A few months ago, we published a lovely interview of a world travelling family, this was Kyla from “Where is the world” and her amazing family: Randy, Calais and Kacela. They packed everything from home, they stored it and packed a backpack each and got ready to have a leap year around the world. After visiting more than 30 countries with a 5 and 7-year-old girls, they are back in Canada and ready to review their year. So get ready to awe yourself with this, again, beautiful family story.
How are you feeling being back at home after so many experiences?
It honestly felt like we’d never left home!! After the initial craziness of getting our house back in order the year away felt like it had been a dream. I had a little melt-down about 2 weeks after we got home. I was coming down from the high of being away, and then the high of getting home, and I was truly sad it was all over. We had some incredible experiences, and our family time together was priceless. We worked towards the year for so long it felt a bit empty that it was done. But we quickly schemed up another project to fill the void!!
Many people think about how much does it cost to travel for a year, could you give us a rough number?
My budget for our trip was $200CAD/day (135€) for our family, with another $20,000CAD (13.484€) allocated for flights. I’d hoped to come in under $100,000CAD (67.423€). In the end, we were a few hundred dollars shy of $100K!!! It’s a lot of money, but I don’t think it has to be that expensive. We splurged along the way when we wanted to, and I think ultimately we ended up spending our budgeted amount because we knew we could. We definitely didn’t travel super luxurious, but we weren’t thrifty budget travellers the whole way either. We also moved around a LOT, which added to the cost. Staying in one place for longer is much cheaper than constantly changing destinations.
When we’ve travelled we’ve found places where we’d say, “I could stay here forever”. During your trip, where was this place for each of you?
For Randy, the answer is definitely Vietnam, mostly for the food. I don’t think he’d be overly picky about where in the country, although he does prefer the Pho soup in the South.
For me, I’d have to say Luang Prabang in Laos. I just completely fell in love with the city. Like Vietnam, the food is also incredible, but with a bit more French influence. This means that decent cheese, wine, pastries and charcuterie are readily available. Couple this with a laid back atmosphere and a beautiful location, and I’d be happy to never leave.
Calais would choose Koh Lipe in Thailand. For whatever reason the tiny little island paradise really made it’s mark on her. It’s one of the places she keeps talking about repeatedly. The beaches were incredible, some of the best we saw all year, and the fact that it was almost solely pedestrian made it great for the kids.
Kacela would pick Bali as her forever destination! Bali was her destination choice for the year, and she planned all our activities during our stay. This led to a stronger connection for her with the island, and I think she went into it knowing she’d love it regardless of what actually happened!!
There must be so many anecdotes along the way, please share with us the best or a few!
I always have a hard time coming up with these on the spot!! One of my favourites was when we were in China. Kacela is a bit klutzy and she was constantly falling all over the place. We were climbing down a long mountain staircase and she tripped and fell and rolled down a few stairs. As she got her bearings and realised what had happened, she proclaimed “Not again?!?!”. Thankfully she fell less and less as the year went on.
Has your view about travelling with kids changed?
This trip didn’t change our view about travelling with kids, we’d done enough before that we had a pretty realistic expectation of what we were getting ourselves into. We had our packing down to a science before we left, and had already established with our kids the requirement of trying (and eating) whatever food was put in front of them. They’re also comfortable in any culture, different or the same, and in any situation. We were incredibly lucky that we’d exposed them to so much before the year, as it didn’t take much time at all to get our travelling feet under us at the start of the trip.
It did, however, change our view of full time travel/long-term travel! We really enjoyed it, but we travelled too quickly and changed destinations too frequently. We saw so many things, but really missed digging into the local culture. Looking back now, I would’ve taken it a bit slower and given us more down-time. That way we would’ve been better at things like keeping up with school!!
In all the countries that you’ve visited, is there a place that you’d say that the kids need to be certain age to really enjoy it?
I think that as the girls are getting older they’re enjoying travel more. They’ve always found pleasure in the little things, like chasing pigeons and playing in the sand, but now their enjoyment is extending to cultural activities and appreciating the uniqueness of the various locations we visit. Every destination is going to be better once their old enough to actually understand where they are and what they’re doing. A few specifics that stand out are:
Uzbekistan – It’s all about the architecture, so it may be worth waiting until the kids are old enough to appreciate the beauty of the buildings.
Sleeping in the Jaisalmer desert – this required a long, hot camel ride which could be boring and tiring for a child 3-4 or younger, however playing in the sand dunes at the end of the camel ride would be enjoyable at any age!
