While many exhausted parents have to book family vacations during the school holidays, a family is free to travel with their children as they please.
Emma Tryon, 36, and her husband, Peter, 37, say ‘the world is their children’s classroom’ and have so far taken their offspring to 18 different countries.
The couple decided to take their children Hudson and Darien – aged four and one and a half – on an adventure around the world to teach them about other cultures and the natural world – breaking away from a traditional British classroom environment.
The two teachers, as a pair, say they admire many of the inspirational teachers they have worked with – but believe the traditional school system is failing many students.
Instead, they “home-school” their children on the go – from yurts, hostels, treehouses and hotels – visiting 18 different countries with their families.
Get the news you want straight to your inbox. Sign up for the Mirror newsletter here
The family have been traveling since their eldest was seven weeks old and have been jet-setting ever since.
Reflecting on the UK school system, Emma said: “Teachers are some of the most inspiring people in the world. Peter and I have worked in several schools and worked with some amazing and dedicated people.
“But the school system is often ‘one size fits all’, which unfortunately means that while some students do well, others struggle, and the system fails many students.
“Too many students end up thinking they’re stupid when in reality they haven’t found and been educated in something they’re passionate about. They’re labeled stupid and then we wondered why there were so many mental health issues in schools.
“Over time, we’ve been led to believe that you can only get an education within four walls, but there’s a whole world of education out there.”
Peter and Emma saved up by living in the UK, living humbly to fund their adventures.
Emma, who taught design and technology in Sheffield, Yorkshire, said: “All we need is a pen and paper – the world is our classroom.
“We teach our boys the basics – like math and English – but traveling the world allows us to go beyond that.
“Our sons experience things they would never have had the chance to experience in the UK – if they had a traditional upbringing.”
The couple hiked with their eldest son to Japan to teach him about Japanese snow monkeys and they even stayed at an off-grid eco-house in Morocco to teach him about sustainability.
Adventurers Emma and Peter met while hiking in Cambodia in 2011.
Together they have traveled to over 50 countries, including Colombia, Japan and Indonesia.
And they have no immediate plans to return, Emma saying: “We feel so deeply happy doing what we do and we want to continue. At the end of the day, we will always put the needs of our children first.
“We are very open-minded, no one can plan their whole life, but at the moment it works for us. If they had to decide when they are older than they want to experience a ‘normal’ school, then we’d be looking into it.”
“As we travel, we meet more and more like-minded people who also ask themselves ‘is there another way?’ It’s exiting. We are just one of many families who are beginning to explore the possibility that there are other approaches to life.”
Emma and Peter got engaged in Thailand in October 2011 and married in Corbridge, Northumberland in August 2012.
The couple returned to the UK in 2016 to visit family, but Emma became pregnant and their short visit turned into a more permanent family arrangement.
They both worked several minimum wage jobs until Peter got a more permanent role teaching high school science.
The couple found they had quickly returned to a “normal Western lifestyle” – before realizing it wasn’t for them.
They continued to take long backpacking trips with their eldest from the age of seven weeks. Seeing the learning opportunities of their shorter journeys inspired them to embark on their full-time adventures.
They only packed the essentials and donated everything else they didn’t need – before leaving for Thailand in August 2021.
Emma said: “We tried to settle down and live a meaningful life.
“We did what everyone strives for – a home, a marriage, kids – but it never felt right for our family.
“We love having the freedom to travel and experience new things.
“We didn’t want our family to be tied to one place.”
Domestic life did not suit the fearless couple, and the social expectations and norms of Western life did not match what the family wanted.
“My baby cried every time Peter went to work because she missed him so much. It was really sad, and we just didn’t want that for our family,” Emma said.
When their eldest son was old enough to start school, they realized the family would have to start spending even less time together.
The family decided to defy expectations and live their life the way they wanted.
They gave away their things and now they only have what they can carry on their backs – they only check one bag between them at airports.
“Possessions weigh you down,” Emma said.
“We travel light and teach the boys to value experiences over material possessions.”
On children’s birthdays, parents prefer to give experiences to gifts.
Emma said: “Darien turned two recently so we did some cute little things which he loves.
“We took a boat at sunrise and went to get some ice cream. We also bought him swimming goggles and toys because he is very excited to swim while watching his big brother.”
“We always buy things from them, but we have to think a lot more carefully, it has to be small and really relative to what they like and are learning to do at the time.
“Most parents know that whatever you buy your kids, they usually run away and play with the box or something random that isn’t a toy anyway.”
During their travels, the family has visited 18 different countries – and they don’t plan on slowing down anytime soon.
They take math lessons by visiting local markets and science lessons by hiking in the jungle – and teach the boys about plants and the natural world around them.
Although it may seem like the family is on a long vacation, she makes sure her days are structured with a routine and are full of education.
Emma said: ‘When we wake up in the morning we start the day with a bit of exercise and then we read with the boys. Then we have one-on-one time with them.
“With our eldest it might be math or English lessons, and with our youngest it might be playing together and singing songs.
“We may be on the beach while we teach and learn – or by a beautiful lake, in the mountains or in the middle of a forest – rather than stuck between four walls.
“In the afternoons, we organize educational activities, whether it’s visiting elephants and learning to roll a toilet with elephant poo, or teaching them how to swim in the ocean. “
Speaking about how they make their lifestyle work in practice, Emma said: “It’s a simple and surprisingly affordable lifestyle.
“Street food in Asia is really healthy and cheap, it’s the equivalent of £1 a meal and there’s no washing up at the end which is great for me.
“Life will always have its challenges. Running a household has so many logistical challenges and it just wasn’t me – I was terrible at it.
“I could see the people around me doing the domestic life so well and being so content, but I didn’t feel like it was going to be our path. It didn’t feel like what we were made for.
“We choose our own challenges by living the way we do, it works for us.”
In Thailand, the couple taught their boys about conservation by spending time at a Thai elephant sanctuary.
They learned about Thai culture through art classes with local artists. They also took Thai cooking classes with their sons and even learned how to make paper from elephant poo.
In Japan, their eldest son learned about the culture while staying at a Buddhist monastery on Mount Koyasan. He also discovered Japanese snow monkeys by scouring the hills for them.
In Morocco, boys learned to live sustainably by spending time in an off-grid eco-house.
Speaking about the experiences their children have developed, Emma said: “Hudson can swim about three meters deep underwater and is learning physics from it, he is fascinated by the world around him and it allows him to teach him a science that would normally be taught in grade 9 at school.
“Recently we were watching a thunderstorm over the ocean which caused him to ask some big questions which we then incorporated into his schooling.
“He’s always involved in buying things in local currency as he goes, which is great for his math. We also do a lot of art to help reflect on the culture he’s experiencing.
“He also learned to surf, cook Thai food and most importantly learn about the environment and how to protect it. They helped out at an elephant sanctuary and recently we taught them how to keep the ocean clean.
“Soon we hope to take her diving with giant turtles as part of helping her really connect with protecting the planet.”
“We were nervous about doing this… we had to opt out of the UK school system. It was really scary, but eight months later we are more and more sure that it was the right thing for our family.”
They now work as digital nomads, running a website called thebackpackingfamily.com and they share their trip on their social networks and their Youtube channel The Backpacking Family.