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Seeing Art of  Comuna 13, San Javier, a neighborhood of Medellin

What a treat to see such amazing street art! I may be a little biased because I love art in all forms but street art is a real treat. Larger than life and so full of color and interesting subject choices. It is always interesting and Comuna 13 is literally FULL of street art.

Whether I love the art, hate it, or laugh at it, I’ve never met art that I wasn’t excited about seeing. No matter what, you can have some fun conversations about it! Ask the kids what they think. They always have an interesting perspective and will enjoy you listening to their opinion.

From world’s most dangerous city to world’s most innovative city

Comuna 13, or San Javier, was once the most dangerous neighborhood in the entire world!! There were more murders here than in any other place on the globe. But like a phoenix rising from the ashes, Medellin came from rock bottom to the top as the World’s Most Innovative City in 2014.

Art is a big part of the transformation.

Coming soon! Read more about the transformation of Comuna 13! 

We took a tour of this fantastic neighborhood and enjoyed seeing the art in Comuna 13 up close and personal! I loved every bit of it. The strong colors, the interesting subjects, and the talent really highlight the culture and people of Colombia.

There were a million murals to photograph but here are our favorites. Enjoy!

Visiting Colombia with the kids?

Don’t give it a second thought! Colombia is safe and great for taking the kids.

Be sure to have the kids read before you go. They’ll learn a little which will prepare them to have an even better trip!

Having some background knowledge of what they’ll see helps kids prepare mentally. They will learn more and remember more of the experience. Find all the books you need in the List on Kids’ Books about Colombia.

We felt totally safe visiting this once incredibly dangerous neighborhood. It is really a maze so we highly recommend taking a tour.

There are so many to choose from! Group tours, tours given by artists, private tours – choose the one that works for you.

Colombia was an interesting and colorful place. If you are headed that way, you’ll enjoy these articles, too.

What you should see in Bogota

Usaquen Market – Only on Sundays

Happy Travels,

Natalie, The Educational Tourist

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Monastiraki Square

European Cities have wonderful squares – open areas where people gather to talk, eat, and visit. Houses in the city are often small so the squares are like living rooms where people spend time relaxing.

These gathering places are fun to get a flavor of the city you came to visit. Get out and see what the locals see. Get a snack or a drink and sit a minute to look around and rest your tired traveling feet. Look around and listen.

In this particular square in Athens, you’ll get an amazing view of the Acropolis which is especially cool at night.

Why Monistraki Square was a surprise.

Monastiraki Square is just a 2-minute walk from the AthensStyle Hostel where we stay during our first visit to Athens. It was such a cool spot. We spent a lot of time there and we got breakfast each morning at the local bakery. We tried most everything, but I especially enjoyed the spinach pie! My Greek friend told me that because we were there in the summer it was most likely not made with spinach but rather other greens like leeks. All I know is it was delicious and I’d love to have one right now.

When the taxi dropped us off I was initially pretty surprised at the volume of graffiti on the walls. It literally covered every surface from the ground to about 8 – 10 feet up. I wasn’t sure to make of it because I knew from my research this area was a good one and very safe.

At home in the US, graffiti is the mark that an area is ‘unsafe’ and ‘bad’ so I thought perhaps I had made a terrible mistake with my choice of hotel. Prior to choosing this hotel I had interviewed several travel agents in Athens and read on several websites that handle Greece travel exclusively that this area near Monastiraki Square was safe so honestly, I was a little confused.

Does Graffiti = Bad Area?

No, graffiti does NOT = bad area. As it turns out, graffiti in Athens is common and does not automatically mean the area is unsafe. Read that sentence carefully and take it to heart because of Graffiti in Athens in EVERYWHERE.

*****When you visit Athens, or any other city, remember you are NOT IN KANSAS anymore.****** Let that sink in. You have spent a lot of money and are taking your precious little bit of vacation to see this place. Take a deep breath and really see it. Don’t prejudge by interpreting everything by the norm at home. You are not at home right now.

Why Monistraki Square is a great place to stay. Visit the Plaka

Monistraki Square has wonderful eateries and is the jumping off point for seeing the Plaka area. Just walk into the square and head toward the shops. Enjoy walking the narrow pedestrian ‘street’ and see what there is to see!

While this is very much a tourist activity – to see the shops – I think it is a must do. Why? Because you mingle with the locals. Listen to them and enjoy what they have to offer. Buy some trinkets to support the economy and remember this wonderful place. I have worry beads hanging from my van rear view mirror and I smile every time I see it!

What to buy

olive oil soap

worry beads

shirts (We bought shirts and then had the kids’ names ironed on the back – in Greek. This is a super cool souvenir.

key chains (I have mine hanging on the travel-themed Christmas tree every year.)

View of the Acropolis

You get an amazing view of the Acropolis from this spot. Buy a sweet from the local bakery and enjoy the view of it lit up at night.

Also, the hotel right on the square has a bar at the top for enjoying the view!

Public Transportation

Right in the corner of Monastiraki square, you’ll find a station for public transportation. This is super handy!

Famous Poet Sandal Maker

Want a really cool souvenir? The poet sandal maker to the world’s ‘stars’ is just off the square. It is cool to peek in the window, but honestly, I bought amazing sandals literally two doors down from this guy and enjoyed the experience so much!

To see the famous poet sandal maker you must squeeze into a tiny and very crowded sitting room. The famous sandal maker sees SOO many customers daily that you are hustled through surrounded by tourists from all over the world.

Two doors down you’ll find a spot that has amazing handmade sandals where you can shop in peace and quiet. We love our sandals!


Oh, my goodness the food. We ate just off the square for breakfast every day but also a few times in the evening. My husband likes to try lots of new things, but I find something I like and eat it all the time. I could eat the stuffed peppers every single day, I think!!


We had our first experience with a hostel here right off Monastiraki square. A hostel experience is interesting and you should try it at least once in your life! Hostels have private rooms and even family rooms. This hostel reminded me of IKEA – bare bones of necessities. It was inexpensive and in the best possible spot for exploring the city. BUT, it is very bare bones so keep that in mind.

If you like plush, western style comfort you would hate it.

If you are wondering where to stay in Athens, consider Monastiraki Square or further north in the Kifissia area. We loved both!

