Out In Our Nation’s Capital

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In front of the Lincoln Memorial looking toward the Washington Monument.

As part of our preparations for leaving for the year we figured we better have a trial run to learn a few lessons before we took off, and what better place to start our trip around the world than Washington DC, our own nations capital! Jeromy was the only one of us who had been there before and that was in 9th grade. We had a fantastic time and learned a lot about not only our country, but how we travel. The good…the bad…and the ugly.

First, Washington DC itself was a fabulous city to visit! It was easy to get around via their Metro system to anywhere we wanted to go. Our house we rented was only a few blocks from the Metro, which was convenient. I highly suggest being close to a Metro stop if you are planning a trip. We also used Uber a few times when our feet were tired after a long day and the Metro was too far away. The other major form of transportation was our feet! Washington DC is so full of history, museums, and federal buildings it is fun to simply walk around, turn a corner and see the FBI building or the Department of Education.   They also had these great bike kiosks where you could rent a bike in one area and return in another for a pretty cheap price. Luke wasn’t quite old enough for us to take advantage of that amenity, but we will definitely use the bikes in the future if we were to go there again.

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Lincoln Memorial

If you are going to Washington DC,  you need to arrange with your congressperson ahead of time if you want to have tours of certain buildings. We contacted our congresswoman’s office a few months before we left and were able to have pre-arranged tours of The Capital, The Bureau of Engraving and Printing, The Supreme Court, and The White House. We were all able to learn so much. It made us excited for all the things we will be able to learn on our trip around the world!

One other great thing about travelling in DC is that most the museums, monuments, and buildings are free. This makes it extremely kid friendly because if you only last a short time somewhere, you don’t feel like you wasted a bunch of money for admission.

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Our last day there we witnessed the streets shut down for a protest of the treatment of Sikhs in India.  It was a great learning experience to witness people standing up for the oppressed.

 

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Longest escalator in the western hemisphere at Wheaton Station in Maryland.  It is 215 feet long and takes about 3 minutes to ride up.

I won’t go through all the things we did while we were in DC, but here are some of the highlights. I also included our favorite foods we came across because we love to eat, and I feel like a huge part of the travel experience is experiencing the local foods along the way.

 

Highlights

Jeromy felt that our tours of the Supreme Court and the White House were highlights.  It was amazing to think of all the important people who have been there and the events that have occurred in those buildings. It felt like being on hallowed ground.

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The Washington Monument through the window of the Blue Room of the White House

Parker enjoyed The Spy Museum best (this is not part of the Smithsonian group of museums so it does cost money to enter). There was an actual spy adventure you were able to participate in that was a lot of fun for him. Unfortunately, Tyler got sick and Luke was too young to participate.

The Lincoln Memorial was what Tyler liked best. He said he really enjoyed the statue, but the highlight for him was sliding down the marble on the side of the stairs!  He also loved the Washington Monument and how it seemed like you could see it from anywhere you were in DC.

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At the bottom of the Washington Monument.  It’s much bigger than you would think!
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Jeromy and Luke walking to the Washington Monument at sunset

 

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Luke’s favorite was seeing the Pandas at the Smithsonian Zoo. Pandas are his favorite animals. He has two stuffed ones at home, Pandy and Pamby, who he adores.

I loved all of the above, but a beautiful place we visited that has to be mentioned is Arlington National Cemetery and the Marine Corp War Memorial.  They were reverent places to remember those who died to allow us to be free.

Best Food

Lavagna. This was a farm to table Italian restaurant with the most delicious homemade pastas. We went one of our first nights there and I ordered the Ravioli Ricotta, which was two large ravioli filled with raw egg yolk, parmesan, ricotta and covered in a delicious beef and pork marinara. It melted in your mouth. Everyone enjoyed their meals, but I shared a bite of mine with everyone and it was the highlight for sure. In fact, Luke asked for it for every breakfast, lunch, and dinner from then on throughout our trip. Imagine three times a day this happening to you, “Luke, what would you like?” His answer, “I want that Ravioli from the other restaurant we went to.” Me, “Sorry bud, they don’t have that here.” Luke, “Then I’m not eating anything!” It got frustrating as you can imagine. Finally, on our last night there we returned and got each of the boys their own order of the Ravioli. I think it was one of the highlights of the trip for them.

