It’s hard to believe an entire year has passed since we shut the door on our home in Chattanooga for the last time. On April 21, 2014 as we drove away from a city we’d grown to love, we had no idea what the coming months would bring. Back then it was difficult to explain our reasons for this crazy around-the-world undertaking. I recently reread one of our posts from the week we first began this journey. Here we were leaving family and friends, pulling our girls away from the life they’d known, selling almost everything we owned and heading off into the world with nothing but some plane tickets and a couple months of housing lined up, and yet all I could really say was that this journey was something we felt we “must” do. Out there something bigger was waiting for us. Something meaningful and life-changing. We just weren’t entirely sure what that something was.
Hindsight is 20/20, as they say. It’s so clear now the impact this experience has had on us as a family and as individuals. Now we know why we felt that “must” back when we started all of this. While it’s still hard to find the words to describe what 12 months on the road as a family has done for us, perhaps these highlights from our year will do the job for us.
April/May – United States
Packing, tagging, labeling chaos. Saying farewell to Chattanooga friends and visiting family throughout the Midwest. Goodbye to our awesome dogs with the gratitude they’ll be in such good and loving hands. Seeing New York City for the first time together and then stepping onto an airplane and flying off for the first stop of this adventure.
May – Norway
Gorgeous, beautiful, and crazy expensive. Adjusting to language, customs, road signs and bus routes. A beer at a restaurant is $24?! Are you kidding me? A little awkwardness in adjusting to the 24-7 togetherness, but so grateful for the opportunity to be on this journey. Lost a phone on a mountain, found the phone on the mountain. Left a wallet on a plane, picked up the wallet 3 days later from a major international airport. Our luck is off to a good start.
May/June – Catalunya
Cousins cousins everywhere in the apartment of our Andorran family! Fun family meals, girl talk with my “sister wife”, and wild Catalan festivals ablaze with fire. Beginning to find a little of the balance we were searching for, getting more self-awareness and more fun with life. Olivia turned 8! Appreciating this time with family and preparing to venture off on our own.
July – France, Italy, Croatia
A wallet thief in Nimes, France causes a shaky start. No matter, though. Still loved our road trip through Northern Italy. Cinque Terra, you’re too pretty for your own good. Verona, you’re beautiful but a little uptight. Venice, you’re a bold lady who tells it like it is. On to Croatia, land of the unexpected. Vineyards in our backyard, pebbles on the beach. Everyone speaks English and amazing ice cream cones are $1!? Roman cities and fascinating tales of local history. And of course, the one-of-a-kind Dubrovnik. Croatia even brought a visit from Chattanooga friends!
August – Germany, Austria
Awesome road trip to Bavaria for some time with our friends in Berghausen. Slid down the salt mines, toured through Medieval castles, glided through mountain lakes so beautiful they looked like they’d been faked in Photoshop. On to Austria for some time in Salzberg and the amazing Alps. Watched the “super” moon crest over the mountaintops as we felt an incredible magnitude of gratitude for everything this journey had brought to us.
August/September – Czech Republic
Lovely, historical, metropolis of Prague. A friend showed us the city and the ropes. Mastered the metro and learned history at every corner. A church of bones in Sedlec, a house of beer in Plzen, a Bohemian castle in Karlštejn. More friends from Chattanooga came to join our journey! Frequent rain equals too much time in the apartment. Sister bickering leads to frazzled parent nerves. For Pete’s sake, you kids are driving us nuts! Addressed the conflict, saw the other perspectives, and learned a little more about each other.
September/October – Ireland
Epic road trip through Germany, Belgium, and England leads to greener pastures…and green trees and green moss and green stuff everywhere. Rainbows in the sky and friendly people in the stores. Kids running around with new friends making forts and playing games. When the rain comes down, the fire gets stoked. When the sun comes out, so does Brian’s camera. Winding narrow roads mean so long, side mirror! Our friends in Cork County made Ireland very hard to leave.
October – France, Andorra
Over the rough waters of the Irish Sea all the way to the streets of Paris. A whirlwind tour takes us up the Eiffel, around Notre Dame, through the Louvre and along the Seine. Then it’s through the Pyrenees and back to our Andorran family to celebrate Halloween, reconnect and regroup. Europe has been amazing, but it’s time to leave the first world.
