Preparations

Preparing to leave was hard.  Harder than the actual travelling.  It was very unnatural and disconcerting.  There isn’t a lot written on how to prepare to travel around the world for a year and especially not much on the subject including children.  What we did find was extremely helpful and what follows explains how we prepared for our adventure:  

Books

There were two books that we purchased that explained the essentials:

The Practical Nomad

The Rough Guide to Traveling Around the World

These books are written with a backpacker orientation – young and carefree. Little spent on the logistics of houses, children, schooling, and family. We also researched on the internet and found some sites where folks had done this and some of the sites were quite detailed about all of the considerations including families. We got some useful and essential information for us to begin exploring. One by one, each obstacle was overcome until we were able to say, “We can do this”. Following is how we handled each aspect of our detachment from our existing world. We needed to work quickly as we had only first discussed the prospect of traveling extensively at the end of March 2007. We didn’t actively start researching until mid-April. If we left September 1, that would only be 4.5 months to prepare. Some folks prepare a year in advance (except for the backpackers).

Airfare

We first looked into airfare knowing it would be a major expense. We came up with a list of places that we would like to visit and organized them sequentially so that we would always be travelling in warm weather. Southern hemisphere November through March and northern hemisphere the rest of the time. We opted not to include South America as that seemed a more feasible destination in the future due to its proximity to the U.S. The rest of the countries we wanted to include were those countries that we did not anticipate traveling to in the future either due to its far-flung location, expense or inability to visit adequately within a normal vacation time-frame such as New Zealand. For example, we didn’t include Spain because we anticipate making a dedicated trip to Spain in the future whereas, we included Cambodia because we would like to see a few things there but wouldn’t make a special trip there in the near future. The books recommended some agencies that specialized in “round-the-world” travel. We contacted them and had to work within certain parameters such as 1) staying within a specific total mileage 2) travelling in a specific direction 3) limiting ourselves to a maximum number of flights and 4) travelling within a 12 month period. We finally found an alliance of airlines called OneWorld (www.oneworld.com). With this alliance, there is no maximum mileage (most were 39,000 miles counting land travel and we were planning on 55,000 miles) and they were comprised of an alliance of 10 airlines that had flights to most of the places we wanted to go to. Their main carriers are American Airlines, British Air, Iberia, Quantas, Malev, and Jordan Air. They had a specialized “round-the-world” customer service desk and an online program that allowed you to download the flight schedules and create your itinerary including actual flights. You look online to view the flight patterns and create/customize your itinerary based upon where the airlines fly to. For example, we started out in Paris because you can go from Boston to London, Paris or Madrid. We are travelling from Turkey back to Budapest because the alliance only flies to Egypt out of Budapest. Most of all, their prices were one-third of those quoted by other agents. Plus, kids fly at only 75% of the price. Once we figured out the approximate price of the flights, we determined that it was affordable and then moved onto the next major consideration.

House

Having someone rent our house was a key item because of the expense of maintaining a mortgage. It was never a consideration to sell as some other families we read about had done. We talked to a rental agent who advised us that it would be difficult to arrange for a rental several months in advance as most renters, because of relocation, don’t make arrangements to rent until about a month or two in advance. We didn’t want to put our stuff in storage but didn’t want to share our furnished home with strangers. It dawned on us to approach friends of ours who were already renting and were busting out of their apartment partially due to the arrival of their new baby – a nice addition to their existing 2 boys. They agreed to move in and they anticipated only needing to rent for 11 months which is exactly when we expected to return. Destiny at work.

Jobs

Peter had left his job awhile back as a result of his department’s relocation and decided to pursue his Certified Financial Planning designation. Since he was self-employed, leaving for a trip would not disrupt a job but simply delay starting his business. Peter had recently qualified for the designation and we didn’t want to jeapordize losing it but the CFP board confirmed that the designation is valid for five years without active work.Laura worked for a private bank in Boston and was willing to leave for a year and hope to pick up where she left off or pursue something else upon her return if things changed after the trip. Her employer was supportive. AutomobilesWe decided to take the cars off the road. We kept one car in the three-car driveway while our friends generously offered their barn which had enough room for the other car. InsuranceHomeowners – If we rented our house, we could no longer carry homeowners insurance but instead needed to switch to a fire policy.

