Families on the Move – Meet the Family Behind OliverTheWorld.com
Families on the Move
We have been blessed to connect with many amazing families online, all of whom have adapted a travel lifestyle in one form or another. We wanted to take the opportunity to introduce you to them here and highlight the positive aspects travel has had on their families. Welcome our interview series called Families on the Move. Miro & I are honored to a part of this global community we consider our extended family.
Meet the Amazing Family Behind OliverTheWorld.com
We are Ryan (39), Emily (33), Oliver (5) and Kendley (18 months), and we originally hail from San Clemente, California, USA. Ryan, the soft and sensitive member of our family, is a recovering alcoholic who has close to 6 years of sobriety. His recovery, mind-bending multi-tasking capabilities and endless love for all of us, forms our foundation. Emily is the creative genius behind our madness and is the spirit that carries us from place to place. Ollie was the ‘gift’ and is the heart and soul of our family. Despite his somewhat questionable listening skills, his boundless energy drives us forward. Kendley is our collective smile. We remain forever in awe of her tendencies to eat nearly twice her bodyweight in a single sitting, cackle like a drunken sailor and offer new acquaintances her signature warm snuggle.
Where are you now, where have you been and how long have you been traveling?
Currently, we are hunkered down in a friend’s cottage in Northern Umbria, Italy, where we will be for the next couple of weeks (or at least until we wear out our welcome). We began our travels August 1st 2012 with a three-week long exploration of Iceland, and then shifted to Italy in late August. But this is not our first period of extended travel. In 2009, we traveled extensively in Asia and Australia / New Zealand for a year with then two-year old Oliver (Japan, China, Taiwan, Vietnam, Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Nepal, India, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, Australia, New Zealand & Fiji). In early 2011, during Emily’s pregnancy, we drove for nearly three months throughout the southwestern United States, and visited several of our country’s national parks and monuments (Grand Canyon, Death Valley, Bryce Canyon, Zion, Capitol Reef, Arches, Canyonlands, Sequoia, Yosemite, Painted Desert, Grand Staircase).
Why do you travel as a family?
Well, since you asked, while we keep trying to hand our kids off to kind strangers (we almost had a taker for Ollie back in China), they somehow always manage to find their way back to us. In all seriousness, in 2009, our travels started as a sort of ‘extended honeymoon’ that Emily encouraged us to pursue and now it has become our passion and way of life. More on that below.
What are some of the benefits your family has experienced as a result your travels?
Our world was once very, very small. There was a time in both of our lives when we worked more than ninety hours a week and our biggest concern was trying to help already wealthy people make more money by providing them with a timely stock pick. We now look back at that period of our lives and have difficulty imagining exactly how we let our jobs and the pursuit of money and power consume us. Today, our lives are far simpler, but our perspectives are far broader. Through travel and the time we are able to spend together as a family, we have come to realize that much of what society tends to value and celebrate is not what we want to pass on as our legacy as parents. We would rather be together with far less than regress back to the shadows of our former selves. To prepare for our most recent travels, we sold all of our possessions, a process that was frightening at times, but it helped to remind us that ‘things’ could be replaced or learned to live without. Simply put, the greatest benefit we have derived from traveling is that the process has humbled us and delivered us well outside of our comfort zones, which is precisely where we believe happiness and life truly begin.
What inspired you and your family to incorporate travel into your lifestyle?
A little backstory is in order to fully answer this question. Days before I became aware of my first pregnancy, Ryan abruptly quit his career of thirteen years, fled New York City and entered into a recovery program near his childhood home in Southern California. After a period of soul-searching, I decided to bet on the ‘long shot’, or, put another way, my unemployed alcoholic boyfriend who had taken up temporary residence on his sister’s couch. Our first two years together were extremely tumultuous and, by all accounts, we never should have made it.
In 2009, I recalled a conversation that Ryan and I had during a drunken stupor while we were dating, where Ryan had promised that he would travel the world with me someday. The economic crisis in the United States had left us both essentially unemployed, and the two of us were still struggling with the adjustment to a domestic life in Southern California. I believed with all my heart that the time was right to turn everything we had ever known upside down, all over again. Only this time, we had a two-year old passenger along for the ride. While traveling together started more as a dare than anything else, it has become our family’s love story, to each other and for each other.
How do you address education while you are traveling?
We are of the firm belief that if we did nothing but travel full-time with our kids over the next few years, they would fare better than many of their counterparts back at home who are obtaining a formal education. Severe budgets cuts (particularly in California) and our county’s de-prioritization of public education support our beliefs. While we implement some traditional home schooling methods, we primarily world-school both Oliver and Kendley. Not a day goes by that we do not use a trip to a museum, a mosque, a cathedral, or a Franciscan monastery; a hike up a dormant volcano or a voyage on a glacial lagoon; a visit to a primitive Lao village, a crowded Chinese central square, an abandoned medieval cloister; or even a simple outing to the local market or gelateria; as potential learning situations. Ollie, like any five year-old, asks a plethora of questions (i.e. “what the heck happened to (Michelangelo’s) David’s pants??!!”), and in this way, we make every effort to turn our experiences while traveling into opportunities for our kids to learn and grow.
