We left on our Big Trip right after Christmas of 2016, planning to be on the road for up to 18 months.  Now that we have been on the road four and a half months, we thought it would be a good time for the kids to reflect on what we have done and how they are feeling.  Below is the latest installment of John and Kate’s NT&S journal.

Friends:  John says: “It has been medium-hard to stay in touch with friends because of the time difference.  I miss hanging out with friends and talking about what we are going to do when we get older.  I do like to FaceTime, Facebook or email with friends to get caught up on what is going on at home.”

Kate says: “Staying in touch with friends has been easy, I found that only my best friends text me, and take the time. But that’s a lot better then I excepted.  That’s what I was worried about the most. Talking through the internet is not the same as being in person, but I get to video chat with an app called Hangouts. I figured out I can annoy my friend, by moving my phone on a blanket, so that was fun. I’m super excited that some of them are meeting me on the trip.”

Adventures:  John says: “My three favorite Adventures  were Zorbing and Zip Lining in New Zealand, and Parasailing in Phuket.  My favorite thing about Zorbing was that you went down this huge hill and you were in this clear ball all wet.  If you tried to stand up, you just fell down.  I would love to do it again.  What I liked about Zip Lining was that we had a great view over this big hill and it felt like you were flying.  It was cool that they let me do it even though I didn’t weigh enough.  When I got stuck toward the end of the run I would just sit there and wait while they would reach out and grab me.  Parasailing was really scary when I did it for the first time in Phuket.  Kate and I were both really scared.  Once we started running it threw us up into the air and I couldn’t touch the ground and I was just running in the air.  I got to see that it was really fun and even though you want to hold on really hard because it feels like you will fall eventually you just let go and relax.”

Kate says: “My favorite thing was snorkeling in Fiji, it was my first time snorkeling and it was the best. We went out on a little boat to a small island. On the boat ride we saw flying fish and two dolphins rode along with us for a second, which was really cool. We got to the side of the island and we had to leave because there was a tsunami warning so we had to go to the other side. I was nervous to go because I don’t really like a nose mask. It was so amazing. There were so many fish and such bright colors, and the big coral, all different shapes, it was like being in Nemo.  The water was just the right temperature and crystal clear. The BBQ lunch was really good too.  There was a lady that cooked it for us that lived on the island. We snorkeled in Thailand, Australia, and Vietnam, and nothing was close to Fiji.


About to Zorb down the hill in Rotorua, New Zealand
Zip Lining in New Zealand
John and Kate in flight over Pa Tong beach, Phuket Thailand

Places we have stayed:  John says: “My favorite place in Australia was Cairns.  We went to a basketball game.  Before the game, Kate an I got our hair sprayed orange.  I liked Singapore even though there was not a lot to do, I got to swim every day because there were lots of swimming pools where we stayed.  Hoi An, Vietnam was great because we biked everywhere, the beach was close and the food was great (particularly eating at the beach).”

Kate says: ”My favorite places we’ve stayed is Napier, New Zealand, Bhutan, and Hoi An, Vietnam. I liked the A B&B that we stayed in in Napier because the hosts were nice and they had a ram called Ram Lamb. Their guest house was nice and it was kind of in the country side, away from everything. Even though we didn’t really do much in Bhutan, the hotels were always so cozy and would be really cold so we would have to sleep under a lot of blankets. Hoi An, we stayed in an B&B, I liked the outdoor bathroom, except, there were times there were HUGE spiders. The breakfasts were really good, John always got instant noodles, so our host called him Instant Noodle.

John’s hair Cairns Taipans orange for the big playoff game.
Kate and Ram Lamb – Napier, New Zealand

What I looking forward to about coming home:  John says: “I’m looking forward to seeing all my friends when we get home.  I plan on telling them all about the Big Trip.  I will be doing a lot of activities with my friends like going to the water slides, going to movies and improving my tree fort.  I bought a cool miniature car (GTR) in Japan and might start collecting those and build a display case for them.  I’m really excited to unpack all my stuff at home and re-make my room.”



Kate says: ” What I’m looking forward to when I get home is seeing my friends and enjoying Ashland. I’m curious to see what has changed in the time I’ve been gone. From being in SE Asia, it has taught us that we can live with a whole lot less stuff. I think it will be very interesting to see what we keep and what we pitch. I’m also excited to unpack and get all of the souvenirs from the places I’ve traveled. I wonder who I will be friends with, some of them I’ve lost touch, so I wonder if we’ll still be friends.”

Lantern festival on full moon night in Hoi An – We bought lanterns to decorate Kate’s room

John says, “I really like the Big Trip.  It has already been a good experience.  I’ve learned you don’t have to be scared of anything – I have been on lots of planes and even rode on an elephant and it has all been fine.  I’m surprised that it was hard at first but it has gotten easier on how we go through airports.”

Kate says: ” At first I was scared to go on air planes, I was scared about crashing, but after about 5  I got use to it. Now after 13 flights, I learned Emirates Airlines was the best.  The food was really good, seats wonderful and great movies.  I wanted the flight to last longer.”

So, it feels like we have been gone forever already.  Some days (a lot of days) we can hardly remember the things that have happened to us already.  We are all convinced that we can get along with a lot less and be a lot more flexible with – space, time, schedule, food, everything – than we would have imagined.  We are all realizing that our happiness is not drawn from the stuff around us but by the people around us.

The Harpers.



8 thoughts

    1. What a life changing and affirming adventure. The kids get it!! So important in this crazy world…and I love that John has lost his fear of the unfamiliar. I am a friend of Jeannie M. And a traveller also, just wish I had started at age 10!!!


      1. Me too! Jeannie is our travel guru and is inspiring in so many ways. John and Kate will have a shot at catching Jeannie’s country count if they want after this. Thanks for following along.


    2. Janet, we will tell them that they got an ‘A’ on it. Judi says she likes you grading system. It makes us happy knowing that you are following along, thanks.


    1. Thanks Ave. It is always a good rainy day project because learning to type along with craft the story take a bit to do. We are getting much better at sorting travel advice as we go. Hope we get to see you guys when we are back stateside when you visit Ronnie.


  1. Dear Harper Family,
    It is so interesting and good to read your blog about 4 months in, as we are also, yet we have only 8 weeks left before we return home, so your perspective is unique and stimulating for us. Luke is missing friends, his room and our dog Honeybadger and looking forward to just having a home base again. Tate is really ready to stop packing/unpacking, seeing and hanging out with friends, just savoring time at home before school starts up. Matt and I are feeling a bit fatigued from our driving in Europe, but at the same time, so stimulated by everything we’ve seen and done. We just spent a week in Morocco and it was so incredible; one of everyone’s favorite places on our trip, which makes me so happy that my kids loved a country that is 90% islamic so much in the face of all the negative messages at home about anything related to islam/muslims. As a family, we could not agree more with you, that its the people around you who matter and that in this world, regardless of where you are, most all of us are just trying to live our life, follow our dreams, and be healthy, happy. We are so varied…and so the same at heart. Thank you for the vision into the worlds we won’t see on this trip (Japan) and for inspiring us for future adventure. Love, Davis (and Tate, Luke and Matt)….Happy Mother’s Day to Judy from Barcelona!


  2. You guys are our travel partners and co-conspirators for sure! You will have to share your Morocco tips, we are just getting to planning that leg. We just hope you guys are home and not off on another trip when we get back. I see lots of shared family dinners in our future.


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