Around The World Family Travel Soultravelers3

April 19, 2010

Around the world family travel soultravelers3, girl kissing world globe, loving world,

Around the world family travel is thrilling and something we at Soultravelers3 have been doing non-stop since 2006 and loving it all, so see no end in sight. International family travel rocks! Four continents, 32 countries, 175,000 miles ( most overland) thus far, but this will be the first year we totally circumvent the globe. We plan to continue with our family travel budget of just 23 dollars a day per person or less!

I just started an Around the World Family Travel group on Lonely Planet, if you are interested, plus we have had this Soultravelers3 Family Travel Around the World  Squidoo for a while. I also want to thank Danny Brown who is an amazing, generous, kind man who is great at what he does, for picking us as a Social `Media Success Story in Travel .You will love the fabulous  travel tips by travel writers that included us!

If you are on Facebook, please stop by and become a fan of Soultravelers3 for a dose of travel inspiration! Huge thanks to all of you who have helped with the focus group questions about our new Soultravelers3 book! Keep them coming as I want to write the book that YOU want, so really appreciate the feedback. We're pretty thrilled to be named one of the top travel experts too! Life is good.

Travel and education are a powerful pair and life as a field trip has enriched all of us far beyond our expectations. It's still amazing to us, all that we have learned on our global adventure.We hope we can pass some of that on through our website and Youtube travel videos.

"To solve most of the major problems facing our country in the 21st Century require every young person to learn more about other world regions, cultures and languages" Colin Powell

"Ours is a world of 24-hour-news cycles, global markets, and high-speed internet. We need to look no further than our morning paper to see that our future, and the future of our children, is inextricably linked to the complex challenges of the global community. And for our children to be prepared to take thier place in that world and rise to those challenges, they must first understand it." Roderick Paige, Former U.S. Secretary of Education


This travel year is very exciting but will also bring new challenges as we have never used this many planes and are going to new parts of the world that none of us have been to before. We will be traveling with just a small day pack each for 7 straight months of travel. We are modifying our plans, some based on what we have learned by doing and also Mozart's age. We had planned to go to Africa next for a long stay and then South America and ship our RV with us. Instead,  we will start wintering in Asia for the next few years so Mozart can become very fluent in her third language, Mandarin Chinese as well as the culture.It is clear with demographics that China and Asia will play a strong part in her generation's future.

Mozart's Mandarin Chinese writing after school preparing for Asia after all day in Spanish school

We have loved Europe so much and it's unique travel educational advantages with languages, history and great museums, plus ease of life on a low budget,  that we have stayed two more years than originally planned. Since we really just follow our bliss and the weather our  "plans" are just a broad stroke reference point to guide us and we never mind stretching them to fit our needs. 

2 girl jumping in pool in spain, andalusia, costa del sol
Mozart & Spanish friend jumping into pool this weekend during sleep over fun.

We still plan on getting to Africa and South America, but because Mozart is 9 this year and now extremely fluent in Spanish reading, writing and speaking, we realized that it was time to get to Asia so she can do the same with her Mandarin.

There is a myth that says a child who is proficient in speaking a language is fluent, but this is just not so as there are different levels to being "fluent" in a language. Proficiency in face-to-face communication doesn't imply proficiency in more complex academic language needed in a classroom or in life. Mozart has been fluent in Spanish from birth, but having gone to a local school in Spain now for 4 winters where she was totally immersed with teachers who spoke no English, her "fluency" level is much greater than any other way we, as monolinguals could have given her.

Living where the language is dominant makes a huge difference in perception and value. Just being in Europe where many languages are spoken (and it is not uncommon to be fluent in three or four for Scandinavians & Dutch), has great value in demonstrating the advantage,  first-hand to a child,  as our world grows smaller each day. Even at home, from birth, we always looked to ways we could expose her to other languages and cultures on a regular basis. We feel that a child that is very fluent in the  dominant languages of the planet will have a firm foundation.

Mozart's 4th grade "Lengua" book has her studying Spanish like the Spaniards

My experience goes along with the research that says kids learn languages much easier before puberty. The brain is wired for it then. Thus we realized we wanted to allow her to immerse deeply in her third language while she was still young enough to make that an easier acquisition. She did speak Mandarin as a baby and toddler, but once we saw how much work it was for the parents who do not speak the language, we have focused more on adding Spanish proficiency because both DaVinci and I speak some Spanish. Hopefully, the dendrites made in the baby years will help in this phase. We'll see. It takes daily practice in each language as well as her daily practice with two instruments, so they are all long term commitments.

