Single mom teaches families how to travel with kids

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Elmeka Henderson: Helping single moms travel with kids

In this episode I interview Elmeka Henderson, creator of blog Adventures in Raising a Vagabond. When Elmeka started traveling with travel groups, she found that many didn't allow kids. She began taking her son abroad on her own and began creating a community to share what she learned about traveling on her own.

Now Elmeka helps families – 90% of whom are single moms – travel with their kids. She educates parents about safe travel with kids, invites them to travel in her groups, and helps to connect them with communities in areas they visit.

Things we discuss:

  • Where to find cheap travel deals
  • How to travel abroad safely
  • How she saves for travel
  • How to find your travel community on Facebook
  • Best travel resources for families
  • How she traveled to Milan for a week for under $2,000

Check out Elmeka's blog here: Adventures in Raising a Vagabond



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Transcript of Like a Mother with Emma Johnson interview with Kickass Single Mom Grant Winner Elmeka

Emma: Hello everybody, I'm very excited to welcome you to May's Kickass Single Mom Grant Winner episode. Every single month I give away $1000 to a single mom somewhere in the world, and that is relevant this month because I am talking to Elmeka Henderson in Ethiopia. She is an American mom, but she lives in Ethiopia, and we'll get to that in a second. This is a program that I've had for a year and a half now, and I give away this money. It's partly to support a kickass single mom's project. She might be doing something philanthropic, something politically active, maybe she's starting a really awesome business like last month's winner who's starting a cleaning service devoted to hiring women, and giving low income women full-time employment. It's just a woman being successful in the world who is a single mom, who is raising the vibration about what it means to be a single mom simply by being her best self.

This work is being recognized now, we have an amazing sponsor GO Banking Rates and is an incredible resource for financial information, and they are committed, GO Banking Rates is committed to helping women and single moms be financially independent. Whatever is going on in your life you know that money is part of it, you want to move, you want a new job, you want to get out of debt, financial retirement, your kids' college, find a new house, move into a better neighborhood, get a car, fix your car, all this requires money, and you probably have a lot of questions, and even if you don't you could stand to learn more. GO Banking Rates is the place to go.

On top of just being an awesome resource for single moms they are giving away, every single month, 10 copies of my best-selling book The Kickass Single Mom. I'm really proud of my book, it came out last year, but GO Banking Rates is giving them away. You can find information on Wealthy Single Mommy, my site, or go to\single mom, and enter to win not only a copy of The Kickass Single Mom, but they're also giving away 10 copies every month of The New York Times best-selling Boss Bitch by Nicole Lapin who's an expert on female entrepreneurs. Here we have two best-selling books, with the swear words in them, that promote female entrepreneurship, and female financial well-being, so I'm really excited about having them as a partner.

I'm also excited about my partner, which is this month's kickass single mom Elmeka Henderson, talking to you ... live for me as I'm recording this, from Ethiopia. Elmeka thank you so much for being here.

Elmeka: Thank you so much for having me Emma. It's great.

Emma: Yes. You just look so gorgeous. You are, as you can tell by your accent, you're an American woman from Philly, but you are living in Ethiopia. You are a world traveler and, we could say, that you are a vagabond, and have an incredible ... it's a business with a service element called Raising Vagabonds. You say it's a company dedicated to helping families travel the world with their children.

Elmeka: Yes, absolutely.

How Adventures in Raising a Vagabond empowers families who want to travel with their children

Emma: Yes. Tell me, very briefly, what does Raising Vagabonds do?

Elmeka: Raising Vagabonds, basically, empowers families to travel the world with their children by their side. What happened is that I was travelling with different travel groups and different things, and when I wanted to share that experience with my son I was told we don't really take kids and it's a liability, and so I started travelling with my son and just by default and sharing things through Facebook people were asking me about the travels. What Raising Vagabonds does is we educate parents on travelling with their kids, but then we also provide opportunities for them to join us on our trips, and we connect them with the communities in that area.

