Monday 19th July 2016
This week sees us take a break from the usual format of reporting our African journey. This is due not only to a family birthday and making the most of a soon to be finished ski season but more so in response to the question that has been asked most frequently since our return to New Zealand from people who have been interested in what we have done. That question is…… “How did you organize it all ?” The easiest answer is that I didn’t ….Noelle did. This is a simplistic response (although it’s about 80% true) to what took essentially 3 years of planning before we could execute those plans.
One of our personal goals is to inspire families to not only travel but to get outside and explore the world and all it has to offer. The travel can be local (remember don’t leave home until you’ve seen your country) it doesn’t have to be a jump right in boots and all expedition to faraway lands. Think big but start small, especially if you have children or are a family that may not be used to venturing outside your comfort zone. We have been camping and doing local intrepid adventures with our kids from an early age to build up not only their endurance but to teach them flexibility in accepting different situations. The last thing we want to do is put them off and extinguish that desire to explore. They have had their moments of difficulty on some adventures but by and large they are open to new ideas and trips.
As mentioned the trip we have just returned from was three years in the planning. Originally we looked at taking a gap year to travel but certain commitments (school & work to name two) meant it was unfeasible to pursue…….we then considered taking six months off but apart from the school and work issues we felt that traveling solidly for six months may take the enjoyment out of it and we were not confident our committed finances would stretch that long. We arrived at a three month period (13 weeks to be exact) which meant the kids would miss a school term and my employer was more open to that time frame.
So once we knew how much time we had we then set about looking at where we wanted to go and what we wanted to see. This was as much about introducing our children to the wider world as it was about reintroducing ourselves to a life that we had not lived for some years. Once we identified our key objectives and desires we then had to look at how we could schedule it to fit. The one thing we would like to stress here is that every family is different and how we travel is based on our values, beliefs, interests and of course financial considerations play a huge part. Noelle & I have always been adventurous travelers and we find comfort in tents and hostels rather than hotels. The desire to interact with like minded people means we can do so in those environments. We are also comfortable with packs on our backs and carrying the essentials. We don’t mind taking a road less traveled which we did when we had tickets for a little used station 50km out of Xian in China to catch a night train.Triplicit Tip#1 – These are our values and beliefs which are not necessarily the same as other families so our advice would be that before you start planning identify your level of commitment and comfort to ensure you enjoy your travels rather than endure them.
Financial considerations play a large and important part in what you would like to do and what you can actually afford. For us as soon as we decided three years earlier what our goal was we started saving. A separate bank account with a weekly direct deposit meant we could set about planning our budget and build a fund to work with. Noelle spent countless hours in the evenings researching costs and destinations to build a workable plan that took in what our goals were, what we could afford and where we found destinations unworkable we reworked our goals and in some cases compromised our timeline but we always kept our key goals in mind and built the trip around them. For us our accommodation choices allowed us the ability to see and do more than if we accommodated ourselves in a higher level of comfort. Triplicit Tip #2 – Do what you can afford based on Tip #1
Apart from accommodation, flights make up a large part of any travel expense. The online world we reside in these days means you can do everything from home in some cases at a lower cost however we decided to book our key flights through a local travel agent (they were given advice from Noelle’s research) on the reasoning that if things went awry we would have some comeback and support in dealing with issues (as it happened after 20 flights around Asia & Africa on our last flight home the wheels fell off but we had a travel agency who assisted us and covered some incurred costs as a result). The rest of our flights we researched and booked online. We used some carriers that were new to us but were just as good as if not better than those carriers whose names are widely known – Dragon Air and Air Mauritius were awesome. By doing it this way we found all our flight costs came in well under budget. Triplicit Tip #3 – travel agents can add value but don’t be afraid to research and tell them what else is out there and at what cost.
With the framework now complete we could concentrate on working on filling in our days and activities and how we traveled from place to place. This again took many dedicated hours by Noelle and we came up with a rough plan of where we would be on dates but it was loose and open to change based on how we felt and what was happening locally. As it was our plans changed more than a few times so with no fixed in stone commitments we could do as we pleased. Triplicit Tip #4 – look at the level of flexibility you want or perhaps don’t want. Plan for what your comfortable with.
Accommodation for around 100 nights of being away may seem like a huge task but apart from pre-booking accommodation for some nights pre or post activities we booked as we went using online booking engines which gave us some great deals on hostels, apartments and the occasional hotel. Again we are comfortable traveling like this without the knowledge of knowing exactly where we are staying. Triplicit Tip #5 – Deals are out there and you don’t have to look too hard. The more flexible you are the better the deals can be.
Traveling with children is markedly different than traveling as a couple. Whilst Noelle & I can go hard out day after day to maximize opportunities we found out early on that our kids weren’t quite as enthusiastic to that approach. In response to their feedback (read moods) we then structured our activities around 2 full days followed by a rest day which in reality would be a sleep in and maybe only a half a day of walking or taking some easy viewing options like a museum. After being on the road for a few weeks they were conditioned for some harder parts of our trip like three weeks backpacking in China. We did make sure to reward them frequently be it daily with an ice cream or again have an activity lined up once we achieved a certain goal (e.g 2 days at Legoland Malaysia as a reward for summitting Mt Kinabalu) Triplicit Tip #6 – be realistic in your expectations of what you can see and do.
Every family is different with their expectations, circumstances and desires. Get out there and plan that trip but do so based on not only what you can afford but on what you want to get out of it. Our goals were established in the beginning before we went any further with our planning. Now back at home we continue to dissect what we did and how we would do it differently next time. For the most part we had it spot on but in some areas we would tweak what we did and for the record there will be a next time as we are already saving for our next big adventure. Triplicit Tip #7 – Know why you are doing it. Even that weekend camping trip away should have goals.
So for those of you who are or were interested this is how we approached it and we certainly don’t profess that our process is the be all and end all. See Triplicit Tip #1
This will be the first in a sporadic series of Triplicit Travel Tips where we outline how we pull it all together each time we go away.
The photos we have added are taken from around Georgetown in Penang. There is a vibrant street art scene and finding them all is a great way to spend a day whilst eating some fantastic local food at very cheap prices.
Next Monday will see us back in Namibia retracing our travel into the desert and experiences.