Traveling Mercy: Take Action Against Human Trafficking

CHILDREN of the CITY BookIt’s Valentine’s week, and whether you are into the holiday or not, the hearts and flowers are everywhere – love is in the air! I’m pausing my not-quite-lovey-dovey Parisian series today for an important message from the heart of a very dear friend of mine.

Tiffany Pastor and I met over 10 years ago when we were both living in Orlando, Florida. We became fast friends, especially when we realized our husbands already knew each other. We’ve traveled together on a fun Caribbean cruise, driven halfway across America together, and literally weathered storms together (hello, Florida hurricanes of 2004!).

And now, Tiffany has written a novel about human trafficking with the intention of bringing awareness to this heartbreaking reality.

Though the book is set in America, human trafficking is an issue that affects people, and especially travelers, everywhere. I invite you to read her words today, and I personally ask you to support not only the launch of her book but efforts to eradicate slavery wherever in the world you may be.

The Background

Maybe you have heard the statistics…

  • 30 million people are enslaved globally, funding a $34 billion industry.
  • An estimated 300,000 prostituted children live on the streets in the United States.
  • 900,000 people are trafficked across international borders each year.
  • In America, 2300 children go missing every day, and 2/3 of those will end up in the sex trade.

The numbers are staggering and numbing.

Even with our best intention, we might say: “Wow, there are so many of ‘them’.” However, the moment we categorize the victims of human trafficking as a ‘them’ we have unconsciously held their sorrow at arm’s distance.

With compassion we might serve ‘them,’ or give to ‘them.’ We might fight for ‘them.’ But we would stop at nothing if it was one of US.

I realized this brokenness reached one of US one day when traveling. I was given a glimpse into a little girl’s life. She was in danger, and no one seemed to help her. I looked her in the eyes, and made a call to report my suspicion.

When I think of human trafficking, I don’t just think of the numbers anymore. It’s not a ‘them.’ It was HER. I picture her. Now, I picture the faces of people I have met, people with stories so heart wrenching that I can not stop fighting for freedom, because I know they are one of US.

The Story

CHILDREN of the CITY is a novel about human trafficking in America. It transforms the numbers of statistics into the personal connection to someone’s story. People may not feel they know a victim, but when they open the book, these characters come to life before them. It changes the issue into a heart’s cry for justice.

Many people feel compelled to make a difference but they don’t know how to respond. CHILDREN of the CITY spreads awareness that opens our eyes to the communities around us, and becomes a tool to share in the hands of readers.

A call to action at the end of the book features tips and signs to be aware of, as well as a list of non-profits who which to get connected.

When the book is released, 40% of all author profits will be donated to freedom fighting organizations.

What Can I Do?

The book will release in April 2014, and a Pre-Release Launch has just begun! Incredible doors to spread the story are opening up. As future events and conferences welcome the story into their venue, the cost of accommodating a print-run for the book falls to me as the author. That is why pre-ordering your book now really matters!

As you purchase the book, the funds will give us the ability to say “YES” to each opportunity and walk through those open doors with the book in hand.

Take a moment to check out the theatrical book trailer:

Ready to take a stand against human trafficking by supporting CHILDREN of the CITY? Pre-Orders are only available until February 24. Click here to contribute.

Anyone can buy the E-Book for $10. This donation or pre-order is a tangible vote that says “I CARE! And I won’t put up with it!” It’s a small price for a huge impact!

If you prefer a paper copy or would like to order multiple copies for a book club or resources for small group discussion, you can also do that here. We have perks at nearly every price point as a way of saying THANK YOU for taking a stand for the enslaved among us.COTC PreOrder Form

Thank YOU!

Thank you for sharing the story! Thank you for donating, and thank you for being a freedom fighter together. I am honored to stand for justice with you!

I’ve just ordered my copy – now it’s your turn! Please check out CHILDREN of the CITY’s website to learn more about Tiffany and this life-changing novel. You can also like COTC on Facebook here.Signature-Marigold

Capturing Everyday Memories: A Day in Our Life

Thrifty Travel Mama | A Day in (Our) Life - Annual Photo ProjectOkay, okay, enough with resolutions and words-of-the-year.  If you really want to know, mine is “intention,” but I really like “go” and “focus” that my friends have chosen.  If you’ve selected a word like I have or written a few resolutions, have you considered a project or tangible action to correspond to or capture your efforts to reach your goals?

Last year, I committed to doing Project 365.  If you’ve never heard of it, it’s basically taking (at least) one photo per day for an entire year.

