These are some of the questions people typically ask us, and the answers. If you have a question that is not answered on this page, e-mail us and we’ll try to answer it personally. If we get enough similar questions, we’ll add them to the list!
How can you afford a trip like this?
How does anyone afford anything? By making it a priority.
The obvious answers: spend less than you make and save like crazy… or… reinvent yourself and your career so that you can live and work anywhere.
For us, it was a process over several years of saving our stock options through work, setting aside as much cashy-money as we can and figuring out how to do it cheap, and then, how to do it cheaper.
Anyone can travel if they are willing to do with less (now and while traveling) and if they are willing to take the time to really plan it out, set goals and make it happen.
The other piece of the puzzle is this: find a way to make money WHILE you are traveling. You know, like making your trip into a really cool Virtual Field Trip that families everywhere will want to share with their kids!
Our first year on the road was funded almost entirely out of our savings. In our second year we worked to find ways to balance the need to work with the desire to travel by creating a more location independent career path. For now, Tony does database development and design and iphone/ipad programming while I do freelance writing, editing and content management as well as educational consulting and curriculum design.
Our life is an exercise in flexibility and we’re constantly renegotiating the terms in order to live debt free and on the road for this phase of life.
Is it safe?
Is what safe? Traveling with children? Staying home with children? Taking them on a field trip to New York City?
Safe is relative, isn’t it?
The murder rate in NYC is much higher than that of rural Mexico, but most American families would be far more afraid to take their kids to Mexico.
While staying at home and being “safe” my boys have had their heads stapled back together, their lips stitched, fingers broken, their eyeballs lacerated and the medical equivalent of super glue applied to their foreheads.
While traveling, we’ve had broken a foot in Guatemala, spent a night in the hospital in Thailand, and needed stuff taped up a couple of times by professionals: about the same as “home.”
Of course, we keep abreast of political and military threats in the countries we plan to pass through. If the American government has issued travel advisories for a particular country or region, we’ll heed those.
For instance, we didn’t cycle across the top of Africa between Tunisa and Morocco, as we’d originally planned, due to the civil unrest in Algeria. We are making every effort to be reasonably “safe.”
It was my father’s observation that most people, regardless of color, creed, or nationality are just doing their best to live their lives, care for their families, and do good in the world. They are not out to harm us or anyone else. This has proved true in our experience. In light of that thought, we will think the best of the “rest of world” folks and understand that there are exceptions to every rule. Safe is relative.
Where do you stay when you’re on the road?
We have two fabulous Hilleberg tents (Stalon Combi 4s with a connector) that will hold up in the worst of weather. We stay dry and warm.
We recently added a fleet of six Hennessey Hammocks to our gear pile, allowing us to hang the children like bats between trees anywhere we find them.
Where do we stay IN the tents? Wherever we can: yards, fields, churches, campgrounds, wherever it is flat. We spend some time in hotels and hostels as well, but the one place we know we can cut the budget and not lose any sleep (pun completely intended) is here. A night in a tent is a cheap night. The children, by the way, think this is a fabulous way to live. They’ve nicknamed the tent “chenille,” French for “caterpillar,” which is what it looks like set up.
We’ve also rented gorgeous apartments for a song in Prague, CZ, Hammam-Sousse, TN, Marseille, FR, Cape Cod, USA, Phuket, Thailand, San Marcos, Guatemala and beyond. We’ve gravitated to renting places to use as home bases for a few months at a time and going deep instead of wide for a while.
We’ve used warmshowers.org to arrange home stays with folks all over Europe and we’ve hosted a few from that site as well.
We love hostels, though we generally avoid hotels, at least in the first world. In Asia, we love guest houses. The short answer: we stay where we can, with our longest stint in one place being about six months.
Where are you going?
Good question! Anytime we hit the road we have a basic plan, but we’re famous for deviating from it!
The best part of any adventure is found in the unexpected! The little serendipities that land us in the yards of benevolent strangers who become life long friends, or find us swept off the trains by someone who evidently knows us even though we’ve never met him and conveyed to their home for a delightful week in the German countryside, or popsicles and free camping on the North Sea provided by folks who never even told us their names; these are the places that we are definitely going, even though we’d never have guessed it when planning the trip.
At the time of this writing, September 2012, we’re exploring Southeast Asia with Thailand as a base. We’ll be in the area until December, then head south through Indonesia… hoping for Australia and NZ before the end of next year. After that, who knows?
What are you doing about food?
People everywhere eat. Food is available in every corner of the world – if you are willing to adjust your expectations. We will eat what locals eat.
When cycling, we’d stop every morning and load up on our food for the day, cooking it as we went with our little Optimus Nova+ stoves.
Our favorite places to shop are local markets where we can rub elbows with the locals. We’re not big fans of super markets on any continent.
In the likely event that we find ourselves stranded in a foodless land, we will break into the two days worth of spare provisions that we carry for just such an event. Even in civilized Canada we got stranded. No one in their right minds would travel with four kids without spare provisions – they eat like hogs and they mutiny if not fed at LEAST three times a week! (no hate mail please, we’re joking!)
How do the kids ride?
On bikes. Ha ha.
We bicycled only the first year of our travels, 2008-2009, through Europe and down into Tunisia, in North Africa. Since then we’ve branched out to other forms of travel, eventually we’ll work our way back to our bikes, I’d imagine!
Hannah and Gabe have been riding alone, fully loaded, since they were eight and ten. We started them out on short rides with light loads and have worked up to where we are now. They each carry a set of small panniers and a roll bag with a tent on the back of their bikes.
The little boys rode Adams Trail-A-Bikes around Europe and N. Africa. These are contraptions with one wheel and pedals that hang off of the back of our bikes. They can pedal when they want to, rest when they need to, and provide that extra little boost on a long, steep climb. In this way they travel in style and feel like they are part of the adventure (because they are) without being a danger to society. They are now learning to ride on their own and carry a light load.
Note to other cyclists: A CamelBack style hydration backpack reduces the swerve associated with kids trying to free a water bottle from its harness between their legs and drink with their heads tilted back, peering out of one eye at the oncoming traffic. It also provides a place to stash an emergency banana.
What about the kids’ schooling?
Is there any better education than travel?
Having been thrown into the back of a van and schlepped all over North America myself as a child, I can answer heartily: “No!” There is no shortage of learning taking place when we’re on the road. History, Geography, Art, Literature, Music, and Languages are no brainers.
The only place that could have been construed as falling short during the year we were “off” and cycling would have been math and formal science. We picked up the slack in that department when we found ourselves in one spot for a week or more by schooling intensively during that time. Of course there was plenty of practical science and consumer math taking place.
Now that we’re off bikes and have been traveling in a van, with backpacks and on overland by every means possible, school has evolved. We have a structured schedule, four days per week, and our subjects include: Language Arts, Mathematics, Literature, History, Science, Geogoraphy, Art, Music & Foreign Language. For those of you inclined to worry, all of our children have taken standardized tests and are evaluated annually by a professional educator with 30 years and eight grade levels under her belt.
There is no clear line between “school time” and “rest of life” in our family. Life is learning. Are there “holes” in their educations? Of course! Every education has “holes.” It’s impossible to teach the entire body of human knowledge in a lifetime. We’re covering all of the usual basics and learning as much as we can wherever we are.
Where do I start planning my own adventure?
1. Find your passion. What do you love to do? How do you want to travel? What do you want to see? Start there.
Let your adventure grow out of that which you already love. Maybe your adventure won’t be a trip at all, but a change of life – we know one family currently planning to move to a sustainable farm and live off of the grid. They won’t be going very far, but it will be a very big adventure!
Most folks don’t stop long enough to even consider what they WANT to do – they just live life on autopilot, doing the next thing. What do you WANT to do? Who do you WANT to be? Who were you created to be?
If your family is more than just you, find a common interest and build on that so that your adventure will draw you together, not push you apart.