Emma: Awesome. You offer a few different services, all of which are crazy affordable. I'm going to give you some free advice, like quadruple your prices. One of those offerings you say like, "Oh, it's perfect for somebody who randomly bought some cheap tickets online and now you don't know what to do with yourself." It's so funny because that's what I'm doing. Tomorrow, literally, I'm going to Vietnam with my kids because I got these super cheap tickets, and I don't care, I've traveled a lot, so I'm always open to recommendations if you have any. It's taking the fear out of travel for parents and making it clear that it's very accessible, and safe, and fun, and you can do it despite the fact there's not a lot of huge travel services that are targeting that market.

Elmeka: Absolutely, yeah. Our motto is, "If people can have children and raise children then that country is kid friendly."

Emma: That's right. There are places where it's not safe to have kids like I don't want to go to Syria right now, and I feel okay saying that.

Elmeka: Yeah, I think, our only restriction is we don't take families where there's an active war going on.

Emma: Fair enough. I support that.

Elmeka: I've traveled to 35 countries, now it is, and my son has been to 19 different countries. That's only been in maybe the last four years. I didn't grow up being a kid who travels, I didn't get my passport until 10 years ago.

Debunking the myth that black people don't travel internationally

Emma: Tell me about that. What were the attitudes that you had growing up? I do want to bring up, you're a woman of color, you're an African-American woman, and there is a whole other thing that black people don't travel internationally. That's something that I've read about, maybe you want to elaborate on that. I don't know if that comes from the way the world looks at ... What is the root of that? Do you want to address that?

Elmeka: I don't really know. There's a laundry list of things that black people don't do, but we're kind of defying that at this point. It's one of those things that my family definitely stayed close to community, and so we didn't really go a lot of places that we didn't know people. Even within the country there were some areas that black people weren't safe to travel to in the '50s and '60s, and so we developed this habit of staying where we knew people, and if we didn't know anybody that lived overseas we're not going overseas. I think as you see with the black travel movement right now we're starting to debunk that. Black people do travel it's just that we're not seen, and we're not as visible as some of our white counterparts. If you look at the travel blogs and if you look at all of the stuff that's on Instagram you don't see a lot of people of color doing that.

Emma: Yeah, it's beautiful. Tell me, you said 10 years ago you got your passport, and I think you're 36 now. What was that experience? Tell me about that. What inspired that?

Elmeka: I've always wanted to travel. My first international travel experience, I think, it was with my mom's church group to the Bahamas, they found some deal or something. I had family that ... my mom was an Army brat and I think she had been to Germany. My uncle was born in Germany, and so that was the only way you traveled was through the military, and I had no interest in doing that. My aunt she married someone and she traveled a lot through Europe and would send me postcards, that's what got me interested in it, but again didn't come from a family who actively did that so I didn't know where to start.

Elmeka: I was 25, 26 dating this guy, he traveled a lot, and so he was like, "You need a passport. Here's a deal, if you get a passport then we will go to Mexico." That was my first travel as an adult that all I needed to do was get the passport. To me, I didn't know how to do it, I didn't know what the process was, and so we found with some families that that's the biggest hurdle of going through the process of getting the passport. We do a lot of education, we are working to provide more passports to families. We, last Mother's Day, was able to award one family passports for herself and her daughter, so that's something that Raising Vagabonds is trying to push into doing on a more regular basis.

Emma: You are running this business, but you're also a psychologist by education and by profession, that's not a lucrative field traditionally. That's often one of the things that people say. I'll just tell you I got the tickets to go to Vietnam, me and my two kids, three of us for $1200 from New York city, that's bananas, but those deals if you keep your eye on it they're out there all the time. I'm guessing if I want to I could probably spend, for the 12 days we'll be there, like $1000. I'll spend more, but I could do this thing for like $2000, $2500, but people are like they just cannot get out of their heads. You cross an international border and all of a sudden it costs $20,000.

Emma: Even my boyfriend, who is this very involved, sophisticated, intellectual person he has not traveled a ton internationally, and he literally was telling me about a professional thing that's going on with him and he's going to come into, let's say, 8 or $10,000 that he wasn't coming, and he's like, "Oh yeah, this is happening." He's like, "It's good money, it's not like the kind of money where you could go to Vietnam." I'm like, "Well actually, you could go to Vietnam for a whole year or two years." It's this emotional block that people have.

