Shortly, I will embark on my first vagabonding trip with my wife and our three kids. Vagabonding means different things to different people but for me it’s an extended trip (longer than one month) to a foreign culture without a pre-defined itinerary. Based on this definition I've been on two vagabonding trips in my entire life and none of them were after my wife and I started a family.
In 1998, I went on my first vagabonding trip to Brazil for two months. It was the summer before returning to Princeton to complete my graduate degree, so I decided to take two months to explore Brazil. The only thing I booked in advance was a four-week Portuguese language course at Dialogo in Salvador, Bahia at the tail end of the trip.
The school came highly recommended by a former classmate and it turned out to be one of the best recommendations I ever received. During the first month of the trip I visited São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro and stayed with colleagues I met while working in New York City. When I eventually arrived at the language school in Salvador I met people from all over the world, including a girl from Finland who would eventually became my wife.
A year later in 1999, after finishing my degree, I took another vagabonding trip. This time I decided to visit Ecuador for two months with the girl I met in Salvador the previous year.
We chose Ecuador because we both loved vagabonding in South America and we also wanted to meet some of my extended family living in Ecuador. (While I was born and raised in Brooklyn, both of my parents emigrated to NYC from Ecuador back in the early ‘70s.) We had a great time volunteering in Quito for the first month while staying with my uncle. The second month, we travelled around the rest of the country, staying mostly in youth hostels but occasionally splurging for a beachfront villa in Atacames or a charter flight into the Amazon to sleep in a riverside hut with no electricity.
Then one day while sailing through the Galapagos Islands, we looked out at sea and 15 years ahead and imagined us as a family and wondered when we would bring our children to admire the beauty of Galapagos and Ecuador in general. We concluded that we would be waiting for a long time because our imaginary child would have to be at least 12 years old and we weren't planning to start a family anytime soon.
Fast-forward 16 years; we have three children ages 13, 11 and 3 and have been living in NYC for the past 12 years. Like most parents we agree that children need stability and we've provided that for over a decade in one of the most chaotic and expensive cities in the world.
However, too much stability also leads to complacency, entitlement and a narrow view of the world. With that in mind—and realizing that our oldest will complete middle school this spring and our youngest doesn't start kindergarten for another year—we decided to take next year to immerse ourselves in a new culture, learn Spanish and finally take our children to visit the Galapagos Islands.
In addition to travelling around the country, my wife and I plan on finding volunteering opportunities and schooling for our children. By getting out of our comfort zones together and sharing this experience, we hope to grow as people and become closer as a family.
Because this is a vagabonding trip we are resisting the urge to make too many plans before our trip. We want to maintain as much flexibility as possible to let the experience shape itself. By sharing our family's experience through this blog I hope to inspire families all over the world to plan and take their own family vagabonding trips.
Our excuse for not making the move earlier has always been that we should wait till the kids are older. After 16 years, the wait is over and we will soon fulfil our promise of showing our children Ecuador and another way of life.Add this article to your reading list