14 Nomadic Families Share Their Thoughts On Preparing For The Travel LifestylePosted on May 2, 2011 | 25 comments
I'll be really honest. A huge part of me is just schoolgirl giddy about traveling the world with my family starting next year. And I'm a dad so that means I am, like, really, really giddy!
Another part of me is cautious, tentative and - dare I say - a bit nervous. We are taking our kids to live and travel around the world for the rest of our lives. We don't have jobs abroad. We don't have much money. And we didn't take Nomad 101 in school.
Nervous kinda seems appropriate.
So, in order to calm our nerves a bit and make sure Heidi and I are doing everything we can to prepare for our family travels, we enlisted the help of some professionals. 14 traveling families who know just what it takes to have fun, stay steady and take in what the world has to offer. We asked them two simple, but big questions:
1) What is the best decision you made in preparing for your travels?
2) Looking back, what one thing regarding your travels would you have done differently?
We hope you enjoy their responses. And much thanks to all the families who participated.
Amy and Jarrad have been RVing around Australia with their 4 kids for over a year now, and it doesn't seem like they will be stopping any time soon. As Amy recently noted on our blog, "I think that we may spend another 2 – 3 years traveling Australia and still miss a lot!" Keep going guys, at least until we get to visit.
1) Our decision not to make fixed travel plans, and therefore limit preparation was probably one of the biggest favours we did ourselves. We are free to take local advice, follow signs, and visit places recommended to us by other travellers. We can take a day of rest if the kids need it, stop for work when the bank account is depleted, or head out following a sign to a forest or hot springs that we had never heard of again. The other thing that I am really grateful for is the audiobooks and podtours that we collected when we had a decent internet connection. These podtours have provided us with so much information about places we have visited, and entertainment. The audiobooks have just been listening gold for entertaining four kids on our travels. They almost cut out the "Are We There Yet" and "How Much Longer" for our kids.
2) My first reaction would be to say that we would take less stuff. We still have too much stuff. We are forever trying to cut down on the amount of stuff that we have. However, I will name something else that we have needed. We've just acquired it this week. There have been many countless times that we have camped by a river or a lake. My husband has three 25 litre containers that he will scoop the water out with, and then syphen into our caravan tanks. After a year and a half, we have finally purchased a 12V pump that he can attach to a hose. This will mean that we can put one end of the hose directly into the river or lake, switch on the pump and have it flow easily into the caravan. This will save a lot of time, and more importantly my husband's back.
Our Family is Our Home. I like that. And it really seems that Jenn and Brian and their 4 kids hold true to that idea. I love the way their kids are into the blog posts and participate in the adventures. Travel here is a learning experience, on all levels, and the kids seem to eat it up. Very Nice Guys!
1) The best thing we ever did was sell our home and as much of our things as possible -especially our electronics, as they depreciate quickly. We got money to fund our trip, but the greatest reward from selling most of our things is the emotional freedom of being tied down to stuff. When we sold our home, we thought we'd miss it from time to time (we loved our house!) but we're so surprised to not miss it so much! Travelling has opened our eyes to the possibilities of living/settling down somewhere other than Canada. We're so glad to be away from the snow! It's hilarious to read our friends' updates complaining about the cold and snow back home, but they don't realize that they can do something about that and MOVE! LOL! Brian and I can't believe we tolerated that crazy weather for that long.
Currently we've downsized our things down to fit into a double garage- half of that is taken up by our van. We didn't want to sell ALL our things, to kind of make sure we had something to come back to if our 1st leg away was a disaster. Our van is paid off and we need it to get around when we get back (in May for the summer). Yet, we may end up selling it this summer. We also kept some special keepsakes and our favourite heirloom furniture. The 80% that we did sell, we don't regret for a minute!