Need more information about Greece?

Read before you go! Get the kids ready for Greece.

Happy Travels,

Natalie, The Educational Tourist

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Welcome to 2019!

We know you have a lot of choices when it comes to travel blog to follow and we want to say a BIG thank you for choosing us. How many choices for travel blogs do you have? Millions and millions!

So, out of millions of travel blogs, why choose The Educational Tourist?

NO Fluff

I can’t get over what I see in some other blogs. They shall remain nameless, here, because my mom said, “If you can’t say anything nice, then don’t say anything at all.” and frankly, I think that is good advice.

However; you’ve seen those blogs. Crazy bait and switch headlines. Pages and pages of whiny and entitled ‘woe is me’ stuff. Pages of “I’m the greatest thing since sliced bread” stuff.

My personal favorite…and by that I mean, stuff I hate, are the photos of girls showing stuff they shouldn’t. I might sound like an old lady or old fogie, but when I see a beautiful young lady traveler in a gorgeous outfit that is quite literally showing her panties or breasts I can’t help but sigh, roll my eyes and think, really? What does that have to do with travel?

You won’t see any of that goofiness here. I’m not willing to sell my soul for a few more likes on Instagram or Twitter by literally baring it all. LOL!

If you think people literally showing their ‘noopy new’  in the name of ‘travel blogging’ is sad and pitiful – and has nothing to do with travel -you are in the right place. So do I!

We admire cultures. We respect them. We appreciate them.

More than that – we respect ourselves!

NO insanely gorgeous magazine quality photos

You won’t see that here either. While Mr. Educational Tourist is an amazing photographer and is capable of fantastic photos we don’t waste our time taking them on vacation.

Yes, I said – waste our time.

How is taking fantastic photos a waste of time in our opinion?

Well, those fantastic  – stunning – mind-blowingly gorgeous photos take time. LOTS of time.

One in particular springs to mind. A lovely young lady blogger in a perfect outfit was leaping on the top of a building in Cappadocia Turkey with hot air balloons in the background. It was a stunning photo – gorgeous colors – the perfect moment. BUT, that same blogger talked about how she had to iron her outfit that had been rumpled in transit, got up at 2 – in the morning, to stage the pillows and furniture on the roof and then wait until sunrise for the perfect photo. Then she had to take back all the pillows and furniture back where she found them. She spent the better part of two days to get a stunning photo.

Me? I’d rather be seeing the country.

To each his/her own, but in my opinion, that time was wasted. If you are interested in a photoshoot of epic proportions but aren’t willing to spend 2 days on it consider hiring a local photographer to set up the shot. I’ve seen lots of professional photographs in front of the Eiffel Tower. That might be a nice compromise.

We have a limited amount of time to see the area and we aren’t going to spend 2 days of it to get a single photograph.

Learn about the Destination

We learn about the destination – before we go and we share that with you.

We read about what makes that destination special. We watch movies, eat food, read books, study history, and architecture, and learn a little bit of the language. I especially enjoy art and learning what was invented in this new place.

How is The Educational Tourist different from other travel blogs? The amount of research.

See that paper I’m holding in the photo above? It is an outline of the kids’ book I write about destinations – the rough draft. After months of research, I compile that and take it with me.

Once I’ve used it with my own kids on our adventures I come home, tweak and publish for you.

Why recreate the wheel by trying to do the same thing yourself?

Why take time from your busy life, the work you specialize in, the time you spend to keep your household running, to research things you can find here? Use your expertise in your job and family and life and take advantage of my expertise here.

Click on any of these destinations to access the kids’ travel activity book:

Vatican City          Spain       France       Canada        Austin   

    New York       London       New York      Prado Museum      Louvre Museum

Other bloggers SAY they research but, to be honest, our research is far and away deeper and with a broader reach than you’ll find anywhere else.

How does this benefit you? You don’t have to recreate the wheel.

When you see a destination that interests you from the places we’ve visited, just read here and you’ll find all you need to know – customs, food, inventions, famous people and more! We’ve even created lists of kids books on every possible topic related to your destination. For example – in the Italy list you’ll find books on pasta, Catholicism, pizza, gelato, Michelangelo and soccer.

Improve Your Child’s Future The world your child will take over is nothing we can imagine now.

The jobs they’ll have aren’t even jobs right now. That is how fast things are changing.

How do you prepare a child for something that isn’t here yet?

How do you guide them towards a future you can’t envision? What is the best foundation you can give them for a world that is both shrinking and growing at the same time?

Guide your children to be open to the world – the whole world and not just their small part. Show them how to roll with the punches and adapt to a changing environment. Teach them how to talk to people and listen. These skills will be a huge part of the future.

How can you teach your child these important skills?

Travel. Plain and simple travel is the very best experience you can give your try to secure a bright future.

How does travel prepare your child in ways traditional education can’t?

The world is small. With technology, we can talk to people 24/7. Companies from all over the world do business together and understanding each other is critical. Exposure to new things, new people, new experiences gives your children real skills they’ll need.

Have fun!

We have fun together. We enjoy life to the fullest. Laugh and learn along with us!

Happy Travels,

Natalie, The Educational Tourist

The post How The Educational Tourist is Different appeared first on The Educational Tourist.

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OPA – Let’s dance! Greek Folk Dancing

Traveling is a way to experience all that life has to offer. We love to enjoy the music, the dance, the culture, and food! Knowing a little about what you are seeing is a great way to enjoy the experience even more – especially for children. Dance has long been an important part of the cultural fabric of Greece.

The Greeks love to dance! Opa means, “Get up! Let’s dance!” Greek dances have been around for a long, long time! Plato, the ancient philosopher wrote about them. Imagine taking part in something with such history!

Plato and Socrates agreed,

“every educated man should know how to dance gracefully”

Each area of Greece has its own dance.

There are as many as 10,000 traditional dances. Seeing a show is the best way to enjoy them along with the fantastic costumes.

Dances often have men in a line dancing near a line of women. Commonly married men lead and bachelors follow – the same for women and the lines starts with the oldest first. Sometimes women carry a handkerchief…back in the old days the man dancing next to her would hold her handkerchief instead of her hand while dancing in a line.

