From Catching Fireflies in Africa at Age 7 to Visiting Ecuador with Her Teenage Daughter During Pandemic, Wilson Puts Passport to Good Use
Kyndra Wilson says she came to “travel lust” honestly through her mother’s side of the family. Her mother and maternal grandmother were both raised in the Ituri Forest in the Central African nation of what is now called the Democratic Republic of the Congo. When Kyndra was turning 7, she and her family visited her grandparents for the summer. They spent most of their time in the small village of Nyankunde where her father, an MD, served at a local hospital.
“I remember dorky things that 6-year-olds care about, like catching fireflies in my grandmother’s little brown medicine bottles,” Kyndra says. “My grandmother was a nurse so I met people who were part of a leper colony that she worked with. I remember mosquito nets and malaria medicine, which tastes awful. We would take it with jam or something, just to get it down.”
Her next global experience came at age 11 when her family spent the summer in Peru. It was there that her father had a “life-changing experience that ruined him on private practice medicine.” When Kyndra was 13, he moved the family from their native Colorado to Quito, Ecuador.
“I was sad until the plane (for Ecuador) took off,” says Kyndra, who lives in Colorado Springs and runs an education-focused strategic marketing company. “My mom could spin things. Whatever the situation was, she would spin it as though we were very fortunate. One time we were on top of an open-air bus and I was sitting on a bag of onions for five hours. When we got off, she said, ‘Oh, another adventure!’ and so that’s how we saw it.”
Growing up in Ecuador was “awesome,” says Kyndra, who attended an international school with kids from all over the world.
“A lot of my life was typical but then a lot of it wasn’t. When medical caravans came down, I would take off school and go into the jungle and translate for them, which was interesting because I certainly had not learned how to explain medical procedures.”
Kyndra’s son Hutson (left) and daughter Jordan (right) standing in front of Machu Picchu, Peru.
When she moved back to the United States after high school, she had little in common with people her age. “I would try and share my experience and they would lose interest pretty quickly so I realized I couldn’t talk about it as much as I would have wanted to because they just didn’t get it.”
Kyndra graduated from Colorado College with a degree in psychology. Over the years, she’s traveled extensively in South and Central America, the Middle East, Europe, and Africa—sometimes alone and sometimes with her husband and their two children, daughter Jordan, 16, and son Hutson, 12.
“I took the kids to Morocco kind of on a spur of the moment before COVID hit,” Kyndra says, noting her husband isn’t as interested in international travel. The whole family did visit Ecuador and housesat in Scotland for six weeks in 2016 and in Wales for a month in 2018.
Most recently, despite the pandemic, Kyndra and her daughter house sat in Ecuador for six weeks.
“It was super fun because we had been on lockdown for quite a while. Since I love to travel, it was really getting to me that we couldn’t go anywhere. On New Year’s Day 2021, I wrote down what I wanted for the next year and I said I would love to do a house sit with Jordan since I only have so much time left with her (at home). I checked the trustedhousesitter.com website to see if there was a house-sitting opportunity in Ecuador. I didn’t talk to Jordan. I didn’t talk to my husband. I just applied. Within two weeks, we were getting on a plane.”
Kyndra and her daughter’s bed in Ecuador, equipped with a mosquito net hanging above for protection against bugs at night.
Mother and daughter shared a bed under a mosquito net on the lower level of the home because the gaps under the doors allowed harmless roly-poly bugs to get in. “A daily activity was to sweep out the bugs,” Kyndra says. “And then sometimes we would fall asleep with fireflies flying around the room.”
She had concerns about COVID-19, but says they were careful about masking and did everything outside.
Kyndra admits she has some of her mother’s ability to spin not-so-pleasant experiences into adventures for her children—like the time she bought toothpaste for the kids at a train station only to discover it was high-adhesive denture cream. They glued their lips to their teeth.
“I tell them no good story ever starts with, ‘Nothing happened and they all went to bed.’ I’m a big believer that life is about the quality of stories you can collect. They love to tell that denture cream story now.”
Kyndra believes their international travel has taught her children to be resilient.
“They realize they have resources within themselves. They’re not always going to have everything handed to them. They’re not always going to be comfortable. They’re not always going to be well-rested and well-fed. They will have to figure things out. I never wanted my kids to think they couldn’t function if things weren’t exactly right. During the trip to Ecuador, if something wasn’t working, Jordan and I would often say we’re just going to have to figure it out.”
Having an updated passport is “a huge priority” for her, Kyndra says. Still on her list: India, Nepal, Turkey, Egypt, and Venice.
“The problem with my list is, I have places that now that I’ve gone I want to go back. There aren’t very many places that I ever truly cross off.”
When she can’t travel, she feels restless. “I like to have a trip on the horizon,” she says. “I search travel plans and look up (airline) tickets just for fun. It’s something I have to keep in front of me.”
When she looks back at the spontaneous trip to Ecuador with her daughter, Kyndra calls it “the best decision I ever made.” Even though it was during the pandemic, “there is nothing about that that I regret.”
“I’m proud of us because I feel like we took what was a bad time and seized the opportunity in a way that make it a really great time. If Jordan had been in school, she would not have had the flexibility that she had but because she was learning online. We took that flexibility and turned it into a really great thing. We took a chance and it was totally worth it.”
Like Kyndra Wilson, Via TRM believes global experiences will change our world. That’s why we created traveler relationship management and travel risk management software solutions that help universities and study abroad advisors empower global experiences. If you or someone you know shares Via’s “why,” tell us. We may feature you here.