Category Archives: Long term travel

The gift of Travel- Thank you Honey for the best gift ever!!!!!

photoIt was our first Christmas home after two years of having Christmas’s on the road. Even though our time on the road had taught us to be more frugal and buy less we still found an awful lot of stuff under the tree on Christmas morning. Everyone was all smiles but there were shrieks of joy and surprise when we opened the huge surprise gift my awesome hubby gave us.

The gift was wrapped the same. There was one for each of us. We were told to open them at the same time. The kids managed to rip them open first and I knew it was something big. I saw the black book first. It was a cover for our well worn dive logs that we used on our recent Round the World adventure. When I opened it, out fell a paper detailing a trip booked for Spring Break to Bonaire, the shore diving capital of the world.  Each of had a different Bonaire guide book or dive information. It was amazing.

I have never been surprised with a vacation before and it couldn’t have come at a better time. I was getting so antsy to travel that I found myself constantly planning hypothetical trips. After a year on the road we had returned to the hustle and bustle of our Kentucky lives. School, sports, and family commitments now dominated our free time and we found making the time to travel abroad getting harder and harder.

We learned from the “Big trip” that in order to make it happen  you really just have to commit to the trip  and make it a priority. The other commitments will work out. Sometimes it is nice to have someone do that organizing for you!  What a gift! Thank you David for making the commitment for us. We are all thrilled!!!

Diving is our family’s passion. We did over 25 dives on our Round the World trip. (Read my post at 72andrising to learn about why we love diving with our kids!  )   Bonaire has some of the best shore diving in the world. Meaning one can rent a truck, drive to a dive site and go in right from the beach. No boats or guides needed. I can’t wait. I’m excited and ready for advice and suggestions from all who have traveled there!!!

In the mean time, I’ll be posting from the South as I’ll probably hit several southern states before we leave!!!  Merry Christmas!!

Making your trip happen – by making it a priority.

Make your trip a Priority f6d72ec48a1b8984a9fdcddf1ac7d3b0

Taking time off to take a vacation or travel to a dream destination is really hard for us Americans. We have a lot of pressure on us. We are a hyper-scheduled society and we like it that way. We have work commitments, school commitments, sports and tournaments to attend, family to see and annual family obligations we feel compiled to meet. These are things we feel we must do, but also things we like. They are what ground us and generally help make daily life good. There is nothing wrong with these things.

Having just returned from our year “off” – I have learned a few things. Being one of those hyper-scheduled families that was loaded down with commitments before we left, I completely understand how a schedule can come to dominate one’s existence. People looked at us as if we were crazy to pull our kids  from select soccer and leave our annual routine. Well, we did it. We took the year off. We had an amazing experience and we are back. We returned and things are pretty much back to the very full schedule we had before we left. We learned to let go a little and we enjoy an existence that is a little less crammed full, but it is still pretty busy.  We are, after all, Americans. We can’t help it. Schedules and routine are a real and normal part of our life here.

In the US, we typically get less vacation time than other Countries. (U.S. Workers Trail Rest Of Developed Countries In Vacation Time: Report ://  With an average of 16 days per year there is barely enough time to make it to every family get-together, hit the nearest beach or hiking trail for a week, and relax a few days on your couch – never mind visit another country. Taking an extended vacation from your job or career requires serious prioritizing.  One that requires closely examining your finances, preparing for an extended absence and/or taking a long hard look at your career choice.

So I am writing today to help you understand that I really get it. It is hard to break away. It is really hard to let go of a schedule and those commitments.  So, if you want to do it you have to just make it happen and say no to your regular commitments. You must prioritize your trip. It is really hard for us to do that in the USA. We are not encouraged to do it.  It runs counter to our societal “norms”. It might mean saying no to your friend’s wedding or your annual Fourth of July party. It might mean pulling your kids from a sports team for a summer or homeschooling. It might mean leaving your job. These things are terrifying and require a huge leap of faith. There will not be a lot of people in your community that really understand what you are doing. There will be lots of people who support you but are not sure what you are doing or how you are doing it.  Online you will find a huge group of travelers who have done it. They will understand and will help you through it. 

Take the leap. You can do it.  You will not regret it.

Start by making it a PRIORITY.


Normandy and look back at the post from our trip.

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My Dad took me to see the movie Midway when I was a very little girl. It probably wasn’t the most appropriate movie for a seven year old but Dad and I bonded over WWII forever after. I have always been fascinated by the heroism and dedication of the greatest generation and the war that gave us the freedom we all continue to enjoy today.

It has been a dream of mine to see Normandy for myself. To walk on the beaches, see the bluffs, touch the bunkers and pray for the fallen. My experience was better than I ever imagined. It was something that touched all of us differently and even Lee at ten said that it was the best tour of our entire trip. That about sums it up.

