Jennifer shares her words of wisdom
Jennifer Manglass is currently on an RTW trip with her family. She’s a creative, sometimes obnoxious, sometimes quiet lesbian and is excited to start attending Clark University once she gets back from the trip. She is an undecided major right now, and is interested in English literature, Spanish, Japanese, art, and possibly education. She can’t decide what to focus on! Jennifer loves reading, writing, drawing, music, history, and horseback riding.
How old were you when you began traveling with your family? Was your first experience of international travel before you began doing it long-term?
I was 18 when I began traveling with my family, but it was not my first experience with international travel. The summer before I had spent two weeks in India volunteering at an orphanage, a trip that was sort of a “test run” for my family when we were considering spending a year abroad. I had a wonderful time even though I was somewhat of a guinea pig!
Whose idea was it to do long-term travel in your family?
It was my mom’s idea to do long-term travel; for her whole life she had wanted to do something big that would help people, and I think she realized that if she was ever going to do it, now was the time.
Please do a brief explanation of the trip your family undertook.
We are undertaking a year of travel and volunteer work around the world and are seven months into the trip. We have toured through many places, including Russia, Europe, and Southeast Asia, and are volunteering and raising money for projects in Bulgaria, Kenya, Tanzania, India, Cambodia, Laos, Peru, and Belieze.
When your family began planning the long trip, what were you excited about?
I was excited about the opportunity to travel to places I had always longed to see, learn new things, meet people with different cultures and viewpoints from myself, and to help people. I was thrilled at the idea of getting out of the “box” I felt like I had been inhabiting by only seeing the US for my whole life, with the exception of my trip to India previously.
What were your concerns or fears?
At first I didn’t like the idea of taking a gap year, because I was excited to start college. But I soon adjusted to it and realized that the opportunity to travel like this was worth waiting a year.
Did long-term travel change the way you see the world and/or your future life?
Absolutely. Even though I was very sympathetic to international issues before I went on this trip, NOTHING compared to actually experiencing and seeing things that were happening firsthand. There is something about just seeing issues on the news or reading about them that makes them seem less real, even when one is dedicated to helping fix those kinds of problems. Also, going on the trip has made me realize that I love travel and interacting with youth around the world, and would really enjoy teaching abroad when I am older.
When you’re on your own, do you plan to continue long-term international travel?
Definitely. I want to study abroad during college, after I graduate, and in general, as much as I can. I have learned so much from travel, and I know that there is more than a lifetime’s worth of knowledge out there in the world that I haven’t discovered yet. I also want to continue helping and learning from people as I travel.
If you become a parent, do you see yourself doing this with your own family?
I don’t know if I see taking an entire year to travel, because I don’t think I have the superhuman strength that I mother does to get through an entire year of travel while managing her life and her childrens’ school, but I definitely want to travel abroad with my family whenever the opportunity presents itself. If this means during summer vacations, gap years, or whenever it’s possible, I’ll be ecstatic to have that time to travel with them. It would also be a wonderful chance for my children to learn about the world.
If you could go back in time, would you change anything about your family’s decision to do this?
I think one thing I would change is that I would make sure that we had more concrete plans for what will happen when we get back from the trip. We sold our house and my mom quit her job before we left, and it has been hard to travel and at the same time make arrangements for when we will get back. Other than this, I don’t think there’s anything major I would change.
What was your favorite part of travel? What is your favorite memory?
I have had many favorite parts so far, I think. Our horseback riding trip in Bulgaria was amazing, and I also loved visiting Pompeii. Living in a village in Kenya for a month was also one of my favorite experiences. As for favorite memories, I couldn’t say right now! So many incredible things have happened that it’s hard to choose a memory, and we’re not even done traveling yet!
What would you like parents to know who are considering doing a trip like this with their children?
First of all, that no matter how old your children are, it is possible to travel! International travel sometimes seems very challenging, and adding children to the mix might seem to only make it harder. But once you get out into the world, you realize that everything is very possible if you understand that no trip can go perfectly, and that is okay. Research is helpful and important when planning travel, and is is also great to be able to chat with other families who have already traveled or are traveling.
Would you recommend this type of travel to other families? What would your advice be to parents so that they can make travel more enjoyable and meaningful for their kids?
I would definitely recommend this type of travel to other families. It is important to plan well for any travel you undertake- my family spent about a year planning our year-long trip, but everyone has different planning styles so the exact time will vary. Just be prepared to work through obstacles while traveling- nothing can go perfectly right, and figuring out ways around these hurdles is actually fun most of the time! For parents, I think it’s important to make sure that your children know about where they’re traveling, and also have a say in the activities that are taking place. You may not want to take a three-day horse trip in the mountains of Bulgaria, but if your daughter is excited about it, maybe you should consider it! (We did, and it turned out to be one of the best parts of the trip.) Also, it’s nice to give kids a break once and a while during travel.
An iPod or a DS aren’t things that kids should be staring into all the time, but during downtime at hotels it’s good for them to have a break. Finding this balance is hard, but keeping both aspects of travel in mind is important.
What would you say to younger kids who are about to go on a similar journey as your family?
Although traveling will sometimes be frustrating and hard, is is worth it. Really! You will be able to see, learn, and do things that you’ve never imagined, and your perspective of the world will be changed for the better. If you’re worried about missing your friends or your school, that is understandable, but those things will all work out.
You will be able to talk to your friends while you travel, and you will be able to either do school on the road or resume when you get back! These things are big deals, but traveling is so worth it.