One Broken Leg and $120,000 Later
So you biked all the way through Europe with two kids?
September: We have two tandem bicycles. Katrina shares one with me, Jordan shares with John. The cycling worked beautifully, and we made it as far as Switzerland. One day, while rock-climbing in a mountain playground there, Katrina was rappelling down a boulder. Her rope broke, she tumbled to the ground, and John carried her 45 minutes down the mountain. Her leg was broken, and her wrist was so badly sprained that she couldn't use crutches. She was wheelchair-bound for weeks.
John: And that was the end of the cycling!
Yet you still managed to complete your journey? Katrina's a real trooper!
September: She was definitely a trooper, but the real trooper was John. It was nearly impossible to find a wheelchair in many cities. He carried her on his shoulders all over Europe.
Was it tough to pull Katrina and Jordan out of school for a year?
John: We thought the school would be a little hysterical -- and the teachers were -- but the principal just chuckled, patted us on the back, and said, "Have a nice trip!" But we definitely planned for the kids' education. September spent a lot of time investigating our destinations and researching fiction books relative to the places and geared to the kids' ages.
September: For example, we knew we were going to China, so we bought the book Red Scarf Girl about the Cultural Revolution. We bought over a hundred books and divided them into 12 piles. Every month my mother sent us a package of books.
John: We also started each morning with a formal math lesson.
September: And the children wrote in journals. Every night, when we were done with activities, they'd record the day's events.
How much did it all cost?
September: $120,000 for our family of four to travel for 52 weeks. That includes paying for plane tickets, medical insurance, clothing, and gear; storing our belongings at home; buying guidebooks and kids' books and shipping them all over the globe. Immunizations alone cost about $2,000.
What was your favorite destination? Your kids' favorites?
September: We all liked Switzerland because we love hiking and biking and the country is really set up for that with trails everywhere. Katrina's favorite was Tanzania. She begged for us to go there and see the big animals on a safari. And Jordan's favorite was Costa Rica because he loves volcanoes and rainforest animals. My favorite was Turkey because it's inexpensive, the landscape is incredibly beautiful, and the people were so friendly.
What do you think your kids took from the trip?
September: When you look at the children, you wouldn't know they've traveled around the world. And when they're interacting with their friends, there's no indication that they've lived a different life. But when you talk to them, you realize they have a sense of themselves as citizens of the world, rather than citizens of their town, or state, or country.
For example, if we're speaking about the war in Iraq, they'll immediately say, "What about the people in Iraq? How are they dealing with this?" Whereas I think if you only lived in the U.S. and only listened to American news, you forget there are real people living all over the world.