Enjoy the pictures but they don’t do it justice. It’s the stories of personal heroism that made this special and ultimately it was these individual acts of courage and bravery that won the war.

Most Magical Place on our RTW trip?

We received a question from Fun Things @funthingsapp on Twitter asking us, what was the “most magical place” on our ’round the world adventure?  What a great question!

With our family, as with any family, you get four very different answers to most questions you pose. To this question my son and husband would both answer New Zealand. My husband will tell you because of it’s breathtaking beauty. We actually had to pull over in our campervan to admire the view at times or we were sure to run off the road.

My son will say New Zealand for a totally different reason. New Zealand is an eleven year old adrenaline junkie’s dream.  He was able to walk outside skyscrapers, roll down hills in giant inflated balls, jump off cliffs  and freefall 60 meters, luge down mountains and jet boat through Lord of the Rings country.  He visited with the indigenous Maori people and learned some of their customs, including the traditional haka.  There were dolphins and whales, kayaks, geysers, glaciers and hobbits. For him it was a massive island playground. Forget Disney.

My daughter would say Africa. She loved it. It was indulgent in the gift of life.  Animals are everywhere and they are the kind you dream about.  Lions, leopards, giraffe, zebras.  We awoke one night to find our tent surrounded by hippos grazing just a few feet from us. The people were wonderful, exhuberant and kind. The beauty was abundant. I remember being in awe of  fluorescent sunsets behind slowly moving silhouettes of a foraging herd of elephants. I find it hard not to agree with her.

For me, the answer is difficult. I’m torn. If I can differentiate between land and water (I’m a diver and underwater….well, that is a whole different post!)  then I will say Bali. I was struck while walking through the small streets in Amed and Ubud by the beautiful Hindu temples and private garden temples at each home. I felt like I had walked into a secret world. I loved seeing the flower offerings set each day or visiting a ceremony with elaborate costumes and mystical music. Bali is a magical place because life is lived on a different schedule there. Each action, each person, and each event is honored. Taking time to appreciate life is a conscious practice in Bali and in such a beautiful environment one can’t help but become enchanted.

Thanks for your question!!!

Thanks Funthingsapp

Feeding electric eels…eating grubs.

One of my favorite experiences on our Round the World adventure was our two weeks in the Amazon.  We did so many things that pushed us out of our comfort zones.  I conquered my fears of bats and bugs mostly because I didn’t have a choice.  The bats were huge and the bugs were everywhere.  It was hotter than I have ever been and we hiked and traveled far into remote  jungles to see the mysteries of the Amazon.  We all ate grubs and piranha to try local delicacies, and because… we caught them.  We fed electric eels in a mud hole because… we could, and when else would we get such an opportunity!

It was these experiences that are best told by my ten year old. His blog was mostly short videos of our adventures captured by his sister.

The link to his grub video is here.

I have attached his eel blog below. Enjoy!

Electric eels are shocking

Feeding Electric eels

So we found ourselves miles up the Amazon River getting out of a boat to hike. We hike about 15 Minutes and we already saw 3 different of birds. We hike for 2 hours and we have seen 20 different birds. We get to this this small double decker dock and we go fishing! We caught 7 fish. We also saw 4 caiman! Then we hike for another 30 minutes. We got to a puddle that was 1 square foot. I almost jumped in it but then I see an electric eel come out! It was huge. They were gray with a red bellyAt one moment in time there were 5 in the puddle.Our guide says there were under ground tunnels so they have lots of secret places. We gave them the fish and you heard them shock it.It was amazing! I hope to do it again!


Bookshelf motivation: RTW planning part 2

If  you read our earlier post about our use of a map ( Traveling around the world, It all started with The Map. (  you know that we used lots and lots of books for motivation and inspiration. No doubt most of you travel lovers and  couch travelers have some of these on your shelves too. They are great motivators. We used post-its and corner tabs to mark our favorite pages . We downloaded dozens more onto our e-readers (*the best go to advice is from bloggers and e-books).  We read with interest other adventures. Research is  a necessary part of the planning. In the end there is no perfect book. There are lots of suggestions.  But alas, like parenting books, one will find the RTW travel guide that suits their travel style.

Most of these books we had for years. Some we bought to inspire and educate once the plan was in motion. None of these books made the trip with us. (Kindles and iPads came instead).  So send and link your favorites in the comments. Help inspire others! 20131016-105804.jpg

Travel Journey of the Week: Venice

We spent just a few days in Venice during our six weeks in Italy. I’ll agree that I was quickly in love with the city.  It is the little things that stand out about each city after you spend a year on the road. Ask my kids about Venice and one of their fondest memories was searching and taking pictures of pissottas.

