A picture of us passing through America (my family’s home in Wisconsin to be precise!). Since our visit here the year before, we have officially circumnavigated the globe.
We have just celebrated our 1yr anniversary of our travel around the world—and here is a bit about why we have decided to keep on going at least a few months more...
When people see us nowadays, we move en masse, a tight little nucleus, our four blond boys a noticeable contrast to the general population of our current host country. Now when we tell people that we have been traveling the world for a year, no one ever asks why. As if they understand that what we are doing makes sense and agree with my rhetorical answer, ‘Why on Earth not?’
Exploring the wonders of the ocean in Mauritius
Finding our way
October 1st marked one full year of our being on the move, having packed up our house and taken off on this adventure from Ireland that day in 2021. Initially we didn’t know how long we would go for, what our route around the world would look like, and truthfully how this would play out. During our admittedly slow acclimation following two homebound years, there were so many questions that I now feel reassured have been answered. Overall this year has become continuously better than any of us could have imagined, and we will be eternally grateful that we took this leap into the unknown—although it was not a decision we took lightly.
Buying Time to Buy a House
But exactly how are we pulling this off? In short, it was a practical as well as a poetic move. We left Ireland because we weren’t ready to buy a house in an extremely rigid and overpriced economy. When we left, my husband Duck was just starting a new business, and as two directors of our own businesses, the mortgage approval process was (and remains) severe. But more importantly, we figured we could nearly save money traveling by swapping out certain expenses whilst paying exactly the same in rent as we would back home. This still holds true—we are staying in absolute luxury homes at affordable prices. Because we stay for a month or two at a time, often in our host countries' off-seasons, we find the most beautiful homes and offer a price in our budget for long-terms let. Most hosts (not all!) are very willing to negotiate pricing for longer periods of stay. And therefore, we are staying in places with swimming pools, great spans of indoor and outdoor space, and in areas that feel safe and that we want to explore. We are “living” wherever we go, and living a life of peace and space for a family with four little ones that would be unimaginable for most in the world's most expensive cities.
Four continents: Our journey thus far!
A quick recap of where we have been: we started in Greece then moved on to Mauritius, where we stayed longer than expected as we found our groove building our own homeschool and work routines. Our childcare has been spotty, calling for lots of improvising around routines, and initially we fended off one bug after the next as our bodies acclimatized after two masked years. We then went on to Bali, Australia, my hometown in the US, and now Colombia where we are midway through a three-month stay. We have chosen a quality of life over speed, thereby immersing ourselves in the countries and cultures we visit, each time thus far leaving richer in friends and experiences, cultures and stories. This has also allowed us to settle in between bouts of packing and unpacking, which is always its own cathartic adventure of shedding and organizing, but which can be very draining as well!
Felix (the "baby," now almost 3) relishing this mode of transport on the Brule River in Wisconsin last summer
Fully realising the value of chosen family time
It is true that finding the balance between running our businesses, homeschooling our children and exploring a new place took us some getting used to, but we are now reaping the rewards of sticking it out and have gotten good at balancing work and play and maximizing these precious days in deeply meaningful ways. The rhythm we move in each day binds our little family in an internal richness of friendship and respect that I can’t imagine a life without, and yet I am acutely aware that, after almost two years of more or less lockdown in a small Dublin home, this closeness could have just as easily escaped us. The real unexpected gift in spending so much time together is how intimately we have gotten to know each facet of our children’s personalities, what they are deeply curious about, what they find funny, what they are afraid of, their individual strengths, what gives them confidence, how they learn, how they react in new circumstances—how the deep bond of friendship between brothers and between children and parents gives them strength and resilence to new situations. All these intensely special and unique moments that happen every day, several times a day, not just on the weekends or evenings, has been an unbelievable gift. When I posed the question to Milo (9yrs) of why he thinks we are traveling another year and he said simply, “Because we have been enjoying each other so much. We have had so much fun.”
Raising citizens of the world
The children are thriving in ways beyond what was possible in our old routines back home. Seeing them interact with a people and place, often with little common language between them, fills my heart with such pride as their tender confidence and respect for others allows them to be easily welcomed into new cultures. They are becoming citizens of the world before my eyes. They are observant and respectful, polite and interactive, curious and open with a contagious sense of fun that brings children and adults alike into their sphere. Here in this gorgeous puebla in Colombia, children follow them around with a litany of questions they can’t answer before verbal communication quickly turns into a game or sport or play where the strongest form of connection can be practiced—a quick smile, a friendly pass, some camaraderie and companionship that bridges all cultures. These lessons of development I know will stay with them their whole lives.
