Family Traveler Spotlight is the section of our publication where we profile families who love taking their children along on their travel adventures. In this edition, we meet Colleen Mariotti of Livology. She shares with us the joys of Eurocamping, the perfection of a particular boutique hotel in Cortona, Italy and why seeing different cultures through our children’s eyes is the greatest gift of all.
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Tell us about your family.
We are the Mariotti Family. Ron is 55, Colleen is 46, Max (our first born son) is 13, Henry (his brother) is 12, and Bianca (our daughter) is 8.
Where do you live when you’re not traveling?
In the fall of 2103, we sold all of our belongings, packed 5 carry-on bags, and purchased one-way tickets to Europe. Since that time we have traveled around the world and lived in many different countries. We have also gained an even greater appreciation for the USA and the many gifts that come with being an American citizen. Before our wandering ways, we were raising our children on beautiful Bainbridge Island, 30 minutes by ferry, from downtown Seattle.
What type of work do you and your partner do?
My husband was a real estate broker before we made this dramatic leap in 2013. He enjoys real estate and has built a referral network around the world. In every other way, we have completely transformed our work-life to enable us to live a location independent life. It is a process and we are continually reinventing our path, but today it revolves around our travel blog and all that goes into building that each day. Our vision is to build a location independent family business that our kids can engage in creatively and in ways that are meaningful to them as we grow. Our boys both have Instagram accounts that are in alignment with their passions and support our travel blog so I think that means it is working!
Tell us about Livology.
Livology is about the study of living deliberately. We learned early in our travels that what was most beneficial to us was our ability to be present wherever we go. For some people, that may be just next door, for some it may be to the next town, and for some it may be a different hemisphere. What is addicting about travel is the way it awakens all the senses and makes us more mindful of where we are and who we are. We want to write about travel in a way that meets our readers wherever they are in their personal journey. While our blog has a ton of travel tips and must-see lists, it is a collection of short stories and images designed to motivate people to get outside their comfort zone to see what they are capable of achieving whether they travel or not. We answer thousands of trip planning questions and talk to a lot of people about products but we have kept our site free of advertising for a reason. Our livelihood comes from something we call the Daily Livits on our site. They are mindfulness practices we write and use every day that have made this lifestyle possible and enduring.
Why do you believe in traveling the world with your children?
Nearly a year into our journey while living in the South of France, I wrote “the first step in becoming a global citizen is stripping away the preconceptions of how things should be in order to see things for what they are.” That is why we travel for ourselves and our children. We want to be compassionate, open, and aware of many different beliefs, customs, languages, clothing, flavors, sports and holidays. We want to arrive with an open heart, not just when we travel, but always. It is so easy to get set in our ways with all the conveniences we get used to as Americans, from clothes dryers to business hours, the USA makes it easy. We want to use the world as our classroom and soak up all that it has to teach us. To see different cultures through our children’s eyes is truly the greatest gift we have ever received as parents.
Luxury means different things to different people. How do you define luxury when it comes to traveling with your family?
Our definition of luxury has to do with creating varied travel itineraries where every member of our family feels engaged and excited. Sometimes that means All-Inclusive Resorts in Malta or Malaga with kids club, entertainment and tour busses and sometimes it means house-sitting on an organic farm in New Zealand complete with a menagerie of pets and fresh berries. One of the most luxurious experiences we had traveling in Europe was Eurocamping. We had never heard of it before we lived in Italy. It is truly the original glamour camping experience. The holiday parks in Europe give kids a feeling of camping, complete with campfires and archery classes, while the parents sit near ancient castle ruins sipping wine at sunset and ordering plates from professional chefs. We stayed in everything from Safari Tents in the Italian lakes region to beautiful alpine cottages in the French Alps and everything in-between. It was a slightly different take on luxury and we loved it! We Euro-camped through 5 countries in 4 months with ease and we felt like kids again! It was the most fun we had playing together as a family.
What’s the best travel experience your family has ever had?
