I’m Coming Home – Day 87-104

As we left Ohio, the kids started playing the Diddy song “I’m coming home” on repeat over and over again. We were truly excited to be returning to Toronto after almost 12 weeks on the road. We’d covered just under 23,000 km and almost 300 hours of driving. Leg #1 was coming to an end.

Julie and baby cousin Zoe

So why were we coming home? Well, a few things. We have rented out our house to a Norwegian family and we needed to meet them and get a few things sorted before leaving for 9 months abroad. It was also Isabella’s birthday and we wanted to let her have a birthday party with her friends. Thirdly, we wanted to spend some time with our families and have Thanksgiving together before we left again.

As we drove into Toronto, everything felt strange. We were home but not in our home. We settled into my mom’s basement. Well actually, Mike and I settled into the basement while Izzie and Julie made themselves comfortable in their nan’s bedroom with her. We did many loads of laundry and washed the kids thoroughly in a bathtub. We watched the Blue Jays fail in the playoffs and ate home-cooked food (thanks mom). Isabella even got to go to a real play with nan and see “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child” (sat on the edge of her seat for three hours). It was a really nice break.

Somehow the kids got to go to school for the full two weeks we were home. I had not put their attendance on hold yet so they were still registered in their classes and were welcomed with open arms. Isabella got to spend a full 6.5 hours a day with her friends each day and I did not have to arrange playdates (which would have been complicated given that we do not have our own house right now).

Here are some random thoughts as this first leg of the trip comes to a close.

We will miss you Canola

We’ll miss you Canola

For those of you who do not know, we normally drive a small electric car which would not have been the right vehicle for this adventure. Instead of renting something, my father-in-law gave us his Jeep Grand Cherokee for the journey. This was a hugely generous gift that I appreciated every day. The girls came up with the name Canola somewhere near Yorkton, Saskatchewan. Canola truly became our home away from home. Especially when we were camping, we felt a sense of security every time we were finally fully loaded in our seats and on the way. We are somewhat scared about what will replace her in leg two. We’ll have no air-conditioned, comfortable home base and we’ll have a lot less room for stuff. Thanks, Grandpa for lending us Canola (and we hope you’ll keep her name!)

School so far

How did we do? Leg 1 taught us a lot about how to teach. We learned what motivates our two kids is very different. Virtual School memories (although painful) also helped us. We adopted the “Mr. Stoch Morning Work” which is independent work to begin the day to get in the school frame of mind. We also used workbooks and some of the hundreds of worksheet pages I had downloaded and printed. Overall we realized we loved teaching geography and math but hated language and writing which is completely related to what our kids like and therefore how they behave when learning.

Packing

That’s the full extent of the luggage

My mother was truly horrified when she saw how little stuff we were taking on the next part of the trip. Two backpacks, day packs and one mini suitcase – that’s it. Mike and I are carrying less for ourselves than when we backpacked in our twenties because we now have 2 kids’ stuff to carry as well (plus way too many electronics and school materials). We decided to bring less and buy what we need which meant our clothes and toiletries were halved. We’ll see how it goes

Where we stayed (five words or less)

Nan’s basement: Quality time, Jet Tub, Our Cat

By the Numbers

  • Friends at Isabella’s Bowling 8th Birthday: 9 plus her
  • Thanksgiving Dinners: 2
  • Rides Paige went on at Canada’s Wonderland Halloween Haunt with Sister-in-Laws Katie and Steph: 6
  • Rides Mike went on taking kids to Camp Spooky at Wonderland: 2 (but kids went on many more)
  • Relatives who gave Isabella a Harry Potter Themed Birthday gift: 5 (Grandma, Auntie Donna, Katie, Steph/Andy/Luke/Zoe and Nan)

Isabella’s Harry Potter Lego say goodbye

Last Minute Scrambling – 1 day to go

Gear for Camping Piles

A thousand days of planning and somehow I am left scrambling the day before. We were making good progress but then our youngest got sick the other day and that threw a wrench into things. We are just happy she had wrapped up the last of her play dates and birthday parties this past weekend. So for the last couple of days, she’s been staying at home watching me attempt to fit a ridiculous amount of gear into a finite space. That and watching TV. I think she knows TV will be hard to come by and is getting all the viewing she can right now.

Anyways, we’ve crossed off a bunch of loose ends this last week.

