Deborah Haile is a native of Eritrea, who grew up in Minnesota and now lives in Miami. A busy working mom, she enjoys traveling the world with her nine-year-old son, Jonah Seyum. Together, Deborah and Jonah are best-selling authors and the CEOs of Tiny Global Footprints, through which they have now published three books they co-authored and two written solely by Jonah.
A fourth grader who enjoys sports, reading, playdates, and video games, Jonah has been to 11 countries. He is now also an award-winning author and the youngest published Eritrean author. Deborah and Jonah were inspired to begin penning stories by the many questions they would receive regarding their travels.
“People would ask, ‘How are you able to make it happen? Isn’t traveling with a kid, especially international travel, hard? Isn’t it expensive? Where should I take my child? What places do you recommend?’ and so on,” says Deborah.
“To help answer these questions and give a taste of the fun of international travel with a child, Jonah and I decided to write a book about one of our trips from Jonah’s perspective.”
The mother-son duo wrote their first book, The Search for Elephants in Thailand, in 2019 after their trip to the Land of Smiles.
“It was such an amazing experience we had to share our story so other families can go and see the world with their children. It was well received (and we had fun writing it!) which led to more and more books as we traveled to more and more countries.”
Deborah and Jonah bring back a story from each of the countries they visit and share it through their books, allowing children to get a taste of the places they’ve visited. In their stories, Deborah and Jonah share their passion and adventures, providing kid-friendly learning exercises in hopes of inspiring other children (and adults) to go on their own adventures.
“Traveling the world is the best classroom one can find—it ignites curiosity, and learning becomes an adventure instead of a chore. For every trip we take Jonah learns to count, say hello, and speak basic phrases in a new language. Travel expands the boundaries of their mind, develops their brains, and reminds kids that they are a part of something much bigger in the world.”
In 2020 Deborah and Jonah published their second book, Finding my Amigo in Cuba. Jonah wrote his two solo books, Basketball or Soccer? and What Does Daddy Do All Day? in 2021 and 2022 respectively. This year, Deborah and Jonah collaborated to write their third travel book, Filling My Pockets With Nakfa in Eritrea, after spending the holidays in the country and bringing in the new year there. Nakfa is the currency of Eritrea, named for the town that was the first major victory of the Eritrean War of Independence.
“The inspiration for the story was the trips Jonah and I took to Eritrea over the last few years and to introduce the Eritrean culture and history to kids of all backgrounds. We wanted to share a beautiful part of Africa, share the story of Eritrean independence, and open children’s minds to the history that has brought their family to the present. Jonah learns all of this (and more!) in the story, which will also help other children better understand African history, culture, and most of all, family values.”
Their latest trip to Eritrea was Jonah’s fourth time visiting the country, and it was very special for him. He enjoyed spending time with family and playing outside with the local children until the lights came on at night. One of the most peaceful and safest countries in Sub-Saharan Africa, it is normal for kids in Eritrea to play outside with neighbors until dark.
“These are the experiences and memories that will live with Jonah for a lifetime and motivate him to keep visiting Eritrea and learning new things every time. After learning about Eritrea from me, dad, and other family members since he was born, he’s able to put it in perspective when he actually gets to see and experience the country for himself, learning more words and phrases, trying new foods, meeting extended family in person, and dancing to the Eritrean music he loves.”
A northeast African country on the Red Sea coast, Eritrea shares borders with Ethiopia, Sudan, and Djibouti. Boasting Art Deco structures and Italian colonial buildings such as St. Joseph’s Cathedral, the capital city, Asmara, is known as Africa’s “Little Rome.”
One of Africa’s hidden gems, Deborah believes everyone should add Eritrea to their bucket list and says there are many great things to do, see, and experience there. In addition to Asmara’s stunning Saint Joseph Cathedral, she recommends checking out:
- Fiat Tagliero, the most iconic building and a futurist-style gas station that resembles an airplane, built in 1938 by Italian engineer Giuseppe Pettazi in Asmara.
- Medeber Market, a unique market famous for turning useless objects like metal oil cans into useful items such as kitchen pans,
- Cinema Impero and Cinema Roma, two old Italian Cinemas that are fully functional today with the most amazing Italian cafes inside.
- Saint Mariam Church, a large, beautiful 1938 Orthodox church known to be very different from all the other churches in Asmara.
For dining in Asmara, Deborah’s favorite spots are Silver Star, which offers seafood, African, and Italian fare, and Spaghetti House, home of the best Italian food. Other must-see cities she recommends visiting in Eritrea are Massawa and Green Island, Keren, Dekemhare, Mendefera, and Qohaito.
Deborah and Jonah are currently preparing for the second season of their podcast, Global Footprints Stories. They are also working on the next book in the Jonah’s Global Footprints series and are brainstorming countries to visit in 2023 as they continue their world tour. Jonah looks forward to writing new books and hopes to inspire other children to follow his footsteps. For more information, visit www.tinyglobalfootprints.com and follow on Instagram and Facebook.