Autos

Since we took the cars off the road, we didn’t require insurance.

Medical/Dental

We were able to maintain our current medical and dental plans. Since doctor visits were considered *out-of-network*, we would simply have to lay out money and make claims when we return to the States. Property – We took out a policy that would cover the possessions we would take with us since, without homeowners, our property outside of our home would not be covered.

School

We spoke with the superintendent and the principal of our school and explained our situation. We let them know that we wanted to homeschool but would return next year. They were very supportive and advised us that we would be able to use the school’s existing curriculum since it was for only one year. If we wanted to homeschool permanently, we would have to subscribe to a private curriculum. Also, lucky for us, the school was upgrading their math curriculum so a stack of reference and workbooks from the current version were made available to us. The expectation is that the boys would complete 1st and 2nd grade on the road and move on to 2nd and 3rd as they would have had we stayed in Marblehead.The boys were still assigned to teachers and Laura met with each of them a few times to understand the objectives and get ideas on how to deliver the material. The teachers were very excited to incorporate the boys’ trip into the classroom. Lucky for us, again, that the 2nd grade curriculum includes mapping and letter-writing – which we would obviously get a lot of exposure to.We took with us a duffle bag full of books. We had hoped to scan some of them and print them as needed but simply ran out of time. So, we are carrying 4 math workbooks, 2 phonics books, 2 handwriting books, 2 journals (specially formatted for drawing and writing), 5 paperback books of the chosen author for 2nd grade, 3 mapping workbooks and 2 drawing workbooks for art/entertainment and several paperback reading books.

Greenlight

Those were the big ticket items that were potential show-stoppers if we couldn’t resolve them. One by one, we realized that we could really do this. The following items are the major items that we needed to take care of once we had the “green light”.

Vaccinations We needed lots of shots. The books we had generally explained what types of shots we would require for the different countries we planned to visit. Extensive details were found on the Center for Disease Control’s website (www.cdc.com). We brought our itinerary to our physicians who then told us which vaccinations they could adminster and which ones we would have to go to a travel clinic to get. For example, the average physician does not have yellow fever vaccinations on hand so you have to go to a travel clinic. We each received diptheria, hepatitus A&B, polio, typhoid and yellow fever. In addition, we got rabies and japanese encephalitis shots which consisted of a course of three shots over a 30 day period. So, we received 6 shots the first day, then 2 more shots 7 days later then 2 more shots 23 days later. Believe it or not, the initial 6 shots were easier for the boys than the remaining shots because they knew what was coming after the first time. They were troupers. Lucky for us, there were no side-effects which is sometimes the case.  The travel clinic also armed us with prescriptions for malaria, diarrhea, and conjunctivitis which we are still sometimes susceptible to. We got all of the prescriptions filled before we left – we didn’t want to try filling them on the road.

