Preparing Children For Family World Travel


I’m a blather-er. You’ve never heard that word? Apparently it’s a Norse word, but people use it a lot in Ireland. As in “She’s an awful blather-er” to describe someone who goes on-and-on-and-on and never really gets to the point. That’d be me, most of the time. Which is why when I’m writing a blog post I have to make a huge effort to be brief and stay on point. But today I’m going to indulge in a a little navel-gazing introspection and blather for a moment. Feel free to sign off now if you’re not interested.

These days, I sit on the bus on the way home from work, dreaming up and partially writing fun blog posts about the awesome places we’ll be going and things we’ll be doing on our family world travels, but once I walk in my front door all thoughts of eloquent prose dissipate in an instant. I finally understand why artists may choose not to have children. I can’t think about writing while I’m defusing arguments between my kids or thinking about what they might like for dinner and by the time they’re quietly playing or reading, my brain is fried.

This is reaching a critical point at the moment because my kids are very stressed. They’ve known about our trip for over two years now. In Italy, our urban backpacking trip was a “proof-of-concept” experiment for my husband and I to verify to ourselves that our boys would be able to handle this style of travel. They had a blast. They were more dubious about our recent experience hosteling in Ireland but amused by the novelty of this style of accommodation. They’ve been involved in many conversations about where we’re going and what we’ll be doing. They drove the decision to incorporate schooling into the trip. But the reality of what we’re doing seems to be just hitting them now. As I box books and sell furniture around them, they’re starting to appreciate the fact that we’re really leaving Seattle.

So right now, they’re wigging out in all kinds of ways. You might say that I should have expected as much when I sold out their beds from under them (they’re currently sleeping on mattresses on the floor), but they’d grown out of their bunk-beds anyway. Yesterday’s pandemonium came when I asked BigB to empty his desk (because I’m selling it today). The sulking was Olympic standard. He’s never really used the desk as a desk!! Even though I still have a monster packing to-do list, we went for ice-cream and talked about how he was feeling. He’s scared. Mostly about what it will be like when we return. Will he go to the same school? Will he be in the same class as his friends? What will his room look like? (Since I said he’ll get a new, bigger, bed and desk). It’s interesting to me that he has no questions or worries about the trip itself.

CAM was resisting all involvement in our trip preparations. When I asked for his help on Tuesday, he pointed out that it was “unfair of me to expect him to help me pack for a trip that he doesn’t want to do”. (Imagine a big parenting deep breath). I said that since we’d leased our house, whether he wanted to travel or not, we still needed to pack up our stuff. He’d obviously thought about this while I was at work yesterday because he came to me in the early evening with a hug and said “Mom, tell me what I can do to help you for an hour”. I was so happy I nearly cried. Then he continued “And when I’m done, you can let me do what I want to do for an hour without bugging me”. I think a promise an hour of zero nagging while he plays video games in exchange for his help in boxing books is a fair trade. We’ll see how long that agreement lasts – I only need another week or so and then we’ll be done.


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About wandermom

". . .life is short and the world is wide" - Simon Raven I'm not sure I've ever consciously planned a trip based on this sentiment, but it definitely influences my subconscious! I've been traveling as frequently and widely as possible since I finished school. And I love it. I love the research, the planning, the fervent packing and the curiosity of exploring somewhere I've never been before. My husband & I are both Irish - as in born-in-Ireland. But we live in Seattle. We have two boys: wild, boisterous, regular boys. So, since becoming a Mom, I've been a WanderMom. Given our slightly-unusual family situation, routine "visits-to-Grandma" are international trips requiring passports, 10hr-flights and (oh joy!) airport transfers. I have rants, raves and opinions about how, where & why to travel with kids (start them as young as you can, I say!). I hope to learn even more by researching topics which other wandermoms may be interested in reading about on this blog. Passports, pacifiers, diapers and gameboys at the ready - off we go! Contact Info: Email Michelle: michelle (at) murphnduff (dot) org

11 thoughts on “Preparing Children For Family World Travel

  1. J. Is a Bird

    “Mom, tell me what I can do to help you for an hour”.

    Well shucks that almost made ME cry!

    Blather away, it’s good for you to get it off your chest and I’m fascinated to read the ins and outs of this great experiment of yours.

    I’m not planning a round-the-world trip just yet. When I plan the smaller trips that we take with the kids I do always try to take some time to put myself into their shoes and think of what they’re thinking. Thank you for the insight into your kids feelings on what they’re going through.

  2. Amy @ The Q Family

    A great post to give us insight to the preparation especially for the kids. I think a lot of times when I read online about other family travel around the world, it seems easy at the beginning. (not about the logistic but emotionally). It’s refreshing to hear a different perspective of some resistance and how you deal with that. Because I would love to travel around the world but I don’t know if I will have the will power to deal with my family resistance.

  3. wandermom

    J: Thanks for following along. I never know whether a post like this is too living-my-life-in-public or not. It’s good to know you’re interested.

    Amy: I haven’t even started on the “family resistance”. I can’t. I’d fill up my blog complaining which wouldn’t be fun for anyone to read. Really, it’s only our older son who is resisting – but with a vehemence which would bowl over most adults. Thankfully I’m just as stubborn as he is :)

  4. Mara

    So funny because I think of the number of times I’ve heard you steer a conversation back onto the right track…different contexts I suppose. I loved the honesty here.

