Traveling the World With Your Family.

7 Sep

It’s hard for many of us in MomTime to imagine spending a year traveling with our children because they are still so young, but our panelists today gave us a glimpse of what may come if international travel is on your wishlist.

Bekah Allen-Dhillon spent a year living in Ethiopia (2010-2011) with her husband and two children, then aged 3 and 5.  She had just graduated from nursing school, and her husband took a leave of absence from the law firm where he worked, which gave them the opportunity to pursue their dream of doing non-profit international development work.  They adopted their youngest child from Ethiopia in 2008, so they were eager to learn more about his culture by living there for a year.  Bekah and her family lived on a compound with other expats and sent their kids to local schools.  Their older child went to kindergarten at an international school with a geographically diverse student population, and the younger one went to a preschool that had lots of Ethiopian children in attendance.  Bekah said two of the most valuable things they got out of the experience were, (a) learning about and living their son’s culture, and (b) having an abundance of time together in their professional and married lives.  To learn more about Bekah’s experiences, you may email her at bekahad@gmail.com.

Lisa Culhane went around the world with her husband and two children, then aged 9 and 11.  They visited 31 countries, starting in Europe and ending in the Pacific Islands.  Lisa documented their adventures on their blog, Culhane Travel Blog.  Lisa and her husband had first explored the idea of international travel with their children when the kids were 3 and 5 years old.  They wanted to return to Italy where they had spent time pre-children, but after thoroughly researching their options (including touring a school there), they decided the children were too young for them to take on such a challenge.  When Lisa’s kids were 9 and 11 the time was right, so the Culhanes set off around the world.

Lisa shut down her consulting business and her husband left his job as a lawyer.  They rented out their house in Denver and budgeted $100,000 for the year of travel plus a 6-month transition period upon returning home.  Lisa’s children managed their $200/day budget on a spreadsheet, and the family ended up coming in $20,000 under-budget at the end of the year.  Each family member packed a backpack and a piece of carry-on luggage so that they would never have to check bags on a flight – can you imagine traveling so light for a year?!  The Culhanes brought along a year of math curriculum for the children, which the kids promptly completed within 3 months!  Family members who visited them in a few locations across the globe brought more math and stacks of books for the children.  The Culhane kids completed 3 years’ worth of math in their one year abroad, not to mention devouring countless books.  Lisa’s husband also taught the children Latin while they were traveling.

When Lisa asked her daughter recently (now age 14) what was the most important thing she packed, her daughter replied, “My attitude” – remarkable!

You can contact Lisa at lisa@teamculhane.com or through her blog http://culhanetravelblog.wordpress.com.

Lynn Hetterich and her husband took their middle school aged children around the world in 2000.  The Hetteriches closed down their business for the year and rented out their Denver home to fund their travels.  They lived on a budget of $60/day in 2000.  They spent a lot of their time in developing countries in order to keep costs down.

The Hetterich family set up camp (sometimes literally in tents) in various countries, and explored further from those locations.  Lynn said it was true “expeditionary learning” for her children.  The Hetteriches also brought along math curricula for their children, and her daughter (who was 12) read 60 books during their year abroad.  Each family member was required to journal every day – this started out with an “I hate journaling” entry on the first day, but resulted in fabulous tomes by the end.  When they returned to the US, the children went into the next grade as usual – they were not behind in any way.

At MomTime today Lynn shared their family’s Christmas newsletter written in Nepal during their year of travel.  It is a great summary of their experiences.  You can email Lynn for a copy of the letter, or to ask her more about her experiences: lynn@teamhetterich.com.

All three of our panelists said they spent a lot of time researching and planning before their trips, but ended up going with the flow once on the road.  Bekah found a couple of guidebooks useful, particularly one that focused on Ethiopian culture and customs, rather than just tourist books. Lynn and Lisa planned major legs of their journeys, but left the details of their itineraries very flexible while traveling.  Their accommodations ranged from hostels to hotels to campsites to homes of people they met along the way.

We also heard, briefly, from a few other moms who have traveled internationally from 2 to 6 weeks with their young families. Nilmini Hecox spends 6 weeks in Sri Lanka every other year with her girls who are 7 and 4. Linda Beardsley spent a month in Costa Rica this year with her husband and children who are 4 and 6. Miriam Morrison spent 2 weeks traveling around India with her husband and their then 17-month old in 2009. Paola Ramirez and her husband take their children, ages 2 and 4, to Guatemala every summer for a month and they also do a separate international family vacation each year.  They all have plenty of stories, tips and warnings to share from their travels, so please click on their names to email them for more information about their experiences.

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One Response to “Traveling the World With Your Family.”

  1. Kim Hicks September 8, 2012 at 9:07 AM #

    Loved this session! Thank you to all the moms who shared their stories and who inspired all of us who get overwhelmed by packing up to go to the mountains for the weekend! I have always felt that there is no education that can compare to what you learn through travel and this session just reminded me to make it a priority for my kids’ education! Thanks for sharing 🙂

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