2) The one thing I regret was deciding to leave some of the kids' homeschool books (particularly Singapore Math workbooks) back in Edmonton I was worried about the weight issue...carrying all those books around with us and not using/needing them for 3 months. I decided to do what John Higham in 360 Degrees did with his kids' books: Have them sent to them when they needed them. This turned out to be a disaster for us and ended up costing A LOT of money in the end. First of all, our kids went through their math curriculum faster than expected and when we had my sister send them to Barcelona during the week we were there, it came late due to customs clearing, and we missed it. Long story short, books got lost in limbo and I had to buy them online which cost a fortune for shipping to Turkey! The postage for the lost books initially cost a lot, then when they showed up 3 months later in Canada, the post office wanted the same amount back for the shipping return. I just told my sister to leave them there. Ouch. Lesson learned: Make sure you get ALL your curriculum books so you don't have to spend a fortune for shipping! Oh well, live and learn...at least we can claim some of the books purchased with our homeschool board's reimbursment fees. Other than that, I can't think of anything else we'd change!
You can follow Jenn, Brian and the kids on their website http://www.athomeintheworld.com.
The Vogel family left June 8, 2008 for a 2 1/2 year bicycle trip traversing the Pan-American Highway from Alaska to Argentina. They just completed their journey in March of this year (2011) and are settling back into life like the rest of us. I really love reading their blog, maybe even more no that they are back in the States. Watching their family switch back to mainstream society is really amazing and I have learned a lot. Thanks Guys!
1) We did it. We didn't overplan and dwell on everything that could go wrong - we simply made the decision to go and we jumped.
2) What is one thing you wish you did differently or should have done? We tried to skimp on money before we left and ended up with some gear that wasn't right. We should have just spent the money - in the long run it would have been cheaper.
I love how Marilia dedicates her site to: "inspiring parents to make their life a practical example of living passionately to their children." Marilia does a great job on her site of mixing travel, adventure and parenting. She currently lives in Costa Rica with her 4-year old daughter and I am very jealous of all the adventures they are having.
1) The best thing I did to prepare for the big adventure was setting up a deadline to buy the tickets 3 months prior to the trip. This way I couldn't push the decision to travel any further and once I bought the tickets I started talking often to my daughter about our traveling plans.
2) I thought I was packing light with a 50-liter backpack for me and my daughter, plus a day backpack for electronics but it turned out to be too much weight on me. Next time, I´ll get a 35-liter backpack that should accommodate the day backpack in it.
The Millers just seem to have fun. They know what they like and that happens to be traveling, learning and spending quality time with their kids, which they have been doing for 3+ years! A great bunch of roadschoolers. The Millers just returned from Guatemala to the States for the summer and I can't wait to see where they will go next.
1) Was that we didn't want to spend the best twenty years of our lives working for someone else's gain, working for "stuff" and investing in all of the things that, in the end, don't leave the planet with us. No one knows for sure, but AT BEST when we die, we take out our relationships and our memories... nothing more... and yet so many people spend their lives investing in everything EXCEPT what matters in the end. We decided to just open our hands and release the "stuff" in favour of digging deep and forming relationships and memories as a family that will last forever. Our motivation, primarily, is the development of our family, the education of our children and the full expression of the lives we've been given to live.
2) I don't know if there's any one answer to that question because even the hard things have helped to make us who we are. I suppose we'd spend less time "planning" for every eventuality and more time just going for it. At first, we were over planned and it turned out that much of that planning was for naught. Now, we tend to make framework plans and invest our real effort in things like healthcare and contingencies rather than trying to sort out routes or travel plans much in advance. We've been very lucky in that we've not had a major health emergency, nor have we had any seriously "bad" encounter on the road. I think part of that is because we travel with kids and people everywhere are glad to see us and eager to help!
The Burns Family just kind of went for it. They packed it all up real quick and set off. Colin and Tracy and their two youngsters have been off traveling SouthEast Asia for almost 2 years now, and little Hayley is only 2. I am looking forward to where the Burns Family takes us next!
1) Taking the time to seek accurate health advice from a travel doctor and getting everyone's medical checkups up to date. Of course that came with a downside - we discovered I had thyroid cancer just a few days before we were supposed to leave on our trip. But if we hadn't been having medical checkups because we were heading overseas, it could have been years before discovering it. And it was so much better to receiving this news in your own country and dealing with a familiar medical system than trying to navigate your way through foreign hospitals and doctors if the cancer had been discovered while we were overseas.