Did you notice the slanted concrete slabs in the darkened corners of the walkways? They are called “pissottas” and they are an ancient Venetian  solution to people peeing in corners.  My kids called them pee bumps or pee corners.  They are everywhere.  Some are new. Some are old. Generally they slant downward so the would-be offender urinates onto himself and therefore is discouraged from attempting the act again. It may not be the doors of Charleston, SC or the doorknockers of Antigua, Guatemala but the pee bumps of Venice are unique and make for quite a photo.

Calle Corner peebumps p1020815

The smile you get when you hear from your traveler friends….

Today, I got an e-mail from Tam who was the mahout who taught us to ride elephants and bathe them in a river near Chiang Mai, Thailand. His note was a simple hello that was filled with kindness. He spoke of the weather and a new baby elephant. In broken English he said to say “Hi” to the kids. That note made me smile and took me quickly back to our day with the elephants, eating fresh pad thai in a bamboo hut in the jungle of Northern Thailand.

On Monday, we heard from friends we had traveled with on a live-aboard dive boat on the Great Barrier Reef. We became fast friends, quickly learning to navigate on a night dive through a swim-through with a moray eel on one side and a reef shark on the other.

There is something so special about a simple e-mail or Facebook message from a friend you have met on the road. It brings you back to your experience with that person and reminds you of your adventure. So if you have traveled and met someone special…or met a traveler and have befriended them, I suggest you reach out to them today!  Put a smile on someone’s face.

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Traveling around the world, It all started with The Map.

World Map

It all started with The Map.

We ordered a giant map. The kind you stick pins in. We hung it in our dining room. My husband and I had made the decision in our minds that we could do it. The questions that still lingered were plenty. Where? When? Would our 10-year-old and 14-year-old even agree? So we decided to buy the map. We took down a painting and replaced it with a large world map. It took up the whole wall. We passed it every day, several times a day.

The Rules:  Anyone in the family could put a pin on the map but you have to put something in a folder (or on pinterest or in Dropbox) about the place you wanted to go. Everyone had their own color. Guests came with suggestions and added to it.

The folders grew. The pins were added. Slowly the map started to fill up and we could begin to see the trip in our minds. The kids started to grow excited.

We put a shelf below the map with travel books like 1000 Places To See Before You Die and The Kids’ Travel Book to inspire us. There were no wrong pins and no limits, at first. The goal was to engage. To inspire. To motivate. The map worked its magic.

*Details on the specifics, the itinerary, the packing lists, the planes, trains, and elephants ,   and how we got our teenager to agree to leave her friends for year are follow-up posts.  Follow us and I’ll give updates  on what we did and how others are doing it.

Live your dream!

A Mom’s First Stab at Processing the trip around the World

A re-blog from our trip blog.

A Mom’s first stab at processing the trip around the world.

Posted on May 29, 2013 by Anne Helmers Edit

We have returned home to an amazing whirlwind of friends and family. We are still jetlagged and have hardly had time to process the incredible experience we have had. We have read a lot about the transition process and realize that it is going to take time to acclimate and understand the effects our experience has had on us. In the meantime I have put down a few things about traveling that sum up some of the experiences I know have had an impact on my life.

Travelers: You meet amazing people on the road. The kind of people you meet while traveling are often other travelers. So you tend to share that love in common. Travelers are a strange and interesting kind of people. They always have great stories, come from varied and interesting places, and are generally interested in the stories you have to share. So they quickly make for good friends. Travelers welcome you back to their homes when you are in their country. Travelers understand what we are doing and usually tell us about those places in their countries that we really want to see, as well as places they have visited. They become quick and lifelong friends.

Locals: In addition to travelers, we have met many locals. There is nothing better than meeting friendly folks in their own environment. This is where you gain real insight into life in a different community. We’ve stayed in a homestay in the jungle of Borneo with a family. We’ve cooked Pad Thai with “Stumpy” in a hut in Northern Thailand outside Chiang Mai before elephant hiking . The kids played volleyball with the local children in the Amazon one afternoon – when we attended a dedication of a new playground in a local village. We went fishing with Rodney and his son, Harry, up their favorite creek in Australia. We celebrated Guatemalan Independence Day with our friends, Delia and her family and neighbors in a small town outside Antigua with a traditional Guatemalan-style backyard BBQ. We set off fireworks with friends in Bali on New Year’s Eve. In New Zealand, Laura Burton introduced us to her host family where she was living and student-teaching. Carrie and her family fed us and invited the children to school for a day. The DalMonte’s took us in and fed us home-cooked Italian meals and reminded us that family are the people you treasure most in this world even if they aren’t your blood. They made Cremona feel like it was a homecoming.

