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Book Review – We Came, We Saw, We Left

15 years ago we decided to take our two children, who were 9 and 11 at the time on an extended road trip across America, covering every State. We did this initially by travelling in an 8-seater van, with the back row removed and then later we switched to an RV. We travelled like this for a year and through in some detours to Canada, Ecuador (including the Galapagos) and Peru (with a trip out to Machu Picchu). About 2 years later we toured for four months around Europe. So, we have had some experience of family extended trips, but our children we not yet teenagers. When they got to their teens it became logistically harder to travel due to commitments and as young adults, they were generally less pleasant travel companions!

So, when I saw the synopsis of this book I was curious how the ‘gap year’ tour went. Charles Wheelan met his wife Leah at college, and after graduating they took a gap year to see the world. After that, they settled into busy, and successful careers and had three children. When their eldest daughter, Katrina graduated high-school they realised that this might be their last chance to travel as a family before everyone grew up and went their own way.

So, team ‘Wheelan’ set off in pre-pandemic times to visit six continents in 9-months. In the book, Charles Wheelan explains the planning that went into the tour and the things that went well. He also covers what didn’t go so well in a hilarious fashion – family meltdowns, injuries, missed connections, being separated in a large city and a litany of other things, big and large. Having travelled extensively ourselves I know however much planning I put into our travel things will always go wrong – the trick is how well you deal with the calamities and having some Plan Bs in your back pocket. I always think that is the things that go wrong which make the trip and create the stories you can share at dinner parties for decades into the future.

I loved reading this book, it brought back some very fond memories of travelling with our children. I have almost certainly erased from my memories some of the not-so-good times. But it created memories for all of us to carry forward in the rest of our lives.

Title:We Came, We Saw, We Left: A Family Gap Year
Author:Charles Wheelan
Publisher:W. W. Norton & Company (January 26, 2021)
Available:Amazon; Barnes & Noble
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