At a time of crisis, it’s fundamental for all of us to use the social isolation for reflection.
When we decided to take a year off to travel as a family across three continents, many people questioned our sanity. Some even called us irresponsible; there were many questions about what it would do to our children’s education, our finances, our careers, and our family dynamics.
Looking back now, I can only feel blessed that we took that leap of faith, given our current dystopian reality caused by the COVID-19 global pandemic. This trip would be completely impossible now, and likely in the near future, as nations close borders, healthcare systems struggle, small businesses collapse, and airlines take drastic measures to stay operational, not to mention growing xenophobia and the high death toll.
Our RTW trip was a well-calculated risk. We had a carefully defined plan, with back up strategies, that were financially sound and family oriented. It took hard work to save enough money, including making choices like not eating out, not buying superfluous items, and downsizing our belongings. It took extensive research to understand how we could teach our kids on the road outside of traditional school, with the help of our good friend Heather, who stepped in as the brave traveling tutor. It took intricate planning to find great deals, work with locals in all the countries we visited, avoid tourist traps, and decide on a traveling route that would not only give us more bang for our buck, but that also satisfied the wanderlust and different needs of each traveler. This is a memoir of that amazing adventure, an experience we don’t take for granted. We all came out of it with different perspectives, but definitely changed.
Deciding on a name for a web site to chronicle our process was not too hard. Ultimately, we agreed on “Learn. Live. Travel.” because it clearly reflected our family goals and values. And because we believe that traveling should be transformative. Travelers should not only seek relaxation or thrill, but embrace learning. Therefore, the first and most important step towards better traveling is taking a good look at yourself and your own biases. In each new destination lies a unique opportunity to be exposed to something new, be it culture, language, history or geography. One must come out of every trip renewed, enriched, and with enhanced curiosity, a yearning to know more about the world and its many wonders. There are many ways to achieve that without breaking the bank: embracing living like a local, taking it slowly, researching the destination ahead of time to learn a minimum about that culture and language. Remember that you are the visitor, so be polite and respectful.
Hopefully there will be a future in which travel is more accessible and is valued as an experience for personal growth and cultural empathy, and not just another means to feed capitalism and destructive tourism. At a time of crisis, it’s fundamental for all of us to use the social isolation to reflect, reevaluate, reset. And perhaps, once we regroup, we can redefine our priorities and abandon flawed practices and concepts with renewed respect and empathy towards our fellow humans and all the beautiful differences that keep us together.