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									      real life | family — long-term travel                                                                                                             family — long-term travel | real life

      family — long-term travel

                                                                                      From top: Milla enjoying the view
                                                                                      from the car; Alice with her family

      When actress Emma Thompson
      suggested she was planning to take
      her daughter out of school for a gap
      year travelling last year, it provoked
                                                                                      had a need to be satisfied more          USA, are one such family and they        case study: south africa
      much criticism. Whether you consider                                            instantaneously than perhaps our         are currently on an open-ended
                                                                                      future retirement in 30-plus years’      road trip through Europe. It is a       Kyle Watkins (43), a freelance software
      it irresponsible or inspirational, the                                          time might allow.                        journey extremely reminiscent of        developer, his wife Tanya Whitehead-
                                                                                         “But there’s just one problem,”       my own and although the reasons         Watkins (40) and their children
      move highlighted a growing trend.                                               I replied to my husband’s thoughts       behind their epiphany are deeper,       Savannah (10) and Ayla (8) left their
                                                                                      of heading off into the sunset. “I’m     the outcome is the same.                home country of South Africa because
      We talk to families who’ve chosen a                                             heavily pregnant with our first             Mum Leah told me: “My dad            of rising crime and a desire to give
                                                                                      child! Isn’t this the time of our life   passed away when he was 46 and          their girls a different future. “We
      non-conventional path to travel and                                             when we should be putting down           on my 36th birthday, I had a huge       decided to go on a year’s sabbatical
                                                                                      solid roots and thinking about           sense of how short life was.            around Thailand and Malaysia and
      education. Words & photographs by Alice Griffin                                 school and everything else that          I decided there was no time to lose     find utopia.” One year turned into two
                                                                                      goes with having children?”              and that we just had to get out         and they are currently attempting to
                                                                                         A year after that conversation,       there and follow our dreams.”           root themselves to a simpler way of
                                                                                      we had decided that far from                Leah is on this journey of           life in New Zealand. “One of the most
                                                                                      suppressing our true selves in our       discovery with husband Nathan           important things we have learnt is that
                                                                                      new roles as parents, we would           and their two children, Elias (7) and   travelling with kids is a passport to so
                                                                                      instead integrate our then year-old      Mylos (2), which means they have        many amazing opportunities and that

      A different
                                                                                      daughter into a life filled with         the added consideration that I          we love being together. When I see how
                                                                                      travelling adventure, hoping she         didn’t — schooling on the road.         the girls respond to certain situations,
                                                                                      wouldn’t hate us for it down the            When we embarked on our              I understand what a profound and

      kind of
                                                                                      line. We had sold our house, banked      own trip, we thought it was the         wonderful impact travel has had on
                                                                                      the profit and purchased a camper,       best time to go because we didn’t       their lives.” Follow their travels here:
                                                                                      and in May 2008, we drove towards        need to worry about school for a        www.savayla.wordpress.com

