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Meet the Globetrotting Mama

Common perception is that having kids means staying in one place indefinitely. Heather Greenwood Davis figured differently, and set off on a world-travel adventure at a time when most moms with two kids in elementary school are fully entrenched in the work-to-school-to-sports/music lessons/play dates marathon. She and her husband Ish decided that their long-held dream of an around-the-world trip shouldn’t wait until retirement, and they set out last year with their two sons, ages 7 and 9 (and home-schooling curriculum), in tow.

Thus far they’ve visited 20 countries and plan to hit 6 more before they arrive home in time for Canada Day 2012.

“Over time the dream [of global travel] has adjusted (two kids and a mortgage will do that) but what we’ve refused to do is let it disappear.” —from GlobetrottingMama.com

A freelance writer and columnist, Heather has been published in numerous national magazines and newspapers, including Canadian Family, Parents Canada, the Toronto Star and Dabble Magazine. You may have seen Heather and her globetrotting family featured on CTV News, Canada AM or CityLine. She launched GlobetrottingMama.com in 2010.

How long had you been planning an around-the-world trip?

Before we had kids my husband and I talked about taking a trip like this. When the kids arrived we told each other that we’d still do it but secretly we both wondered if we really would. Kids throw your life into a bit of a tizzy and personal dreams start to take second place. When [my husband] Ish was offered a sabbatical we jumped at it. By that time we had the kids and we were excited about the chance to include them. We didn’t start planning in earnest until about a year before and that’s when I started the blog to help capture some of that process.

You did a fair bit of travelling before you had kids. What’s the hardest part about travelling with kids as opposed to travelling as a couple or on your own?

There’s no doubt: Traveling with kids is very different from traveling as a couple. Our travels have less nightlife in them now. We still go out to dinner and do great activities but the focus is more on family than on romantic candlelit dinners. But the benefits of traveling with them (their perspectives, their energy, their personalities) far outweigh the tough parts. Oh, and before we had the kids we were a lot braver!

Are their any common misconceptions about travelling as a family that you think are untrue?

Some people believe that this sort of trip can’t be done as a family. That’s ridiculous. World travel is made for families! It’s simply about taking your life on the road. There are families all across this planet, why wouldn’t you bring your kids to meet them?

How do you keep your sons on track with their school requirements while on the road?

Our school requirements were pretty simple: We agreed to take responsibility for their education for the year and I’m proud of the things they’ve learned. The boys, like most kids I think, like learning new things so it hasn’t been a struggle. What this trip has offered is the chance for them to learn in different ways. They have a context for lessons they’ll learn for years to come. We also do reading, writing and math with them online and in notebooks when we aren’t out climbing pyramids, discussing Gandhi or chasing lion cubs!

What are some of the things you initially worried about that haven’t been a problem?

We had three worries:
1. The kids would get sick. Instead, they’ve been healthier on the road than they ever were at home. Even Cameron, who is asthmatic, has only used his puffer twice. Four puffs in 9 months. Incredible.
2. We’d get sick of each other. The opposite has been true. We’re closer than ever.
3. We wouldn’t speak a language we needed. It really hasn’t been a problem. In several spots we’ve learned a few key phrases and we’re seriously considering more language lessons once we’re home.

Is there anything you didn’t anticipate that has been an issue?

We are lucky as Canadians to have fantastic access to the planet. Our passports are like golden tickets to the world. And though we’ve been able to get every entry visa we applied for, the process of application—particularly when you’re abroad already—is stressful. There were a few times we weren’t sure we’d get it. And we met so many people in poorer countries who rightfully believe they have no chance of ever getting a visa to see Canada. It has been eye opening.

How much input did everyone in the family have in choosing where you’d go on each leg of your trip?

We sat down as a family in the beginning and everyone could shout out places they wanted to see. The boys obviously knew about fewer places than Ish and I but everyone felt like they had a say. As we’ve gone on we’ve offered the boys some choice in where we go next. They were key to our decision to visit Egypt despite so many people saying it was too dangerous. Now we’re so glad we listened to the boys!

Now that you’re less than 100 days away from returning home, what are you (or your husband and kids) most looking forward to about being back in Canada?

I’m pretty sure we’ll all bow down and kiss the washer and dryer when we get home. Trying to get your laundry done in a foreign country can be…interesting. Ditto with Internet. We’ll never complain about the speed again. And, of course, we miss friends and family and can’t wait to catch up with everyone.

Is there anything you will change about your life back home as a result of your experiences?

I hope so but it’s so hard to know. We are different people in many ways than when we left. That is bound to shape how we go forward.

Do you think you’ll do (or hope to do) a trip like this again as a family?

Absolutely. The only questions are when we’ll go and where we’ll go. I really hope other Canadian families consider it, too.

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Follow the conclusion of the family’s world tour at GlobetrottingMama.com, on Facebook or on Twitter (@greenwooddavis).

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