Recently, I revisited the web site of one of my favorite traveling families. A highly emotive Israeli family of five — two parents and three children — they traveled the world full time for three-and-a-half years. Then, they called it quits.
From what I gather, it was not lack of wanderlust that ended their journey, it was family dynamics. Mom and dad probably could have kept going; in fact they did and do, independently: Mom went to India for a while on a spiritual and healing quest, leaving dad a single parent, and then they reversed roles, dad heading off on a backpacking/hiking adventure for two months alone. No, it wasn’t so much the parents, who really apparently are continuing to work out some deeply psychic stuff and some physical ailments via travel. Rather, it was the kiddos. The kiddos were done. Burgeoning human beings in their own right, they were over it and ready for friends and school and community. After further reading, it seems that family needed some soul-searching to let loose the family dynamics and did so through full time travel. As the kids grew and had desires of their own, they needed grounding, with home, with garden, with friends and surroundings. The kids, much more than the parents, were ready to return to the things they left behind and not travel full time. It was the parents who were and are trying to find themselves still.
Furthermore, there was the reality that traveling in small spaces and on tights budgets made for a cramped and crammed environment among five people: Literally and figuratively, there was little room to spread out; little time or space for individuality, privacy or peaceful meditation; not much room for personal growth in quietude, all the while wondering how to continue to fund it all. It wasn’t that finding themselves as a family or as individuals wasn’t happening, it’s just that it was happening in confinement and with others, and it created new family dynamics. When one tunes into how that affects the overall well-being of the family and has options and opportunity to commit to the new family dynamics, one makes changes, even if it means sacrificing one’s own desires. This family did so for family’s sake, although the parents went down kicking and screaming. It sounds like it was the right move — a very enlightening, powerful and spiritual experience, before, during and after travel. They continue to travel sporadically, and mom and dad have constant dreams of roaming with and without the kids, making plans and marking maps, but they have regrouped and regrounded and are making house and home. It’s a great, albeit heavy, story.
This made me think a lot about our travels and traveling in general. There are some pretty strong movements out there about full time travel, travel as lifestyle, worldschooling, nomadic living, breaking free and hitting the road, ridding oneself of things and choosing experiences, digital nomadism and remote work, traveling with kids and so on. The Web is full of very trendy travel blogging sites of all sorts with tips and tricks and top-10 lists about how to live your dreams of travel. We fully support these movements and are living them more or less currently. Almost everyone has a story of want to travel, but it may not be for everyone, especially full time travel.
In fact, although there are so many full time travelers out there, those that endure run solo or in twos. All full time travelers take a break. All of them. Even if it’s just for a few weeks or a month or three. Most full time traveling families change plans, like staying in one place and traveling as often as possible. Some become expats in a community surrounded places they’d like to visit. Some folks simply run out of money or enthusiasm for full time travel. Although it is down right fun (and I mean that), traveling full time — and writing about it (if you do that), funding it and organizing it — can take a lot of effort. Even if it is a chosen path, it doesn’t have to be forever, nor might it be. Traveling full time will end for us probably, opting for longer periods of slower travel one to three or four months at a time from a rooted homebase, because it will be good for our business, our daughter and our family. Or maybe not. Maybe we will keep going. We change. We choose. We change again. We grow. Life is full of surprises, free will and the blowing wind, especially with kids in tow.
So, is full time travel right for you? Here are some ideas to consider.
Single people have it made
If you are a single person and want to travel, there is nothing standing in your way, except, perhaps, a dream, some courage and a little money (even that is arguable). As a solo traveler, you have no one to entertain but yourself — no kids, no partner, no groups. You can go with backpack, with carry-on luggage, in a car, on a train, on a plane, in a boat or walk or climb by yourself. Travel is all on your terms. Lucky, lucky you. The world is full of solo travelers now more than ever. Go with it and remember that you can do whatever you want. Just wave goodbye to us as you leave and make sure that we can’t see you pointing and laughing at us en route.
A popular solo travel blogger who can give you some good tips and more is Nomadic Matt. But my favorite against-the-grain solo travelers are Nate of Yomadic, who travels Eastern Europe and the Middle East; Jonny the Backpacking Man, who has been traveling full time since 1997; and bonkers Alice of Teacake Travels.
And then there were two
Most of us are familiar with this one — traveling with a friend, a partner, a spouse, a kid. It is probably mostly fun. It generally works. If you go often with the same partner, traveling becomes easier, a rhythm grows. It is agreeable. Dinner out, dinner in, which trail to hike, which museum to visit, someone to talk to on the plane or in a hotel room or tent. You plan, you discuss, you make itineraries. Overall, it’s a pretty easy deal.
Backpacking couples are among the downright trendy travel bloggers these days, writing colossal web sites and e-books with catchy titles about their adventures, which, in many cases, have gone on for years: “Top 10 Things to Do in Malta;” “10 Hottest Travel Blogging Couples under 40;” or “How We Made Money Travel Blogging.” Many couples weren’t doing so well as a couple until they began traveling full time. Others met each other while traveling individually (and they write about that, too). There are RVing couples (mostly older, although RVing among a younger demographic is growing), backpacking couples, luxury travel couples, region-specific vegan couples, national parks-only couples and so many more. It can be overkill, but the idea remains: Traveling in twos is a pretty easy task. If it isn’t, breaking up isn’t that difficult to do. If you can do it, go for it. Write about it — or don’t — and have tons of fun. There is nothing like a great travel partner, especially if you go full time.
