We returned enriched by the people we met and the experiences we lived. The kids may not remember it all, but these trips teach them so much. They shape their character and make them more open to others as they discover new cultures.
We had always dreamt of taking a year to travel the world. However, career opportunities came one after the other, and then came the kids. It never seemed like the right time. Instead, we did the world tour differently by living four years in New York, four years in Paris, two years in London, and four years in Singapore. But our dream of travelling around the world was always there, stronger than ever, especially with the frustrations of the pandemic. So, when the opportunity for a four-month break arose, we seized it.
Choosing where to travel: the more unique the better
Our criterion for choosing destinations was not typical: we sought places that were not easily accessible for a one-week vacation in Asia and Oceania. That’s why our itinerary is eclectic, and it turned out to be a blessing as our journey became incredibly diverse. Australia, China, Indonesia, and French Polynesia – we truly circumnavigated the globe. I still feel guilty about our carbon footprint, but I realize how fortunate we were to have this family experience.
Homeschooling on the road
In the midst of our globe-trotting adventure, there was the matter of education for our two young adventurers, aged 6 and 9. While they did miss two months of traditional school, the impact was minimal, given their age. We were fortunate to have incredibly supportive teachers who provided us with the necessary materials to stay on track with their education. So, every day, no matter where we were – be it on the open road in our trusty campervan, aboard a train, in a hotel room before starting our daily adventures, or even after an exhilarating hike to cool down – I found one hour to homeschool. Surprisingly, the kids found it quite enjoyable to learn in these unconventional settings.
But learning extended beyond the textbooks while travelling. Mathematics quizzes became a fun pastime during our hikes (my boys absolutely love math), geography lessons unfolded every time we set foot in a new country, reading flourished as they didn’t have their toys and friends to keep them busy, and science and nature studies thrived thanks to the countless encounters we had on the road. This hands-on education enriched their understanding of the world in ways that traditional schooling alone couldn’t achieve.
Our four-month travel itinerary
Weeks 1-3: Australia: Freedom in a campervan
In Australia, we fell in love with the sense of freedom, the beauty of nature, hikes, and juicy steaks! We spent the first week in an apartment in Cairns. This allowed us to disconnect from work and rest before the rest of our trip, which was more tiring with a lot of driving. Cairns is undoubtedly the gateway to the Great Barrier Reef, but there is much more to see from crocodile watching at Daintree National Park to seeing the Barron Falls. I’ll be sharing our 5-day Cairns itinerary and tips in my upcoming articles!
Then, we opted for a campervan trip through Australia’s Red Centre and Top End. A campervan trip was a first for us, and our kids loved every minute of it. They loved the freedom to explore at their own pace and the excitement of sleeping in a different place each night. We also cooked all our meals, which saved us money and allowed us to eat healthier food. We spend five days in the Red Centre, which is a minimum if you love hiking. Hikes are short and easy to do with the kids. The majestic Kings Canyon was our favourite place, with sandstone cliffs and breathtaking panoramic views. On the way, we recommend to stop at Ormiston Gorge. Don’t miss the sunset in Uluru, but take the time to bike all around to appreciate the site thoroughly and learn more about the Aboriginal culture. Finally, we spent our last week in the Top End. This region is known for its lush rainforests, waterfalls, and crystal-clear water pools. Litchfield State Park was our favourite. But look carefully at the signs because this is a crocodile area!
Australia is so extensive and diverse that it felt like we were visiting three countries.
Weeks 4-6: China: Immersed in Yunnan and Beijing
In China, we ventured to Yunnan and Beijing. As someone passionate about Chinese culture who studied Mandarin for two years, this trip was highly anticipated. We adored the culture, nature, and cuisine.
We travelled around Yunnan with a tour agency, which made things much easier for young children. We moved hotels almost daily, but you could go for a slower pace if you stay longer or do only the north or the south part.
Yunnan is known for its diverse landscapes, from rice fields to mountains to gorges. It’s also home to many different ethnic groups, which makes for a truly unique cultural experience. We were the first foreigners to return after Covid, so villagers were curious to see us, especially the children who often followed us, trying to talk to us in English. We travelled over South Yunnan as well as Northern Yunnan which is completely different and close to Tibetan and Buddhist culture. After those two weeks in nature or small cities (small for China, at least!), we went to Beijing. I was a little worried about visiting Beijing with young children as visiting cultural places is always challenging with small children. But I’m so glad we did. We loved this modern city with a rich history and culture. The people were very friendly and helpful even though I barely spoke Chinese. In the street, people like to gather and play together. They invited our children to try ribbons and Top-Spinning (a whisk makes the top spin).
