Once we had decided to backpack around the world for a year with our four boys and we had gotten over our initial amazement with ourselves, the next question was when?
For a variety of reasons we initially thought we would give ourselves a lead time of a year and a half. We could save a little more money. No one would be in high school. More time to plan.
Then a year and a half started feeling like a very . . . long . . . time. We didn’t need that long to plan. We could travel on a tighter budget. What if something happened in that time that didn’t allow us to travel. We would regret delaying the trip.
It was important for the kids to finish the school year and for us to have time to rent our house, sell our cars, arrange a leave of absence from work, etc. All that could easily be done in the 8 months before the end of the school year. So, that has become our new departure date – mid June 2018.
As we were discussing all of these things we started planning. Not hardcore planning but gentle, fun, YouTube-watching kind of planning. We got the kids to pick one or two places they really wanted to visit on our trip (with no commitment we would go there), we bought a map of the world to hang on the wall and a globe so we could all understand the three-dimensional relationships between our potential destinations.
A few things have become apparent in this first phase of research:
- As crazy as this idea seemed at first, there are lots of other families who have done it and documented their experiences on blogs and vlogs for our benefit.
- No one ever – EVER – regrets taking a trip like this. In fact, most families seem to find a way to continue the adventure. Many have continued to travel for 5 + years.
- It has quickly become apparent that a year is not a very long time. You could spend a year exploring one country. We will not be able to go everywhere we want to go.
- It is very easy to take kids out of school for a year. Where we live (Ontario, Canada), you don’t have to follow a curriculum while you are away or even document their learning activities. They will not be held back. (high school is different)
- Traveling with kids is going to be awesome and different. I can’t wait to see how my boys react to and think about their experiences, but I will have to let go of the idea that we will be able to travel like I used to. Chances are, we will travel at a much slower pace.
At the risk of looking like a complete moron when we are hit by the reality of our actual trip, here is how we envision our adventure:
- Our route: We plan on starting in Europe in the summer since it is the coldest place. Likely we will spend more time in cheaper areas like Eastern Europe and Portugal. Perhaps we will move east to west across Europe, then south to Morocco. Head across to Egypt, then up to Turkey and the Middle East. Oman is a potential stop on the way to India and Nepal. Thailand, Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam are on the list before heading down to Malaysia where we will visit with my cousin Kevin. Indonesia? Australia? – maybe. A higher priority right now is to save a few months at the end for South America. There is not a country that doesn’t peak our interest there but Chile, Peru and Equador are big attractions. Central America? – maybe.
- Accommodations: I would love to be able to find family-friendly hostels along the way. I have so many great memories of staying in hostels on my previous trips, and there is probably no better place to meet other families. But since we are six, I would imagine that Air BnB will be our go-to. I don’t anticipate we will use many hotels.
- Food: Very few restaurants. A lot of grocery stores. We just won’t have the money. Everyone carries a water bottle and container for snacks.
- Funds: We are trying to do this on the cheap. Some families find a way to make it work on less than $100/day. Others will spend 10x that amount. Our goal is to spend $200/day on average, not including flights. This will be insufficient in places like Europe, and excessive in places like India. We are using savings to fund this adventure. I came to the conclusion that I was more than happy to forego a cushy retirement for an opportunity like this.
- Packing: Carry-on only. We will all have a backpack that is less than 40L (about 20L for the kids). Linds and I will also have some kind of day pack. The boys will be responsible for their own stuff. Minimalism is the word. Less stuff to keep track of, the ability to run to catch a train, simpler and less expensive to fly. What do we really need? A few changes of clothes, some light hikers and sandals, something to read ebooks, a journal, a camera. We are going to add a laptop or two for blogging and vlogging and to help with the kids “world-schooling”.
- World School: haven’t done a ton of research on this yet, but none of the boys’ teachers are at all worried about our plans. On the one hand, I am quite confident that Linds and I can effectively guide the boys through various fun projects and assignments on the road that will stave off juvenile brain deterioration. On the other hand, since there are four of them, it would be awesome to find a program that is more self-directed requiring less of our supervision. In general, it seems like about 2 hours of home-schooling is the equivalent of a full day at school.
So, that is where we are at. About 4 weeks of thoughts. Have we had any second thoughts? Nope 🙂