How to afford travel and why traveling is cheaper than many people think

Emma: The first question is, how do you afford to travel? Then, two, just basically reiterate what I just said that it's actually cheap to travel.

Elmeka: The first thing is when we looked in the States we figured out a better way to look for plane tickets. A lot of people what they do is they go to or, that is the worst place you can go. What we learned is that you can go to Skyscanner, or, or Kayak while using private browsing, and that's a whole other thing.

Emma: Oh?

Elmeka: Yeah.

Emma: We'll talk about the tactics in a second. You find deals. Do you say, "Oh, I'm going to go to Sri Lanka," or is it that you just browse the price deals and you're like, "Oh, there's a super cheap ticket to Sri Lanka, I'm going to go there"?

Elmeka: That's basically it. I browse the price deals. Also, the thing is I sign up for, and so they will send me an email and say, "Hey, there's a $400 ticket to Milan tomorrow," so it's a two part thing. I have a regular savings that goes into my savings account just for travel because the problem is when you find a flight deal, when there's $400 ticket somewhere that deal isn't going to wait for you, and so you got to have the money on reserve. Even though it looks like I'm incredibly impulsive a lot of my travel has been planned out for months, and so I've been saving for that impulse to get buy for six months. A lot of it is saving and planning, a lot of it is just looking for those deals, and not saying, "Oh, I want to go to Europe," which is one of the most expensive places that you could fly to.

Emma: And boring, let's be real.

Elmeka: It is really.

Emma: I'm going to go there when I'm old, like when I'm retired.

Elmeka: A lot of my travel centers around food, and nothing in European cuisine appeals to me ,so we haven't really gone there a lot. Yeah, it's one of those things where we found some really great deals and we've had some really good experiences because we've just followed that impulse of going to Kenya for $400, or going to Haiti for $300. Haiti wasn't a place that was on my radar, but I was like, "Hey, why not?"

Emma: Exactly. I love it. You just find the deals and then you figure out the travel afterwards.

Emma: The other part people really get intimidated because they say, "Well, I don't know what to do. I don't know anyone in Haiti, it sounds like all the news out of Haiti is horrible. There's not a lot of information online." Talk to that person.

Elmeka: A lot of it is creating this circle of travelers and so that was the thing. I stopped talking to people who didn't go anywhere because my family never went anywhere, I had friends that didn't go anywhere. Part of it is if you wanted information about stock markets, if you wanted to invest in stock markets you wouldn't talk to that guy who didn't even have a bank account. What you need to do is talk to people who travel, and so the easiest way to do that is through Facebook, that there are incredible communities of people who share all of these tips, and tricks on how to travel, and what to do, and all of that.

How to travel to Milan for one week for less than $2000

Elmeka: I wrote a blog post on my blog, Adventures in Raising a Vagabond, about how much it actually cost us to go to Milan. We found a flight deal, I broke it down, I posted screenshots, and was completely transparent about the amount of money that we spent the entire week that we were in Milan.

Emma: How much was it? I forget, I saw it, but tell me.

Elmeka: It was under $2000 for both of us. It included the flights, the train ticket, the hotels, everything.

Emma: From Ethiopia?

Elmeka: No, it was from Japan. We were living in Japan at the time.

Emma: Japan, which is same distance roughly, right?

Elmeka: Basically, yeah.

Emma: Halfway around the world, a week in a wealthy first world country, eating really nice food, and staying probably at decent places, right?

Elmeka: Yeah. We stayed in Airbnb and I found a hotel on, but I posted screenshots of how much the Airbnb cost, the things that we did. The thing about it activities, like doing a big bus ticket, so those big city sightseeing tours buses that is the cheapest way that you can get around the city for 24 to 48 hours. Some of those tickets include admission, so our ticket included admission to the Coliseum. We didn't pay for that, we rode around the city, got to see all the big sites, we hopped off and on for two days.

Emma: I love that. I love meeting other people and when you're with kids it's easy to meet other travelers, but you're not on a tour. A tour looks like living hell to me, but that's me. Here's the other thing, you don't have to figure it all out.

Elmeka: No.

Emma: I have three nights booked at a decent hotel in Ho Chi Minh City for this coming week and I have a rough idea of where I want to go, and I'll figure it out when I get there.

