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Why We Would Spend Money to Go to South Africa With Our Kids

Welcome to my two-week series all about our recent family trip to South Africa. I’m recounting some of our favorite experiences, lessons we learned, travel tips, and some of the most memorable stories and takeaways. To read all of the posts in this series, click here.

Thinking of traveling abroad with your kids? Read this for encouragement and perspective!

Many people have asked us why we would spend the money to take our whole family to South Africa. It’s a very valid question — especially when I have a blog called 🙂

Well, first off, when you stay with friends and they are kind enough to graciously provide your food and transportation and you get a great deal on plane tickets, it’s not at all as expensive as people would assume.

But, at the same time, it is definitely not cheap, so why would we spend the money on a trip halfway around the world? For starters, I wrote a post on three reasons we take our kids to South Africa here. Those reasons were a big driving force behind why we took our kids to South Africa a second time.

There were three other reasons, too:

1. We’ve chosen to prioritize life-changing experiences in our budget.

In January of 2015, I boarded an 18-hour flight to South Africa with my friends, Lisa-Jo and Joy. The trip itself was SO far outside my comfort zone (I had never been on a plane for more than 5 hours and had never really traveled internationally) and I had no idea what to expect.

On that trip, I fell madly in love with the people of South Africa, I discovered that I love traveling and experiencing new cultures, I found out that I’m a lot more extroverted than I realized I was, I made dear friends, I learned so much from people whose lives are very different than mine, and our family found a calling and passion to come alongside and support the amazing work that Take Action Ministry is doing.

Since that trip, South Africa has become like a second home to me. It’s why I’ve been there four times in the past four years. And it’s why every time I go, it never feels like enough.

Our heartbeat for so much of why we do what we do — why I blog, why we produce products, why we seek to be strategic with the business and wise with our personal funds — is so we can give generously to the needs in South Africa and elsewhere.

I am forever changed. Our family is forever changed. Because of what we’ve learned and experienced in South Africa.

And that’s why we prioritize making this trip as often as we can.

2. We want to be motivated to remember our “why”.

The South Africans have taught us what true giving looks like — even when you have almost nothing to give.

They have taught us what warm hospitality looks like — giving up your time and vacation days and your bedroom and sleep to host us!

They have taught us what contentment and joy looks like — even when you live without power and water in a tiny shack.

They have shown us what faith looks like — when you believe God can do big things despite having almost zero resources.

And they have given us incredible purpose. To live beneath our means so we can give generously. To be strategic and wise stewards of our time and money and opportunities in order to be able to help out as many people as possible.

Being with these people reminds us of what really matters in life. And it gives us fresh perspective and deeper empathy and a greater understanding of how to love others well.

3. We want to do more than just give money.

Our family invests a significant portion of our income every month to help fund Take Action Ministry. And while money is very important, we want the team there to know that we are with them in the work they are doing.

While we aren’t called to live in South Africa right now, traveling there regularly to be with our friends there, to celebrate their progress, hear of their struggles, see the work first-hand, and just hang out with them and spend time together is so valuable.

More than anything, people who are sacrificing so much need to know that they aren’t alone. That there are people who care deeply about the work they are doing. That they have friends who are praying and celebrating — even if they live thousands of miles away.

I think it’s easy to forget this. To think that people just need financial support. But as our friends in South Africa have taught us: relationships are so much more valuable than financial support ever could be.

Let me tell you, going to South Africa for the second time with our kids was really incredible!

Our first trip to South Africa as a family was good but still pretty overwhelming for the kids. They struggled with the time change, the jet lag, the new foods, the different schedules, the language barriers… everything was so foreign to them and it was rough on many days of the trip.

This time around, there were still the unknowns and variables and challenges that come along with international travel, but all three kids handled it like champs. Every day, we went to new places and they got to meet and hang out with new people from a variety of backgrounds.

I saw them walk into these situations with confidence and grace. Instead of sitting on the sidelines and playing it safe, they jumped in and played full out.

And it was so beautiful to witness. Once again, they demonstrated that you don’t have to speak the same language fluently to communicate love.

