Here are the answers to some of the questions we often get asked, now that our trip is over:
What was your favorite place?
Asher: I liked a lot of the places, however, my place is by far Italy because the food was all very good, the architecture was cool, and pretty much everyone there was super nice.
Corbin: I had lots of favorite places, but one at the top of my list is Argentina. Not only did we get to experience the impressive Iguazu Falls, but we also went to the south and visited Patagonia. We went on multiple hikes in the Andes, seeing glacial lakes and beautiful forests. We also visited the Perito Moreno Glacier, even doing a short hike on the glacier itself. At the end of the Argentina portion of our trip, we went to Ushuaia, where we saw penguins and the not-so-end-of-the-world end of the world.
James: Lots of favorite places but the ones where we were welcomed into people’s lives were always amazing. First, in Costa Rica, we stayed with the Barrantes family. Beautiful people and highlights included eating delicious ceviche and drinking Pilsen while either singing karaoke in Spanish or watching soccer. Second, in India, Bobby and Anuja welcomed us into their family, fed us amazing food, and toured us around parts of southern India. Third, while on a Nile cruise in Egypt we met three 30-something Lebanese guys. They told us we had to visit Lebanon and it was so worth it. Ali picked us up at the airport and drove us to a sweet shop before taking us to our Airbnb more than an hour away. We met his mom and some friends and he even had his cousin chauffeur us around. Finally, in Spain, we stayed with a family in Malaga. The first night the dad asks if we would like to try rappelling. When we said we had already done a bunch but would love to do more, he removed a recessed light and had us practice rappelling on the giant bolt in the light fixture. The next day we went on an awesome rappelling trip. People everywhere were so welcoming.
Gloria: My favorites? At our last stop, in Nerja, Spain, I attempted to compile my Top 10 list and utterly failed. About 45 entries in – not even counting my completely separate list about food! – I realized that it was a hopeless endeavor. However, I did start to notice a few themes:
- Animals! I had never considered myself a zoophile, but maybe I am! I loved every moment of being up close with animals doing their thing in their normal habitat. We saw leopard cubs in India, octopi mating in the Red Sea, and a gibbon family having breakfast in Cambodia. Corcovado National Park, in Costa Rica’s less-developed Osa Peninsula, was paradise. And, with a good deal of regret, I have sworn off eating octopi, even though they are delicious.
- Awe-inspiring nature. Being in spectacular settings was incredibly restorative – mountain, water, forest, and desert alike. The farther away from big roads and lots of buildings, the better – which is ironic considering we have chosen to live in a city. (Fortunately, here in the Bay Area, it’s a quick drive to some of the most gorgeous nature in the world. Now we just need to make time to go there!)
- My kids. Some of my favorite memories had nothing to do with where we were and could easily have happened right at home. I think every parent probably relates to that feeling of joy when the kids are laughing together and enjoying each other’s company.
- New friends. We met so many wonderful people! It was extra special when James managed to get us invited to dinner at someone’s house – a surprisingly common occurrence.
What’s one thing you learned on the trip?
Asher: A: I’m in agreement with Corbin, America is very different from pretty much everywhere else. One example of this is in America we use miles instead of kilometers and almost everywhere else uses kilometers.
Corbin: One thing I learned on the trip was just how different America is from pretty much everywhere else. In every different country, we learned about their unique cultures and the way people live. Interestingly enough, America seemed to be the outlier. In so many countries, family togetherness is a core value, whereas in America, individualism is very important. This is just one example, but the trip really taught me how varied the world is.
James: We learned that most people everywhere are kind. We read a great book called Humankind for our family travel book club. The conclusion of the book, people are mostly nice and want to help each other, was witnessed all around the world. People seemed genuinely excited to see and chat with us.
Gloria: Again, another long list! I am now able to muddle my way through a conversation in Spanish. I understand a little more about the culture of the countries we visited, not only from observation and interaction but also from listening to audiobooks set in those countries. I appreciated learning about the contributions and rich history of ancient civilizations that I had never studied in school (e.g. Inka, Khmer, Nubian, and Vedas). I also read way too much about monetary policy, some while waiting in a long line at a Western Union to get cash in Ushuaia, Argentina. I learned that lots of people everywhere do still admire the United States – despite our challenges as a country living up to our aspirations of “liberty and justice for all.” Happily and importantly, I also learned that I still really do enjoy the company of my husband and kids!
How did the trip change you?
Asher: Our trip changed me in a lot of ways. One of the ways it changed me was it just made me appreciate nature more, and now I go for walks whenever I can. I think the 2 biggest “excursions” that made me appreciate nature more were the Tres Lagos hike and the trek we did in Nepal.
Corbin: Our trip changed me in a lot of ways. One way, in particular, is that it really opened my eyes to how privileged I am. So many people all around the world have so little, but they are all so welcoming and generous, and kind. For me, that ultimately means understanding that perhaps getting perfect grades is not the most important thing, instead focusing on experiencing life and appreciating what I have.
James: One way the trip changed our whole family is that being stuck together 24/7 for a year brought us closer together. We managed to explore, eat, rest, and rush about without killing each other. I was also worried about my bad knees, but I learned I was able to do almost everything as long as I was careful.
Gloria: I think we are closer as a family. 🙂 And personally, I felt recharged and restored – what a sabbatical is supposed to do. I came back from our trip feeling really creative, open to new ideas, and making connections. I’m trying to hold onto that feeling!
Other Questions (that we’ve written blogs about!)
Why a family gap year?
Over the past 20 years, during our dreamy “what-if?” conversations, James and I have often talked about living outside the U.S. and traveling internationally. We wanted our kids to develop a broader perspective by experiencing life outside our privileged Bay Area bubble, and we wanted to show them some of the amazing things in the… Continue Reading
How did you convince your family to go along with this plan?
I get this question a lot from other parents of teens. To be honest, we didn’t really give them much of a choice. We are also lucky. Asher had just wrapped up 8th grade at Yu Ming Charter School, and his classmates were going to a dozen different high schools anyway, so he was at….. Continue Reading