Not Alone in Our Madness

The wise traveler seeks counsel from those who have gone before; so fancying myself wise, I consulted travelers far and wide before embarking on our journey in 2006. One of those who advice I particularly craved was billionaire Jim Rogers. I first emailed Jim in 2001 when I read about his 2-year round the world adventure in Fortune magazine. Oblivious to his standing in the financial world and assuming him to be a struggling writer like myself, I naively asked whether he had received sponsorships to help fund his travel. He immediately replied that he had not, but he encouraged me to pursue my dream of round the world travel by whatever means possible. I contacted Jim again in September 2006 when we were in Australia. We were only 1 month into our 11-month journey and starting to feel discouraged at the expense of the continent and our prospects for smooth travel in the coming year. Once again Jim replied instantly, encouraging us to never give up and reminding us that even if we failed in future months, at least we had had the courage to try–something most never muster. At the time he asked whose particular “madness” it was to embark on our trip, citing a certain mania as requisite for our type of travel.

Fortunately Tom and I shared the madness, which meant the ensuing months only got easier as we hit our rhythm and defined our complementary roles (in a nutshell: I planned, he executed). From country to country and continent to continent we met others who were subject to the same madness Rogers cited and had left their domestic lives behind to hit the road and explore the world. Now that we’re RTW veterans ourselves, we are frequently contacted by potential travelers seeking advice. We are always happy to offer it and hope we have inspired others to realize extended family travel is a possibility rather than a dream.

One unexpected benefit of of our trip, and our subsequent move to LA (an international gateway), is that we’ve heard from families not just dreaming of taking off but actually in the process of traversing the globe. Last week, the DeWilde family from Canada passed through our fair City of Angels while en route from Nicaragua to Australia. They’ve been traveling for 4 months and thought Election Day a fitting time for a US pit stop. Dad John contacted me a month or so before they arrived and we arranged to get together for an evening. I invited the family to our home and assumed they’d rent a car for their few days in LA. I realized just how removed from travel mode I’ve become when I was shocked to learn they planned on riding the bus around the city. I gave the DeWilde’s the number of the bus they could take to the the bottom of our neighborhood and figured they were masochists to brave LA traffic via public transport.

Dewilde Family

At 5:00 pm on the dot the doorbell rang and there stood this adorable family, looking particularly fit but a little thirsty after ascending the hill from the bus stop. The kids, Danielle and Simon, were happy to join Kieran and Asher on the Wii while parents, John and Pam, sat down to share stories with me. I learned about their adventures studying Spanish and volunteering in Nicaragua and what the kids considered to be a near death experience ascending a Canadian mountain in their van. I sighed with longing as they laid out the remainder of their itinerary for me: it includes extended service stints in such unusual locations as Bangladesh and Burkina Faso. We piled into my Yukon XL and met Tom at longtime family favorite Tito’s Tacos in Culver City. There we learned more about the DeWilde’s lifelong commitment to service and admirable activities on the road. One of Tom’s co-workers who happened to be checking out the famous burritos snapped a few pictures for us before I drove the DeWilde’s back to their airport hotel.

In August, we spent an evening with the Edmeads, a British family who were in the final days of a yearlong walkabout. Disneyland was the last stop in a trip that included an extended stay for SCUBA training in Thailand and their own Rolling Turd adventure in New Zealand. The Edmeads first contacted us in April when they stayed at one of our favorite hotels, the Elephant Crossing in Vang Vieng, Laos. They gave us the heads up that they would be passing through LA in August and true to their word, they appeared on our doorstep four months later. We ordered in Thai food, let the kids play Wii (all traveling kids seem to seize on this sedentary pursuit), and talked a lot about re-entry. Chris left a firm in the UK that actually had a garden dedicated to employees who had died at their desks. Overcome by a desire to never again subject himself to office-related stress, he and wife Rachel, explained their plans to open a small, family-friendly bed and breakfast in Spain, where Chris could make use of his new advanced SCUBA instructor certifications. As we have succumbed to a back-to-the-grind lifestyle, we sighed in understanding. I just checked their blog, http://fourgortw.travellerspoint.com/ and see that Chris made it only 23 days at home before jetting off to Honduras for more SCUBA training.