Close up of her Lengua book for the curious

I will do  a blog series and e-book on second ( and 3rd) language learning  as we have learned a lot as monolinguals raising a trilingual polyglot from birth who also speaks bits of many other languages. For some reason, languages have always been an area that has fascinated me. Mozart always seemed to enjoy them too, even had happy kicks when we exposed her to them in the womb. We actually used her Dad reading her favorite story in Spanish to get her to change position when we got the ultrasound done to discover her sex inutero because we knew she always had a "happy kicking" reaction and needed her to move so we could see if she was a girl or boy. I think knowing other languages and cultures will really benefit our 21st century global citizens, so am a strong proponent. Knowing a language well means knowing a culture more deeply.

"When we learn a new language, we're not just learning new vocabulary and grammar, we're also learning new ways of organizing concepts, new ways of thinking, and new ways of learning language. Knowing two languages is much more than simply knowing two ways of speaking" ( Bialystok & Hakuta, 1994, p. 122).

Mozart's "dictado" notebook where the kids practice their Spanish writing skills

Thus we have carved a new plan. Our RV is a 1998 one, so this impacted our decision, as well as our love of Europe, especially now that we know how to see it's best on a very low budget. We decided to just store it here indefinitely as it makes a perfect home/storage unit/vehicle for Europe that we can maintain at very low cost. We think we can summer in Europe, winter in Asia ( plus eventually Oceana) and do spring and or fall trips to Africa, South America and the Middle East. We'll try out this new plan this year and see how it works as we learn along the way.Waddyathink?

We'd like to do Madrid, Miami, San Francisco, Hawaii, Tahiti, Malaysia ( and various SE Asia stops while we winter there),this fall and winter, then see friends & Taj Mahal in India on the way back to Europe next spring. But we haven't even started looking at flight planning yet, so the details are still up for grabs and may change.This summer's roadtrip in Europe will be less ambitious due to the planning time needed for this change and the extra work of my book and e-books. Can't wait to take Mozart back to Paris as she approaches 10, visit the Swiss Alps, Lake Como, and more of our beloved Barcelona and Provence.

fisherman in Spain, Meditteranean sea, mountains
Watching a fisherman on the lovely road we take every week to see my physical therapist

As we get ready for this big transition that will start in May and because I have a lot to do this year, I'm going to try and force myself to do shorter posts.( She says again, but can she really do it? Grin.)  I'm also going to change the Family Travel Photo category to just Family Travel. We have so many photos that you have never seen, so this will also be a great way to share more of our  photography that you will love. I'll still do some longer posts, but need to put my limited time on the computer into the book and travel preparation for now. .

So what do you think? Feel free to ask any questions, offer feedback or ideas about any of these places on our list or your experience with languages, cultures and travel. Always nice to compare notes!

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Wow, your travel blog is so inspirational!


Sonya- Thanks so much for your kind words, I really appreciate that!


Well done Mozart, your Spanish is better than my English.
We are miss you so much, all the best in Asia. We have start this week with the Italian again, hope we can keep up.
All the best


Silvina-We really miss you guys so much too!! I was thinking of all of you when I wrote this and your little adorable trilinugals. It sure is a long time commitment for the parents to keep it all up. I was curious as to how you were keeping it up, now that they have the environment & schools to support their English. We MUST have a Skype webcam family call soon! This weekend?

Amy @ The Q Family

Truly inspiration!!! I can't wait to read more about your trip to Asia. :) Would love to see more photos from your world travel too. You are a really great resource for family travel.


Amy- Aw, thanks so much! We are going to try to get more pictures up, so there will probably be more posts, but just shorter. That way we can batch a bunch to go out when we are moving.

The hardest part is keeping up with blog & writing things as we travel. Sometimes I really do think about unplugging forever, but it is nice to have the memoir & we do have so much to share from our experience.

Finding the balance on the move is always my challenge. We'll see how this latest plan works. ;)

Asia is going to be a whole new adventure! ;)

Tammie Benham

I've been following your blog for awhile and thinking about what you're doing. As a professional who works in education, I have to applaud you. I was at a conference last week in Texas where Sir Ken Robinson spoke about standards based education and the result of attempting to teach all children the same content in the same ways. His message, your journey, and other information that I've gathered along the way, makes me think, "What if school were not a place?" There are many questions that go along with that thought, and I'm not an economist, but it seems to me that if your family lives on the less than $25/day/person you speak of while educating your child in the wonderful way your using, then perhaps the federal government should look at this type of model while rethinking education and the education budget. What would happen if teachers were facilitators of learning and worked together with families? These are questions I'll be talking about and fleshing out. Thank you for your inspiration and your foresight! Great job Mom and Dad!


