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‘Lost in the right places’
For about 10 months, Julie MacDougall, he husband Shawn, daughter Eve and son Luke have embraced different lifestyles.
That’s right lifestyles, plural. After all, it’s hard to maintain the same way of living everyday when you’re travelling around the world.
“Ten months really isn’t that long when you’re going to so many places,” said MacDougall.
Being lovers of travel for most of their relationship MacDougall and her husband realized not long ago that time to travel with their kids was slipping through their fingers.
“We quickly realized the kids are getting older, so all of a sudden it felt like we were losing time. They’re still at the age where homeschooling is a possibility. So, if we were ever going to travel, for an extended period of time with them, the time was going to be now,” she said.
Both MacDougall and Shawn work for Department of Veterans Affairs in Charlottetown, P.E.I.
In order to make travelling for nearly a year possibly they decided to downsize their life, save what they can and take off for adventure.
“We had a big home, nice cars, things like that. So, we sold the house, sold the cars and prioritized travel and used what disposable income we had to make it possible.
“It makes you think about getting away from the rat race of regular life.”
MacDougall said planning for 10 months in advance wasn’t an option, so rather they planned to an extent and then as the trip continued, they planned for their next stop.
But there were some things that needed to be take into serious consideration.
“Shawn is a diabetic, so we needed to have an insulin supply for him, kept cool and stored properly. That dictated part of our accommodations,” she said.
“We also knew that Europe would be the most expensive part of the trip. But then we were also going to other countries that wouldn’t be that expensive. Taking the differences into consideration, we probably spent about $100 a night on accommodations.”
The family of four stayed mostly in Airbnb rentals in small communities and villages.
She said safety of the area was also a factor, in part because they were travelling with two kids.
“When you’re travelling for nine to 10 months, you need to be conscientious of how much time you’re spending in a place and where that place is.”
Rather than take the public train system that goes across Europe, the family opted out of the Europass (which would have cost around $8,000 for the four of them) and went with a “short-term lease” on a vehicle.
“It worked the same as it did back home, you had insurance you were leasing the vehicle, except it was for a shorter period of time. We had it for three months. We picked it up in Paris, France and returned it in Rome, Italy.”
Prices may vary
Their budget for the trip was also hard to predict, so they tried to narrow down a few areas that would be easier to determine cost.
“It was expensive no matter way you looked at it. So, we had a price for accommodations, vehicle/transportation and then airfare. Because it can add up it’s important to remember there’s only so much you can do.”
She said probably a quarter of the budget went to airfare, adding that moving around a lot can drive prices up. But longer accommodation periods mean cheaper rates.
“We spent two months in Bali, Indonesia. So, one month we spent leasing a house in one area and then another month we went somewhere else. But the big sites that every goes to when they’re in places like this can be out of the way, so we tried to balance our desire to see certain areas with the cost of getting there.”
She said in Indonesia it’s common place for people to hire drivers that would take them to sight-seeing places and tell them about the areas.
Costs (monetary) associated with certain countries was also another factor in choosing where to go.
“For instance, we avoided going to Scandinavian countries and the UK because we knew they were expensive. We also didn’t hit much of eastern Europe and didn’t get to places like Spain, Portugal or Morocco.”
She said there’s a real sense of FOMO – fear of missing out – when it comes to travelling because we see such picturesque moments captured and shared across the internet.
“The internet does a disservice to travel, because when you see what people share, you’re left with the feeling that if you didn’t go there then you didn’t do anything on your trip. Really you should ask yourself why you’re going to that city square, or monument, or temple. Is it because other people have done it, or is it because you actually want to?”
“Every month that went by, we got a bit wiser to the technique of travel,” said MacDougall.
Not to mention it’s hard to get to every place when there are four people on the trip.
“One thing we all wanted to do was tour the Catacombs in Paris. We also got to Notre Dame Cathedral which is really special in wake of the fire destroying it, we went to the Louvre as well. But you have to pick and choose. Like just seeing the glass pyramid and the gardens at the Louvre were incredible – but people usually think of the Mona Lisa when they’re in Paris.”
Looking back, she said, there wasn’t one stop on the trip that they would have done-over.
“It was an experiment in so many ways. It taught us and the kids so much.”
For more of stories and adventures from the MacDougalls, check out their Instagram @litrplaces.
Q: How has going on such a big adventure changed the way you see yourselves or others?
A: We realized the world is full of good people. Kind, helpful, friendly, caring! We also realized that we are fortunate in so many ways to live in Canada and especially in PEI — it’s small, safe and peaceful — but there are unfortunate realities that go along with living in North America, too. The overwhelming focus on material wealth is in strong contrast to much of the rest of the world and while many people in many countries we visited had very little in that regard, they were content. Not concerned about buying the latest and greatest thing of the day. It begs the question: Do we spend valuable time striving for things that mean quite little in the end?
Q: How has successfully doing this influenced how you think about what’s possible?
A: We had talked about it for so long! But we realized that we never know how many somedays we will get and our kids were growing up before our eyes. We made significant choices to make the adventure happen. Selling our house and cars. Downsizing our life. Moving our kids out of the neighbourhood they had grown up in. Pulling them from school and sports and activities for a year. But we hoped that the benefit and outcome of this adventure would be positive in the long run and outweigh any of the negatives. I’ve come to realize that dreams will stay dreams without actions. And if you truly feel something is right for you and your family? Seize every chance you can to experience it.
Q: How do you plan on bringing all that you explored and discovered into your life on the island, even in some small ways?
A: I hope that we can keep that simple living mindset going as we transition back into regular life; that we don’t get caught back up in the things that were dragging us down before. And by sharing our adventures and stories with others, we hope we can expand some people’s thoughts on what is truly possible. It can be scary to take a big step like this but we can honestly say that the payoff outweighs that fear. And that doesn’t just apply to travel ... it can be anything different and exciting and a little bit scary! It’s in these moments you grow and learn so much about yourself.
The MacDougall’s favourite places from their 20-country trip
- Eve (10 years old): New Zealand, French country-side and Belgium
- Luke (13 years old): Thailand, Bali and New Zealand
- Shawn: New Zealand and Prague, Czech Republic
- Julie: New Zealand, Slovenia, Croatia, Thailand and the South Pacific Islands
Millee is an old soul in the modern world, tea-a-holic and podcast listener, who is always putting pen to paper.
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