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Delicious crepes at Eastern Market on our way out of town

Crepes at Eastern Market. The last day we were there we had some of the most delicious savory crepes I’ve had (and I’ve eaten them in France) at the Eastern Market. This is a small market in the area we were staying that is mostly a farmer’s market, but on the weekends expands with more options for food, local art, antiques and more. When we were there we saw that Michelle Obama was eating in a restaurant we were walking by! There were secret service surrounding the entrances and keeping everyone back. We didn’t actually get to see her, but we are glad we didn’t wait around. We passed by an hour and a half later and the crowd was still gathered waiting for her to come out. Back to the crepes, they were delicious! If you are in the area give them a try.

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Belgian Hot Chocolate at Le Pain Quotidien

Real Belgian Waffles at Le Pain Quotidien. I have been to Belgium before and had the privilege of having real Belgian Waffles, which are very different from the kind you usually find in restaurants in the United States. A real Belgian waffle is more dense and much sweeter than the US version and doesn’t even really need syrup (although it doesn’t hurt). This restaurant made an amazing authentic version of the Belgian Waffle that the kids devoured. After trying the Belgian waffles at Le Pain Quotidien, the boys can’t wait to go to Belgium!

 

Lessons Learned for our trip around the world

The Good

  • My hip did well! I had major hip surgery in September (PAO) and I was concerned about the large amounts of walking we would be doing. Well in DC we walked A LOT. Fortunately, I had very little discomfort and found that I could last longer than Luke, which meant I wouldn’t be the one slowing us down! I’ve worked hard to get to this point, but it’s so nice to know it is paying off and that my hip won’t limit the things we will be able to do on this trip.
  • Air BNB. We rented a 2 bedroom row house off Air BNB in the Eastern Market area of Washington DC. A friend that used to live there told me that this area used to be one of the worst in DC and has been gentrified in the past few years. We found it to be a vibrant area with delicious restaurants, bakeries, shops, and markets. The neighborhoods were kept up well and the apartment we stayed in was perfect. It was great having the extra space for all of us to spread out at the end of a long day and have some time alone.

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    The Eastern Market neighborhood of DC where we stayed.  Beautiful row houses and streets.  Notice the ball Tyler threw in the air.  It’s a globe ball that we are planning on bringing with us around the world so you will see it again.
  • We can pack in a carry-on for a week and still have clothes left over at the end of the week. If we do laundry about once a week on our trip, we will be fine. Also, we had purchased packing cubes before we left at the suggestion of almost every blog we read on how to pack light. I was skeptical of how much it would help, but it made a huge difference! In fact, I can’t imagine doing it without them.
  • Bringing sketch books.  Before we left we gave each of the boys a sketch book and bought some nice pens.  This worked out better than I even expected.  We didn’t want them turning to electronic devices every time they were bored and the sketch books helped to fill that void.  Not only will it help their drawing skills and keep them entertained, it will be a wonderful record of the places we are visiting.

The Bad

  • The weather was pretty bad while we were there. It even snowed one day a little bit. The good news is, we were warm enough with the limited clothes we brought (layers are our friend), and it didn’t slow us down too much. Being from the Pacific Northwest, we never let a little rain stop us from doing anything.
  • Getting used to the time difference. We never quite adjusted to the time change while we were there. We tended to sleep in and stay up late, which is fine when you are somewhere for a week, but we will need to be better at resetting our circadian rhythms on our trip. This will also curb some of the crankiness!
  • Too many sites in one day. We realized there is a limit to the number of tours you can expect 3 rambunctious boys to sit through in one day. Actually they did an amazing job (especially Luke for his age), but we will need to make a concerted effort in our planning to not overschedule. There is so much in DC, it was a good place to learn that lesson.

