Darren writes about our 2003 extended family journey with our kids and the impact that it made.
In September 2003, my wife, Sandy and I, left our full-time IT jobs and took an around-the-world trip with our two daughters. At the time, Kristen (age 10) and Lauren (age 12) were in 5th and 7th grade, respectively. We started working with the principal during the prior school year. I remember he was so supportive during those initial meetings. The school’s assistant principal (and also a former teacher) worked closely with us six months before the trip during that spring to develop a high-level lesson plan and then paved the way with the teachers our kids would have the following year.
Lauren received tutoring that summer in order to get some of the more advanced course material out of the way before school started. Our kids attended school with the rest of their class for the first three weeks of the year and then we were off! We would be out of the country for the next four-and-a-half months months, spending a month in southern and eastern Africa, a month in India, a month in Australia, a month in Southeast Asia and two weeks in Europe.
The Internet made this trip possible because, though we were half-way around the world, we were still in touch. At this time, even the most remote village, it seemed, had an Internet café. The upload speeds weren’t terribly fast, but we had “connectivity” and that’s all that mattered. We used the Internet to send emails and up to ten photos to our friends, family and also to our daughters’ teachers and principal. Our kids used the Internet it to submit their assignments and correspond with their teachers. Though we had some rough spots in the beginning, the “education plan” worked and eventually we settled into a routine.
And, it was fun too because we had worked so hard before we left to ensure that the itinerary reinforced the curriculum and vice versa. For example, one the places we visited was Zambia in Africa. So, while we were there, the kids learned about Dr. Livingstone and his explorations. Later, when we visited India I remember working with Lauren on book reports on Mahatma Gandhi and Mother Theresa. The kids learned about the “Killing Fields” in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. I also had several occasions to walk and talk with the kids alone. It was at these times I was able to show them how other people lived in the developing world. They came face to face with children their own age dressed in rags, living as squatters in a bamboo huts on the side of the road.
When we returned to the United States four-and-a-half months later, our daughters received many questions from the other kids at their school about what the trip was like. The four of us ended up speaking at a school-wide assembly, as well as for several civic groups. It was clear that it wasn’t only our kids that got something from this trip. Since then our daughters have maintained an interest in the world “out there” and are both in college pursuing international majors.
So we carried that experience with us and now hope to impact many other children with our Trekking the Planet journey. Our hope is that our travels to remote places around the globe will spark and interest and curiosity in children to learn and understand more about our world.