With four small children, a year-long trip around the world? Maintain Your Calm and Carry On

Trip around the World

Why now is the best time to take the family on a round-the-world trip?

This has always been a dream of ours. We were ready to mobilize after having our fourth (and final!) child, to get back to experiencing the world for ourselves. This expedition is a re-enactment of a planned trip around the world in July 2020. And the pandemic fueled our determination to succeed. The pandemic, like many others, forced us to rethink our priorities. Being confined for long periods with our family highlighted how crucial it is for us to establish our ties inside this little nucleus. We want to spend more time with our kids by getting out of the house!

We’ve always believed that rather than time, our memories are divided into events. “I believe that was when we were living in Ranelagh,” or “That was before we had children,” you say when referring to periods of your life. When you divide life into key life experiences or reference points, it feels longer. It is hoped that it would eventually lengthen these years for us. Isn’t it true that the early years with children go by quickly? We want the early years to be full of new connections, world education, and lessons.

What kind of preparation do you need to go on a trip like this?

My husband has drafted a 16-page itinerary for this vacation. He has Excel spreadsheets with our budgets and action items. He used his trusty Caption software to ping it to his inbox every time he remembered something we might need to accomplish, so it would appear in a list when he got to his computer. He didn’t miss a thing. To get a trip like this off the ground, a lot of planning is required.

The most difficult element of this strategy was packing up our house after twelve years. We would have preferred to buy a house that we could rent out and keep most of our belongings in, but in the end, we decluttered our lives and brutally got rid of items to fit everything into a small storage unit. My most practical tip for packing the house and packing for the trip is LESS IS MORE. It was depressing to go through everything we’d accumulated over the previous ten years. And it’s a stark reminder to be cautious about what we buy in the future. Granted, we live in a house with four small children.

Tell us about the suitcase situation, as our packing comrade

Pack, cull, and repeat for the suitcase. Pack what you need, then weed out anything redundant, unneeded, or not a “hell yeah” choice, and repeat the process. This is a great strategy to slim down. Allow each child to take one item of comfort for a year (in our case it was two teddies and a backpack of LEGO). For a trip this large, I believe it is critical to begin as light as possible because if you’re anything like me, you’ll want to pick up items as you go. And repacking at each stop isn’t fun if it’s like a game of Tetris — which it is for us still.

We just have enough clothing for a week in two Spinner suitcases (Architect in Burgundy and Navy). Then all you have to do is wash and re-wear for the rest of the year. We have one carry-on bag (Architect Navy) full of school books for the kids to complete at home, and one carry-on suitcase (Architect Cream) full of electronic gear, including a camera, drone, wires, and a medical kit. The kids each have their own small Topo rucksack, which they use to go to and from the airport and on day outings. I feel that children should be responsible for their belongings and carry their bags.

What factors did you consider while deciding where to go first?

We began with Greece. We reasoned that if there were any health concerns, we could easily return to Ireland. We reserved a lovely rental on an island that we could drive to have a place that we were glad to use as a base (rather than bouncing between hotels and restaurants) and to avoid the congestion of public transportation and boats (we are trying to keep that to a minimum during Covid). We then traveled on to Mauritius, where immunization rates are already at 64 percent. They recently reopened their borders to international visitors, so we figured now was a good time to go.

Tell us all we need to know about visiting Mauritius?

Being flexible has many advantages; we don’t usually choose our next destination until we’ve settled in to observe what vaccination rates are like in a country and to be able to travel as the world reopens. From Greece, we scheduled a trip to Mauritius.

