The legendary Phileas Fogg circumnavigated the globe in 80 days
with his personal valet Passepartout. Few of us possess Fogg's
wealth and even fewer can claim a quaint French servant with whom
to travel; but because we live in Chicago, it's still possible to
have an around-the-world travel experience. Chicago families have
long enjoyed exploring the ethnic neighborhoods of the city. With
spring and summer vacations just around the corner, it could be the
perfect time to add a new twist to a familiar pastime.
One summer, my son and I, along with another family,
planned a travel adventure in the city that we dubbed "Around
the World in Eighty Days," after the famous Jules Verne novel.
Throughout our weeks of travel, we read the book aloud and watched
the funny movie version starring Jackie Chan. We made all our
excursions on Fridays and managed to visit five or six different
neighborhoods for a memorable summer that combined both learning
It's easy to plan your own trip, tailored to the needs of your
family. Whether you decide to visit one or two neighborhoods, or
make it your spring or summer vacation theme, it can be an
entertaining and enriching experience for everyone in the
Here's how to get started.
Sit down with a list of countries and their corresponding
neighborhoods and decide which of them you would most like to
visit. Use a globe and a Chicago neighborhood map, marking
possibilities with sticky notes or pins. Make as many choices as
you think you will have time for. Here are a few suggestions:
To lend a touch of reality, it is fun to have passport photos
taken at a nearby Walgreens or CVS. They cost about $12 (there are
often coupons available online). Make a mock passport out of
construction paper and glue the photo inside. Plan to have the
children carry their passports with them and date or stamp the
pages after each trip.
Prior to the day of travel, try to learn something about the
country you will be visiting. Make use of books, magazines and the
Internet to gather information. If you are acquainted with a person
whose ethnic background reflects the country you are interested in,
or know someone who has visited the country, set up an interview by
phone or in person and let the kids ask questions.
Drive only if you must. It is much more fun to take trains and
buses, and most neighborhoods are easily accessible by public
transportation. Plan to have lunch, or at least a snack, that
includes something native to the country you are visiting. Be
prepared for a variety of reactions. For example, our children
quickly gobbled up the basket of warm, chewy naan the waiter
brought to our table at a restaurant on Devon Avenue; but when he
showed up with bubble tea, they stared at the milky substance and
tapioca pearls at the bottom of the glass with apprehension. The
first sweet sip was greeted with tentative smiles. The second taste
brought some of the pearls up through the straws and into their
mouths. My son's eyes opened wide as he pushed the glass in my
Consider allowing your children to purchase a small souvenir at
one of the shops. Buy a postcard and mail it to a friend. Encourage
them to keep a journal in which they can write about or draw some
of the highlights of their trip. It is also fun to take photos and
put them into small keepsake albums to remind the children of their
For help in planning peruse Lonely Planet's new Chicago edition
(February 2014) in print or e-book at lonelyplanet.com (free at the
public library). Maps and pamphlets are free at the Chicago
Cultural Center and excellent, detailed information is available at
choosechicago.com (click on neighborhoods).
See more of Kathy's stories here.
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