The Porters aren’t the kinds of travellers to buy a Lonely Planet guide book – but they joke if they did, they would head straight to the list of what not to do and turn it into a check list.
Instead, the family of five is pursuing a once-in-a-lifetime expedition with a to-do list of their own devising: buy one single-engine plane, fly around the world for 14 months, and raise $1 million for a global charity.
“Fundamentally, I think it’s about education – a broader education of experiences and life and values,” 59-year-old Ian Porter said from his home in Vancouver.
He got his pilot’s licence at 19 and has always dreamed of making such a trip – fuelled by his life-long passion for aviation, whether it’s flying planes, paragliders or sailplanes.
So, although the seriousness of a trip around planet Earth was blurry at first discussion, mom Michelle Porter, 57, and the couple’s three kids weren’t entirely surprised when Ian proposed the plan around a year ago.
The idea was crazy, but somehow the timing was right. Samantha Porter, 21, could take a year off between her third and fourth years of studying geography, environment and sustainability at the University of British Columbia. Sydney, 18, could take a gap year after completing Grade 12. And Christopher, 14, could do all his Grade 10 classes online along the way.
The next step was securing the perfect plane. It needed to be able to carry five people plus fuel and equipment and be capable of landing on remote and gravel airstrips. It also needed to be relatively easy to fly with Samantha and Sydney both set to co-pilot the trip, albeit with not as extensive experience behind the wheel as their father.
The family soon landed on the GA8 AirVan, an Australian-manufactured utility plane made for tasks like parachuting, humanitarian aid and search and rescue operations.
By some stroke of luck – or “the universe,” as Samantha calls it – one of only a few known to be in Canada went up for sale in Delta.
In just a few short weeks, on June 14, the Porters are set to take flight.
Ian says upon completion, they’ll join an exclusive group of about 500 to 600 people to ever have flown a single-engine aircraft around the world. That’s about a tenth of the number of people who have summitted Mount Everest.
The Porters, who have always preferred to take the path less travelled, say they plan to take their time, and unlike most others actually spend a few days in each place they land, connecting with different people and cultures.
“What I’ve realized is traveling to areas outside of resorts and getting to see the actual country and culture, and meet and interact with the people, changes your perspective on everything,” Sydney said.
They believe it will be an education not only for them, but also for anyone who chooses to follow their journey blog and social media.
They’re well aware being cramped in an aircraft with your immediate family and 20 pounds of luggage each for over a year isn’t everyone’s idea of a dream vacation. But, they hope they can peak other people’s curiosity in lesser known places and encourage them to explore and interact even within their own communities. They also hope having two woman pilots on board will encourage others to get their licenses too.
Perhaps most importantly, the Porters aim to raise $1 million for SOS Children’s Villages along the way.
“We wanted it to count for something,” Ian said, adding that the global charity organization takes a holistic approach to caring for children without parental care, providing them with long-term education, mental health support, housing and community.
The family also hopes to spread awareness about the charity itself, which isn’t well known in North America.
They’ll be in the air until Aug. 12, 2023, and documenting every day until then on social media and at 5inthesky.com.