Kids learn to dance in school. Isn’t that a great idea? What a great way to teach the kids an important part of their culture and assure that it will live on. No one sits on the sidelines here because they all learned to dance as kids! Brilliant.

Want to give it a try? Youtube is full of dance videos!! Turn on the music and get in the spirit for your Greek adventure!

OPA – Traditional Dance

Elementary school-aged kids dancing a traditional Greek dance. Love the plate ‘tossing’ at the end. LOL!

By the way…once upon a time, smashing plates was an ancient custom of mourning or a way to display wealth by smashing plates rather than washing them.

It was outlawed in 1969 though it still happens occasionally. Now plaster plates, which break more easily and are less expensive may be used.  Some taverns are using flowers to throw at the singers. It still is seen is lots of movies though!!

OPA – Sirtaki Dance

Look at the passion of these little girls!! I love their intensity. Youtube video of the Sirtaki Dance. (national dance)

OPA – Hasapiko

Youtube video a ‘how to’ of the Hasapiko dance. Watch the Hasapiko dance here on youtube – a blast from the past with this old movie scene.

According to Greek Boston, which has a lot of cool ‘how to’ videos, this is a modern dance and not a traditional folk dance.

OPA – Traditional Dance from the island of Corfu

Youtube video of traditional dance from the island of Corfu.

OPA – Traditional Dance from the island of Santorini

Watch the youtube video on traditional dance on the island of Santorini. This dance involves a lot of stomping and has a very different sound from the others! I love the dress, too!

OPA – Peloponnesian Dance

Watch this youtube video on a traditional dance from the Peloponnese area of Greece. This dance is all male and they are wearing the military dress uniform. What is your interpretation of this dance?

We barely had time to stick our toe onto the Peloponnese part of Greece and would love to go back for more. We had a wonderful guide and enjoyed the day visit to ancient Corinth.

OPA – Tsamiko Wedding Dance

I can’t imagine being lucky enough to see one of these wedding dances in person, but it is fun to watch! Watch the youtube video of the Tsamiko Wedding Dance.

The two dances you’ll most likely see on your adventure in Greece: OPA – Zeibekiko

This traditional dance was originally a solo and it was danced to honor the Greek gods.

The name comes from the Zeibke warriors of Anatolia or a combination of Zie (from the god Zeus) and bekos which means bread. Wherever the name comes from, this is a dance of bravado and often includes feats like standing on a chair or picking up a table!

Enjoy this popular dance if you get the chance. Get in the spirit with this video from Zeibekiko Toronto.

The zeibekiko doesn’t have choreography or steps per se, instead, the dancer expresses ‘the despair of life, the unfulfilled dream, the longing, the affliction.” He opens his arms and dances in a small space with ‘humbly and with dignity.”

OPA – Kalamatianos Dance

This national dance of Greece hails from the Peloponnesus area and is seen at the start of many festivals and weddings. It began in the south of Greece.

Learn how to for this circle dance in this video from Greek Boston. Watch until the end to see the wonderful traditional costumes!

Greece is a highlight of any traveler’s dreams. We had a wonderful time and can’t wait to go back. Enjoy a wonderful part of the Greek culture with music and dance – before, during, or after a Greek vacation.

Happy Travels,

Natalie, The Educational Tourist

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Comuna 13 Medellin, Colombia

*sponsored post*

Visiting the neighborhood of Comuna 13 in Medellin, Colombia was the experience I most looked forward to on our Colombian vacation in the summer of 2018. This spot was once the world’s most dangerous neighborhood and yet, by 2014 it was named the world’s most innovative city. I was so curious about how such an amazing transformation was possible! What happened there?

Considering there are so many very dangerous parts of the world, what made this special? What did they try here that actually worked and why aren’t we trying it in other parts of the world? I had to see for myself.

How Poverty Affects Neighborhoods

For starters, this neighborhood is very poor. By very poor I mean the severe poverty a lot of people have not actually seen in person.

Poverty has a way of killing dreams or never even allowing them to become a part of a person, to begin with. Kids who live in suburbia and have the money to travel the world are rarely exposed to poverty and have no real idea of what it is like. Kids like mine – and kids like yours.

Danger Becomes Normal

That was me, too, when at 22, I started teaching in a very dangerous inner city neighborhood in Houston. My commute was an hour each way from the safe suburbs where I lived. I entered this neighborhood and drove into the parking lot at the school and then the gates behind me were locked. The tall fences were topped with rolls of barbed wire. On the last day of school, we had armed police officers in the halls to protect the students and teachers from local gangs.

Tall gates, barbed wire, and armed police officers – at an elementary school. Teachers earned hazard pay on top of their salary for agreeing to work in such a dangerous spot.

Needless to say, it was an eye-opening experience for me. One thing I learned was how, after generations of poverty, the kids didn’t know what they were missing. These kids had NEVER been anywhere and had NEVER seen anything other than the day to day of their lives.

No one had a job.

Only a few had a parent at home. Most lived with aunties who may or may not have been related.

Gun violence was part of life. You just got on the floor in your home when the shots began.

No one had dreams. No one had plans.

Once, when a child had been particularly difficult in class (and to be honest there were some really, really difficult kids) a mentor teacher suggested I threaten him with not being able to see the film, Bambi if he didn’t behave. The whole school was seeing Bambi on a day near the Christmas break.

So, after trying everything possible I could think of as a brand new teacher who was in total shock by the atmosphere and behavior at this school I took her advice and told him he couldn’t see Bambi. And he didn’t care. I was really surprised but after quizzing him I realized he had no idea what the movie Bambi even was. He had never seen Bambi or any other Disney show.

His world was so violent and so negative and so poor that he didn’t even know what he was missing. At that moment I made him promise to try to be good and then took him into the show and held him on my lap the entire time so he could stand a chance of behaving long enough to get to stay.

The Absence of Dreams

What a shock to me. The children in my classroom had no dreams because they had never seen anything worth dreaming about.

That’s what extreme poverty and violence will do to a child.

What do you think he would do when he grew up? The odds of him NOT joining a gang like everyone else around him was slim to none. He just didn’t know of another way.

I think of those kids often. They were 6 in 1989 when I taught them. How many have had happy lives?

