Jacob (1999), Sam (2006) and Mariña (2003)
On Foot in Spain Family (1999-2018)
By: Nancy L. Frey
Combining family and work life is inevitably a juggling act. Jose and I have been fortunate to be able to bring both together and over the last 19 years by frequently incorporating one of our three children into our tour experiences. Growing up with the business has proven to be extremely rewarding with many unexpected and happy outcomes for us, our kids and our travelers. Looking back over the years I marvel to think of walking through two pregnancies, bringing the babies and watching the little ones grow up picking up sticks or dropping leaves down streams as they walk along the Camino or meeting hundreds of people from all over the world. It’s been quite an adventure and we’d like to share with you some of these On Foot Family memories and show you how our family has grown over the years.
As one client shared with us:
“We are so grateful you are in the business of building memories and relationships. Your family approach to life and work transforms thinking and inspires us.
Ever grateful, Connie & Bill”
Children offer spontaneity, openness and a unique vision of the world which is less inhibited than that of an adult. Seeing experiences through their eyes can be very renewing and enlightening. Anyone who has children (or doesn’t!) knows that it’s a risky activity letting a potential loose cannon, such as a child, free in your business. The kids always understood what we expected behavior-wise when we’re on a trip and they learned to be good hosts from an early age rather than the ‘center of attention’. Consequently, it has worked very well over the years and generated an incredibly positive reaction from those who travel with us. In the photos below are Jose, Marina and “Pepito” in 2005 (left) and Sam with plums in 2014 (right).
How did we do it?
We launched On Foot in Spain on the internet in 1999 the same year our eldest, Jacob, was born. I should mention that Jose and I walked the Camino in June 1998 leading a group of university students when I was three months pregnant with Jacob and that is how he got his name. Jacob is another way of saying Santiago as is James, Jacques or Jaime. We ran our first tour in 2000 when Jacob was about 1 year old. We decided it was best if we got into the swing of things first before adding in extra, unpredictable elements. He made his debut in 2001 at the end of a long Camino tour and it was a delight to see him and have the clients meet him. We thought maybe in the next year we could incorporate him into a tour. In 2002 he joined a youth group from New York City we led along the Camino, picking up new lingo from them and then started to come regularly on tours. In the photo on the left, Jacob is handing out a chocolate to a member of a wonderful women’s hiking club that has joined us on two trips (2003) and on the right Jacob is helping Jose prepare a picnic atop Monte Pindo on our Galicia hiking tour (2005).
Having the kids on board through two pregnancies, babyhood, as toddlers, as growing children and now even as teenagers has been a great adventure. I was very fortunate that my pregnancies were uncomplicated. I’m one of the lucky women that never experienced nausea or morning sickness of any kind during my three pregnancies. Leading walking tours was also a great way to stay fit while pregnant and I was able to walk up to the seventh month with both Marina and Sam. In the photo on the left, taken in Sept 2003 at the Sierra del Perdón along the Camino de Santiago, I’m 6 months pregnant with Marina. On the right, Marina helps me explain the picnic on a Portugal tour in 2006 when I was 4 months pregnant with Sam.
Marina and Sam were also “planned pregnancies” in the sense that we knew we had a window of opportunity to make family-life and work compatible and this is why they both are born within a few days of each other – Marina December 5th and Sam on November 27th. You see they both needed to be travel-ready babies by the time the tour season started in April or May. Sure enough both Marina and Sam made their debut on the Camino, outside of the womb, when they were 4.5 to 5 months old. Below on the left, Marina and I take a break at the picnic in 2004 while an attentive Cynthia keeps us company. On the right precocious Sam began driving the bus in 2007.
I breast fed both of them for about 8 months so needless to say that provided additional challenges (and somewhat comical in retrospect) in tour leading. As my role is typically to walk with the group and Jose handles everything behind the scenes organization-wise, how was I able to maintain breast feeding, walking and leading all at the same time? Jose has this knack of always appearing when you most want or need him. Sure enough, at just the right time, Jose would show up in the van with Sam or Marina and we would have a peaceful moment of rest and nourishment. Sometimes I look back and think, how did we do it?
Some of my favorite photos from this period are the ones clients have sent of me explaining Jose’s great picnics with Sam or Marina tucked under my arm looking very interested and curious about what is on the table. Marina helps me explain the picnic on the left in 2004 and Sam on the right in 2007.
Babies are delightful and very unusual to have on a tour. Somehow the babies were all ‘good’ and simply brought joy to the groups – gentle cooing, singing to themselves and open-eyed curiosity. As one client wrote about Sam when he was 6mths old:
Dear Sam, Thank you for being the bright light that shone on us as we made our way along the Camino. You made our journey a very special one. Hugs and kisses, The Group
These are two photos of dear Sam taken in 2007. On the left, that’s how he looked greeting people when he got on the bus (note the dear Australian koala by his side!) and on the right hanging out with the girls during free time.
Or about Mariña:
“Mariña made my Camino most unforgettable. I wish I had more time to hold her.” Paul
On the left in May 2004, Paul holds Marina and, on the right, Sarah in June 2004.
To keep reading about how the On Foot Family evolved, continue here On Foot Family, Part II.