Vagabonding case study: Tracey Mansted

Tracey Mansted unnamed

Age: Tracey – 50
Mike (husband – 47)
Imogen (10)
Indira (9)

Hometown: Rainforest near Byron Bay, NSW Australia

Quote: Albert Einstein said “If at first an idea does not sound absurd, there is no hope for it”  – which I think equally applies to thinking and learning about new things as well as to taking huge leaps of faith like traveling long term with your kids. As a family we like the idea of “feel the fear and do it anyway”.

How did you find out about Vagabonding, and how did you find it useful before and during the trip?

In the planning part of our trip, I scoured the internet, continually reading and absorbing, and writing a loose travel plan. Funnily enough, one year in, we don’t do much internet research other than day to day information such as addresses and opening times. Vagabond was one of those sources in the early days.

How long were you on the road?

Still going! It has been 14 months so far and we had a family vote about 10 months in to extend our original 13 month trip into a 26 month trip. So much to see and do and so many people still to meet…

Where did you go? 

Our motivation for travel is to put together a broad classical education for our kids and this has guided our destinations. We have been home educating our daughters for the last five years and one day had a discussion about Ancient Greece and what life would have been like then, the climate, the architecture…and suddenly Mike and I decided we needed to go rather than rely on a textbook or someone else’s photographs. The travel plan began.

We have travelled through England, Turkey, Greece, Italy, Switzerland, France, Iceland, Canada, United States, Scotland, the Netherlands, Germany, Denmark, Sweden and briefly through Norway. Next countries on this leg are Belgium and Luxembourg. We plan to travel through Spain, have more time in France, and hopefully get to Wales and also the Channel Islands before heading home.

What was your job or source of travel funding for this journey?

Investments – with the addition of renting out our home. I think most home school families are used to living cheaply – and slow travel lets us achieve this.

Did you work or volunteer on the road?

Not for other people…but we work as a team on our girls’ education. That is a fun full time job!

Of all the places you visited, which was your favourite?

That is an impossible question to answer. Each country, indeed each pocket of a country has a different feel and there are things to learn about everywhere you go. Once we run out of interesting things we just move along. Having said that, Turkey was amazing because it has a culture that is the most different to our Australian culture, combined with outstanding natural beauty and an overwhelming amount of accessible history from Neolithic sites right through to Gallipolli (and everything in between and since).

Was there a place that was your least favorite, or most disappointing, or most challenging?

I am surprised to say the USA. It was the best and worst for us. We met up with some lovely families who will be life long friends – generous, open, inviting us into their circles. But we also met up with some other people who ended up being violent and actually quite scary. These were all connections made before we arrived in the US.

The environmental damage and the poverty we saw on our three months road trip was also shocking. And the flip side – incredible places like the Okefenokee Swamp in Georgia and NASA and the Amish people we met. Wow – those last three were life changing for us.

Which travel gear proved most useful?  Least useful?

Most useful:

  • anything Icebreaker (New Zealand merino wool clothing) which is only now breaking down after 14 months of continual wear right through hot Turkish summers and freezing Canadian winters! Yes – the same gear. Macpac merino clothing has also been excellent.
  • Shell jackets (Kathmandu, Macpac and Vaude brands) which are perfect for in between weather
  • Crumpler daypacks for both girls and I as they have full features like waist straps and are easily lockable
  • iPads and MacBook Air – couldn’t world school without them and their book, science and math apps
  • BorrowBox which is an Australian library book borrowing app which has allowed us to borrow and listen to audio books as we travel and read ebooks as well
  • a kitchen kit I made up of melamine plates, microwavable bowl with lid, salt, tea, sugar, electric wand mixer, foldable cups etc that allowed us to cook everywhere we went as none of us can eat gluten so needed to be prepared. We even had an electric skillet through the US. Worth its weight in gold!
  • our Caravan! After nine months of travelling lightly and cheap hotels, apartments and everything in between we bought a caravan in England. We set up base, have most of our meals home cooked and enjoy our own beds
  • a budget app that has single-handedly kept us on the road for another year – Trail Wallet

Least useful:

  • a lovely little hiking water filter that didn’t remove the chlorine taste we so dislike. Sent it home. In the caravan we have a cheap Brita filter jug that cost a fifth of the price and does the job (but would not useful for light travel)

What are the rewards of the vagabonding lifestyle?

Being with family and sharing adventures while our girls are young enough to come along but old enough to remember forever. Taking our time doing the things we love – whether that is hanging out at the Large Hadron particle accelerator in Geneva or scrambling up and down mountains or drawing mosques or racing down black runs in Michigan with your kids that saw snow for the first time 3 months before. Taking time means all the connections between experiences can be made and this really adds to a full education for all of us.

What are the challenges and sacrifices of the vagabonding lifestyle?

Lack of personal space. Wearing thongs (flip-flops) in every shower. Dealing with the madness of poor wifi (see, I am really scrambling to find negatives here…)

What lessons did you learn on the road?

That international Scouting really does exist – Mike and the girls have been invited into Cub Scout packs in eight countries. Resilience. Relaxing – all the things I anticipated and feared haven’t happened – after a while I just stopped worrying. Being able to sleep anywhere. Letting go of the fear of “missing out” because you physically cannot see everything, learn everything, or even like everything. Giving our kids emotional space and lots of time out – traveling is hard (but fun) work. Carry some cash – especially in Germany!

How did your personal definition of “vagabonding” develop over the course of the trip?

The first month or so of our trip was tightly organized, and as time goes on we have become more lax with pre-planning. These days we have rest days in order to have a chance to actually get bored and to get back into the creative mindset we all need. Slow travel is wonderful – you need to create space in your life for interesting things to happen. For us that was impossible jumping on and off planes.

If there was one thing you could have told yourself before the trip, what would it be?

It’s all good. Keep a budget.

Any advice or tips for someone hoping to embark on a similar adventure?

It’s all good. Keep a budget.

When and where do you think you’ll take your next long-term journey?

Still going on this one! Mike and I have already started talking about another long term jaunt once the girls have left home…


Read more about the Mansted family on their blog, Hungry Heads , or follow them on Facebook and Twitter.

Website: Hungry Heads Twitter: @hungry_heads

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Posted by | Comments Off on Vagabonding case study: Tracey Mansted  | April 17, 2015
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