Round the World Adventures: An Interview with Kathrin Spaccarelli

Imagine taking your family on a year-long trip around the world. Kathrin Spaccarelli and her husband Nathan did just that with their two boys from September 2013 to September 2014. A longtime love of traveling, plus a desire to introduce their boys to friends and familiar places in Japan (where both Kathrin & Nathan lived before getting married), among other things, inspired the Spaccarellis to sell their home, pull their son from public school (and instead “world school” both boys) and make the trip. Their travel adventures included Japan, Thailand, Indonesia, Australia, South Africa, Portugal, the UK, France, Austria, Italy and more – for a total of 25 countries in one long trip.

Round the World TravelAfter hearing their story during a Creative Live class I took last spring, I knew I had to share the Spaccarellis’ perspective on family bucket lists with you. So today I’m thrilled to introduce you to Kathrin Spaccarelli. Here is some of what Kathrin told me in a recent interview:

A lot of people love to travel, but not everyone takes their family on a Round The World trip for a year. What made you decide to do that and why at that point in time? 

We were watching our kids grow up all too fast. We really wanted some time to just enjoy each other. It was a good moment for us emotionally, but also as far as the kids’ ages. We loved that they weren’t yet in their teen years where they were perhaps more connected to their friends than their parents. Our other criteria was that they were able to self play or read – so we could all be doing our own thing together. The hope was that they would be old enough to read during long train rides.

That said, I think now even as they do age, that [round-the-world] experience has so bonded us all that I can totally see us doing it again as they get older and into their teens.

Can you share a highlight from that year of a time where you felt especially close as a family? 

Every day was its own magic. Every day we were finding something new and exciting to experience together.  If we were studying caves in Malaysia or religion in Thailand or Mozart when we were in Austria – whatever it was that was local to the area – we would also give the kids some choices too. So we had adventures that everybody loved.GT1 P1060266 Elephant Nature Camp

The moments that stood out to me though were those moments where the ten-year-old looks over at me and says, “Mom, we really don’t need more than what’s in our backpacks, do we?” That is the reason we took our kids. When you come from the developed world, to be able to see other countries and appreciate where you are and what you do have. Those were those moments where it hit home.

Points and miles played a big role in making your trip possible. For other families with destinations on their bucket list, where would you suggest starting in the points and miles world?

 The biggest one is the Creative Live Course: Make Your Dream Trip a Reality. The idea behind it is, within 30 days we’ll help you get enough points and miles to go on a dream trip of your choice, whatever that is. Even though we got all of our tickets around the world for the whole family with points and miles that we accumulated before we left, there were tricks I learned in this dream trip class.

I also follow The Points Guy online. And the Frugal Travel Guy. There are quite a few other sources out there to start. The key is using credit cards that earn you points or miles, and making sure every dollar you spend is connected to award miles. Opening credit cards, if your credit is good and you are financially smart with it, can get you good bonuses where you earn quite a few miles just by starting up with a card.

What’s next on your family’s bucket list?

Most of the time in our house when we talk bucket lists, it involves travel. In January we are scheduled to go to South Africa to visit a dear couple, who we met on our travels, that invited us to come. They live near Capetown and they have connections with a safari that we will take. January should be a nice month to make that happen.

You don't have to think about what if I couldOther than that, we’re always dreaming. Each of us have a few spots we’re thinking of. My younger son is in public school right now, so we have to work around that. But my older son
is homeschooled, so he’s ready to go any time.

Anything you would like to add? 

The biggest thing I noticed is that it is all a matter of choices. We came from a more affluent area in Portland and we would have people who own three big screen tv’s look at us with envy and say “boy, I wish we could do what you guys did.” I think it’s a matter of choices.

I want people to know that it is possible. That by making certain choices you can make this happen. There are so many ways to make it happen. It’s so great for the family – not only for the kids themselves and their education, but as a family we learned and grew together so much. If I had anything to say to anybody, I’d just say “go do it.” Because it’s totally possible. You don’t have to think about “what if I could,” but “when I can.” And then make it happen.

You can find Kathrin online at takingthebigbreak.com, in the Taking the Big Break FB community, and on twitter: @TheBigBreak.

 



The One Where We Sat on the Roof and Ate Ice Cream

In July I dared readers to step out and conquer a bucket list goal that required them to let go. To be wildly free. Something like dancing in the rain.

For me that expression of whimsical freedom came in the form of sitting out on my roof eating ice cream sandwiches with my kids – a daring bit of fun that always appealed to me, while at the same time sort of freaking me out. I put it on my bucket list long ago in hopes that one day I would get the courage to do it.

In response to the dare, I pledged to take my kids out on our roof for an ice cream treat by the end of July… And I did it (just barely before the end of the month)!

July Life Dare Accomplished2It was a sultry evening, thick with late July heat and humidity, but overcast enough that the roof wasn’t too hot to sit on, with a gentle breeze that stirred the warm air around.