Passenger locator paperwork, proof of health insurance (which they didn’t ask for), negative PCR testing, and proof of vaccination for everyone above the age of twelve are all required to enter Mauritius. Everything was printed out. To get through passport control, you’ll also need the address and phone number of your destination. What the fine print failed to mention is that you will also require a return ticket to your own country. This is a common occurrence for most travelers, but not for us on this trip (and for the first time in our lives). When they asked for this paperwork when we arrived, we indicated that we are exploring the world for a year and will not be returning home after Mauritius. The answer is incorrect. They explained that this is the rule for entering Mauritius: you must have a return ticket to your home country. We were told that the ten-hour flight from Vienna was going to depart in 30 minutes, so we had better book something to Ireland and present it to them, or we’d be back on that flight to Vienna. What?!?
This would not be a few hundred dollars we were squandering with a party of our size. This would be thousands of dollars! We battled with the weak and sporadic WiFi signals, sprinted across the passport control area to get a firm connection, burned up our allowed data on our cellphone plans, and managed to book tickets back to Ireland on Emirates for just over $2,500 in the nick of time. We pictured ourselves back in Dublin with Duck’s parents (because we don’t have a home) with our tails between our legs, having to admit that we weren’t the seasoned travelers we thought we were.

Thankfully, we were able to modify our tickets to Sri Lanka within 24 hours for only the difference in fee. We also managed to squeeze in a two-day stopover in the Maldives.

What are your plans once you get to each location?

Establish a routine. We get up early to work in the mornings and schedule afternoon meetings with the teams. Every day, we homeschool from 9:30 a.m. to noon, and then we choose an afternoon trip. We want to meet the locals, eat the local cuisine, learn a few new dishes, and leave every country and site we visit feeling extremely familiar.

Are there any lowlights, roadblocks, or snafus?

Yes, there are a few! Every time we travel, I joke that I end up taking a child or two to the doctor. I’m not sure if I’m more paranoid when we travel or if the kids are more vulnerable to things, but we seem to go to the doctor more overseas than at home. I’ve visited rural clinics in Lamu, had GP callouts in other parts of Kenya and India (thanks to my spouse), and visited clinics in Sri Lanka, Lanzarote, Spain, and the United States. So far, nothing severe has occurred; I believe I will need to be more cautious as a mother!

Milo did, however, contract strep throat, which necessitated antibiotic treatment, and Ruben and Felix were both infected with nasty stomach viruses. (This resulted in a lot of restless nights for everyone!) As a result, we didn’t visit as much of Athens as we had hoped and are taking our time seeing Mauritius. Fortunately, our homes are fantastic, so we are also at ease at home.

Milo experienced a case of homesickness on Halloween. Ruben has a strong desire to share his experiences with his pals, but they are too young to “talk” on Zoom. Then there was the near-snafu upon arrival in Mauritius. But that’s all I’ve got thus far. Check back in with me in a few months, and I’m sure I’ll have a list!

What’s next on your list of things you’re looking forward to?

My husband’s main ambition is to go the entire year without wearing a jacket.

We helped friends and communities in Sri Lanka and Kenya during the pandemic, and we’d like to visit them again and say hello to the folks we care about. Then there’s the possibility of visiting certain nations that neither my spouse nor I have been to, such as Indonesia.

Our objective is to travel to places where we can remain for at least a month at a time, mostly so that we can establish a routine of homeschooling with the boys and take advantage of monthly accommodation discounts. We’re aiming to keep our spending in line with what it would be like to live in Ireland. So far, we’ve been able to match the monthly rent with accommodations that well exceed the square footage and landscape we’d find in some of Dublin’s most desirable neighborhoods. We’re hoping for a swimming pool at each rental house we stay in while traveling (and so far, we’ve been successful). That’s something you won’t find in Ireland!

My cousin and her husband (both best pals) have already visited, and now my (soon-to-be!) sister-in-law has arrived. It’s wonderful to know that folks want to see us during the holidays. I’m hoping that more people will notice us along the route.

Do you have any recommendations for travelers who want to take a similar trip?

It does necessitate a great deal of planning; simply make lists and tick them off as you go. Change is usually a little frightening. When we left, I felt like we were going against the grain. We were leaving our lovely neighborhood, the sports that the kids had settled into, the school, and the property ladder that we should have been attempting to climb. The teachers and principal of the school, in particular, each individually approached me to assure me that we were on the correct track. That was extremely motivating. SteamLine’s philosophy has always been to contemplate slow, mindful travel – to visit places and stay longer to truly immerse yourself in a culture.