|Would Icarus be jealous?|
Here are some statistics for our family's air travel for one year.
- 128 hours and 55 minutes in the air, not including layovers
- 31 flights
- 20 airports
- 12 airlines; hence, abysmal accrual of frequent flier miles at any one airline
- 7 countries
- 5 flights longer than 10 hours
- 4 continents
- For hubby, add on an additional 32 hours 10 minutes spread over 6 flights for business travel.
We did all this without the kids missing any school for travel.
Wow. If you had predicted this three years ago, I would have laughed in your face. Earlier this week, I was chatting with a nomadic family about their flight from England to Rio de Janeiro. When they said it took 14 hours, I actually said, "14 hours? That's not bad." My brain now thinks that 14 hours is no big deal.
Back in Penang, I'd spend my days while the kids were at school exploring the island and getting deliberately lost in George Town so that I could stumble across its many wonders. On weekends, we'd play on the beach, hike through the jungle, or camp out on Penang Hill. There are many perks to living in a tourist hotzone.
So, where did we go on all those airplane flights?
|Enjoy the hikes around Uluru (Ayers Rock) in the early morning on hot, January days.|
AustraliaWe kicked off the year in Australia. We strolled along Bondi Beach on New Year's Day and watched from afar as the water was cleared after a shark sighting. A glow-in-the-dark puppet show entertained the kids at the Sydney Opera House. We snorkeled at the Great Barrier Reef and wilted in the 114°F (46°C) heat at Ayers Rock. Kangaroo Island off the southern coast of Australia proved to be a great place to relax and unwind after our hectic itinerary.
Despite how incredible this trip was, my children really missed being with their grandparents and cousins at Christmas. This has been mentioned repeatedly throughout the year during honest, heartfelt moments.
|The PETRONAS Towers|
Kuala LumpurIt wasn't always overseas travel that called to us. We took a roadtrip to Kuala Lumpur one long weekend. After learning my lesson from a previous trip when we couldn't get into the Petrosains Discovery Centre due to crowds, I reserved tickets a few weeks in advance to make sure we'd gain admission this time to the very hands-on science museum. We enjoyed our hotel room with a view of the Petronas Towers, the tallest twin towers in the world, and a kid-free outing at the Sky Bar. Kidzania was the highlight of the trip for my younger kids because they loved playing pretend and trying the various jobs from DJ to chocolatier. We stocked up on plenty of American processed foods at Ampang Grocers and made sure to visit La Mexicana, a truly authentic Mexican restaurant.
|Water for Elephants in Chiang Mai, Thailand|
Chiang Mai, ThailandEaster found us in Chiang Mai, Thailand. We played in waterfalls, visited the Long Neck people and other tribes, strolled through temples, squeezed into tuktuks, and did a little drifter kart racing and paint ball target practice, too. As a family, we took a Thai cooking class where my boys surprised me with their culinary skill. For me, the highlight of the trip was a day spent at Elephant Nature Park where I got to feed elephants and bathe them in the river.
|Jumping for joy at the Eiffel Tower.|
ParisParis was an eagerly anticipated trip. We were headed to Texas for the summer school holiday but took a week-long stopover in the City of Light. Everyone seemed to be brimming with suggestions about where to go. We went deep underground to see decorative skeletons in Les Catacombes and climbed high above the city at both the Eiffel Tower and Notre Dame. The kids gave a thumbs up to the classics at the Louvre and a thumbs down to modern art at the Pompidou. My son still exclaims, "Some pictures were nothing but white paint on a canvas!" One gustatory delight after another crossed our lips from macarons to baguettes smeared with Brie to McDonald's on the Champ Élysées. Versailles dazzled us and gave us a taste of idealized country life at The Queen's Hamlet. A day spent at Parc de la Villette allowed the kids to just run free and have fun. Best of all, we completed our goal of visiting a Disney park at each of its worldwide locations when we added Disneyland Paris to the list that already had Florida, California, Hong Kong, and Tokyo on it.
|My daughter has been dreaming about her first visit to the American Girl Doll Store and Café.|
TexasFathers' Day was busy for us. We had breakfast in Paris and a late lunch in Houston, Texas with both my dad and father-in-law before making the 3 hour drive to our home in Austin. The kids absolutely loved being in the Lone Star State, seeing their friends, and celebrating the Fourth of July with their cousins. We tried some new adventures like indoor skydiving as well as old favorites like visiting the Kemah Boardwalk and multiple museums in Waco, Austin, and Houston. My oldest boy spent a week at Boy Scout Camp in the Lost Pines along Lake Bastrop and talked to his friends about middle school in Texas compared to where we are now. He came away concluding that Texas kids have more social pressure.
|Mid-Autumn Lantern Festival at Singapore's Gardens by the Bay|
SingaporeCheap airfare and a long weekend lured us away to Singapore just in time for the Mid-Autumn Festival. Our kids asked to go to the Science Centre where we met up with some Texas friends, and we also explored Gardens by the Bay for the first time. The new S.E.A. Aquarium awed us with the Guinness Book of World Record Largest Aquarium Tank. Dining on Chili Crab at Jumbo Seafood and Tex-Mex food at Café Iguana have become a Singapore trip tradition.
|The Great Wall stretches as far as the eye can see.|
ChinaChina is in the same time zone as Malaysia, so we had no issues with jet lag. In a departure from our usual method of independent travel, we hired a private tour company. It was wonderful to be freed from worrying about logistics so that I could just enjoy myself. The Forbidden City was large and imposing while the Great Wall turned out to be great fun since we took a cable car up and a toboggan down. Seeing all the Terracotta Warriors standing at attention at the massive archeological dig site was impressive.
|Woman with Tibetan Prayer Wheel at the Yak Butter market stall in Lhasa.|
TibetTibet was a last minute addition to our China trip and highly recommended by a friend with kids. I flew in over the Himalayas with vague notions of Shangri-La and Dalai Lama quotes floating through my brain, and I exited with a richer understanding of life there. The conflict between Chinese rule and a longing for a free Tibet was an undercurrent that ran throughout our travels. Tibetans clearly still cherish the current Dalai Lama who has been living in exile in India since 1959. Hubby and I took turns visiting palaces, temples and monasteries while the other parent cared for the kids who had been rendered lethargic by altitude sickness.
Hubby and I had long planned on heading to New Zealand for the Christmas break, but the kids had other ideas. They have never really forgiven us for keeping them away from Texas family and traditions last year. I'd try to tempt them with visions of glowworm caves and glacier hikes, and they would counter with "Grandma, Grandpa, Lolo and Lola." So one day, I just looked at hubby and said, "New Zealand will always be there. Let's give the kids what they want."
New Zealand The United States (again)
In a few days, we'll head off on the last part of our 128 hours 55 minutes of flight time in one year travel binge. On Christmas Day, we'll be seated around the table at hubby's aunt's house surrounded by both of our families. Both hubby's and my parents get along fabulously and celebrate this day together so we don't have to choose.
We've offered our kids the world, and what they want most is home.
This post is part of Travel Photo Thursday on Budget Travelers Sandbox and "Oh the Places I've Been" on The Tablescaper. Please check them out for more around-the-world travel inspiration.