I opened the window screen in my office, placed a stepstool under the window, and hoisted myself into the opening, one leg outside, straddling the ledge. Somehow climbing the rest of the way out became a sort of human origami act, me folding myself in half to duck out the window, while testing different bent configurations of my limbs in an effort to fit through without falling. I tried and got stuck. Tried again. And finally managed to squeeze through and pull my other leg over the ledge.

It seemed like it should have been easier, especially when each of my three girls popped out the window behind me with brisk efficiency. In my defense, having an ice cream sandwich in one hand did add a challenge to the process. That and a fear of heights.

Once outside all four of us lined up along the low roof above our garage, eating, chatting and people watching. I kept waiting for passers-by to spot us, but no one looked up in our direction. Perhaps it didn’t occur to them to expect anyone to be up where we were. But it seemed strange to me to see our neighbors pass by close enough to hear their conversation and yet not have them notice us. I’m used to the vantage from our driveway where we sometimes sit. There we share greetings with most who walk by.

As it was, it was a relatively quiet night. Very few cars, a handful of bikers, and a small number of walkers. The emptiness along our street wasn’t surprising though, since our little city tends to empty out in late July as swim, baseball and softball seasons end, and families finally take their vacations.

After devouring our ice creams we sat there for a bit longer, enjoying the night and the view. One of my girls suggested bringing a game out to play. But that went beyond my comfort zone. I guess I hid my anxiety at being up high a little too well.

I’m glad we did it, though. That simple act – eating ice cream sandwiches on the roof – whimsical as it was, made for a memorable evening. I can see us doing that again next summer and the one after.

Just don’t expect to see me walking around out there. I’ll be the one on the end, back pressed firmly against the house.

August Bucket List Life Dare: Seize the Summer Moment

It’s August. Our school district is clamoring for my attention again with registration forms in the mail and orientation reminders in my inbox. As much as I want to ignore it and pretend my mornings will forever be blissfully quiet with kids sleeping late, summer is winding down. School will be starting again. Soon. And that feeling that we haven’t done everything we wanted to for the summer niggles at me.

August 2015 BLL Dare_ Seize the Summer Moment (1)You too? I have some good news for both you and me: it’s not over yet. Even as we shop for school supplies, we can still complete something we had planned this summer that we haven’t gotten around to. And even better, we have a natural deadline to spur us on – the first day of school.

So that’s the theme for this month’s bucket list life dare: Seize the Summer Moment. Think back to the first day of summer. What did you envision the three months of June, July and August 2015 to look like? What did you hope you and your kids would be able to do or create or see or learn or visit or encounter?

Hopefully you can say your summer lived up to much of your vision. And maybe you were pleasantly surprised by experiences you hadn’t dreamed of ahead of time. But there are probably one or two things that you couldn’t fit in or just plain forgot about. That’s what this dare is about. Pick one or two things, preferably bucket list goals – things that you have never experienced before, that you still want to get in before summer ends. Then make them happen in August (or by Labor Day, if you want to give yourself until the official end of summer).

My goal is to take my kids to Magic Waters, a water park we have never tried. We pass it every summer on our way to my in-laws’ summer home, but since we go out there to boat and fish and swim, it never made sense to hit the water park. This year we were fortunate enough to be given passes to Magic Waters. But first summer school and its rigorous homework prevented us. Then vacation away, appointments, work and other obligations made it hard to get out there. Now we have no reason not to go – we just need to make it happen. And I can’t wait for the fun we’ll have when we do!

How about you? What is one new adventure you want to still squeeze into your summer? Take the August Bucket List Life Dare and make it happen.

Lighthouse Bucket List Adventure: An Interview with Cheryl Lynn Cain

CherylLynnCainI have always admired Cheryl Lynn Cain for being a mom with a passion for making a difference. From hosting refugee families, to organizing a fair trade bazaar, to directing the compassion ministry at her church, Cheryl Lynn is a woman of compassion in action. The same is certainly true for her family bucket list – she steps out to engage in adventures that will make a difference in her children’s approach to the world around them. So I’m thrilled to share with you an interview with Cheryl Lynn about a recent family bucket list adventure she undertook: being a lighthouse keeper.

Tell us a little about your bucket list.

I know some bucket lists tend to be very specific but mine has really one over-arching principle: to experience drastically different lifestyles in order to raise children who have tools for greater compassion, understanding and perspective.  (I know, a little heavy!  LOL.)  I think I got there because living in the suburbs, I noticed how easily my kids can be convinced that everyone lives similar lives.  So whenever I find an opportunity to step into a whole other world, well, I try to take it!    

What made you want to stay in a lighthouse?

Lighthouses have had a certain allure for me.  I find the fact that people gave their whole lives, many times living in isolation, in order to hold out a beacon of hope for weary travelers.  And the job was not sexy at all; a lot of day in and day out chores, a lot of watching and waiting for that one day where it would make all the difference.

