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planning a RTW trip with two kids

Posted on | September 21, 2008 | 13 Comments

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Blue Earth
Courtesy:
NASA / Goddard Space Flight Center

Have you ever wanted to just pick up sticks and go? To pack your belongings in a bag and travel the world? I have. In fact, it’s been a lifelong dream of mine. I have done so once, when the WanderDad and I moved from Ireland to the U.S. in 1995. When we packed those bags, we were just ‘WanderHim’ and ‘WanderHer’. With everything we owned packed into two backpacks, credit card and green card in hand, we left, with no set plan for where we were going. We thought we’d start by validating our green cards and working in the U.S. for a ‘couple of years’ and then continue traveling. Thirteen years and two kids later, we’re still here. An unfinished journey beckoning during wet, dark Northwest winters.

Seattle Skyline Rain
Photo:
Clairity

We floated the idea of packing up and traveling to our children two years ago – when CAM was just finishing elementary school. This seemed like a perfect transition point: we could travel for a year and he could start middle school 15 months later rather than three. It was April, we could be on the road by June. BigB dashed to get his toothbrush as we discussed the idea while CAM (who is our home-body), dug in his heels and resisted the notion with all of his might. We capitulated. If we were going to travel, everyone would have to be on board for the trip to have any hope of success. In fairness to him, we were springing the idea on him with very little notice.

But I didn’t give up on the idea and neither did the WanderDad. It came up in conversation with some regularity, usually with some degree of wistfulness. And then the planets aligned. Or rather CAM seemed to warm up to the idea. His ardent “never”, became a “maybe”. That was all that I needed. I was so excited. And so, we started working on a plan.

Firstly, I needed to verify to myself that our children would be able to manage a trip which would involved carrying their own packs, staying in budget accommodation and using public transit. And so, in planning our trip to Italy this year, we chose to follow this style of travel. They did fabulously.

Next, we met with some friends who had just returned from an extended trip to South-East Asia. It was a good move. Their advice: “start planning early, you won’t believe how many details there are to organizing a trip like this”. We’ve set our tentative departure date as June 2010, to coincide with CAM finishing middle school. Although, if we can go earlier, we will.

We talk about “the trip” at least once a week. The boys are not quite as excited as I am, but they’re definitely eager. Questions are phrased as “Mom, when we’re traveling…”. What a development. They have questions about where we’re going to go, how they’ll stay in touch with their friends, and schoolwork – prioritized in that order. :)

Monkey Dancing

At this stage I’m pre-planning. I’m reading about families who have taken trips like this: sixintheworld and soultravelers3. Daniel Glick’s Monkey Dancing, his tale of his five-month trip with his son and daughter, is my preferred bedtime read.

So far, we have decided that we will:

  • Visit Africa, Asia and South America.
  • Try to follow summer temperatures to help with packing and with general comfort.
  • Adopt a slow-travel style of travel where we stay in one place for 1-2 weeks and take day trips to explore that country, city or region.
  • Prepare for the trip by taking language or skills classes.
  • Integrate adventures, experiences and possibly more learning experiences into the trip itself.
  • Volunteer.

Countries on our ‘must-see’ list include: Tanzania, Madagascar, South Africa, India, Egypt, Jordan, Chile, Laos, Vietnam, Thailand, Japan, China.

Next up: detailed research into these countries so we can start thinking about where to stay and what to see and do. If you have ideas, suggestions or advice, I’d love to hear from you.

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Comments

13 Responses to “planning a RTW trip with two kids”

  1. Maggie
    September 21st, 2008 @ 3:29 pm

    Hi Michelle,

    I can’t even describe how excited I am for all of you about this trip! Good luck with all the planning!! What a major task. I look forward to hear more about all the stages of your travelling. It is awesome of you to share all this and I envy your “little” ones so much for this opportunity!
    Please tell everybody Hi from me and all the best for your family,
    Maggie

  2. Jessie V
    September 21st, 2008 @ 6:04 pm

    This sounds fantastic! I’m envious! We’re headed that way in a few years…

  3. Angela
    September 24th, 2008 @ 4:35 pm

    Michelle,

    This will undoubtedly be trip that will change your kids’ lives! I love intrepid parents like you who understand the importance that travel plays in shaping a child’s world view.