Thrifty Travel Mama | A Day in (Our) Life - Annual Photo Project

Doc Sci took this photo of the boys’ morning vitamins. I find it hilarious!

It sounds easy enough, but I didn’t want to be stuck snapping pictures of my boys just because they were conveniently always there.  I wanted my final set of 365 photos to be filled with variety and unique views.  Since I kind of get lost when I don’t have an idea to start with, I used the daily prompts from Fat Mum Slim. They’re free and ambiguous enough that you can make them fit your life situation no matter where in the world you happen to be.Thrifty Travel Mama | A Day in (Our) Life - Annual Photo Project

I started out so well in January, but… by July, I wanted to throw in the towel.  It ended up being just one more thing on my to do list.  Many days, “taking photos” didn’t make the cut which turned into a source of frustration for my commit-and-follow-through personality.

Since I tried the same project 365 the year before and gave up after Big Foot was born, I wanted to press on and actually accomplish the goal in 2013.  I did.  But now, I am staring at 365 photos that I want to edit before I display, and in those famous words, ain’t nobody got time fo’ dat.So, I’m turning to my old faithful project, a Day in the Life.  I wrote about it back in 2011, and I’m still doing a book every year.  One photo a day?  Completely overwhelming at times.  One photo book per year?  That, apparently, is more my speed.

Thrifty Travel Mama | A Day in (Our) Life - Annual Photo Project

My weekly grocery shop – the backseat of my Phil & Teds loaded to the brim. If you’ve ever grocery shopped in Germany, you’ll know that this drives the cashiers completely mad.  See all my milk cartons?  And more are buried…

In the spirit of celebrating everyday moments (with “intention” and “focus” and boy, are we always on the “go”), consider doing a Day in the Life project.  It’s only one day, and then you’re done!

Thrifty Travel Mama | A Day in (Our) Life - Annual Photo Project

I homeschool T-Rex in the afternoons to get him ready for the possibility of entering first grade in the US. This particular day, he cut up a paper snowflake and turned it into a creepy Silence of the Lambs mask.  That wasn’t part of the curriculum, just in case you were wondering.

We recently found some old videos of T-Rex when he was one year-old.  We had forgotten how much he chattered away, how chubby he was, and what life was like with only one child (oh my!). Even better, the boys loved watching these videos and seeing younger versions of themselves.  My hope is that these annual day-in-the-life books (I’m renaming them A Day in our Life) will have the same effect.  Thrifty Travel Mama | A Day in (Our) Life - Annual Photo Project

Just to clarify, I’m not dissing Project 365 in any way.  In fact, I’m toying with the idea of committing myself to editing one of those photos per day as a way to look back on what we were doing on the same day last year and have 365 photos ready to print and put in a physical album.  But the enormity of the task is just not something my overflowing plate can handle at the moment.  Better luck in 2015!

So what do you do to preserve your everyday moments and family memories?  Do you have any keepsake ideas that fit into my theme of intention?Signature-Marigold

Schilthorn – The Swiss Alps… with Kids! (Part II)

Thrifty Travel Mama | Schilthorn, SwitzerlandThis post contains Part II of our day trip to the Swiss Alps.  Click here for Part I.

Where were we?  Oh, right, gazing at the top of Europe!

We spent about 2 1/2 hours at the Schilthorn summit before deciding to check out the lower mountain towns.  Birg offers little more than a picturesque observation platform.  Make a quick stop there, or continue on to Mürren.

Going down..

Going down..

The platform at Birg.

The platform at Birg.

The view of the playground from the cable car.

The view of the playground from the cable car.

As we approached Mürren, we noticed a children’s playground underneath the cable line and decided this would be the perfect place for our picnic lunch.  Lucky for us, the way was signposted (look for Kinderspielplatz though I believe it was also in English).  The route is short, but the path is steep.

Just around the corner from the Mürren cable car station...

Just around the corner from the Mürren cable car station…

You can refill your bottles or splash your face with fresh Alpine water.

You can refill your bottles or splash your face with fresh Alpine water.

And then follow the signs up the mountain...

And then follow the signs up the mountain…

To this playground!

To this playground!

A great spot for a picnic...

A great spot for a picnic…

Watching the cable cars go by.

Watching the cable cars go by.

The boys scurried around, trying the swings, the slide, the rocking horse.  Doc Sci and I unpacked the sandwiches on one of the available picnic tables.  Afterward, we lay on the soft grass in the sunshine, still trying to absorb the Alpine landscape that surrounded us.  The hot sun soon became too much, and we went off in search of the stream we could hear rushing in the background.