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    The boys worn out at The Wright Brothers exhibit in the Air and Space Museum.  Behind them is the original flyer used when the Wright brothers inaugurated the aerial age with the world’s first successful flight of a powered heavier-than-air flying machine.
  • Too much time together can cause contention. This is true for anyone and I’m not sure how we will combat this on our trip around the world except by being aware of it and making efforts to allow each other our own space.

The Ugly

  • Any of us hungry. Or a more appropriate term, hangry. We will definitely have to try to have regular meals and snacks on hand to keep hunger at bay and all of us behaving rationally.

Frequently Asked Questions

As we’ve told friends, family, and strangers about our trip around the world, there are some common questions that most people ask.  Here are answers to those FAQs:

Why are you going?

We are going on this trip to take a step away from regular life and the trappings of the default US lifestyle. Jeromy worked very hard for many years and we have an amazing life, but there is so much more out there to see and do, and we have been blessed with the opportunity to take our family to have those experiences. One of my favorite travel quotes is “I haven’t been everywhere, but it’s on my list.” I love to experience new things, new cultures, and meet new people. I feel like I am a more complete person with each experience. I also believe that it will give our kids an opportunity to learn in a way not possible in a tradition classroom setting.

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How do you plan a trip for a year?

Jeromy and I have been working diligently during the past 6 months or so since we decided to take this trip. We’ve become very experienced negotiating websites like Lonely Planet, Trip Advisor, Booking.com, Air BNB and more. We’ve read books, blogs, and articles, we’ve listened to podcasts and talked to everyone we know about places they’ve been. While this has definitely helped, we know that no amount of planning will be able to teach us things we can only learn on the road. Beyond the fun choosing of destinations and booking hotels and activities, there are a lot of boring practical issues that you have to take care of when you are going to be gone for a year. We were fortunate to come across the website bootsnall.com early on in our research. They put together a 30 day email course for people planning to travel around the world with their family which helped us create an initial framework to build around. To take a look at our “Family Round The World Planning Checklist” from that site go here Round The World Checklist for Families.

Where are you going?

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Here is a map of the places we are planning on going so far!  Click the link below to see our most updated route.

Here is a link to a Map of places we are planning to visit through Tripline.net.  If you visit the website you can zoom in and see exact locations.  I didn’t include dates (in case there are any would-be stalkers reading our blog) and of course things may change, but we have it pretty mapped out through SE Asia!  We haven’t spent much time on South America yet, but we know the general areas we are planning on going.  Tripline.net has calculated the distance we would travel to over 53,000 miles and that doesn’t include all the traveling when we are in an area!  The earth’s circumference at the equator is about 24,900 miles…That means we will be traveling more than twice the distance around the earth on our trip!

If you will be in any of these areas or would like to meet up with us, we would love it!  Or if you have any insight or information we would love any tips, advice, or must see/eat things that you know of.  Please comment on this post or send us an email.  It is always better getting an insider’s perspective!   Below is a general outline of where we will be going:

  •  Europe (3 months): Iceland, Norway, Sweden, Czech Republic, Germany, Holland, Belgium, France, Italy, Switzerland, Austria, Hungary, Slovakia, Croatia, Montenegro, and one month in Greece
  • Africa (2 months): Zambia, Botswana, South Africa, Swaziland, and one month in Capetown
  • India (3 weeks): Jodhupr, Udaipur, Narlai, Delhi, Agra, Jaipur, Ranthambore, Goa
  • Southeast Asia (3 months): Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Borneo, and one month in Bali
  • New Zealand 
  • South America (3 months): One month in Argentina, Peru, Ecuador, Galapagos Islands, Columbia and Panama

Why aren’t you going to some places?

We often talk to people and when they find out we aren’t going to a certain place they say, “But you have a whole year – you have to go there!” Well, a year is a lot of time to travel, but not as long as you think. While there are times we will be staying only a few days in a city, there are also times we will be spending a whole month. We want to have a variety of travel experiences and especially have some time built-in to recharge. Being gone for a whole year is much different from being on a one or two-week vacation. Also, we don’t view this as the only time we will travel abroad. While we probably won’t plan another trip for a year, we still have spring break, summer, and Christmas vacations to travel with our family for years to come. We have a lot of travel to look forward to even after this trip is over!

