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Ordinary Sherpa: Family Adventure Coaching and Design

Aug 26, 2022

Field Trips are often an immersion, a hands on learning experience.  In this episode Heidi interviews Erin Austen Abbott to cultivate backyard family adventures sharing planning tips for family field trips.  She also peel back the layers of untourism by describing what makes a place like Mississippi so unique and filled with hidden gems, yet rarely on our travel list.  

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Our guest is a writer, an early childhood educator, and a former traveling nanny.  She has been featured in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, Real Simple, Mother Mag, and more.  She published her second book in April of 2020 called Family Field Trip. Her blog, Field Trip works to teach parents and children about design, food, art, and culture, from home and beyond.  Erin Austen Abbott lives in Water Valley, Mississippi with her husband, son, and four animals. 

Key Takeaways

  1. Mississippi is unlikely on anyone’s bucket list, but it would be an ideal untourist destination due to the many hidden gems.  As William Faulkner once said, “to understand the world, you must first understand a place like Mississippi. I'm not sure if any of you have ever been to the Mississippi Delta, but once you set foot on its soil, it seeps into your blood and changes the way in which your eyes look out at the world.”
  2. To give you a hint of the hidden gems, the amount of good food at gas stations is unlike anywhere Erin has ever traveled.  There are trails specific to music, literary trails, even a tamale trail.  When you begin to look at the area with a different lens there are virtually adventures and hidden gems abound.
  3. The Blues trail is not only a great adventure, it’s a historical and cultural lesson.  Erin created a spotify playlist to accompany each blue sign to help connect the facts to an experience.  The spotify playlist is something they can come back to over and over to retain and remember what they learned and experienced on the blues trail.  
  4. Erin’s second book, Family Field Trip was inspired many years ago during her solo travel days.  She was standing in line for a remarkable location in France watching several kids complaining and oblivious to the amazing opportunities surrounding them.  “I need to write a book about all the things they could do” That was the spark for the book and it never left.  Even while working on her first book the family field trip book lingered waiting for her to bring it to life.  What sparks linger inside of you?  What books do you need to write?
  5. Public art and murals are an indicator of what the area is going through.  Many times the art reflects the aspect the community is proud of and the challenges they have worked through.  
  6. A great untourist experience is to go to a farmers market, grocery store, or locally owned restaurant and seek out the food you have never seen, or tried before.  Purchase it and explore what makes that food unique.  When you explore from a curious standpoint you also have questions to ask the local people and learn what makes that location unique.  
  7. In many ways, as we age we run out of first time experiences - which might be the appeal of travel.  If we are intentional to notice nature is constantly changing around us.  Things like a season study to watch for different birds or how the same place changes over time are great microadventures.  
  8. One way Erin likes to acclimate to a new community is to take public transit on a simple out and back experience.  Study what’s outside the windows, listen to the local chatter and glean insights from the commuter culture that surrounds you.  You’ll be able to be a simple passenger without an itinerary.  
  9. One of the ways Erin and her family like to connect with kids and families is by ordering good takeout and heading to a local park or playground.  If you choose one near a school they are usually embedded in the community and will attract local people.  
  10. Erin gave SO MANY tips on how to plan for untourist or family field trips.  One of her favorites is searching for geotags and then following the rabbit hole to discovery.  For example when you are in Instagram and you click on the geotag it takes you to a map, which then she adds to a guide in Apple Maps.  Getting in the habit of adding geotags to maps at the moment makes planning for the long term much easier. 

To Follow or connect with Erin 



Book: Family Field Trip: Explore Art, Food, Music, and Nature with Kids 


Instagram: @erinaustenabbott