Technology

This was a time-consuming area for us. Laura did the research and needed to not only learn how phones, computers, and internet access work around the world, she then had to figure out which products would be best for us. This was going to be a significant expense at the onset and then monthly so we didn’t want to overlook anything. We ended up purchasing a Blackberry smartphone (http://www.blackberry8800.com/) through T-Mobile (www.t-mobile.com). The T-Mobile plan would provide voice access to and from a single phone number around the world. In addition, we would have access to unlimited e-mail. We could also have internet access through the Blackberry or hook it up to a laptop to have access to the internet in full HTML mode (the internet on a smartphone is often limited to only partial viewing or text-only capability). We wanted a lightweight laptop computer that we could store pictures on, write journals, access the internet, use the Encarta encyclopedia, pull down vital documents from our e-mail, use skype  (http://www.skype.com/) (internet phone calls), update our blog and whatever else we hadn’t yet anticipated. We were able to get one that was 2.7 lbs and it even has a dvd player in it! It also has shock-mounted internal parts which is good for travelling and getting knocked around. And it has more memory than our home computer! We purchased the laptop through a company called Dynamism (http://www.dynamism.com/) (recommended in the books) which specializes in lightweight computers for travelling made in Japan. Our keyboard includes japanese characters (¥) and in some cases, the keys are in different places but it is easy to get used to. In addition, we got a portable drive so we could backup pictures in case something happened to the laptop. Since we took 1000 pictures in two weeks when we visited Alaska, we figured we needed a lot of space so we opted for the 60GB portable drive – it’s the size of a checkbook.

Camera

We brought our camera along with 2 memory cards each with 2.0 gigabytes of memory (could hold about 2000 pictures between the two). Once we fill them up, we can erase the cards once they are backed up to the laptop and portable drive and uploaded to the internet. We use rechargeable batteries so we would need to bring a dual voltage recharger and 8 batteries to use 4 at a time and always have 4 charged as backup. Our plan is to upload the pictures to the internet so that they will be backed up in the event of a disaster (bags fall overboard) and they can be shared on our blog.

Ipod

Peter and Laura each had ipods which were loaded not only with music but also audiobooks for the boys. Laura transferred the music libraries over to the laptop as a backup and the ipods could be used for plane, train or boat rides.

Library

The library was an invaluable tool to us in preparing for our trip. We borrowed a guidebook for every country we wanted to visit. Our favorites were Lonely Planet and Fodor’s. We borrowed dozens of various children’s books for the boys to become oriented to the environment, customs and history of these countries. Some of our favorite books can be found on the Kid’s Resources page.

Support

We received so much support wherever we went and from whomever we talked to.  Family, friends, teachers, doctors, librarians, parents, neighbors, acquaintences…everyone.  We were so thankful and it gave us great confidence and incentive to keep moving forward.  THANK YOU!

Gear

Peter was the one who first mentioned backpacks and Laura immediately said, “No Way!” 3 months later, we’ve got our world on our backs. It was difficult to anticipate what it would feel like to be constantly mobile and we read enough to understand that dragging luggage around, even with wheels, would be impractical. Many placesat we would visit would have dirt roads or sidewalks or cobblestone. We wanted to live simply and this was the first step to making the transformation. We contacted REI (www.rei.com) in Reading who specialize in outdoor recreational equipment and arranged for a personal consultant to work with us. We were there for 7 hours. It took almost 3 hours to select our backpacks. The consultant tries different backpacks on you loaded with 25 pounds of beanbags and then it all comes down to comfort and function. Laura selected one with a lot of padding on the straps (Gregory Deva 60) and Peter selected one with extra ventilation on the back meaning the pack sits away from your back to allow air circulation (Osprey Atmost 65). The backpack should ride on your hips which takes the weight away from your shoulders and back. The children did not get backpacks as we planned on using ones we already had. The bright side of bring backpacks is that we would likely be able to carry them on the airplanes rather than check them. We did not opt for backpacks with wheels as they added too much weight.  We also bought lightweight towels which are highly absorbent but fold very flat. They feel like a chamois cloth – very soft. We bought 2 large and 2 medium sized ones. These are primarily for the beach, getting caught in the rain or if we stay places that do not provide towels.

We bought bags called stuff sacks. These various sized bags allow you to put all of your “stuff” into separate bags so that the contents of your backpacks do not get all jumbled. Laura bought 7 different ones all different colors so she can quickly know where something is in her backpack and also pull something out without everything else shifting. For example, the black bag contains all of the medicine and first aid while the blue back contains all of the electronics and the orange bag contains adult clothes and the navy bag contains Henry’s clothes. We also have a bag for toiletries and a bag for liquids (you need to quickly pull out your liquids before boarding the plane). Within each stuff sack, items are stored in ziplock bags to keep things separate or to contain accidental spillages. It works quite nicely.

