Although considered a classic, Jules Verne simply had it all wrong when he sent Phileas Fogg Around the World in 80 Days. As exciting as the venture was – fraught with perils, mishaps, miscommunications, and a large sum of money on the line – a mere 80 days, even with modern modes of transportation, just isn’t enough to capture the scope of the lifestyles, cultures, and landscapes in the global community. You’d need six months, minimum. Better yet a year.
Imagine an entire year traveling the globe in search of experiences that inspire, educate and, more likely than not, frighten you? Immediately the what if’s pop-up, squelching the dream – How would we pay for it? What about our jobs? Will my health insurance cover us? What about our house? How would the kids go to school? Wait! The kids? Do they serve chicken fingers and mac & cheese in Istanbul? Here is where it gets complicated. It is relatively easy to dream of going all Eat, Pray, Love and taking a sabbatical from real life when you are a singleton, reinventing yourself like Elizabeth Gilbert. Or to plan a trip Without Reservations* like Alice Steinbach, once your children are grown. But can this really be done with kids?
In the mid 90’s David Elliot Cohen, a successful book publisher, and his family took One Year Off: Leaving It All Behind for a Round-the-World Journey with Our Children. He, his wife Devyani, and their three children (all under 10, one still in diapers), sold their home and packed their bags. Traversing six continents they embraced once-in-a lifetime experiences and immersed themselves in diverse cultures.
In the late 00’s, after more than a decade of planning, and saving, John Higham, his wife September, and their two children Katrina (11) and Jordan (8) not only spent 52 weeks traveling the world but they did it on a budget, tandem-biking for much of the European leg of their trip. Higham chronicles their experiences in 360 Degrees Longitude: One Family’s Journey Around the World. I love that the book is interspersed with excerpts from Katrina’s journal highlighting her perspective. In addition, the accompanying website 360degreeslongitude.com has amazing tips for planning your own family adventure. I’m especially fond of Katrina’s reading list, sharing 104 books that she read during their travels that coincide with the locations they visited.
But could this actually be done in this day and age? Absolutely. Check out the incredible blog takingontheworld.net. Samantha Sackin, her husband Tom Fassbender, and their two daughters, Frankie and Jackie, are currently in the middle of their own round-the world adventure. Follow them across the globe to see what they’re seeing, doing, reading and eating! Frankie & Jackie each have their own blog posts on the site and each family member has a “project” for the journey – from investigating coffee in each country to photographing doors. Definitely inspiration to make your own trip a reality!
Ok, so you think you can do this? Get planning and packing!
But, if the logistics seem insurmountable, maybe the best approach is taking baby steps towards the around-the-world goal. Start at home. How about a round-the-town trip? Visit the different neighborhoods in your city – or any city for that matter. Discover the history, culture and diversity within your own community. Photograph doors (like Jackie Fassbender), or discover books about different locations (like Katrina Higham). Eat differently- try a new restaurant and only order selections from the adult menu. Around the state? Around the country? Every travel adventure creates lasting memories and experiences as a family.
Or create an itinerary for a fictional trip. Imagine no financial restraints or obligations. Where would you go? What would be your ten must-see spots on our planet? Find a good book to read about these places. Develop a fictional packing list. Carry a 45lb suitcase with you for a day! Sleep in a tent. Converse with someone who doesn’t speak English. Learn key phrases in the language of the place you dream of visiting.
I imagine this is how it begins. Put the logistics aside and dream…then figure out how to make it reality.