Many people dream of taking their kids on a yearlong, world tour.
Few actually do.
But the Wozny family made it happen.
I’ve been following their fascinating trek via Facebook, where they frequently posted a “Where in the world are the Woznys?” photo in front of some strange and exotic backdrop.
Fresh off jet lag, Becky Wozny, wife and mother of this world-traveling family, was kind enough to let me pepper her with questions about their adventures around the world.
Becky describes her family of four as homebodies who like to travel. She and her husband, Jay, worked together in the Peace Corps in Senegal years ago, so taking their two children across the world was a longtime goal.
“It’s a bit of a dream,” Becky said. “Eight-year-old Jay used to sit in his grandfather’s home with the National Geographic on his lap and daydream about walking around the world.”
For roughly five years, they’ve kept their eye on this goal, eschewing things like skiing (they live in Boulder, Colorado, at the foot of the Rocky Mountains), eating out and all those appealing knickknacks at Target that can easily fill your shopping cart.
“Those little things make a difference,” Becky said. “People would ask us how we could afford it. That’s how.”
They are a family that embraces the idea of living below their means. In the months leading up to the trip, Jay, who is a flight nurse, worked lots of overtime. They sold a car, rented their house and off they went.
Each family member carried a single pack with just two or three outfits. The kids, West, 10, and Willow, 12, carried their own packs for the entire adventure.
They began their trip by returning to a familiar place: Senegal.
“In my mind, my vision was to fly in this beautiful, consistent line all the way around the latitude of the world,” Becky said. They had a rough itinerary that included four months in Europe and Africa, four months in Asia, and four months in South America. Things didn’t go quite as planned. They never made it to South America, but they explored plenty of other memorable places.
Twenty-four countries, to be exact. Because of their tight budget, which they kept to about $120 per day, they avoided pricey Western Europe, opting instead for places like Morocco, Croatia, Poland, India, Thailand and China. They visited the Taj Mahal, walked the Great Wall of China and trekked through the desert of Morocco. At the kids’ request, they also visited London, Tokyo and Hawaii as their “splurges.”
Becky said her family was already tight-knit before the trip, but the yearlong trip gave them what they hoped for, “an attempt to slow down time and for it just to be us. We wanted to eliminate some of the external distractions.”
They knew that what they were signing on for was a lot of time together.
“But it was part of the experience: to sleep on the hard, tea-house beds in the Himalayas of Nepal or cram into a double bed in Mumbai,” Becky said. They met up with friends in several countries, befriended the locals and even joined up with a family from Salt Lake City who was doing a similar worldwide tour.
Despite this, after a few months, 10-year-old West really started missing his friends and dog. With the help of the website Trusted House Sitters, the family was able to stay on a farm in England, where they could take care of dogs, horses and chickens. This helped to alleviate some of the homesickness. They also volunteered in dog rescue centers and adopted a dog in Thailand that will be joining their family soon.
One of the Wozny family's most memorable experiences happened in Morocco. In the middle of the desert, their rental car key broke in half at a gas station. Their ability to communicate with the attendant was minimal.
Then, up came a little old man in his car. He took control of the situation, driving Jay around for the next eight hours to get the key fixed, find a mechanic and sort out the very best deal on a key maker. In exchange, the Woznys filled his car with gas, despite his protests.
“It’s our general opinion and belief that the world is full of good people who are helpful and kind and generous,” Becky said. “There are people out there that go above and beyond.”
All told, they were able to do a year of travel for just a little more than $50,000.
Their kids got sick of hearing it, but Jay and Becky wanted West and Willow to know that even though they did the travel on a tight budget, their experience was still an incredible privilege.
“We’re not the Bucket List Family. We’re the Budget List Family,” Becky joked. “But we wanted (our kids) to see that with people around the world, there are a lot of ways to live their life. Most of the people we came across are living good lives. But they’re different. That became a big part of our discussions.”
What surprised them the most was how fast the year went and how eager their kids are to do it again.
“When we set out, we thought, 'That is so much time,'” Becky said. “We said we would go everywhere. But we quickly discovered you can’t see everywhere. A year is quite a short amount of time. “