Why visit the World’s Most Dangerous Neighborhood?

Why visit Comuna 13 and why visit with the kids? To show them the world is not all suburbia where they live. The kids who are privileged enough to travel, and it IS a privilege, are not growing up in a rock-bottom poor neighborhood.

Showing them the world means all of the world – not just the pretty parts. Kids need to see places where hard work and helping one another can make a difference.

So, how does the world’s most dangerous neighborhood get to be that way and stay that way?

Because there just isn’t any other way – it is everyone you know and all that you see. Kids who grew up in this neighborhood saw violence and murder and those who tried to stay away from it were bullied – or worse. The people who get swept up into it don’t all want to be there for sure but what else do you do?

This is a big part of why you should take your kids with you when you travel the world. Show them other people – other ways, other cultures – the good and the bad.

Let them see things and think.

Our kids are the ones who will make the world a better place.

So, during our adventure to Colombia, the world’s previously most dangerous neighborhood was at the top of our list of things to see in Medellin, Colombia.

I wanted to see Comuna 13 and I wanted to learn a few things:

Why was it so dangerous to begin with?

What happened to turn this around?

Why is art such a prominent part of the neighborhood?

How did art, granted an unusual idea to counter violence, play a part in the transformation?

The World’s Most Dangerous Neighborhood

Sam Javier, known also as Comuna 13 in Medellin was once the world’s most dangerous neighborhood. Murders were commonplace – as many as 162 per 100,000 people in just one year.  This neighborhood was home to powerful criminal gangs who fought for turf and allegiance, drug lords, and leftist rebels, but most of the violence was about control of a highway. The number of violent gangs is estimated to be as many as 250 – separate gangs.

The San Juan highway leads to the coast and northern cities. Since Medellin is in a bowl surrounded by mountains, this highway is the only way in or out. If you control the highway, you control what comes in and out – people, drugs, and guns namely. This highway was the way to move illegal products in and out of the city. The infamous drug lord, Pablo Escobar, set up his own armed gang to police this highway. When that group splintered each side fought for control.

Illegal activities in the Comuna 13 (Medellin) were multi-layered and intense:

international cartel

control of the highway

control of shipments of illegal products like guns and drugs



‘security services’ for local businesses

extortion from public transportation

and on, and on, and on

So, why on Earth, would you want to visit such a place on vacation? With the kids?

Because all that has changed. From the world’s worst and most dangerous neighborhood in as recent times as 2011, it became the world’s most innovative city in 2014.

We thought it would be a wonderful opportunity for the kids to learn and see:

Parts of the world are VERY different from the one we live in.

Poverty is real and kids need to know what that looks like.

Hope and change are real, too. This neighborhood went from the worst to the best.

HOW in the WORLD can you go from the absolute worst to the absolute best?

How does that happen?

More police? More laws? More tattletales or narcs? Closing the highways to keep out necessities like food? Turning off the water and electricity to ‘smoke’ out the bad guys?

No. No, and no. None of the above ‘solutions’ are the reason that Medellin was named the World’s Most Innovative City in 2014.

Medellin was transformed by infrastructure. Transportation

The people of Comuna 13, who lived in a neighborhood where walkways and long strenuous hikes were the only roads. This made getting around the neighborhood extremely time-consuming and physically difficult. Getting out of the neighborhood was even tougher and rarely done.

Giving locals a way to move around gave them options for education, jobs, and enjoyment. Now, the Medellin Metro is the only rail-based system of transportation in the country of Colombia. It includes rail, cable cars, and busses.

The neighborhood is built on the side of a mountain. Getting around was once only possible by very narrow stairwells. Imagine climbing up and down those every single day. Then, imagine the dangerous area and add that feeling into the idea of getting around by very, very steep stairways every day.


A series of escalators makes moving up and down one section of the neighborhood easy and fast. Imagine trying to carry things like groceries or school bags up and down the hill without an escalator!


This highway in the sky is a fantastic way to get around the neighborhood and is an experience not to be missed. Looking down into this crowded area it is easy to see how hard it would be to move around.


Riding the rails gives you a safe and clean way to get around Comuna 13 and Medellin.

Medellin was transformed by art.

Street art plays a huge part in the culture and transformation of Comuna 13. Artists are proudly expressing themselves literally everywhere you look. It is colorful and interesting to see the many murals.

Our guide, from Colombia Travel Operator,  gave us lots of information on the artists and their works. The colorful art gave people a reason to smile and a way to express their feelings – the good and the bad.

See Comuna 13 with a guide.

Comuna 13 is so much safer than it once was. We took our children and felt completely 100% safe during our visit.

BUT, be smart.

We don’t speak Spanish and we don’t know our way around. There are probably still some spots where it isn’t the best idea to wander. Just like there are at home!

So, we used a guide to show us around this interesting neighborhood. We loved his take on the culture and the transformation of Comuna 13. He showed us around and explained details about the art and neighborhood we would never have known without his help.

You may think you can get around this maze of a neighborhood without help. You may think you can just ramble and explore by yourself and have the maximum experience possible.  But, you are wrong. Don’t go to Comuna 13 without a guide unless you are COLOMBIAN and FLUENT in Spanish.

He also helped us find a restroom and snacks when we needed. I think we had the best food ever from street vendors he introduced us, too.

There are many guides and tours to pick from and we chose Colombia Travel Operator. I highly recommend them for this tour.

In general – we HIGHLY recommend Marie Claire from ZoOming for any of your needs in Colombia. Not only was she an amazing guide, but she was helpful when we had serious problems with our accommodations in Cartegena. (We do NOT recommend Cartegena but I digress.) Mind you – WE set up the accommodations in Cartegena and she helped us anyway, even though she was not affiliated with the property at all.

Medellin was transformed by education and opportunity.

Now, the residents of Comuna 13 can get around the neighborhood easier and can get out and enjoy other neighborhoods, too. Now, they have access to parks and libraries and museums outside the neighborhood. Job opportunities are more available now, too, as people can get to the jobs.

When you travel, make it a point to see things that are outside of your everyday experiences. This is especially valuable for children who are constantly learning about the world around them. The skills you teach them now – how to relate to people and things different than they are used to, will help them feel comfortable interacting with others which is a fantastic job skill.