                                                                                      France — complete with the               few years, but since our trip I have
                                                                                      family dog — on a one-way ticket         realised the world offers amazing
                                                                                      and a loose plan to see France,          opportunities to educate our               I have to say that I agree
                                                                                      Spain and Portugal... slowly.            children ourselves, and that many       wholeheartedly. In my opinion,
                                                                                         Although at the time I was aware      of us can indeed do so legally.         there is no reason why, with at
      An orange glow filtered through          been a dream of my hopelessly          many people did choose to travel                                                 least one interested and committed
      the wagon and draped itself across       romantic self to slowly drive the      with their children, I had not met       Positive impact                         parent, children should not
      my reclining face. As I turned           back roads of new countries, all the   those doing it long-term or with         Angela Rehm is currently on an          benefit from a year or two out
      towards the open window, an              while truly savouring sights, sounds   school-age kids. However, as our         American road trip in a VW camper       of conventional education to see
      endless landscape of Spanish olive       and smells, imagining myself as a      trip unfolded, I quickly became          with her husband Jason and their        the world and experience history,
      groves unfurled like braided hair.       modern-day Laurie Lee. But there       aware of a growing number with           five-year-old son, Bode. Similar to     geography, art and languages.
      I remember thinking how great            had always been the pressure of a      the same hunger for longer-term          our experience, their original plan        Zac Sutcliffe, 10, can certainly
      it was to not be going home, to          schedule, a deadline, a forced end     adventures as a family.                  was to travel for one year, but 16      vouch for that. He is having a great
      not know when the end of this            to any trip, and we wanted more.          Just last year, the actress Emma      months in and with Bode now at          time travelling the world with mum
      adventure might come. This was              More time to explore and more       Thompson talked of her desire to         school age, they have decided to        Theodora and told me about the
      what we had been waiting for, that       space to think about how we            take her 10-year-old daughter out        stay on the road anyway.                best part of his trip so far. “Bali, and
      beautiful feeling called freedom.        wanted to live. Life had become        of the education system for a gap           “Before the trip I really don’t      the rest of Indonesia. I liked seeing
         It had been more than a year          an endless cycle of working to pay     year. But in my experience most          think I would have ever considered      the cremation of the Raja of Peliatan.
      earlier when, in our local Spanish-      the mortgage, soul-sapping TV          travelling families are just everyday    keeping him out of school, but          I’d never have thought they’d make
      themed restaurant in England, my         and a few intermittent short-term      people, on a budget and armed            now we see the positive impact          a sarcophagus out of a sacred cow
      husband and I concocted a plan           adventures that only momentarily       with simple desires — to get out,        travelling has had on him. Every        complete with testicles. Waterbom
      to indulge our free-spirited selves      quenched our joint thirst for          live in the moment, see the world        day is a new adventure and he is        waterpark was quite a lot of fun
      on a road trip adventure with no         travel. That day, we concluded         and share all its beauty together.       surrounded by interesting new           and Bali Treetops was good, but
      known end. Granted, it had always        our hunger for a longer adventure      The King-Markhams, from Florida,         stimuli all the time,” says Angela.     scary. And I really enjoyed >>

154   National Geographic traveller | Mar/Apr 2011                                                                                                                Mar/Apr 2011 | National Geographic traveller    155
                                                                                                            family — long-term travel | real life

                                                                               Left: Author Alice and her
                                                                               daughter in Portugal

                                                                               “Learning is just a natural part of our lives and it
                                                                               isn’t something that we ‘force’ upon the boys.
                                                                               They see us learning right along with them, and
                                                                               they see that education is for everyone and that
                                                                               learning is fun and exciting. Maths is the only
                                                                               subject they can’t get from our journey, so the boys
                                                                               steadily work through books on this subject.”

