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Traveling families enjoying their journeys: ‘Road-schooling’ gives kids opportunity of a lifetime

By Joel Kost, Foster’s Daily Democrat
Sunday, February 15, 2015

lunch

Enjoying lunch overlooking the Grand Canyon in Arizona.

After nearly six months traveling across the country and the high seas, two Barrington families “road-schooling” their kids have just hit the peak of their journey.

The Nicols and the Bisson families left this past summer to fulfill their longtime dreams of traveling for a whole year with their children, showing them different parts of the country while teaching them along the way.

Traci, Ray, Lucas and Jacob Bisson left their home Aug. 27 in their 39-foot RV. They aimed to see 35 states in eight months, focusing on all of the border states. Taking a northerly route out west, they made it to California and will be following a southern route on the way back east. The Bissons try to travel less than 400 miles a day and have never driven more than 450. Staying two weeks in one location is the norm, but the family was in California for two months to explore as much of the state as they could. Dad Ray does most of the driving.

“I would be a nervous wreck,” Traci said, when asked why she doesn’t drive the family’s hulking vehicle.

A little more than a week after the Bissons left Barrington, Dan, Kim, Jami, Joshua and Jeremiah Nicols set sail on their voyage on a 39-foot schooner, named Trustworthy. Departing Sept. 8, they set their sights on sailing the East Coast down to the Bahamas and back, planning to be gone at least a year.

The Nicols try to anchor every night instead of paying to dock or tie up to a slip. But they’ll do the latter if the waters are rough or if they want to take advantage of a facility with a laundry and showers. They never go more than one night offshore, and they typically sail just 5 or 6 miles from land. The one exception was when they sailed from Florida to the Bahamas. That required a 48-mile trip with no land in sight, followed by 60 miles across the Great Bahama Bank and another 40 miles across the Tongue of the Ocean to reach Nassau.

Dan and Kim Nicols are fulfilling a longtime dream of making this kind of journey. They saved money and researched for 16 years to make it happen. Three years ago they met avid travelers Traci and Ray Bisson and shared their dream. Traci and Ray were immediately attracted to the idea and made plans for their own voyage on land. Both families call their trips the experiences of a lifetime.

The Bissons said they see the differences between New England and the rest of the country as the favorite part of their experience. Highlights include the national parks they’ve visited and the wildlife they’ve seen. That’s been particularly true for 14-year-old Jacob, who emails his teachers when he sees something he learned about in school.

“That to me is memorable, when the learning comes full circle and they are excited to be part of it,” Traci said.

Another highlight was the family’s visits to about a dozen baseball parks. An avid baseball fan, Jacob got a special thrill when he met Houston Astros catcher Brett Oberholtzer during one of their baseball park visits. In addition to baseball stadiums, the Bissons have made several stops at cooking classes. Jacob’s 10-year-old brother Lucas loves to cook and took part in a Young Chef’s Academy in California and attended a cookie baking class in California. Traci said the family plans more cooking stops in Texas and Louisiana.

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Two families, two journeys: Road, sea trips planned for parents and children

By Joel Kost, Foster’s Daily Democrat
Wednesday, August 27, 2014

BARRINGTON — Two years into their marriage, Kim and Dan Nicols packed their Ford Ranger full of supplies and road tripped through the country’s east coast.

Ryan McBride/Staff photographer From left to right, Traci, Ray and their sons Lucas and Jacob Bisson. They are embarking on an 8 month cross-country journey starting Wednesday.Ryan McBride/Staff photographer From left to right, Traci, Ray and their sons Lucas and Jacob Bisson. They are embarking on an 8 month cross-country journey starting Wednesday.

This trip wasn’t out of the ordinary for the newly-wed couple; both had plenty of travel experience with their families, and Dan was working on a commercial schooner based out of Maine.

One of their last destinations was Key West, Florida. Kim and Dan, who at the time didn’t have any children, were walking on the docks among hundreds of anchored boats. That’s when a dream’s seed was planted, Dan said.

What if they someday took their future family on a boating trip for an entire year, teaching their children on the go? They could save money for years, find an affordable boat, and “road school” their kids, all while enjoying the open waters on the east coast.

“It’d be neat to take a trip like that,” Dan recalls thinking 16 years ago.

Meanwhile, Traci and Ray Bisson were forming dreams of their own. Both Traci and Ray are avid travelers themselves, having taken many road and camping trips with each other and with their families. Even their children, Jacob, 14, and Lucas, 10, have traveled through the east coast to Florida for many years.

“We really wanted to expand on that,” Traci said. “I know Jacob won’t be around much longer before he goes off to college, and I was like, ‘what can we give them that is the ultimate education experience that they can take with them?’”

Traci and Kim met at a fitness class three years ago, and Kim shared her and Dan’s dream to sail the east coast while teaching their kids at the same time. Traci always checked in to see if the plan was continuing.

“When she told me about their idea, we were already avid campers at that point,” Traci said. “Why couldn’t we do that?”

Two years later, both families’ dreams are a reality. The Nicols have a 39-foot schooner, and the Bissons have an RV of the same length. Their destinations and time frames are different, the Bissons’ being 35 states in 8 months and the Nicols traveling to the Dominican Republic and back for nearly 14 months, but they are all adamant about testing out this new lifestyle.

The Bissons leave Wednesday, while the Nicols have not yet set a date for departure.

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