October 23, 2018 7:00 am
Updated: November 29, 2018 1:59 pm

Want to take a family gap year? Here’s how 2 Canadian families are making it work

WATCH: Imagine selling your home and most of your belongings and embarking on a globetrotting getaway with your kids. The idea seems to be a reality for more and more Canadians. Kim Smith reports.

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Imagine selling your home and most of your belongings and embarking on a globetrotting getaway with your kids. The idea seems to be a reality for more and more Canadians.

Jennifer Sutherland, from Wolf Island, Ont., spent about 10 years raising four kids while travelling the world. She now works with the Gap Year Association and said travelling the world with kids seems to have grown in popularity.

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READ MORE: Northern Alberta family sells home, belongings to ‘give’r’ on year-long globetrotting getaway

“Ten years ago, the family travel groups had 10 to 30 families in them. Now, the biggest world school group has over 30,000 people in it around the world,” Sutherland said via Skype from Mexico. She was in San Miguel de Allende for the Family Adventure Summit.

“There does seem to be more and more families taking advantage of this learning journey.”

Sutherland said one of the reasons why travelling for extended periods of time has increased in popularity is because more people are able to work while travelling.

“There are a lot of flex job opportunities, even within traditional companies now, that will allow people to work remotely for a period of time,” she said.

The Eliuk family

David and Stephanie Eliuk arrived in Bali in early October with their three kids, aged seven, five and two. They’re spending six months travelling to Vietnam, Thailand, India, Dubai, Lebanon, Morocco, Spain, France, England and Iceland.

“We’ve been trying to teach them as much about the culture as we go along,” Stephanie said via Facebook video.

“I think right now they’re adjusting to absorbing so much information.”

“I don’t even know if it’s sunk in with them yet that we’re gone for another five and a half months. I think maybe when we hit that month mark and instead of going home we’re going to another country, that’s where we might see a difficult transition,” she added.

READ MORE: Couple globetrotting for 17 years heading home with 4 kids as souvenirs

David was able to take a six-month leave from work. To help pay for the trip, the Eliuks rented out their fully furnished Edmonton home. They’re also dipping into their savings and will use their line of credit, if needed.

“We usually roll all of the money that we get from the government, like child tax benefits, into the kids’ RESP for education. But we’ve decided to use some of that money as float for the travel as well because we consider this to be part of their education,” said Stephanie.

The Eliuks’ eldest child is in Grade 3 and is currently enrolled as a student with Edmonton Public Schools. The teacher helped supply materials and access to online resources and curriculum so their daughter won’t fall behind.

“The teachers and principal all stood behind us and said they’ll probably learn more just being there,” Stephanie said.

“They’re learning so much more than they would in a classroom.”

David and Stephanie have spent most of their evenings over the past 10 months planning the trip. They have many of their flights and accommodations booked.

“A lot of it was through Airbnb,” David said. “You can usually stay for a family of five for $60 or $70 a night. It adds up over time, but it’s definitely cheaper than what most North Americans are used to paying for a hotel.”

The Turnquist family

Geoff and Patty Turnquist, along with their two kids, aged nine and seven, are from the small northern Alberta town of Falher. They are leaving in early November for a trip around the world.

READ MORE: B.C. family sells Surrey home to travel the world for a year

“I think they’re a tiny bit apprehensive just because of the wonderment of it all. I think they don’t understand exactly what’s going on,” Geoff said from Falher via Facebook video.

Patty is taking a leave of absence from her position at ATB Financial. Geoff resigned from his post on the Falher town council but plans to continue working in the insurance sector while on the road.

They’ve sold their home and most of their belongings.

“The reason we are selling our home and our belongings is because we don’t expect to return to the exact same spot we’re leaving from,” Geoff said.

“If we run into financial problems, we’ll come home.”

The Turnquists said they’re only booking flights and accommodations about one month in advance, in case they decide they want to stay longer in one location. Their first stop will be China, followed by dozens of other countries in Asia, Europe and North Africa.

A photo of the Turnquists on a holiday on Vancouver Island.

Supplied by the Turnquist family

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