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This year has been challenging for everyone, but it’s particularly complicated for working parents who are juggling their own Zoom calls with entertaining toddlers and setting up virtual classrooms. However, instead of seeing this as a recipe for disaster, Kacie Darden, owner of Blue Pineapple Travel in Marietta, Ga., considers this period of virtual living as a golden opportunity.
“The idea of virtual school in the dining room brought a sense of dread,” Darden said. “My husband suggested that I think bigger, bolder and totally different — and for me, that meant going somewhere.”
Once Darden discovered that her 6-year-old twin boys’ schooling would be virtual, she started planning. Understanding that there were many places they couldn’t go, Darden and her boys decided to head to the Caribbean island of Aruba.
After all, she says, if 2020 was going to force them to slow down, they might as well be on island time.
Compiled from an interview with Darden as well as her blog, Dardens on the Go, below are tips on how to perfect the workcation — with school-age kids included.
Establish Top-Line GoalsBefore traveling, Darden set goals: both for her business and for her sons. In the hopes of branching away from leisure-only travel planning, she is using the change of scenery to learn about a new destination and to develop similar digital nomad experiences for clients.
As for the twins, a big goal of Darden’s is to encourage their sense of adventure.
“I want the boys to have an experience in a place that isn’t America,” she said. “I like them to hear kids speaking different languages, to try different foods and to feel life in a different place.”
Stick to a ScheduleDarden says that this type of experience requires a different mindset and more structure than a typical family getaway. So, she tells her boys that they “live in Aruba” during the week, and they are only “on vacation” over the weekends. That doesn't mean there isn't pool and beach time on weekdays; they just have to complete their schoolwork first.
“I can work anywhere, but I have to set up the boys for success for digital learning, so we work [inside],” Darden said. “But having Aruba’s Palm Beach or Eagle Beach as our backyard is a great reward to finish up the day.”
When school’s out, Darden and the twins head out on safe weekend adventures with respect to local COVID-19 social distancing and mask requirements. So far, such adventures have included the Aruba Ostrich Farm, the Donkey Sanctuary Aruba and The Butterfly Farm — all of which also doubled as fun, interactive science lessons.
Protect Yourself and the Community While some international travel has resumed, it’s still very important for clients to be cautious, particularly when planning a long-term stay. That’s why Darden stresses responsible travel above everything else.
“We are not traveling the same way we did before, because we are not living in the ‘before,’” she said. “I never want anyone to feel pressure to travel right now. However, if people do travel, I want them to do it safely and with caution for themselves and the communities where they are traveling.”
Darden also acknowledges that it’s her responsibility to be an ethical traveler and a gracious visitor. She keeps a close eye on government regulations and is in frequent contact with the Aruba Tourism Authority for further guidance.
Be FlexibleWhile unexpected travel snafus can happen anytime, no one can deny that 2020 is a banner year for such difficulties. So, clients who take on long-term remote learning and working experiences in the age of COVID should expect the unexpected.
According to Darden, flexibility is the key to success — well, flexibility and reliable Wi-Fi access.
“It has been a really incredible experience,” she said. “But, if I've learned anything about making it through this year, it's to be ready to change up plans quickly.”
The DetailsDardens on the Gowww.dardensonthego.com