Your child might be the one who changes the world. Your child might be the one who cuts the hair of the one who changes the world. Your child might be the one who fixes the computer of the one who changes the world. Everyone – everyone is important and every job is important. Help your child be the one who can relate to others and make their contribution in their own personal and unique way.

We found visiting Comuna 13 in Medellin was a top experience during our visit to Colombia. I’d recommend it to anyone – especially those traveling with kids.

If you are headed to Colombia, read before you go to get ready for your fantastic Colombian adventure!

Happy Travels,

Natalie, The Educational Tourist

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How to Save Up Enough Money to Travel

Lots of people look at travel blogs and sigh – beautiful photos of lovely families smiling in far off locations. Then, they think, “That could never be me.” Those things are for ‘other’ people. We live vicariously through others by reading their blog posts and looking at their photos.

Me, too.

But, living your life is a choice. The full-time nomads – single people or families have made a choice. They choose to give up the home base stability of friends for the kids and soccer teams. They choose to give up a ‘regular’ job with benefits like insurance and retirement accounts. They choose to be far away from home on niece’s and nephew’s birthdays. They miss things.

They CHOOSE this life.

Your life is a choice, too.

We love to travel, but I don’t love it enough to give up the things I have here or the stability we are creating. For me, my choice works.

I feel like we have the best of both worlds. My choice.

But we still travel a lot! We have had opportunities to travel within the United States and we try to take a vacation to a far off place once a year. How do we get to travel so much?

The number one reason that people don’t travel as much as they’d like. Money

Money is often cited as the reason people don’t travel. Traveling is expensive for sure. Some people feel that the money is ‘wasted’ or ‘gone’ because you don’t have a tangible thing to hold in your hand when you return.

We see it differently.

We think the money we spend on travel is worth every penny. We feel like we get enough from travel to make it a valuable choice.

Some people feel like spending money on travel would be worth it if they had enough money left over for it.

You can save enough money for travel.

YOU can save enough money to travel. You can choose to be a nomad or to see the world in small bites while having a traditional home, job, and life.

The number one question I get asked as a travel blogger – How do you save enough money for travel?

That is an excellent question. I’ll start by answering a few other questions that go along with that one.

No, neither of us are from families that invented something like facebook or a dot-com startup.

No, neither of us has won the lottery.

No, neither of us inherited a gazillion $ from a long-lost uncle we have never heard of.

So, how do we save enough money for travel?

I’m glad you asked. It gives me an opportunity to show you how to save enough money to have the travels of your dreams. Yes, you can travel, too.

We look at every cent we spend carefully and make choices. Would we rather spend that cent right here, right now or would we rather save that money for travel (or college fund or retirement)?

Spending money – any money is a choice. Whether you choose to spend $7 for a coffee from Starbucks or not, it is your choice. The key to saving money on travel is the make sure your spending choices are exactly what you want.

How can you be spending money on things you don’t want?


Automatic credit card drafts you have forgotten about

Are you still spending money each month for an online spelling word practice game for your 2nd grader – even though that 2nd grader is now in 5th grade? I was! I’m glad I found that online recurring charge and canceled it.

Monthly charges that are split into two parts

This dual charge makes it harder for you to realize just how much you are spending at a glance. My ATT bill is charged twice a month and the amounts are so similar that in my mind’s eye it was only one fee. It was a yikes moment when I realized I was spending TWICE the amount I thought I was.


Food away from home like lunches and snacks out, drinks on the go adds up. Quickly!

Follow Along with The Educational Tourist

Every few years I like to take a close look at money to make sure things are still on track.

It is easy to let little things slide when life gets crazy (and when isn’t it – right?) and before you know it those little things that are sliding turn into a huge river!

I’ve decided that 2019 is the year to make sure everything is on track! While I’m reassessing things I’m going to bring you along for the ride. Learn along with me how to shave a $ here or there and add those $ to the travel fund. Watching the money grow in a travel fund is fun and makes you feel proud of the work you are doing.

Yes – you can do it, too! Join me!

I welcome you to tag along and hope you’ll join me for a closer look at how you can save money for travel!

Before we get started

We’ll make a few assumptions. Firstly, we believe in having money for all the essentials like family obligations and retirement first. Secondly, husband and wife need to be in complete agreement on where the money goes.

Where to Begin to Save Money for Travel Know Where the Money is Going

The first step in saving money for travel is to find out exactly where the money is going right now. Figuring out where the money is going will help you make changes so that some of that money is funneled away from where it is going now and instead goes in the travel fund.

I’ll warn you.

This process is nitty gritty and can take days. I split this process over 3 weeks myself. I have lots of other things to do – kids, puppy, house, etc. and so do you. Don’t be intimidated. Even if it takes days or weeks you can do it!

This part is tedious but so worth it. Don’t be afraid of the math. I’ll walk you through it. As a former elementary school teacher and mathaphobe, I will make it sure easy! Don’t be intimidated.

First, you need to find out exactly where your money is going.

Not so you can cut back and then feel deprived, but just so you can make sure that the money you are spending is really going where you would choose it to go.

 Budgeting and saving aren’t about deprivation and sadness. Instead, budgeting is about being in control of your finances.

Categorize your past spending.

Get out the credit card bills and bank statements from the past few months and add up how much you spent. You can put this on the computer in a spreadsheet (it might even do the math for you) or go old school as I did and write it all down on a piece of paper.

I chose the categories: Gas, Personal, Health, House, Vehicles, Insurance, Pets, Eating In (grocery), Eating Out, and Kids.

Add up how much you spend in each category.

Then, I went through every single charge on the credit card bills and bank statements. I took every single charge and put that amount under a category.   For example, $27 at Exxon went under the gas category, $42 at Walgreens went under the health category, and those $2.99 for assorted music or games went under the kids category.

Then, I added the money listed under each category.

Then, I took the amounts in each category for each month and added.  For example, the amount under pets from March, April, June, and July became one total.

For example, if I spent $27 on pets in March, and $33 on pets in April, and $57 on pets in June and $25 on pets in July that adds up to $142.

Divide to find the average amount spent in each category.

The, I divided this amount ($142)  by the number of months I added up (for example, I added the amount under the category for pets from the months March, April, June, July and divided by 4) which gives me the average amount I spent in each category.

