By Alyce Collins
THIS FAMILY-OF-FOUR packed up their lives to go on the road but faced backlash after taking their children out of school, despite their teachers admitting they’ll learn more from seeing the world for themselves.
Freelance content writer and sales operations manager, Kylie Gibbon (45) and Mike Gibbon (43) from Auckland, New Zealand, spent much of their earlier years together travelling through Europe, South America and Africa, but their corporate jobs were their priority.
When the couple welcomed their children, Sophie (9) and Jack (7), they knew they wanted to one day continue travelling as a family. Unfortunately, Kylie and Mike’s intense jobs required much of their time and by 2015 they felt burned out by their careers.
This led the couple to discuss a change of lifestyle and they decided that there was no reason to put off travelling again. So, in 2016 they quit their jobs and rented out their house before spending the next eight months in Asia and Europe. They visited Malaysia, Vietnam, Thailand and Bali, before heading to the UK, Belgium, France, Croatia and Germany.
Kylie and Mike have travelled to an impressive 57 countries, while their children have already ticked off 35 countries themselves. Kylie and Mike home-school their children while travelling for four hours a day and five days a week, using an online curriculum, but they admit that lessons such as history and art can be taken care of by getting themselves out and witnessing historical sites for themselves.
While travelling, budgeting it an important factor and the family has managed to stick to a budget of roughly £50 a day for all four of them.
Kylie and Mike share their travels on Instagram, @ouroverseasadventures to encourage others to take the leap and travel, showing that there is no right or wrong age to travel and learning in a conventional school setting isn’t the only method of educating.
“Before having kids, Mike and I had travelled extensively through Europe, the Middle East, South America and Africa,” said Kylie.
“It was only natural to us that we would continue to travel once we had kids. We always thought it would be when they were older and in their teens.
“But we were both working full-time in quite intensive jobs for a long time and were burned out by the time the kids were three and five.
“We discussed it and thought it was time for a change, so we quit our jobs, rented out our house and went to Asia and Europe for eight months.
“We spent about six months planning the trip before we left. Researching and deciding where to go, booking flights and accommodation, then packing up our lives and putting things into storage and selling our car.
“Our first port of call was Malaysia, then Vietnam, Thailand, Philippines, Sri Lanka and Bali. We went to the UK, Belgium France, Croatia and Germany after that.
“We always check a destination is deemed safe to travel to on our government’s safe travel website. A big consideration is how budget-friendly a place is, which is why we like Asia so much. Next, we look at the weather to make sure it’s not hurricane season or too hot or cold when we are planning to visit.
“We love places with history as New Zealand is such a comparatively young country and we don’t have monuments that date back hundreds of years, so it’s a thrill to visit them. Also, with the kids, there needs to be things which interest and educate them along the way.
“What many people don’t realise is that you can spend less money living on the road than you do at home. New Zealand is becoming an incredibly expensive place to live, and we’re spending a fraction of what we would spend at home on accommodation, food and transport.
“We live reasonably frugally and self-cater a lot. Although in Asia it’s often cheaper to eat out, and selectively choose what activities we do.
“In Malaysia, we’re averaging spending 50 pounds a day. We feed the family with a delicious healthy dinner at the local Hawker centre for under 10 pounds and it’s less than a pound for a beautiful mango.
“After eight months on the road, we came back to New Zealand for a couple of years, but the travel bug never went away. So, we decided to set out again and we left New Zealand in January 2019.”
Although Sophie and Jack aren’t learning in the conventional setting of school confines, Kylie firmly believes that they are learning just as much through travelling.
Kylie adds that giving her children the chance to explore so much of the world at such a young age is helping them develop into well-rounded, global citizens with more understanding of the world they live in.
“Before we left, we worked a lot and sometimes would only see the kids for an hour a day if we were lucky. Now, we get to spend so much quality time with them,” said Kylie.
“We have the most incredible experiences and we’re building fantastic family memories and hopefully building a close lifelong bond. The kids get to see their parents much less stressed and constantly rushing like we were at home.
“Being together all the time sometimes has its challenges, but if we start getting on one another’s nerves we take some time out.
“Spending time among different cultures is an absolute prejudice killer, because of where they’ve visited, people are just people, and they get to see the world without being clouded by preconceptions or anecdotal viewpoints of different ethnicities and religions.
“We also like to think we’re teaching them to follow their dreams, and that there is more to life than making money and being on the corporate treadmill. We can see them developing into global citizens and they’re like sponges soaking up all the different places we visit.
“On the whole, most people are very positive, but you can tell they think we’re crazy to travel. Many people say it’s something they’d love to do one day, or they wish they’d done it when their kids were younger.
“We’re grateful for how positive and supportive the kids’ school has been too, commenting they will learn so much from these experiences.
“The negative reactions we get are generally around what the kids are perceived to be missing out from being in conventional school, and how will they be able to socialise out of school. To combat this, we meet up with other travelling families and locals.
“We home-school the kids using an online curriculum that has all their lessons and age-appropriate reading, writing, spelling and maths. We supplement this with online apps that they were using at school anyway.
“They also write a journal with what they have seen and done. Science, geography, history and art are taken care of by what we see on our travels.
“Making the decision to travel with your kids and taking the initial leap is the hardest part. There’s no right or wrong age to do it as every age and stage has its own positives and challenges.
“We haven’t regretted it for a second and it’s brought us so much closer together as a family. Also, bad things happen in the world, but don’t let fear stop you from travelling.”