Crossing the Pacific Ocean and then traversing the Himalayas to a remote monastery is a feat under any circumstances. Imagine doing it with a 3-year-old and a 7-year-old in tow over the course of three months. Then, layer on the challenge of traveling this kind of distance without boarding a single airplane.
This is exactly what travel photographer and journalist Bruce Kirkby and his wife Christine Pitkanen achieved with their boys in the new Travel Channel series called Big Crazy Family Adventure. Through nine episodes you’ll see this adventurous family traverse half of the globe via canoe, container ship, ferry, high-speed train, riverboat, tuk-tuk, pony, their own eight feet and more to their final destination—a scenic cliffside monastery in northern India where they will work and live for a majority of their time away.
Bruce and Christine have clocked over 80 countries and they, like me, haven’t let parenthood slow their travels. I watched the first episode which brilliantly documents their journey from home in Kimberly, British Columbia to Busan, South Korea as a completely self-contained unit, carrying only what they need. Initially skeptical (because the way we normally travel is quite different), I was surprised by how engaging the show is and love that their kids have already enjoyed more extraordinary experiences and new cultures than most people on the planet.
You see, it’s incredibly important to me to give my daughter extraordinary life experiences, even though she’s young. She cycles through toys quickly and forgets about them. But, she does remember being at the Great Wall and climbing the smaller platforms and walls at Teotihuacan. It is incredibly cool to see her study a subject at school and have her say, “I’ve been there!”
What this show inspires me to do is to take the road less traveled a bit more. It’s O.K. to camp in the rain (a memorable event in itself) and go to places that aren’t necessarily in the guidebooks. And, you don’t have to throw in the towel when things go wrong.
Because things do go wrong during travel despite planning even the most minute details. Perhaps what struck me most about the first episode is how Bruce and Christine navigate inevitable challenges ranging from logistics to parenting. More money needs to be spent and kids act up at an inopportune moment (viewers will have to tune in to see how it all gets handled), but it is the reality of travel that doesn’t often get shared on an Instagram stream. Watching another family handle tough situations on the road makes me think to myself, “I can handle it, too.”
One other thing that resonated with me… I appreciated that Bruce addressed criticism very early on in the show. Why did they take the kids? Is this trip selfish and happening because he and his wife want to do it? What about school? These are questions many frequent travelers face and I was relieved to hear someone address them on television (watch to see what he says) even though the answers are probably a bit different for everyone. I firmly believe that travel provides supplemental knowledge that can’t come from textbooks, which is an enormous reason why we still do it.
But, there are costs associated with family travel (we are in London fighting colds as I type this)… especially extreme travel with young kids. Will this family say the journey was worth it? I’m sure the answer is yes, but how they navigate the challenges is what makes this show compelling television and one you’ll likely need a box of Kleenex for. Your next road trip to Grandma’s house will pale in comparison. And, you’ll crave more time with your kids.
I can’t wait to see what it’s like for the Kirkby family to endure other extremes in weather, transport, emotions and more throughout their courageous and outrageous trip.
Big Crazy Family Adventure premieres on Sunday, June 21 at 9:00 p.m ET/PT. Tune in and let me know what you think!
*This post is brought to you by the Travel Channel. Opinions, as always, are my own.