We had a wonderful time in China. It’s a beautiful and fascinating country with something to offer everyone. I highly recommend it to families with young children.
Weeks 7-8: Indonesia: Exploring Sulawesi
In Indonesia, on the island of Sulawesi, we discovered the Toraja culture and explored the paradisiacal Togean Islands. We were charmed by the kindness of the people and mesmerized by snorkelling among vibrant corals and fish.
We chose Sulawesi because of the unique culture of the Toraja people. The Torajans are an indigenous ethnic group living in the mountainous region of South Sulawesi. Most of the population is Christian with local animist beliefs. Toraja is known for its unique Tongkonan architecture and elaborate funeral ceremonies. Although it may not initially seem like a topic to explore with kids, I believe that Toraja’s funeral ceremonies offer a unique opportunity to engage in conversations about life, death, legacy, and cultural practices. The ceremonies are very festive, and since children don’t have a personal connection to the deceased, they are less likely to feel sadness. When a family decides to hold a funeral ceremony, it becomes a big event. Wealthy families can invite up to 300 people to join the celebrations. These ceremonies last a week, filled with rituals, music, dancing, and feasting. Thanks to our guide, we were invited to a funeral ceremony. The family welcomed us warmly, sharing tea and biscuits with us. All the women were so happy to see our children, and they took pictures with them and offered them even more food.
The Togean Islands are very remote. The long drives to reach Toraja country and the islands were the biggest challenge in our trip with the kids. To keep them entertained and avoid too many hours of watching the iPad, we organized games, read stories about the country and the region, and invited them to share their own stories.
They don’t have electricity, except for a few hours in the evening (from a generator) or running water (delivered by boat every other day). It was a good opportunity to teach our kids how to save the resources we take for granted at home. Overall, we had an unforgettable experience in Toraja country and the Togean Islands. It was a unique and enriching family adventure.
Weeks 9-10: French Polynesia: Discovering Pacific Jewels
In French Polynesia, we explored the mythical islands of Tahiti and Bora Bora, and three other Pacific gems. We cherished snorkelling among sharks, petting stingrays, and learning about pearl and vanilla cultures.
I was hesitant about going to Bora Bora at first, worried that it would be too touristy. But I’m so glad we decided to go! The Bora Bora lagoon is breathtaking, with the most stunning shades of blue and green imaginable. Swimming with stingrays and sharks in crystal clear waters was an incredible experience. We also loved discovering vanilla plantations and pearl farms.
The next four weeks, we came back to France to see our family. We love travelling, and we could have explored one more destination. But as an expat family, this is the only moment when we can spend time with our family.
Recap and learnings
Travelling with our kids for four months was an amazing experience. We bonded as a family and created memories that will last a lifetime. But I also want to be honest: it wasn’t always easy. One of the biggest challenges was finding “me time.” As a parent, it’s hard to get a break, but on the road, it’s even harder. Our two sons also fought a lot because they were always together. Next time we go on a long trip, we’ll try to plan some “me time” for each parent and schedule different activities for our kids.
Overall though we returned from this journey enriched by the people we met and the experiences we lived. Even though the kids may not remember it all, these trips teach them so much. They shape their character, making them less shy, more open to others, and more tolerant and empathetic as they discover new cultures.
To keep the memories of our trip for longer, I helped them do their own photo album. They still like to look at it regularly. It’s so heart-warming to see how much the kids enjoyed their adventures. It’s a reminder that the best gifts we can give our children are experiences and memories.
Professionally, this journey has been highly inspiring. I launched KiddoTrip a year ago to help families with young children discover Singapore and enjoy quality family time. I create audio guides for parents and activity books for children. Each destination on our journey has motivated me to continue developing KiddoTrip across Asia: in China, when my 6-year-old asked when we would leave the Forbidden City because the audio guide was just too boring after 20 minutes; or in Indonesia, during our endless car rides when I tried to explain the culture and the country to the kids…
As we eagerly await new adventures, I will continue to expand KiddoTrip for families who, like us, love travelling with their children, discovering new cultures, and learning while having fun. Stay tuned for my in-depth articles on our adventures!