One of our heart’s desires is to raise kids who realize there is a big, big world out there and there is so much we can learn from everyone in it — no matter what language they speak or background they come from. Traveling outside our “American bubble” is one way we’re seeking to begin nurturing this understanding in them.

(By the way, the kids are begging that we not only go back to South Africa next year, but can we please visit another continent next year, too? Even my child who is very scared to fly commented and said, “Well, now that I got that 18-hour flight over with, I think I can fly just about anywhere. So please can we travel more??” As you can imagine, that put a great big smile on my face! ?)

I don’t know what the future holds for our kids. I don’t know if we’ll be able to reach our family’s crazy goal of traveling to all 7 continents by the time Kathrynne is 18. But I do know that the money we invested to take this trip to South Africa was every bit worth it.

In fact, I’d say that the return on our investment has been pretty near priceless!

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  • Rebecca says:

    yes…priorities are the key. You can be “frugal,” but still be “extravagant” in a particular area. Just because you spend “a lot” of money on something doesn’t mean you are being “wasteful”…as long as you have a good reason and you’ve thought through WHY you are doing it. Great post!

  • Diane says:

    Would you share a little about wanting to travel but anxiety being an issue? And overcoming that? For me, it is not air travel but interstate that causes anxiety. I think I hear about too many car accidents and see so many distracted drivers making mistakes.

    • I would consider looking into some short-term counseling to help you process through this and develop some strategies to help you. One of my friends who has severe travel anxiety has done this and it’s been really helpful. There may be deep-seated fears/trauma at the root of this that you might not recognize?

      For me, it’s been so helpful to think through “What’s the worst case scenario?” and prepping as well as possible with this in mind. I have a major fear of the unknown, so I’ve learned that doing my research and prepping help me out tremendously. I’ve also found that the more I face my fears, the less scary things feel. I’ve also experienced a TON less anxiety about all things since I stopped drinking coffee, starting sleeping more, and have stopped believing so many lies. (See more on that here:

      • Diane says:

        Thank you! I have seen so many people who have been in serious car accidents and I don’t think that helps. I asked my husband if he thought giving up coffee would help and he said I am the most anxious he has ever known me and I am drinking less coffee than ever, although I am glad it has helped you. Sleep would definitely help. My strategy lately has been to avoid fears, which is just making them grow. 🙁

        • Christine says:

          Sometimes you just have to do it afraid. God will never leave you or forsake you.

        • Christine says:

          P.S. My mother-in-law is afraid to drive and fly. Because of her fear she only see’s her grandchildren and us 1 afternoon a year. She’s missed out on a lot. She has not left her city limits in 5 or 6 years. Remember fear that keeps you from experiencing your heart’s desire is an acronym for : False Evidence Appearing Real.

        • Becky says:

          Diane, I’d recommend the book The DARE response

          Six months of therapy plus this DARE book helped me so much. I had a panic attack years ago and was afraid of having another one, especially in a situation where I was in charge of something or responsible for others (teaching a class, driving kids around, etc). The anxiety was getting so bad it was really interfering with my day to day life. Therapy and DARE led to me stepping out in faith and taking on some responsibilities that were terrifying to me. Like someone else said, I just did it scared. I told myself I didn’t have to do it well, I just had to do it. The fear was real—like I was being locked in a cage with a wild animal or something. But God was with me, I never had a panic attack and week by week it got easier. After 9 months I actually started to enjoy these responsibilities and the anxiety monster rarely shows up at my door anymore! I know it’s super scary and the hardest thing you will ever do but you have to face it to overcome it.

    • Trixie says:

      Hi Diane,

      Those interstate accidents happen. I was in one, very severe involving a semi and the death of my husband. In recovery I determined to and prayed for God to help me not be paralyzed by fear or depression in driving by the accident site, or driving on the highway in general or when I pass a semi. (Or to be so focused on what I lost that I would not be able to enjoy my present or future.)

      I’m so delighted in how life has worked out. I’ve enjoyed many trips and just regular everyday outings without the habit of worrying or being anxious. Even if I get in another accident someday, I have a feeling everything will work out ok again. My best to you and prayers for good travels.

  • What an amazing experience for your family! Thanks for sharing your world with us!

  • Lana says:

    Cheering you on all the way. Kids need to know that our American lifestyle is not how most of the world lives.

