When we talk with people about our upcoming year-long trip, we typically get one of the following responses - “Why?”, “How?”, and “Wow!”. I have started to call this the “WHOW” effect. Here’s some of the background behind the “Why?”.
Both of us grew up in families that valued travel as an important part of life. Anne’s parents are both Peace Corps volunteers, and she grew up in house with lots of exchange students. She and her sisters have all spent time living and travelling overseas -- one of them has even made her home abroad. Noah traveled with his family every year growing up, and he has been moving around the country since his early teens.
We have traveled both internationally and domestically with the kids and learned some lessons. We took Alex to Europe when he was 16 months old, and took both kids to Switzerland shortly after Leah was born. We “enjoyed” those experiences traveling as a family, although traveling via airplane with kids between 1-3 is pretty tough (they always want to run up and down the aisle on the airplane, go into first class, etc.).
For us though, it’s not really about the travel itself - but the shift and shared memories that make it worthwhile. As a family we value experiences -- learning by doing -- which is why we chose an alternative school that used the Expeditionary Learning (ELOB) approach. Our concept for this trip emerged primarily from that core value.
“Is there a way we have the ultimate expeditionary learning experience together?”
Talking about this, Anne floating the idea that “we COULD take the kids out of school for a year and travel” and Noah agreeing, was what could be called our “CONCEPT” phase.
Most folks travel in their 20s when they have few responsibilities or in their retirement when they have fulfilled them. We thought we’d try splitting the difference.
We talked a lot about whether we wanted to travel in-between school years, or take the kids out of school for the whole year. This decision was made a bit easier by the fact that Anne is a teacher, and we can homeschool the kids for the year without major impacts to their overall school journey (see entry on “Worldschooling”).
The timing of our trip is no accident - it’s based entirely on Alex and Leah. The 2012-2013 school year is 5th grade for Leah and 7th grade for Alex, and we wanted to avoid them missing a transition year if possible. Middle school in Seattle is 6-8, so Alex will miss the middle year of middle school. Leah will skip her last year of elementary school, but will hopefully return to join Alex at the same middle school. Additionally, the kids are old enough to carry their own luggage and fully participate in our adventures, but not full-blown teens yet. Once we picked 2012 as our target year, we entered “INTENT” phase.
Once had the intent, all of our decisions took on a “Does this work for the trip?” filter. Purchase it, or borrow it? Do we really need this? One of the great side-effects of the trip prep has been the opportunity to purge all of the cruft that had accumulated over 13 years of living with 2 kids (and multiple dogs) in our house.
We’ve been planning this for about 6 years, but we entered “COMMIT” phase when we booked (with a deposit) the first activity for the trip (Thailand Elephant Nature Park). Of course, booking the airfare was also a big commit.
It’s hard to believe that it’s finally upon us - we are getting more excited (and stressed) every day. In the past week we have finalized the rental of our house, sold both of our cars, had our last day(s) of work, forwarded our mail, ended our gym membership, and relied heavily on the generosity of family and friends. We know that we will make it, but this last week is going to something of a marathon.
We are looking forward to sharing our experiences, but the big bonus will be hearing that we have inspired someone/anyone else to take a similar step. Think about it - this might very well be something that you can do too.