2. Set a date. Don’t let your dreams stagnate in the slough of despond known as “someday.”
Someday, my friends, will never come. Today is all we have.
Four years ago we set a date of May 2008. Why May? We’ve always taken a trip for our anniversary so it seemed consistent to depart on our ultimate trip for our anniversary as well. It seemed a very long way away.
When we mentioned it to our friends and family, most of them glazed over, it was too far in the future to take seriously.
We took it seriously. We made out two years worth of calendars, set monthly tasks to be accomplished, research to be done and goals to be met. Then, we set about the hard work of making it happen.
We knew that two years was the absolute minimum planning time that we could get away with for a trip this size with as many kids as we have. Ezra was only 3 and barely potty trained when we had committed his life to a bicycle trip. It took a fair amount of faith and vision to see that this little whiney, stinker of a three year old would be ready to ride in two years. We set about training him to that end. Guess what? He was ready. We were all ready, and the list of “to-dos” slowly evaporated.
3. Plan it. Thank goodness for the internet. I can’t imagine the library fines I’d have paid in another decade for the same information I can get in five seconds flat in a tent on the Italian coast or an apartment in Africa or a hostel in Mexico City.
There is no substitute for reading everything you can lay your hands on written by people who have already done what you want to do and then taking their good advice and putting it into action in your own life.
Make lists. Make calendars. Divide up tasks into manageable (and affordable) chunks.
Practice doing all of the things you’ll need to do on your adventure. Learn the new skills you’re going to need. Begin living (and thinking) as if your adventure is already underway, for indeed, it is.
4. DO IT. To rip off Nike, “Just Do It.” You get one lifetime. One spin around the sun (I know – technically a few more spins than one, but you get the point). Maybe seventy or so years of good health, if you’re very blessed, in which to enjoy the good gift of life and the world we live in.
Why waste that worrying?
There are thousands and thousands of free people out there traveling, living unusual lives, doing fabulous things for the good of themselves, their children, or others.
Why can’t that be you?
Why can’t you do it? You can. It will take planning. It will take work. It will take changing your mindset, but you CAN do it. How do I know? My parents did it. My brother did it. And we’ve met singles, couples and families with loads of kids out there in the great big world, living their dreams.
We’re doing it, and there’s nothing special about us. All of life is a series of choices. Why not decide to do what you REALLY want to do and live your life the way you’ve always wanted to. It doesn’t take a ton of money. It doesn’t take a ton of talent. It doesn’t take a lot of brains. It just takes determination.
We are often asked questions about how we’ve managed to create this life or plan our trips, what books we use for teaching our kids geography or what sorts of books might be good to go alongside the unit studies we produce.We will attempt to give some helpful information on those topics on this page. Happy hunting!
How we planned this trip:
There is no 12-step program to follow for planning a family adventure. Much depends on the individual family and it’s members.
What is fun for us might be a nightmare for you! (With a friendly nod to the Wood family!)
Our best advice is to start small, expect failure and roll with the punches. The more kids you have, the more fun it will be and also the more potential for disaster.
Example: What should have been a rather benign long weekend camp with the Grandparents in Washington D.C. turned into our WORST camping experience ever:
Mom had a broken foot and had to take the walking cast on and off to get in and out of the tent, fifty times a day
Dad had to push Mom around the museums in a wheel chair
The nights were so cold we had ice on the inside WITH a heater plugged in and running all night – it was April, not December
Four out of five kids were throwing up (in the tents, all over the bedding in the middle of the freezing night)
We were backed into by a non-English speaking illegal alien who did not own the car he was driving; nor was it insured
He pretended not to understand my Spanish either
You get the picture.
We could have packed it in for life and said, “NO MORE!” Instead, we made the best of it and had a very memorable weekend with Grandma & Grandpa’s Great. Even the worst weekend makes for a funny story later!
Below is a list of some of the books and web-sites that we found helpful in organizing such a big undertaking. Also, be sure to check out our Frequently Asked Questions page; with answers, of course!