Step two in travel planning, found us contemplating a series of questions, which we first thought about from an individual perspective, before sharing our answers. This allowed us to come to a mutual understanding of each other’s priorities, and further develop a shared family plan for travel happiness.
QUESTION: What do I need to enjoy a trip? What do I want out of this journey? How will this experience be a happy one?
ANSWER: NO WORK! Just getting away from the responsibility of a job would relieve stress. “It is time for a sabbatical!” Dan was more prudent, making sure that we addressed the consequences of an extended leave. It is definitely important to maintain a sense of security about our return to the “working” world, and to have a solid plan about how we might move forward in our careers after a year on the road. So, although we are taking a big risk by leaving our steady jobs, we have embraced the mantra – “have faith that all will work out”. Once we were able to let go of these fears, we could then move on to the positive envisioning of our travels. We began by questioning how planned-out and detailed our trip should be, vs. having a rough route and trip duration that are more open-ended. It is hard to determine exactly how much time we want to spend somewhere that we have never been, and when your travel dates and route are set in stone, you must give up some of your flexibility to follow impulse and take advantage of serendipitous opportunity (our favorite kind of travel!)
When initially discussing our route, almost 2 years in advance, we knew it would be impossible to anticipate what the political situations would be in some of the countries and regions that we were interested in visiting (which already seemed to be in the midst of civil unrest!). This meant that we had to begin our planning, well ready for the possibility of destination changes. We soon realized that it was near impossible to make critical decisions about a specific itinerary that early in the game, but it felt good to at least acknowledge these challenges when planning a long-term trip.
We also had to consider the potential, and maybe even necessity, for making money abroad (regardless of my first goal to a happy trip being – NO WORK!). Perhaps, there would be way to generate an income through this blog, or with other paid writing opportunities? Would working part-time be a possibility that we would even consider? How could we maximize our money-making opportunities, yet still meet my key desire to get AWAY from the demands and responsibility associated with employment? One of the ways in which we thought we could potentially combine work with travel, was to have longer stints in some destinations (i.e. two months or longer). This would allow us to be more immersed in that local culture, yet still have the stability and time to potentially work part-time. However, work would certainly suck away from precious family time, and might prevent us from participating in language courses, cooking lessons, and a variety of other activities. If “work” is never is a part of our year overseas (something I can accept!), we would ultimately have more time together – a high priority.
One of my travel passions is eating the local cuisine. Although we will be on a food budget, that will require preparing some meals “at home”, dining out is also a priority. I feel that this is one of the most meaningful ways to experience a culture.
Kids need the beach, or some form of water play (as does Dan!). It is essential that time for play is a part of our daily plans. Some of the other ways in which we hope to incorporate fun for the kids are: soccer, learning about animals and nature, hikes, seeing shows (dance and music), museums (which will help with educational growth), and computer time (not just for class curriculum but also movies and games). Should they each have their own iPad? – Yes! We also need to make sure that we are not always on the go, and that there is down time for Stella and Gabriel.
QUESTION: What does your perfect travel day look like?
ANSWER: My perfect travel day is often one when I can wander without direction. “Getting lost is a good thing.” Reiterating my food passion – I need 1 GOOD meal a day.
When speaking with our children, they always scream for a pool! They need at least one kid friendly adventure a day, and treats like ice cream will go a long way toward their happiness.
QUESTION: How will traveling with kids be different from traveling without them?
ANSWER: It will be much slower. Long bus rides, days packed with sight seeing and tramping by foot are over. Nights out will be rare. Actually probably NO nights out, unless Dan or I go drinking solo. I can’t imagine that there will be many babysitters met on the road that we would be comfortable using. We will have more responsibility for watching stuff (computers, cameras, extra bags), and making sure that our children are well fed with steady meals, and ready snacks.
This reminds us that we will have to teach our children more personal responsibility, especially with taking care of their belongings/daypacks.
QUESTION: How will traveling with kids be BETTER?
ANSWER: Will it? Let’s be realistic. Is there a way that less personal freedom can ever be better? We’ve already listed some of the ways travel will change with children. We know the door may close on some pursuits (i.e. late night bar parties), but traveling with children will also have some advantages. We will be able to engage with locals on a whole new level. People may be more considerate and helpful with the knowledge that we are traveling with our kids, and more quickly offer a little extra assistance or care. Hopefully, locals will also be less intimidated by us, as foreigners, and conversations and introductions will more easily flow.
Our children will force us to slowdown, something that might prove a big plus, as we enjoy less action-packed days with more time to relax. Although we will primarily be teachers, we will also become students, as we get to see the world anew through their youthful eyes.