November – Ethiopia
Addis Ababa assaults the senses and warms the heart. Beauty and progress rise up among deterioration. Many hands work to chip away at the massive problems the country faces. The dichotomy opens eyes wide. What did we used to complain about again? Why did we think those things were important? Is there really anything in our lives we shouldn’t be tremendously grateful for? The girls see a new world, one where they can make a difference at any age.
November/December – South Africa
Paved roads, clean buildings, shopping malls and beautiful parks. But also razor wire, security systems, crime and fear. The animals were beautiful, the safari a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Zebras and water buffulo strolled in the yard. Mama, look how much stuff comes out of an ostrich egg! Elephants and lions walked just a couple dozen feet away as we toured the Kruger and sat in awe of nature. Then, uh oh…Brian’s camera stops working.
December – Thailand
Big, bustling Bangkok. Concrete jungle and shopping malls sat among the ornate and peaceful temples. A distant cousin became our tour guide and showed us the city. Then south to the beaches of Koh Samui for Emily’s 11th birthday and the holiday season. Monkeys riding on coconut trucks. Five people to a motorbike. The roads of Thailand were never dull. A focus on animal welfare became the theme – cats, dogs, elephants. They all needed love from the Carisch girls.
January – Cambodia
Once again eyes were opened wide. Poverty and happiness abounded in this country scarred by the crimes of the Khmer Rouge. Toured temples, battled mosquitoes, shopped at fruit markets, volunteered in schools, rode in tuk-tuks, practiced yoga in the garden. Fish pedicure? Are you crazy? Wait, I think I kind of like it. Daily coconut breaks at Brian’s co-working office. Another birthday, this time for Ali. Three closer-than-ever sisters went on a birthday treasure hunt around a Cambodian garden.
February – Thailand again
Elephants, elephants and more elephants. Two different elephant programs showed us two different philosophies. Toured the markets of Chiang Mai, found waterfalls in the jungles, talked with a monk and became a regular at my favorite fruit stall. Man, do we miss those mangos and coconuts.
February/March – Fiji
Old friends in a new place as the Summerlins opened their home to us. Short weekend trips to beach resorts. Time in a rural Fijian village, thanks to new Kiwi friends. Scuba diving both with and without sharks. Swinging on ropes into rain forest pools. Cassava fries, taro root leaves, kokoda and Diana’s amazing shrimp cocktail. Volunteering showed the poverty and problems of this developing country, as well as its progress. Oh, and Ali learns to swim!
March/April – New Zealand
Returning to the first world is a shock to the system. Electricity is always on. Roads have lines. Mom, can we really drink the water here? Gratitude gets poignantly underscored. Then comes the beauty, beauty and more beauty. It’s a month on the move. Four days here. Two days there. A different travel approach than the other countries, but there’s just too much to see. How could we possibly pick one place? Despite the constant movement, life is good. When did it get so easy to travel with these kids?
While we’ve had some small bumps and hurdles along the way, this around-the-world trip has been easier and more life-changing than we thought it would be. The places we’ve visited and the people we’ve met have contributed to the little changes in us. And those little changes add up. We aren’t even done with this journey yet, but we already know life will look different when we make our way back.
Countries visited: 19
- U.S. Dollar
- Norwegian Kroner
- Croatian Kuna
- Czech Koruna
- British Pound
- Ethiopian Birr
- South African Rand
- Thailand Baht
- Cambodia Riel
- Fijian Dollar
- Australian Dollar
- New Zealand Dollar
Distance flown: 46,360 km / 28,806 miles
- 6,122 km to Oslo, Norway
- 1,949 km to Barcelona, Spain
- 4,854 km to Doha, Qatar
- 2,253 km to Addis Abba, Ethiopia
- 4,079 km to Johannesburg, South Africa
- 6,399 km to Dubai
- 4,892 km to Bangkok, Thailand
- 527 km to Surat Thani, Thailand
- 364 km to Siem Reap, Cambodia
- 795 km to Chaing Mai, Thailand
- 8,039 km to Sydney, Australia
- 3,219 km to Nada, Fiji
- 2,868 km to Christchurch
Photos taken by Brian: 48,814