This past August we traveled through Indonesia. It is a rapidly growing country and that comes with many issues. We knew we wanted to do something to contribute so we left our luxury accommodation and set off for a rural orphanage that completely changed our view of the world. It was an Ashram with 30 orphans led by a remarkable monk. We taught English, ate mangoes and papayas off the trees, practiced yoga and meditation at 6AM as a community, and slept in a wooden hut listening to the sounds of the jungle. It was a place that completely transformed our family and we left a piece of ourselves in that tiny corner of the world. We are currently donating 50% of all of our Livit subscription sales to funding educational and living costs for this special orphanage.
What’s your favorite family-friendly luxury hotel?
Villa Marsili in Cortona, Italy is a boutique hotel that exudes classic luxury and celebrates children. Not only were our children welcomed, the manager would make special cakes she knew our children loved for the breakfast buffet. Every detail is perfectly attended from the mixture of antiques and locally sourced furnishings to fresh pressed olive oil with crusty bread ready when we arrived. The breakfast is masterful, beautifully appointed, abundant and luxurious in every way. When Diane Lane was filming “Under the Tuscan Sun,” she stayed in this hotel! Whenever we are in shouting distance we stop in for a visit. Our kids are swept up can covered in kisses upon arrival no matter how long it has been between trips. Luxury at its best.
What three items do you never travel without?
1. This may surprise you but our local library cards. We can check out books from anywhere in the world and have them delivered straight to our E-readers. The kids can download songs to their devices and full colored magazines are a must on the iPad for long flights. Our hometown library’s online resources have given us everything from newspapers in English to foreign language dictionaries.
2. We always travel with a Charles Schwab Visa Card that waves all ATM fees globally. Their customer service has saved us in some of the most remote locations we have traveled.
3. We only travel with carry-on luggage which we know is a huge leap with kids. What it gives us is a sense of freedom to pack up and move on at a moment’s notice. So many adventures we have had would not have been possible had we bogged ourselves down with “stuff.” There is a lot of high-performance stylish travel clothing and plenty of companies that rent specialized gear for kids or sports in almost every port. We highly recommend traveling light and we know from experience you can do more with less.
What’s your favorite online travel resource?
We always check Tripadvisor ratings in the local language and then translate the review. We like to call it Tripadvisor with a twist. No one is more critical of regional cuisine than the natives of that area so we get our best tips by looking at what the locals have to say. It takes a bit more work and sometimes the sentences don’t translate perfectly but we find the result much more comprehensive and accurate. Something else we have used extensively is Trusted Housesitters. We have stayed in a Chateau in the French countryside, a villa in Sydney, Australia and beyond. It is the perfect solution for families that want an authentic experience of walking in someone else’s shoes, with all the comforts of home, for all or part of their trip.
What’s the worst mistake you see other parents making when traveling?
We have made them all so we speak from experience. For us, we learned the lesson once and for all in Paris. Go deep versus go wide. We had a list of 50 things we wanted to do in Paris and we had a week. We narrowed it down to three and it was difficult. To this day, Paris is one of our most memorable cities because of the depth of our experiences. Instead of going to dozens of museums, for example, we hired a company who designed a scavenger hunt for our kids at the Louvre. Magical! It is easier said than done especially when you know you only have a week or two and you won’t be returning any time soon. The truth is, quantity waters down quality, and the result is uninspired exhausted travelers who don’t want to leave the hotel. A handful of experiences with depth have the power to shift your view of the world versus checking sites off a list. It is a challenge but it is an important choice and it is yours to make.
What’s on your travel bucket list?
You have probably heard the quote by Susan Sontag, “I haven’t been everywhere yet, but it is on my list.” That sums up our bucket list. We would love to take a trip on the Trans-Siberian Railway and they are celebrating their 100th anniversary in 2017. We want to do an African Safari when the time is right, and Bianca has her sights set on the Northern Lights. Max wants to see the Valley of the Kings and Henry wants to sleep in the canopy of the Amazon Rainforest. What we know for sure is that if we never go anywhere again, our days with be filled with remembering the last 1,200 plus days we have spent together traveling as a family. We hope it never ends but when it does it is a life fulfilled in every way and for us there is no greater definition of luxury.