Posts Tagged ‘RTW’

Around the World as a Family
Monday, October 22nd, 2012

Most folks travel in their twenties when they have few responsibilities or in their retirement when they have fulfilled them. We thought we’d try splitting the difference.  As a family we value experiences — learning by doing — which is why we chose an alternative school for our children that used the Expeditionary Learning (ELOB) approach. Our concept for our around-the-world (RTW) trip emerged primarily from that core value.  We talked a lot about whether we wanted to travel in between school years, or take the kids out of school for the whole year. This decision was made a bit easier by the fact that Anne is a teacher, and we can home school the kids for the year without major impacts to their overall school journey.

The timing of our trip is no accident – it’s based entirely on Alex and Leah. The 2012-2013 school year is 5th grade for Leah and 7th grade for Alex, and we wanted to avoid them missing a transition year if possible. Middle school in Seattle is 6th-8th grades, so Alex will miss the middle year of middle school. Leah will skip her last year of elementary school, but will hopefully return to join Alex at the same middle school. Additionally, the kids are old enough to carry their own luggage and fully participate in our adventures, but not full-blown teens yet.

Making it Work

We have come to understand that the key to a successful family experience is acknowledging that it takes four individuals working together. Our kids may be ten and twelve, but they are still part of Team Van Loen! This trip is not a Disney cruise and we have never billed it as such. Our journey is not FOR them, it is WITH them. As with any team, we have our different strengths, weaknesses, styles, and priorities — so honest communication, compromise, and flexibility are essential. It only takes one cranky person (adult or child) to impose misery on the group and it is impossible for everyone to be perfectly content all the time.

Memory is a funny thing as well. A few weeks ago we took the kids on a hike to the ruins above Cusco. Both kids complained about how hot/tired/hungry/thirsty they were for what seemed like the entire time (my memory). Yet, yesterday when asked what his favorite activities had been, Alex listed that hike as “awesome.”  Ignoring crankiness is clearly an important skill that I’m still learning. The other advantage of spending so much time together is that we have the unique opportunity to become tuned in to each others state of mind/body and multiple opportunities to practice navigation.

Planning successful experiences with kids requires more thought than for an individual or couple simply because there are more factors involved.  Rushing is an especially bad idea as is the lack of a “plan B” and snacks. Our kids want to stop to watch animals, get ice cream, walk on walls, play in fountains and smell the flowers – so outings tend to take longer. They can handle one museum, not four – so we pace ourselves. In our experience, time and low stress are the real keys to family happiness.

How Children Enrich the Travel Experience 

Kids are are naturally  present in moment. They ask really good questions and are remarkably keen observers. Our children make us think and see things from a different viewpoint. Soaking up the experience comes easily to them and is joyful to observe. Having our kids with us opens doors and makes us approachable. As a family we have found that we get a more friendly treatment than traditional tourists. Locals seem more patient with us and willing to initiate conversations about our shared experiences as parents.

What do We Hope to Learn by Traveling as a Family?

For us it’s not really about the travel itself – but the shift and shared memories that make it worthwhile. We wanted the kind of shared experiences that require a complete exit from our ordinary life. Living in new places with different people, cultures, and expectations will hopefully sharpen our perspective of ourselves and deepen our understanding of others.


The Van Loen family left their “normal” life in July 2012 to start a career-break and slow-travel the world. They will be volunteering, exploring, and learning throughout Peru, Chile, New Zealand, Australia, Singapore, Thailand, Cambodia, China, and finally taking the Trans-Mongolian railroad across Russia. They will be homeschooling their kids while they travel, with the goal of expanding their horizons and changing their perspectives. You can read about their travels on, follow Van Loen Adventures on Facebook or follow the family on Twitter as @anvltrip.

RTW Chat Recap: All About Career Breaks
Thursday, October 4th, 2012

We hope you joined us yesterday on Twitter for RTW Chat with RTW Chat is a weekly conversation on Twitter that brings extended travel lovers together from all around the world to discuss everything there is to know about round the world (rtw) travel.

