12C in 12M refers to Twelve Countries in Twelve Months
… Our first travel project that has shaped the rest of our lives!
How We Started
After a series of miscarriages, we took a summer-long trip across the United States. During that enlightening journey, we decided it was time to make a bold move and plan our entire lives around traveling, with or without a family. We were still recovering from a philosophy of feeling fenced in—we hated the thought of finishing up college and then just becoming the next competitors of “the Joneses”. There’s nothing wrong with settling down—we even wish it for our own future… but there was a little too much of the thought that we someday would have to, like it was expected of us.
It was this idea of “settling down”, we realized, that stops people from realizing their true potential. One does not have to have a mortgage to become a functional member of society; one does not have to have a cubicle to feel stable enough to have a family. But that seemed to be the path that defined success. It’s a phenomena we like to call “experiential death”—or, in other words, the death of experiencing life as we know it.
A year and a half and one baby later, we left the United States for the first time together on a path toward discovering the world around us and incorporating travel in our family life forever.
What are the 12 countries?
Originally, the 12 countries were: New Zealand, Australia, Taiwan, Thailand, Croatia, UK, Ghana, South Africa, Chile, Ecuador, Costa Rica, US.
Due to the military coup in Thailand, our flight there was cancelled, so we changed some things around last minute and now the 12 countries are: New Zealand, Australia, Taiwan, Philippines, UK, Italy, Morocco, South Africa, Chile, Ecuador, Costa Rica, US.
We’re always staying on top of any risks/precautions for the locations we’ve chosen to travel as a family, and for that reason the list very well may change before we’re done. It keeps us on our toes!
Where is your favorite place?
Hmm.. This question isn’t fair as each place we’ve been has offered us something completely different and more amazing than the last. We’ve definitely learned a lot about being in certain places as a family and during certain times of year, so as we strive to revisit all the places we’ve been, we’ll make a lot less mistakes resulting in an even more enriching experience.
How can you travel so much?
We can because we want to. I think that’s the biggest thing–you have to have a desire. Don’t get me wrong, it’s definitely hard sometimes, but it’s also extremely rewarding. We also take it slow. We have a baby so we know that we’re not going to be able to bounce from tourist site to tourist site for 5-10 hours a day and then be fine with only 6 hours of sleep. We plan short excursions, usually involving food at some point, and we plan time to let Carter roam around and do his thing. We’ve found what works for our family and we do it.
How can you afford this?
Well, we saved a lot before the trip, we sold everything we owned, and we planned hardcore. Scott works part time while we’re traveling, and we continue to budget each month. I wrote an article here that goes into more detail about our monthly expenses.
How do you fly for free?
Do you want to know? Do you REALLY want to know? Well lucky for you, Scott wrote a very informative article telling you all about how we do it! Read The Compendious Guide to Flying for Free as a Family.
How can you haul all that gear?
What camera do you use?
We have two very different cameras that we use: Canon 5D Mark II and Sony RX100. We use the Sony (or point and shoot) on pretty much a regular basis and it is definitely our go-to camera. It is less obvious and very quick to use since we usually have it in automatic. The amazing thing about the Sony is that there is a setting where it will automatically HDR your photos making it really easy to take great pictures in harsh lighting. Also, it has a timer setting where the timer starts when it recognizes faces in the frame. This feature is awesome with our QuikPod! This is an expensive point and shoot, but we bought ours used. And honestly, we recommend you do too. As long as you do the appropriate research in buying used, it can save you good chunks of money at no loss to you!
Our Canon (or DSLR) is a big guy. We carry two lenses for him, a 50mm f/1.4 and a 24-105 f/4. Our 24-105mm lens is always on and we carry around the 50mm on daily excursions if we know we’re going to be indoors or in low lighting situations. We don’t usually haul this guy and his accessories around unless we know we’ll have plenty of time to take photos, we won’t be walking very much (he’s heavy!), and we know our safety won’t be compromised by carrying an expensive looking camera.
How can you live with so little?
We don’t know. And we tend to complain about it every other month. We have very few clothes for the three of us, so we are doing laundry two to three times a week to keep things fresh. If we are lacking something essential in our wardrobe then we go to second hand stores before paying full price for something we’ll most likely wear out or not need in a few months.
As far as toys and books for Carter goes, we buy him $5 worth of toys/books (usually second hand) at the beginning of each month and then purge at the end of the month whatever we can’t fit in our bags. It keeps things simple and easy to clean up, but also offers him some variety so he doesn’t get bored. Also, this way we’re able to get him more age appropriate things to aid his development.
We’ve come to learn that we don’t need much to be happy, and we choose to spend money on fish and chips in New Zealand, Tim Tams in Australia, mango ice in Taiwan, Sans Rival in Philippines, Irn Bru in the UK, and gelato in Italy because we don’t know how long we’ll have to wait until we can have them again.
When do you return?
We will return to the US at the beginning of March 2015, but we will be living in either Boston or NYC for a month so we don’t officially finish the trip until the beginning of April 2015.
How old was Carter when you left? How old will he be when you return?
When we left in April 2014, Carter had just turned 7 months old. What a fun experience traveling extensively for the first time with a baby was! When we return he will 19 months old.
What are your travel plans after your trip is completed?
Our goal is to do one big trip with our family every year. For 2-3 months of the year, we’re going to plan on living in one different country and really get to know the place. We’re thinking, the farmlands of France, the national parks of New Zealand, the coastal towns of Ireland… Who knows where we’ll end up, there are so many options!