Overcoming anxieties about traveling abroad with kids

Elmeka: Yeah. Some of that creates anxiety for people, some of them are like, "Oh, I don't want to be in this country," and then they hang out in a hotel room all day because it feels safe. Part of what Raising Vagabonds does is we can create just a list of things to do. We can consult with you and just say, "You know, we could do things from creating a list of things to do, giving you an idea to completely booking everything for you." In a lot of the conversation that we do isn't even, "Oh, you have to pay me for this." It's just, "Hey, we get emails saying I want to go to Italy but I'm really nervous," and then a lot of it is just hey, here's what we did while we were there, and this is what helped me. A lot of the conversations that I have with people is just easing their mind about being able to travel, and feeling comfortable doing that. A lot of what we do with Raising Vagabonds is just empowering people.

Emma: It really is, yes. I can speak as someone, before I had kids I backpacked all around the world, and then when I had kids and I was a single mom, but last year I took the kids to Costa Rica. I was like, "That's just stupid." I stayed at nice hotels and it wasn't spontaneous at all because I was nervous. I was like, "This is stupid. I did it before, we're going to have a real adventure next time," and that's what we're doing. You do need to be empowered.

Emma: Tell me, first of all, let's go back to that trip to Mexico. What was it about that first trip? You got the passport, in this case you had a tour guide, this guy. What was it about that trip that sparked the travel passion in you?

Elmeka: I think the travel passion was always in me and I think it is for most people. I think that the information that we get it creates this fear, and so even going to Mexico it was like, "Wait a minute, don't they have drug lords in there?"

Emma: We do too and they're in Washington, but anyways go on.

Elmeka: What sparked it for me was getting there and actually seeing what the country was like outside of what is being reported on TV, and saying, "This is a beautiful country. They have awesome beaches, have amazing food, and it's not what I thought it was, and so if Mexico isn't what I thought it was then maybe Colombia isn't, or maybe China isn't." It branched me out a little bit more and got me a little bit more comfortable with exploring different areas despite what I hear about it, and despite what I thought I knew. It grew this thing in me of wanting to be curious about these different countries.

Emma: You meet people and people are good, and they're just family people that love their kids, and are nice, and they're usually very proud of those countries that you were scared of and they want to show you all the best parts of it. It's just beautiful human experience.

Elmeka: Exactly. My son is more of a socialite, so he's more gregarious than I am. He's the one that sparks these conversations with people, and then I get end up getting roped into it, and we learn more about everybody. A lot of times we've gotten invited to people's homes, we've stayed in hostels where we had dinner with people, and it creates a sense of community. That's what started the idea of Raising Vagabonds, that we wanted to create these community experiences with families, and even with some of the families that we've taken on these trips they've stayed in contact, and they've gotten their kids together for play dates. One family lived in New York and the other lived in Maryland and they found a way to meet up, and meet one weekend.

Emma: That's so nice.

Elmeka: Yeah, it's an amazing thing.

Emma: It's beautiful. Give me an example of a family that you have worked with that was like a neurotic mess when you met them, and then they saw the light. Tell me about those people.

Elmeka: Most of the people that we work with are both ends of the spectrum. Either they're people who have never left the country, just got a passport for themselves and their kids, and just want to take the leap. Then, we have the other end of the spectrum of people who, "I traveled all over the world before I had my kids, and since having my kids I've been absolutely terrified of taking them out of the country alone."

Elmeka: With both of those situations we had one parent who took that leap and said, "I'm going to leave the country," and she joined us in Ecuador. While we were there she went with everything, but you could see the anxiety of, "I don't really know what to do," and she didn't really do anything outside of the activities that we had planned, but as the week went on I saw her relax, and I saw her looking for things to do.

Elmeka: She was going to join us in a trip recently that we were going to have that ended up getting canceled. She took that time, she was like, "I already have the time off, we're still consulting, so I'm going to figure out somewhere else to go." She ended up going to Thailand. I was speaking with her the entire time she was in Thailand and she had all these things going on. She's like, "I'm going to play it by ear. I'm not really going to do whatever, but I'm watching her Instagram feed and I'm just beaming because she is actually going out there and doing things. Her son's really picky, so she was nervous about that. She's like, "Yeah, he ate pad thai even though he had McDonald's the rest of those days," but-

Emma: Some noodles with some sugar on it. Congratulations. He did it, he did it.

