Most of our members travel either alone or as a couple but today we’re catching up with the Kramer family, based in Luxembourg, who do most of their travelling around the world together, father Julian, mother Anna-Marie and two teenagers, Charlotte – who just celebrated her 16th birthday on Thursday – and Daniel (13).
Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
Tell us something about your early lives and how you became involved in travel and how that eventually involved the whole family.
We both grew up primarily in The Netherlands, although Julian also has British nationality. Having met at university, we moved to Jersey, Channel Islands, for work and spent more than 3 years there. After moving around a bit, we settled in Luxembourg nearly 20 years ago, where we also started our family.
Already as students we became fascinated with travel and used every opportunity to go backpacking around the globe. This stopped for a few years when we had very young kids, but once our youngest, Daniel, turned 5 we were ready to start travelling heavily again, revisiting many places we had been to as a couple, and fortunately our kids love it.
Cat Ba Bay, Vietnam
As a family, what are some of the places on your bucket list which you would really like to see in the future?
We have as a family been very fortunate to together visit some 90 UN countries in the last 9 years, and counting, so many of our bucket list places we have been able to see. These include places like the Lakshadweep Islands, Svalbard, Salar de Uyuni in Bolivia, Lebanon, the Serengeti and Palawan in The Philippines. We would love to visit Australia and New Zealand, but because we are bound by school holidays and work, it has so far proven difficult to arrange this, given the distance. Having a passion for extreme winters, Greenland is also on our list, as well as Patagonia and Antarctica. In general, we like going to places a bit off the beaten track. We have very fond memories of Tibet, overland from Lhasa to Kathmandu via Everest base camp, and the Andaman Islands in the nineties before the kids, and more recently all together among others Ethiopia, Laos, Belarus and Moldova (incl. Transnistria).
Samana, Dominican Republic
Do any of you travel alone? Under what circumstances?
Normally speaking we travel all together but every now and again we travel separately with one of our children. Julian was lucky to take a year long sabbatical recently and used this for some inspiring solo travel to countries/regions like Azerbaijan, Kyrgyzstan, Brazil, Paraguay, Kaliningrad and Srpska. Solo for him is good, but together is better.
Have you fully explored your own country yet and what are some gems that you would recommend that most travellers may not know about?
Luxembourg is tiny, indeed smaller than Rhode Island, but punches way above its weight. We have been able to see most sights, which after 20 years living here honestly is not an accomplishment. Not really one specific thing we would recommend but it has a fascinating history dating back to 963, a very pretty countryside and Luxembourg city is a UNESCO World Heritage site, for good reason. Nearly half the country’s population of 600,000 are foreigners and there are 3 national languages, Letzebuergisch, French and German. Overall restaurants are excellent: French quality with German-sized portions. Since March all public transport (train/bus/tram) in the whole country is free for everyone, a world first, and a real attempt to get people out of their cars. In a rush, from the capital you could visit all three neighbouring countries together, Germany, France and Belgium, within a couple of hours.
Angkor Wat, Cambodia
How do you fund your travels?
We both work in finance and value experiences far more over material things. So, we are quite happy to spend a significant amount of our income on travel. To be honest, we believe that this is also an immensely valuable experience for our two children, who are probably some of the most travelled kids in the world. Having said this, we are very aware that travel, especially by air, is not good for the environment. Over the years we have become more and more conscious of the consequences of human activity on our planet. Spending several days in January in Beijing wearing face masks due to severe air pollution, being on Svalbard in February when it was not even freezing, and seeing never-ending deserts full of plastic in Senegal, it has really sunk in with us. We are trying to do our bit by using solar energy, strict recycling, driving electric and compensating our CO2 when flying, as much as we can. On the other hand, we do see very big benefits for local people, particularly in developing countries, from travel, so if we have the chance we prefer to stay in local accommodation and support local business, instead of e.g. the large conglomerate hotels.
De Hoop, South Africa
What is the most dangerous situation you’ve all experienced on your travels?
Early nineties, as backpacking students, we took a 12-hour overnight bus from Delhi to Dharamshala in Northern India. It started off uneventful but when the three drivers stopped at a liquor store in the Punjab and came back with at least 15 bottles of whisky, which they immediately started to open, we became very worried. Dharamshala is up in the Himalaya’s with, more than 25 years ago, ridiculously poor road conditions and lots of hairpin bends. We had many near-death experiences and actually already said goodbye to each other multiple times during this drive. Writing this, we obviously made it, but will never forget. And yes, all the whisky was finished by the time we hit Dharamshala.. Although we are happy to visit certain countries many people would call off-limits, we are not actively looking for exceptionally dangerous and complicated travel, but realise of course that bad things can happen anywhere.
Garni Temple, Armenia
What missed opportunity do you regret the most on your travels?
Unfortunately, we are tied to school holidays and limited vacation from work. Whilst living in Europe, holiday time is relatively sufficient, but we still feel many of our trips are too short and that we could have spent much longer in many places. Once the kids leave home and after we eventually retire, this will definitely change as we then hope to travel virtually non-stop!
Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia
Apart from the obvious necessities of a passport and money, what one item can you never travel without?
Although we get on pretty well, this would probably not always be the case if we did not each have our iPad and iPhone, and a massive tangle of cables and adaptors… We also always pack a waterproof bag and sarongs which can be used in many ways.
What is your favourite travel book?
Not necessarily a book, but what set us up to travel were early nineties television series like Lonely Planet, and Around the World in 80 days and Pole to Pole with Michael Palin. We do always still travel with a Lonely Planet and/or Rough Guide, if they exist, old habits, and have bookshelves full, giving great memories.
Where are you going on your next trip and when will that be? [assuming covid-19 is all over soon].
This summer, travel permitting, we have booked a flight to St. Vincent & The Grenadines and then aim to make our way slowly, primarily by sea, to Grenada, from where we fly back. En route we are planning to dive the Tobago Cays which we are told are magical. We are all qualified divers and our kids very much insist on adding a few dives to trips if at all possible. Later in summer we also hope to visit the Scottish Highlands and the Orkney Islands. Fingers crossed, but more importantly let’s hope the world recovers fast from this pandemic.
Itsukushima shrine, Japan
Do you all travel on one country’s passports (Luxembourg) or do you have a mix?
We all hold Dutch passports, all except Anna-Marie hold British nationality, and the kids are also Luxembourgish nationals. Clearly, we have options but in practice we tend to travel on the Dutch passports, as it avoids questions with all having the same passport. However, if there are visa advantages on certain nationalities, like Vietnam where Brits are visa-exempt for short stays, we make use of this.
And our signature question – if you could invite any four people from any period in human history to dinner, who would you invite and why?
For Charlotte it has to be Stephen Hawking, as she is well into physics. Stephen Hawking came closest to finding a grand unified theory of physics, and she has lots of questions.
Daniel would invite Genghis Khan, as it must be fascinating to learn how travel was in those days.
For Julian it’s Michael Palin. Not only has he been able to travel the world multiple times, for sure providing fascinating stories, he is also part of Monty Python, which made Julian’s favourite film of all time, Life of Brian.
Anna-Marie would invite Amelia Earhart (not the first time she has been mentioned in the interviews), because she is curious to see where she ended up. And of course she was a pioneer in modern travel.