Watch History Unfold – One Year of Family Travel in Europe

In 1995 and 1996 my parents travelschooled my brother and I for a year.  Together, as a family, we made our way across Europe. At times we used Eurail passes, rented a car, or took buses and ferries. Throughout it all, we recorded the journey on a small tape video camera. I recently re-visited the old tapes, 8 in total, and was struck by an odd thought; why not upload them and share them.  While they differ significantly from most normal travel content, my imagination was captured by the recent Norwegian slow travel videos and how people were using them as ambient background entertainment.  So, perhaps these will be of interest to those of you who want to explore what it was like as we learned and explored our way through a Europe that pre-dates the European Union, the Euro, and the widespread adoption of modern Hostel culture and the internet.

For those wondering what the realities of family travel with kids might be, or just want to see mid-90s Europe, these videos will also hopefully be of interest. You can view the full playlist here.

September to October

October to November



January to March


May to June

June to July

I hope you found these interesting. Did they catch your attention or trigger observations?  Have questions about the trip or its impact on me?  Post a comment below and let me know!

Reflecting On Two Years of Travelschooling – 20 Years Later

It was more than 20 years ago when my parents called my brother and I into the living room. At the time I was 10 or 11 and I vaguely remember being more than a little confused.  We were going to go on an adventure. The specifics were still being hammered out, but we’d be packing our lives into backpacks, renting out the house we owned in Sedona, and striking out for a year-long exploration of Europe.

I remember a tumultuous combination of emotions. A mixture of excitement, of confusion, of wonder, and of fear. But what about our cats? The house? My friends? It was all a lot to take in. I knew that there were things I loved – knights, medieval history, mythology, fishing and exploring and as the son of travelers, I’d been exposed to travel before.  When I was six we re-located from Southwestern Colorado to Sedona and since birth I’d grown up familiar with road trips and visits to the Sea of Cortez in northern Mexico.  But those were month long trips…this? This was something different.

How does a 10 year old wrap their mind around an entirely different continent … one full of alien people, foods, smells and languages? Shadows of sensations stir in my mind as I try and recall that moment nearly 22 years ago. And time? What did a full year mean to me then? I know it seemed daunting…but how daunting? It has softened with time and the glossy shades of fond memories and rich experiences. Yet, it still stands out vividly in my memory – a tribute to how intense the experience was.

It is only as I’ve grown older that I’ve truly started to understand the incredible undertaking my parents chose to take. Sure, they were veteran travelers and experienced educators … but even to consider a similar trip today is daunting, and that with an amazing wealth of technologies, the rise of the internet and a (mostly) unified Europe.

On that spring day in 1995 the world looked very differently. Echoes of the collapse of the Soviet Union and the First Gulf War were still recent history. The nations of Europe were only beginning to contemplate the concept of the European Union and the internet was in an infantile state.  Though I know many of my parent’s friends were supportive, I’m sure many others looked on wondering and convinced that their bold abandon was instead dangerous recklessness.

NOTE: This post is Part One of a Three Part series in which I compile and share reflections, independently written and then compiled, from my parents, my brother and myself. Jump straight to Part II in which I share my mother and father’s reflections or to Part III where my brother, David, goes in depth and shares his thoughts, reflections and memories.  Have your own personal experiences or questions?  Don’t hesitate to post them in a comment!



Over the following months we pulled out an atlas and world map.  We sat as a family, my younger brother David and I leaning in and treated as equals as we planned. This was important and an incredible difference between my parents and most adults. We were co-learners and in it together. We were at the center of the trip and they truly meant it when they asked: What did we want to see?  Where did we want to go?  How silly and naive some of our requests must have sounded to our parents, and yet, they included us and structured our trip in-part around our interests. Mythology? Yes, we’d have to go to Greece.  The Eiffel Tower, that stunning feat of architectural accomplishment? Of course, Paris then was a must.  And what of Normandy where my Grandfather fought in WWII?

Slowly a plan came together. It was a casual plan, one that was fluid, free formed and largely limited to the first three months during which we’d have unlimited Eurail passes.  As ideas erupted before slowly evolving into their final shape we adapted – my father’s sister would join us in France for several weeks, we’d wander Western Europe and then end our three-month sprint in southern Italy at the conclusion of our Eurail pass. Then we’d hop to Greece by ferry, spend a month on Corfu and then continue southward aiming to travel slowly and winter where it was warm. Then from there?  It was all uncertain, except for a return ticket booked from Amsterdam 11 months after our initial arrival.

The Spirit of the Moment

I’m thrilled to share that VirtualWayfarer just passed 1,000,000 views on YouTube (I’m so incredibly humbled and flattered – you are all amazing!). To celebrate, I decided to dive into my video archives, sort through the footage I’ve accrued over the past six years, pull out some favorite shots and to create a travel tribute video exploring and embracing snippets from some of the incredible adventures I’ve had over the past few years.  The result is just under 15 minutes of some of my favorite HD footage and spans 19 countries.

