A Family RTW Travel Adventure (2008-2009)
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Frequently Asked Questions

When we first began talking to friends about the idea of taking a year-long trip around the world we got a lot of different reactions followed by some fairly obvious questions.

The first question from the first person we told was:

“Are you crazy? If I had to spend 24 hours a day with my wife and kids for a year, one of us would end up dead and another would be in jail for murder!”

Maybe we are crazy. But we’d rather think of ourselves as just a little different. Guess we’re going to find out.

Here are answers to some of the other questions we’ve been asked.

“What about your job, your career?”

Exactly. What about them?

As we head into the next phase of our lives, we think a little perspective will be helpful. It’s a big world out there, and there are many ways to live your life. We think it will do us good to break out of the confines of our daily routines, habits and expectations.

Then there’s that matter of living life at your desk.

“What about your children’s education?”

We’re going to roadschool them. If we can’t teach them more in a year’s travel around the world than they would have learned in a classroom, then shame on us.

“How much of your trip are you planning in advance?”

We’ve got a rough itinerary and wish list of things to see and do, but we plan to stay flexible. We’ll need to remain very aware, to know when to slow down and when to move on, and most important, to be open to signs on the road.

“How do you begin planning a round the world trip?”

Web sites like Boots n’ All and Lonely Planet are good places to start. Their discussion boards, in particular, are full of useful information.

Boots n’ All also has an excellent and comprehensive set of frequently asked questions on RTW Travel.

We have made an exhaustive study of other families and individuals who have made round the world trips. Most travelers are very generous in sharing information, and we have learned something from every blog or travel site we’ve visited.

For someone interested in planning a round the world trip, we would recommend reading some of the blogs we link to. Megan Kearney at Me-Go provides one of the best, most detailed explanations of planning an RTW trip (along with an excruciatingly detailed breakdown of her expenses).

Perpetual Travel also has a good RTW planning guide.

“How do you pack for a whole year?”

You don’t. You pack for a week and repeat 52 times. (Better yet, pack for 4 days and repeat 90 times.) Long-term travelers provide one consistent piece of advice: Pack as lightly as possible.

“Americans are hated all over the world – do you want to expose your children to that?”

We believe people around the world share a fear of the unknown. We think it’s more important than ever to try to understand other people, cultures and places. And it’s important for citizens of other countries to meet ordinary Americans.

We’re going to work very hard to understand others and represent the best spirit of America.

“It’s a dangerous world. Don’t you fear for your safety?”

We lived most of the 1980s and 1990s in Washington, D.C., when it was the murder capital of the United States. We were living in the D.C. area on 9/11. And we lived in suburban Maryland when the Beltway Sniper was at large. Are the places we might travel really that much more dangerous?

In other parts of the world people think it’s dangerous to visit the United States. You’d certainly think so too if all you knew about the U.S. was what you saw on CNN.

We intend to use good sense and to try not to do anything stupid. [Emphasis on the word try!]

“How much does something like this cost?”

That’s like asking what a house or a car costs – there’s a pretty wide range. The falling dollar isn’t helping matters.

Some of the factors that impact cost:

  • Where you spend your time. Europe is a lot more expensive than Southeast Asia. The third world is a lot less expensive than the first world.
  • Your style of travel. Are you a devoted Hilton customer? Are cheap hotels acceptable? How do you feel about hostels?
  • The amount of time on the road. Do you want to travel for three months? Six? A year? Or maybe longer?

We’ve read about families who’ve made year-long trips for about $15,000 per person and another family that spent over $40,000 per person. We’ve also read about hard-core budget travelers who can spend a year traveling around the world for less than $7,000.

There are three discussions of costs that we recommend for anyone considering a round the world trip.

  • First, read John Higham’s essay “How To Plan A Round The World Trip” at his family’s web site, Armageddon Pills.
  • Then read the Andrus family’s breakdown of their costs at Six in the World.
  • Finally, take a look at Megan Kearney’s incredibly detailed breakdown of her costs traveling solo around the world.

Be sure to read all three because they do represent different approaches.

The bottom line is this: If you really want to take time off to explore the world, there’s a way to do it. It may take some serious saving and creativity, but it is possible for any determined person who brings the right attitude to the task.

No one makes this point better than Rolf Potts in his book Vagabonding.

“How do you pay for something like this?”

There are as many answers to this question as there are families who travel.

We’ve discovered families who sold their homes to finance their trips, like the Cohen family, the Coomer family and Soul Travelers3.

The Andrus family used a combination of frequent flyer miles, Starwood Preferred Guest points and savings.

Then there’s the Kiwi family of ten (ten!) that has been living frugally for years, saving to take a trip around the world that will include extensive volunteering.

It can be done.

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