«Our life is one big school trip.»
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«Our life is one big school trip.»

Around the world of the Gifford family with many children.
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When Behan and Jamie Gifford decided 10 years ago to go around the world with their children (4.6 and 9 years old), they had only one problem - no child could swim.


«We would have definitely won that year's worst parents contest! - laughs Beene after 10 years and 58,000 miles. - Our children learned to swim in Seattle's crowded public pools, and it didn't work. We knew that when we went out in the open water, where things were much more interesting, things would take a whole different turn. After a few months of travel, our eldest swam as well as the fish».

The 47-foot Stevens 1982 cost the couple $190,000 and spent a year preparing for her voyage. Named Totem, she has three cabins, two baths and a 75 horsepower engine.


When 48-year-old Beane and 52-year-old Jamie quit their regular jobs to travel, they began looking for new ways to earn money to cover the costs of fuel, duties, food and other travel needs. Now they're consulting about living under sail. Jamie also provides technical advice on the subject, and Beene is a freelance author. A year of living on a yacht costs the family $30,000. As for children's education, they now spend considerably less than on land.

Life as a school trip

One of the difficulties the Giffords encountered at sea was the lack of constant access to good books. Electronic publications were their salvation. Since the voyage began, the family has read more than one hundred books. Some of them have been published in places the family has visited. The same applies to the book by Herman Melville« Taipei», which takes place in the Marquesas islands of the Pacific Ocean.

«It's unbelievable to read a story and then walk to places you just read about. The book comes to life in front of your eyes. At the end of the day, around four, we usually mooch and go for a walk, during which we have lunch. We talk about the history of the area, about the colonization of the 17th century," Jamie shares her impressions, listing her favourite beaches of the Seychelles, Namibia and Maldives. - Our whole life is one big school trip».

Kids and life on board

Returning to Washington to visit the family and give the yacht time to dry, Giffords made sure they kept up with their lives while they were travelling. Their eldest son, Niall, who is 19, enrolled in his first year at Lewis and Clark University in Portland, Oregon, named after two famous researchers. During his journey, Giffords took a short break of 18 months, staying in Australia to earn money. Beene was working for an advertising agency at the time, and the children were attending school in Brisbane.

After the experience of living on board the school seemed to them too strict, and especially strange was the fact that the attention of children had to switch from one subject to another without time to quietly learn and discuss information.

So when the case was over, the family moved on without a doubt.

«The moment the children told us they were tired of living on board never came. Only a short time after they started their voyage, they got used to living on a yacht, learning at home and visiting new countries».

«Be prepared to do without it.»


Sometimes the Giffords make long jumps for 17 and 19 days, and then all they see ahead is just the horizon line. But their journey usually consists of small trips of about 40 miles, and at night they anchor near the shore. This approach, together with careful route selection, helps them to avoid violent storms and protect their yacht from damage.

What do they want to advise people who have not yet grasped the mysteries of life at sea?

«If you can't fix something on board, be prepared to do without it».

Sometimes a much-needed thing, like going to a store near the mooring site, helps them keep fit and train their hitchhiking skills.

As for swimming, the Giffords are exploring its new levels. Since there are no suits for everyone on board, they decided to learn how to freedive and the results are impressive: Jamie can dive 65 feet in just a few minutes and his daughters Meyron and Siobhan can dive 35 feet.


Another of their hobbies used to be fishing, but they decided to abandon it when they saw off the coast of Thailand and Indonesia how much damage poaching does to the sea. Instead, the Giffords are now exploring the cuisine of local cultures, exchanging recipes and other useful knowledge.

«I like to taste the world," shares Beene, listing her favourite dishes: Thai lab, South African bobota, Sri Lankan cat and Maldivian huni oil. - We seem to have managed to find a new dish in almost every place!» South Africa's good wine was another of their discoveries.

«The main rule is not to be stupid.»

Keep in mind, it's not just adventure that awaits travellers aboard. The Gifford family has health insurance that costs them $2500 per year, and several times they have had the opportunity to visit clinics in different countries. «The Americans are quite short-sighted in terms of medicine. What can I say, our healthcare system leaves a lot to be desired. In other countries, we easily received the necessary assistance». Moreover, the Giffords can now safely claim that the risk of visiting strange countries is greatly exaggerated. According to them, they did not feel threatened anywhere.


«The basic rule is not to be stupid. If in some countries there is a need for precautions, follow them».

For the Giffords, such countries were Papua New Guinea and South Africa, where they did not risk moving at night. They also refused to visit certain areas in Colombia and Venezuela. The Giffords relied heavily on «coconut mail», the local original way of exchanging messages between mariners, and the U.S. Department of State's website, but the latter's data was too contextualized and could not always be relied upon.

In general, the Giffords feel safer on board than they do on shore.

«Many tend to think we're taking too many risks. The education of children, their socialization and so on. And that's given the recurring examples of cruelty in some American schools! There are things in our world that are more dangerous than traveling».

«We always look for ways to help where we stop. In Mexico, that's how donation became. There's no blood bank like we have in the U.S. And if someone needs it urgently, they can only rely on family or friends. When I donated blood in Santa RosaliaI was constantly asked who she was for, and my answer - for anyone who needed it - was taken with surprise. However, in a remote corner of Mexico, the need for donated blood was great, and in gratitude I was subjected to the strictest screening test of my life»," recalls Beene.


«We learned a lot by becoming freer.»

Change comes with the course of life. Now the Giffords are planning the next step in their adventure - 18 months of life in Mexico, this time the four.
From there, they will travel to South America and the South Pacific coast to add new uncharted destinations to the list of 48 countries they have already seen.

«One damn important thing that we've learned from this lifestyle is that we have time. We don't have to keep to the strange schedule that these crazy people on land love so much," Jamie says, and I think there's some truth to what he says. - We've learned a lot by becoming freer».

According to CNN.

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