silversmithing in Ubud and diving      for a two-and-a-half-year bicycle
the wreck of the Liberty in Amed.”     trip traversing the Pan-American
   Theodora explained the              Highway from Alaska to Argentina.
schooling approach she takes with      This was certainly no ordinary bike
Zac. “We use a philosophy called       ride, but schooling their boys, Davy
unschooling, which is largely child-   and Daryl, along the way was not as
led learning, but with the proviso     daunting as you might imagine.
that he has to do some writing. He         Mum Nancy told me: “Learning is
does the odd bit of maths to keep      just a natural part of our lives and
his hand in, too.”                     it isn’t something that we ‘force’
   Though they do not envisage         upon the boys. They see us learning     case study: family on bikes                      case study: bode’s well
a return to the UK education           right along with them, and they see
system, Theodora does monitor          that education is for everyone and      Nancy Sathre-Vogel (50) and husband             Jason Rehm (40), a former scientist,
his performance on conventional        that learning is fun and exciting.      John Vogel (56) were both teachers in           his wife Angela (40), a photographer
grounds, checking Zac’s SAT            Because the real life learning is       Idaho, USA, before embarking on their           and writer, and their son Bode (5) are
performance periodically, and he is    so natural, it’s more meaningful.       current two-and-a-half-year cycling             16 months into a trip through North,
up to speed. She says: “There’s an     Maths is really the only subject they   adventure from Alaska to Argentina              Central and South America in a 1971
unschooling maxim which says ‘let      can’t get from our journey, so the      with their twin sons Davy and Daryl             VW Camper that should have lasted
go of learning, it happens anyway’     boys steadily work through books        (13). “We spent more time with other            only 12 months. “We discovered that
and this combination of self-led       on this subject.”                       people’s kids than with our own and             you just can’t go too slow. Now we have
learning, the challenge, the one-to-       Although the Vogels are teachers    Davy and Daryl were growing so                  no idea when we will be finished. Our
one attention, works well for Zac.     by profession, Nancy believes this      quickly that we came to the realisation         goal is to reach Tierra del Fuego, the
He spent a lot of time at school       has given them the knowledge to         that if we didn’t grab the opportunity          end of the road.” Angela says that they
glazed with boredom, so he does        trust their kids, as well as know       now to spend time with them, we would           embarked on this journey from their
prefer the unschooling approach        what they should be able to do and      lose the chance.” The trip has certainly        home in California because “we realised
academically and it does deliver.”     when, and she is keen to point out      provided challenges for the                     we would never get to do all the things
                                       most parents have the ability. “Put     Vogels, but undoubtedly it has been             we dreamed about unless we just took
The big adventure                      them in stimulating environments        life-changing. “Our sons’ lives will, no        off and did them”. They are currently
But what if you want to take longer    and they will learn,” she says.         doubt, be enormously impacted by this           in Ecuador, with no immediate plans
than a year out, what if you have          During their adventure, Davy and    trip. They’ve learned and seen more             to return. “We wanted to deliberately
dreams of doing something bigger       Daryl are most certainly learning.      than most people do in a lifetime.”             force a change in our lives when we left
and even more adventurous... with      Nancy told me: “In society, we are      The family are currently 2,000 miles            on the trip. I can’t imagine returning to
twin 10-year-old boys? The Vogels, a   often told that with motivation,        from completion. Follow their life and          the same old routines.” Follow their life
family of four, set out in June 2008   determination and perseverance, >>      travels here: www.familyonbikes.org             and travels here: www.bodeswell.com

                                                                                                                          Mar/Apr 2011 | National Geographic traveller     157
      real life | family — long-term travel