  • Joanne Peterson says:

    I like the answer you gave to let the people serving in Take Action Ministry know they are not alone, and you’re invested by being all in: funds, prayers, encouragement, presence, love, etc. One of the emphasized issues my husband and I learned taking the Perspectives Class is no missionary is an island, needs others, and it’s vital for themselves and ministry.

  • Beth says:

    All I could think as I read this was, “Take me with you!!” 🙂

  • Lori Palmer says:

    Sounds truly awesome and inspiring to be able to share this experience with your children. We have 7 kiddos and this is one of my dreams to take a trip out of the country to get outside of our familiar boxes. Poss a trip to visit of sponsor child or to another place for short term missions. That being said, I am grateful for all the money saving tips you give us to poss make this dream a reality someday by getting out of debt.

  • Nicole says:

    I’m laughing at the comment from your kid who doesn’t like to fly. I hated to fly growing up, but had to do it a lot because I was an Army brat. God had a way of fixing some of those fears – In college I took a flight back to college across the North Atlantic at the end of Christmas break. The flight was SO turbulent I watched a flight attendant throw up and it turned out we had trouble with a gas line. After shutting off an engine (on a 2 engine 777), we made an unscheduled landing in Iceland and spent almost 2 days there. After the turbulence we went through, I found out they can fly through A LOT more than I realized. Almost 15 years later, my husband is amazed that I don’t freak out every time we hit turbulence.

  • Chelsie says:

    I think it is amazing what you are doing with your family! This perspective will help them years down the road. This is the kind of thing I hope to do with my family as well though it will be a few years (my son is only 2).

    I love reading your blog posts. Don’t stop!

  • Cris says:

    As I commented before on your instagram post on this, why wouldn’t you?? The USA is a big country with many beautiful paces to visit but there is also a huge world out there waiting to be explored. So many people prefer to travel domestically because of the comforts of being in a familiar place (even when they can afford international travel) but I really hope to be able to take my son to many different countries someday. Even when language is a barrier, most tourist places abroad (I know that was not your whole time in SA) will have plenty of people that speak english as many of us foreigners have english classes starting at a young age in school. Seeing that not everyone lives like you is also an important lesson for any person and especially kids. When back home in Brazil this summer my son saw homeless people (including a child), and was staring at them since he hadn’t seen any before (not hardly any where we live) so I had to explain to him that not everyone is lucky as he is to have a family and a safe home. Those are not comfortable conversations but I hope that he starts understanding more outside of his US bubble. Despite being from a third world country, I saw a lot of things travelling to Uganda thru my work last year that showed me what many seem to forget: happiness is not always related to how much money one has.

    • “Happiness is not always related to how much money one has.”

      YES! This is so true! I love that my kids have so many local friends who aren’t caucasian and have experienced a number of “outside the American bubble” over the past few years. This has given them such a different perspective on cultures and race and provided the springboard for many good and hard discussions.

  • Heather says:

    We also live quite frugally: old cars, small house, etc., and because of that I know we caused eyebrows to raise when we took all four of our kids to France for 2 weeks this summer. We had been planning and saving for years, and were able to do it for just over $8,000, including things like the passports and luggage. We’d rather travel than have new cars.
    It was a great experience, and so good for the kids – even the ones that whined a bit sometimes! But they whine at home too, so why not go somewhere new and interesting!
    I bet that people would not have thought much about it if we had decided to take a trip to Disney World (we never have); it’s just that foreign travel is less commonly done, and people always notice the uncommon things.

    • “But they whine at home too, so why not go somewhere new and interesting!”

      This made me smile! 🙂 And yay for getting to take your kids to France! Some friends of ours went there this summer, too, and had an amazing time. And now I really want to go!

    • Diane says:

      Oh so fun! I hope to take my whole family to Europe after we pay our house off and save up the cash. I am very frugal, too.

  • Emily says:

    Traveling is the BEST education. I admire you for prioritizing this for your kids & for yourself!

  • Janelle Beimers says:

    I’m currently trying to decide whether to take my oldest (age 6) on a trip to visit my sister, his aunt, in Rwanda where she teaches 1st grade. So tough to decide!!!

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