To go with the footage I pulled up a chair, sat down, and attempted to explore the lessons I’ve learned from travel.  The result is a heartfelt exploration of life, travel, and the magic of the road.  In it, I attempt to share some of the more significant lessons I’ve learned from travel, offer some advice, and aspire to convey the sense of ever-increasing wonder I have at the richness of the world at large.

It’s a smudge long, but the feedback has been that the combination of the footage and some of the ideas expressed in the monologue make it well worth the watch.  I hope you’ll take the time to give it a watch and then to share some of your own revelations or grand adventures. At the end of the day, travel and the opportunity to embrace the spirit of the moment is a wondrous thing.

Thank you all so, so, much for continuing to read (and watch!) VirtualWayfarer, offer your feedback, share your special moments, questions, and passion with me. I’m profoundly humbled and flattered by the messages you share with me and that you find my stories, photography, and video interesting.

Some have asked about the quality differences given clips were filmed over 6+ years – footage was shot on a mixture of devices. The earliest footage was filmed on an old Flip HD 720p handheld cam. Other footage was taken on a Vixia HF200. More recent footage was taken on a Canon 600D and a Canon 6D.  Video didn’t load properly?  View it here.

The Lone Bike – Weekly Travel Photo

The Belgian cities embody the feel of storied medieval cities in a way that very few other locales can.  The city of Ghent is a beautiful blend of historic architecture, winding waterways, and ever so slightly overgrown cobblestone roads.  Despite being a major tourist attraction it is still possible to explore parts of the city without feeling overwhelmed by the constant onslaught of tourists constantly shattering the ambiance of authentic daily life.  The city’s greatest and most elegant charm is on display after the sun sets when every detail of the historic buildings comes to life under the multi-hued rays of lamps and lights making it one of the most beautifully lit cities I’ve ever seen.  Luckily, one need not wait until the sun sets to properly enjoy the city as an aimless meander is guaranteed to have you stumbling across UNESCO World Heritage sites and an oft’ surprising mish-mash of cultures and architectural periods.

A Bridge in Ghent – Weekly Travel Photo

Exploring Belgium

There is a magical charm to walking historic European cities in the crisp cool air of a fall evening.  While wandering the historic center of the Belgian city of Ghent, I found myself pausing beside the intricate patterns of carefully laid cobblestones, wrought iron railings, and gorgeous historic buildings atop one of the city’s many bridges.  As I paused enjoying the sight of the moon slowly crawling its way through the sky above the beautifully lit silhouette of the Saint Nicholas’ Church and Belfry of Ghent, I heard the clip-clop of women’s heels colliding with cobblestones. A moment later I felt the light stirring of air as a passerby made her way around me and into the photograph of the bridge I’d previously been about to take.  A moment later I snapped this shot. Have you been to Ghent?  The city is world famous for the way it is lit at night and with good reason.  Beautiful by day, the city is absolutely splendid in the evening.

Make sure to head over to flickr to see the rest of the album.

Would you like to see previous Weekly Photos? View past travel pictures here. This photo was taken on a Canon T3i (600D) Camera.

The King and Queen of Belgium – Weekly Travel Photo

Royalty in Bruges

During a recent visit to Bruges, Belgium I found myself wandering around the city.  I hesitate to call myself lost, especially in a city as small as Bruges and given my generally excellent sense of direction.  Rather, I’ll chock it up to my usual approach aimlessly of ambling through historic cities while enjoying the various surprises that await me.  On a typical day, this usually includes a surprise run-in with a lazy cat, the discovery of a scrumptious eatery, or the crumbling remains of a beautiful UNESCO world heritage site. So, it was with some interest that I found myself standing on a bridge over one of Bruges’ many canals facing a small army of Belgian police.   With a harmless smile and upraised eyebrow I inquired what the event was. I was quickly and politely informed that the police, and a  few thousand folks standing shoulder-to-shoulder along the fall-kissed canal behind them, were waiting to see the Belgian King and Queen who were visiting the city. They were due to float by on a canal tour in the next few moments.

While I lack the adoration for royalty that my Danish friends and the Belgians harbor – who can pass up the opportunity to see a King and Queen up close? So, I found myself a small niche sandwiched between an older gentleman with some 15 or 20 war medals pinned to his suit coat, an old woman who appeared to have a slight mustache, a crop of young children, and an aged tree with golden leaves.  We waited some 5 minutes or so before King Philippe of Belgium and his wife Queen Mathilde floated by with a smattering of local officials.  Though, unfortunately, largely cut from the photo there was also a woman who had an absolutely fantastic outfit and hat on.You can just see her face and a hint of the hat in the photo above.  It reminded me of the fabulous hats worn to formal events and days at the races. Not to be out done, another member of the royal party – I presume an adviser of some sort (not in the photo), had on one of the most fantastic old-world hats I’ve ever seen outside of a museum.

The Belgians generally seemed to adore the nobles and for their part both the King and Queen seemed to be genuinely friendly, open, and sociable folks who were happy to be there and were enjoying the moment.

It just goes to show – you never know what your day will bring!