      we can succeed. Our sons have            began to understand the necessity           not damage them. Exposing them          essentials
      learned the benefits of all these        of venturing out of our comfort             to different cultures and religions     the detaiLs
      things. They have crested the tops       zones, meeting people, being                teaches them about humanity,
      of passes and seen the enormous          exposed to new environments and             geography, history and art.”
      valley spread out before them.           feeling the tangible security of our           Although after 15 months we          the Law
      They have made it through rain and       own family unit.                            finally returned from our road trip     >> All children of compulsory school age
      windstorms and seen the rainbow             I also now realise sharing this          in favour of a slightly more static     (5 to 16) must receive a suitable full-time
      on the other side. They have been        travel passion with my daughter             lifestyle on a narrowboat in the UK,    education. As a parent, you have a legal
      through some tough days and have         should not be seen as a negative,           I often wonder how long it will be      responsibility to make sure this happens,
      forged ahead anyway — knowing            but instead a plus, and agree when          before we take off again. Whether       either by registering your child at a school or
      full well that’s the only way they’ll    Nancy Vogel says: “The hardest part         the possibility of a permanent          by making other arrangements to give them
      reach their dream.”                      is making the decision. Once you’ve         nomadic existence is at all possible    a full-time education.
         It goes without saying they have      decided to go against everything            or even desirable for my family is      It is worth noting the following:
      learned a lot about the world and        society has raised you to want and          still unknown. But I do know there      >> You don’t have to be a qualified teacher
      its inhabitants. Nancy says: “As I       need, the rest falls into place. But        is not a single part of me that would   to educate your child at home.
      walked through a market in Ecuador       making the decision to march to             disregard an opportunity to take        >> You are not obliged to follow the National
      with Davy one day, he said: ‘Mom,        your own drummer is not easy!”              my daughter on a travel adventure       Curriculum or take national tests, but as a
      why are so many people afraid to            One couple who know all                  for the sake of conventional            parent you are required by law to ensure
      travel? They think people in the         about this are Tanya and Kyle               schooling, because I now have faith     your child receives full-time education
      world are bad and scary and will         Whitehead-Watkins, who on and               in the rich opportunities the world     suitable to their age, ability and aptitude;
      kill them, but people are so nice!’      off have always travelled with              offers for education.                   any special educational needs your child may
      Everywhere we’ve been, people            their daughters (now 8 and 10),                For me this is not about             have must be recognised. www.direct.gov.uk
      have been kind to us.”                   homeschooling along the way. For            traditional schooling being wrong
         Undoubtedly, many people fear         the last two years, they have been          and schooling on the road being         inFormation on home
      different cultures, languages and        travelling in Malaysia, Thailand,           right. This is about acknowledging      schooLing
      landscapes, and yet it is often          Australia and New Zealand.                  that it’s OK to think outside the       >> Education Otherwise is a charity and
      within these environments we can            Mum Tanya told me: “I feel               box and dare to live our own            membership-based organisation providing
      learn so much. Heading out on the        parents need to understand that             travel dreams, in our own way, as       support and information for families whose
      road with no time limit, I quickly       taking their kids out of school does        a family.                               children are being educated outside school.
                                                                                                                                   >> Montessori Education (UK), is a registered
                                                                                                                                   charity that was founded in 1993 and
                                                                                                                                   focuses on creating an environment
                                                                                                                                   for self-directed learning activity. It is
                                                                                                                                   mostly focused on three- to six-year-olds,
                                                                                                                                   but can be utilised for children up to 18.

                                                                                                                                   how to do it
                                                                                                                                   >> Organise your gap year:
      case study: tour of europe                case study: mother and son                                                         T: 0800 707 6010
      Leah King-Markham (37), a home-          Theodora Sutcliffe (36) is a journalist                                             T: 01494 673448
      schooling Montessori teacher, her        from London who is currently travelling                                             www.gapyearforgrownups.co.uk
      husband Nathan (35), an artist and       the world with her 10-year-old son                                                  T: 01892 701881
      educator, and their children Elias (7)   Zac. “I hit a point in my life where it                                             >> Books to read:
      and Mylos (2), from Florida, USA, are    became clear that the old life I’d lived                                            Read more about Alice’s road trip in her
      currently on an open-ended tour of       was no longer sustainable and I couldn’t                                            book: Tales from a Travelling Mum,
      Europe. “The main reason for this        carry on working long hours chasing                                                 Navigating Europe with a Babe in Arms, by
      trip was to spend a crazy amount of      money to, basically, survive. This was                                              Alice Griffin. RRP £9.99.
      time with our kids and have tons of      the trigger to do something I’d always                                              As I Walked Out One Midsummer
      memories saved up like camels for the    dreamed of doing and that Zac and I                                                 Morning, by Laurie Lee. RRP £8.99.
      days when they are off at college and    had discussed for a long time.” A year in                                           Lonely Planet: How to Travel with Children.
      we miss them!” Having successfully       and their trip has so far taken them to                                             RRP £12.99. □
      — but not after some drama               Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, Indonesia and
      — purchased a car and caravan in a       Australia. Follow them at — Theodora:
      new country, they now plan to travel     www.travelswithanineyearold.com
      for as long as their savings allow.      Zac: www.smartass300.wordpress.com

158   National Geographic traveller | Mar/Apr 2011

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