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.
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.
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.
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.