2) Start sticking to a budget from the first day of travel! Our first few months we were in Bali and Malaysia, and we wasted so much money because we adopted a holiday mentality. "Oh look it's only $6 for a cocktail, that's so much cheaper than home" "$55 a night for accommodation ... well it's cheaper than a hotel back home so that's great". We went through twice as much money as we should have simply because we were treating that month as a holiday rather than realising it was our new life. As soon as we stopped comparing prices to back home, set ourselves a budget based on realistic local prices and followed it we started saving so much money. Not having $6 cocktails every night also helped!
You don't get pictures like this sitting at home. The Gilbert's and son Cole, who obviously loves India, have been nomads for years now and Christine and Drew have managed to make almostfearless.com into one of the best travel blogs around. Every time I check out their site they are somewhere different. I don't know how they do it, maybe Christine invented a cloning device or something. Anyway, I love it. Keep traveling guys. Can't wait to see a picture of Cole back at the Taj when he's a teenager.
1) Because my son was only going to be four months old when we left, I knew that I had to include travel in my parenting style. So it was important for us to do extended breastfeeding, to co-sleep (makes it possible to travel without a crib), to practice baby wearing and to allow him to self-direct his transition to solids (so we did not introduce baby food until he was already picking food off our plates, and even then it was mostly finger foods). This has made traveling with an infant so much easier. Sight-seeing while baby wearing (when they are little they just fall asleep from the movement) was fantastic as well (I loved my Moby wrap until he was 6 mo and then we switched to an Ergo -- but be sure to plan for your baby carriers for the length of your trip, what works for a < 20lb baby won't work a year later).
2) We did end up bringing much more things than we needed. We started traveling with four suitcases and now we're down to two. Little things like a baby seat or a jumpy door swing or extra clothes -- we slowly started giving them away as we traveled. Our son sits on my lap or in a chair at the table in restaurants, and has since he was six months old. It was worth bringing it just for the peace of mind it gave us, but looking back now, I could have down without almost half of what we planned to bring.
A whole bunch of info for working Expat. families over here. Fay is a wandering, working mother with 2 global nomads to keep an eye on. Her site really does a great job focusing on "how to" live abroad with youngsters.
1) Once we had decided we were moving overseas, we set aside one room of the house that became the packing room. We called it the China room. As we came across things that we really wanted to take with us these were added to the room. Favourite toys, books and other important items were put in this room. It helped our son understand our impending move and gave him time to get ready by slowly choosing what things he would take to China. The China room was then packed and shipped ahead of us to our new home. The boxes from this room arrived a few weeks after us in our new home. It was great to unpack all our carefully chosen treasures and make our new house into our home.
2) I wish we had moved internationally sooner. We should not have listened to those who said it is too difficult to travel internationally with children. Traveling with two young children has its challenges, but the joy of sharing our great world with two young minds is worth the effort.
Jess and Jim are bouncing around SouthEast Asia at the moment with their two cuties. Overthe last month I have watched them hit the beach of Cambodia, the war tunnels of Vietnam, and all the food in Thailand. They are doing great things with their kids. What kid wouldn't want to climb up this Temple??
1) Best thing we did to prepare for the big trip was to start early. as soon as we decided to 'do it (which was 9 months before we left)', we started writing lists according to categories: things to do to the house, things to acquire (laptop, new camera, ipod touch), visas, immunisations, etc. then we started to set deadlines for them, pacing ourselves. So at the end of the day, we got the preparations done slowly and gradually, without any much 'last minute' rush. We also acquired the new technology about 6mo prior to leaving, giving us lots of time to familiarise ourselves with them. we had the added issue of being in the midst of house renovations that were not fully completed at the time we had decided to 'do it'. We basically 'divided and conquered' our lists.
2) What we could have done better/should have done: was to better research some of our destinations before we made any committments and travel arrangements. Specifically we are regretting not having realised that Vietnam is such a HUGE country and that 2 months would have been a more comfortable length of visit. now not only have we have booked onward flights from Vietnam, but we also only obtained 30day visas so we don't have any flexibility. also we wish we had realised that going into china overland through northern vietnam would have been so geographically easy to do as again, we probably would have allowed time to do that. when we were in the planning stages, we did not really research our destinations much, other than to look into visa requirements. we had so much more to worry about before we left!
