Whenever we tell someone about our plans to take our three children travelling we get bombarded with questions. It’s a decision we’ve put a great deal of thought into and this post is an attempt to explain our thinking.
I have travel in my blood. Both my parents have travelled widely ever since I can remember. My childhood was punctuated by trips to New York and presents brought back from India. By the time I was 20 years old, I had been interailing around Europe, taken a six month trip encompassing three continents and visited 15 US states. I am well and truly bitten by the travel bug, and happily my husband shares my germs. Since we met we have taken some great holidays, staying in Japanese ski resorts, sleeping in the Rajasthan desert and having haircuts in Turkish barbers.
However, when we had our first baby seven years ago, our travelling days seemed like a distant dream. Sleep deprivation and nappy changing took over our lives to the point where putting the dishwasher on felt like an achievement. Leaving the house was a major challenge, there was no way we were going to be packing a backpack and hopping on a plane. Two more children came along, making travel seem even more impossible, and we learned to appreciate the delights of the British seaside holiday.
So why are we planning a nine month, round-the-world trip with our three children, who will be aged 8, 6 and 4? In September 2007, I was sad about our eldest starting in Year 1 after her first six week school summer holiday. I felt that our time together was too short and that she was growing up very fast. Before I knew it, our two younger children would be at school as well, and our lives would revolve around swimming lessons, football club and too-short holidays. Around the same time I came across two blogs on the internet – Six in the World and The Fleming Family blog – which immediately struck a chord. Both these families had taken their children out of school to travel for an extended period of time.
As I read these blogs, I realised that I really wanted us to do what these families had done. When I tentatively mentioned it to my husband, he was immediately enthusiastic. I’d assumed that we would have to wait until the children left home before we could take a long trip together. People don’t take children travelling, do they? Here were families who had done it, and returned home not only unscathed, but positively enriched by the experience.
Since our initial discussion we’ve spent hours pondering whether it’s the right thing to do. Will the children miss their friends and relatives too much? Are we jeopardizing their education by taking them out of school? We won’t be able to keep their school places open, so what happens if we can’t get them back into our lovely local school? What if one of us becomes really ill? What if someone back home becomes really ill? How can we possibly carry all the stuff we will need in two backpacks? How will we pay for it all? What will we do with our house and belongings? The questions are seemingly endless, and many of them have no straightforward answer.
After months of batting these questions back and forth, it has become clear to us that the most important question of all is ‘Will we ever have this time with our children again?’ The answer is ‘no’. If we don’t take this opportunity, they will carry on growing up and we will regret that we never took the plunge. Our children are destined to have travel in their blood too.