Adventure of a lifetime

Family heads off around the world


The Pendergrasts love to travel. They have long wanted to see Australia, Europe and Asia. Now they will—all in the next six months.

Mom Marla, dad Robin and daughter Tricia, 11, are in New Zealand now, the first stop on their six-month around-the-world adventure.

“There are a few places I’m really excited about—Australia and London and China,” says Tricia, a sixth-grader at Da Vinci Academy in Elgin. “And there are things that we kind of compromised on, like Dad wanted to go to Vietnam. I never really had any desire to go there, but maybe it will be more fun than I expected.”

The idea started a year ago, when Marla’s college-age nephew spent a semester studying at sea. He sent e-mails from every port as he sailed around the world. “I thought, ‘Wait a minute. I want to do this, too,’” Marla says.

So they planned and saved. It took a year—and the sale of a family car, some of Robin’s photography equipment along with some serious family frugality—to save the $20,000-$25,000 they expect to need, assuming they manage to stick to their budget of about $150 a day. “It’s a lot of money,” she admits, but they expect the experience to be priceless.

A house sitter is caring for their McHenry home and their two cats, Snuggle Pie and Buttercup. Others are covering work that comes into the family business, Robin F. Pendergrast Photography, while they’re gone. And they’ll still be working—Robin will be taking photos to sell in his stock photography business, Marla will be writing a book about the experience and Tricia will be working on her novel, which chronicles the experiences of a young woman traveling around the world.

Marla says she lost count of how many hours she spent on the Internet arranging housing in New Zealand, Australia, Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, Hong Kong, China, Italy, Spain, France and the United Kingdom. They’ll spend the longest portion of their trip living in a condominium in the former Olympic Village in Sydney, Australia, where Tricia, a budding actress, will attend a performing arts school for 12 weeks.

They’re traveling on around-the-world tickets purchased from United Airlines for $3,500 each. The tickets entitle them to fly 29,000 miles, making 15 stops. 

Tricia was a bit nervous when the planning started—she’d heard about the pickpockets in other countries, she says—and she got a little annoyed at living with just one car. But her biggest concern before their Dec. 28 departure: How to pack everything an 11-year-old needs without going over the 44-pound limit. “I’m the world’s heaviest packer.”

The Pendergrasts will post accounts and photos of their travels on the Web at

Cindy Richards

Kids Eat Chicago

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