In case you missed it, this week was all about career break travel! Here are some of our favorite responses:

Q1: Where did/do you dream about being when you are at your desk?

@TravelMermaid: Shipwrecked on a desert island with a) King Neptune, b) George Clooney and c) the US Men’s Water Polo team.

@DestnUnknown: Somewhere where I feel like I am living life instead of killing time until I die. Too melodramatic?! If so..Antarctica!!

@Thedelhiway: Always dream about being far far away from bosses, on an island where they cant get to me & mobiles don’t work 🙂

Q2: What scared/scares you most about taking a career break and traveling?

@SherpaKeith: being able to get a job when I returned, but it really wasn’t that hard – urban myth

?@OurOwnPath: Thinking that finishing traveling I wouldn’t find work. I’m finding the opposite – the world is more open for me to find work

@traveling9to5: I was terrified of squat toilets in Asia – Now I prefer them!

@llworldtour: The unknown & being lonely. Both fears went away pretty quick as i learned I was rarely alone.

Q3: What is/was the hardest part of planning your career break travels?

@VolunteerSarah: Figuring out where to go–too many amazing places!

@HeckticTravels: We never really planned! Kinda threw a dart at a map, and booked our first three nights accommodations only. 🙂

@DestnUnknown: Getting the balance right between ‘planned’ and ‘unplanned’ – wanting to make the most of my time, but leave it flexible too

@KatkaTravels: tying up loose-ends. Finding a subleaser, home for my dog, closing accounts, etc

Q4: What is/was the easiest part of planning your career break travels?

@travelshus: I thought the easiest part was decided where to go. Easiest ended up being quitting the job and packing the stuff

@katieaune: surprisingly, renting out my condo was one of the easiest – great rental market in Chicago!

@DestnUnknown: Decision to do it was easy, it felt so right. Planning phase was fun, it felt easy because it was fun

@greentravelgrl: Surprisingly easy to sell my car. And also sell all of my furniture and move out of my townhouse to become essentially homeless

Q5: Should your career break travels include working? What kind?

@GirlUnmapped: My year working in Oz was definitely helpful upon returning (got better work experience than I would’ve in US!)

@llworldtour: Didn’t plan it, but mine did. I fell into random jobs & loved it. Became more local, met new people that weren’t travelers.

?@travelitach: I would love to work on farms in every country I visit – that’s how you really get into the local knowledge

Q6: If you’ve taken a career break, what was the most important lesson you learned?

@DestnUnknown: That you can replenish your bank account, but you can’t reclaim time – make each second in life count!

@tweetthemap: That it can be done! And if we, a family of 4, can do it, anyone can!

@katieaune: that no matter how much i stressed or worried, things always had a way of working themselves out.

@anishahbbc: That despite our differences we”re all trying to make it in this world; humans & animals. Philanthropy.

Q7: Why do we need a career break/gap year in America?

?@GirlUnmapped: There’s more to life than work & climbing the ladder – realize there’s more to the world & appreciating the diverse ppl in it.

@HeckticTravels: To broaden one’s perspective outside of their own borders. To break down barriers, stereotypes, and prejudices. TO GROW!

@greentravelgrl: Broader perspectives on the really important issues in life. Not everyone has water from a tap or garbage pickup, etc

?@wanderbelly: To end pervasive American ignorance that the rest of the world is a ‘scary’ place.

Q8: Do you think a career break will help your career? Why?

@traveling9to5: My career break is the start of my new career and my freedom to control my own life again!

@llworldtour: YES! It changed my career & my life. Went from TV producer to full time travel writer & traveler. Less Money. MORE happy.

@riorimontitours: Yes, you will become more aware of how many differences and cultures surround you, and of how vast the world is

?@OutlanderAbroad: Have a great career by US standards. Want to discover what I’m truly passionate about, maybe discover a new career!

?@KatkaTravels: I think it would help ME more than my career. You can work anywhere but working where you are happy is the best

Q9: Would you include a career break and travel on your resume? If so, how?

?@travelshus: yes, and currently do. I put it under skills. Its also clearly a talking pt due to the time gap. #rtwchat.