What are you doing with your house?

We found a wonderful couple that has the ability to care for the house and property, who will be renting our home while we are away. This allows us to leave all our furniture and decor, yet still have someone we trust watch over the place and take care of it in our absence.

What about school?

We will be “World-Schooling” on our trip. In each place we will go our kids will be learning about that place. Just planning the trip my geography has increased amazingly! We met with each of our boy’s principals and they were both very supportive of our trip giving us resources, ideas, and well wishes. Some examples of how we will learn along the way are: Choose a painting in the Louvre and write a report on it. Read The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank, then go to the house where she hid from the Nazis. Study the Vietnam War, then go to Vietnam and visit their museum on the “American War.” Visit the birthplaces of the Grimm Brothers and the castles that inspired their stories, then write our own. Study an animal then view it in its natural habitat (we will be doing safaris in Africa, India, and Indonesia). Math is the only subject in which we will be using a more set curriculum. We will be using Singapore Math for Tyler and Luke and BYU independent study for Parker. They will not be behind a year when they get back and it’s our plan for them to re-enter La Center Schools with their peers in the fall of 2017.

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Don’t you think Luke is too young, he probably won’t remember it?

The perfect time to do something doesn’t exist. There are always positives and negatives when considering the timing of when to do something, certainly when it comes to a RTW trip for a year. Even though Luke will be too young to remember many of the specific details of our trip, his brain is developing very quickly at his young age. As he is exposed to such a large variety of languages, cultures, environments, and people, his brain will be developing to include that in how he processes the world and experiences it in the future. Yes, it is true that he may not really remember the trip, but he will be forever changed by it.

 Will you be safe?

We take the safety of our family very seriously and have considered carefully the places we will and will not be going. The US Government has a website you can register with called Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) https://step.state.gov/step/. It allows you to register with US Embassies in the country/city you will be traveling to receive important safety reports, it helps them contact you in the case of an emergency (natural disaster, civil unrest, or a family emergency), or helps them contact you in the event someone from the US needs to contact you.

Also, we went to a travel clinic and got all the appropriate immunizations for each of the places we would be going. The kids weren’t too excited about that part of trip planning, but we got to go to Salt N Straw ice cream afterwards, which helped soften the blow.

What if you decide you don’t like it?

If we feel like we are going to quickly, we’ll slow down. If we don’t like a place, we will leave. If we want to stay a little longer in a place, we will. While I don’t foresee us straying drastically from our schedule, I am an ardent believer in the phrase, “Man plans, God laughs.” If we had always stuck to the plan we had in mind for our lives, we would never have been in a position to be on this trip in the first place.

Why a year?

Why Not? Actually, a year seemed like a good amount of time to really feel like we were getting away, without interrupting our kids lives too drastically. They will only miss one year of school, friends, and activities which is some ways seems like a long time, but in reality goes by so quickly.

How do you pack for a trip like that?

Very carefully! We are each only bringing a carry-on backpack. Tyler’s is 36 Liters, Jeromy, Parker and I have 46 Liter packs and Luke has just a little 20 L pack. I’ll do another post about what we are packing, but we did a trial run in Washington DC for spring break and it went really well.

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In DC waiting for the Metro with all the luggage we will be using for our trip around the world (besides Jeromy’s bag).  It worked great!

Where will you stay?

We will be staying in hotels, houses, apartments, trains, airplanes, and on boats. Mostly we tried to find apartments or houses so we could have a kitchen and at least one bedroom. We decided against staying in hostels since the last one we stayed at in Merida, Mexico (2015) had at least three resident cockroaches and our room was only supposed to sleep five!  Thanks to great sites like Booking.com and AirBNB.com we have been able to find some great places to stay so far.

How will you travel?