    What struck me about your post was how emotional boys are. Everyone things that it’s girls who have all the feelings and drama and that’s simply not true. We’ve had lots of behavior issues with our travel this summer and I’ve done some soul searching too. What I always come back to (as I’m sure you do) is that just because it’s not an *easy* choice doesn’t make it the *wrong* choice.

    And on another note – what’s worse than getting ready to go? Nothing my friend. Not a darn thing. And what’s better than the moment when you actually leave? Again, I say, nothing.

  5. jessiev

    i love this. it is so honest. and an hour is SO NOT enough video time! get them the new lego harry potter and do it for as long as they need to. :)

    have you read the new global student, by maya frost? it is amazing. her kids were older teens, but is still a fantastic read, and something that you can use to help think about and guide these kinds of difficult conversations.

    is there anything you can do to give them more ownership of something? maybe they get the money from the sale of the beds/desk and can spend it on something REALLY fun wherever you are going. for instance, on travels with a nine year old, they do scuba and zorbing (cool! and it seems that any kid would be really happy to plan on something like that. :) i’ll be watching your posts closely (don’t be too brief), as we’ll be doing something like this in the next few years, i think.

  6. soultravelers3

    Yes, as one gets close to leaving on a big RTW trip things can get a little crazy, especially when you are moving at the same time. Wait until the last days, it gets surreal and almost impossible to find anything because you are betwix and between.

    I’m very surprised and sorry to hear that you are having such resistance, especially because you have done a lot of travel with your kids and prepared them for so long.

    We didn’t have that problem before we took off on our open ended world tour in 2006 as my daughter was really excited. I think age and personality probably makes the big difference.

    Do they have specific fun things to look forward to on the trip, perhaps that they planned on their own? That was key for us and I know other RTW families with older kids have used that technique to get their tweens and teens excited.

    We planned a spectacular birthday before leaving for our soon to be 6 year old in Paris at the Eiffel tower and an amusement park which was such a hit that we went on to amazing celebrations each year in Salzburg, Stockholm,London & she is busy planning her 10th in Barcelona with a good friend, while we travel through Provence now. She is really excited about going to Asia and learning Mandarin Chinese this fall …..and checking out the food and fun kid things like wearing a uniform to school! LOL

    It’s normal for all families to have moments of resistance while traveling or doing anything I think, but one needs real harmony and team work to make a RTW trip the joyous experience that it is, so I know you will find a way! Enjoy the process!

  7. Theodora (Travels with a Nine Year Old)


    Great to read such an honest post. We’re more than six months in to a longterm round the world, and I’m amazed by your organisation.

    I didn’t really involve my son in the organisational stuff. Probably because he’s younger. But also because I reckoned he would hate it…

    I sort of did a lot of things for him, presenting him with easy choices, and kept it very much focused on what he wanted to take, rather than what he was leaving behind/losing.

    I think one thing that would be very important for the boys to be doing would be sorting out how they communicate with their friends – Skype/email/Facebook – and getting that set up. Getting time slots in that work with the time zones you’ll be in, etc. Z video calls friends fairly regularly, even games online with some of them over Skype, and that’s very important to him.

    In terms of keeping them incentivised, as Jessie says, the good old “So, do you want to learn to scuba dive/climb a volcano/visit Angel Falls” works wonders.

    You’ll do fine… Good luck…

  8. wandermom Post author

    Mara, Mara, Mara. Yes, I guess when I have my project manager hat on I’m extremely focused! I didn’t think about the contradiction there. But ask my husband, when I’m telling a story I ramble. It drives him nuts. And yes, apparently boys have emotions too, how about that? To be honest, they have “moments” of high emotion and then they’re off to the next boy-thing to play with. But I’ve felt it important to try to stop + listen when the frequency of the emotional moments increases – as it has done lately.
    As for getting ready to leave + actually leaving? You betcha girlfriend, we’ll all be excited when we go through that security check-point at SeaTac!

  9. wandermom Post author

    Hi Jessie, Thanks for your suggestions. I really must pick up a copy of the Maya Frost book – that’s the 2nd or 3rd time you’ve recommended it to me.
    My boys do actually have ownership of some things related to the trip + they are excited about surfing in Ecuador + learning to scuba dive in Thailand. When we did a yard sale (with a lot of their “little kid” toys, books and games) recently, they ran a lemonade stand to supply any customers with refreshments while shopping :)
    It’s just that this week, it was time to really pack up their bedrooms and I think they found that jarring but they’re adapting.

  10. wandermom Post author

    Hi Theodora
    (I surfed around your site last night, reading about your adventures. It seems like you guys are having a grand old time).
    Yes, having older kids means that we have to engage them in the prep – or else it’ll be my fault if some favorite thing gets left behind.
    The issue of staying in touch with friends has been getting a lot of airtime in our household recently. My kids are already very digitally adept, they’re on facebook and we use Skype to stay in touch with family (in the UK, Ireland, Portugal + Australia). We’ve even talked to my younger son’s teacher about having him Skype into class from time-to-time during our trip which he’s very excited about.
    And as I said to Jessie, they’re all over the idea of surfing + scuba-diving. I have no doubts that those activities are what will make our trip memorable for them.
    Thanks for your good wishes – and I’ll keep following along with your adventures :)

  11. wandermom Post author

    Hi Jeanne,
    I don’t think it’s so much resistance to travel, really it’s resistance to change and travel always means change so when we’re preparing for a trip, any trip, my older son gets into a funk because yes, his personality is such that change is and will always be, difficult for him. But, he’s always great once we’re on the road and over time, I’ve noticed that travel has helped him manage this better.
    Have a great time in Asia!

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