How do you and your family experience being global citizens?
o be quite honest, we do not really consider ourselves global citizens. Our zip code begins and ends with our little unit of four. That said, we have been in emergency rooms in Italy and Nepal; gotten a speeding ticket in Australia; crashed a moped in Vietnam; been robbed in Rome; have almost driven an RV off an icy cliff in New Zealand; been hijacked by a black cab in China and accosted by another cab driver in Thailand; have gotten deathly ill at the Taj Mahal; face-planted and almost fell into the Yangtze River at Tiger Leaping Gorge in China; caught a mean case of giardia while deep in the Outback; and hiked a corner of the Himalayas with a two-year old on our backs. We have celebrated Christmas in Kerala, Diwali in Bangalore, Dia de Los Muertos in Baja, Nyepi in Bali, New Years in Taipei, the Half-Moon Festival in Phnom Penh and Anzac Day in Wellington. Ollie holds the international certificate that goes to those who barf on the side of the road in a minimum of ten different countries (and counting). But most importantly, we maintain a simple moral imperative that, together with our children, we acknowledge and respect everyone’s views, whether or not we agree with them or hold them as our own. With our children, we seek out the common threads that run through different religions, cultures and world-views, in an effort to understand that our place in the world does not owe solely to one nation or a single code of beliefs.
Can you share one of your family’s most memorable experiences?
One of most memorable experience also happens to be one of our most hair-raising. In November 2009 while we were in Nepal, we set out on a multi-day, un-guided hike around the Kathmandu Valley. The very morning we began our trek, I woke up with the early stages of a very common (albeit terrifying) third-world illness: hemorrhagic conjunctivitis. After visiting a clinic near the French Embassy, we decided press on with our plans, as we were under the (erroneous) belief that our first port of call (Nagarkot) could be reached in under three hours by following a foot trail that departed near the great Bodhnath Stupa at the outskirts of the city. Along the way, we encountered four young Nepali sisters who invited the three of us into their home for tea and cookies. As the hour grew later, we said our goodbyes and continued on toward Nagarkot. High on our recent “cultural immersion”, we ignored the angle of the sun in the mountains and corresponding chill in the air.
As the sun began to set, we found ourselves in a more and more remote part of the valley that appeared to be no closer to our destination. Our light soon disappeared, the temperature dropped precipitously and Ryan’s energy began to flag (as a last minute decision, he’d picked up a flu shot at the clinic before we left). At this point, Ryan began offering every soul who passed us on their motorbikes a small fortune to take us to the nearest city. When we finally made it to the nearest small town, we were told the local bus back to downtown Kathmandu was not scheduled to pass through until the following Tuesday (it was Friday evening).
Faced with the prospect of enduring sub-zero temperatures overnight without the appropriate supplies, we begged a young man to take us up the mountain on his moped to the nearest hotel. Perhaps it was because he’d been drinking millet wine for the last several hours that he agreed, although it was immediately apparent that he could only manage one of us on the back of his motorbike at a time. Without a clue as to where our driver would take us or if I would ever see my husband again, I reluctantly climbed aboard with Oliver tied into the child carrier on my back. At this point, it was well below zero outside and Ryan in his autumn jacket was shivering so profusely that I thought he might not make it. I turned my focus to holding onto Ollie as our drunken Nepali careened along a barely visible mountain ridge that could not have been more than five feet wide. The icing on the cake was the constant and not so subtle overtures the young Nepali made the entire journey… “So, you like Nepali man? We go to hotel together. Your husband never know”. Don’t get me wrong, his advances were quite flattering, especially considering the fact that the whites of my eyes had turned blood-red as the capillaries gave way to the conjunctivitis. I entreated him to consider the fate of poor Ryan who was near death more than ten kilometers back along the path. After about an hour, Ryan miraculously appeared at the hotel, and we all quickly retired, eager to put the day behind us.
This was memorable for many reasons, but most of all, today it makes us laugh and serves as a reminder that our lives are more fragile than we sometimes acknowledge. At times, even the seemingly smallest decisions and most casual oversights can have severe ramifications.
Can you share one story from your travel experiences when you and your family had an “aha moment”.
Not a day goes by that we don’t have an ‘aha’ moment. Most of ours fall into the ‘aha, that was really stupid of us’ category, such as when we left a full bag of luggage overnight in our car that was recently broken into. Other ‘aha’ moments stem from the sheer gratitude we have for deciding not listen to everybody else who told us we were crazy to take two little kids around the world. But don’t get us wrong, traveling is not for the faint of heart and there are as many (if not more) tantrums and headaches on the road as there would be at home. For us, though, the worst day traveling is part and parcel with every day we have on the road. It all comes together in one glorious mess that proves that we are living our lives on our terms.
We just got our grateful little mitts on four Permessos di Soggiorno, which are the essentially the Holy Grail for any non-EU citizen who hopes to travel long-term (>90 days) in the Schengan group of European countries. With these in hand, our tentative plans are to continue through northeastern Italy into Austria and Switzerland during the months of December and January. Beyond this, we haven’t the faintest idea. We hope to travel throughout most of Europe, Russia, the Middle East and then over to South America and Central America. We never make plans more than a week or two in advance so most of the time we just try to exist in the moment and enjoy our surroundings, wherever those might be.
Name: Ryan, Emily, Oliver and Kendley Rauch