Elmeka: Listen, because in Ecuador we had debacles of him just like, "No, I don't like it," and spits the food out. It was just really awesome to talk with her over those weeks pre-Thailand. She was just nervous, and just indecisive about things, but that's how things go with us that we just talk with them and say, "You got this. Everything will be fine and even if it's not it'll be cool. Hang out in the pool, the kid will be good."

Single mom tips for traveling safely with their kids

Emma: I think that you just by living the example, you are a single mom, you are doing this. How many of your clients are single moms? Let's talk about that about specifically that audience.

Elmeka: I would say about 90% are single moms.

Emma: Address a fear of mine. I was hanging out with some family and they were going to go to a resort in Mexico, whatever, and they got scared because they can't figure out that whole poison alcohol thing down there, and they have one kid. A married couple with one child, and they were really scared about that because, God forbid, there should be two parents in the hospital with a kid, what happens? I was like, yeah, that's actually a legitimate fear. I was like, "Oh wait, I'm one parent with two kids, what's my backup?" Talk to me about that fear.

Elmeka: Absolutely. I used to be very neurotic. When I started travelling with my son actively on the plane I would not eat the same meal that he ate because if we got sick I didn't want both of us being sick, and it would be this thing. Especially, I would be frustrated because it's like, "Dang it, I wanted the chicken."

Emma: Jealous.

Elmeka: I would take those precautions. Now, he's 11 what I do is we have a lot of conversations about safety, we have a lot of conversations about what to do, and who to call. I still hang out, I will meet with friends whenever we travel to certain places, and he's totally self-sufficient so he can stay in a hotel room, or in the Airbnb if I want to go out and run errands or something. We have a lot of plans in place, and we go through a lot of things like what are the rules? Don't let anybody in.

Elmeka: I make sure that no matter where I travel in the country I have a SIM card so that I'm not relying on WiFi to get around, so that if there's an emergency then my son can use the phone to call, especially if we're we go through a lot of the protocols in the country, so he knows what the emergency number is. It is a little frustrating because I'm concerned that it creates this anxiety in him, but part of it is just I need you to be prepared in case. Anything can happen, I can pass out, and I want him to be empowered that if anything were to happen at home you can still do the same things to help keep us safe as you would in another country. It's teaching the kids in going through these drills especially if they're older, what to do in case of an emergency, and who can you seek out for help, and just making sure that you have the plans in place.

Elmeka: I am a bit more careful overseas if I'm traveling or anything with him as far as the drinking and things like that. Especially being by myself it is one of those ... I'm always concerned especially about getting sick.

Emma: It's real life. None of us are immune from any of it. I have to tell you, this just brought up a funny memory. I live in New York City and my daughter a couple years ago, so let's say my kids were six and eight at the time, my daughter's older and she went through this whole period where she was always worried if we were taking the subway that we would all get off together. She's just really afraid of being left alone on the train, for a few months it was a little fear she had.

Emma: I said, "Well okay, but you guys know what to do, if we were to get separated on the subway what would you do?" My daughter is the older and she says, "Oh well, you know, we would find a police officer or a nice looking parent and ask them to call mom," they know my phone number. I said to her little brother who was like six, I said, "Okay well, what do you do if we got separated?" He goes, "And keep your bullshit detector on." Those are both excellent things I want my children to know.

Elmeka: Yes. That was something when we were talking about stranger danger especially traveling to different countries and things like that if there's ever a situation where you're approached by an adult who you don't know, they try to take you, whatever I was like nothing gets the attention of people than a child cursing because people can scream help or whatever. I was like I want to scream as loud as you can, "I don't know this mother fucker!"

Emma: That's great advice. The other advice I gave my kids, and I remember when I was graduating high school, going into college my best friend and I, our moms made us take a self defense class. Another piece of advice, if you're being attacked that you should just piss all over the guy. Just pee because he does not see it coming, and it's disgusting, and so you do that. I told my kids that, they thought that was so funny, but I still think it's good advice.