 Clothes – because we had limited space in our backpacks, we had to get used to the idea that we would only be bringing 3 changes of clothes. We would need clothes that were constructed of material that dries quickly, breathes in warm weather, looks good and be a style/color that you can live with for a long time. The consultant at REI helped us pick out shirts, shorts, pants and socks. They didn’t have everything in stock that we needed so a trip to LL Bean (www.llbean.com) in Burlington and trips to Target (www.target.com) and some online shopping (www.backcountry.com, www.moosejaw.com) got us all of the clothes we needed. The plan was to wash clothes everyday. We each wore the only shoes we were bringing. We bought Keen Newports (www.keen.com) for all of us. They are great for all kinds of activities (hiking, biking, walking) and they are waterproof, comfortable and you don’t have to wear socks.

For laundry, we brought a 16oz can of powder detergent (liquid would be too much for airline), a clothesline that is made of braided elasticized rubber. This way it retracts into a small bundle, stretches to fit across the room and doesn’t require clothespins but rather you stick the clothes into the braids. We also brought a universal drain stopper in case there wasn’t one available. Keeping up with the laundry is an essential activity for our light load to work.Following is our packlist. Listed out, it seems inconceivable that all of this would fit comfortably on our backs but everything is compact and small and weighs less than what we practiced with at REI.

Folks have been interested in how you pack for a year on the road.  Below is our packlist:

Packlist

Laura’s Backpack

Laura’s Clothes (Orange Stuff Sack)

 3 short-sleeved shirts

2 shorts (with zip on pants)

1 skort (shorts that look like a skirt)

1 long-sleeved shirt

2 bras

4 pair of underwear

1 micro-fleece pullover shirt

1 rain jacket

1 pair of Keen Newports

1 pair silk lightweight pajamas

1 bathingsuit

1 pair of socks (only for malaria areas or cold nights)

1 bandana (multi-purpose – hat, hankie, bandage, sweat-wiper, pirate hat, lapel pocket-stuffer) 1 large towel1 water-resistent watch (with timer/alarm)1 pair sunglasses1 pair spare eyeglasses

Henry’s Clothes (Navy Stuff Sack)

3 short-sleeved shirts

2 shorts (1 with zip on pants)

1 shorts/bathingsuit (looks like shorts but designed for water)

1 long-sleeved shirt

1 micro-fleece pullover shirt

1 rain jacket (folds into its own pouch)

1 pair socks

4 underwear (only cotton item we have – they don’t make polyester kid’s underwear. If you find some, email us)

1 school shirt (school logo on shirt to send school oriented pictures home and doubles as pajama shirt)

1 medium towel

Toiletries – Liquid (Medium Green Stuff Sack)

Makeup remover

Sunscreen

Liquid Makeup

Mascara

Children’s Toothpaste

Facial Moisturizer

Body Moisturizer

30 pair disposable contacts (1 pair per 2 weeks)

Toiletries – Non-Liquid (Small Green Stuff Sack)

1 Deoderant

1 Adult Toothbrush

2 Children’s toothbrushes

Hair Elastics

Tweezers (good for splinters)

 10 Q tips

1 Lipstick

1 Powder

1 Blush

1 Brush

1 Children’s Brush

Laundry (Silver Stuff Sack)

1 16 oz powder laundry detergent

1 clothesline

1 universal sink drain cover

 Hardware (blue stuff sack)

Dual voltage battery recharger for cameraBlackberry rechargerBlackberry computer cable for syncingBlackberry HeadsetHeadset Computer Adapter (to use Skype though laptop) Portable Drive & cable

