A St. Louis Park family of four plans to make a trip around the world in about 365 days.
Larry Kraft, who has worked as a high-tech executive and run marketing and sales at Minnetonka-based Digi International, quit his job to make the trip possible while his wife, Lauri Kraft, will take a hiatus from her musical theater work.
Their children, 8-year-old Jamie Kraft and 6-year-old Jason Kraft, have attended Peter Hobart Elementary School in St. Louis Park. The Krafts worked with school officials on a plan to homeschool the children during the trip as well as share their adventures with other St. Louis Park students.
The family embarked Aug. 12 on their journey, They plan to hit six continents during their travails to destinations as diverse as the Svalbard archipelago in the Arctic Ocean and Cambodia.
Along the way, the Krafts hope to bring attention to environmental issues throughout the world. They will log their travels at krafttrip.blogspot.com. A map of their planned route zigzags across the world.
As well as seeing the Arctic firsthand, the Krafts plan to connect with a variety of organizations with an environmental focus. For example, they will spend two weeks at a school in Costa Rica that focuses on nature. The school helps local families become involved in the country’s flourishing ecotourism industry.
“They can leverage the rainforest for that rather than something more destructive,” Larry Kraft said.
In the Netherlands, they anticipate learning about how rising ocean levels are affecting a nation famous for its dikes and levies meant to hold back the sea.
In Vietnam, they plan to connect with an organization that seeks to discourage the consumption of products made from rhinoceros, tiger and bear parts, which some people believe have medicinal powers. The family also plans to visit a park in India that is home to tigers and a place in Africa with rhinoceroses.
“We’ll see both ends of the problem,” Larry Kraft said.
They will also explore biodiversity in southeast Asia’s Greater Mekong region, home to more than 1,000 species of freshwater fish and the rare Irrawaddy dolphins that can live in freshwater rivers.
“We as a world have some issues we need to address,” Larry Kraft said of environmental concerns in areas in the Greater Mekong region and well beyond.
He acknowledged their trip will also have an environmental impact. They’ll fly between some destinations and also take buses, boats “and probably an occasional ox-cart,” Larry Kraft said. The family purchased carbon offsets from a group called TerraPass. While Larry Kraft said the offsets may have a feel-good nature to them, he said they do provide an impact through the planting of trees or the prevention of environmental destruction.
While the family said before the trip that they planned to bring less cargo than they might for a weeklong trip, given how much they will be on the move. However, the Krafts are bringing plenty of electronics for videoconferencing, documenting their trip, reading and for educational activities for kids.
A traveling passion
Traveling is a passion for Larry and Lauri Kraft, they said.
“I like the connection it creates for me to other places and other people and also the rest of the world and really what it means to be an American,” Larry Kraft said. “I think I really learned that after I traveled.”
In 1990, Larry Kraft embarked on a backpacking trip himself. During his trek, he met an Australian who was traveling abroad for a year, as many Australians do.
“That just blew me away,” Larry Kraft said. “I took a step back and thought why not?”
After he and Lauri Kraft married, they visited Central America and South America for nine months in 1997 and 1998.
They have been planning their current yearlong trip – which will have a return visit to the States for Thanksgiving – continually for about six months. Larry Kraft noted they have planned more for this trip than he did for his solo journey.
“Then if I wound up in a train station with nowhere to stay, I’d just sleep on the floor,” he said. “But you don’t want to do that with kids.”
Instead, they will stay in a mix of lodging facilities, including with host families.
The couple hopes their current yearlong trip will instill a love for the environment and the world as a whole within their children.
“I’m so excited at this chance for them to see how people in other places live,” Lauri Kraft said. “Most people in the world have different lives than in the U.S. or how our family lives in particular.”
Larry Kraft noted he learned to appreciate the outdoors at an early age through camping trips.
“Research has said you can try to teach kids about environmental research or you can just get them outside,” he said. “Getting them outside works.”
The kids each had a favorite animal in mind they would like to see. Jason Kraft said he would like to see penquins in the Galapagos Islands while Jaime Kraft said she looks forward to seeing dolphins.
When asked her overall thoughts about the trip, Jaime Kraft replied, “Not awesome and awesome.”
The “not awesome” part related to being away from her friends, she said. When asked about the “awesome” part of her answer, she replied with a grin, “Because we’re going all around the world!”
Contact Seth Rowe at [email protected]