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Have you been dreaming of taking your family on a trip around the world? If you decide to go, you won’t be out there alone.
“It’s not something everyone can afford to do, but the parents who do it see it as a huge educational and bonding opportunity for their family,” said Samantha McClure, owner of Small World Travel, an Austin-based agency specializing in family travel.
And, although it helps, you don’t need to be wealthy to pull it off. “We’ve planned trips for families that are very wealthy and can just drop out for a year," McClure said. "But we’ve also planned trips for families that very intentionally save for 10 years because a round-the-world trip is part of their family plan. They come back from their trip and go back to work.”
Many families have a theme in mind for their trip or a wish list of places they want to see, said McClure. "One family wanted to follow the routes of the great explorers. Some families are into food and culture. Most want to hit all seven continents. We help them figure out the flow.”
One family’s story
On Sept. 1, Michelle Duffy; her husband, Andrew Murphy; and their two boys, Cillian (now 15) and Brendan (now 11); returned to Seattle from a year-long trip around the world.
Q: Before this trip, what sort of traveling did you do?
A: My husband and I are travel junkies, but not luxury travelers. Instead, we opt to spend less per trip so that we can travel more often. We are both Irish, both naturalized U.S. citizens. Our families live mostly in the U.K. and Ireland but also Australia, Mexico, Portugal and Greece. We have always had to travel so that our children could know their extended family.
Q: How did you decide on doing a round-the-world trip? Was there much 'Should we? Could we?'
A: We put large world maps up on the walls of our house and talked about where we would go and what we could do with our children, who, at first, were both leery of the idea of leaving their comfortable home. Ignoring their reservations … we continued planning. We talked to friends [and] read books and blogs by other families who'd done similar trips. By March 2010, we had an itinerary, which we actually followed pretty closely.
Q: How did you prepare for the trip psychologically, economically and physically?
A: Psychologically: We talked about the trip a lot. When our kids started to grumble, we stopped talking to them about it so much. Both my husband and I worked right up until the week before we left so we didn't have a lot of time to agonize over whether or not we were doing the right thing.
Economically: For the 18 months before we left we were more careful than usual about regular expenditures. We packed lunches and watched movies at home. We thought carefully before buying any large items. (We didn't.) We rented out our house.
Physically: We are pretty active, but the only additional thing we did was take our kids on longer, harder hikes during the spring and summer of 2010 so that they would be prepared for the Inca Trail.
Q: Wasn’t it scary walking away from your jobs? How did you budget for the trip and did you keep to your budget?
A: Yes. We took a risk. This was a third time I'd left work — once after each child was born and now this. We were very confident that we could get work again in Seattle. (Duffy and her husband both work in the computer industry.) We didn't count money every day. Instead, we stuck to budget accommodation and budget transportation — trains and buses — and ate local, street food or self-catered.
Q: What role did technology play in your trip?
A: We had one Netbook; three Kindles; one camera; two Nintendo DSs; an iPhone (with no cell phone service); a portable hard drive; an old, unlocked phone handset with a SIM card; and we picked up an iPad during the trip. We should have brought a second Netbook because sharing one computer was a disaster from the start. We could not have done the trip the way we did without regular access to the Internet and there are Internet cafes everywhere now.
Q: What ‘stuff’ did you take with you? What proved most useful?
A: Most useful were headlamps, sleep sacks, travel towels, long undies and Kindles. We bought T-shirts for the kids and ditched the ones that had worn out about every 6-10 weeks.
Q: What are some of the 'don’t miss' places and experiences from this trip?
A: In Uzbekistan, Khiva, Bukhara and Samarkand. Horse-back riding on the jailoo (mountain plateaus) in Kyrgyzstan. The boat-trip (a no-frills ferry) from Bodrum in Turkey to Kos in Greece. Koh Lanta, Thailand. Hanoi, Vietnam. Buenos Aires.
Q: What was your biggest splurge?
A: Because it was so expensive there, I’d have to say all of Iceland was a splurge. We also splurged at Thanksgiving by staying two nights at a winery in Mendoza, Argentina. We had been traveling in a rented camper van and this was a two-bedroom apartment that included gourmet meals and as much wine as you can drink. It was $400 a night and my husband didn’t know how much we were splurging until we were driving away. He told me that if he’d known that he would have had a lot more wine.
Q: So how did your relationships hold up?
A: My husband and I came home like newlyweds. It felt like by stepping away from work and taking this trip we got to know each other and enjoy each other all over again. I feel I know my children better and they know us better as people rather than just Mom and Dad.
Q: Would you do it again?
A: In a heartbeat.
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