A Kaough Family Travel Adventure p. 1

The Kaough Family Adventure started in 2012 with a question. That question being,”What to do?”

For close to 20 years Corin Kaough had worked in the Environmental Department at the Hovensa Oil Refinery on the island of St. Croix in the US Virgin Islands. Now, with the decision made to close down the refinery, the Kaough family, and the island in general, had big decisions to make.

I remember speaking with Corin then and being concerned by the development. It was a pretty dramatic turn of events for Corin and his wife, Laura, especially considering they had a one-year-old son in the picture.

In hindsight, however, I shouldn’t have worried because, as I’d learn later in our call, my compadre and his wife had something resembling a plan. Rather than focus on the immediate loss of his security blanket job, Corin and Laura had decided to use their situation to their benefit. Armed with a severance package and lots of time, they were loading up their son, Atlas, and taking their show on the road.

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In the end it’d end up being a whirlwind, year long trip to 6 countries through Southeast Asia and South America.

I didn’t ask too many questions during their trip, then. I was just happy to know they sounded like they were having the time of their lives. Today, as a semi-experienced parent–and one with a couple shorter, child toting, international jaunts under my belt–I thought now was as good a time as any to pick my friend’s brain and see what went into the thinking process of making that big trip the massively successful endeavor it was.

I admit I asked a lot of questions. But I never expected such in depth, well laid out responses. Corin and Laura provided the goods in ways I’m so grateful for and, as such, I’m presenting Corin’s words in a three part ‘mini series’ to help you more easily digest things.

Hopefully, like I did, you’ll glean some good nuggets of information that go a long way towards helping make your own dream getaway a successful reality.

Had you and Laura ever done any sort of intrepid travel together before having Atlas? If so, where? My grandparents retired in Guadalajara, Mexico when I was quiet young… so growing up, our family vacations consisted of road tripping throughout Mexico. Made some great friends, camped in some crazy places, experienced some really neat things, inspired me to learn Spanish. After I met Laura and upon learning her brother had a Harley rental business in Cancun, we met up with him and then rode south, down the Yucatan, benefiting from his local knowledge of some fantastic places and people. He had to go back to work but she and I secured the bike at the border and jumped on a chicken bus to check out Belize. That trip was when we’d first started dating… some of our fondest travel memories.
Also, her mom workKaough Familyed for United Airlines, so from an early age, Laura was used to traveling. It occasionally benefits us when our schedules allow us to fly standby. We’ve also taken advantage of living in St.Croix, exploring the Caribbean on various sailboat excursions or weekend getaways to nearby islands. She and I also traveled to Spain to meet up with friends and family, and then hopped down to Morocco where I proposed to her in the Rif Mountains. That was when I knew I had a travel partner for life. So for our honeymoon, we headed to Bali (nothing like a seventeen hour non-stop to profess one’s undying love), then rented a car and explored the island.

Can you give a bit of background on how the circumstances of this trip came about? Even before Hovensa announced they were closing, we’d started making plans to move on, to look for an overseas job. So the timing worked out really well in that I was able to take advantage of receiving a severance package, while taking a year off to travel and figure out our next move. Our only plan was to travel slowly, staying longer in places we enjoyed and moving on when a place did not suit us. We had rented out our house in the Virgin Islands, and our renters’ moving out coincided with nearing the end of our travel funds… so one year later, we decided to be ‘responsible’ and returned to St.Croix.

Once you guys decided a journey was a viable option, describe your thought process–in regards to having a young child with you-and deciding where to go? How old was Atlas when you guys began your trip? How old when you finished? Atlas had just turned one year old when we embarked on our adventure and he turned two right after we returned to St.Croix, so about two weeks shy of being on the road for a year. Being that we were on a budget, and neither of us had ever been there, SE Asia was an obvious choice with its low cost of living. The fact that we were taking a one-year old on the road with us didn’t really play into deciding which countries to visit but we quickly learned that certain towns or cities were more amenable to traveling with a small child. For example, we were really looking forward to Chiang Mai in Thailand, as numerous friends had raved about it. But try pushing a stroller around a city, jam packed with scooters zipping everywhere, choking the sidewalks as they were parked helter skelter – not to mention not being able to relax for a minute with a toddler careening about (café style restaurants were out of the question). Bangkok was very similar and then after four days in Chiang Mai, we looked at each other and said “next!” wondering if this is what the rest of our travels were doomed to be like. We breathed a welcome sigh of relief upon arriving in Pai, a much slower paced rural town and realized, “yeah, this is more like it!”
Elephant feedWhat was the general consensus from friends and family once you made your plans public? Any ‘voices of reason’ try to persuade you to perhaps wait? No, everyone was behind our decision and excited for us. A quiet voice of responsibility kept popping up in my head, calculating the total severance package, nagging at me to invest it otherwise. Laura and I would have lengthy discussions , we’d vacillate and throw out all sorts of scenarios, before finally talking ourselves into it with one stipulation – no looking back and no kicking ourselves down the road, knowing that we’d looked at all the options and chose to travel with no regrets. And to this day, it’s been one of the greatest decisions we’ve made.

Check back in a few days for The Kaough Family Adventure p.2 or, better still, sign up to receive all future post in your inbox.

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