a parent, you’re “on” all the time. It’s even harder when you’re ill and in a foreign country. Luckily, I’m rarely ever so sick that I’m bed-bound. When it happened in Ecuador, we were staying at a hostel, and they were wonderful. They took my daughter under their wing, and so did a fellow expat who was staying there. I was down for a few days, so it would’ve been really tough without all those people.
Another thing to consider is having a safety plan that you review frequently. If I end up in the hospital, who takes care of my child? What if the worst happens, and she needs to get back to the US? So we have a plan in place, she knows where the phone numbers are, where our passports are stored, to request consulate assistance, etc. We also have a plan in case we get separated while on public transportation. I was very thankful we had that plan. We’ve only had to implement it once, but it happened on the tube in London. It could’ve been a much scarier situation without the plan in place.
When traveling with a child, it’s also a good time to teach them about managing finances, planning, and the art of compromise. She’s sick of churches and castles, and I still love them. She’s an adrenaline junkie and I have a fear of falling. It’s been a great learning opportunity. She’s involved in all of our decision-making.
BCV: You’ve made it clear on your blog that you and your daughter are food lovers! What are some of the foods that have won your hearts during your travels?
TW: She’s nowhere as big of a food lover as I am. However, some memorable ones for her are banh bao, which we refer to as “crack balls,” in Vietnam; hot dogs and minke whale in Iceland; and fried pork belly in Romania.
For me, the list would be much longer, but basically I’ve loved most of the food we had in Malaysia, Thailand, and Vietnam. I particularly enjoyed the stingray we had in Malaysia. In Budapest, there is a ton of amazing Jewish Hungarian cuisine that I adore, as well as kürtőskalács (chimney cake) used as an ice cream cone and langos. We had a lot of great food in Transylvania (Romania) and, of course, in Mexico.
BCV: You are gay and your daughter is transgender. Have you experienced any discrimination while on the road?
TW: My daughter recently declared herself as transgender, so we haven’t really had to deal with that and travel too much yet. Thankfully, we’re in Budapest which is fairly accepting. We haven’t had any problems yet (knock on wood). It has, however, affected travel planning as it’s a factor I now have to take into consideration for safety purposes, and it’s removed several countries as possibilities from my list.
I haven’t had to deal with too much discrimination for being gay, really. Partly because people don’t connect parenting and homosexuality. In most countries, it’s hard to impossible for a single man to adopt and almost unheard of for a gay man to do so. Because of that, me being gay just never occurs to them. I also am not flamboyant and don’t have anything like a rainbow flag on my luggage.
We have avoided countries where being gay is more problematic, especially in places like Russia and Uganda. I have been very careful throughout most of our travels just because I can’t risk my child having to deal with me being jailed or gay bashed. I’ve always avoided going into detail when asked things like “So where is her mother?” If I’m in a more LGBT-friendly country, then I’m more likely to be more “out” when it comes to answering questions, but for the most part, I tend to be fairly guarded.
BCV: What travel recommendations would you give to our LGBT readers? What are some of the most LGBT-friendliest places you’ve been so far?
TW: It’s hard for me to answer that question since I don’t travel like many of the LGBT people I know. I’m not interested in gay clubs/bars, not looking for a hookup, etc. For the most part, though, I’d say Thailand, Vietnam, New Zealand, Portugal, Spain, Belgium, Berlin, Paris, the UK, and Mexico are the most friendly/open.
However, really I think most places are fairly safe for LGBT travelers in a general context. Tourists typically get a wider social berth, although there aren’t many places I’d feel comfortable with public displays of affection, even hand holding, as a gay man. Then again, I grew up during a time where there was much less tolerance of LGBT people, so I’m still programmed for survival from those days.
BCV: What are your top five favorite destinations?
TW: Budapest, Vietnam, Prague, Paris, Iceland.
BCV: What’s next for Talon and Tigger? Do you plan to stay in Budapest? Do you want to settle down somewhere else, or is life on the road something you’ll never give up?
TW: Tigger turns 16 in a year, and she’s kind of over full-time travel. Short trips are okay, but she isn’t interested in longer trips anymore. We’ve applied for residency in Budapest and currently awaiting a determination. If Hungary agrees with us, we’ll spend at least the next year here. I’ll be doing more solo travel since I still very strongly have the wanderlust itch. We’ll do some shorter family trips and have a base to come back to.
She would like to change her legal name and gender marker on legal documentation, so we will probably return to the US next year to tackle those issues. She would also like to start working and building up experience, which is something not as easily done on the road. That may keep us in the US for a bit. We’re not quite sure about that, and neither of us are eager to return to the US. It wouldn’t surprise me if we end up trying to renew our Hungarian residency next year. One of the beautiful things about living in Europe is how easy it is to be in an entirely different country within 1-3 hours. So, here we can have a base, have a community, and I can still get my travel fix.
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