    I’m glad to see Laos on your “must-see” list. When my partner and I traveled there we made friends with many locals who made us promise we’d come back with children when we had them! Someday I think it will be a blast for us to have a village-full of Lao uncles and aunties!

  4. Michael
    September 24th, 2008 @ 6:51 pm

    We have the same conversations in our family – although, I don’t know if we would try to pull of an around-the-world trip. Maybe just move to South Africa or Argentina for a year, and travel around the region. We don’t have two boys, just one – so, maybe a little easier, although he’s just three.

    In any event, loved to read about your plans – and maybe you’ll inspire us to hit the road one day too.

  5. Mara
    September 24th, 2008 @ 8:53 pm

    Michelle, I look forward to hearing more about your plans. I vote for India as a must-see country with lots of opportunities for volunteering.

    Another blog you might want to check out is Jenns Family Travels (http://intelligenttravel.typepad.com/it/jenss_family_travels/index.html). I get the feeling their trip is pretty well-subsidized (it’s got the words “book contract” all over it) but you might get some insights. They are in Asia right now.

  6. Sandra Foyt
    September 26th, 2008 @ 2:53 pm

    That’s wonderful that your whole family is on board with the adventure. Unfortunately, my husband can’t take long breaks from his surgical practice, so we’ve had to settle for traveling when we can.

    We did take a 2 week + trip to southern Vietnam, and it was amazing. I just wish we’d had more time to explore the North. Before the trip, I picked up a few children’s books – including a cook book – set in Vietnam. They definitely added to my kid’s appreciation of the experience.

    Looking forward to following your journey!

  7. Debbie Dubrow
    September 27th, 2008 @ 10:21 pm

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts. This was beautifully written (and you think you’re not a writer)

    Perhaps you’ll inspire us to get ourselves out of town for a more extended trip too. We took a 6 month trip back in 2000 (pre kid) and we’ve had several one-month trip, but I’d love to do something more open ended.

    On our long trip, I planned just the first month in detail. After that, we got into the rhythm of traveling and it wasn’t hard to figure out what we needed to do and know before showing up in a new city.

  8. Debbie Dubrow
    September 27th, 2008 @ 10:21 pm

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts. This was beautifully written (and you think you’re not a writer)

    Perhaps you’ll inspire us to get ourselves out of town for a more extended trip too. We took a 6 month trip back in 2000 (pre kid) and we’ve had several one-month trips, but I’d love to do something more open ended.

    On our long trip, I planned just the first month in detail. After that, we got into the rhythm of traveling and it wasn’t hard to figure out what we needed to do and know before showing up in a new city.

  9. Jordan
    September 29th, 2008 @ 6:16 pm

    oh boy oh boy! What a wonderful idea to just put the date out there so that everyone can look forward to it. I’m so excited for your family.

  10. Heatheronhertravels
    October 4th, 2008 @ 6:35 am

    So exciting! I have friends who took a year out to travel with children. They said that in South America everyone was horrified that they could be going somewhere as dodgy as south east Asia and in SE Asia everyone thought they were mad to be going somehere as dangerous as S America. But they had a great time in both.

    If you are seriously interested in Ecuador, then its a fantastic country which has a wide variety of things in a smallish country. I’ve also heard that Costa Rica is a great place for families, with similar variety. Let me know if you start planning Ecuador & I’ll give you some tips. I’d definitely take in a jungle experience. This jungle lodge was owned by the person who organised our trip & I heard it’s great for wildlife.

    http://www.neotropicturis.com/

    Also take a few days in Banos – fantastic town with loads to do. Hiking up mountain trails, mountainbiking, waterfalls to swim in, hot swimming baths and all under a semi-active volcano. This was a great hotel we stayed in, run by an American couple.

    http://www.posadadelarte.com/

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  13. Guy McLaren
    May 24th, 2010 @ 11:32 pm

    See you on the road, we’ll be doing Africa and Europe at the end of the year. We will be on a deadline but this is the prepatory trip for the round the world in 10 years which will follow three years later

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