We will travel by planes, trains, boats, taxis, Ubers, rickshaws, elephants, camels and cars. There were some areas where public transportation is better and we will use that there, but there were other areas where we wanted the flexibility of a car. Also, when you are travelling with 5 people sometimes the cost of public transportation can cost more than private.

What about souvenirs?

I’ve had a lot of people ask if we will be sending back boxes of souvenirs or how we will carry them around with our limited luggage space. The answer is, we won’t be buying souvenirs. Our souvenirs will be the pictures we take, this blog, and the memories of experiences and people we meet along the way. I’m sure we will be replacing some clothes, and I am not planning on packing jewelry so I can buy some along the way. Also, we will probably let the kids keep a coin from each country if they are interested as a keepsake. One of the goals of this trip is to teach the kids that having material things doesn’t make you any happier. If we were buying a bunch of souvenirs, that would defeat that aim.

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Telling The Kids

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Hiking at Sparks Lake on our trip to Bend where we decided, as a family, to travel the world together.

While we have talked for years about doing a trip like this, when it became a reality we decided we needed to officially get the kids on board. We have three incredible boys, Parker (13), Tyler (10), and Luke (6). While this will be a marvelous adventure for them to be a part of, we knew there would be some difficult times and challenges along the way as well. In anticipation of those times, we wanted them to feel like they had a part in making the decision to come and it wasn’t just Mom and Dad dragging them around the world.

So on a trip to Bend, Oregon for the weekend we decided to “present” the idea to them. Jeromy made a powerpoint presentation 2016-2017 RTW Trip and we drew up contracts that each of the kids had to sign Kids RTW Contract – 3. They were able to ask questions and voice their concerns. Now I’m not going to lie, we definitely highlighted the things they would really like to do (Ride a camel in the desert, stay the night in a castle, help care for orangutans, go on Safari!) but we also let them know of some of the difficult things we would face as well (weird foods, lack of sleep, long and boring travel days, and being around your family 24/7).

They knew we had been considering this trip so it didn’t come as a surprise to them but it seemed like they appreciated the effort and the ability to voice their concerns.

Each of them had a different reaction to the contract. They were mostly OK with things but a few issues stood out:

IMG_2336Parker was concerned about having to shower EVERYDAY. With a little prodding we convinced him, but now you can see why we made sure that was in the contract!

 

IMG_2320Luke was worried about the same thing we are worried about for him. The Food. He wasn’t sure he would be willing to try new foods, which was no surprise to us because he doesn’t do that now at home. It took a little longer for the 4 of us to convince Luke that he needed to be willing to try new foods until he finally gave in and signed.

IMG_3913Tyler, always ready for an adventure had no reservations and signed immediately.

Many months have passed since the contracts were signed and I am writing this post. In that time, a few things have changed in the things they were supposed to do, or expectations we have for them. But the overall experience of going through that process and each of us making a commitment to each other that we would do everything in our power to make it a meaningful and positive year, is still with us.

Our First Post

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Well, here it is, our inaugural blog post to the world! This is a big deal for us, a family of 5 without a Facebook or Instagram account between us, and here I am becoming a blogger! Don’t expect too much, I’m not looking to make this a career, just have it as a way we can keep all our wonderful family and friends aware of our experiences, and also keep it as a chronicle of our adventure around the world. You will probably even see me on Facebook and Instagram soon (gasp!) if you can believe it.

The Name: Dixsons Out (mic drop)

We spent a night brainstorming names as a family with suggestions as boring as “Our Trip Around The World,” to ones as 12-year old boyish as “Backpacks and Bad Gas.” We settled in on “Dixsons Out,” although not unanimously. I found that it encapsulates so much of what this trip is about for our family. It’s about our family making a conscious choice to be:

-OUT of the default lifestyle (House, cars, sports practices, traditional school, everyday stresses, consumerism, etc.)
-OUT of the country
-OUTside
-OUT of the rain
-OUT of our comfort zones
-OUT in the world
-The list goes on and on

While this has been a dream for years, this fall it became a possibility and July 6, 2016 it will be our reality!