They quit their jobs, sold their house and set off on a trip around the world with their children. Thor and Hanne Marie Braarvig dared to do this and recorded their experiences on their blog.
Many dream of doing it, but two Norwegians made it happen - Thor Braavig and his wife Hanne Marie bought a one way ticket to Bangkok and in 2015 set off with their four children (3, 4, 6 and 9 years old). It became the adventure of a lifetime and a journey to self-discovery.
DW: Some parents already despair during a short train ride from Berlin to Hamburg - so how difficult is it to take small children on a world trip?
Thor Braarvig: If you plan to be traveling for an entire year you definitely have to do a lot of preparation. As a family you travel very differently - with four young children you can't take city tours or climb mountains every day. But that does not make it any less fun.
What did your itinerary look like?
We didn't have one [laughs]. To start off the trip, we stayed in Norway for a couple of weeks and lived in a tepee in the woods. From there, we booked a one way ticket to Bangkok then went on to Ko Samui, Malaysia, Bali, Australia, Tasmania and New Zealand before heading back to Norway.
Wasn't that a bit challenging for the children?
Yes, it was. Especially in Bangkok which was a bit of a culture shock but also because of the heat. But after we'd been traveling in the country for a while we noticed that the children were really enjoying learning a lot about different ways of living and getting to know different regions of the world. It made them more self-aware. And anyway, it wasn't like we were somewhere new every three days.
Talking about learning - how did you organize the children's schooling during your travels?
Before we left we registered the children with a US-based home schooling organization which advised us and supplied education material. And even though our supervisor recognized that the children were picking up a lot on our travels, the older children still had to do things like read German books every evening.
How did you finance this six person world tour?
We had savings of 20,000 Euros ($22,450), which isn't a lot. Usually children under two get to travel for free and after that it's only the big flight operators that offer reduced children's rates. That's why I wanted to do as much work as possible on our travels on my laptop as a freelance translator. But in the end I did less of that than I'd planned because there was just too much to discover on our tour. And then, of course, there was our blog.
How did that come about?
When we knew that we'd be going on this trip, I quickly came up with the idea of a blog, because I like to write. And the blog really took off - at the moment we have some 10,000 followers on Facebook alone.
How do you explain its popularity?
I think people have both a desire for far-away places but also want to belong. And there are lots of people out there who believe that they can't travel with children. We show them that it is possible. And anyway with us it's not so much about the places and countries but more about our internal travels as a family.
What do you mean?
My wife and I grew up in a strict Protestant community in Norway - and there were a lot of rules, insane amounts of control and downright manipulation. Going your own way was frowned upon there. Some of us weren't even allowed to marry the person we wanted to. We moved to Dortmund in our twenties in order to form a new religious community there. But over time, we began to question the sect we found ourselves in, partly also because in Germany being in a different culture we were able to take a look at things from the "outside." So over the course of two years, we distanced ourselves more and more from the community and its rules. So maybe this world tour was our final step in becoming self determining - us entering our own lives. After all, we were not given free will for nothing.
And where did that lead you?
[laughs] Into the jungle in southern Thailand, where we lived in a little bungalow right on the river, with a family of monkeys in the tree opposite us. It was really important to us to live in the spur of the moment, to find tranquility, to get to know the people and their culture away from the usual tourist attractions. En route we lived simply in order to save money. When we visited my sister on her ranch in Tasmania, it confirmed for us that we like living simply - we don't need much more than nature around us and a roof over our heads. Even before we left, we liked the concept of "less is more." But we also learned that having our own apartment is rather important to us. We really felt that at the end of our travels.
You traveled for an entire year and a few weeks ago you arrived back in Norway, your old home. What's next on the agenda? Are you already packing suitcases?
We hadn't seen Norway for 13 years and we didn't know the place where we now live on an organic farm. So in a way it still feels like we are on our travels. Here I also write about how the family is faring and how our quest for the meaning of life in going. And even though we feel very comfortable here, we initially signed the contract for one year. Because when you have been completely free it is difficult to then settle fully in one place. For that there are just too many beautiful places and opportunities in the world out there.