Storage – We rented a small locker to store the items our renters probably don’t need or want to see. It is pretty much full now. One final run to today and then I will padlock it and see it again in a year. I am embarrassed to say it, but I would not be upset if 75% of the stuff were to disappear.

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Logistics Update – 45 days to go

Camping Supplies Totes Backpacks

Since the itinerary has been discussed recently I thought of giving an update on some of the other progress we have made. The other day Paige and I were remarking that we still have some things to take care of but it feels like a lot of the “heavy-lifting” is done.

Getting the Jeep Ready – We got roof rails installed (my dad actually did it) and we bought a second-hand Thule cargo carrier for the roof. We also have car seat organizers for the kid’s stuff. We just need to put new tires on the vehicle, get it serviced and she is ready to go. We are actually outfitting the Jeep for a trial camping run this weekend with all the gear.

Bikes for the Road Trip – We replaced the stolen adult bikes with second-hand bikes and got them serviced. We purchased bike locks and have confirmed that the children’s helmets fit. Now we just have to get Julie off training wheels.

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The Route as it currently looks – 734 days to go

I wanted to share with everyone a current snapshot of what the route is looking like right now. Some legs of the trips are further along than others so expect changes. I have gone ahead and shared a somewhat detailed route for the North American component of the trip. Here is that route. Not going to lie, the 11,000km plus of driving seems daunting. There will be some big travel days required.

For a glimpse of the current status of the whole trip including the Europe and Asian components of the trip, please click here. Might be too ambitious, might not be ambitious enough. But it is fun plotting the destinations on a map even if they are just placeholders. 50,000km sure feels like an ambitious undertaking.

Route around the world demarcated on a google map

As an aside, some of my friends had been teasing me about the gaps between my posts. I agree wholeheartedly with that critique. The good news is next week we cross the “2 years to go mark”. I am going to have to start buckling down!

Three goals for the trip – 765 days to go

Two young girls holding a fresh starfish

While working at Walmart I adopted the practice of committing to only three things at any time. I found that spreading myself across many initiatives resulted in little progress against any of them. That practice from my work life has transferred well to our family vacations. For the most part, we try to keep our vacations focused on a couple key objectives. Our recent trips have been centred around escaping the grind, spending time with the kids and reliving our youth.

This brings me to an important part of goal setting for a family trip. It is important to establish the goals of your trip before you depart. It is equally important to share them with your family members AHEAD of time.

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Europe & Schengen Visa – First Change of Plans – 852 days to go

Today I learned something. The Schengen Visa that we would have taken advantage of due to our Canadian nationality, is a short stay Visa. It allows a person to travel to any members of the Schengen area for stays up to 90 days in a 180 day period. I do not know why I did not pick up on this sooner but I always had this idea that people backpacked around Europe for months at a time when I was younger.

What does this mean for our plans? At a high level we had planned on staying from September to the beginning of January in the countries along the Mediterranean. That would have been something closer to 120 days which does not fit into the parameters of the Visa. We have a few options but two seem most likely.

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Tips and Tricks Part 2 – 956 days to go

Just wanted to share a couple more tips that we incorporate into our family travels.

Sleeping on the floor is a possibility
Sometimes you just miscalculate and think you have enough room for the family. We have found ourselves in this situation when camping and instead of everyone having an uncomfortable sleep on a twin air mattress, I have just slept on the floor. Same thing in a couple european hotels. To give everyone (myself included) a better sleep, just throw a blanket down and sleep on the floor.

Return from your trip a day early
We used to maximize every day of our vacation. We would come back late Sunday night and be at work first thing Monday morning. Now we always give ourselves a day at home before we begin our normal lives. It gets the kids settled into things and ensures you won’t spend an entire week playing catch up with laundry, school work or adult work

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Family Travel Tips and Tricks – 965 days to go

We wanted to go ahead and share some travel learnings we have acquired the last couple years with our kids. We had scribbled these as reminders to ourselves for future travels. We still have some more to pull together but this is a good starting point.

Plan ahead
Last minute can be done but your margin of error is smaller. Planning does make it go smoother .

Schedule a bathroom visit before boarding the plane
It can be a long time from the boarding queue to when the pilot turns off the seat belt sign.

Keep an extra pair of clothes close by for EVERYONE who is traveling
Whether it be a plane, bus or ferry, children can get sick or have accidents. In such tight confines your clothes are bound to get something on them.

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