In this example that would be $142 divided by 4 months = $35.5.

Decide if your money is going exactly where you want it to – or not.

Using the exact example above I decided to start there. How could I shave a few $ off the amount I spent each month for the animals?

We have 2 dogs and 2 rabbits and they eat quite a bit between them. Changing food isn’t an option for the dogs because one is very old and one is very young and they are both on special food. The rabbits aren’t as picky but you would be shocked to find out how much a small rabbit can eat. I know I was!

***Spoiler alert!*** In literally just a few minutes I was able to save $70 a month on animal stuff. **** I’ll let you in on those details a bit later.

This part of the process is very personal.

If you find out you are spending $50 a month in Starbucks coffee but you love Starbucks coffee and can’t see your life without it – then yeah, you! It is important to you so you should keep it in your budget.

On the other hand, if you see your Starbuck’s coffee run costs you $50 a month and that makes you think, “Hmmmm…..that $50 could go into the travel fund. If I save that $50 a month by drinking coffee at home I could bank that $600 in one year and BUY A TICKET to some far off adventure destination.” then you might want to google “how to make your own venti 1/2 caf with a shot of caramel” recipe and start making it at home.

Now that you know where the money is going you are ready for the fun part.

Make Changes to Save Money for Travel

This part is really the fun part.

To save money for travel, or anything else, you have two choices – 1) make more money or 2) save some of the money you are spending on other things.

In addition to blogging, I’m also a substitute teacher. It keeps me current in my teaching field even though I retired from teaching years ago. But, it also has a very low salary.

Teachers are notoriously underpaid, but substitute salaries are really a joke. How so? Well, no lie, the sign at McDonald’s suggested a starting salary of $11.50 an hour – which is MORE than I would make as a substitute teacher. I’m embarrassed to tell you how much MORE the lowest worker at McDonald’s would make than I an educated (Master’s degree) and experienced (15 years) teacher. Sometimes, it pays more to save – than work.

It actually ‘pays’ me more to stay at home and ‘save’ money than I can bring money in from that job of substitute teaching.

Choose a category to begin

Choose a place to start.

I chose the pet category first. I chose this category because I still had the receipts from my most recent trip to Petsmart which made comparing prices super easy.

The first thing I did was text a friend. I remembered a conversation with her when she told me about an online store for dog food that had great prices.

Research for better prices

I was lucky to have a friend who had gone before me in saving money and I asked her. She introduced me to chew.com where she saved money on her dog food.

I compared prices between what I normally spent at Petsmart and what the same exact food and rabbit bedding would cost online at chewy.com and the total savings was a lot! Those few minutes of comparison shopping (done on my phone while waiting for my son to get a haircut) saved me a lot of money!

You don’t always have to buy different things to save money. In this case, I am using the exact same products and all I did was change the place I bought them.

Make changes

I ordered the same food and bedding for my dogs and rabbits that I normally choose. There is NO charge for shipping. (I have no idea how they can sell things cheaper than places like Petsmart AND not charge for shipping AND still make money.) I set up an account to have things automatically shipped to me each month.  Now I save $70 a month and don’t even have to leave the house.

It saves me money and time. Wow. The extra money was my goal, but I have to be honest that the extra time I gained because I no longer have to actually go to the pet store is a huge win, too.

So, now that I am spending $70 less a month on pets I can add that $840 ($70 per month times 12 months) into the travel fund.

That one small change ended up saving me the equivalent of an airline ticket! An airline ticket EVERY year.

Take Time to Save Money for Travel

Not all your savings will be as significant and easy as the $70 I saved on the pets.

It might take a lot more time to comparison shop. The savings might be a small amount of money. But every bit of money is a choice and it is worthwhile to make sure you are happy with your choices.

I’d love to hear your ideas on saving money for the pets!

I’ll be walking you through the other categories, also to answer the number one question on everyone’s lips when reading travel blogs:

How do you save money for travel?

Happy Travels,

Natalie, The Educational Tourist

The post Save Money for Travel appeared first on The Educational Tourist.

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The Educational Tourist believes traveling with the kids and traveling with the family gives priceless opportunities for creating lifelong memories. It also gives you time together that otherwise we don’t get in our very hectic lives. This is especially true for an extended family that doesn’t live nearby.

Meet The Educational Tourist’s Traveling Family!

The Educational Tourist

She was born with a serious case of wanderlust. If she hasn’t seen it already it is on her very, very long bucket list!

Favorite places: Istanbul, Morocco, and Austin, Texas

Favorite foods: hot tea, salad, and anything covered in chocolate – except coffee – too bitter!

Weirdest travel adventure: Sleeping upside down on a bed because the foot was much higher than the top

Biggest travel mistake: Packing WAY too much on my first trip

Best reason to speak a few words of the language: Avoiding weird things like a tongue on the menu.

Geologist Jeff

He is husband and traveling photographer for The Educational Tourist. He loves everything outdoors, fossils, and motorcycles.

Favorite places: Rome, Istanbul, Texas Hill Country

Favorite foods: Mediterranean food of any kind

Weirdest Travel Adventure: Taking a dune buggy off-road in Saudi Arabia

Favorite camera stuff: DSL camera with changeable lenses

Chickadee #1

G, traveling chickadee, is the oldest kiddo in The Educational Tourist family and has been traveling since she was 6 weeks old.

Favorite places: Hawaii and Istanbul

Favorite foods: Pizza, chocolate, and sushi

Weirdest Travel Adventure: Modern Art museums

Next Place she wants to visit: Paris

Chickadee #2

K, the second traveling chickadee, is the youngest of The Educational Tourist family and didn’t travel until the ripe old age of 11 weeks.

Favorite place: Turkey, Canada

Favorite foods: rootbeer, french fries, sour cream and onion chips

Weirdest Travel Adventure: Seeing two dolphins jump out of the water in Turkey

Favorite Souvenir: Stuffed animals

Next place he wants to visit: Peru

The Educational Tourist’s longtime BFF

Aunt RaRa, as the kids call her, has been traveling on crazy adventures with The Educational Tourist since they were both in middle school. Yes – middle school!

