Off The Beaten Path Interviews

An inside look at Earth’s explorers

In May 2012, they rented their Australian house, packed 3 bags and took their 2 & 3 year old children off to Bali …and they’ve been traveling ever since. In the nearly 500 days, their journey has taken them from the jungles of Bali to the beaches of Thailand, through the cities of Malaysia to the roads of the US. They’ve played in the cenotes of Mexico, discovered the ruins of Guatemala and walked the sacred grounds of Israel. And, best of all, they are still going!

Meet the Benders

Travel with Bender - family by the sea

Bender family by the sea

Where are you guys currently and where are you off to next?

We currently left Israel and are now in Turkey. We have 17 days here before we fly to Rome, Italy. I’m very excited about the next stage of our journey because it will be with my parents, who are flying from Australia to meet us. We haven’t seen them since we left, over 500 days ago.

How do you pick your travel destinations: planning and research or just drop a finger on the map?

We often choose locations based on personal recommendations. We had no plans to come to Turkey until someone told us about it and we thought ‘we have to go there’. After our interest is piqued then the research starts.

You’ve traveled extensively in Asia. What do you love about it? Do you have a favorite place you’d recommend?

Asia is our backyard. It’s the quickest place to get to from Perth, Australia. Quicker than flying to the other side of Australia so we visited frequently. Asia is wonderful for a variety of reasons, some parts can be technologically advanced, and other parts feel like a third world country. It’s very affordable in most places and has a rich culture. Thailand would be one of our favorite countries as it has everything – beaches, jungle, some of the world’s best food and some of the best experiences we’ve had have been within it’s borders.

Travel with Bender - Erin at a Mosque

Erin visiting a Mosque

Recently, it seems you’ve been traveling in the Middle East. What inspired you to travel there and what unexpected things have you discovered? Best thing so far?

We flew to Israel as my husband’s parents live there. We had been traveling the world for so long they were wondering when it was their turn. I wasn’t keen on taking the kids to that part of the world, but we wanted them to see their grandparents (first time in more then 2 years, which is a long time in a kids life).

The most unexpected surprise is how life just goes on in Israel. People don’t live in fear that the rest of the world perceives Israel to live in. People go to the beach, they go to weddings, and they visit cafes.

Israel was an absolute delight, if not a hot one. The country is so small, but has so much history and ancient discoveries. We were delighted by how much there was to see and do in Israel and highly recommend a visit to at least Jerusalem for some powerful life-changing moments.

You guys have a beautiful story, teenage sweethearts living out your lives as global nomads with your sweet family; are there moments that arent picture perfect? What’s the hardest part of traveling with the family?

Of course. my husband and I fight more, I mean we are with each other 24×7 and although we have a 15 year relationship under our belts that can become hard work. But it’s something we choose to do and choose to work on. Love isn’t just an emotion, it takes work sometimes.

Travel with Bender - kids will be kids

Kids will be kids… probably more-so when on the road!

The hardest part of traveling with family would boil down to having young kids. For example: nap times – the kids don’t go all day so often we have to return to our hotel/apartment when we want to just go, go , go or we may be getting off a plane with all our luggage and my son decides to fall asleep on landing so we now we are carrying him too. Airport and transit days are some of the hardest part about travel.

Children require both stimulation and a sense of security. While travel provides near constant learning and excitement, how do you provide security and a sense of community for the little ones?

You are right, we constantly struggle with providing a secure and safe environment for our kids. We try and establish this with much slower travel then your average nomadic couple. We try to spend anywhere between 3 – 6 weeks in one destination and if possible we will let the kids attend a local preschool a few days a week to learn the language, gain friends and just play. For example in Guatemala their teachers spoke no English, so they had straight Spanish emersion, however some of the fellow students were American so they had the ability to play and talk to kids their own age as well.

We also find community from other family travellers and tend to meet them all over the world – Bali, Malaysia, Thailand, Puerto Rico, Guatemala, etc. We are also Christians so community is never too far way if we can find a local church to attend while in the country.

I noticed you guys have a series in which your readers asked you questions about how to achieve the travel dream and different members of the family answered.  What inspired this? How does it support your family’s travel philosophy?

I was answering some readers’ questions one day and realized I had answered it a zillion times before so decided to write a list of our biggest questions and answer them all. Then I asked my husband to do it and then I thought it would be fun if I asked my kids too.

Travel with Bender - family travel

Family travel is certainly possible… and very rewarding!

After I finished I thought I bet people would benefit from hearing others read this information as well. So I contacted a bunch of other travel bloggers I knew and asked them if they would like to answer. Well we have so many articles now to put together, I’m really excited to be unveiling one every week so others can be inspired and perhaps put into motion a dream they thought may be impossible.

More about the Benders:

It’s an open-ended, unplanned, round-the-world trip discovering amazing places for toddlers that you can share by visiting our family travel blog Travel with Bender, following us on Facebook, catch us tweeting on Twitter or follow our real time photos on Instagram. We look forward to bumping into you around the world.