We've been raising our American-born son in Italy, but are toying with the idea of Japan or China for a year or two--precisely to get some exposure to the language and culture. My only fear is that homeschooling an only child will be too isolating...but do I throw him into sixth grade in a language with a different writing system? What tutoring materials have you been using? A very interesting adventure you have planned!


Tammie- Thank you so much for your kind and wise words. I looked you up on google & you are doing some really important things. Always thrilling to see those education who are innovative thinkers. We love the work that Sir Ken Robinson is doing.

Our journey, both in the world & online has been such an eye opener. The system will have to change. I think there is a better win/win way for teachers, students & families.

Schools no longer have to be a place, nor any time limit. Look at this model:

I think there is so much more possibilities available in so many ways. We loved working with our non-profit that works with travelers & thousands of disadvantage kids. That kind of collaboration in a big way would be astounding too.


Diane- Yes, I understand the challenge. I have read about quite a few Americans who homeschooled in China & it is quite cheap and easy to get a language tutor & to find friends. You might want to look up those types of blogs.

I will go into more detail about what we have been using, but there really a TON available online & quite reasonable. See the link I left above.

I will add more Chinese resources as I have time to get them up.

We have really loved the Johns Hopkins Univ CTY program. It is not cheap, but we get a scholarship & it is VERY high quality.

What is common to do is put the child in a younger grade in a school & homeschool him afterschool/weekends in the basics of his primary language. That is what we have done in Spain.

One on one does not take that much effort or time. You, like us will also have to keep up the other languages, so time every day will need to be spent on that.

When in Chinese school, Mozart will have to just watch movies in Spanish & read & write some Spanish everyday & we will keep her connected to Spanish friends for conversations on skype & email.

It is work, but a very powerful tool & the best possible way to really know the language and culture.

I was very nervous about Spain when we first came, but now I have more confidence because it went so well.

If Malaysia does not work for us with the Chinese school, then we will look into China, but I think it will work.

I'll know more this winter! ;)

Nancie (Ladyexpat)

Hi Jeanne,

Change is in the wind :) That's exciting.

You mention Malaysia and China. Have you decided which you will do for the long term?

Any idea which city or town at this stage?

I always enjoy following your adventures.



Nancie- Thanks so much! Where are you now?

We are going to try Penang area of Malaysia at first I think as they have some good all Mandarin Chinese immersion schools there in Chinese communities. We like to do long stays in areas that are possible permanent or semi-permanent places because why spend time getting to know an area well if you know you will never return.

Malaysia is very friendly towards expats and safe & appropriate for families.

If that doesn't work out, we will probably go to China, but I don't really want to live in China, although I would like to visit.

To be honest, Europe appeals to me much more than Asia, but we have an open mind & will see what the reality is when we get there.

We don't want to be in a place that is filled with expats. We'd like to find a place like the one we have in Spain which is actually similar in basic ways to our home in Ca. We like a semi rural life near the sea and not too far from a major city for cultural things etc.

Much of it, we will figure out on the ground once we get there. My friends the Terhorsts who have been wintering in Asia for 25 years, thought I was right on in my plans, so that was very encouraging because they are experts on Asia!

Of course, they do not have kids, so that is something we will have to work out. ;)

Dave and Deb

Very excited to see you moving on. I think you are wise. Learning mandarin is an excellent decision. It is going to be an important language in the future. It is a goal of ours to immerse ourselves in a culture and become fluent at a language in our life. We know some French and a little Spanish. Out of the two, I think that we would like to focus on Spanish, it is such a beautiful language. Good luck with the books and the travels.


Great that you are coming to Asia! I've enjoyed following your family for quite some time now. I've lived in Beijing, China for the last two years and will stay at least one more. I'd be happy to help you out with anything you need.


