I “met” @TravelSavvyKayt on Twitter. Although I’m a Twitter newbie, I was immediately drawn to Kayt’s tweets about her life living in Europe and travels with her four-year-old son Chet. In fact, @TravelSavvyKayt is so popular, she’s been nominated for Lonely Planet’s 2009 Best Micro-blogging Award.
I asked Kayt for an interview because I wanted to learn more about her perspective on social media and traveling with kids while living in Europe. One of her biggest clients is Travel Savvy Mom who, like Ciao Bambino, publishes an online guide to family-friendly accommodations and other family travel-oriented tips and advice.
It was fun and fascinating to connect with Kayt. Much of her travel through Europe and the Middle East has been done alone with her son. Many of us can’t imagine doing that, but as Kayt explains, the experience is profoundly rewarding.
How did you get into travel writing?
I grew up traveling everywhere. My Dad worked for an international company and dragged us all over the world. And in 2004, I moved to Germany with my Army Officer husband who was stationed here. My background is in information technology. But since I quickly found myself pregnant, I started freelance writing soon after moving to Europe. Travel writing was a natural extension for me given that I was continually moving around and exploring new destinations.
Germans love traveling and there are always great deals offered — it’s easy to get away. Chet travels everywhere with me and we travel as much as possible. My husband is now in Iraq so Chet and I mostly travel on our own. It’s a great experience — I find that I get a much better feel for a place when it is just the two of us. People are curious about our situation and take the time to talk to us. They’ve even invited us into their homes; this allows us to learn the real local’s perspective and lay of the land.
I write about a variety of subjects — neuroscience, immunology, and healthcare — I even write profiles for Match.com. That said, my first love is writing about travel. Especially travel with kids.
What is the value of blogging and micro-blogging about travel for you?
Travel blogging is a great way to talk about experiential travel. For me, the value of traveling with children is all the weird, niche experiences you have with them on the road. Recently we were in Jordan with a guide and Chet started teaching the guide a little song he likes to sing. In turn, the guide started teaching Chet a Bedouin song — soon they were immersed in this fantastic duet. This is the kind of stuff that makes travel worthwhile — these strange quirky moments that you can’t get in your home environment.
What do hope Chet gets out of his travels?
I suppose I hope that he gets something beyond just the American view of the world. I definitely hope he doesn’t automatically assume that everyone in the world has so much stuff. I want to Chet to literally be at home anywhere we go and know that people are more the same than different, and that there is always room to find common ground. And so far, success. He is almost four and really is comfortable everywhere.
Travel requires kids to be flexible. Do you think this is something innate or learned?
In Chet’s case I think it is learned. He sees that his father and I are flexible and goes with it. A lot of it has to do with the fact that we’ve always taken him with us when we’ve hit the road.
What is your favorite destination with him so far?
It is so hard to say. Malta was amazing. So was Jordan. I can’t pick just one! Malta has all these prehistoric temples and monuments and the people were so kid-friendly. And despite all of the warnings I received, the Middle East was an amazing experience. In Egypt and Jordan they were so interested that we would bring this small child with us. Chet became a little ambassador and everyone wanted to talk with us, kiss Chet and even invite us to their home. We found that people wanted us to experience much more because we had Chet with us. It was just amazing! These are cultures that really love and appreciate kids.
Why did people pay special attention to you?
I think we were unique because many parents choose not to bring their kids with them when traveling to these kind of destinations. People are worried that kids can’t hack the active parts of this kind of travel (hiking, long flights, going through desert) and they are concerned about safety. I also think parents worry about finding things for their kids to eat. One amusing moment was when Chet starting begging for bacon in the King David Hotel in Jerusalem. That didn’t go over so well. He ended up having Pringles for breakfast …
What’s your next big trip?
We’re going back to the States for our annual family-guilt trip. It’s funny, I know I now find it much more interesting to travel in the US since Chet has never lived there — we are tourists in our own country and have this totally different travel experience.
What is the travel tool you can’t live without?
Diecast cars toys from the movie CARS. Chet takes them everywhere. We lost a favorite in Jordan and more than a few tears were shed. He transports all his cars in an airsickness bag and they provide instant entertainment in restaurants and museums.