Peeling off shoes and socks, Doc Sci plunged his feet in first.  Not even five seconds later, he hobbled out with toes nearly frozen by the frigid glacial water.

Taking a short dip in the stream.

Taking a short dip in the stream.

Though Rick Steeves thinks rather highly of Gimmelwald and Mürren, I can’t say I was too thrilled by either.  Mürren seemed too touristy (but the views peeking in between houses are fabulous), and Gimmelwald was barely more than a half dozen houses (make a quick playground stop).

Mürren.

Mürren.

Of the two, Mürren has more to offer.  With a grocery store, post office, and railway station connecting to Lauterbrunnen and Interlaken, it’s the more happening of the two villages.  If you’re in the market for some Swiss trinkets, Mürren would be your best bet.

We ran into an American family at the Piz Gloria that just happened to be lodging in Gimmelwald.  They mentioned that it’s possible (even with children) to walk downhill from Mürren to Gimmelwald.  The way is paved, and the trek takes about 40 minutes.  Short on time, we skipped this hike.

Gimmelwald.

Gimmelwald.

Though the boys went nuts over the giant slide in Gimmelwald, the most interesting part of this village for us was The Honesty Shop.  This hole in the wall (almost literally) offered everything from bananas to postcards.  Prices were clearly posted, and shoppers were expected to total their merchandise before leaving the correct amount of cash in a small wooden box.  Cool, right?

Maybe I would’ve enjoyed Gimmelwald more if we would have had a few more hours to hike the surrounding countryside.  But alas, nap time was calling; babies were bored and bawling.

For us, the most amazing part of the whole experience was being dwarfed by the massive Alpine peaks: Schilthorn, Jungfrau, Mönch, Eiger.  These giant mountains issued a sobering reminder that we are but small specks, our lives a mere vapor in the wind.  And who is this Creator that he is even mindful of us?  I cannot fathom it. Thrifty Travel Mama | Schilthorn, SwitzerlandBudget willing, we wouldn’t mind standing in the shadow of other Swiss peaks.  For now, we’re satisfied, thankful, and thinking often of the amazing day we experienced at Schilthorn.

Here are those insipid yet indispensable details I mentioned…

  • Planning: If you’re coming/going to northern Switzerland, I would recommend the route through Bern (A2/A6) over Lucerne (A1/A8).  If you choose the latter, get ready for a wild mountain ride and a slew of tunnels.
  • Currency: You can pay in euro or Swiss francs (CHF).  If paying in euro, the exchange rate is poor, and change is given in CHF.  But this was still more practical for us than trying to locate an ATM in the boonies at 7am.
  • Ready: The temperature is a lot colder at the top than at the other stations.  Pack a windbreaker, hat, and scarf, just in case.  Also, slather the family in sunscreen before ascending.
  • Accessibility: It’s certainly possible to take a pram on the cable cars and on the paved village roads.  A lift at the Piz Gloria takes you to the observation tower.  But, you’d miss out on the second observation tower as well as any mountain trails (and the playground at Mürren).
  • Affordability: Prices in Switzerland are unreal.  Bring your own food and drink whenever possible.  I noticed a grocery store (Coop) in Mürren if you need to grab a few necessities.
  • Freaky: The very last cable car ride from Gimmelwald back to Stechelberg swoops noticeably down which, in turn, solicits some serious squealing from passengers.
  • Risky: My five year-old was fascinated by the paragliders.  Several landed right next to our car as we were leaving.  If this is your thing, have a look at Airtime.  The staff were super cool to talk to and even lent us their parking pass when I (stupidly) dropped my paid ticket into a crevice in the console.  Doh!
  • Corny: Get ready to hear the 007 theme song every time a cable car departs.  Oh, and there are statues of movie characters on the observation deck that repeat the same lines over and over.  Yeah, it’s as awesome as it sounds.

Taking the family to Switzerland?  Check our adventures in Stein am Rhein and Rhein Falls with kids!

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Schilthorn – The Swiss Alps… with Kids! (Part I)

Thrifty Travel Mama | Schilthorn, SwitzerlandNote: This post is rather long winded.  I thought a minute or twenty about whether to just post pictures or to release an avalanche of words with aforementioned photos.  Since my hope is to inspire others to travel the world high and low with children, I chose the latter.  Feel free to just ogle if that’s more your thing.

