- Alyson Long and her husband traveled with their two kids full time for 6 ½ years.
- Her kids were homeschooled during their travels, often learning in unconventional ways.
- Learning included a lot of reading and writing about local history of where they were.
This as-told-to essay is based on a transcribed conversation with Alyson Long, 57, about traveling full time with her family for several years. The following has been edited for length and clarity.
I’ve always loved travel. I was born and raised in Wales, and I met my Australian husband, James, while traveling in Egypt.
I moved to London, where he was working, to be with him, and we saved up and did a 12-month around-the-world trip in 2001. We loved the lifestyle and the experience.
After having two sons, we moved to Australia and stayed in a remote town called Port Douglas.
Everything was lovely at first, but I wanted my kids to have the experiences that they’d had previously in London, such as going to the big museums.
We pulled my oldest son out of school when he was 6 and decided to homeschool him. We observed that he was learning from his experiences and what was around him.
We’d done some traveling already and it was great for us, so we thought it would be great for the kids.
My husband was an executive chef at a five-star hotel at the time, and a chef’s hours prevent a robust social life if you have a family. The kids were missing out on him, and he was missing out on them. I wanted all of us to spend more time together.
We decided to pack up everything to go off and travel. We started saving like crazy. We amassed 30,000 Australian dollars within 12 months and left in 2013.
We spent our savings easily in one year. My husband then did some work in London to top up the travel fund. At that point, I had set up my travel website. It got much bigger than I’d ever imagined and was our funding after the first few years, through advertising revenue, plus more from affiliate sales.
We managed to keep traveling for about 6 ½ years. We started in Southeast Asia, moved on through South Asia, went into Europe, and crossed to North and Central America. We then headed back to Europe and took a few trips into North Africa. We spent the most time in Southeast Asia, the Middle East, and South Asia.
We returned to Australia practically the minute COVID-19 hit and the borders swung shut.
We still travel a lot, but we now have a home base in the Port Douglas hinterlands, where we’ve got a farm.
When it came to homeschooling the kids, there often wasn’t a routine
Our travels were very unplanned. We’d book a ticket and see whether we liked the destination. If we were having a good time, we’d stay a bit longer. If not, we’d go somewhere else.
The kids got interested in ancient Egypt, so we had to go there, of course. One of them is fascinated by ancient Greece. He was our tour guide there.
When it came to homeschooling the kids, there often wasn’t a routine because the days were always different.
We often traveled actively, catching buses or planes, hiking up mountains, and moving around. During quieter periods and longer stays, we’d use online learning programs and resources, workbooks, and courses for more conventional learning.
I didn’t allow them to have tablets or phones until they got into their teens. They had only their Kindles at first. If we were on a bus for 10 hours, they’d read. They didn’t have any other option, so they read a lot.
My kids didn’t do what they would have in a school. For instance, they once wrote me a piece on Thai history. I also had them write blog posts for me as a school project. They were learning different things, and it was helping their literacy.
Homeschooling worked out beautifully for my kids
I think all homeschooling parents have sleepless nights and doubts and worries, thinking, “Are we destroying our children? Are they going to be OK? Is it all going to work out all right?”
They’re 19 and 17 now, and it did all work out beautifully.
My kids had more fun than they might have in a classroom. Every day was like a weekend. They’ve told me they enjoyed it very much.
The biggest benefit is that they’re more worldly wise and knowledgeable than they likely would have been if they went through the school system because of their experiences at a young age.
When my older son went on to study history for the International General Certificate of Secondary Education in an online school during lockdown, the Vietnam War was one of the topics on the exam. It was great that he already had so much knowledge of the situation from visiting the country.
He knew Vietnamese people and how kind they’d been to us and how great their food was. And, of course, he’s visited the war museums in Vietnam and the Cu Chi tunnels. It was all helpful in understanding the history of Vietnam.
I remember his teacher being so thrilled that he had all this knowledge and had photos he could share with her. She even shared them in an assembly.
I also think traveling has made them self-confident in their own abilities to conquer obstacles.
One of them once said to me, “I’ve been to Everest base camp. I know I can do anything.”
My kids have got nothing bad to say about the lifestyle. They never said they wanted to go home.
I think it was the best decision we could have made for our family, and I’ve got no regrets.