SHAD FELLOW SPENDS A YEAR TRAVELLING AROUND THE GLOBE WITH HIS FAMILY
Special Guest Blogger: SHAD '84, Vern Bolinius
As a kid growing up in Toronto, many adventures started with a simple remark from my parents: “Let’s go on a family trip.” I’d go on tiptoes to get our trusty World Atlas from the bookshelf and soon there was talk of planes, trains and automobiles -- another travel plan was in the works.
Fast forward to age seventeen. In 1984, I had the good fortune of spending a month at a then-fledgling initiative at the University of Waterloo. Shad Valley (now ‘SHAD’) was a program aimed at fostering creativity in Canadian youth and was a spectacular experience. Over the last thirty years, SHAD alumni have credited the program with everything from bolstering teenage confidence to launching highly successful careers. I came away from SHAD with lifelong friends and with two ideals: the burning desire to never stop learning and the entrenched belief that almost nothing is impossible.
Now it’s 2016 and the travel bug planted in my youth has solidly taken root, fed in part by those two early SHAD ideals.
I have been happily married for twenty-one years, and my wife Carolyn shares my love for travel. Long before we had children, we decided that when the kid(s) were in the 10-to-12-year-old range, we would take a year and roam the world. Finance and logistics would be challenging… but not impossible. In June 2015, we pulled the trigger. We left work, sold the house and everything in it, and hit the road as globetrotters.
We are seven months into our trip, and I am writing this from Madagascar. Our time abroad has been a voyage of discovery. From snorkeling with sea turtles in the Galápagos Islands, to hiking the Inca Trail in Peru, to getting up close and personal with icebergs in Antarctica and wildlife in Africa, our journey continues to be a series of exhilarating adventures, no less magical or educational for my wife and I than for our 12-yr old son.
Sure, the trip has had a few downs. At New Year’s, on Copacabana Beach in Rio de Janeiro, my cell phone was stolen – literally ripped out of my hands by a gang of five men while I was taking a picture of the festivities. We’ve had delays, been bogged down by sweltering heat, succumbed to motion sickness. But the negatives don’t come close to outweighing the wonder we’ve experienced.
We’ve often heard “Wow, I wish I could do what you’re doing.” While any trip, let alone a full year of travel, is not always easy or cheap, where there’s a will, there’s a way. Financing our journey has been a matter of priorities: A 50” TV would be nice, but I’d rather be off exploring. I don’t need a new car every few years -- keeping my old Honda Civic running for over a decade afforded us a number of getaways. Saving up for our current trip was many years in the making, and was fully worth the effort.
Travel is a real-world learning experience for the entire family. It gives us insight into the lives of those with whom we share our planet. It provides awareness, understanding and acceptance of different cultures. For anyone tempted by “a big trip”, work through your obstacles and make it happen. Way back, SHAD opened up my eyes to the world of possibilities. Now I’m so thankful I’ve been able to see that world first hand.