Featured Explorer: Eric Stoen | Airheart

Featured Explorer: Eric Stoen

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A trip with your family at a young age can leave you with more than memories - it can expose you to new cultures and instill in you a different sense of adventure. Eric Stoen, also known as “Travel Babbo” online, has a tagline that is straight to the point: “Take Your Kids Everywhere.” 

Eric always had an interest in traveling, having seen much of Europe during his college years - taking trips solo and with friends. After starting a family with his wife, they continued to travel together. They began bringing their kids with them and, as each one got older, let them choose where their next trips would be. He created his website, Travel Babbo, to write about his adventures with his family and provide travel tips and resources along the way. 

Eric has been to all seven continents and over 90 countries around the world, many of which have been with his kids. He has been named a top travel influencer by publications like Forbes and Fodor’s Travel. His writing and photography have won awards from organizations such as the Society of American Travel Writers, and the North American Travel Journalists Association. We talked with him about the importance of traveling with your kids, the lessons traveling can teach us, and career advice for those who want to follow a career path in writing and photography.

What draws you and your family to travel, and what made you decide to prioritize traveling with your children starting at young ages?

My wife and I both traveled growing up, and we both studied abroad in college, and we loved it for all the same reasons – the adventure, the people, the exposure to different cultures. We never specifically prioritized travel, we just never stopped traveling! Travel with very young kids isn’t really about the kids – they’ll be fine anywhere. But we realized that the more we traveled, the easier it became. My daughter, and then my other two kids, became accustomed to flights, and time zone changes, and city noise, and different smells and tastes, and then when we started incorporating kid-centric walking tours, and museum visits, and art classes, and cooking classes, we loved who they were slowly becoming – truly citizens of the world, as clichéd as that sounds. And that just made us want to travel more and broaden their minds more.

Tell us about the biggest adventure you’ve ever been on (from solo or family travel).

The easy answer is Antarctica. I took my oldest daughter when she was eight and it was an amazing trip. Antarctica’s far more kid-friendly than you would think. There are penguins and whales of course, but we also kayaked and had snowball fights and made snow angels and drank hot chocolate on a frozen fjord. But I think an even bigger adventure was taking my youngest daughter, also at eight, to the Amazon Rainforest. We spent a week on a boat on the Rio Negro just enjoying nature with no wifi or cell signal or contact with the outside world at all. We swam in the river, fished for piranhas in the same river, and overall had an amazing time with friends. Ten years ago the Amazon sounded dangerous to me. Now I think about the adventures we had, and the villagers we met, and I have a completely different perspective. My favorite trip ever with my kids.

What is the most important thing you have learned about yourself while traveling?

I’ve learned that the more foreign a place is, the more comfortable I am there. London doesn’t excite me anymore. Germany doesn’t feel foreign. I want to be in an alley with vendors of spices I’ve never heard of where everyone is speaking Arabic and I only have a vague idea of how to get back to my hotel. That’s when travel’s exciting! I wasn’t particularly adventurous as a young child – I never would have guessed how much I would thrive by traveling deeper everywhere! 

What advice would you give for anyone that would want to follow in your footsteps?

Document travel from your unique perspective – but before you start doing that, think about what makes you unique. What do you seek out? What excites you? Then make sure that passion comes through in your writing and your photography. When I started writing, I simply documented our travels to cool places – without a lot of passion. Now I use the word “love” all the time. There are so many things about travel and about this world that I love, and it’s fun telling everyone about those things and places to make them excited to travel too!

How do you think the pandemic will shape travel for years to come?

I really hope that it makes people hesitant to book large group travel. Nothing ruins a historic site like a busload of 55 people and a loud guide marching through the site and blocking passageways. It’s the same thing when a cruise ship deposits 6,000 people in a Caribbean port that feels exactly the same as the other cultureless ports on the itinerary. Why travel like that? Go somewhere for two weeks instead of eight hours. Travel deeper. Hire local guides and local transport. Make sure your tourism dollars make a difference to the people you encounter, instead of simply increasing the stock price of a large multinational corporation. Of course, that’s always been a better way to travel, but I’m hoping that the fear of strangers spreading viruses in an enclosed space will maybe make people think smaller going forward.

To learn more about Eric, and to follow his latest adventures, visit his website.

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