Their Balinese football team
Beyond the traditional classroom
It has taken us a while to find an academic rhythm and routine that feels natural to us. We have an excellent resourse in my mother-in-law, who was a primary school teacher for years, one of the best as said by countless students we have run into over the years. Before we left Ireland, and again on visiting us in Mauritius, she set us up with a routine that allowed the children to keep up with their curriculum in regular school so that we can be sure they are able to slot in easily when we get home. Also, because there are 4 children to attend to, sometimes with only 1 available “teacher," it allows the children to be self-led with an emphasis on the need to be self-disciplined, something that comes more naturally to some of the brothers than others.
In addition to my mother-in-law, I followed what they say when you are starting any new project: get advice from the best. I reached out to two other teachers I have profound respect for. One, a best friend from high school who became a teacher and has run a very engaged, energetic classroom. She imparted the importance of cultivating a sense of wonder and curiosity to the students, encouraging us to let the children find themes for topics they were interested in and to express their learnings in individual ways. And traveling the world has of course been such an easy way to engage with any number of wonders. We went to the planetarium in Medellin to supplement our lessons on space (the kids were particularly enthralled in the scale of the solar system) or a visit to the Parthenon gave way to many conversations to the rise and fall of civilizations. Floating in a variety of salty sea water easily gives immediate understanding in science lessons on buoyancy.
And then I sought the advice of the best teacher in my own personal education; I asked a favorite high school professor who, after leaving the traditional classroom, set up his own homeschool with his son. He offered a wealth of guidelines from his own experience that I hope we can share one day in a more thorough framework, but in a few words his thesis was the importance of following a child’s own interests and passions to engage in fewer topics but in very deep ways. Duck found the notes he imparted empowering to an emotional degree; he could now trust his own teaching instincts. It’s not only okay to teach children from your own strengths and interests, but this can even be one of the great successes of homeschool. Duck felt liberated to deviate from the stack of workbooks we collected from the school list and engage the children with things he was interested in. In our case this was a collection of biographies that would give the children a sense of how to live vicariously through other people’s lives—both in struggles and successes—as well as a children’s adaptation of Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari, and Bill Bryson’s A Short History of Nearly Everything.
Taken together, our little "program" has worked collectively to give the boys a sense of timeframe and their space within world—and watching Duck so enthusiastically read, talk, and explore this information with the kids has been contagious. They are not only gaining a geographical perspective of where in the world they are but also when they live. And they are making connections in the frameworks of these subjects. Because homeschool is daunting, especially with children of multiple ages and interests, this "permission" to follow our own instincts was a revelation.
Our homeschool setting in Venecia, Colombia
The Bonus: Breathing new inspiration into SteamLine
And then there is the very soul of SteamLine. Travel is so precious—it is a gift that should always be celebrated and treasured; it's why I started SteamLine in the first place. My external senses have been on fire with colourful villages, homes and murals, the brightest turquoise of waters, the deep intense gray of storms that run through a mountainside, the vibracy of flora and fauna everywhere. And I have met some amazing artists along the way (watch this space as we develop a collaboration with an artist I met in Bali!) that I know will play into future projects.
But above all, it has breathed new life into my belief that travel can make the world a better place, as we feel the deep connection with human beings from cultures so different to our own. Having the opportunity to explore in the worn footsteps of others, we turn strangers into friends by practicing curiosity, compassion and kindness—traits that even at home go a long way with our neighbours. It also makes me acutely aware of how precious the world of ours is, how infinite is the beauty of our earth, how vulnerable it is today...and how worth fighting for. It is a humble road to walk in the middle of such extensive beauty in both people and place, and an honor to be a part of it all.
Now you may wonder when this adventure must be coming to an end? While I don’t know if it must—so long as we can continue to make it work for all six of us—by spring it's true that we will likely be very ready to have our older children back in Irish school, working on their Gaelic with grandparents nearby. For now, we are taking it one month, one flight, one chapter at a time. Because we now know we'll be looking back on this the rest of our lives.