Our family is privileged to see amazing places, things, and people in this world with our own eyes.  A dangerous side effect is the possibility of becoming familiar with the sensation of newness, numbly chasing after the next scenic thrill.

But every once in a while, the beauty of a particular place stays with you, haunts you, even changes you.  We recently trekked to the Swiss Alps and hitched a ride to the summit of Schilthorn.  What we saw there is still taking our breath away.

Thrifty Travel Mama | Schilthorn, SwitzerlandWow.  Just.  Wow.

My wish would be that every one of you could have the chance to gaze at these peaks, mouth gaping in awe of creation and the Creator.  But, practically speaking, that may not be possible.  So, come along with me, and let’s experience the Alps together.

The valley floor near Stechelberg, Switzerland.

Leaving the valley near Stechelberg, Switzerland.

In order to reach the tippy top of Schilthorn, one must ride a series of cable cars.  The first cable car starts out near the village of Stechelberg.  Arrive by car or by post bus (post as in post office!) from Lauterbrunnen.  I was dismayed to find that we had to pay to park, but at least it wasn’t obnoxiously expensive (about 5 CHF for 7 hours).

Ascending from Gimmelwald.

Ascending from Gimmelwald.

Caution: Tickets to reach the summit of Schilthorn are NOT cheap.  However, we chose Schilthorn over other mountains for several reasons.  First, Schilthorn is less expensive than Jungfrau which will rob you of something like 200 euros per person to reach the top.  Second, you can see three major peaks from Schilthorn (Jungfrau, Mönch, Eiger).  Third, the views are 360° which means you see a whole heck of a lot more than just those three mountains.

This is what you see as you go up the mountain...

This is what you see as you go up the mountain…

...and this...

…and this…

...and this...

…and this…

...and this!

…and this!

Fortunately, we discovered one way to save a little on the fare.  Early morning and late afternoon tickets are discounted by about 25%.  Children under 6 ride free.  In all, we shelled out about 130 euro total for two adults.  Though this doesn’t scream “bargain,” I felt like we got what we paid for, and I can’t ask for more than that!

A little note about the early morning tickets… I highly recommend this option.  Not only are the tickets cheaper, but the crowds are nonexistent.  Not so later in the day.  Plus, visibility and weather conditions are often at their best first thing in the morning.  As the day goes on, the clouds roll in.

The clouds started to roll in around noon.

The cloudy afternoon skies.

Obviously, you don’t want to pay Swiss ticket prices to ride to the top and not see anything.  Check the weather first!  Several days before our trip, I hovered like a hawk over the forecast, religiously clicking every few hours to ensure that we would have clear skies.  I like this website since it allows users to check conditions at three altitudes.

For more insipid yet indispensable details, have patience!  I’ve included them in Part II to be published Thursday.

Enough – back to the climb!  Board the first car at Stechelberg.  The ride to Gimmelwald takes approximately 5 minutes.  Switch, and take the second car to Mürren.  Another change, and another car glides up to Birg.  From Birg, the last leg of the journey takes visitors up to the Piz Gloria restaurant on the Schilthorn summit.

Birg, the second to last cable car station.

Birg, the second to last cable car station.

Leaving Birg...

Leaving Birg…

Don't look now, but there's a hiker making his way on foot to the summit!

Don’t look now, but there’s a hiker making his way on foot to the summit!

He's got his eye on the James Bond 007 Breakfast Buffet at the Piz Gloria restaurant.

He’s got his eye on the James Bond 007 Breakfast Buffet at the Piz Gloria restaurant.

At 2790m (9740 ft) above sea level, we were huffing and puffing just climbing the stairs to the observation deck.  We decided to get some fresh air, drink lots of fluids, eat a snack, and take it easy.  We didn’t want to take any chances on developing altitude sickness (read about signs, symptoms, and what to do about it here).

Taking a look around.

Taking a look around.

Identifying the peaks, valleys, forests, and lakes all around.

Identifying the peaks, valleys, forests, and lakes all around.

Could this place BE any more awesome?

Could this place BE any more awesome?

Babies younger than one year should generally not ascend higher than 2500m.  Since Big Foot was the size of a one year-old and two weeks shy of his birthday, we were comfortable taking the risk.  I didn’t see any other babies at the summit, though I did see a few in the other, lower Alpine villages.  Make sure to talk to your doctor before traveling with an infant to high altitudes.

The main attractions on the Schilthorn mountain are the views (obviously), the rotating Piz Gloria restaurant (pricey), and Bond World (hokey, but included in the lift ticket price).

