A Big Trip!

We are 4 people in our family. Me, the middle-aged mother and my husband. Our son, who is 15 years old, but will be 16 when we leave. Our daughter, who is 14. We live in beautiful British Columbia, Canada and will rent out our house on a one year lease. Sounds simple. At least that is the plan.

This is my first travel video. I hand-held a GoPro, but this was also my second take. For the first try, the GoPro was on a tripod, but the audio was poor. My son sent me back to the studio for a re-shoot! He is going to be doing all the editing and sound. Check out Fixh on Soundcloud. This will be an interesting experiment, if you like the video, please subscribe – red button, easy one click. And please share with your family and friends!

A big part of life for teenagers – school!

Come September, when the kids should be heading back to a classroom, they will keep up on their studies of grades 11 and 9, through online distance education. Our son has taken some classes in this format already, so it is not completely foreign to us. I’m going to learn Spanish, possibly hiring a tutor. I’ve started with Duolingo and am already 14% fluent. Which is more than I can say for the result of my ‘Clases de Espanol’, taken 2 years ago. I guess I’m more committed now.

The big picture.

We plan to be out of Canada for about 275 days, covering at least 60,000 kilometres and living in about 20 cities, within 10 countries. This is huge, because my kids have only been to Florida in the United States and Los Cabos in Mexico. Even within Canada they have only been to Alberta.

When our kids were young, I didn’t see the point of taking them to too many foreign places. They wouldn’t remember the experience and likely have just as much fun doing stuff locally. So that has been our focus. It was also, all we could afford. 

The big bucks.

The cash flow for this trip is coming from the money I saved last year. My last year of full-time work, for a while. I thought I would use that money to start a business. In a way, that will be true. Just not how I originally imagined. My budget calculates our monthly expenses, not to exceed my husbands net income + the net rental income on our house. For the 90 days we are living with relatives in Canada, we should end up with a little wiggle room and my savings should be replenished.

Some extra challenges.

One of the upsides is we are all going to work on side projects with our spare time. I’m going to be blogging, creating content for my website, including family travel vlogs. That appears to be under serviced. Or maybe there are many, but rank so far below all the young people who seem to travel for a living. My son is going to bring the youthfulness to our vlogs by writing and producing original music and doing most of the editing. My husband is going to work with local environmental organizations along the way. My daughter will….not sure yet. She doesn’t want anything to do with vlogging, which is surprising as she is the only one in our family who has ever uploaded creatively edited video to youtube.

I am calling this ‘a big year’ because I like they way it sounds. I know…it’s a birding term. A big year is an informal competition among birders to see who can identify by sight or sound the largest number of species of birds within a single calendar year and within a specific geographical area. Can you imagine such a competition? There was a movie made about it, called A Big Year, starring Owen Wilson, Jack Black and Steve Martin. I laugh every time I think of it because to a normal person who doesn’t know anything about birders, it seems too strange to be true. But, it is not. I know, because my father-in-law is a birder. 

The 26 countries.

Just like in a big year, we need to think strategically about where we are going. This has to be advantageous for my husband’s work. Being close to Oslo, Norway and on that time zone is important. As well, my husband has business in China, so being close to that area is a good thing. But, we are not getting expensive, complicated, tedious and time-consuming work or resident visa’s. So that means we have to think carefully about how many days we spend in the Euro zone.

The Schengen is an area comprising 26 European states that have officially abolished passport and any other type of border control at their mutual borders. The area mostly functions as a single country for international travel purposes, with a common visa policy.

As Canadians we are allowed to be in the Schengen area for 90 days of every 180. That seems really simple, but actually it is not. It is a rolling 180 days. So if you plan to return during or after the 90 day reset, as we are, care needs to be taken. I found an awesome tool for this – a Schengen calculator. I’ve carefully selected our dates, allowing my husband to return to Europe twice during the reset.

First stop.

In roughly 6 months time, we are wheels up bound for the first destination – Barcelona, Spain. Originally, we planned on spending the whole school year in Barcelona, with the kids attending an International school. I did a lot of research on the schools and I decided that it seemed not to be a good fit for us. Then, once we abandoned the idea of sticking to a fixed location for education, the whole schedule kind of broke open. The planning got really fun at that point.

I found a great location in Barcelona, walking distance to the beach, but in a quiet neighbourhood, within our budget. It allows the same configuration we have here, with 3 bedrooms and 1.5 bathrooms. Except, much, much smaller. But enough space, I think. In any case, that will be home for our first 2 months.

We are going to try to keep with warmer temperatures for the whole time we are away. I mapped everything out and we should avoid all the snow and miserable cold we have experienced this winter. Providing something extremely strange doesn’t happen in Barcelona, it should still be about 18 degrees C in November. Stop #2, brings us back up to about 23 C in the Canary Islands. These are Spanish Islands off the West Coast of Africa. We need to be leaving Europe by December 1, which totals 80 days in the Schengen zone.

Leaving Europe.

At that point in the calendar, I want to pop over to Morocco. I have always wanted to see Casablanca. My husband reminds me that Humphrey Bogart will not be there. While I do love that movie, I have always been fascinated by the culture, the architecture and the lifestyle. I want to see it, taste the food, walk in the ancient streets. This place has been inhabited by people for an incredibly long time. I’ve set aside 10 days, my husband thinks that is probably 5 days too long, but I don’t think so….

Long haul over to South East Asia.

Another place I have always wanted to go – Bali. (Long before Eat, Pray, Love became popular!) As Canadian travellers we get 30 days without a visa, so we shall take it! We should arrive sometime around mid December. This will be the hottest Christmas we have ever had. It is the rainy season, but that doesn’t cool it down. Average temps at this time are 32 C. This is the next stop which needs to planned and booked as the rentals are booking up incredibly fast. I suppose that is the case for all sun destinations over the holidays. We see the same thing with Mexico. Stay tuned to see what we decide on. I think it is going to be a 3 bedroom villa with a pool, walking distance to one of the beaches. We might have to exceed the budget slightly on this leg. But we are under in Barcelona by $13.50 per night.

We need to stay out of the Schengen area until March 13, 2018. Leaving Bali by January 12th means we have 2 months to bum around South East Asia. Here is what I have on my list right now:

The second Schengen stop.

And then we will journey back to Spain. I have so many cities I want to see, there is simply not enough time for it all. For now, here is what I am considering:

  • Valencia
  • Granada
  • Seville
  • Vigo
  • Bilbao
  • San Sebastian

We need to be leaving the Schengen area by May 31st. Norway, Sweden and maybe a stop in Iceland need to be added before the exit date. Then we are committed to at least London before boarding the big bird back to Canada. However, this entire paragraph of destinations is EXPENSIVE! Some of the most pricey places in Europe. I feel like we need to wait and see how it goes on this last leg. 

I expect we will spend most of the summer of 2018 in Southern Alberta, waiting for our house to be free. Or maybe we will take up residence somewhere else and let our house out for another year. By that point we might be travelled out. Or maybe we will just be getting started….

I welcome:

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Christine Westermark

Chief Creative enjoying life with family and friends. Wholeheartedly in loving relationships and developing amazing projects. Gratefully reading, writing and creating everyday!
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A big year starts with a single booking

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