Elmeka: I wonder if I could pee on command though.

Emma: If you're scared enough you might not have a choice.

Why traveling is just as safe as staying home

Elmeka: I know. Being concerned about your kids, especially when traveling alone, is a real concern, and I'm not always in the position to meet up with friends in different places, but the thing that I always come back to and I tell a lot of my parents is 99% of the time nothing is going to happen. That everything is fine and the likelihood of something happening is just the same as it would be at home. Go through the same precautions that you would have if you're at work and your kid's at school and there's an emergency what plans do you have in place?

Emma: Even less, I always think of that statistic when it comes to auto accidents. You're much more likely to have an auto accident close to home, your guard is not up, and you're just on your routine drive back from the grocery store than if you are on a big trip, which is when your guard is up. The other thing is medical care is 99% chance better outside of the United States, and cheaper.

Elmeka: I had a medical emergency in Peru and the care that I got was so much better than I got in my random visits to the emergency room in the United States.

Elmeka: There's a lot of things that you can put in place, there's the Smart Traveler program that the Department of State has that if you're going overseas. I always encourage my parents to get travel medical insurance and also traveler insurance because a lot of that is ... because of that policy if there's an emergency or something like that then they automatically notify the families that are back home.

Elmeka: You can place things on your phone. I saw something on Pinterest where you make a note on your phone, "In case of emergency contact," blah, blah, blah, emails, phone numbers, whatever. You screen shot it and set that as your lock screen, so that if anybody finds your phone, or if you pass out and you're in another country then you can also use Google Translate and translate that into the language, so that if you pass out the first thing people do is look for your phone, or look for your ID, or something. That information is on there so that if something happens to you then you can at least get some type of help while you're overseas.

Emma: Do you have all this information on your blog somewhere?

Elmeka: Yeah, we're working on a few things, so I have things on my blog about how to travel with kids, how to move overseas with kids. We're working to update those tips like that.

Emma: Yeah, that's just practical. I didn't know that, those are really interesting, and easy, and free, and all kinds of good stuff.

Elmeka: Exactly.

Emma: I love it. Elmeka, tell me about what's next for you over the next year. I know that you have a few group family trips planned, mostly single moms, which is awesome. They're promoted on your website, so there's what? Colombia, Costa Rica, and what was the other one?

Elmeka: We have Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba. We're restructuring a lot of things. We have wanted to focus attention on providing passports, and so a lot of it, what we're doing, is working on partnerships to help provide more passports for families. We got a really good response with the contest that we did last year, and so one of the things that we said was we really wish that we could have gave them to everybody. Part of this grant would help provide passports for more families this year.

Emma: That's so interesting because you said that's a psychological and bureaucratic barrier that people have, and once you get that passport well then you can just go and keep an eye out for the deals, right?

Empowering families to take the leap and experience international travel and culture

Elmeka: Exactly. Then also, working on sponsorships and making it a little bit more affordable for our families. Our prices are way more affordable than anybody, any group trip ever. We've looked, and we looked at a lot of different places with the exception of Groupon or Living Social, places like that that they have sponsors. That was what it geared towards, that it was if I could afford this as a single parent. We have payment plans and all of that, we wanted to make it accessible for as many people as possible.

Emma: The other thing I love about your program there's always a service element, and that is the best. Do you guys take care of it?

Elmeka: Yeah.

Emma: You guys are doing such good work. I am really proud to know you. What you are doing is important. You, one, you're living it, you are living what you preach. You are addressing needs, you're addressing their fears. They're afraid to go alone, they're afraid to get the passport, they're afraid. This is serving the whole damn world. Our children are growing up in a global world. You cannot afford just to be looking at the United States anymore, that's just not a way to live in the world anymore.

Elmeka: American children are at a severe disadvantage because we're taught about the world in this abstract fashion, that gap years and studying abroad is not as encouraged as much as it is overseas, and so changing the culture of our children.

Elmeka: My son, we went to China over the summer when he was still in the United States, and he came back with this summer project of what I did this summer. The kids were like, ""You're lying, you didn't go," because it was just this is, "Why would you go to China? That's not true, you Photoshopped those photos."

