'Cool idea' turns into epic trip around the world for Regina family of 6

When Emma Der heard about her mother's idea to spend a year abroad, she didn't think it would materialize. Now, she's travelled across Europe and Asia with her family.

Regina's Der family explored China, India, France and Slovenia and many more on nearly year-long trip

Alvin, Eli, Myka, Clara, Lucy and Emma Der went to Longmen Grottoes, a UNESCO Heritage Site in Luoyang, China. (Submitted by Clara Der)

When Emma Der heard about her mother's idea to spend a year abroad, she didn't think it would materialize.

"At first, I thought it was a cool idea, but I don't think we'll actually do it. It'll just be an idea out there floating around," she said.

As of three years ago, the farthest the Regina teen and her family had travelled together was on a road trip to Texas.

On Oct. 15, 2016, she celebrated her 15th birthday in Nanjing, China — part of a nearly year-long trip throughout Europe and Asia she took with her family and blogged about.

One of the family's first stops was the Great Wall of China. (Submitted by Clara Der)

The teenager shares the travel bug with her mother.

It was just a matter of time for me because I do love travelling and it's always been part of my life.- Clara Der

"It was just a matter of time for me because I do love travelling and it's always been part of my life," said Clara Der, who was born in Malaysia and moved to Canada as a young child.

She also lived in Japan and France before she got married.

"After having Emma, my first child, I knew at some point I would want her to have a cross-cultural experience just because of my own cross-cultural background."

Travel fears unfounded

One family member was reluctant, though, to spend a year traipsing around Asia and Europe.

It would take an ultimatum to convince Clara's husband, Alvin, to come along with their four children — Emma,15, Myka, 13, and twins Lucy and Eli, 9.

The Der family started their mornings with a Muslim breakfast while staying in China. (Submitted by Clara Der)

Clara said she was going on the trip with the children with or without him.

"I'm kind of set in here in the things that I'm doing, in work, in how that was going," said Alvin.

"And I thought everything was going well at work and I didn't want for something to stop and have to deal with. What do we do with our house? What do you do with your car? What do you do with life? What do I tell my parents? What do I tell my boss?"

At first, I thought it was a cool idea, but I don't think we'll actually do it.- Emma Der

He admitted these worries were excuses that were masking his fears of the unknown.

"I know that if I didn't go, I would miss out. I would miss the kids and everybody."

As the trip progressed, he realized his fears were unfounded.

"There's always your fear coming from a western culture [that's] affluent … [of] other people looking at that as opportunities to steal or take from you," he said.

"Instead, they take opportunities to know you. They take opportunities to talk to you. They wouldn't take advantage of that, or so we've experienced."

Soaking up cultures

The Der family left Regina in the fall of 2016 and returned the following summer. Their journey took them to China, Vietnam, Cambodia, Malaysia, Singapore, India, Greece, France, Italy, Slovenia, Hungary, Poland, the Czech Republic and Germany.

Clara didn't want her family to just visit places. She wanted to linger and experience different countries and their cultures.

"In my head, I actually had a two-year or even a five-year plan. But in talking, it seemed more reasonable to have a one-year plan," she said.

It was surreal. It was just odd that we were walking on this wall that was so ancient and was the one symbol of China — one of the great wonders of the world.- Alvin Der

In the end, Alvin did see the value of travelling. When he saw the Great Wall of China early on in their trip, he was taken by the magnitude of it.

"There wasn't very much information about the wall. You're not reading a lot. But you're just standing on it and just soaking it in," he said.

"I thought it was just crazy. It was surreal. It was just odd that we were walking on this wall that was so ancient and was the one symbol of China — one of the great wonders of the world."

The Der family travelling by train in Vietnam. (Submitted by Clara Der)

Reflections on world travel

Emma said her family has always been close, but this trip brought them even closer together. Her favourite place was Istanbul.

"It felt more familiar because it felt more western. I knew that area quite well because we stayed there three weeks, so I felt comfortable to go out by myself," said Emma.

If she could revisit one of the countries, she would choose France, as she knows how to speak the language.

"It would be an easy first stop to go to while travelling by myself when I'm older. I really like the little villages. They're all so unique."

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      About the Author

      Florence Hwang

      Florence Hwang is a CBC Saskatchewan web writer.