Egypt – Visiting the pyramids and temples is a lot more meaningful when the kids can understand just how old it all is, and how special that makes it. They’d still enjoy running around the ruins as a toddler, but it wouldn’t have the same impact!
You had an initial itinerary but, in the end, you had some changes, why/how did you decide those changes? What did it mean in terms of tickets and logistics?
We changed our SE Asia itinerary slightly because we made friends and decided to go on a liveaboard diveboat in Raja Ampat with them!! We were so close already, and it seemed a shame to not take advantage of the opportunity. Luckily our schedule was pretty flexible, and we hadn’t pre-booked any flights, so we didn’t lose any money. We did leave my in-laws in Bangkok one day before they flew back to Canada, but they didn’t mind!
The other change we made was swapping East Africa for India. While I was researching flights from Thailand to Africa the cheap ones all routed through India. At the very least they’d require a night in India, which then required a Visa. We figured it would be a shame to just spend a night, so we thought maybe we’d spend a week. However, that decreased our time in Africa to less than we wanted.
In the end, we asked the girls if they’d rather go on a safari in Africa or see the Taj Mahal and celebrate Holi festival in India. Kacela asked, “which one is going to be cooler?” (not more interesting…physically cooler, as in not as hot!!). I told her they’d both be similar. Then she asked, “do we have to take the yucky pills for both of them?” (yucky pills being mefloquine for malaria), to which I answered, “yes”. They conferred for a little bit and both decided they wanted to see the Taj Mahal because they’d been on a safari not that long ago. So, we spent 5 weeks in India and decided to save East Africa for another time! Again, because we were booking everything as we went, we didn’t lose any money by deciding to change our plans. It was nice to have a general outline of where we wanted to go, but have the flexibility to change as we wanted.
You travelled to 30 different countries, is there a place you regret not going? Why did you miss it?
I’m really sad we missed Nicaragua! We travelled overland through the rest of Central America from Cancun to Panama City, however we flew from San Salvador, El Salvador to San Jose, Costa Rica. The riots had just started in Nicaragua, and there were reports of long waits at road blocks and multiple detours throughout the country. Not ideal for a family wanting to traverse from North to South via the road! It didn’t seem safe, or smart, at the time to enter the country. We made the right decision, but I’m still a bit sad that we didn’t get to travel ALL of Central America!
You still have a lot to write about your gap year as a family but overall, how was the experience?
Calais says the year was “good, but she would not do it again” because she missed home a lot and she thinks if she did it when she’s older she’d miss lots of things even more. She liked that she made new friends and that she got to learn how to say “hi” and “thank you” in different languages. She also enjoyed meeting local families and learning about local culture. She liked it because she got to experience new “things and stuff”. Thing – seeing the Taj Mahal. Stuff – riding a Felluca on the Nile.”
For me, the amount of uninterrupted time we had together, and the experiences we had as a family, were extraordinary. Ultimately, it didn’t really matter where we were or what we were seeing, it was that we were on this crazy adventure together.
Now that you are back in Canada and your family and friends have seen and talked to the girls, what changes have they found?
The girls matured a lot during the year. They both became more confident and self-assured. They also have stories for everything!! When talking with friends or family, most conversations lead to a story from them about something we did while we were travelling. I think this has turned them into true travellers!!
The other big difference is their awareness of the environment. We saw and picked up so much trash during our year, that we’re all very aware of our plastic consumption. The girls have both become little stewards for the planet, and are quick to say “no” to the offer of a straw.
If you had another gap year, what would you do differently? Are you thinking of having another travelling the world year? If so, where would you start?
If we were to do this again (we’ve talked about it!), we would slow things down and only go for about 6 months. We’ve talked about choosing 6 destinations and staying for a month in each place. We could select one each, and then have 2 that were family choices. We talked a bit about where we’d each choose while we were travelling for the year. Kacela still thinks she’d choose Bali. Randy would, of course, choose Vietnam. Calais’s current pick is Madagascar. For me, I have no idea!! I’d lean towards somewhere in Colombia or Argentina I think!
And that’s it! Thanks for sharing your stories with us! I can’t believe they are back and ready to share their stories in their web, you can see all their amazing pictures of the past year on Instagram and follow their new adventures also on Facebook! And now is your turn to share their adventure and let everyone know how cool travelling with kids can be.