Life should be traveling. Even if you are not on the road, people should have that feeling. Yesterday we were invited for dinner by our neighbours. He has just started a one year "timecredit" leave (a belgian way of enabling people to take some time out of their jobs). She was saying how she also feels as if she is on holiday. The whole family has gotten a new different slower life. I work 3 days a week and we see many people around us working 4 days a week, taking different kinds of leave. "Slow" living is growing. We both work in education so we use most of our vacations for traveling. And when people bring up the how can you afford it line I tell them it is all about choices and the more you travel the better you find great deals for traveling. I see some very young coworkers, eager to learn and be great teachers but with a very limited view of the world. Their travels are limited to 4star hotel package deals. As I work in a school in Brussels we are faced with the challenges of innercity living. So i hope that by telling them about our travels, how meeting people from all those different countries and cultures has enriched our lives maybe they too will one day take that plunge and get out of the hotelgarden and so grow a better understanding of the children and their families they work with daily. I refer to your blog and cite things from your posts when I talk to them. I work in a small school and coach teachers (1st to 6th grade) on how to approach problems they are faced with in class. But this year I have tried to not focus on problems but on looking for talents and explaining to teachers that if a child shows unaccepted behaviour we should approach it as a skill they have not mastered yet (based on kidsskills by Ben Furman). We started a project in the 4th grade and from next year the 5th and 6th grade will also be part of it. A friend of mine helps me as a volunteer to set this all up. We were both very much inspired by a speech from sir Ken Robinson and others.

By the time you leave highschool in Belgium you have studied 3 extra languages. My son will start french next year in 3rd grade as we live in Brussels. We have noticed how he now understands everyhting we say in english (which we sometime use when we talk about a surprise or outing we are planning). He loves to go to the bakery by himself while we are traveling or order his own drinks and food at a restaurant. We are surrounded by so many languages in brussels and I do not see that as a problem but as an enrichment. I love to just linger around a little longer in our small cornershop when the iranian owner is speaking persian with a customer. I have kids in school talk to me in their mothertongue and of course they have the best fun when I try to talk some too.

I love what you will be doing the coming year and if you ever need a place to stay in brussels on your way to or from, let us know.


Tammie Benham

Thank you for your kind words. I received some information today about Charter Schools, which are publicly funded in the US, which indicates there are several states in which virtual charters are growing. These are: Arizona, California, and Ohio.

I know that homeschooling has it's advantages, and I am a proponent. I have done no research on these schools, and am not an expert. However, if families are looking to partner with schools and use professionals as facilitators, then checking into the requirements for these schools might be of interest-especially to those with children in Middle and High School.

Because it is time for Congress to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, which sends dollars to states for education, there is much discussion going on in Washington around education. The new blueprint proposes that some programs be consolidated and the funding be used to expand Charter School availability.

If this is something that families would like to see expand, this would be the time to contact their congress person.

I wish you all the best!


Nika- Thank you so much for sharing your wonderful thoughts & your generous offer! I'm so honored that you would cite things from this blog as you sound like an amazing woman and educator! We loved Belgium & did you know I once lived in Atwerp for a very short time when I was young? I'd love to meet you and your family some day!

Tammie- This looks like very important information,thanks for passing it on to our readers! I so appreciate the innovative educators like you and Nika that are working hard to find new solutions. I don't know the answer but the system will have to change.

Perhaps there are many answers! I certainly had my fears when we started this, but I have gained confidence as we have gone along. I use to think we would probably settle down when she became a teen, but now I don't think so as the combo of our world travel, digital opportunities plus learning entrepreneurial skills, languages, social media connections and self publishing etc seems unbeatable. Plus I love the time we spend together and in nature.

Of course, not every child is so lucky, so finding the best solution for ALL is quite the challenge.

I'm sure you have seen these, but I love the many new models that are blossoming out there like these few:

We all need to "think differently" today & be proactive!

Andy Hayes | Sharing Travel Experiences

Goodness, quite the update. It sounds like 2010 is on a roll and everything is onwards and upwards.

Keep up the great work, thanks for sharing all the good news.


You will LOVE LOVE Asia! When you go to Thailand, Doi Inthanon national park is a total must!! Go ahead and look Doi Inthanon up right now and plan to stop at all the waterfalls and villages along the way. They are HUGE and very much like Rivendall. Then of course, you will want to visit islands off of Thailand.

You will not want to rush SE Asia. I would plan for at least two weeks in Laos, a month in Vietnam, and at least a month in Thailand. Then yes, of course, you will want to travel into Burma and India.

One thing you fill find enjoyable about Asia is all the tribal people who live little village huts. Tribal people will make a very good homeschool lesson. If you are in the Doi Inthanon area next fall, I can arrange for Mozart to spend a day in the Hmong school. The students would love for her to teach them games in English!! I was homeschooled all my life, but I find the Hmong school very much like homeschool in so many ways.

