I believe that travel is predicated by time and money. And in my experience, very few people have considerable amounts of both. The scenario is either I have money, or can borrow it, but have no time (two or three weeks of vacation/year); or I have time, but I have no money (student, unemployed). In our case, we created the time (I'm independently employed and Therese applied for a leave of absence but ultimately had to quit her job.) and consciously saved and cultivated a modest, but limited, nest egg for this enterprise. Therefore, we are traveling in the style known as the Independent Traveler. An Independent Traveler (IA) is on a tight budget and attempts to prolong the travel time through prudent decisions regarding airfare, accommodations, meals, and tours. We will be performing much of our own research and utilizing travel agents or tour guides only when absolutely necessary. We will utilize backpacks to carry our worldly possesions, use local transportation to get between destinations, experience local restaurants, shop at local grocery stores and prepare food when we're able, and use local guides to show us natural and cultural wonders. I am also a believer in supporting national parks and when possible, we plan to prolong our visits to these parks. Our goal is to stay in an area for 4-5 days to see the sites that our research or local people have suggested and take care of any needed daily business (laundry, banking, web work, relaxation, health), then hop on another bus and go to the next destination and hopefully the bus rides between regions will be no more than 1 day of travel. In most cases, our accommodations will be local and simple but clean, such as cabanas, bungalows, hostels or family-run budget hotels with two double beds and shared baths. Yes, there will be times that we will splurge on a nicer beachside hotel, but this will be the exception. Also, we have developed many contacts in numerous destinations and we plan to meet up with with these local people, have them show us the sights, and in many cases stay with them.What are you doing about your children's schooling for the year?
This was a big concern for us. Would our children be behind? Would they need to pass tests in order to advance to the next grade level? But unanimously, all the teachers we interviewed were extremely supportive of our endeavor, and, although they are all exceptionally creative teachers, they all without hesitation said that Peter and Paul will learn far more during our year of travel than they could teach them in the traditional school setting (see Register-Guard article). In addition, generally children are not failed in middle school and they will advance without any formal testing. In terms of curriculum, the teachers suggested that they read and keep a journal, but otherwise they were absolutely certain that the immersion in different cultures, languages, geography, and history will provide a rich, incomparable education.
So, in the end, the only formal curriculum I will teach is math--Algebra II for Peter and middle school math for Paul. I have acquired the curricula on CD. This will lighten our load and allow us to access the curriculum on our laptop without needing an online connection.
I will also give them writing assignments and edit their written work, including their regular travelogs. On a monthly basis, Peter and Paul will submit a longer, more polished written piece for feedback directly from their teachers.
Peter will be following the 8th grade reading syllabus, and Paul's teacher gave him a selection of age-appropriate books from different genres to choose from. We will supplement these reading materials with books from the countries we visit and that reflect interests that arise during the course of the trip. For instance, Peter has read a series of novels by one of the prominent Indonesian authors that explores issues of colonialism, development, exploitation, and cultural adaptation from a historical perspective. Paul has developed a strong interest in wildlife biology as well as primatology and has now conducted research and read books by Jane Goodall and Dian Fossey.
They will also be reading a culturegram about each country (a 4-page overview that covers history, customs, current events, religion, etc.), report on interesting facts learned, and at the end of our visit will write a personal reflection that draws on something they learned from this or other sources about the country.
In addition we have arranged for them to communicate with their teachers and class during the course of the school year. The teachers have agreed to assign different students to communicate with Peter and Paul weekly so that they can stay connected with their peer group and have a chance to write to one another and exchange experiences as pen-pals. I am also asking Peter and Paul to post trivia questions about the countries we visit on this page that could be a stimulus for the weekly communiques with their classmates and other visitors to our website. I am hoping that other classrooms will make contact with us so that Peter and Paul can communicate with peers across the globe! In Guatemala, we met a couple who are teachers at a middle school in Pennsylvania. When they returned to the U.S., they told colleagues about our trip, and Peter and Paul, as well as the whole family, answered a series of questions from the 7th grade world cultures class from their school.
We are planning to take a week-long Spanish immersion course while in Guatemala. In addition, any time the opportunity arises, I'd like them to at least visit local schools. In Kenya, they spent the day at a private academy in their respective classes. They have already been invited to attend classes and give a presentation about their experiences on our trip in Brussels at the international school that my cousin's children attend.
Why are you maintaing the One Family, One Planet website?
Last year, as we discussed our trip with friends and family and solidified our commitment to take a year off to explore the far reaches of our world, everyone wanted a way to follow our travels. In addition, as part of Peter and Paul’s home schooling for the year, teachers have asked them to document their thoughts, feelings and experiences of this trip by creating a travel diary, or travelog. Through this website, Peter and Paul’s classmates and other friends and family will now be able to tag along for our adventure. We also hope this website will inspire and provide useful information to families considering taking a GAP year adventure to explore this beautiful and diverse planet as a family. We feel that maintaining this website on our trip to stay connected and share our adventure is worth lugging around the additional 12 pounds of electronic gear and its concomitant security equipment.