Suzanne Rutledge had been on the road seven months when she finally got homesick.
It happened in Florence, Italy, within sight of the Duomo. Airbnb had given the Rutledge family a much less expensive way to travel, but on this summer day her 14th century flat was holding back something she wanted dearly: hot water.
“I just want to be on my own couch in Athens,” she thought to herself. (That’s Athens, Georgia, not the other Athens.)
Then she took a breath, counted her blessings, went out into the Italian sunshine and bought a gelato. “One cold scoop,” she writes, “and already my smile has returned and I’m ready to tackle whatever comes our way on the rest of this crazy adventure.”
Rutledge, her husband Mitch and their son Luke, set out in November, 2015 to see the world. Their nine-month globe-girdling journey through five continents will end August 3, when they’ll return to Georgia.
“Our journey has been incredibly positive,” said Rutledge, 41, in an email from London, “teaching us more than I ever could have imagined and stretching all of us emotionally and spiritually.”
All along the way she and her husband, a former sales director at SAS software, have been blogging about the experience. Her writing has been featured in Huffington Post, where she detailed the benefits of bringing along 8-year-old Luke, who has been home-schooled for the duration of the trip.
His lessons have included working on an organic farm in Southern Italy, floating in a hot air balloon over the rock formations of Cappadocia, Turkey and kissing a giraffe in Kenya. “We have certainly been out of our comfort zone many times and have loved experiencing so many different cultures and unique activities,” said Rutledge. Formerly a public relations executive at Coca-Cola and Jackson Spalding, Rutledge is adept at packaging the teaching moments of the trip, in such posts as “Slow Travel is the New Slow Parenting,” and “Five Fun Ways To Immerse Your Children In A Foreign Country.”
Among those five suggestions:
1. Take a cooking course
“If your child is picky and you dread the foreign eating experience, consider investing in a half-day cooking course,” she writes, “and see how they open their minds and palates to the local cuisine.”
2. Visit a school.
“It may surprise your child to see that learning in another country is very similar to their own school in some ways, yet very different in others.”
“We learned you must sprinkle in some pint-sized activities with your adult wish list to keep everyone happy on your journey.”
Mitch Rutledge helped the family pay for the trip by squirreling frequent flier points. “Mitch travels for work and is seriously a ninja when it comes to points and using them to our advantage,” wrote Suzanne, in an email. They also saved money by WWOOFing (participating in the World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms program), couch-surfing and house-sitting. “For many months we were staying for under $50 per night in nice 1-2 bedroom apartments!”
There have been challenges on the trip. The family was in Turkey in March when a suicide bomber attacked a shopping district in Istanbul, killing five, and injuring 36, including 12 foreign tourists. The airport bombing would come later.
“Unfortunately bad things can happen anywhere inside or outside the U.S.,” she wrote, “so we didn’t let that stop us from seeing the world. Turkey happened to be one of our favorite stops, and I hope people will be willing to travel there again some day soon.”
Rutledge’s account is available on the family website, www.ruttotheledge.com.