Interview with Blaine Zuver, founder of ArcticTropic: Delving into world culture through travel

ArcticTropic Founder Blaine Zuver in Chile

Recently, a reader, Linda Mills who is the senior vice provost for undergraduates in the Global Network University, NYU Abu Dhabi, posed a question in response to my post on Putting Learning into the Right Context for Children.  She asked, “How do we prepare the next generation for talking and working across traditional divides?”

My response is: invest in our future by teaching children to appreciate, learn from and have a positive impact on other cultures from an early age—as early as possible.  We can broaden their knowledge of the world through travel and cultural exchanges like the Thorn Tree project in Kenya as I mentioned in an earlier post.

While traveling through Miami during my daughter’s spring break, it seemed fitting to speak with other parents on the subject.  Saturday, I sat down with inveterate traveler Blaine Zuver, founder and director of ArcticTropic, his high-end adventure travel website and blog, to further discuss introducing children to different cultures through travel.  Some of his thoughts from our discussion are below.

CultureChild: Tell me about ArcticTropic and why you started the blog.

Blaine Zuver: ArcticTropic is an Adventure Travel portal.  The site links to adventure travel websites from around the world—more than 1,100 destinations in 117 countries—providing direct booking and advertising.  About a year after launch we decided to add a blog so that other travelers and I (as the blog’s director) could share our travel experiences.

ArcticTropic Blog quickly became the most popular part of the site and helps lead visitors into the other revenue-generating areas where trips are booked and ads are clicked.

CC: Why did you choose the name?

BZ: ArcticTropic encompasses all points of adventure travel from the arctics to the tropics and all points in between.

CC: You mentioned families are booking adventure travel.  What sorts of trips are they booking?

BZ: Children age six and up are ready for adventure travel, in increasing strenuousness, as they get older.  One of the easier (and very interesting) trips is a cruise to the Galapagos.  Nights are spent aboard comfortable ships, while days involve hiking and snorkeling to see the exotic wildlife.  Adventure travel does not mean just sports; travel to exotic locations like India, China or Morocco are very enlightening for kids.  Closer to the U.S., there are Mayan pyramids in Yucatan, Mexico, and many adventure sports in Costa Rica, which are safe areas for families.

CC: What sort of adventure travel have you booked with your own kids?

BZ: My older son, now 14, was traveling to exotic beaches in southern Brazil before he turned one.  Here, I drove my family through remote Indian villages, where we stayed in little bungalows.  I also took them on a driving trip from Mexico City to the coast, over dirt roads past active volcanoes, where we went horseback riding along the Pacific beaches.

This summer, here in the U.S., we will travel the deserts and mountains of California and Nevada—hiking, climbing, horseback riding and rafting.  In the summer of 2012, we plan to go horseback riding in Mongolia, where we will spend the night in yurts.  My sons will be 11 and 15 then. On the same trip we will visit China and Siberia.

CC: Is travel (adventure or non-adventure) a good way to teach kids about different cultures?

BZ: Yes, especially if the trip creates opportunity to be with and see how local people live.  A trip to the beaches of Cancun is very much like staying in the U.S.; there is not much interaction with locals except in a service capacity.

When in a city, take the metro, not just taxis.  Eat in local restaurants, not just famous five-star places.  When driving, try to take back roads rather than just the main highways.

CC: In your opinion, how do we prepare the next generation for talking and working across traditional divides?

America is a large and somewhat isolated country when it comes to perceptions of other cultures.  We are separated by large oceans and have a media that tends to generalize everything from an American point of view.  Travel, to other countries and becoming immersed in the local culture, even if only for a short time, opens a child’s mind up to a completely different world view that can be integrated with our own world.  These impressions will stay with the child for his or her lifetime.

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