When Rob Krause and Daria Salamon decided to put their 9-5 lives on hold, pull the kids out of school and go backpacking around the world for a year, they had some apprehensions.
But beyond the regular traveller trepidations—getting bit by a poisonous snake or catching malaria, for example—there were more fundamental concerns going through their minds.
Concerns such as “Is our marriage as strong as we think it is?” And “Do our kids love us as much as we think they do?”
And, more to the point: “Can we actually do this?”
Yes they can. Or, at least, yes they did. To prove it, they’ve documented the experience in a new book.
Don’t Try This at Home is the Winnipeg couple’s recently-released memoir of their ambitious year abroad. The book chronicles their sensational misadventures while offering an honest reflection on parenting, marriage, and living on a tight budget. Krause, a music industry consultant and Salamon, a creative writing teacher, take readers through some of the world’s most stunning vistas while meeting the challenges of foreign customs, broken-down buses, stomach bugs, personal loss, and their often less-than-enthusiastic children.
But as demanding as that might sound, Krause says the book is not necessarily a how-to.
“It’s more like the nuts and bolts of everything that went wrong and this is how you shouldn’t travel,” Krause said.
Like the book itself, Krause is self-deprecating. Because besides finding their family in some of the most iconic cultural landscapes and incredible ecosystems on the planet (Machu Picchu and the Galapagos Islands, for example), the Krause-Salamon family found something even more significant: a closer relationship with each other.
“We developed a family bond that I think is a direct result of the trip,” Krause said.
More specifically, it developed as a result of them working together, every day. Whether it was hailing a cab in downtown Lima or taking turns getting sick in the bathroom during a 52-hour bus ride, they had to cooperate as a team.
“I think that mentality, ‘we’re all in this together’ has really stayed with them,” Krause said.
Other things have stayed with them, too. Like the kids’ self-esteem.
“They’re confident,” Krause said. “They’re more likely to say ‘I think I can do that.’”
Turns out, successfully hang gliding from the side of a cliff in Peru will give a person’s belief in themselves a boost. Only their daughter, Isla Blue, took that leap, however; she used the money she got for her sixth birthday to pay for it.
“I didn’t need to do that,” laughed Krause, whose pragmatism had to take an unbuckled backseat in most of the 15 countries they visited.
Not just seatbelts were cast aside when they left cautious Canada for the care-free tropics. The family experienced a perspective shift after being on the backpacker trail for an extended period of time.
“You lose your first-world, organic safety, or just general staying-alive standards and allow yourself to be immersed in the experiences themselves,” Salamon writes.
Not that they didn’t need time to wrap their heads around that mindset. Letting go of social norms from back home was a process. But soon enough, they were noticing that despite not being in school, the kids were reading more and picking up foreign languages. That despite not being enrolled in extra curricular activities, the family was never bored. That despite the challenges of keeping everyone together on an ever-changing path, there was always a bright side.
“Life on the road is still cleaning someone’s underwear in a sink but the places I’m doing it are Machu Picchu, the New Zealand Alps and Bali,” Krause said.
And now they’re coming to Jasper. On July 10, Salamon and Krause will present to guests interested in learning about extended travel with (or without) children.
But don’t count on a detailed template that curious backpackers will be able to follow. More just proof that it can be done.
“If a bunch of buffoons like us can pull it off, anybody can,” Krause said.
Krause and Salamon will bring their talk to the Jasper Municipal Library on July 10 at 6 p.m.
Bob Covey // firstname.lastname@example.org