You Can Explore the World in the Ordinary Places All Around You
Short of grabbing the passports and catching an international flight, it’s hard to explore the world beyond our borders. But it’s not impossible. With a little know-how and some imagination, you can find global connections in your own city, backyard or even the kitchen cupboard. Curious to know more? Here are a few suggestions on how to explore the world….
…at a cultural festival
From the Los Angeles Culture Festival in southern California, to the Smithsonian Folklife Festival in Washington, D.C., there are oh-so-many summer events happening across the nation that celebrate countries beyond our borders. Attending one is an exciting way to learn about different countries and different people through food, music, dance and more. Everfest has a pretty comprehensive list of festivals across the country. It’s a good a place as any to start your search!
…at the grocery store
Sometimes a stroll through the produce department or up and down the aisles at your local grocery store can take you zigzagging across the globe. It’s an easy place to find internationally-sourced treats like mangos and bok choy, Pocky sticks and Toblerone bars, or how about jasmine rice, jicamas and hummus. Psst…the bar code sticker on your produce will tell you where something is grown if you’re not sure.
Or take your adventure a step further and hit a local international market for some truly unusual, new-to-you finds. Markets like Eataly in Chicago and Uwajimaya in Seattle are stores that turn everyday grocery shopping into a memorable experience, and are an awesome way to immerse yourself in food from around the world.
But if you’re short on time, go the pre-fab route and hit up your local Thai, Mexican, Peruvian, Japanese—you get the idea—restaurant. All you have to do there is enjoy the intriguing dishes on the menu. It’s one of our favorite ways to explore the world and experience other cultures!
…during typical summer activities
Did you know that kites were first used in China nearly 3,000 years ago? Or that the precursor to the modern roller coaster originated in Russia during the 17th century? It’s true! There are tons of activities, sports and adventures that families seek out in the summertime with international roots. The water slide, is another example. It’s believed the first ever was set up in New Zealand at the turn of the 20th century. So as you get outside this summer, do a little digging first, because that pick-up soccer game you’re about to play has global implications. What favorite summer activities do you know of that have ties to other parts of the world?
…while looking for birds
If you’re lucky, we’ll bet you’ve got some international travelers, of the feathered friend variety, visiting your yard right now! Birds usually migrate north to south, following warmer weather. So when summer hits the United States and Canada, our feathered friends return, after spending time in the southern hemisphere.
Turn their migratory patterns into a summer activity by birding in a local nature preserve or park. Bring a bird book, binoculars and a journal to record your finds. This DIY birding activity from Buggy and Buddy is a great option for kids. Then check out the migration path for each little bird you see on your walk. The Cornell Lab of Ornithology has a wonderful interactive bird migration map that follows 118 different birds as they move across the Americas. Are any of the birds you spotted on their list?
…in a garden
Even flowers can be a window to the world, if you know what to look for. Keep your floral search simple by visiting a local arboretum or botanic garden where little signs mark the species and origin of the blooming beauties you’ll find there. Or take a trip to the local greenhouse and wander around. Many mark the native origin of the plants they house. But if not, find some flowers that pique your interest and comb through websites to find out where it first started blooming. We’ll bet there are some international finds in your own backyard too. Roses have their roots in ancient China and the Middle East. And although tulips are associated with Holland, they were originally cultivated in the Ottoman Empire, what’s now Turkey. How many countries are represented in your summer garden?
…in your spice cupboard
Hidden among your salt and pepper, you’ll find plenty of international inspiration. After all, the spice trade connected Asian, European and North African civilizations way back when. In fact, many spices that are common in our world, have long, complicated histories that took them through the centuries, over continents and into our kitchens and recipes. Take time to sort through your spices for finds like nutmeg, cinnamon, turmeric, whatever makes you wonder. Then track its origins online, use it to cook, or dig deep into its history. We bet you’ll find surprising stories about the spices you use every day! And more importantly, realize that many of our everyday spices are still grown in other parts of the world… like cinnamon is grown in Sri Lanka and Indonesia. And did you know Iran is responsible for most of the world’s saffron production? Sifting through spices sure can take you places!
…while enjoying a lazy afternoon
Probably the easiest pick from our list is heading outside with a blanket on a summer day. The air you breathe, the clouds in the sky, and the water that forms them are all shared elements around the globe. Studying the water cycle, that moves water from the ocean into clouds and back down to the ocean through precipitation, is an easy way to find connections in the natural world. Create your own water cycle in a bag to see this universal force in action. Parents can also go for a more classically artistic approach to clouds by busting out one of these cloud art projects. Any one is the perfect follow up to lazily watching the clouds move across the summer sky.
And of course, your kids can learn all about China through creative play with the World Village Playset. Using their imagination, kids move use wooden figures around the beautifully detailed play mat, creating their own stories with story cards and learning about Emma and Joe’s adventures through their travel journal. It’s like traveling overseas from your own home. How do you explore the world from home?
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