Wednesday, December 11, 2013

128 Hours 55 Minutes of Air Travel in One Year

This has been a banner year for travel for my family. I've often said that living the expat life has prompted us to travel, and my oh my, we really embraced that notion these last 12 months. We literally traveled around the world heading westward until we returned to our starting point in Penang. On another trip, the kids made their first hop back and forth across the Equator.

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.


We 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.


Kuala Lumpur

It 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, Thailand

Easter 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.


Paris 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.


Fathers' 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


Cheap 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.


China 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.


Tibet 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.

New Zealand The United States (again)

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."

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, "Oh the Places I've Been" on The Tablescaper, and "Share Your Best" on Two Kids and a Map and Mommy Travels. Please check them out for more around-the-world travel inspiration.


  1. Wow and I thought I traveled a lot. You definitely got a lot of air time. And with kids too! BTW I think it's really cool you met the long neck people. How do you arrange that?

    1. There's a Hill Tribe Cultural Village where you pay admission to get in. At first, I was worried it would be a variation of a Human Zoo, but I took the time to talk to the people, and they said that being there was much better than their previous job of working the fields in Myanmar and being persecuted.

  2. What an awesome year! I love traveling, and we do it as much as possible but it's getting harder to juggle around the school calendar. Hope you have a wonderful Christmas in Texas with the family! Can't wait to see where you go next year!

  3. Wow... Congratulations, it was a very good year...

  4. What an incredible year you've had, and I've enjoyed following your travels via your blog Michele. Thank you too for being so supportive of my two little blogs too - it's been great getting to know you. Here's to a fantastic 2014 and look forward to seeing you in the blogosphere then too :)

  5. wow, that is a busy year for sure. I´m sure you took a lot of shots or you will not be able to remember it all. The shots shared here are great. :)

  6. That is really impressive - all that travel but regular school for the kids too! It's hard to get a sense of how much travel you have really done reading it one post at a time along the way. Wishing you a holdiday in Texas that is as wonderful as your children hope it will be and a new year filled with more travel adventures.

  7. Wow! Simply wow! Loved this post. . .made me think about a similar year-end wrapup!

  8. What an amazing year you've had Michele...and all with the kids not missing a day of school.It will be hard to top it next year though I'm sure you'll give it a good try. Let's hope we see you in Perth in the summer!!

  9. I am so impressed and a tad jealous with all the traveling you guys have done and the kids not missing school. What a banner year for traveling! That is an awesome way to be an expat and a traveler. This is such a great and original year-in-review post. I've loved following along on your adventures and getting to know you and your family. I'm glad you guys will be enjoying the holidays at home. Have a safe and wonderful time. Looking forward to seeing where 2014 takes you.

  10. You will all love going home for Christmas. It is no fun going places with unwilling kids. N.Z. will be all the better when you do get there.

  11. Wow ... congratulations *feeling jealous* :)

  12. Wow! That is some traveling that you did! We travel a lot too but I got exhausted reading about your adventures. We were in Paris last month too, and Germany and Prague and England. So nice and educational for the kids to be able to go too. How did you manage to not have them miss school? Do you home school! Love all your photos!....Christine

    1. The kids are in a traditional school with a week off in the Fall and Spring plus long breaks over the summer and Christmas. We're away 99% of the school holiday.

  13. What a grand year of travel you've had and I bet it's hard to pick a highlight. My much older daughter still wants the usual trappings of Christmas - and that means snow and family though we're going against her wishes and heading to Scottsdale to visit my father. I'm very happy about that.

    Hope it's a joyous Christmas season.

  14. An absolutely fabulous year of travel, Michele! And absolutely impressive considering your kids didn't miss a day of school. Quite an accomplishment. Hope you have a great time with your families. Yes, NZ will always be there!

    Wishing you a wonderful Christmas holiday.

  15. You've made wonderful memories with your family on all those travels, but the best trip will be sharing Christmas with the family. Your children sound very grounded and mature. You've raised them well to appreciate and seek time with family. Our traditions are included in my latest post -

  16. Kids, eh? Mine are becoming increasingly difficult to take along on journeys. They don't want to leave their horses and dogs. So I have to be more creative - and at the very least find places that offer horse riding. You've seen some wonderful places this year :)

  17. Okay, Michele, I was impressed when I read over 128 hours of air travel. But when you said you did all of your travel without the kids missing one day of school, you really blew me away.

    I loved the last line of your post. What a great way to sum it up and I understand it completely. We've not traveled around the world like you have, but have traveled quite a bit in the states and the one place my kids want to be more often than not is home. With their friends and family. They tell us that they traveled too much with my husband's job and now they just want to settle down and not go anywhere. I keep telling myself that they will appreciate all our experiences one day...

  18. Oh this is fantastic. I love it all. We have a similar post of our travels going out on Friday. Our kids want to see Asia! LOL so we will be there next year. Glad you will experience "home" for the holidays.

  19. wow! you really are a very well travelled family. I bet not many children can boast having seen so many countries. Next time you come to Australia you really must visit Western Australia - if only the south west corner and the Kimberley. I am glad to read that you made it to Gardens by the Bay in Singapore and the Aquarium. I hope you enjoyed both these amazing places.
    Have a wonderful week and the countdown to Christmas. I am only just managed to link up to last weeks Travel Photo Thursday!

  20. Thanks for stopping by, Michele. I have been checking it out and the only thing I could find about roosters on Catholic Churches is in Germany and France! could be in other parts of Europe too cause I saw them in Prague also! as of the Euro shop, all we were told was that it is a historic place too because it is where Karl Marx was born....Christine

  21. "We've offered our kids the world, and what they want most is home." - Aww...that's so touching, that at their young age they have a strong sense of family and home. Your family definitely covered a lot this year and it's amazing that the kids didn't miss any school. You kids are so lucky; on my next lifetime I want to be one of them:) Have a wonderful and safe trip home.

  22. What an amazing year of travel your family has had - I dream of getting to some of the places that you have visited this year! Hope you and your family have a wonderful holiday at home in Texas - Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!!!

  23. Wow, what an exciting life you have! You are giving your family memories to last a lifetime!
    Cheers! - Shelley

  24. Wow, you've actually added up the hours! I must do that one year. It must be lovely looking back over your travels and appreciating all that you've done. Wishing you a great year end and a wonderful year to come. :-)

  25. Your kids are so well-traveled. What an amazing year it has been for you guys. Here's hoping that 2014 will bring you even more joy and time spent traveling together as a family.

  26. Sounds like a great year! I just came across your blog after finding a link to it on Nyonya's Dinner experience blog posting! My boyfriend and I will be renting an apartment from March- mid April in Penang so will have to pick up some Penang tips from you!

  27. Wow, that's amazing. We are also a family from TX.


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