The old adage says that there’s an entire world waiting to be discovered right outside the front door, so one family of five decided there was no time like the present to explore what planet Earth had to offer.
The Swenson clan, based out of Northern California, decided to trade the usual family vacation for something a little unorthodox: one whole year of travel.
Indulging in Some Wanderlust
The year-long expedition was truly a “turning lemons into lemonade” situation for the Swensons. The family was hit with a sequence of devastating blows — husband William’s mother fell ill and lost her battle with cancer right as he got word that his job was “relocating workers” — forcing the family to reevaluate their current plan and make some tough calls.
“We loved our children and we wanted to make more memories,” said wife Jessica. “So, now is the time to go.”
Hitting the Road
So the Swensons — Jessica, William and their three youngsters Ezra, Theo and Vesper — decided to find some healing in the form of bucket list ticks.
In the months leading up to the trip, however, the family battened down the hatches financially — William taking on overtime and Jessica packing her schedule with freelance photography gigs just to pad the bank account.
“Saving is only a part of what you’re going to have to do,” said William. “You’re going to have to be setting money aside, but also in order to do that you really need to cut things out of your life entirely.”
In addition to cutting out any extraneous expenses — like alcohol and gas money — wherever possible, the family rented out their home, tapped into some inheritance funds and parceled out William’s severance package in order to make their dreams a reality.
Trading Homeschool for “World School”
One of the family’s main motivators for the experience was to enrich the education of their three children, taking advantage of the enriching experience that only travel — and first-hand experience — can provide.
“We are homeschooling, or ‘world-schooling’ if you will, and we know that some of these things were items that the kids would be reading about in school this year or in a few years,” explained William. “Rather than just pass off on the opportunity for them to live and touch and experience for themselves, we really wanted to be able to show them.”
The family tried to make sure to tackle destinations that tied back to major lesson plan points — Australia, New Zealand, the Terra Cotta Warriors and the Great Wall of China, for example — to help draw the kids back into the significance of their studies.
Taking a year-long globetrot as a family isn’t without its headaches, however.
“Every time you land in a new country, it’s a new system that you’re learning — new transportation, new learning curve, new language,” said Jessica. “It’s a steam learning and we’re just going it over and over and over again.”
The family has also experienced some mishaps along the way, both run-of-the-mill — a rolled ankle — and not-so-normal — an erupting volcano — to liven up the experience.
They say the travel experience affected them — and are trying to plan for life after it’s over.
“I’m a little bit nervous about when it ends because we have enjoyed it so much and we really love being together,” explains Jessica. “I feel like when it ends, it might create more of a problem having to learn not to be together all the time.”