Favorite places: Switzerland, Morocco, Spain

Favorite foods: Chocolate, Bread, Pastries, Gelato, French Fries (she could not narrow down to 3!)

Weirdest Travel Adventure: Being on the wrong side of the train door when they closed!

Favorite MUST pack item: camera

Mimi – Grandma

Mimi has lived all over the world,  traveling far and wide – even traveling from Algiers, where she was living, to Athens, Greece to adopt baby Jeff.

Favorite places: New Zealand, Italy, Poland

Favorite foods: Steak, Watermelons, Strawberries

Weirdest Travel Adventure: Getting stuck on the roundabout while driving in New Zealand and going round and round and round

Favorite MUST pack item: kindle

We are just getting warmed up with our adventures where we take time to learn – before the trip and during! We strive to make memories that will last a lifetime.

Stay tuned for more adventures in 2019!

The post The Educational Tourist’s Travel Family appeared first on The Educational Tourist.

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Thinking of Starting a Travel Blog?

Is starting a travel blog on your list of New Year’s Resolutions for 2019?

Do you enjoy travel? Me, too!

Enjoy reading about travel? Me, too!

Have you considered starting a travel blog? Me, too!

Sure! Why not! You just travel and write and then good things – no GREAT things fall in your lap, right?

Travel blogging looks SOOO easy! Anyone can do it! Should you just start a travel blog in 2019? Is it on your list of New Year’s resolutions?

If you are considering starting a travel blog in 2019 as a part of your New Year’s Resolutions for 2019 you are in the right spot!

Every travel blogger has heard comments like “Wow! You got _________ from travel blogging? I think I’ll start a travel blog.” I know, I know, I know….travel blogging, or blogging, in general, seems like the perfect gig.

You can blog in your pjs….at any hour of the day or night….blog when you feel like it and more importantly, not blog when you don’t feel like it.

You can write anything that comes to mind! Write your honest opinion! Write only about the things you want to learn. Put photos of your family….or only of the backs of their heads if you worry about privacy.

Your audience will laugh at your jokes and they will clamber to sign up for your newsletter and like your facebook pages and most of all  – they will tell all their friends who will then tell their friends.

They will support you by liking all of your Instagram photos and retweeting all of your tweets! Do you post on Pinterest? They will follow you! They will share your pins!

So….why doesn’t EVERYONE a travel blog? Well…… in short, they have it seems.

Truly – you really shouldn’t start a travel blog – and here is why. 1 – You’ll be one in a million.

Actually, that is being kind. There are seriously more like 3,830,000,000 that is 3 BILLION. So, not only are you not one in a million – you are one in 3 BILLION.

Think about that for a second and let it soak in. Literally, hundreds of travel blogs are started each week.

I wish I was joking but I am not. Each week retirees and college students and people at all the life stages in between start blogs. Then, on top of that – other types of blogs, like mommy blogs, fashion blogs, and fitness blogs are adding travel sections.

2 – Your post ideas are not new.

If you have a great idea for a blog, and I’m sure you do, google your idea.

You might want to do it with an adult beverage in hand, wearing your favorite PJs and slippers because you will be surprised that 8 bazillion other people have already had that same idea.

3 – Competition is brutal.

Unless you love the thrill of cut-throat competition, travel blogging is not for you. Aside from the unfair stuff, which granted exists in every portion of human life so it really would be unfair to mention it, the legitimate competition is fierce.

4 – It is a numbers game.

This portion is the biggest surprise to me.

Not just how many

It is all about the numbers such as:

How many views do you get every day?

How many new people visit each day?

How long do people stay on each page reading?

How do your readers act?

How many people read one page and then leave vs the number of people who read and then go to another one of your pages and continue to read?

What time of day do they visit?

How many people have signed up for your newsletter?

What? Don’t have a newsletter? You’d better get cracking!

How many followers?

How many Facebook followers do you have?

How many likes do you have on Facebook?

Where are those Facebook followers from?

How often do those Facebook followers comment and share your posts?

Which social media platforms?

What? Don’t have a Facebook page dedicated to your travel blog? You need one!

Ditto……google+, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest among others!

Feel like you don’t have enough shares, likes, comments, and followers? You are in good company because pretty much, no matter how many you have…it is never enough. You are always on a quest for more!

5 – You will work your butt off.

You had better join groups to help with all the stuff regarding numbers in #4 above.

You’ll spend hours every week commenting, sharing, pinning, tweeting, and liking on Instagram all the work that other people do…..so they’ll do the same for you.

They will do the same for you except for the cheaters in those group who never reciprocate.

And…Unfortunately, cheaters exist in all areas of the blogging world and they are hard to keep track of. They know who they are but have the moral compass of a fruit fly and/or were raised in a barn and just don’t think cheating is bad enough to quit doing it.

6 – You will seriously have to up your photography game.

Let me stop you right here.

Unless you are

a) a professional photographer (or are married to one) or

b) an Instagram ‘model’ willing to spend tons of time on lighting, makeup, clothing and literally – LITERALLY show your boobs, panties or bare behind. I have examples from the web but won’t show them here. I know you’ve seen some crazy stuff without my help.

If you can’t do one of those things then just accept you won’t be able to compete in the photography arena.

7 – “They” will always make more money than you.

Lots of bloggers make money and a few make a lot of money. BUT, out of literally 3 BILLION travel blogs, you would expect at least some would make money.

But….define money. If I make enough for a cup of tea… isn’t that still making money?

Ironically, the travel blogs that make the most money are the travel bloggers that teach others how to travel blog.

So, if you subtract the money those bloggers make from teaching you….do they still make money?

Will you make enough money to quit your day job? In all honesty, probably not.

8 – Your friends and family will not support you like you think they will.

Oh, they’ll be supportive and back you up. But they won’t like every single post and pin every single Pinterest post and retweet every single tweet.


Because they are friends and family – not groupies! They do have other things to do. You are not the center of their universe. Liking every single Facebook post and commenting on every single post and retweeting every single tweet and liking every single Instagram photo takes a lot of time! They don’t have that extra time.

So, STILL think that you want to start a travel blog! You SHOULD!!

Yes, I know I just completely and utterly contradicted myself there. But, if you know what you are up against and want to do it anyway then you should. Life is short and who knows what you can accomplish if you don’t try!