Since much of the 1969 James Bond movie On Her Majesty’s Secret Service was filmed here, it’s impossible to escape 007’s influence on the place.  A new museum chronicling the filming and movie highlights was recently completed.  Fan or not, do stop in with the kids.  My boys couldn’t get enough of the helicopter cockpit, and Doc Sci was geeking out at the ginormous smart table.

One of the many breathtaking views.

One of the many breathtaking views.

The Piz Gloria rotating restaurant.

The Piz Gloria rotating restaurant.

Bond World!

Bond World!

Exit through the gift shop, of course.

Exit through the gift shop, of course.

After filling the camera memory card with Alpine images, brave parents can step out onto the partially fenced path leading to a second observation platform.  Keep your kids close, and insist on hand holding at all times.  If you’re feeling up to it, photo opportunities are better down here sans unattractive guard rails.  Ask fellow gawkers to swap photographic favors.

Hold on to your kids and your nerves.. we're steppin' out.

Hold on to your kids and your nerves.. we’re steppin’ out.

I wouldn't recommend trying to get this shot with the kids...

I wouldn’t recommend trying to get this shot with children that aren’t strapped on for safety…

For more jaw-dropping views and picture-perfect Alpine villages, you won’t want to miss reading Part II here.  Along with notes on the intermediate cable car stops, I’ll show you one of the best picnic spots ever as well as share what you need to know before YOU take the family to Schilthorn in the Swiss Alps.  Stay tuned!

Taking the family to Switzerland?  Check our adventures in Stein am Rhein and Rhein Falls with kids!

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Shameless Repost: Why You Should Quit Your Job and Travel Around the World

Thrifty Travel Mama

Monday mornings suck the life right outta me.  From grocery shopping with a cranky baby to figuring out where to stash the stuff in my Barbie kitchen, by 10am I’m already beat.  At least I have one thing to look forward to: Simple Mom weekend links.  Though Tsh publishes these posts on Sundays, by the time I get them, it’s no longer the weekend.

No matter.  I love seeing what kind of thought-provoking, inspirational, and downright hilarious links she’s got in store.  One from this past weekend begged an instant click-and-read.  Just thought I’d pass along Why You Should Quit Your Job and Travel Around the World.

Though the post is a few years old and despite the fact that I can’t quit my job (I’m a mama, hello), it’s a fantastic read.  I am not as traveled as Chris Guillebeau (again, kids), but I often hear the same objections as to why people don’t travel…

  • “I don’t have money to travel.”
  • “The rest of the world is dangerous.”
  • “I like staying at home.”
  • “I’ll do this kind of stuff when I retire…”

To see Chris’s responses to these objections and to read the complete post, click here.

Shameless Repost: With Six Kids and No Car, This Mom Does It All By Bike

Wow.

That’s all I could think when reading about Emily Finch of Portland, Oregon, who bikes around town with six kids between the ages of 2 and 11.

Well, wow – and I’m a wimp.

I rode my bike with one child until 30 weeks when I just couldn’t peddle around my baby belly anymore.  And I gave up pulling a bike trailer with two boys in it long ago.  I thought biking around with almost 100 pounds of boy flesh and gear was too much.  This woman once estimated her load at FIVE HUNDRED AND FIFTY pounds.

Are you feelin’ the “wow” yet?

I wonder what kind of reaction she gets.  I know Portland is rather green, but it’s still the US.  Most people would choose a hybrid automotive over a bike for commuting any day.  And that would be just for one adult.  Piling all your kids in one bike instead of a minivan by choice?  Yeah, right.

In Germany, lots of people bike.  It’s not only good for the environment; it’s cheaper.  And totally normal.  Well, as long as said bicycle does not contain more than two children.  I think it’s safe to say Emily would be stared at in Germany as well, though more for the number of children than the bike itself.

If you haven’t read the article yet, you can do so here.

And then leave a comment to let us know – could you ride around town by bike with your children – no matter how many of them you have?  Would you?

Shameless Re-post: Traveling the World with Kids

I rarely re-post other people’s blog content here (recipes aside).  In fact, I don’t think I’ve done it here yet.  But, I came across an article via Simple Mom from BootsnAll called 21 Reasons to Travel Around the World with Kids…From Those Who Have Done It.

Whoa.  I loved it.  We’re not exactly traveling the world.  Well, okay, maybe we are.  But I somehow don’t see myself as having achieved this kind of travel.. yet.  Perhaps we’ll be there someday.  For now, I’m content to just be inspired.  Let me know what you think!