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Long Term Travel As Education Part 1

As I sit to write this article we’re on a second class train between Bangkok and Surat Thani, on the southern coast of Thailand. My four children are in the row behind me, reading, sleeping, drawing, and munching peanuts, respectively. We’re not here on summer holiday during their school break. We’re here well into our fifth solid year of full-time travel. This is their fourth continent and their eighteenth country, so far. We aren’t the only ones who live and raise kids this way. We know dozens of other families out there in the world doing fabulous things. We aren’t living this way by default, because our first lifestyle choice didn’t work out. We’re walking the world as a family on purpose, specifically for the education of our young people.

It drives me a bit crazy to be asked, repeatedly, “What are you doing about their schooling?” Especially when the question is being asked standing in the middle of the ruins of Copan, or the halls of the L’Ouvre, or by the teacher on her Christmas break who my child has just explained the flooding and drainage situation of the lake to on a boat ride across Lago de Atitlan. It’s not as if we took off on this fool’s errand around the world and then six months in thought, “Oh no!! What about the kids’ schooling?” Forehead slap, “What are we going to do about THAT?!”

Here’s a newsflash for you: There is more than one way to live life, and there is also more than one way to get a child educated.

There are more than a few families out here who are traveling as a means of education. We are among them. That’s not to say that I don’t think institutional schools are important, they are. They are one choice that is suitable for some, but not all children. I’m in no way slamming the school systems or the teachers who sow their whole lives into children within their halls. Instead, I’m asking people to recognize that there are other ways to learn and other places to learn and sometimes, for some children, better ways to learn. Travel as education, when done thoughtfully and intentionally, can dot all of the i’s and cross all of the t’s of a traditional curriculum and offer children so much more than they could ever learn in the village school of mid-Iowa. As a traveling, world-schooling parent, my focus is not on what my kids are missing by growing up in the “real world.” My focus is on all of the things that they are gaining, that they’re being handed on a silver platter by the beautiful Thai people on this hot, humid, tropical afternoon that they couldn’t get any other way.