John Higham, his wife September and their two children Katrina and Jordan took one full year to travel around the world. During their time on the road, water and in the air, they saw 28 countries on five continents. Higham wrote 360 Degrees Longitude, a book documenting the family’s journey. He talked with MomTrusted about his family trip.
MomTrusted: How did you decide to take a trip around the world?
John Higham: Before our children were born, my wife and I spent a year in Japan on a work assignment. We had traveled previously, and knew what a life changing impact traveling can have on a person. Nevertheless, that year in Japan was the genesis for wanting to take our kids abroad for a year. Initially, we were going to travel to four places and spend three months in each place. It grew from there. See “Chapter Zero.” [in 360 Degrees Longitude]
MomTrusted: How did you budget for the trip?
John: About three years before our RTW [around the world] trip, we took a month-long “prototype trip” to the most expensive place we could think of: Switzerland. From that we scaled the budget for 12 months and for other less expensive locales.
For more information, visit the family’s website.
MomTrusted: How did you choose the countries you visited?
John: Initially, we were going to cycle from London to Istanbul over summer, and from there the plan was to follow the sun (stay in warm weather) to Africa, Asia and South America. This worked out, but we really screwed up in a few places by arriving in what I thought would be a shoulder season [the time between high and low season in a travel market], but it turned out to be freaking cold. Of course, cycling didn’t work out so well after my daughter broke her leg….
Also, we wanted our kids to have some ownership in the trip. A few years before we left, we started putting sticky notes on a giant map and discussing those places as a family. We let the kids pick one destination each. My son picked China to see the Great Wall (he had studied it in school) and my daughter picked Tanzania because of her love of lions.
MomTrusted: How old were your children at the time?
John: Eight and 11. In our prototype trip, we concluded that there were long periods of time where there wasn’t much to do so we wanted our kids to be old enough to keep themselves entertained with a book. They also couldn’t be too old where hanging out with the ‘rents was embarrassing.
MomTrusted: What was the biggest challenge of bringing kids along on your journey?
John: I’m struggling here. There were far more rewards than challenges… stuff management, maybe. You just have more stuff, but the adults tend to manage most of it from hand washing their clothes to helping them spell a word when they write in their journal. Also, finding the time for meaningful homeschooling.
MomTrusted: Tell me about a time that you really wanted to jump on the next plane home.
John: Never happened. Never. The thought did creep into the shadows of our minds after Katrina broke her leg, but my wife and I each gave each other that look and both knew what the other was thinking. It wasn’t even discussed, except in terms of “we have to cope because we’re not going home.” Many friends even offered refuge in various cities across Europe, but we soldiered on.
MomTrusted: What is one of the most valuable lessons you learned on your journey?
John: I never planned to write a book. I’m an engineer by training and profession. But when friends would ask questions like, “what was your take-away?” the responses felt so vacuous that summing up my thoughts in a book was natural.
But if I were to pick two things, they would be that as a family, you can overcome any obstacle as long as you share common goals and do it together and that around the world, people are more alike than they are different. Media tries to amplify the differences and it is very divisive. Travel is a great humanizer.
MomTrusted: If you could, would you do it all over again?
John: Oh, yeah. Even 6+ years later, it occupies my thoughts every waking moment. I yearn to do it again, this time with just my wife. And maybe the occasional visit from kids and grandkids (which had better still be 10 years in the future!).