Extra Memory Card for Camera

Laptop Dual Voltage Charger Cable

Laptop

Ipod

Ipod Recharger

Ipod Computer Cable

Ipod Headphones

Medicine/First Aid

1 Thermometer

20 Bandaids

1 tube Anticeptic gel

30 Dramamine tablets

20 Childrens Tylenol (tablets)

 52 Malaria pills (total for all of us)

1 box Immodium AD tablets

30 prescription diarrhea tablets (if above doesn’t work – ugh)

1 small container of Advil

20 Mucinex tablets (for coughs – works great)

3 oz. Contact Lens Solution

Documents:  Lists (birthdays, holidays, addresses) not yet converted to blackberry; Notes from teachers about schooling

Laura’s Total Backpack weight (including empty backpack weight of 5 lbs) = 22 lbs

School Books (Separate Duffle)

4 Math Workbooks

2 Handwriting Workbooks

2 Phonics Workbooks

2 Journal Pads (for drawing & writing)

5 Stories by single school-preferred author

5 Books for children to practice reading

2 Art books (Drawing)

15 pieces of construction paper

2 Pencil Boxes (contain 10 colored pencils, 8 regular pencils, 8 erasers, 2 dice, 1 pencil sharpener)

2 sheets of “Good Job” homework stickers

1 Guidebook for next destination

School Book Duffle weight = 15 lbs

Peter’s Backpack Clothes4 short-sleeved shirts1 long-sleeved shirt2 shorts (with zip on pants)1 short (doubles as bathingsuit)

1 rain jacket

1 fleece pullover shirt

1 baseball cap

4 pair underwear

1 bandana

1 pair socks

1 pair sunglasses

1 pair Keen Newport ShoesToiletries1 Toothbrush1 Toothpaste1 Deoderant30 Q tips

10 Disposable Razors

1 brush Hardware

Eyeglass Repair Kit

Krazy Glue

Ipod

Ipod Earphones

1 pair binoculars

1 bag of electric current converters for outlets

Documents: Notes on destinations, Visas, airline tickets (yes – paper tickets, 16 per person – the airline cannot handle e-tickets when you are over 15 flights).

Wallet

Oliver’s Clothes

3 short-sleeved shirts

2 shorts (1 with zip on pants)

1 shorts/bathingsuit (looks like shorts but designed for water)

1 long-sleeved shirt

1 micro-fleece pullover shirt

1 rain jacket (folds into its own pouch)

1 socks

4 underwear

1 school shirt (school logo on shirt to send school oriented pictures home and doubles as pajama shirt)

1 medium towel

1 pair of Keen Newport shoes

Total Weight of Peter’s Backpack – about 20 lbs.

Oliver’s Backpack

1 small blanket

1 small bear

2 matchbox cars

1 Tennis Ball

1 pack of Uno cards

1 pack playing cards

1 Hackysack ball

1 blow-up globe beachball

1 pack of president flashcards

2 magnifying/explorer glasses 

24 Crayons

2 swimming goggles

2 plastic “juggling balls” 1 stopwatch 1 mini-puzzle (bought in Croatia)1 superball (found in Paris)3 good skipping rocks (found in Croatia)1 walking stick (found somewhere)

1 bottle of water

Oliver’s Backpack weight – about 7 lbs.

Henry’s Backpack (used also as family daypack)

1 small blanket

1 small dog

2 puzzle activity books

1 walking stick (found somewhere else)

1 Chestnut (found in Budapest)

(following items always kept in daypack)

2 kid’s sunglasses

2 kid’s binoculars

1 bottle of water

Blackberry

(sometimes laptop)

1 mini first-aid kit

1 Guidebook 4 extra batteries for cameraCamera (carried separately)2 school workbooks (subject depends of day)Peter’s glassesUsually some postcards to write/mail

Documents – 4 passports

Henry’s Backpack weight – about 7 lbs.

With all of this and probably more that I forgot to mention, we were ready to go.

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2 Comments »

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  1. hello
    trip sounds wonderful

  2. heyy.

    We are some of Mr. Bitgood’s students and love your adventure. We are always falling off of our seats looking at the amazing photos.


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