Managing expectations on a trip around the world


Nice to read about your adventures Tom - my wife and I are doing the same thing with our two daughters (which look to be of the same age). We’re in Europe currently and are trying out best to not plan a single thing more than 2 weeks out. This is hard.

Right now all we know is we’re here in Netherlands and next up is 3 weeks in central Germany. We spent a great 3 weeks in Iceland as well.

I loved reading up on your adventures in New Zealand! We’ve been talking about that as well - and doing it in a camper van. Our big thing is space - after 2 months now, privacy is HUGE.

I’d also love to read more about schooling and what you’re doing for math, science, etc.

Thanks for the article!

Also - I’m blogging our adventures at


As you have kids roughly my own age (the both of you), and you are on this big adventure with kids and will need some distractions, can I give a shout out to the stupidly fun thing of geocaching ( I say this for a few reasons: one, it’s great with kids, two, it can be a great distraction on a roadtrip (I have ended many, many fights in the car by pulling out my iPhone and seeing if there’s a geocache around – there always is), three, by going to the trouble of logging your caches on the website, it’s a remarkably strong way to force you (or your kids) to write a little journal about some part of the day. I’m hardly hardcore about the game, but because of it, I’ve written more daily (or weekly) journal entries about my days in the last five years than I ever would have with the best intentions of “finally keeping a journal!” Lastly, it has a tendency to take you on slightly-less-well-traveled routes. As caches are necessarily placed by locals, the odds of them taking you to a place most tourists miss is substantially higher. Even here in the Bay Area, I can’t count how many parks I’d never been to before I starting geocaching.


I am curious about schooling for the children. The lessons taught from such a profound jouney will be immeasurable, but what about the regular stuff like literacy, general education, etc.?

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When you said that your kids are easily distracted and that’s a generational thing I nodded, but then rethought that. Possibly I acted exactly the same way on a long trip with my parents and that was in the days of the Commodore Pet. Would they have said that about me? On the other hand, those were also the days I remember reading a Stephen King book in one sitting if I could just be left alone! Does that happen anymore, let me know.


Part of what we want for them to get out of this trip is learning how to be comfortable just being who they are without having to be continually entertained. But learning how to do that is a challenge, both for them and for us as parents.

That’s a challenge for adults, too. It took me a long time to learn to enjoy silence.

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Ah, the old, “We’re not having fun if the kids are not having fun” maxim. I know it well.

As a parent, I have learned to adjust my plans around my daughter’s (and when they were younger) stepkids’ interests and limitations, having learned the hard way it just wasn’t that great to drag kids through something kicking and screaming.

On the up side, travelling with children has been great preparation for handling my parents’ old age. When I visited France with my mom last year we did everything at her pace, which meant speedwalking through Fontainebleau, then banging out 45 minutes ahead of the meet up time at the bus. I had so much more fun when I stopped fighting the “I want to do what I want to do” attitude I started the trip with. That day after Fontainebleau we met a wonderful gentleman at a cafe and had one of our more charming moments of the trip chatting with him.

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It happens, but not by accident, I’m raising a little reader myself, I remember I bought his first children’s storybook when he was only a few months old, my wife looked at me like I was crazy, there were some pages missing by the time I could sit him down and read to him.

Because I remember that I read a lot of comics when I was kid, before I actually got into reading books I bought him some Disney comics which he would sit down and just look at the pictures, pretending to read, afterwards he would ask me to read to him.

Sometimes, when it gets very quiet around the house, I’ll go to his room and find him on the bed, reading a book on dinosaurs or discovery kids magazine which I’ll check for at the bookstore and subtly drop hints it “might” be available so he’ll ask we go and see.

Its the same things other dads do with sports or fishing or drinking beer, yo just have to show them the way.

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Great suggestion. We have done a bit of geocaching in the past, and it’s a great way to get to know what’s around you. Back in L.A., we’ve been to places most people who have lived in the town their whole lives have never heard of. We’ve slacked lately, but since you’ve brought it up, we’re going to give it a go on the trip. Thanks!

Yep - love geocaching! We live in Hawaii (Kauai) so some of the caches we’ve found have been a bit… well “gross” so the girls have shied away a bit from it. But - we’re going to get rolling again with it for sure :).

One additional note: I’m a map nerd and one of the nice derivatives of geocaching you can download them into a .gpx file which will place pins on Google Earth for where they are. Sort of handy if you want to see where you are going, but a great deal of fun as a way of going back through the places you’ve been later on. I’ve found that my son has a lot stronger memories of stuff he did at five and six because I can point out some specific details of a place we went. Bon Voyage!

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Oooo… Kauai hasn’t been in the budget for a while. I was last there just four months before I picked up geocaching! Some of the caches can get pretty worn out and gross, but there are still plenty of gems out there.

This is going to be a topic of a future post, but as a brief preview, we’re doing a combination of things. Our school has been great about the whole thing, and our oldest daughter is reading the same books as her class (or the class she would have been in). We discuss them as she progresses. Both girls are good readers, so that part of the education comes easily. We also try to pick a book that has some history or culture of the area we’re visiting and read it aloud then discuss it.

They each write every day, and from the younger one’s journals, we pull out the words she spelled incorrectly or used wrong, and use those to build a lesson from. The older daughter has to pick one of her pieces and re-write it with an eye toward clarity, grammar, and usage.

For math we’re working through the Khan Academy lessons, but that’s reliant on a good internet connection, though fellow world traveler @robconery has tipped us off that you can download the lessons on the iPad, so we’re going to look into that (Thanks, Rob!).

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Yes, that still does happen with us, too. Our oldest daughter can get lost in a book quite easily (right now she’s reading Fever 1793, which is about the yellow fever outbreak in (obviously) 1793—not something I would have thought a 10 year old girl would like, but her tastes are quite broad. Our youngest daughter has a harder time picking books she wants to read, but when she finds something she likes, she really digs in.

Awesome post, I see you’re in New Zealand at the moment (and probably somewhere near Wellington if you are about to cross on the ferry). Try Zealandia wildlife sanctuary if you have time. We live near it and the overspill of crazed teenage Kaka (the Kea’s smaller parrot cousin) have been growing more and more numerous.

This family may be doing school on the road (replicating school by using the same school books as the class the girls would have been in plus other curricular materials that they are requiring their children to complete) but many on the road families simply chose to unschool. Unschooling means that you don’t require your kids to do any particular kind of studying, but you simply integrate learning into everything you do, and let your kids follow their interests as they come up. There’s no coercion involved, so it’s much easier on the emotional and social life of the family on the road dealing with all sorts of other pressures, and kids manage to do just fine with math and science along the way. In fact, studies have shown that unschooled kids are MORE likely to go into STE(A)M professions when they grow up. BoingBoing had a post about unschooling just a few days ago, even:

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