GOSHEN, Indiana (Goshen College) -- As a board member of Mennonite Mission Network, Susan Burkholder and her family decided to learn more about the world in which they live. They have just completed a year-long, 'round-the-world sabbatical, often acting as Mission Network ambassadors on "special assignment."
"We love travel," Susan Burkholder wrote in their blog. "We were ready to press pause on our careers for a bit. And, most importantly, we want to provide some sort of intentional, cross-cultural experience for the girls at formative ages."
Susan Burkholder first credits their decision to take a year off in order to travel to their time spent in Guatemala with Mennonite Central Committee (MCC), which not only opened their eyes to the world, but also inspired them to do the same for their two daughters.
But also, for Susan Burkholder, their passion for adventure stems from previous encounters with interculturalism.
"We may not have done MCC if it weren't for our experiences at Goshen College with [Study-Service Term], a spring term in Guatemala, and so many friends with international living experiences," she said. Both Alan and Susan Burkholder are Goshen College alumni.
The family [has] set aside about a month for each location and homeschooled their daughters on the road. Susan Burkholder wrote [writes] in their blog: "Admittedly, [one month] is still a quick visit, but we're hoping that it is enough to give the girls, and us, too, a better understanding of the many different ways people live and work and play."
Despite the relatively brief time in each destination, the family has been challenged to reflect deeply in their downtime on what they have learned so far.
"We've had time to discuss big issues that come up 一 income inequality, racism, the role of religion in society, our own thoughts on religion, black holes and gravitational wave, and single-use plastic," Susan Burkholder said.
Noticing the harsh realities of historical apartheid in South Africa, seeing the countless cluster bombs launched by the United States that failed to detonate in Laos, and recognizing the downfalls of single-use plastic in southeast Asia have all opened their eyes. Many experiences like these have been awakening for the Burkholders, but along with somewhat troubling insights, they have encountered equally rewarding beauty.
They have explored the Amazon in Ecuador, trekked across Nepal, enjoyed the breathtaking scenery New Zealand had to offer, snorkeled in Zanzibar, bungee jumped in Queenstown, took part in a 12-day safari in South Africa, and more.
The excursion took years of working, saving and planning. Both Elsa and Magdalena followed a somewhat unorthodox education system they like to refer to as "worldschooling." Although it won't carry on following the lengthy expedition, the Burkholders hope to continue some of the experiential learning processes they delved into. "We've learned that a lot of places can feel like home for a while," Susan Burkholder said.
Nick Yutzy is a Goshen (Indiana) College student. Adapted and reprinted by permission of Goshen College.