family photo on a skydeck overlooking valley

Written by Anna Redmile, Partnerships Director, Education Perfect

Ever wondered about doing something different, but then shut the idea down because it all seems too hard?

We had great (but busy) lives on Sydney's northern beaches, raising our kids—George, in second grade, and Daisy who was four— and working hard.

One day we had a fanciful idea: wouldn't it be nice to just stop for a year and go and experience something totally different? 

We always talked about travelling when we were older, retired and the kids had left home. But this idea started to take root - what if we threw caution to the wind and went travelling now, with the kids?

By taking that journey now, we would be able to bank all that quality time and all those memories with them. We could open them up to diversity, amazing experiences, and shape them as human beings. We weren’t sure if this was a crazy idea, but we discussed it with George’s school, and they supported it. 

From there on in, we doggedly started overcoming all the challenges that stood in our way, and one year later, we were packing up the house, farewelling our colleagues, friends and dog, and boarding a plane to start on an epic 13 month adventure around the World.

boy on horse being led, looking at hot air balloons

An opportunity for life experience, without sacrificing education

I worked in the media for many years, but switched to technology since it was more progressive and flexible, and I was keen to learn something new. Before travelling I was working in adtech, now I work in edtech. My career has evolved and being progressive and flexible is part of my professional makeup. Blending that philosophy into my life made perfect sense.

We left Sydney in December 2018, heading to LA. From there, we hit Mexico, through Central America, onto Colombia, and the Amazon. We saw Cuba, then back to the United States.

Flying to the UK, we saw Europe, Turkey, then India, and finally Thailand before heading home in January 2020. Just in time for COVID-19 to happen.

In that 13-month stint, the kids received a great education and the amazing life experience was part of it. George completed the whole Year 3 curriculum, facilitated by one-on-one tuition from us. The resources his school provided were well thought out and constructed, the platforms worked, and the staff ran the program like a well-oiled machine. 

The challenges of remote learning

It’s empowering to know that you can get by in difficult situations. We saw each other from the moment we woke up to the moment we closed our eyes at night. Like any new situation, there were, of course, challenges.

The first month of remote learning was the hardest. Getting George to sit down and get on with it was tough. He didn’t have the right pencil, the chair was wobbly, he needed to go to the toilet… But he soon realised the work wasn’t going away, and the sooner he got on with it, the sooner we could all have fun. He quickly learnt to be extremely efficient! 

family travel infront of ancient buildings

He also had to get used to working in some strange situations: on a ferry, in an airport, at a small bedside table in a hostel. Working in the heat was a killer, but we just got on with it, as consistency was key. 

We incorporated at least three hours of schooling for him each day. We often thought how hard it was for him to be taught by his parents. As much as we tried not to, we’d sometimes lose our patience, which wasn’t very constructive. As parents, we learnt a lot about ourselves as well.

At the start of each term, we were sent a large package of learning modules to be completed. Flexibility and patience was a lesson for the whole family and while in Costa Rica, we found ourselves checking the post office every few days for a few weeks waiting for Term 2 to start and the school materials to eventually arrive.

It was a beautiful insight into the learning process, and what my kids are engaging with at school. Teachers are providing an amazing service to our kids – they can shape our children, their futures, to create engaged and enthusiastic learners. I have the utmost respect for this profession. 

When we got back from our travels and – thanks to COVID-19 – found ourselves home-schooling the kids again, I thought, “we’ve trained for this!”

We knew what to expect and could get on with it. But when we both started working and had to home-school at the same time, everything changed. For me, home-schooling by itself is fine. Home-schooling while working at the same time is like an extreme sport! 

Two kinds of costs

The cost of going away travelling for a year was obviously quite high, but the cost for the education part was surprisingly low. Distance learning is supported by the NSW Department of Education, and we had to pay a fee of about $200 to contribute towards international postage of the materials.

In term 4, Turkish customs ‘lost’ the parcel and would only ‘find’ it if we paid them. I ended up spending an afternoon at a printer in Istanbul printing out copies from the digital files.

The quality of resources with which we were provided, the platforms we could access, and the level of support we were given from teaching staff was incredible. 

Lessons learnt

I thought that this experience would make my children realise how lucky we are. What I found was that if their basic needs were met, they were happy, and they didn’t miss any of the ‘finer’ things in life. They were delighted if there was a dog to play with, a cupboard to play in, or a garden where they could collect stones. All the extra things we offer to our kids can be superfluous. 

Would I recommend doing the same thing, either again for my family and me, or as an experience for others? Yes, yes, yes, and yes. I’d do it again in a heartbeat. 

George was exposed to amazing experiences, different cultures, thinking, history, flora, and fauna every day. He learnt Spanish, social skills, resilience, adaptability, how to make the most of a bad situation, empathy, responsibility, values.... He lapped up the opportunities and the experiences and it blows me away with how much he remembers.  

The trip has also shaped Daisy. I hope she will continue to be the open minded, kind, empathetic, adventurous person she is right now. 

It was the most amazing thing I’ve ever done. It was a privilege to spend valuable time with my husband and kids, experiencing amazing things every day. I appreciate this kind of travel isn’t for everyone, but if you are keen on providing your child with both a traditional and practical education that also develops strong and important personal traits, consider this experience for your own family.

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1 Comment

  • Posted February 5, 2021 1:59 pm
    by Alana

    What a fascinating experience you had, Anna. Your kids will really appreciate this and will, no doubt, have opened their minds in a way few kids get a chance to do.

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