When it comes to family travel, Jenna Francisco has a lot of experience. She has lived overseas in the Czech Republic, is married to a Brazilian, and has traveled all over the world with her young son. Her passion for traveling, teaching, and her family is what makes Jenna a fascinating writer in the world of travel.
Check out her guest post Travel on a budget – family vacation in Part I
Where did you grow up and what things were you interested in as a kid?
I grew up all over the U.S. because my dad was in the Navy. We moved every couple years, mostly to places on the coasts. I was interested in books, dance, and my friends.
Did you travel as a family? What is your best memory of trips with your family?
We didn’t travel much as a family because my dad was at sea half the year. We didn’t go camping or to a lake like many families do. Some of my best memories of traveling are maybe a little different. My mom took me to New York fairly often, and we went to fancy restaurants, ballets, and great museums. When I was a teenager, my dad moved to Italy, and I visited him twice. We traveled spending 2 weeks in Italy and 2 weeks in France and England.
What inspired you to travel? Was there a defining moment for you?
Certainly the trips with both my mom and dad planted the seed, but the defining moment was a study abroad course in the Italian Renaissance in Florence, Italy. It was just a month, and I definitely felt the need to go back as soon as possible. I did exactly that one year later.
How did you end up living in the Czech Republic after college? What did you learn there that you couldn’t have learned from just traveling and visiting other countries?
I ended up living in a small city in the Czech Republic because I really wanted to live abroad, and my best friend from college was stationed there with the Peace Corps. After I visited her there, I asked her if I could move in with her, and she agreed. I stayed 1 ½ years, and it was a fantastic experience. I learned how to be a member of a new culture and society (both the good and the bad), and discovered that people are the fundamentally same everywhere. I had close relationships there that I still have today, 14 years later.
What lessons have you learned from traveling with your family? With a child and a husband who is from Brazil, what have they taught you?
We decided soon after my son was born that we would not stop traveling just because we had a child. Since then, we have taken my son on 4 international trips in less than 3 years. I have learned that traveling with babies/toddlers is not easy and that it’s much easier when we visit family than travel by ourselves.
I have also learned through traveling with my husband that traveling as a couple requires compromise. Because my husband is from Brazil, I have also learned that being in a bicultural relationship means lots of travel to the other person’s native country, for better or worse.
What do you do career-wise? Did your pursuit of this come as a result of traveling?
I teach English as a Second Language at a college in California. Sacramento is a very diverse city and has a large immigrant population, so our classes are overflowing and full of people from all over the world. I love my job.
My career definitely came out of traveling. I always liked English when I was in school, but I majored in art history. When I lived in the Czech Republic, I taught English because there was no other work for me there. I realized that I was good at it and liked it, so I came back to the U.S. and got an M.A. in linguistics. I’ve been teaching full-time ever since.
What things do you enjoy outside of work, family, and travel?
I love good food, so I love to cook, go to restaurants, and try different types of food. I love yoga and being outdoors. I love art and good books. I also love being around like-minded people, but I don’t have much time for my friends and family now that I have a child.
What is the biggest lesson you have learned from traveling?
This is a hard question. I think one is what I mentioned above—that people are basically the same everywhere, and that no matter what the outward appearance is, we can build wonderful relationships with people from anywhere.
The other one is a lesson I’m constantly learning when I visit Brazil and Indonesia—that deep poverty and related problems exist all over the world. That is something I struggle with, but after spending 2 months in Brazil this summer, I think I have come to terms with it more and have found some ways that I can try to make a difference instead of just looking away.
Jenna lives in Sacramento, California, but loves to get away whenever she can. She studied and lived abroad and has traveled extensively through Europe. She has a multi-cultural family and visits family every year in Brazil or Indonesia. As the mother of a toddler, she is learning new ways to travel. She also enjoys yoga, art, cooking ethnic foods, being outdoors, and reading.
Filed Under: Guest posts and interviews