The neverending vacation: Colorado dad & son travel the world
posted by: Amber Johnson
Life isn’t easy as a single dad, much less with a 10-year-old child who has special challenges.
But when Talon Windwalker was a young adult he had a dream of raising his children abroad so they could experience this “amazing, large world.” He has done everything from worked as a hospice chaplain to a Zen monk to an ultra runner but it was after working in intensive care, trauma, and with the dying that he was motivated to action.
And so he and his son “Tigger” left their home in Lakewood, CO in June 2011 to embark on a never-ending quest to discover their world…and each other.
What inspired you to take this journey?
After years of working in the healthcare field, I have heard time and time again from people about how their regrets in their life. I decided a long time ago I was going to live my life without regrets. At the end of my life, if I have the chance I’d prefer to spend my time with my family remembering all the wonderful adventures we had rather than bemoaning the ones I missed. In addition, I want my son to grow up as a global citizen, to feel intimately connected with this big, grand world. I want him to be immersed in other cultures and learn to see through someone else’s eyes. During a solo trip to Peru last year, I gave serious consideration to traveling with my son. We began planning a trip to Africa that would take place this year in October for 2-1/2 weeks or so. That quickly evolved into our current nomadic existence of indefinite travel.
Where have you been thus far? Do you have a loose itinerary you’re following?
We began in Cozumel, Mexico. We explored a good part of the Yucatan and have also visited Cuba, Belize, Guatemala and are currently in Honduras. We left Guatemala early because he wanted to be here for his scuba certification, so I’m working on my divemaster and instructor ratings. When we’re done on the island, we’ll head to the mainland to explore Honduras more and then will return to Guatemala with a plan on spending at least a few months there before continuing our journey.
How do you make your living, what kind of budget do you have and where do you stay?
I have a paid writing & photography gig, but most of my income comes through doing medical transcription currently. Once I’m certified as a scuba instructor, I’m hoping to utilize that to earn income as we travel as well. A lot of those opportunities also include housing. Our budget is about $1000 USD per month. If we’re staying in an area for a short period of time, we typically try to couchsurf or stay in hostels or guest houses, wherever is cheapest. For longer stays we find a place to rent. Currently we have a 1-bedroom apartment in Utila, Honduras.
What does “unschooling” mean and where to Tigger’s special needs play into it? While Tigger will have more life experience than most kids his age, how will this factor in if he decides to go to college?
The official definition of unschooling may be different, but for me it means any form of nontraditional schooling, especially one that is child-driven. Currently Tigger is learning mostly through experiential learning. Next month or so we’ll begin doing some online curricula. A lot of his educational challenges are tied to his anxiety disorder, something that was really increased in public school. At home he does MUCH better, learns more freely, and isn’t affected by his anxiety. He’s done so well adjusting that he’s actually off one of his prescription medications and may be reducing or coming off the other for his anxiety.
As far as college goes, luckily I have had the opportunity to know other people who grew up being unschooled and did extremely well in college, so I’m not terribly worried about that.
Though the father-son time is assuredly invaluable, do you ever miss your own space and developing your own personal relationships?
YES! I LOVE my own space and on this journey it’s an extremely rare thing. Even when I’m busy at the dive shop doing my program, I don’t have real “me time,” and often Tigger is there on the dock, on the boat, playing in the water, etc., so it’s hard for me sometimes. However, as we remain in one location for a time he quickly develops friendships with locals and goes to play with them which gives me a little more space. Personal relationships outside of father-son are pretty much nonexistent, and that can be tough at times. Still wouldn’t trade it for the world, though.
Have there been moments when you’ve thought, “I’ve got to be crazy for doing this?”
Oh yes! They don’t happen often, but occasionally we’ll have an experience where that runs through my mind. Most recently that happened while we were traveling here from Honduras. It was a rough 19 hours of travel.
There is a tight-knit online community of single moms and entire families living the life of “global citizens.” Are there any who have inspired you?
Nancy Vogel (FamilyOnBikes.org) was my biggest inspiration. I got to meet her and the rest of the family in Peru, and we had some great talks about traveling with children and my concerns about not being able to do an adequate job of educating my son at home. She was an awesome resource, reassured me, and is a living example of how successful a traveling family can be. I wouldn’t be doing this journey if it wasn’t for our chats in Cusco and via emails.
If you had to name one favorite moment of your trip thus far, what would it be?
Wow, that’s a tough one. Probably I would have to say our visit to Petencito Zoo near Flores, Guatemala. We had an amazing experience with spider monkeys there and you can get really close to their enclosure. They stick their hands out and reach for you. When Tigger put his hand out, I was very nervous because I’ve seen monkeys get quite aggressive, but they just sat down and held his hand. Other monkeys who couldn’t reach him with their little hands, stuck their tails through the fence to make contact. We both just stood there holding hands with a tail or two wrapped around our wrist or arm. It was kind of surreal and still very present in our minds.
To stay apprised of Talon and Tigger’s journey, be sure to follow them on their blog, 1 Dad, 1 Kids, 1 Crazy Adventure. To stay apprised of their day-to-day adventure, be sure to “like” them on Facebook.