When ER doctor Stacy Porter was eight months pregnant with her first child, her then 32-year-old husband Nick was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Surviving treatment seven years ago changed Nick’s outlook on life.
“Going through chemo and getting the clear diagnosis was such a game-changer for me personally. For Stacy, watching her young husband go through that, it gave us the opportunity to reevaluate,” says the real estate professional who lives in Paradise Valley. “Life’s short. We better take advantage of this with our kids.”
Five years and two more kids later, Nick’s diagnosis coupled with the parents’ flexible jobs ultimately spurred the Porters’ decision to travel internationally with their kids. The family of five left for Australia in June of 2019 to travel for an entire year.
They landed in Australia first because Nick had studied in the Sydney area as a junior in college and fell in love with the country.
“We a really beach-centric family,” says Porter. “Our kids are swimmers. Stacy and I love the beach and the ocean. Australia seemed like a natural pick for us.”
This is a growing movement called “world schooling.” World schooling involves giving your children an education by traveling with them all over the world; the main idea behind it being that kids can receive a great education by experiencing different places. Nick and Stacy would also teach lessons.
“Homeschooling was one of the challenging things about the whole trip,” he shares.
One parent would do art projects with their 4-year-old Maverick and 3-year-old Elin. The other would teach 7-year-old Cruz science, math, or reading comprehension for about one hour a day.
“My goal was just to become a tight-knit family. That’s really important,” says Nick. “I wanted a sense of high-touch parenting. You’re full on parenting 24/7 for a year. Really influencing the kids with a lot of daily interaction.”
The family began their journey on the East Coast of Australia in Brisbane. The couple bought an off-road Land Cruiser their first week in the country, stocked up on camping gear, and started their adventure. From Brisbane, the family ventured to the northern tip of Australia, camping all along the coast.
During that first leg of the trip, the family spent an entire week on the Whitsunday Islands—a group of 74 islands off the coast of the Queensland and beside the Great Barrier Reef. Nick captained a 44-foot catamaran, and says it was their favorite part of the trip.
“We anchored in different ports and bays and harbors, and ate fresh fish. It was incredible,” he says.
From there, the family headed south to Melbourne. Next, they flew to Bali. Then drove back up to Sydney and then flew to New Zealand for one month.
And like any true adventure, Porter has plenty of stories from their travels. There are the only-in-Australia stories. like when a bunch of kangaroos were on the front porch of their cabin one day and Maverick left the door open, so one of the kangaroos got in. Porter had to get the animal out of the cabin using a dining chair.
“It was seriously crazy,” he says. “They can get aggressive, especially when you get between them and food.”
On Australia’s Fraser Island—the world’s largest sand island—the family spotted a 7-foot-long python in their campsite. Goanna lizards, which can be up to 4 feet long, were also all over the camp.
But as anyone who’s traveled anywhere knows, you’re bound to hit a few snags. And, the family witnessed two major historical events. First were the bush fires that roared throughout Australia during 2019 and 2020. While in a national park, the family woke up with ash on their tent, and was asked to evacuate by a park ranger. And next came the pandemic, which cut their trip short by about three months. The family departed in April of 2020.
Porter says he can see how the trip affected his kids with just about everything. He notices they’re more willing to try new foods, and are more flexible after being on the road for nine months.
“We were rarely somewhere for more than a week,” he says. “It just made really resilient kids.”
Cruz took to surfing. Maverick was the family’s “dedicated fisherman.” He even caught three jacks the family ate for dinner. Stacy and Nick would teach their kids about each place they visited.
Looking back, Porter says he’d take the trip again and would recommend it to anyone.
“We only live this life once. That’s what you need to wake up and think every day. It’s hard to keep that at the forefront of your mind because life is a grind. We only get one shot. What do you want your one shot to be filled with?” he says. “Scarier than life being short is looking back on life and knowing you didn't experience it.”