Traveling as a family is even more wonderful if you are able to immerse into the place and culture. These kinds of adventures bring understanding, appreciation, and a richer experience to your travels. Immersive cultural experiences don't need to be expensive; with a little creativity, you can enjoy a new country and culture even on a budget.
When I am asked where we loved the most in Europe, the Czech Republic is right at the top. With Austria. And Italian food. Oh…that’s not a place.. (I’ll address my obsession with Italian food later in our travel tales). But our love affair with the Czech Republic went deeper than food. We loved the feeling. We loved the wild history. We loved the people with their sense of humour and the magic of Prague.
We had previously visited the Czech Republic for one week of glorious sun, green grass, kittens and play. We’d stayed in a charming old farmhouse and visited the most adorable Medieval town in the world. I'd even had an evil possessed horse try to throw me from his back, rodeo style. But after that wonderful week, we had departed for Poland for a month. After an adventurous month of living in the deep dark Polish forests, we were excited to come back to the Czech Republic and explore a country that we remembered falling a little in love with.
Here are 5 simple family adventures for cultural immersion and a grand world adventure!
1. Think outside the box for accommodation.
We based our month long stay not on convenience or practicality, but on price. Traveling during the shoulder seasons and staying in an Airbnb for a month helps to keep the costs down when traveling for an extended period. By looking outside the normal touristy spots, we were often able to explore places that we might otherwise never have seen. On this occasion, we found a lovely home for a bargain…in the middle of an obscure Czech town. We were an hour and a half away from Prague in the tiny town of Budikov. The home had a pool (but by October it was far too cold to use), a pool table… and stairs of death. To protect our little one year old terror from falling, we strapped a few backpacks to the bottom of the stairs. The rest of us then had to make a giant leap every time we needed to pee. Problem solving, that is what family travel is all about!
2. Eat out at a local restaurant, even if you can't read the menu.
To get to know our new area, we went for a walk around the tiny town and then ate out at a little restaurant in a community center that our Airbnb host recommended. I will always remember when we walked through the door. I don’t think they often had families of seven blonde foreigners appearing unexpectedly. The whole restaurant looked and looked. In a friendly way, but we were a bit of a sensation. Of course, we couldn’t read or understand anything, so we did our old trick of pointing randomly to things on the menu and hoping for the best. Things didn’t work out so well for poor Ross the last time we’d done this, he’d ended up with his most dreaded food – liver, haha. I’m happy to report that this time it was all delicious (OK, so maybe my love IS always based on food…).
I had the most delicious deep-fried mushrooms, I still dream about them. Something I love about the food in the Czech Republic is that it’s always covered in gravy, I’m all about the sauces in life! The staff were so lovely, they came out and tried their limited English on us and were so interested in our family.
The Czech Republic was fun for us because it was so cheap to eat out. Of all the 12 European countries that we visited, the Czech Republic was one of the cheapest!
Of course it would make more sense to Google Translate the menu, but if you want to live on the edge a little, try the old 'point and order' technique, it will produce either delicious or hilarious results!
3. Strike up a conversation in a language you don't know.
This might sound crazy, but it is so much fun! Break out your charades skills and see how much communication you can accomplish.
Ross tried to get to know our Czech neighbours. We arrived home one day from a walk and he saw an older lady in the field across from our house. He wanted to be friendly and to find out what she was harvesting. I took the little kids inside out of the cold and then peeked out the window. He was in the field and having an animated conversation. They were hand gesturing, smiling and talking. At least ten minutes later when he came inside, I asked him what they’d been talking about. He said that he had no idea, he hadn’t understood a word! Hahahaha, so funny!
We went to a local park where my kids played with a stranger’s dog and were utterly happy running around together on the grass in a foreign country. The conversation attempt went much better on that day and we were able to get to know the friendly stranger.
4. Explore nature, just don't eat it.
Since we were trying out worldschooling, we did a family Gym class – we found some fantastic trees and climbed the biggest ones.
My kids loved climbing the trees…until one child annoyed another and they threw a tantrum. Ross and I just had to look at each other and declare that our children were crazy!
We did our shopping in a slightly bigger town nearby, the town of Humpolec. We thought we'd do one of those lovely picture worthy family-ish things – feeding the ducks. We were in a quaint town in the middle of Bohemia, our kids were feeding the ducks and the sun was peeking out, it was idyllic…
...until we realized that all the lush grass our toddler was crawling in was actually about 2 inches thick in bird poop. Eeeew! But he was off! He was on a mission and he was not looking back.
We had to pluck him out of the quagmire and find a way to save him from eating it. He was not impressed. When he is older I will tell him that his Dad saved him from ingesting a mountain of Czech bird poop, and that is why he is a super hero.
5. Be open to surprises.
The forests in the Czech Republic are beautiful! We explored the woods, found some frogs, played in the creek, and practiced mindfulness as a family.
If you are very quiet, and you spend time communing with nature, you might even find a secret hidden treasure...or you might find a toilet in the deep dark woods!
We got a little carried away with enjoying the Fall. Being from Australia, most of our trees are evergreen, and so a whole forest full of leaves to play in was too much to resist.
We threw leaves, we made cubbies, we crawled and explored...until we discovered one of our kids had a tick embedded in their head. We had no experience with these tiny little devils, our part of Australia doesn't have any. I mean, we have leeches, giant biting flies and every king of poisonous spider and snake known to man, but no ticks. We freaked out a little, researched online and dealt with the issue. After that we curtailed the leaf frenzy. We enjoyed the stomping and crunching, but there was no more wanton rolling around on the ground.
The lesson learned was to research local pests a little more thoroughly and go in more aware. I mean, if you're going to Australia in the summer and you run around in the long grass in bare feet...you're bound to get bitten. And we now know that if you're going to the Czech Republic in the Fall, check for ticks and refrain from any wild leaf frolicking.
Our family Czech adventures were new and brave. It was imperfect, sometimes weird, but a lot of fun. We were climbing trees, eating new food, talking with new people (albeit mostly in made-up sign language), and exploring the world. The kids were playing, discovering, making memories, and eating duck poop. All the things that real adventures are made of.
The kind of real adventures that don't require a lot of money; just a sense of adventure, an open mind, and a healthy dose of humour.
If your're feeling a pull to galavant around a tiny Czech town with your family, HERE is the link to our Airbnb, we highly recommend it.