Four In Transit

Tales and Tips About Family Travel Around the World

So how in the world do you pay for a trip around the world? That’s the big question and stumbling block for many people, especially people with kids. It’s not easy, but we met lots of traveling families, from single parents to families with four kids (all of whom are old enough to require their own plane tickets) who are neither wracking up piles of debt nor independently wealthy. Through a combination of creative financing and careful budgeting, it’s possible to do this yourself.

First you have to get into the right mindset. There’s a big difference between taking a vacation, where the aim is to relax and recuperate, and traveling, where the aim is to see and experience the world, as much of it and for as long as possible.

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You open up a group email on your iPad and notice that one of the addressees is named “But Face,” which is funny and weird, since that’s what your children have taken to calling each other, spelled with two “T”s of course.   A few days later you reread a work email you sent from this same iPad and see that the sender is also named “But Face.” In other words, But Face is you.

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Ethiopians call foreigners faranji, which our local guide tells us means “French” in Amharic.

In rural Southern Ethiopia, where cars are scarce and farmers walk their herds on the main roads, children run after the ten-year-old Toyota Land Cruisers carrying faranji and yell “Ayh-land-ah, Ayh-land-ah” or sometimes just “Ayh-land,” which is their name for the plastic water bottles from which foreigners and rich people drink. “Highland,” our guide tells us, was the name of Ethiopia’s first water bottling plant, which went bankrupt five years ago. The new company, “Yes,” features the slogan “YES for a Better Life!”

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In the first five months of a ten-month trip around the world with my husband and kids, we’ve taken nineteen flights, nine train rides, eleven bus rides, and too many car rides to cover nearly 5000 miles to count. We’ve spent two weeks of these five months literally in transit. It’s never fun exactly, but neither does it have to absolutely suck, even when you are traveling internationally with small children. Mine are five and eight. Here are some tips that have gotten us through it: Continue reading

Before we left the United States, I read many blogs of other traveling families who had taken similar trips, and they all described the incredible bonds developed on the road. “It was such a gift to spend so much time together!” “We returned feeling closer to each other than ever before.” And how the kids would spontaneously come up to hug their parents, thanking them for this amazing experience. For the first three months of our trip, as we traveled through Africa, I kept thinking of these testimonials to familial closeness and wondering whether we would be the exception. Continue reading

As I sat between the kids in the backseat of our rental car, parked on the main street of the Langa township in Cape Town, South Africa, and listened to the tour guide give his introductory talk on the history of the townships and their residents, I could feel the resentment steaming off of them. It was a resentment that went beyond their normal resistance to cultural sightseeing.  Can we please not sightsee today? had become a common refrain over the first two months of a year-long trip around the world.  But usually, once we got to the museum or prison or church, and they started looking at the pictures and hearing the stories, they became interested or at least understood the point of why we’d brought them.

My eight-year-old daughter slumped in her seat, as if she didn’t want to be seen.  Her clouded gaze out the window broadcast neither curiosity nor fear but embarrassment.   Why were we making them look upon the lives of poor people? What was there to be gained or learned from it, except how lucky they were not to live here themselves?

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Happy Valentine’s Day everyone! It has been a long time since I last posted and I wanted to catch you up on my travels. We left India just after Christmas. Our first stop was Thailand. We spent only one day in the capital Bangkok, which was very busy, and then we took an overnight train to Chiang Mai, which was calmer and more rural. One of the best things we did there was climb up a limestone waterfall called “The Sticky Falls.” We went there with another traveling family from the USA; I made a new friend named Maddie Church, a fifth grader, from Pennsylvania. Here we are climbing the falls and posing for the camera with our brothers


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