A Round-the-World Travel Sabbatical with Kids

Are you dreaming of a round-the-world travel sabbatical with kids? That dream became reality for the award-winning freelance writer and travel columnist Heather Greenwood Davis. For one year, she and her husband dropped everything, pulled their two sons under the age of 10 out of school and traveled the world for a year.

The family visited 29 countries on six continents from June 2011 to June 2012, sharing their inspiring journey via social media, online magazines, their blog, motivational speeches and traditional media channels. I e-interviewed Heather to learn more about her family trip of a lifetime.

What inspired you to take a round-the-world sabbatical with kids?

There were so many reasons to do it. We’ve always been a traveling family. I am a travel writer by profession and my husband and I traveled as a couple before we were kids. It has just always made sense to take them with us.

When we began planning this particular trip we quickly realized the impact an opportunity like this could have on the rest of their lives. We wanted to introduce them to people and situations that would come into their educational lives for years to come and we wanted them to feel their place in the world; to understand that their little neighbourhood at home was the beginning not the end of all there is to appreciate about the planet.

How did you choose your main destinations and where to stay?

When we started out our list was very, very long. We eventually whittled it down a little bit and decided to go with buying flight legs as we went (as opposed to a round the world ticket up front) so that we could have complete flexibility in adding/dropping a destination.

In the end we touched 29 countries on 6 continents over the course of the year. It was a fun, frenetic pace that kept us energized and excited. Choosing where to stay depended on budget and reccomendations. Twitter and Facebook was fabulous for that.

How long did it take to plan your trip? Do you have any tips to share with other families regarding the tools/resources that really made a difference for this kind of travel with kids?

We really didn’t overly plan it but we did start to think about the logistics about 8 months ahead of departure. I started my blog,, around that time and that allowed me to begin to articulate what my concerns were, what was left to be done and to connect with the round-the-world travel community through social media. In terms of tools and resources, I’d say:

Talk to your school about their educational requirements and recommended online tools. Teachers who will see your kids after they return are often the best sources of information about what they’ll need to know.

Work with a round the world specialist at home. It was fantastic for us to have someone who had a sense of where we wanted to go and what we wanted to do , on the ground at home. He could source visa information and flight sales and be in touch as we travelled.

Find your people. Social Media was phenomenal for this. Likeminded people can put your mind at ease and offer great in the moment tips as you go. I’m forever grateful for the tribes we were a part of during the year.

What was the absolute highlight of the entire trip? The lowlight?

There were way too many highlights to count! Every day was a new adventure! If I have to pick one thing though I’d say it was what this trip did for us as a family. We are closer than ever. That’s what happens when you spend 24/7 together with your kids and spouse.  I wouldn’t trade that for anything.

And a lowlight? I’d have to say the hardest day was our first 24 hours in China. The country as a whole (we spent 30 days) turned out to be one of the best parts of our trip but the combination of jetlag, a misstep in choosing our apartment location and a lack of language abilities made those first few days tough.

Knowing what you know now, what would you do differently?

Not one, single thing. I love that we leapt without knowing exactly what lay ahead. I love what the trip gave us. I love what we’ve learned about ourselves, each other and our lifestyle since. It was the right time and the right amount of time. No regrets.

For more than 15 years Heather has shared stories of her travels with readers and viewers around the world. Her columns appear in a host of publications including  Canada’s largest circulation daily newspaper The Toronto Star. When she’s not traveling you’ll find her dreaming of travel and re-packing her suitcase in Toronto. Photos by Heather Greenwood Davis

Relevant Links:

26 countries in 365 days with Wandermom

Preparing kids for a trip through reading

Volunteer family travel

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