The Hmong have a rich history worth studying, especially if she's learning Chinese. They came from the Mongolia area during the time of Abraham and slowly over the years migrated further and further south, at one time owning their own kingdom in China. Anyway, all of China and all the tribal peoples in China and SE Asia are a blast!


I think it is wonderful that you are going to spend so much time in China so she can learn the language. I also was reading something recently stating that children learn languages before puberty much more easily than afterward.

I think . . . that we are going to be traveling long-term in Europe beginning next May so it looks like we will just miss you. And, we are going to take the trip slowly just like y'all did.


I have just discovered your blog. I am finding it very interesting reading. My family live in Australia, and we are planning to go to Europe to travel and homeschool with our 3 young children - unfortunately only for 6 months. I love your ideas for books and what a great way it is to educate children. Are you able to shed some more light on the buy-back scheme you did for your RV? I have looked into them, but some companies report that it is illegal to organise insurance and registration. I have been thinking that it would be easier just to do the cheapest rental we can find. Any ideas would be greatly appreciated! Also, how long do you tend to spend homeschooling each day? Our eldest is 9 too so I am thinking we will probably only do a couple of hours(particularly as he is back to school next year). I am also a bit worried about space in campgrounds as Europe is so popular over summer and we will need to begin our journey right at the peak time. Can you actually get a spot easily?
Thanks for your help and happy traveling!


Try to get to Agra India before April. It has been over 43 C in April this year!


Andy- Thanks, always nice to see you here!

Marlana- Wow, thanks! I love your enthusiasm & we would love to take you up on your offer as it's sounds wonderful. Just the type of special home education field trip that we love.

We will probably wintering in Asia for many years, so will have time to see it really well over those years. I really appreciate your suggestions!Please leave your email address on our contact page so we can keep in touch.

Akila- Thanks so much! Our base will be Penang, Malaysia I think as they have a large Chinese community ( the majority there) and good, all Chinese schools and it's more a place that we might consider for long term. We will visit China & if our school plan does not work, might end up there. Just like we had no idea how to do a local school before we came to Spain, we have no idea how to do it in Malaysia either, but I'm trying to find out and talk to them before going.

We plan to still come back to Europe for summer explorations, so hopefully we might meet then! Europe is divine for a long stay...follow the weather!

Karen- Welcome to our blog, so glad that you found us! Looks like you have a great trip planned! Many people do the buy back deal for long term, so there are many ways to do it, but most do it in Amsterdam, Germany or UK. A friend recently bought one in US, shipped it, toured, then later sold it quickly & easily on UK ebay. We wrote about RV here & check out our FAQs:

These are also the best books on the topic that we have found:

(although both a bit dated, still worth it & the 2nd one we still use constantly).

I'll be writing more on Motorhoming in Europe soon & an ebook as soon as I can.

See our recent ( or older) posts under education, homeschool or roadschool. We usually just spend about an hour a day on formal homeschool...mainly maths & music practice, but she is far ahead by the books, travel & journal writing etc.

We have never had a problem finding a spot even in the most crowded August months. Arrive early in high season and call ahead perhaps if you have any doubts. Due to the economy, last year was very quiet even in popular places like Cinque Terra in late July, so I think it will be the same this year.

August, in very popular areas, is the only time we found it really packed during our last 4 years. The campsite in Melk was totally empty and super cheap in August, so consider that as it's right on the Danube. Great spot for August..simple but parklike & great for biking, taking day cruises. Galicia, Spain is another great uncrowded spot in August, but we also had a blast in Dubrovnik in August & it is VERY crowded with half of Italy then. We called ahead, came early & found a huge campsite a bit away from the crowds.

You will have a ball! Less is more so take your time & try not to drive more than 4 hours and rest for many days between drive days.

Bella- Thanks so much for that information. I do hate heat & humidity ( but have adjusted some as Europe summers can be very sticky) since we do not have that in California. I'm not sure if we can get there before April though. Glad to have the warning! ;)


love your new expanded travel plans. i lived in japan and LOVED it. you're right - language learning while young (or immersed!) is so much easier. YAY YOU!


Just wanted to make a quick comment on the video of Mozart, she has the most darling accent ever, thanks for posting it. It is really encouraging, showing what our children can accomplish if they were only exposed to it! I am still perplexed why most American public schools only offer language courses in high school and not elementary. I wholeheartedly agree with your global approach to educating your child, this is why we also chose the path of homeschooling and travel. Was wondering how much of the language you and your husband have picked up along the way? Do you study any of the languages before you go to each new country?

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