Emma: That's so funny. I remember when I was in college I snuck into Cuba, it was illegal then, so it was 20 years ago. I illegally smuggled a bunch of cigars out and the State Department confiscated them, and they have a file on me. I need to write about that, but it's a whole story. I was so proud of this adventure that I had because it was very different than now. There was no Westerners there at all, and it was wonderful. People, they had nothing, but they were so generous. Anyways, I came back and I had this stupid office job at this engineering firm. There's this older woman, I'm like, "Oh, I went to Cuba, isn't that fabulous," she's like, "Why would you ever go to that communist country?" I was like, "Oh, this is not my audience."

Elmeka: Some of the travels that we've had in some of the countries that we go to is just looking at it and saying, "Okay, here in this country these kids are doing these things, and how do we create a link with Colombia with the United States?" That's what our service projects are geared towards, that it's connecting these children so they learn a little bit about us, and we learn a little bit about them. When we were in Colombia the kids taught them different games, and we taught them how to make slime.

Emma: I saw that. How did that go over?

Elmeka: It was very messy because it was very hot in Colombia, and we didn't take that into account, we didn't really think about that. It just was everywhere, but the kids loved it. We tried to explain the chemistry behind it and all of that, but the kids there loved it. We bought school supplies locally, so we were investing back into the community, and gave the kids all the school supplies that they needed for that youth program.

Elmeka: The kids enjoyed it because we got to see other kids while they were on the trip besides the ones that they were traveling with, and so that's what was really awesome for us too, that they got a day of just hanging out and being kids, and not being shuffled around with their parents. We teach them a lot of history about the country, we give them a quick tour of the city, and then there's some fun activities, there's a lot of relaxation, but then there's also that community aspect of you should learn about the culture, you should learn words in Spanish, or whatever. That's just one of the things that we want to teach you to have that type of engagement and that connection to that country instead of just, "Oh, we went there for a few days and ate some really good food."

Emma: Exactly. I remember this woman that I met, she's a writer, and adopted some kids from Africa, and went to a really poor community. She was already a mom, so she already had this instinct about kids. She went into the community, and she was going to do a bunch of service there for a couple months, I think, it was an orphanage situation. Her stroke of genius that she brought a whole bunch of whoopee cushions with her, and this is perfect because they're cheap, you could pack them easy, and what kid does not like a fart joke?

Elmeka: In any language a fart is funny.

Emma: Yes, the universal language is scat humor, for all ages. Elmeka Henderson, your business is Adventures of Raising a Vagabond, and it's more than a business. This is a service project, service is baked into everything that you do, this is your passion. I am just very glad to know you. Thank you for the work you're doing.

Elmeka: Thank you so much. It was so great to talk with you today.

About Emma Johnson

Emma Johnson is a veteran money journalist, noted blogger, bestselling author and an host of the award-winning podcast, Like a Mother with Emma Johnson. A former Associated Press Financial Wire reporter and MSN Money columnist, Emma has written for the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Forbes, Glamour,, U.S. News, Parenting, USA Today and others. Her #1 bestseller, The Kickass Single Mom (Penguin), was named to the New York Post's ‘Must Read” list.Emma regularly comments on issues of modern families, gender equality, divorce, sex and motherhood for outlets like CNN, Headline News, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Fox & Friends, CNBC, NPR, TIME, MONEY, O, The Oprah Magazine and The Doctors. She was named Parents magazine’s “Best of the Web,” “Top 15 Personal Finance Podcasts” by U.S. News, and a “Most Eligible New Yorker” by New York Observer.A popular speaker, Emma presented at the United Nations Summit for Gender Equality. Read more about Emma here.


  1. Veronica Mitchell on June 11, 2018 at 7:05 am

    Wow, this is helpful. Thank you for sharing your insights. I will share this to my single mother friend who will travel with her two small children overseas next month. Thanks again.

    • Emma on June 11, 2018 at 7:19 am

      Thank you! Yes, Elmeka is awesome!

    • Francine Nicole Ott Rowe aka nikki on August 15, 2018 at 6:30 am

      Thanks my real name is Francine Nicole Rowe my soon be ex husband made a fake name up there so he doesn’t want me going on my way without him it’s just my kids and I ;)

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