Stuff: I thought we packed pretty light for a year to start with. We had one rolling duffle and one backpack each. We then sent back or donated boxes of unnecessary items. We often left our big bags at a hotel in one city and traveled with just the backpacks for a few weeks and came back to the big bags. It really is true you can get everything you need wherever you are. We also have learned to lay off purchasing souvenirs – especially the junky stuff that seems to be sold in every corner of the planet. Most of our souvenirs of this trip will be memories captured in many pictures. Staying in warmer weather helped too. It wasn’t until we got to Europe that we needed “city” clothes and warmer stuff. Luckily things we’re on sale because it was spring, and we were all happy for some new clothes. Old shorts and “jungle clothes” were donated. For the most part…nobody wanted to see that stuff again. I was so surprised when I returned and saw the size of our house and the amount of stuff we had. It feels excessive. I feel blessed.

Food: One of the highlights of traveling is the wonderful and varied food. We ate so well I can’t say I lost weight. Especially in Southeast Asia and Europe where there are so many choices of food and everything is so incredible. Lee was so excited for Italy. Pasta has always been his favorite and upon arriving in Italy he declared he was finally “home”. We were also constantly on the move and very active and I felt healthier than ever before. I have noticed that in most of the 3rd world countries and in Europe the markets are so full of fresh food and the people always walk everywhere. It makes me wonder how we got so far away from it in the US.

Under the sea: We have had the chance to scuba dive over 25 times this year. I got certified when I was 18 and I have done more dives this year than the rest of my lifetime combined. I could do a blog entry just on comparing the beauty of each reef from Fiji, Australia, Bali and Thailand. Suffice to say that I have been as happy underwater as anywhere else on earth. I’m so glad we can do this activity as a family as it has been a truly amazing experience. The kids have become excellent and experienced young divers and it is fun that we can share this activity together. I expect and hope we will continue this sport for many years to come.

History: History comes alive when you travel. You can actually see the impact of exploration, migration, slavery and war on the faces of the people and the architecture of the cities. This is fascinating and enlightening.

Environment: If I wasn’t an environmentalist before this trip, I am surely one now. The impact of humanity on our world is staggering. Many places are far better at being environmentally friendly than we are. We visited several places and animals that I truly believe won’t exist in 25 years. I’m scared by what I saw. The impact of humanity and the lack of respect for our earth home is frightening. I hope something changes. I’ll be doing my part.

Togetherness: Living together and schedule free is a new concept to all of us. If you knew our lives a year ago we were about as committed to a busy schedule as anybody gets. Between school, work, volunteer-projects and sports we kept a very active daily schedule. Both our kids played select soccer so most weekends we could be found divided in two different cities texting play by plays. The past six months we were together 24 hours a day and at times in a room not much bigger than my old minivan. It amazes me that despite being together all the time we are never at a loss for conversation, we tend to actually enjoy each other’s company and really don’t miss the schedules at all. We are a real family. We fought plenty. Life was typical in those ways. But we are closer because of this experience. We were home less than 24 hours when Laney suggested we all play Monopoly. This makes me happy.

Sleep: I have noticed that we got more sleep than any of us ever did at home. I always heard about sleep deprivation buy we really did get 8+ hours every night. The kids are aware of how much sleep they really need. It will be hard to get it in as school, homework and sport commitments in the US do not make it easy for children to get 8-10 hours sleep that their bodies need.

Cussing: If you are thinking about traveling anywhere in the world be aware that your kids will be exposed to all sorts of language. I’m not just talking about the inevitable slip-ups that are part of being together for a year together. Australians curse like sailors. (Well, some of them are sailors! ) Australians curse all the time. It’s part of the language there. I even heard the Target lady describe on a loud speaker that one of the toys was a “Hell of a lot of fun”. They won’t curb their language for your kids as they expect you curse with your kids too. So be aware. In Southeast Asia, we had many experiences in several different countries where locals would be speaking to us in broken English and suddenly drop the “F bomb” right in mid-sentence. It is my hypothesis that most of these people learn their English from movies (and Australians) and believe Americans cuss all the time. They just use swear words for emphasis and don’t think anything about it. They probably don’t even know what they mean.

In summary, we have enjoyed the past ten months as much as any time period in the life of our family. We have done many amazing things, but more importantly we have done them together. We are a closer family for it. Our greatest souvenirs from this year will be out closeness and our memories of these adventures. While we have suffered heartbreak at times (most notably the untimely loss of David’s father and my cousin Craig) we have been uniquely connected and able to support one another.

We have also taken from those experiences the important lesson that life is short and every day is precious. Taking advantage of the time we are given is critically important and to do otherwise wasteful. More importantly, we hope to bring the same renewed sense of adventure and appreciation to our lives back in Lexington.