Besides….someone has to be the top travel blog – why not YOU??

If starting a travel blog is on YOUR list of things to do in 2019 – yeah you! You won’t know if you can before you try so give it a go! It is better to look back and realize something wasn’t a good idea than to never have tried it at all.

If you want tips on how to get backlinks for your new travel blog see these posts on blogging.

Travel Blogs

Backlinks and More

Happy Travel Blogging!

Natalie, The Educational Tourist

The post Why You Should NOT Start a Travel Blog appeared first on The Educational Tourist.

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Tanner Family Adventure 2018 Colombia

This year’s The Educational Tourist family adventure took us to a new continent for us – South America!

How we chose the destination:

We chose Colombia in a very thoughtful and scientific way this year! Here is our super scientific conversation!

Me – How about South America this year? A new continent would be cool!

Husband – Great! Which country?

Me – I don’t really know much about any of them.

Husband – I’ve always wanted to see Colombia.

Me – Colombia it is!

So, we booked tickets to Colombia and I dove into research. We really chose a winner with that fabulous country – though it wasn’t all rainbows and unicorns. We really hated one spot and wish we hadn’t gone there!

COMING SOON – Why we HATED this much loved Colombian spot

Colombia is gorgeous with interesting art, history, music, dancing, and food. Once notorious for drug violence, Colombia is now safe and home to the world’s most innovative city in 2014 – Medellin.

Reactions to our choice!

People have had very interesting reactions to hearing about our destination choice.

We had reactions like this:

1 – Colombia… South Carolina or Colombia, Colombia? (spoken in a very suspicious tone)

2 – Do you go to Colombia often? (What does this even mean?)

3 – You can’t go there! It is a dangerous country!

My responses:

1 – Colombia – like in South America

2 – Um, no?

3 – That news is old. Like 30 years old.

My favorite reaction!

My favorite reaction to my choice of Colombia comes from a very open-minded friend. She said, “Cool! You always plan such wonderful adventures!”

Mind you, these reactions aren’t random strangers.

These are people that know me and my family. They know we’ve traveled all over – Canada, Spain, Italy, Morocco, Turkey, Greece and cool US destinations – and these are trips we took WITH the kids. We traveled even more before they came along.

Beyond London or Paris, what destinations get a ‘positive’ response from your friends and family?

What do YOU say to the naysayers? Do you smile and ignore? Do you try to educate and persuade?

I’d love to hear your tips!

Colombia was wonderful and surprising! Coming soon – Articles all about our trip!

Happy Travels,

Natalie, The Educational Tourist

The post Family Adventure 2018 – Colombia appeared first on The Educational Tourist.

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Monserrate – Views of Bogota, Colombia

Of all the things to see in Bogota, it is impossible to miss Monserrate. This mountain dominates the view of Bogota and at the top is it 10,341 feet above sea level. The view from the top is beyond amazing and worth the trip alone but the journey up to the top is lots of fun, too, and a great way to get everyone out of their comfort zone concerning the usual modes of transportation!

Be aware the altitude is very high so take it easy if you are having any symptoms of altitude sickness.

COMING SOON – What to Expect and How to Cope with Altitude Sickness

At the top of Monserrate, you’ll find a church, eateries and a market. We found a few fun items at the market as well!

Sitting top the mountain is the 17-century church, the Sanctuary of Monserrate. This church and the statue of El Senor, The Fallen Lord, are important destinations for pilgrims.

Consequently – Monserrate is CROWDED ON SUNDAYS. That means long waits for the transportation to get up to the top and long waits for the transportation to get back down to the bottom.

The main reason to visit Monserrate is the incredible view from the top which is spectacular at any time of day. Since the weather in Bogota is the least predictable of any place I’ve personally visited we feel like we just got really lucky at the time of our visit. The view was crystal clear for us! Our day visit was glorious for us, but many find the sunset view a reason to visit later in the day. I hope to get a chance to visit at that time one day.

How to get to Monserrate: Public Transportation

You can access this popular spot from either the bus or the subway.

Tourist Bus

The tourist ‘Hop on – Hop off’ bus stops here.

Taxi or Uber

We hired a taxi to combine a visit to Monserrate and the underground salt cathedral in Zapaquira. We had a wonderful experience with drivers Jorge and Angelo and we used them several times during our visit to Bogota. We highly recommend them.

Jorge Aramando Diaz

Servicio de Transporte

+57 310 582 00 88

+57 320 854 12 86


Angelo Rozo Vasquez

Servicio de Turismo

+57 310 262 93 95


Using a taxi is comfortable and easy. You can even leave your bags in the car, if you feel comfortable, while you explore which is very convenient.

**Choose a driver wisely**

Be sure you have a trustworthy taxi driver like one that has been recommended by a hotel.

COMING SOON – Transportation Options in Colombia

How to get to the top of Monserrate: 1 – Funicular 2 – Cable Car 3 – Hike

The funicular, or train, was closed the day of our visit.

Funicular Hours

Monday – Friday 7:00 am – 11:45 am

Saturday 7:00 am – 4:00 pm

Sunday 5:30 am – 5:00 pm

Holidays 6:30 am – 11:45 am

We chose the cable car for the fun experience and the gorgeous views. Each car holds about 40 people. We got lucky on our ride up because we were first in line. This let us get the perfect viewing spot at the edge of the car.

Cable Car Hours

Monday – Saturday 12:00 pm – 12:00 am

Sundays 9:00 am – 5:00 pm

**IMPORTANT NOTE** You must buy a round-trip ticket if you intend to ride back down as well.

Bathrooms are located at the bottom (FREE) and at the top (small FEE).

Hiking Information

If you are acclimated to the altitude and your entire party is in really good shape, you might consider the hike/walk to the top which will take about an hour. Be prepared for rain as the weather in Bogota changes on a dime. The walk is free.

CLICK HERE – Bogota Weather – How to Be Prepared

Colombia is a fantastic travel destination for your family! Read before you go to get the kids ready and interested in your family adventure.

CLICK HERE – Kids Books all about Colombia

Happy Travels,

Natalie, The Educational Tourist

The post Monserrate in Bogota, Colombia appeared first on The Educational Tourist.

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