Creating Global Citizens One Country at a Time

This is the first post in a series by the Cooney family about their world travels, made possible by the flexible learning offered at FLVS.

Cooney1_coverDo you ever dream of traveling the world with your family?

Have you wondered what it would be like to sell or donate all your stuff to become 21st century nomads?

Have you ever considered the benefits of giving students a hands-on, immersive education to complement and enhance a traditional classroom experience?

A series of stories over the next several months by members of the Cooney family (including three FLVS alumni) will answer these and many other questions about what it’s like to travel the world as a family.

In 2008, my wife Catrell and I sold nearly everything we owned to take our three teenage sons on a trek around the world.

For more than a year, we traveled to six continents, visited 22 countries, and covered more than 61,000 miles before returning to Central Florida. Florida Virtual School was the key to making our dream come true, but first, some backstory…

In 2005, at the height of the over-heated housing market, we received an appraisal on our home in Orlando, and were astounded by the equity it had gained since buying it in 1993. In just more than 10 years, its value had more than tripled. For years we had been discussing ways to travel the world with our sons, but could never find the means to finance such an ambitious enterprise. In the few minutes it took to review the appraisal, we found our source of funding, or so we thought.

Our goal was to give Morgan, Zach (twins) and Harrison an opportunity to see the world before starting college.

We theorized that after receiving an immersive, hands-on education through travel, they could attend a community college, transfer to and graduate from a state university, and succeed at anything they chose to do in life. Catrell and I are pleased to report that our theory has become reality.

At about the same time we received the appraisal on our home in 2005, Catrell began homeschooling Morgan and Zach through Florida Virtual School. It seemed the stars were aligning because it gave us the means to accelerate the normal pace of high school while maintaining high educational standards. Harrison eventually saw the merits of this idea, and became a full-time FLVS student in 2006.

We knew it would take several years of planning to make our dream come true, so we set our sights on leaving in fall 2008. During those three years, our determination was tested in ways we could never have imagined. Some days I was ready to give up and other days Catrell wanted to call it off, but fortunately we never felt that way on the same day.

Even when faced with overwhelming challenges, we continued to press forward.

In 2007, there were two major issues that tested us to the max. First, I was diagnosed with cancer, and second was the looming, omnipresent housing crisis. Surprisingly, the cancer was the easiest to resolve. It was caught early, and following surgery and nearly 10 weeks of recovery, my doctor pronounced that I was cancer-free. The housing crisis, however, was not as easily overcome. Almost daily, we saw our home’s equity eroding. It was the sole funding source, and threatened to derail our bodacious plan, and the promise we made to Morgan, Zach and Harrison.

In next month’s blog post, my wife Catrell will explain how we were able to make our dream a reality and will provide a mom’s perspective on traveling the world with her family.

Read next post >

Cooney Family bylineMike Cooney, father of three FLVS alumni, recently published a book about his family’s travels around the world. Cooney World Adventures: Backpacking with Teens Through Latin America details the first leg of their trek and tells the stories of their adventures (and sometimes misadventures) while traveling through Central and South America almost entirely by bus. 

For more information about the book and their travels, visit their website, drop a comment below, or email

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