Round the world Family Edmeads

What we did, what others are doing, and what others plan to do to many seems madness. But to those who share it, it is far more sane than schlepping kids to a dozen lessons each week, waiting in line at the supermarket, or spending 10 hours a day behind a desk. To those who have returned to more ordinary existences, it is a badge of honor, the source of priceless memories and deep understanding. We proudly claim our mania and as Jim Rogers offered, hope to “meet some day and talk endlessly” about it.

15 thoughts on “Not Alone in Our Madness

  1. “What we did, what others are doing, and what others plan to do to many seems madness. But to those who share it, it is far more sane than schlepping kids to a dozen lessons each week, waiting in line at the supermarket, or spending 10 hours a day behind a desk”
    Oh Anne, how true, now that I’m back here doing it, THIS feels like the madness, not the other way around. Where shall we have the ‘Family RTW Club’ 2009 annual picnic? Any ideas?! Hope you guys are all good, all love CRFS xxxx

  2. Anne,
    Madness you call it…is in fact fantastic education! Yes, traveling with children can be trying. On our short three weeks in New Zealand where the food was lamb and pie, the beach choices endless and the “tramping” through silver fern forests too short…the lessons were endless. Yes, we home schooled and we worked on “Maths”…but living IN THE WORLD is an education well worth all efforts and madness. I would easily sell it all and take off again, just to feel like we are living. You guys rock. Best to Tom (whom I know) and the kids (who I have yet to meet).

  3. First, thanks for the fabulous website, which we’ve reviewed many times, and enjoyed always.

    My wife, two children (age 9 and 11 at the time), and I traveled around the world from August, 2007, through June, 2008. We chronicled our adventures on our website http://www.dintersmith.org, which now has our complete itinerary, links to our blogs and photos, and pointers to a set of short online slideshows we put together about our trip.

    I tell people, only partly in jest, that if I have a final few minutes on my deathbed, I’ll think about our trip, how much we saw and learned, and how it affected our family in so many positive ways. We started the trip concerned that our children would fall behind in school, that we’d tire of being around each other 24/7, and that constant travel would prove exhausting. Our experience, though, was the exact opposite. We found home-schooling to be fun and remarkably productive. We loved the constant change and adventure of our trip (over 100 distinct locations in ten months). And we ended up loving every second of being together as a family.

    So to anyone contemplating such a family adventure, jump at the chance. It may not be for you, but you can always come back early (some families do). But if you’re like so many of us, it will create a lifetime worth of great experiences, open your horizons, reveal what a truly wonderful world we all live in, and be a defining life experience for each member of your family.

    Ted Dintersmith

  4. Not alone at all, in fact I think family world travel and extended travel might just be a new trend! ( Perhaps more so in this economy).

    I really wish everyone could do it & since we travel the world & live large on a total of 25K a year for a family of 3, I think it is more doable than most realize. Perhaps you or your readers might like this article I wrote on how to do extended travel:

    http://www.soultravelers3.com/2008/06/how-to-do-exten.html

    Isn’t it wonderful to get together with other families doing or have done world travel? I think it is especially nice for the kids & love listening to their talk and comparing notes as they play. My daughter was 5 when we started and now she is 8!

    We started on our open ended world tour as a family in late summer 2006 and we are still going strong with no plans to stop. We believe in deep immersion & slow travel so have only been to 4 continents, 28 countries & 66,000 miles ( mostly by land or water) so far. A long stay in Africa then one in South America are up next for us.

    To us, it just feels like the way to live & we have never been happier. I don’t think my daughter could have a better education for a global citizen of the 21st century & we have been amazed how this digital age expands our educational opportunities, collaborations & connections.

    We volunteer by taking tons of disadvantaged kids with us virtually through an award winning nonprofit, so flew into NYC last month to meet them in Harlem, Bronx, Queens etc. which was such a treat to see their enthusiasm for travel & different cultures!

    It was a bit of a cultural shock as we have been away so long & of course we could not be on that continent without seeing family in California. It was great to be home & hug everyone, but what we realized is that we feel more at home on the road now.

