This family of four came to AirTreks with a very important mission: to embark on a never-boring adventure & make life happen all over the globe.
With that, their radical sabbatical began in June of 2018 and the rest is history. Or rather, currently in motion! We had the chance to catch up with Laurie to hear all the details and delights of their world tour thus far.
When did the idea of taking a round the world trip first come up for you and your family?
We knew that we had a sabbatical from my job on the horizon before we had kids. We always said we wanted to do an around the world trip, but with two kids, we weren’t sure it could be a reality. We worked on the plan for about 2.5 years but really focused on it about 18 months before our departure. We booked the first half of our trip in March before our July departure.
Why did you decide to go?
We married and had children “late” in life and both of our lives were deeply entrenched in travel opportunities prior to coming together as a family. I led global education trips with my students (mostly to east Africa) and traveled as a solo women whenever I could. My husband worked for Cirque du Soleil for 10 years which put him all over the country and the globe. If we hadn’t been tied to our school (we’re both teachers) we would have opted to raise our kids on the road from birth, but we love our jobs so much and the educational community we live in, that we could not give it up. Also, rearing kids is harder than we thought. So, this was our opportunity to make that dream a reality. Our wanderlust is strong.
What are the destinations of your trip?
Cross country USA (Boston to LA including exploring the west coast and Burning Man), Australia (Sydney, Melbourne, tropical Far North Queensland), Tokyo, Chiang Mai, Hanoi/Halong Bay, Bali, Arusha (actually the village of Monduli) Tanzania, Cape Town, Tankwa Town (AfrikaBurn), France (Paris, Gourdes) and other parts of Europe TBD- we know we will get to Umbria. Hoping to do some of Spain, Croatia as well, and possibly Iceland!
Why did you decide on this route?
Honestly, it all had to do with school for the kids. Our children are 3 and 5, and unlike most global traveling families, we feel passionate about putting our kids in local schools. We wanted them to have the benefit of different approaches to classroom learning, to learning new languages and making new friends from other cultures. So, we had a recommendation for a preschool in Ubud, Bali that would take the kids for a three month term. We committed to that right away, (we chose January – March so that we could be in Bali for Nyepi) and built the rest of our trip around it. Also, my parents were celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary and always wanted to go to Australia. We decided it would be great to start our overseas adventure with help from our family so we made that our first international destination. The rest just fell (or is still falling) into place.
What has been your favorite destination thus far and why? (Or which destination are you looking forward to most?)
How can anyone answer this? ! My first answer is always the last place we were. Right now I say Monduli because we went there to volunteer teach with an amazing secondary school for poor Masaai kids in a rural area. The work was intense and inspiring and the community so very different from our lives. It was the farthest we will be from the comforts of home and the most challenged our kids have been in terms of cultural comfort, so to watch them move through that; to watch them process being white for the first time; it was all very moving and powerful and important. It’s why we took this trip to begin with.
Aside from that, we loved Chiang Mai because the Buddhist way of life just spoke to us and our kids. We had a great preschool we found there and the people were incredibly warm and welcoming. The food was amazing. There were so many great sites and places to explore. We took weekend trips to Pai and Chiang Rai and the Myanmar border. It was a magical place for us. Learn more in this blog post!
Our time in Bali was also so magical. I found the expat community a bit overwhelming but we all adored the Balinese friends we made and their way of life.
Has there been a travel moment—big or small—that changed you and the way you and your family see the world?
Every day we’re at this, is a step in a new direction. Perhaps that’s why we left home and set off on this adventure in the first place, to keep our souls in motion. To give ourselves the opportunity to forge undiscovered paths of growth as a family.
Tanzania was on our list, off our list, on and off, again and again. Including Africa in our travel itinerary added significant cost. It didn’t seem feasible. It didn’t make sense.
But we are here now, and I have loved this part of the world and the Masaai people since I first set foot in African soil back in 2008. The sound of the African dove, the mesmerizing song of Masaai children singing under a thick African sky, the call of my Masaai name, Namelok… all these have been my siren song, calling me to return.
It has not been easy to be here with our children. This is the first time I have seen them react to the unfamiliar with fear. This is the first time I have seen them reject fellow humans or push away a hand offered to them in friendship.
But the students at Orkeeswa and the village children here have not given up on Sam and Toby. They continue to model trust and faith and kindness for our little humans.
Today that kindness cracked something open in our boys. And through that crack, a little light shined through.
Sam greeted me after my first class with elation that he had joined a game with kids next door, kids who don’t speak English, kids from whom he had run just a week ago.
Tobias jumped head first into the arms of his new friend Saidi and told me to go away so he could have his new companion all to himself.
It may seem small, but these are major changes that indicate the melting away of fear. Fear that I have to face in my children, even though I wish it didn’t exist.
There is no way to ignore the power of race while we are here. We are 4 of maybe 10 white people in all of Monduli. I feel intensely proud and honored to be welcomed here. I feel even more proud to be invited to teach and collaborate with this community. I am blessed and overwhelmed with gratitude.
Today I finally got to share that pride and gratitude with my boys. Today we were all, at last, back on the same page.
Here’s to growth and a process of getting to know ourselves better every day. Here’s to believing that good will conquer fear in our little family and in our desperately conflicted world. As they say in our children’s meditation practice, Peace begins with me.
Anything is possible.
Why do you believe that experiencing the world is important for your family?
Our life at home is very comfortable. I wanted to stretch my kids and build new avenues for connection with my family and as a family with others. It has totally worked! I love when our kids teach us about local customs and language- they learn so much at their local schools and activities. We’ve grown so much as a family and we’ve become aware of some of the problems in the world that we want to address when we get home. There is no better way to raise awareness about climate change than to live in a place where there is real drought. No better way to learn about refusing single use plastics than living in a place where trash washes up on the beach. These images are real for us now and they help us to be the global citizens we want to be.
Most of all, we made friends with people from other cultures. That has mattered most for all of us. Our kids have a real appreciation for the community values of the Balinese, the sense of cultivating inner peace from the Thai and the connection that so many cultures have with nature. This comes from real connections with real people that they would not meet in our life at home.
What would your advice be to another family that’s considering taking off to travel the world?
DO IT! And if you want more specifics on why, I’ve written several posts on my website. Check it out here!