When you tell people you’ve quit your jobs and are packing up for a family gap year to travel the world with two young kids; are lot of questions get asked!
Here are some of the most frequently asked questions about taking a world trip as a family, and what it was that inspired us to do it…
WHERE ARE YOU FROM IN NZ?
We are both from rural upbringings (Northland and South Waikato) but have been living in Auckland for years.
WHEN DID YOU LEAVE?
We left New Zealand in March 2019.
WHY DID YOU GUYS DECIDE TO EMBARK ON THIS ADVENTURE?
We are both very passionate about our careers, but the lifestyle demanded more time at work than with our children. Fulltime travel offered the privilege of uninterrupted time as a family, and while we realise the boys might not remember each landmark or sight we visit, we wanted to create memories of time spent together – regardless of where that time was spent.
One of the most common clichés about raising children is that it all goes by too fast, but regardless of whether it is fulltime or not; somewhere local or somewhere further away; having uninterrupted time together is a treat, and that in itself does wonders to slow that feeling of hurry down…
We have always loved to travel, and didn’t want that to stop with having children. We wanted to share that thrill of adventure, culture, and wanderlust with them. Children have a natural curiosity and travelling with them makes the adventure different, and even better.
HOW LONG DO YOU PLAN ON BEING AWAY?
A good question. We spend some travel days trying to figure out how we could sustain this lifestyle forever… But at this stage, plans are to extend our family gap year and travel full-time for 2020.
I think we perhaps imagined such a trip would satisfy our love for culture and learning, but the more we discover about the world, we realise how much more there is to learn and see…
WHAT ARE THE KIDS LEARNING?
Travel itself brings so many opportunities for learning, that we loved the idea of worldschooling well before we even heard that term. Stepping in to a new country and culture requires stepping out of your comfort zone, as you are thrown in to a whole new world of different languages, tastes, sights, sounds and people. We hope to experience some of those new worlds with our boys, so that they see that there are in fact so many other ways of living, being, and behaving; and that our way is not the only way.
DO YOU WORRY ABOUT THEM MISSING OUT ON NORMAL SCHOOLING?
That particular parental feeling of anxiety never goes away entirely, and some travel days we question for the 127th time if this is the right thing to be doing… but then we see our boys learning to cast a net on the Mekong River; trekking in the hilltribe villages of Sapa; discovering fossilised dinosaur footprints in South Korea; or learning about the man-made consequences of the Aral Sea and we are reminded why we set out.
Harry turned six in June, and we know that in NZ that is the legal starting age for primary school. He started school before we left, and we had fantastic support from his teachers. That helped us to find a way to keep up with basic writing and reading, journal keeping, and encouraged us to take it from there. We use a variety of online programs and apps, and enjoy the challenge of finding fun and different locations to set up a makeshift learning space to use them wherever we are!
WHAT DID YOU GUYS DO FOR A CRUST BACK HOME?
We were both in management positions and very happy with our jobs. Sarah in Early Childhood Education and Gavin in the Earthmoving and Transport industry. We sold our house in New Zealand while we were away, allowing us to extend our travel time and fitting in with our long term plan to relocate back to a rural lifestyle and a more sustainable way of life on our return.
HAS IT BENEFITED YOUR OWN RELATIONSHIPS?
The chance to be together fulltime and removed from the day to day demands of routine life is definitely a privilege. We had cautious worries for how the realities of being together 24/7 would actually pan out… But once you take away those routine demands, the chance for exploration and challenge undoubtedly tightens you as a family unit, and you learn a lot more about each others strengths and about each others limits.
DO YOU BELIEVE A SHORT TRIP ALSO HAS THESE BENEFITS AND IF NOT, THEN WHY NOT?
A short trip can be just as fun! A short trip amidst home life does interrupt routine, and children thrive on routine. However, more often than not, the chance for adventure and time as a family outweighs the challenges of routine-interruption.
Travelling full-time on our family gap year has allowed us to find our own rhythm and routine. Even when the landscape or environment changes, we fall into a general rhythm that works for us as a family.
HOW DO YOU DECIDE ON YOUR NEXT DESTINATION?
A good question! We love anywhere that takes us off the beaten track and away from the crowds. Sometimes means looking ahead to see where the tourists will be and heading the other way!
HOW LONG DO YOU NEED IN EACH PLACE?
We know now that it always takes about 24 hours to find our feet in a place. We have learnt not to make decisions in that first 24 hours; especially hasty ones! So the magic number for us has turned out to be 3-4 nights in each place.
This means when booking ahead that if its great and we love it, we get at least two full days to explore somewhere. And, if its not somewhere we like, then we know that 3-4 days is manageable… Because we made a conscious choice to go to that place!
HAVE YOU EVER TRAVEL SOMEWHERE YOUR FAMILY DIDN’T ENJOY? WHAT WAS IT ABOUT THE PLACE THAT WASN’T IDEAL?
Nha Trang, Vietnam was too touristy for us. We booked an apartment through AirBnB and ended up on the 44thfloor! There was nothing wrong with it, it just didn’t suit us. We were very thankful for the beach to swim at as aside from that felt to us like a bit of a tourist trap!
WHAT’S YOUR FAVOURITE FAMILY-FRIENDLY HOTEL OR OTHER TYPE OF ACCOMMODATION?
Staying in a yurt recently [and a train cabin at 43℃!] had us thinking about how many different places we have stayed in since we left. AirBnB, hotels, hostels, guesthouses, homestays, and on planes and trains while travelling. It is one of the hardest parts of travel planning and you never really know what you are going to get. Sometimes the photos don’t match the rooms; and sometimes the reviews don’t actually do justice to the people that host some amazing guesthouses.
We worked out that at nearly six months into our family gap year we have stayed in 48 different beds. That’s roughly a different one every three days! But, regardless of the room or bed [and even our Hong Kong ‘shoebox’], the people we have met have made each place special for us. And sometimes; like when our Uzbek host family took a minivan to the airport half an hour away to farewell us to the next city, they make it hard to leave.
WHAT 3 ITEMS DO YOU NEVER TRAVEL WITHOUT?
- A stocked up snack bag (it doesn’t even really matter what it is stocked with, as the more we travel the more adventurous our kids tastes become. But it is not worth being in a snack-less situation, in an unfamiliar environment, with ‘hangry’ kids…!).
- A re-useable straw and travel cutlery. This was especially essential and used daily in Southeast and East Asia. The single-use plastic that is so readily on offer is sometimes hard to avoid, but these straws became part of our daily routine (as did a tiny teaspoon for morning coffees, impromptu breakfasts, and occasions where chopsticks were too much for tired toddler fingers…). We both carry a KeepCup which doubles as a cup for hot or cold drinks, as well as a bowl if need be.
- A lavalava/sarong/sulu: we both carry one in our day packs which has so far doubled as a towel, blanket, skirt, gift-wrap, scarf, shade cover, picnic-blanket, sheet, floor mat, emergency ‘spill-kit’ and a makeshift pair of rather unstylish toddler trousers for an un-planned rush home…
WHAT DO YOU RECOMMEND LEAVING AT HOME THAT MOST NEW TRAVELLERS WOULD PACK?
That extra 10kg! It is amazing how little you actually need; even for a whole family. We definitely overpacked on t-shirts, and gave some away. I quickly realised the adults were better with less choice, but better quality. Having a few ultra-thin merino tops that make for amazing light carrying, repeated wear(!), and easy washing and drying. We contemplated bringing a towel each but in the end only brought two (very) small travel towels with us, and so far those coupled with our two sarongs has been plenty.