Wow! We leave in just a few days! We’re almost ready; trip preparations have been busy and we’ve learned a lot. Now is a good time to summarise what’s gone into arranging things for this crazy adventure; hopefully this can demystify what it might take to get ready for an 8-month trip to Asia and Southern Africa.
But first and foremost, we’re very lucky that we can do this. We’re lucky to have the time and resources and flexibility to take a trip like this. Without exception, our families, friends and neighbors have been very supportive of our plans. We’re very grateful for all of this.
And while we’re on the topic of gratitude and family, Ida and Saga spent the last three weeks with their grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins in Scandinavia. They had a great experience and returned home even more connected to their family (and speaking Danish very well too!). And their trip also freed Louise and me up to take care of the planning efforts. Meanwhile, back in Toronto the girls’ grandparents have helped with a lot of the thinking behind the trip as well as looking after some of the more mundane things for us while we’re gone (paying bills, the house, etc.). The kids are now with them for the last push before departure. This support has freed our minds from worry and has been incredibly meaningful.
A lot of people have done this sort of thing. Many of our peers that have taken their families traveling have shared tips and tricks for travel details. And over the last six months we’ve had conversations with practically everyone we know about our trip. This has helped us with everything from renting our house to preparing for road-schooling the kids to sorting out electronic gear to bring with us.
When it comes to some of the things we’re learning as we get ready, we can group the things we’re doing into different buckets:
Time- In a lot of ways, this trip is about time – our only real commodity of value- and how we decide to use it. The girls are eight year-olds and the time is right for us all to travel together.
I like how Rolf Potts puts it in Vagabonding: “Money, of course, is still needed to survive, but time is what you need to live. So, save what little money you possess to meet basic survival requirements, but spend your time lavishly in order to create the life values that make the fire worth the candle.”
Schooling– This is one of the first things we looked into. Our kids are going into grade three. We contacted the superintendent for the girls’ school, submitted form 553A and received a confirmation letter within a few days. We then reached out to the girls’ school and were directed to a ton of online homeschooling resources. The educational curricula are available from the Ministry of Education’s websites. Louise and I divided the subjects between us. When we return to Toronto the kids will likely get tested in French and math.
Socialising the trip with the kids has been useful. We’ve been talking about it for a couple of years, but once we landed on travel dates, we broke the news to them along with travel journals, maps of the world and tablets that they can use to access library books and school resources. This helped build excitement.
House– We need to rent it out and pack it up. We posted ads on sabbaticalhomes.com, MLS and, eventually kijiji.com and flyers in the neighborhood. Our tenant came to us through kijiji and we finalised the deal two weeks prior to departure.
Packing up the house is a big job. We had to go through every room and figure out what to do with its contents. Hmmm… that’s not quite right. We had to figure out what to do with every drawer of every room. Still not right. This is more like it: We had to go through every item in every drawer in every room. We’ve managed to stash everything in our house and between family and friends. Oh yes: we had to change home insurance plans too.
Finances– we’ve prepaid as many bills as possible. We’ve sorted out how to take care of our taxes. We’re keeping our cellphone plans (not ideal but the cost of doing business) and suspended magazine subscriptions.
We needed to cancel some other plans: concert tickets, a weekend in Algonquin Park, a half-marathon race. Again, this is simply the cost of doing business.
And then there’s the question of how much this thing will cost. We’ve budgeted $150 per day, in addition to airfare. We expect airfare to cost approximately $15,000. It’s a mug’s game but at least it gives a useful ballpark figure.
Pet arrangements– we have a dog, Sigurd, who will stay with my parents in the country. We’ll miss him.
Electronics– this is for staying in touch, studies, (some) entertainment and photographs. We settled on two tablets for the girls, an Ipad for the parents, a bluetooth keyboard and speaker and a google phone (it comes unlocked). The girls have cameras that they can drop, swim with and/or freeze. It’s the Canon Powershot D30. I have a Fujifilm X100T that I can (almost) fit in my pocket.
We’ll keep in touch using Skype, this blog and instagram. The girls will also connect with their classmates through social media.
The car– you’ll like this. We needed to figure out what to do with our car while we’re away. This led us to ask ourselves why should we even have a car at all. We ran the numbers: it costs us $7,000 a year to maintain a car; insurance, depreciation (check out the infographic that shows how a car depreciates), gas and everything else. It costs us $3,500 per year to do the same amount of driving with Uber, the subway and Autoshare. It’s hard to argue with the numbers. We don’t have a car anymore.
Health– We went to a local travel clinic for vaccinations and malaria prophylaxis. It took two visits. We contacted OHIP to have our travel coverage extended while we’re out of the country: one visit to Service Ontario. Travel insurance came through TravelCuts (cheapest I could find). We got our teeth cleaned at the dentist on Monday. Fitness on the trip will be a patchwork of running, kayaking, bikes and keeping up with the kids.
Packing– We’ll carry everything we need on our backs. There are many blogs that include lists of what we’ll need. Usefully, I think, we took the girls to Mountain Equipment Coop very early on to get them fitted for backpacks. This gave them a sense of how much room they have to play with. Someone told us to bring half as much stuff and twice as much money as we think we’ll need. Good advice.
Yikes! We haven’t even gotten to Travel plans yet. We want to have an adventure so we expect to make plans up as we go along. We currently only have a one way ticket to Cambodia and a bamboo bungalow reserved for two months in a town called Kampot. That’s it. This blog is about the rest of the story.
In broad terms we plan to spend two months in Cambodia, a month in Laos and another month in Vietnam. January and February we’d like to spend in India (a month in the south and a month in the north). Early in March we’ll fly to Johannesburg to spend three weeks in South Africa before taking a bus to Gaborone, Botswana to visit Louise’s sister and her family. Our planned operating principle is to make a base in each country (e.g., the bamboo bungalow in Kampot). This should enable a hub and spoke travel experience. We’ll sort out visas along the way and have certified copies of the girls’ birth certificates to enter South Africa.
I hope this answers some of the questions that you have been asking. In the future I’ll have a lot more pictures and (I hope) fewer words and lists.
With all this trip planning behind us we’re now looking forward to being rich in time and spending it lavishly.