I am an avid follower of Theodora and her stories of raising her now 10 year old in South East Asia. Her and her son's latest adventure, traveling by motorbike to New Guinea. Who does that?? I love it!
1) As we prepared, Z and I talked a lot about the bad things that could happen, and the unpleasant stuff we might face. I think all families setting out on longterm travel should realise that, from the minutiae squat toilets, mosquitoes and bus breakdowns, to bigger things like homesickness or (touch wood) robbery, it is not going to be a bed of roses.
2) I set out to travel too fast, and on a RTW ticket, including flights within South America. We've used about $1000 of the flights I spent so much money on. RTW tickets are almost never cost-effective or useful, and I would really recommend anyone considering one to check low cost and budget airline advance fares on their route.
If you're interested in living abroad for a while with your kids, you have to visit these guys. Vince, Jeanne and Mozart have been doing it for years and they do it well, maybe as well as anyone. I have watched their daughter grow up online and it has been amazing. The world is a great teacher, but I am sure the parents have something to do with it as well. Thanks guys!
1) The best thing was to choose a small RV for doing extended travel in Europe & also remembering to bring digital photos (plus small physical album for kidlet) & home movies (& anything we might need from the past in digital form) with us.
2) We started our open ended world tour in 2006, so less digital options were available, thus we bought both a portable satellite and a top of the line quad phone..both were a waste of money, so we quickly switched to free wifi for internet and free skype calls for all of our calls. We still do not have a smart phone and don't plan to get one or anything that keeps us tethered to a mobile device since we as digital nomads cherish unplugged time more than ever today.
Few families travel and blog with such sense of adventure. I love their style. I love the site. I love the Van. Jason's story about how he got this van is priceless, you have to check it out. The Rehms are currently in Peru and the VW keeps guiding them along. Keep it up guys!
1) We sold all of our stuff. Not having the responsibility or weight of having to return to take care of anything is liberating.
2) Studied Spanish more diligently. You can learn on the road, but being more prepared would have helped tremendously. We crossed the border knowing almost nada.
Sean and Heidi Marshall haven't taken on the whole world yet, but they have gone nomad and are currently bouncing around the Pacific Northwest of the US with their 2 daughters. They are a when life hands you lemons type of family and I love their philosophy: Life is more than what most people think it is.
1) The best thing we did was to first decide. We let go of all the excuses and just committed. The next best thing was to sell all of our stuff. It was so liberating to let go all of the stuff we supposedly needed. It's a mental game at first for sure but it's a fun one.
2) We are pretty happy with the way things have turned out. The only thing we might change is to have shed more stuff. When we got rid of all of our stuff in the first place, we thought we were being pretty ruthless. But then after hitting the road, we discovered that we really only used a handful of the stuff that we brought (mainly clothes). It's the 80/20 rule. So just recently, we loaded up all the clothes we weren't using and brought them to a local thrift store.
Last, but in no way least! It's the Dennings, who are off on another grand expedition. Alaska to Argentina by pickup truck. And with 5 kids in tow no less. Simply Awesome! Brave, Crazy, Happy - All of the Above. We will be following your great adventure every step of the way.
1) The best thing we did while preparing for our big adventure was to...prepare. We acted, moved ahead, made arrangements 'as if'. When we had to buy a new vehicle, we purchased one that we could use on our 'dream trip'. Even though we didn't know 'how', we picked a departure date. There never was and never will be a time when all the lights are green. Often you won't have any idea how it will work out. But deciding that you are going to make it happen, no matter what, and then moving forward, even blindly, the pieces will 'magically' fall into place one by one.
2) I don't know if there is anything we wish we had done differently. Have things always worked out the way we wanted? No. But do we wish we hadn't had the amazing adventures we've had so far, just because we experienced some failures along the way? Heck no! Every mistake, failure, stumble and challenge has helped us grow and made us more prepared to undertake even greater adventures with greater success.
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Thanks to all the traveling families who participated in this article. It's fantastic having brave adventurers like you to follow as we make our own Great Family Escape.