Summer is the time for family vacations, and one Shaler family is taking the vacation of all vacations — a six-month adventure that will take them to 10 countries.
“We have been planning and saving for this for months,” Lisa Krieg said shortly before she left Monday with her husband, Mike Gable, and their son, Connor Gable, on the first leg of their journey.
It could be said, however, that the trip has been decades in the making. When Ms. Krieg was 15, she went on a trip with her mother to Kenya, Egypt and Italy.
“It really opened up my eyes to what life was like outside of the U.S. and what others thought of Americans,” said Ms. Krieg, 50. “It lit a spark in me for international travel.”
One reason the family chose to take the trip this year is because Connor is 15, the same age Ms. Krieg was when she took her first international trip.
“He is old enough to appreciate the trip, but young enough for it to still make an impression on him,” she said.
The family will start with a monthlong stay in Ecuador, where Ms. Krieg and Mr. Gable will take an intensive three-week language course. The visit will include a home stay with a family. From there, they will travel to Peru, Bolivia and Chile. Then, they will head to Asia to visit Hong Kong, Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, Myanmar and Taiwan.
“We decided on Central America because Mike and I had never been there and Connor has taken Spanish for four years, so he could practice his language skills,” Ms. Krieg said. “Then we chose Asia for the second half of the trip, because I am very partial to Asia from my experience and wanted to go back, and I wanted them to experience it.”
After that first international trip, Ms. Krieg studied abroad for a semester in China in 1984 while she was in college.
“It was when China was just opening up to others from the West, so it was such an exciting time for me to be there,” she said. After she graduated, she lived in Taiwan for three years. She also has traveled internationally for work.
Mr. Grable, 50, is no stranger to international travel. He also studied abroad while in college, living in Nepal for a semester. After he graduated, he traveled back to Nepal and then to India and Africa. It was their independent trips to Africa that led to their meeting.
“A friend of both of ours said we should meet since we had both been to Africa,” Ms. Krieg said. Both natives of Indianapolis, they met in 1992 and moved to Pittsburgh shortly after that.
Ms. Krieg is director of enrollment services at Carnegie Mellon University and Mr. Grable is the founding executive director of Construction Junction. Their careers have prevented them from taking an extended international trip, which they had been thinking about for years.
“Mike and I have jobs we love, but we are very consumed by them; we decided to take a trip that was long enough to really appreciate the experience and not be tethered to our jobs,” she said.
Both took extended leaves from their jobs, and an interim executive director was hired to fill in for Mr. Grable while he is gone.
Ms. Krieg has been working with the Shaler Area School District and Shadyside Academy, where Connor will be in ninth grade when they return in December, to ensure he keeps up with his studies.
“That has been a whole experience in and of itself, learning about home-schooling requirements and planning,” she said.
Connor’s only trip outside the U.S. was a spring break spent on a family trip to Mexico last year.
Ms. Krieg planned much of the trip, but they also hired an international, family vacation planner to assist with the planning.
“Some people could find it obnoxious, but I felt we really had to plan it all out,” she said. Her husband agreed.
Each of the travelers will take a carry-on backpack and a rolling suitcase small enough to be carried on flights. For Ms. Krieg, a self-described shoe addict, packing was a challenge.
“All of my friends were joking about which shoes I would be taking. I’ve narrowed it down to three pairs. I’d like to take a fourth, but it isn’t going to happen,” she said.
“We are all so excited for an adventure of a lifetime,” Mr. Gable said.
“I just hope Connor’s first international experience will be as amazing as mine,” Ms Krieg said.
The family will maintain a blog about their trip at www.llamasandchopsticks.com.
Kathleen Ganster, freelance writer: firstname.lastname@example.org.