It is not all that uncommon for many people to compare a round-the-world trip with a long holiday. To begin with, as we started planning our trip, I used to do just that as well. A long, long holiday - world class standard - so to speak!
But as the planning went ahead, we realized just how much preparation for such a long trip is needed, and it became clear to me that this was not at all “just a long holiday”!
Especially when traveling with kids you have to think about a whole lot of other things, that you won’t have to consider when traveling as a couple or by yourself. In a previous blog we have written about the circumstances of traveling with a child, and you can read more about them here! As we did have Anton with us as a fellow traveler, we were forced to think completely different, than we would have, if it had just been the two of us. We had to travel in a slower pace and destinations would have to be chosen so that he would have something to look forward to every day as well!
Oddly, there are quite a few people asking us: “Did you really take Anton with you around the world?” - Yes, what did you think? Our entire trip was all about being together as a family, with more quality time than we could ever get in our old, daily grind. A life that we wanted to leave behind. So of course Anton was indeed a very important part of this!
When going on a 2-week holiday in Italy, Phuket or the US there are many things that you can leave at home and your preparations can often be made in those 5 minutes it takes to book your flights online, find your passports and pack your bags. When going on a 12-month-trip, however, there are a few more things that you need to consider and pay attention to. We researched things like travel insurance, equipment, general safety, visas, car-rental etc. We also researched some of the places we wanted to go in order to establish whether it would make any sense to show up with a child at all or if we should go elsewhere.
We spent the first 4 weeks in Thailand. In Bangkok and Phuket. This part of the trip could in fact be seen as a good, long holiday. As a matter of fact, we had chosen Thailand as our first stop because we knew we would need some time to “un-wind” and find ourselves after having spent years being “slaves” of our everyday life. Also, we needed a bit of time to get used to each other as full time travel companions. Hence Thailand was a good place to start, as we really could not do much else than simply relax. Read about our impressions here!
As we arrived in Brisbane, Australia and began our road-trip up along the Queensland coast, towards Cairns, we quickly realized that this was anything but a long holiday. Needless to say we were all for getting some great experiences together, and we would not have traded our new “everyday-life” for anything in the world, but we still had all the “everyday things” that we would have had if we had stayed at home: Grocery shopping, cooking, time for playing with Anton etc etc. On top of that we had to relate to all the everyday changes in scenery as we drove around. A new campground almost every day and many other “travel related” questions. As an example, we often felt that we had to get the absolute most out of each and every day. Hence we would read “forward” in the guidebooks.
However, this stopped again pretty quickly. We felt that we HAD to get to a certain place or city, or drive a specific number of kilometers every day, in order not to miss out on anything. This completely killed all the impulsive activities that we also enjoyed. After a short while though, we found a balance that suited us all.
Before we left home we already knew that when traveling long term with a child, you have to hold on to as many fixed routines and boundaries as possible. Eating habits and hours, tucking in and sleeping routines etc. Keeping a slow morning with plenty of time for breakfast and chatting was important to us all.
All these routines and boundaries may or may not be eased up a bit when you are away from home for just a few weeks. And this is absolutely OK. We do exactly the same! The biggest difference between a holiday and a longer journey lies, in our opinion, in how many everyday routines you have to bring with you. One year is a long time for a three year old child, and as we returned to Europe Anton had in fact forgotten many things from before we took off. He had developed from a toddler to a real boy, with holes on the knees of his jeans and dirty feet.
Even if you travel without children I can strongly recommend keeping some fixed routines when traveling long term. For instance, you cannot eat out all the time, drink alcohol every day or sleep until noon every day. Well you COULD, but I doubt that your body will last long and it would be such a shame to waste a lot of money on just that. Especially when traveling across time-zones it is important to adapt as quickly as possible, in order to get the most out of your days. To us, our every day routines was a great help with this.
A couple of times we fell into a stupid habit of eating extremely unhealthy. Particularly in the US the temptations were many and the quality of the food too bad. Hence we really had to pull ourselves together in order not to get too much out of shape (and size) and we tried to live and eat as healthy as possible. Traveling actually requires for you to be fairly fit. Oftentimes you walk many kilometers per day, hike in the wild nature or you snorkel by the beach. Just getting through a 12 hour non-stop flight requires good body condition, or your body may collapse afterwards. Alexandra originally had a plan to continue her jogging during the whole trip. It did not happen. But it didn’t really matter much, as we walked quite a bit every day. Above all, you have to be a bit physical every day and not only explore the world from your car.
It should also be mentioned that most travel bloggers do have a tendency to paint a picture and focus only on the positive aspects of traveling. Well, that IS in fact our job, and most readers have no interest in the more trivial parts of life. But please do note, that we also have days that are less interesting. Endless days on long and boring roads. Queues at the airport. Ridiculous security checks. We have days when Anton is not at all behaving like he should. It is all a part of every day life, traveler or not.
So, a trip around the world is not only umbrellas, drinks and hours by the pool. It is thorough research and preparation, empathizing with other cultures and sticking to a life as “normal” as possible, adapted to all the places you see and experience.... At least to us....