7 most frequently asked questions about taking a year off to travel

1.What’s been your favorite place to visit so far? My favorite place is whatever one I’m at because I’m deep in the moment enjoying it. Or sometimes it’s the place we’re headed next because I’m ready for something new. But that answer annoys people, so, when pressed, I answer that my favorite places are those that surprised me most; destinations where I had little or no expectation of what to expect. And then they blew me away with their beauty and people. The countries of Jordan, Croatia and the island of Crete in Greece are at the top of my list of favorite places. They are easy to navigate, not overly touristy and make me smile when I think about them, like the Dead Sea (surreal to float in that salt water!), Petra (a magical walk to the hidden city!), Wadi Rum (oh, that deep orange sand!), Plitvice Lakes National Park (scenes better than any screensaver!), Dubrovnik (walking the ancient city wall!) Balos Beach (we were sandblasted in the wind!) and the Walk with Donkeys Sanctuary (remote glamping with the sweetest of donkeys.)

Sometimes we’re asked what our least favorite place was, which is even harder to answer. The only place I can come up with is Cairo, Egypt, which had insane traffic that rivals New Delhi and Jakarta. But even that’s not completely accurate because visiting the Pyramids of Giza is the #1 favorite place for our youngest kids. Although their answer changes each time. And sometimes that answer places that we’ve never even been. Go figure.

2. So, where do you live? Right now? You mean today? Nowhere, actually. We get some funny expressions when we admit we don’t live anywhere. We don’t own or rent a house, we have no car, no pets, no gym memberships, no furniture. We’re like snails: our home is wherever we are. It’s quite liberating, actually. Having no stuff has equated to having less stress. It was strange at first, not knowing how I might survive without that fifth pair of jeans or not having access to books I’ve already read, but we’ve gotten used to it. Along our travels, we like to note interesting house or garden designs or different ways that people live and function and add it all to the imaginary house we’ve build in our minds.

3. Where is all your stuff? See these bags right here? The ones on our backs? The backpacking that I said I was too old to do? Yep, those are our bags. I carry a black IKEA backpack and a small bag for my laptop. The kids each have one small shoulder bag and share a small roller backpack for their clothes. We carry enough clothes to last about a week and options to cover us in hot or cold weather. You have to replace clothes more frequently because you wear them out, something that rarely happened in my old life. The hardest part of packing light are the miscellaneous items like books, notebooks, toys, writing utensils, sunscreen, a comb, charging cords, etc, etc, etc. It’s the little things that weigh down a bag if you aren’t rigorous about keeping things tight and light. Most importantly, this means our travel souvenirs are easy to carry: only pictures and memories.

4. How long have you been traveling? 11 months. And in those 11 months, we’ve visited 33 different countries, and some countries more than once. We’ve got a few more months left in us, although we’ve been saying that for the last six months. My husband says I’ve turned into a gypsy. We won’t do this forever, but settling down sounds so… permanent.

5. How do you plan where to go and how to get there? We keep a one or two month look-forward plan of where we’re going next. We book airfare, if needed, a month out, and book Airbnb locations a few weeks out. We rarely have a daily itinerary and make that up as we go. If we have a friend or two to visit, this always takes top priority when planning a location. If someone suggests a place to go, is kind enough to offer up a room, or if a work commitment takes us somewhere new, that all becomes part of the path. All roads connect.

6. Is it safe to do what you’re doing? I’m happy to share that we’ve felt safe in every place we’ve visited. In 11 months, we’ve had only one notable hiccup of petty theft when our bags were stolen from our rental car just outside Vatican City in Rome. This was a headache for sure–and a setback for the travel budget–but it was just ‘stuff’ and no one was hurt. And it helped us streamline our belongings even more. We’ve never felt unsafe or been bothered or harassed. The world and its inhabitants–despite many imperfections–is safer than you probably think.

7. Do you home school the kids? Yes. Although it’s more like road schooling or what some people call unschooling. The kids have daily school work: writing in their journal, reading and math and English worksheets. We are big fans of Khan Academy. Sometimes we make up special projects like researching a topic to write a report, learning a new skill or trying out an idea for an art project. But most of the time they are goofing around in whatever new place we’re in, exploring museums or playgrounds or markets and learning to navigate a new city. And, yes, my kids complain about schoolwork just like if they were in a regular school. Some things are the same no matter where you are.

Did I miss your question? Dare to think of a question we haven’t been asked? Drop us a note or leave a comment below. You can also follow our travels in pictures on Instagram.

 

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