Michelle Duffy is WanderMom, the co-author of the how-to family travel book Traveling with Kids, and a co-founder of the incredible travel blogger fundraiser (going on right now!) Passports with Purpose. She just returned from an insane world tour with her 12 and 14-year-old boys in tow where they visited 26 countries in 365 days.
The logistics involved in a trip like this are massive. Of course, it was worth every minute of work in the end. Michelle’s stories are nothing short of astounding. Be sure and follow WanderMom as she recounts her adventure. Their full itinerary is available on her Family World Trip page.
I recently interviewed Michelle to get the scoop on her trip. I’m in awe! You’re my family travel hero Michelle.
Family travel Iran
What inspired you to take this round the world trip with your kids?
When I first met my husband he had a visa ready to go for Australia. His bags were packed, but then I came along and a year later we had a Green Card for the US. We were only planning a short while before continuing on — you know how that goes, with work, family, and kids in play, time goes right by. We knew that if we didn’t take our trip soon we’d never have this experience with our boys.
Your boys are 12 and 14. In retrospect, is this a good age range for this kind of travel?
For me the ideal ages are 8 and 12. I could have done without the teenage drama that comes with traveling with a 14-year-old (on the other hand, we were able to get a few date nights into our trip). The main thing is for kids to be able to carry their own bags, be aware of the difference in cultures, and still enjoy simple entertainment like playgrounds.
How long did it take you to prepare?
We planned our trip over the course of 18 months. Six of those months were truly active getting finances in order and packing up our house. We did very little pre-trip booking.
We figured out our overall itinerary by looking at weather patterns in conjunction with travel time between our target destinations (the BBC has a wonderful climate tool). Our goal was to hit destinations during their spring and summer months as this made packing much easier. Be sure and read Michelle’s Round the World Logistics posts on her blog for nitty gritty details on how they planned this trip.
Did you use Round the World airline tickets?
We investigated RTW tickets and found that they are best if you are leaving from the US or UK and plan to include Australia and New Zealand in the itinerary. If not, which was our case, it’s more cost effective to book stand-alone routing.
Where did you stay?
We lived on $150 a day including food, activities, and accommodations. As a result, cost was an important factor for us. We stayed in mostly hostels although every once in awhile we’d get to splurge for something really fabulous. Read RTW Travel – How Much Does it Cost for more insight on the expense side of extended family travel.
What was your biggest nightmare?
Without a doubt it was the day we lost our son Brendan in the jungle. We were zip-lining in Laos and got separated — he was lost for seven hours. This was truly terrifying as we were in a remote location with no easy way to access a doctor if he was found injured.
When the search party came back after darkness fell without him and said they had to stop searching, we were beside ourselves. A half-an-hour later he turned up.
It turns out he had walked down the wrong path down the mountain. He ended up at a local village dehydrated and crying. Fortunately, although the villagers spoke no English, the zip-line is the largest employer in the area and they were able to figure out where he came from after seeing his harness.
You home-schooled your kids. How did this work in practice?
It was tough. You learn quickly how difficult it is to teach and explain new concepts to kids. A parent-turned-teacher has to assess work, explain content, correct work, and make sure everything gets done.
The flip side is that we figured out that the essentials are really reading, writing and math. We stayed focused on that and were able to accomplish what we needed to in four hours or so of work per week.
Now that you are back, how have your kids settled in school?
It’s like they never left!
How did people react to your trip before, during, and after you returned home?
Before: Friends and family either looked at us and said “fantastic” or thought we really had lost our minds this time. People were convinced we’d lose our kids in “all those weird” places we planned to visit.
On Road: We met everyone from backpackers to grandparents on the road. Every single person we met along the way was impressed at what we were doing, how we were doing it, and the ultimate impact it was having on our kids.
After: We were relaxed and happy — it was obvious to everyone that we thrived during our travels.
Passports with Purpose 2010 Cambodia school opening
What was your most memorable trip moment?
We were able to attend the opening of the 2010 Passports with Purpose fundraising project, the opening of a new school in Cambodia. 120 kids from 4 to 16-years-old were there to honor us at the school entrance. It was so cool and emotional to share this experience with this community, as well as my family!
Hurray! Passports for Purpose 2011 is only accepting donations towards prizes until December 16 at 11:59 PST.
Photos courtesy of Michelle Duffy