What is your name, and what do you do for BootsnAll?
I’m Jenn Miller and I’m the editor for BootsnAll.com. I’ve been a long time columnist and collaborator with the company and it’s been a lot of fun to watch the growth and be part of something I feel so passionate about: the intersection of education and adventure. I’m also the co-ordinator of the Travel Access Project, which aims to get a Gap Year on every resume.
How did you get started working with Bootsnall?
Way back in 2006 I reached out through the community feature to start planning what we thought would be a 1 year trip on bicycles through Europe and North Africa with our four kids. I wrote a couple of “traveler” articles as we prepared to launch and then started writing features and doing special projects in 2008. I’ve been a weekly columnist for several years now and I think that I have more articles on the site than any other author. I’m laughing, thinking about that, because I didn’t set out to take over Bootsnall, I was just really carefully aligning myself with communities that share my core values, which Sean, and Bootsnall, always have.
You’ve been traveling around the world with your family for a while now. How long have you been traveling and where have you been so far?
That one year cycle trip from London, UK, to Africa and back took a year, but by the end of that trip we’d decided to keep going. We traveled full time for seven years with our four kids (ages 5-11 when we started) and just this spring we’ve slowed it down and are establishing a home base in Canada. We’re still traveling a lot, but we’re putting down some roots too. We’ve traveled really slowly, for the educational benefit of our kids, and we’ve hit all of the continents. My country list, if anyone cares, is as follows: (PLEASE don’t feel like you have to publish this part… I always feel weird about the competitive nature of travel and who cares about who’s been more places… but you asked!)
- Czech Republic
- New Zealand
Note: We are not trying to start a ‘who’s better at traveling’ competition. We asked Jenn in hope her list inspires you or let’s you know what countries, us at BootsnAll, have first-hand knowledge of. We believe you all rock at traveling! Travel the best way for you!
What inspired you to start traveling with your family?
I was raised in a family that traveled. I didn’t go to third grade or eighth grade because we were knocking around Mexico in a van. Those two years were the best of my childhood and my education and I wanted to give that to my kids. There are things learned in the world that can’t be taught in even an outside the box classroom. Lessons about perseverance, doing hard things, stretching beyond culture and comfort zones. Most importantly, I wanted my kids to get beyond the ethnocentric “us vs. them” mentality that is almost impossible not to adopt without travel, and recognize that people everywhere are more the same than different. Really, the world is a giant, “we.” Achieving that is actually one of the things I’m most proud of in my career as a parent.
What is one country, city, or place you’ve always wanted to see but haven’t had the chance to yet?
Istanbul. I can’t wait. I’ve had a lifelong love affair with the history of that part of the world and I’m just itching to stand in the middle of that city and breathe it all in.
Do you have any hobbies or special talents you’d like to share?
Heh. I write. And I have a lot of kids. I guess those aren’t big secrets. I also knit a lot of socks as we go. I am an avid cook. I love to create things with my hands. Mostly, I collect stories. Have you read the book Frederick? It’s a children’s book about a mouse that collects colours and smells and sounds all summer instead of the nuts and seeds the other mice are being practical about hoarding. In the dead of winter, he transports them all back to summer with his memories when everything is dark and cold and the food has run low. I’m kind of like Frederick. I collect the stuff no one else notices and then I transport people to a particular moment. I like doing that.
What languages do you speak and how well do you speak them?
I speak only French, Spanish and English well. I have a handful of other languages that I’ve picked up as we’ve traveled that I can get by in. I’m lucky, I learn languages quickly.
What is your favourite place that you’ve visited so far? Why?
Hmm. Tough question. I love Guatemala. We keep returning there. I was almost born there because my parents were backpacking when my mom was pregnant with me. My theory is that since my body was made of the nutrients in that place I’m tied to it. The highland culture sings to me. There is much suffering and much work to be done, and I’m called to that in some very real ways. I also very much liked New Zealand, and would love to return and live a while in Vietnam.
What is the most adventurous, or craziest, thing you’ve done while traveling?
Besides doing all of it with four kids? Bicycling for a year didn’t seem crazy to us but that seems to be the one that drops jaws. We lived in tents. It was an adventure. Boating down the Mekong river during monsoon, through Laos and into Cambodia was up there. Road tripping the length of Borneo. Oh, and road tripping Sulawesi… we were a spectacle. We didn’t encounter any other westerners on that adventure.
Have you ever made and funny and/or embarrassing faux-pas while traveling? Tell us about it.
Erm, yes. The first week of our cycle trip, I got off of my bike at the home of an acquaintance through my husband’s work and announced loudly that, “Wow, it’s been a LONG RIDE, my FANNY HURTS!” Yeah. Fanny doesn’t mean bum in the UK. I learned that the hard way. It was hilarious. I was mortified. Lost in translation moments are always the best.
If you could travel with anyone, dead or alive, who would you travel with and why?
Ooh good question! Alive… I’d love to travel with a specific group of strangers I encountered walking across Spain last summer. We’d have never picked each other as travel companions, but it was a world class serendipity to find each other. There is talk of a reunion tour. Sometimes the companions you don’t plan end up being the people who change your life forever. I’m thankful for that.
Dead… Ghengis Khan. I’d love to see history and that part of the world by horseback. I’d love to capture the stories of that turning point in exploration and history. His legacy changed the face of the world, and the genetic make up of more than a few places. That’s a story I’d love to tell and an adventure I’d love to have experienced. Plus, he’s a bad ass. I admire that in a person.
What advice would you give someone who has never traveled?
Go. Cliche, I know. Travel changes everything. It’s scary. It’s wonderful. It’s intoxicating. It’s horrible sometimes. It’s as addictive as coke. It’s worth every minute of the pain for the moments of exquisite pleasure. It’s impossible to understand the draw until you’ve been there, and once you’ve been there you can never go back. One of the reasons I do what I do for a living is that I believe, without reservation, that travel is the best teacher and I want to help people live and learn more in the world.
Bonus Question: If you could be any superhero, who would you be and why?
I probably shouldn’t tell you this, but I am a super hero! I can’t tell you what my super power is though, don’t want to blow my cover. Serious answer to the non-serious question: Black Widow. The SHDb describes her as “adventurer, intelligence agent and former ballerina.” I took ballet. I could tell you about my work with the CIA, but then I’d have to kill you. Adventurer? Yep. That’s me. Black Widow. Plus, her clothes are fantastic and she kicks ass.
You can follow Jenn Miller on her personal blog and social medias as well:
Website: Edventure Project