    As we sit in “our” 15th century small village & winter home for the 3rd year in sunny Andalucia, watching a beautiful sunset over the mountains & nearby sea with clomping horse hooves going by melodically, & reflecting on the 13 countries we saw this year, we are content as we plan next years agenda.

    The only thing I want is more people to know this joy. More families to know that this dream is easier, cheaper & more enriching than most know. Slow travel costs less than living at home, even in “expensive” Europe!

    Keep cherishing your fantastic family world adventure and keep telling people!

    “Life is either a daring adventure or nothing” Helen Keller

  5. We are honored to join the maniac roster!

    We are currently travelling with our 2 teenage boys, on the 4th month of the one year journey and in Chiang Mai Thailand at the moment.

    We completely agree with all the aforementioned sentiments of RTW travel as a family noted by Anne, Tom and the other family travellers !

    It is a joy to meet up with other families while on our journey and are so thrilled to see that people are taking the leap.

    Once the decision to go was made, we were busting at the seams letting people know of our plan, which often triggered the most frequent question asked,”why?”. I couldn’t get my head around the question no matter how many times it was asked, as each time I would look back confused and asking “Huh,…..Why NOT? if you could?”

    We welcome any RTW families heading to Toronto Canada to get in touch with us as they pass through town, although can’t be “home” (once we have one again) to entertain you until Aug 09.(Until then catch us at http://www.teamspiers.wordpress.com) We have been the recipients of incredible blessing and generosity, and would like to help others create a wonderful experience for their families also.

    Thanks to Anne and many others who took the time to share their experiences, and helped us seal the deal to follow in their footsteps across the globe.

    Safe Travels!

  6. We, a belgian family of 4, came back from a 5 month rtwtrip in august that brought us to Australia, new zealand, easter island, Chile and argentina. Three things always come up, what do you do all day?? win the lottery?,and we would never be able to do this with kids.

    The 1st question came up while we were talking to dutch people who were on an open end tour of south america with a motorhome. Here we were sitting on the beach by the river in san ignacio, argentina with a spectacular view when she said it is the most asked question to them. As soon as she said this we just started laughing out loud… And indeed people at home have asked us this too.

    The not with kids phrase is somewhat strange as we feel kids do not make travel difficult, it is canceled flights, unfriendly people,….., things you cannot control and with or without kids makes no difference. Our kids, now 3 and 6, loved traveling and we keep looking at photos, talking about our travels.

    And then of course the win the lottery comment. When I tell people how we saved for our trip they sort of shrug oh yeah hardly believing me. But there are so many daily costs you can just cut because they are not a necessity to live comfortably. Sth we really take with us from this trip is the simplicity of live while on the road, just the 4 of us, 2 backpacks and the world!!!!

    joining you in your madness

    nika

  7. I also think it’s a good idea to ask people who have been trevelling a lot for some recommendations on where to go. As for my personal experience, I always end up checking out the places my friends visited. I want to know specifically what are the places that are child-friendly, and places where my kids can enjoy too.

  8. This is one of my life’s goals and after reading so many of your great stories, you’ve convinced me that this would be the adventure of a lifetime! :)

    I’d have to visit some exotic far off places like you guys did and take some nice pictures. I started Paul Bates Photography in hopes of getting out and exploring the world a little more because there is just so much to see!

    Any more plans in the works for six in the world 2.0? 😀

  9. Hi Tom & Anne,

    We are a “family of 6!” from Perth, Western Australia, we start our rtw in Dec 09 – We just wanted to say a “big” thankyou for your blog – it has been very inspiring & helped us to believe that we can also do this.

    We would love for you to follow us at – 6outofoz.com

    Perhaps we can meet up in LA in Dec 2010?

    Thanks again, Paul & Amanda.

  10. Found your blog from another travelor’s website. My daughter (12) and I are just now embarking on our journey. Backpacking Egypt, Israel, Jordan this March 2010. We homeschool and plan to learn Spanish when we return then head for Nicaragua. It is very motivating to read about other people’s travels!

  11. it would really be hard to pursue our dream, but as long as we have that goal, i guess there is no room for giving up..what ever may be the means as long as we are not doing anything wrong, there is nothing to be afraid and no reason to back off..

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