By DEVIN WEEKS
Spending more than a year in nine different countries gave Becca McLachlan a changed perspective on the world.
"I think I'll always remember Asia and just being in that culture," she said. "It had a very different culture in work and food experiences that normal, regular people who haven't gone outside of the states or outside of their homes haven't experienced, and it's very incredible to think about."
She described what swirled in her mind as she and her family explored the open-air markets.
"It's crazy to me that women do a lot of the work, and late into the night," the 11-year-old Lakes Magnet Middle School sixth-grader said. "We would see a lot of women working in their stalls, making food and selling toys and entertainment, but it's crazy to think these women have children with them, little children, 2 or 3, just sitting with them and it's 10 o'clock at night.
"I definitely do feel empathy for them," Becca said. "I think that health and sleep are very important, especially at a young age. But it's routine, they did it every week."
Helping their children discover a newfound appreciation for life, an understanding of the world and a deeper empathetic heart were a few of the goals Becca's parents, Evan and Nicola, had in mind when they mapped out their 372-day adventure abroad.
They left Coeur d'Alene in August 2016 with Becca, then 9, and son Jamey, then 11, to give their kids something textbooks and websites cannot provide — true, real-world experiences.
"Evan and I knew very early on when we became parents that we wanted to take our children traveling," Nicola said. "We both love to travel, and in living and traveling around the world, we were able to show them that the world is a really safe place and that children are children no matter where you are in the world. We also felt it in our hearts that they would learn more in one year seeing the world than they would sitting in a classroom."
Evan, a financial adviser, and Nicola, a pediatric nurse practitioner, spent three years planning and saving for this adventure. The family went to Hong Kong/China, Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, New Zealand, Turkey, Italy, France and Canada.
And they did it for $42,000, at an average of only about $113 a day for flights, accommodations, food, transportation and everything else.
"No silly deals or extreme frugality," Evan said. "Just using the internet resourcefully … staying in one place longer meant discounts on person-to-person. i.e. Airbnb accommodations, getting to know the area and locals, which in turn meant learning how to find fun things to do cheaply or free. We also traveled very lightly, just a moderate pack each."
Evan and Nicola had a bit of global experience going into the parenting life. Evan grew up in New Zealand and has family in Thailand, Nicola was raised in Canada and they both worked overseas in Albania and Uganda with a nongovernmental organization that specialized in emergency nutrition and therapeutic feeding programs for the malnourished.
"It is experiences like that, that open your eyes up to the beauty of humanity," Nicola said.
"We hoped to share our love of humankind with them on this trip."
They hoped to strengthen their family bond as well, to share vulnerable moments and persevere through difficult times.
"We only had each other for many, many days of our journey. I feel that I really got to know and understand who my children are on this trip," Nicola said. "There are memorable moments, for sure. I remember crying on a balcony of a little hotel we stayed at in Dalat, Vietnam, two months into our trip, wondering how we would ever manage to travel together for 10 more months.
"This would have come after a difficult day of trying to homeschool, while trying to patiently understand how my kids struggled with the enormous culture shock of being in Southeast Asia," she continued. "Of course, there were plenty of times throughout the year that I wondered how we would manage, but those aren't the things any of us talk about when we talk about our trip."
Along with homeschooling for the first time, Evan and Nicola practiced different languages with the kids using the Duolingo phone application.
"I picked up Thai quite well, but I knew the basics enough to get my way around easily," Becca said. "It was still very difficult because I only knew some numbers and a greeting and simple questions like, 'Can I have some water?' and 'How much does that cost?'"
But uncomfortable situations like language barriers and crowded public spaces did not phase the McLachlan clan. Nicola said she witnessed her kids mature on this trip.
"While they may still be too young too really grasp the adventure and the life lessons that they learned, they have been able to make connections between the trip we took and things they have learned in school since coming back," she said. "I remember Jamey telling me about watching a video in social studies about a silk worm farm last year while in seventh grade, and he remembers it being the same one we visited in Cambodia. Becca wrote a speech for MLK Day and wished in her speech that all kids would have the right to an education, remembering kids who had to spend all day selling goods in the markets with their families.
"As they get older, I hope that the trip and all the experiences we had, stays with them."
"I think the kids became more confident," Evan said. "Getting lost and navigating unknown places, communicating with others even if you weren't speaking the same language, trying foods you couldn't identify, and trusting in strangers to help when in need.
"As a family, we learned to live together more intimately, although it was hard at times, too," he said. "But we grew to know each other through an important time in their childhood. They learned to be resilient and adapt. We found ourselves in places that weren't always comfortable — too hot, too crowded, hungry. And patience … Things don't always happen when you want them to."
Evan recently released a book, "How to See the World: A Budget Friendly Guide for Families," to help other families realize a trip like this isn't impossible. The McLachlans rented out their house (which they own) for extra income, Evan worked from the road and they found other ways to cut costs and save funds to have this adventure of a lifetime.
Evan will read excerpts of the book at 2 p.m. Saturday in the Art Spirit Gallery, 415 E. Sherman Ave., Coeur d'Alene. It is free and open to the public.
"The reason it's open is in hopes to inspire other families that might be thinking about potentially doing it but might not know how to get started," he said. "We've read lots of other people's stories and read how much they spent on their trips.
"$42,000 is a lot of money, I get that, but we would have spent that if we'd been living in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho," he said. "We feel that travel is such an important aspect in opening people's minds and having more empathy toward other people in other cultures."