@insuremytrip: If you wouldn’t, you should! Place it proudly in the appropriate spot under “relevant experience.” List countries. Show pix.

@greentravelgrl: Write a list of skills that you learned on the road such as networking, nonverbal communication, problem solving, photography

?@OutlanderAbroad: YES. Show you can plan, budget, execute a massive-scale ‘project’, plus all the lessons learned & new experiences along the way

Q10: What is the biggest benefit of taking a career break that includes travel?

?@SherpaKeith: you appreciate life and what you have so much more imho

@traveling9to5: Your opportunites are opened and your mindset drastically changes on what success is

@DestnUnknown: Learn that work is not just sitting in an office. Many different ways to earn money around the world, find what you love doing

@GirlUnmapped: We are an increasingly global society. Cross-cultural communication skills, int’l exper & a global perspective are important.

And our favorite response of all? From @HeckticTravels: “‘I wish I had NEVER gone traveling.’ Said no one. EVER.”
You can also follow along on YouTube with BootsnAll CEO Sean Keener and Meet, Plan, Go! co-founder Sherry Ott as they participated in the RTW Chat:

Join us on October 16, 2012 for our nationwide Meet, Plan, Go! events:

Austin | Boston | Chicago | Minneapolis | New York City

San Diego | San Francisco | Seattle | South Florida | Toronto

Photo: West McGowan

First Class Service on an Economy Budget
Monday, July 23rd, 2012

You are at the airport, with time before your flight.

You want to check your email, but after wandering around the airport terminal you can’t seem to find wi-fi or even an electrical outlet.  Wouldn’t it be nice to find both of these in a comfortable setting AND a cup of coffee or snack?  Well . . . you can!

Just before I left for my around-the-world journey, I discovered Priority Pass, an independent airport lounge service with access to 600 lounges worldwide.  Regardless of what class of service or airline you fly, you’ll have a quiet space from the hustle and bustle of an airport departure terminal to either catch up on a bit of work or just relax.  Lounge services vary, but they typically have comfortable seating, refreshments, snacks, a TV, clean bathrooms, flight boarding information, complimentary wi-fi and . . . yes . . . plenty of power outlets.

So far on my journey, I’ve visited lounges in Atlanta, Honolulu, Tokyo, Bangkok, Hong Kong, Kathmandu, Delhi, Dubai, London and Venice.  Being able to walk through the crowds and into a private lounge makes me feel like a rock star.  Of course, I love the access to wi-fi, but I’m also a big fan of the food and bottles of water included as part of my membership as they help me avoid the high prices in the airport terminal.

My travels have been in the ‘budget’ category and it’s really nice to treat myself to some ‘first class’ – even for just a few hours.  I’ve had no problems using the membership, except for the Kolkata airport where the lounge was no longer affiliated with Priority Pass – but they did allow me to sit in the room.  The nicest lounge I visited was in Hong Kong where guests are presented with a full food buffet, several choices of seating, hourly sleeping rooms, showers and spa facilities!

There are three types of annual memberships to Priority Pass.  The Standard membership is $99 with a $27 fee for each VIP lounge visit.  The Standard Plus membership is $249 and includes access to 10 lounges, then $27 for each additional visit.   The Prestige membership is $399 and all lounge visits are included.  Click here for a 10% discount on new memberships.

Aside from being an affiliate, I can honestly say that membership to Priority Pass can be a great value if you’ll be traveling through many airports throughout the year and will utilize the features.   New lounges are regularly added to the program and special discounts on other airport services are often offered to members.  I, like many other travelers, may not be able to afford flying first class, but I can at least start my trip that way.

Jannell Howell is just over half-way through her first around-the-world journey that started last January. After exploring parts of Thailand, Cambodia, Nepal, and India, she is now hopping around Europe. In 2010, Jannell started Traveljunkie’s World Tour to blog about her trip preparations and in the process became a self-confessed travel gearologist.

You can read about other travel-related products  Jannell has studied and/or find out what other travelers use at Traveljunkie’s World Tour. 

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