Meet a Household Who Spent 9 Months Touring the Globe, Pre-Plague

We came, we saw, we went
A year of family gap
By Charles Wheelan

I go through stages: sometimes I feel okay as a parent, sometimes I feel like a henchman in a long, slow sociocultural crime. When my 15 year old son yells for help from his counterterrorism team as he shoots his way around the world in Rainbow Six Siege, I think about reporting to the authorities.

In the fall of 2016, faced with related, if more benevolent, feelings in raising his teenagers, Charles Wheelan decided to take a different approach. The result is his new travel memory: “We came, we saw, we went”.

“Team Wheelan” consists of Wheelan’s wife Leah and their three teenage children: Katrina (18), Sophie (16) and CJ (13). Inspired by a backpacking trip he went on with Leah in the late 80s, Wheelan awakens the long-standing desire to repeat this trip with children in tow. He notes that “experiences, not things, make us happy in the long term” because they become “an ingrained part of our identity”. Wheelan advocates the feasibility of such an adventure, which clearly requires some level of aspiration, but not necessarily wealth. (What it really takes is a woman like Leah, a trained computer scientist who has become an educator and loves maps, spreadsheets, and planning.)

Together they plan a nine-month trip around the world, a period of time that impressively mimics the length of a human pregnancy. The Wheelans start in Colombia, eat their way through street food in Cartagena and then drive to the Peruvian Amazon to experience a funny mishap in an “Adventure Lodge”. From there everywhere: New Zealand, India, Vietnam, Zanzibar. How do they get around? Buses, buses and more buses (and some planes). They all get car sickness; Most of them vomit. The stars of this show are undoubtedly the kids: precocious Katrina on her way to Williams College, adversary Sophie giving her parents a manifesto explaining a speech and a hunger strike at Quito airport, and quirky CJ, a “raging extrovert” who talks so much in school that he appears to be standing in front of a wall and talking to her.

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