For some of us, travelling around the world may sound like a nightmare but for mum of two, Sandra Khazam, it was reality. After 36,984 kilometres she penned a book about their adventure.
Q: Why did you decide to pack up the kids and travel the world?
A: We were sitting in Melbourne traffic, returning home after our big adventure around Australia and I said to Danny [my husband], “So what are we going to do next? We’ve just driven around Australia, what are we gonna do next?”.
And he said, “Well, let’s travel around the world.” And I went, “Ok, let’s do that.”
We thought it can’t be that much harder driving around the world with two kids. And that’s what we did.
Q: So how long did you travel for?
A: We were restricted with how long we could go for by work and financial commitments – and all of those boring things. We decided to do as much as we could in 12 months.
The trip was five years in the making. We decided that we would wait until the kids were at an age where they would be good to travel with and we needed time to work out the logistics.
So, we spent a lot of time with maps trying to work out which route we were going to take.
We decided that we drive from Melbourne up to Darwin through the centre of the country and then ship the car to Singapore and from there travel to Malaysia, Thailand, ship the car to Los Angeles, drive up the west coast of The States and then kind of zigzag between Canada and the northern states of America.
From Canada we went over to the UK and in the middle of this there was the Global Financial Crisis, which took its toll on our budget, as you can imagine.
So we cut short our travelling around the UK, which was unfortunate. It was just too expensive. So we drove over to Europe to Turkey, back to Asia and then to Australia.
So we kind of circumnavigated around the middle of the globe.
Q: How old were the kids?
A: The kids were seven and 10 when we left. They both had birthdays when we were away.
Q: Travelling with a family can be expensive. Do you mind telling us how much it cost?
A: It probably ended up being about $120,000 all up, including the car. We camped where we could and when we couldn’t camp our preference was to stay somewhere that we could cook for ourselves because it provided a little bit more control over what we were eating.
We also wanted to eat locally but eating out a lot of the time was expensive, and with the kids it was hard work, they just wanted home cooked meals.
Q: How did you keep the kids from going crazy in the car?
A: By planning the driving times. We would do an activity in the morning, then we’d drive, have morning tea and we’d drive a bit more, stop for a picnic lunch, then drive a bit more… so we’d try not to be in the car for more than a few hours at a time.
Then we’d set up camp and there’d be time to play. They were pretty good in the car. There were times where they’d get sick of the space and sitting next to each other but most of the time they were fantastic.
Q: What are the highlights that stand out?
A: Travelling in South East Asia with the kids was a great opportunity for them to learn about the world and how fortunate we are; we’re travelling through these villages and we’ve got more stuff with us travelling than these people have in total – that awareness was really important.
I think that was, for me, one of the highlights: where the kids just got a sense of how big the world is and how small their place is in it.
Laos was a place that we all really loved. It’s just such a fascinating country with an amazing and tragic history. But the people are so wonderful and culturally so rich and the food was fantastic.
Albania was probably one of the most challenging. Just because the roads were so terrifying and the drivers were just so scary!
That was the one time where Danny said, “I don’t know if we’re gonna get out of here alive”.
The people were fabulous though – they were lovely – it was just the drivers. Put people behind the wheel and they can get really scary.
Q: What about the most beautiful place?
A: I’d say Laos again. And driving down the coast of Eastern Europe through Montenegro, Albania and Croatia – it was probably the most beautiful coastal drive we’d done in a really long time.
Q: What was the worst thing that happened?
A: We almost left Raffy [our son] behind. He was seven at the time and we were in a petrol station in rural Turkey. That was probably the scariest moment.
We had a slow leak in one of our tyres so every time we’d stop for petrol, we’d go and check the air pressure in that tyre and Raffy loved doing that. So he’d always hop out and help check the air pressure.
This one time I was reading a map and Maddy was reading Harry Potter so she was out to everything. Danny got out of the car and Raffy got out as well. Danny had gone one way around the car to check and realised the air pressure hose wasn’t working so got back in the car.
He started driving out of the petrol station and then checked his mirrors and saw Raffy belting up towards us screaming “Daaaaad!!”.
We stopped the car and Danny jumped out and Raffy leapt at him and held him tight. It was probably 10 seconds that we were driving along without him, but none of us noticed that one of us wasn’t there.
We instituted a rule after that if anybody got out of the car for any reason at anytime they had to tell everybody and then we would count off.
In the book, we kind of thought we have to fess up about these things… you know, the moments of bad parenting… that’s all in there too.
Q: What car were you driving?
A: A 2002 Nissan Patrol. We’re still driving it even though we’re back in the city because it’s a fifth member of the family now and we could never get rid of it.
The only bad thing that happened is we had a flat tyre, everything else was perfect.
We bought it off a family that live outside Melbourne and they’d taken such good care of it. We sent them a postcard to say it’s still ok, we’re halfway around the world but the car is doing great.
Q: How long did you stay in most places on average?
A: On average it was probably two or three nights, some places it was just an overnight stop and other places it was longer – maybe up to a week.
There were a couple of places where we just ended up staying longer than we planned because one of us or all of us got sick and we just thought, let’s just not go until everyone’s on the mend.
We tried to spend at least a few nights in each place just so that we weren’t just in the car. And so we could explore where we were and meet the local people.
Sandra’s book, Drive Around the World, is out now. (Hybrid Publishing, $35)