As you may have read in the many stories written by mainstream media, the McFerrin family trekked across the world by bike in 2018. This was the second extended bike trip the full family has been involved in, as they also travelled the world in 2009-10—visiting 18 countries over the two trips.
“Travelling is a life lesson in itself,” says Rick McFerrin. “Distance learning gave our boys the opportunity to learn through our travel experiences and to stay connected to traditional educational course work.”
The boys took away a great experience.
“My favourite part of the travels I have been on have been learning about new cultures and travelling through places I never could have imagined,” says Sampson. “In addition, I am a huge foody and I have loved being able to experience worldwide cuisine. Some of my favourite places for food that we travelled through were India, Vietnam and Japan.”
Led by mom and dad (Rick and Tanya), Sampson, Markos and Tarn travelled to 16 countries across central and eastern Europe, India, southeast Asia and Japan on their latest trek.
“I feel these trips have extended my desire to learn in a general sense,” said Markos. “I have become more interested in ways of life around the world and I feel that learning by travelling has been an incredible education. Having the ability to continue my curricular studies through VVS was very important to being able to travel abroad for a year.”
What you may not have known is that they did this tour while keeping up to date on their schoolwork through Vista Virtual School (VVS).
“The staff at Vista Virtual School made it all possible—from helping us assemble the resources needed, to connecting us to our teachers, to helping facilitate solutions to challenges,” said Tanya McFerrin. “ We were completely satisfied with our Vista Virtual [School] experience.”
Balancing biking time and exploring time across the country needed preparation to make it work, and the McFerrin’s worked with VVS to have everything in place before departing.
“We planned to take at least a year to travel by bike,” said Tanya McFerrin. “Both my husband Rick and I are huge supporters of public education, and distance learning was a fantastic option to have our three boys complete a year of school while they were travelling.”
It was a unique experience, balancing school, travel and biking across many countries.
“I’ve really enjoyed seeing the sights that you don’t usually get to see when you drive through a place instead of biking,” said Tarn.
And through that experience, they picked up new skills and how to balance self-paced learning.
“Through distance learning, our kids learned how to access resources in creative ways, keep themselves on timelines, and communicate with their teachers electronically,” said Tanya. “The kids developed new skills that were required by distance learning, skills that additionally helps them in their typical classrooms (once they returned).”
The entire trip was a great challenge, but allowed a strong balance of physical activity and schoolwork, travelling on average 80 kilometres each day.
“My boys attained success at managing school and travel. In the future they will be open to creative ways to achieve educational goals,” said Tanya.
In fact, this includes studying abroad, as Samson plans to attend university in Quebec, and Markos is planning on attending a year abroad in Switzerland. Tarn plans to travel more too.
“I like that I had the freedom to go on a trip and still continue my education at my grade level when I got back,” said Tarn. “I think the trip broadened my viewpoint of the world while still keeping me connected to my basic education—which gave a nice balance between the two.”
And studying abroad, they learned valuable skills balancing distance education with the trip.
“It was very self-directed and taught me to take responsibility for my studies,” said Markos. “I had to put time aside to study and commit to a plan so I did not fall behind—I often did my school work at night after a day of biking, this took a lot of motivation. Having a teacher to email and skype was also very helpful when I had the opportunity to do so.”
And they had some great experiences. But the expedition wasn’t just fun, there were a few challenges along the way—mostly the weather. But also some of the basic planning around visiting so many countries.
“We love travelling as a family,” said Rick. “Consideration always includes safety, the places we want to visit, and local connections. Challenges have included: family dynamics for being together 24/7 for a year—on the more recent trip cold weather was a challenge in Central and Eastern Europe and the heat in India.”
It has led Rick to create a bike travel company OnaVelo that takes families and groups—including students—on shorter bike tours in other countries.
“Families are welcome to join these trips,” Rick says. He has a week planned to cycle in Quebec and another trip to Argentina, as well as other trips in the works—and the rest of the family is always open to joining them on these tours.
This trip had a huge influence on these students.
“Without question, each of our three boys was significantly impacted by their travel by bicycle through 18 countries,” said Tanya. “Experiencing full cultural immersion, shopping, staying, non-verbal communication and problem solving were just a few of the ways they gained confidence in the unknown that each day brought.”
One of the main takeaways is about the people they’ve met.
“I don’t think that our travels would have been the same without all of the people that we met,” said Sampson. “We met some incredible people that made our experiences so much more memorable and they also created connections for future travels.”
And even though there are no plans yet for another extended family excursion, they know that heading out is just another pedal away!
Photos from the tour, as provided by Sampson and Rick: