Scott and Emily Manning's life hasn't gone as planned.
After meeting at Brigham Young University and marrying in 2010, the couple dreamed of settling down and starting a family, but as they began house hunting, the prospect of being tied to a single location and a mortgage became increasingly unappealing. However, the couple confronted an even bigger challenge as a series of miscarriages made their plans of starting a family seem out of reach.
“We were kind of lost because no one tells us that happens,” Emily Manning said. “Once we experienced a miscarriage, we realized we’re not like the people that surrounded us. We decided that we weren’t meant to do those things in the same way."
As members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the Mannings turned to their faith for peace and decided to pursue a new plan, one that led them to spend a year living in 12 countries, and they don't see themselves slowing down anytime soon.
The idea for a trip around the world began brewing in the summer of 2012 after the couple visited the East Coast.
“We realized ... that we wanted to not just see all the tourist things,” Scott Manning said. “We wanted to know how people actually lived there.”
In an effort to experience everyday life in a variety of locations, they decided to visit 12 countries in 12 months. They saw the potential for growth and learning as they immersed themselves in wildly different cultures.
They sold a majority of their belongings and spent a year saving as much as they could. They also knew Scott's flexible job in Web design would allow him to work remotely and provide an income as they traveled.
They built up enough airline miles through credit card rewards to fly from country to country almost for free, and they used Airbnb, a vacation rental website, to find affordable rooms.
As the couple planned their trip, they decided to carry on even if Emily became pregnant again.
“If Scott and I are to travel the world just the two of us, then so be it,” Emily Manning wrote on her blog in November 2012. “If we are to travel the world pregnant, then so be it. We will plan for as much as we can, but God is truly the one in control here.”
Emily soon learned she was pregnant, and the Mannings' son, Carter, was born in August 2013. The couple's families worried about the challenges of traveling the world with a baby, but Scott and Emily felt confident they were being led to take this leap.
The Mannings embarked on their journey in April 2014 after nearly two years of preparation and with 7-month-old Carter in tow. They spent the year in New Zealand, Australia, Taiwan, the Philippines, the United Kingdom, Italy, Morocco, South Africa, Chile, Ecuador, Costa Rica and the United States.
The family documented their travels at twelvecountries.com, sharing the ups and downs of living abroad with a toddler and using the platform to share their faith with readers.
They decided that wherever they went, they would look for the closest LDS chapel and attend worship services on Sundays. Long commutes in Australia and Italy didn’t deter them from seeking spiritual strength and community.
“Attending meetings wherever we were, it was truly inspiring to see the faith of these members who place such an importance on attending their meetings and sacrificing whatever they need to get there,” Emily Manning said.
The family found that staying close to their faith also helped them through difficult times. In Taiwan, their third stop, they felt homesick and disconnected because of the language barrier. They considered packing up and going home.
“That was one country where we were completely humbled, and we really had to rely on the Lord a lot,” Emily Manning said.
But while they were in Taiwan, they had a special experience as they tried to find the family of a Taiwanese man whom Emily's grandfather had befriended during U.S. Army Ranger school 50 years earlier. Though the Mannings were unable to locate this particular family, their search led them to another man who attended the camp with Emily's grandfather. The man, a retired military official, agreed to meet them, and the couple connected the comrades through a video chat. The Mannings wrote on their blog that Emily's grandfather "counts it as one of the greatest moments in his life."
“Sometimes we are in places we don’t really want to be, but the Lord needs us there,” Emily Manning said.
The Mannings are also grateful for the friends they made and the hospitality of people who welcomed them into their homes.
“The common factor of everyone we met was how well they treated us and others around them,” Scott Manning said.
Scott Manning said that the experience has affected his interactions with others, especially with visitors at church.
“It wasn’t like I would go out of my way to make them feel special,” he said. “Now having that perspective just makes me want to be friendlier to everyone.”
The couple knows 22-month-old Carter won't remember the trip, but they hope he will continue to enjoy traveling.
"It has really molded him into someone who is willing to make the most out of any situation, even at this young age," Emily Manning said.
The year abroad brought them closer to their family and faith, but it also introduced them to a lifestyle that they want to maintain.
After returning to the United States in February, they bought a bus and began planning their next adventure.
The retired transit bus will become their home once renovations are complete. They plan to park in various locations for a few months at a time as they search for a permanent landing spot. The family will share their adventures at whereweroam.com
Although they will continue roaming, the Mannings feel grounded in their faith.
"I don’t know where we’ll be in our lives over the next few months, but I know that I can trust in my Savior, and he will continue to guide us as he has this past year," Emily Manning wrote on her blog.
Email: [email protected]