Theo, Maria, Alexandros and Marianna are the four-member Greek family set to become the new YouTube sensation through their often funny, and even more often unlikely adventures as they tour the globe.
Although the first videos of the Traveling With Kids series only emerged online during the Covid-19 pandemic lockdown, the idea of sharing their travels with an audience has been in Theo Anagnostopoulos and Maria Vranopoulou’s minds for quite some time now.
Their aim is to highlight the experience of getting out of their comfort zone and daring to explore exotic destinations which are not very popular for family travel, offering their son and daughter unique experiences to shape their personalities.
At the age of eight months, for example, a baby Alexandros was crossing through North America’s West Coast, from Alaska to San Diego. Just a few years later, his toddler sister, Marianna, was observing orangutans in the jungle of Borneo before even reaching her second birthday.
Thanks to their globetrotting parents, who refused to give up their love for traveling, the two children, now aged 9 and 3, have already traveled to 32 and 16 countries respectively, gaining invaluable real-life education.
Family documents travel on video
“We have been traveling the world with the children since they were born, and very often our friends were asking, are you crazy, going there with the children? All this travel, how do you manage?”, says Maria, a Greek language teacher in Athens.
So two years ago the Greek family decided to start documenting the journeys on video, shot with their mobile phones. Last spring’s lockdown allowed them the time to organize their material, set up the channel and start to upload content.
Their clips are in the Greek language but have English subtitles added for their global audience. Episodes from the trips to Borneo and Tunisia are already online, with Mexico, Beliz and Guatemala soon to follow.
Among the most alluring experiences to be featured are the moments when Alexandros was swimming next to a whale shark in the ocean, and Marianna was feeding lettuce to 600 kg (1,323 pound) sea cows.
“These kind of experiences create feelings of awe and of huge respect for nature, just realizing how tiny we are and how important it is after all to take care of the beauty there is on the planet,” Maria explains.
As a teacher, she acknowledges the defining impact that international travel has not only on her own children, but also on her pupils, with whom she shares her colorful travel stories in class.
Defining impact of international travel
“My travels have given me the opportunity to approach my pupils in a special way. A travel story is always relevant, be it environmental education, history or geography,” she says.
“I might talk to the class about Borneo, and how the jungle there is being destroyed in favor of palm tree plantations, or I might tell them stories from Pakistan and Afghanistan when talking about the conquests of Alexander the Great.
“I see how those immediately shift the pupils’ interest; how even the ones who don’t follow, suddenly stare with their eyes and stay focused. I also see how many children get inspired to travel one day and to embark on more faraway and adventurous journeys. I often meet them 10 or 15 years later and they remember the stories I had shared in class,” she says.
The couple had already visited some of the most faraway places on the planet before starting their family, like the time when they were nearly drowned in a river in Uganda. “When traveling with kids, we are selective of the activities. We don’t do anything too risky – that was before we had them!” the happy mother adds with a laugh.
Stressful moments for the Greek family
Nonetheless, she can easily recall stressful moments when herself and Theo, who is a science communicator and social entrepreneur, once became very worried about getting out of troublesome situations with the little ones.
“I was definitely in fear when we were staying in Antigua, Guatemala, knowing that there were 30 active volcanoes around us. As there were a lot of earthquakes throughout the day, I was trying to be constantly aware of exit ways in case it started to shake really bad.
During the night, I would jump off my bed at the slightest shake thinking to grab the children and starting to run,” Maria admits.
Another tricky moment was during a safari by boat on the river in Borneo, when the weather changed very abruptly.
“There was a lot of waves hitting our small vessel, and we had seen crocodiles in the waters. Marianna was younger than two years old, unable to swim. We did have life jackets on, but we were thinking, if we fall into the water will we manage to get ashore fast enough to escape the crocodiles, and if we do, what other wild animals could we encounter there?”
When fear fades away, the adventure stays
She reflects, however, that it’s the unexpected that creates the most powerful memories from a journey: “As the fear fades away, the adventure stays in your mind as a beautiful, strong memory.”
Amidst the current traveling restrictions brought on by the Covid-19 pandemic uncertainty, the couple point out that there are still ways to journey abroad if one wants to, eg. by car or caravan to avoid air travel and be able to have a space of their own where they can take all the necessary steps to keep good hygiene.
However, they see this period as an opportunity to rediscover Greece, which they believe to be “a most beautiful country, very safe, with an extremely rich history.”
Maria urges “I would like to tell parents to not stop traveling when they have children. They can try it by choosing an easy destination at first. It is an experience that bonds the family and builds mutual experiences. Travel provides clear, quality time with the children, free from the time pressure and stress that we all have from our jobs during the year.”
“And they learn so many things. I am aware of surveys that show how travel even improves the children’s performance at school, as their horizons are broadened and they gain many positive traits indirectly. You don’t have to teach them by pointing a finger at them to say, you must love nature, you must accept diversity. All these valuable life lessons are learned spontaneously.”