Where do you start when planning a family gap year? How do you plan for a whole year of travel as a family? How do you decide where to go – or even where to start? How do you get your kids excited about long-term travelling?
We want to involve our kids in planning where we’ll travel as a family, and get them excited about becoming little world travellers and explorers. We started with a discussion over dinner about the places we’d travelled to already and the places we haven’t yet seen but would like to. I put a big map right where we eat and every now and then we’d leap up to point out where a country was. Finn came out with a rapid list of countries he’d like to visit and I was impressed that he knew of some of them. Turns out he was listing the world cup quarter-finalists.
But actually, that’s not a bad place to start, to follow their in-the-moment interests and have a discussion about different countries and cultures and their relationship with football but it got me to thinking that I need to shift the question away from “where would you like to go” to “what would you like to see”. It’s so obvious now we’ve started that process and it opens up far broader opportunities to mix up history, geography, science, art, culture, sport and really bring it all to life.
Saff’s immediate answer was that she’d like to see whales – the ones with the fins, rather than the country, so we opened up google earth and delved into some of their underwater photographs, talking about which sort of whales hung out where, and how we would eventually need to figure out which of the possible locations would best fit into our trip, depending on what else we were going to see. Later, we’ll draw whales on little stickers and dot them onto the physical map in the kitchen, so that they’re firmly on the agenda.
Finn wanted to see volcanoes which immediately led to squeals of delight as we pulled up the youtube video of the recent eruptions in Hawai. We talked about lava and magna and the formation of new islands and a little shiver of a thrill ran down my spine as I thought about the awe of actually seeing this stuff first-hand, and how much more you learn and how much more engaging it all is than reading it off a whiteboard. Nick, naturally, being a bit of an enthusiast for all things on-water (kayaking, sailing, windsurfing) wants to see the Great Lakes and is excited by the prospect of a road trip – an RV, laden with “toys” – kayaks, SUPs, surfboards. He also wants to return to Nepal, where he hiked to Base Camp over 2 decades ago. I would like to re-visit Thailand with family, and also stray into Vietnam and down to Indonesia for some world-class snorkelling. So far, the snorkelling we’ve done as a family usually involves the odd zebra fish. Having been totally hooked by Blue Planet, they’ll be blown away by some of the things you can see with a snorkel, outside of the UK. I’m also looking forward to their delight at digging a hole on a beach in New Zealand, and discovering that warm water bubbles up.
At this, the very outer-tip of starting to plan our family gap year, my head is swimming with questions, possibilities, itineraries and ideas. Putting the practical elements of organising a family round-the-world trip aside for a moment and immersing ourselves in the ideas, opportunities and possibilities is pretty exciting.