How long has this been a dream of yours? 

The idea started when I was researching places to stay in California and discovered that many of their lighthouses were actually hostels that even accommodated families.  So after staying overnight at a lighthouse on the coast of northern California, I thought, there has to be something like that in Michigan.  I think many people don’t realize that Michigan actually has more lighthouses than any other state because of their upper and lower peninsula.  So after a little googling I discovered that many Michigan lighthouses are run by volunteer associations that are always looking for keepers for a variety of stays.  The trick of course was that most require long stays or adults only.  However, Crisp Point Lighthouse, on the shores of Lake Superior in the Upper Peninsula allows families to volunteer.  So it was an easy choice.  However, as if serving as a keeper wasn’t enough of a departure, this lighthouse happened to be 18 miles from a paved road or electricity.  So of course this fit even more perfectly to my bucket list, we have never lived off the grid.

What did your duties as lighthouse keepers entail?

Now lighthouses aren’t quite what they used to be with solar lenses and all, so our duties mainly consisted of keeping in order the visitor center and bathrooms, locking and unlocking the lighthouse and becoming familiar enough with the history to answer questions.  However, the duties did not become nearly as challenging as co-habitating with the dense mosquito community of the north woods.  For all the things I planned for: the headlamps, the propane, bringing our own water and food, even planning for bears, I completely underestimated the bugs of the deep woods.  This definitely turned our service opportunity to a survival exercise.  (Our motto became: the more horrible: the more memorable!)  However, what we discovered is that we actually are survivors.  And honestly, with all the conveniences and ease of our everyday life, it was good to know that with a little help of supplies from the gas station 30 miles away, we can brave the elements and come out stronger for it.  But I would be remiss if I didn’t also emphasize that our civil war with the bugs paled in comparison to the beauty of the U.P., the Taquahemnon Falls, the beauty of Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, the time travel of Mackinac Island and the serenity and dignity of Crisp Point Light.

What is next on your bucket list?

Our next stop on the bucket list will be the western prairie.  We’ll be heading out to South Dakota in the next few weeks staying in a covered wagon at the Little House on the Prairie homestead in DeSmet, SD and then staying at a working cattle ranch near Mount Rushmore and Custer State Park.  We will soon find out if cattle are kinder than mosquitoes and hopefully learn a greater respect for pioneers.

Cheryl Lynn blogs at www.raisingcain.wordpress.com.



Family Bucket List Wall

Over the past year I’ve been working on my family’s bucket list wall – a pictorial commemoration of the goals we’ve reached and the fun we’ve had living out our bucket list dreams. Here’s the result:

Whole Wall

I collected these collage frames over time. I knew I wanted to be able to highlight the different types of bucket list adventures we have had – things we’ve done, places we’ve seen, people we’ve met, and the people we’ve become/roles we’ve fulfilled.

Aspire FrameSo my first collage contains pursuits that family members have aspired to: such as breaking the school track record for the 100-meter dash (Bethany), and learning archery (Evelyn).

Explore FrameNaturally our bucket list contains destinations that we want to explore. I’m hoping one day to expand this to its own wall, along with a pinned map showing places we have gone.

The more altruistic pursuits I gathered into a frame that I labeled “become.” It showcases volunteer experiences, and roles we have worked (or are working) to attain, such as my husband’s position as a leader in the disc golf community in our state and my daughter Katherine’s desire to become a pilot and the various flights she’s taken on that journey.IMG_5928

Meet FrameAs an avid reader (and writer) I keep a separate journal/scrapbook containing photos of me with the authors I have the privilege of meeting, but I’m not the only one in our family to rub elbows with people I admiral, so those shots go in their own frame.

And the wall just had to have another frame to balance things out. Plus I could tell we would fill up all the slots pretty quickly with only four collections. So I added a fifth frame of dreams fulfilled.Dreams Frame

You’ll notice that I didn’t hurry to fill the frames. I added scrapbook paper to empty openings, but ultimately the goal is to add in new photos as we check off different experiences. Not every bucket list experience of ours ends up on the wall. Our first time kayaking I didn’t dare take a camera on the water, so we don’t have a record of that. Other times we are all absorbed enjoying the experience and forget to take a picture (or don’t want to break the spell by snapping a shot).

Adventures SignFinally, I felt like I wanted to express the overall theme of our collections in words. Wood and metal signs saying “Family” are everywhere. But “Adventures”? Not so much. I ended up creating my own sign to finish the wall off.

I’m pleased with how it turned out. It’s an attractive reminder of the adventures we have shared. I love that behind each picture is a story – of perseverance, beauty, compassion, and dreams come true. And I look forward to filling them up with more memories.

How do you document the adventures your family takes? Do you keep a journal? Blog your thoughts? Create photo books? I would love to hear your favorite method for commemorating your family’s bucket list pursuits.