One of the most popular twosomes is Goats on the Road, but my favorite travel couple is Margherita and Nick of The Crowded Planet, who focus on nature, including urban nature, adventure travel, alternative cities and sustainability.
Three is not a crowd
Being a family of three, I can vouch for having a really good time traveling full time together. We have many, many friends and some family who have one child and they all seem to be really enjoying life and travel, although hardly any of them travel full time. Traveling threes may also include dogs. I believe that fun in threes still makes for easy travel, no matter who you are. Sitting next to each other on a plane or train may prove difficult. Sharing a hotel room with two double beds means that you’ll have to flip to see who is able to sleep solo. There is no “three for the price of one” available generally. If you are a couple with a child (and maybe a dog), intimacy changes. But overall, traveling as a trio can be great fun and just as fluid as traveling in pairs.
Four or more
In fours, travel is still manageable — two couples, four sisters, four friends, two parents and two kids — but I believe that it becomes more challenging the more people involved. There are lots of family travel sites out there whose numbers range from families of four to six. The more people there are in your travels, the more ideas and emotions you have to consider, and, of course, the more it will cost. It is no different than managing your family at home, or a growing party: Everyone has a say or a need, there are age differences and different interests, you will need more space and you will need more food. It can be difficult to keep up, but folks are traveling as quartets all of the time — many full time — so maybe it can work for you.
A popular travel site of a family of four is Wagoners Abroad, and here are some articles with fuller lists of travelers of four or more: 16 Family Travel Blogs to Follow, Top 20 Family Travel Bloggers to Follow This Year and Top Family Travel Blogs. However, my favorite travel families include Nomadic Family, and Jim and family of McNulty Big Trip. And my favorite all around travel resource is Wandering Educators, who pretty much include everything about all things travel. It’s a great place to feed your travel dreams.
What else to consider
Financing your travels
No matter what, travel does require some money, a little or a lot, depending on your needs or expectations. Do you want to enjoy your travels freely with your finances organized and readily available, or do you want to go with the flow, working while you travel? Full time travelers have come about funding their traveling in all sorts of ways. You may save money over time with a number in mind and then go when you’ve hit your mark. You may decide to take on credit cards and go. You may try your darnedest to write a travel blog and make a living on the road. You may have lots of money and can do whatever you want, or perhaps are retired and can work with what you have. You may not care about money and go with God, locals, prayer and the flow. It is up to you how you are going to fund your travels. As you may know, we already have a business and can work on the road, but full time travel changes our own work dynamics occasionally, sometimes causing us to yearn for more personal connectivity and networking. However, we saved and planned and budgeted, and we continue to earn, save, plan and budget. You must as full time travelers, or else your money literally disappears with phantom costs or overspending.
In my very rough estimate, half of full time travelers commit to their jobs for a certain amount of time, save in the beginning, cutting out unnecessary and phantom spending, pulling more from their paychecks and depositing it right into a savings or travel fund with a target amount in mind. For some it took years, for others just one year, and that seems to come down to how many people are traveling together: The more there are, the longer it takes to save. They scrimped and sold and tucked away their monies. While traveling, they rely on “tips and tricks” for low cost fun, sometimes hooking up something luxury, but they have been able to rely on a decent amount of money to sustain their travels without thinking about it, allowing them to thoroughly enjoy their journeys.
The approximate other half plunges into the world of travel blogging. Some of these folks still have savings accounts and dip into them occasionally, but all of them think about how to sustain their travels, particularly those who want to abstain from taking from their savings, or those who don’t have much money at all. They will give you all kinds of ideas about how to do this — house sitting, pet sitting, sponsorships, cutting out beer, writing — creating pillar posts or ebooks to drive traffic to their sites and, thus, hopefully earning a living. Coming from experience marketing and writing for our own business, and keeping up on chronicling our own travel journeys, writing — particularly travel writing — is work, especially if you have a family to raise, making solo or duo travel ideal. Keeping tabs on my friends in the travel industry and other travelers who (try to) eek out a living writing about traveling, I can confirm that it is constant upkeep. You must be present everywhere on the Internet, be relevant and draw interest. Traveling becomes work; thus, you will read about full time travelers taking breaks, or house or pet sitting for months on end, or renting an apartment in a favorite city just to have a travel respite — and to work, even teaching yoga or a language for extra money.
Finally, there are those who just go with the flow. In a way, that is utterly fearless and a luxury, and it is also a truly nomadic experience.
However and with whomever you decide to travel, you will need to consider finances. Be okay with the fact that it could take some time and planning. Do your research — there are plenty of options out there. Can you work remotely in your current job, or could you do something that would allow you to work on the road? Do you like a safety net? Make a list of your values and have an honest conversation with yourself or your partner or kids about your abilities, expectations and desires and go from there to see if full time travel is something that you can afford. It can be very fun and liberating to create a budget for travel. You will discover what you have and what you really want.
What to do with your stuff
If you travel full time, you will have to consider what to do with the things in your life. The majority of people who travel full time downsize significantly. Personal possessions are the ballast of a home life, but they don’t bode well for a life of travel.
What does one do with photo albums, plants, TVs, CDs, DVDs, books, bedding, plates, favorite collections and all of the other stuff that makes up house and home? For the most part, the connection to possessions is completely psychological and it will be up to you to decide what your relationship will be to those things. Can you detach? Can you sell or donate or regift your possessions? Can you organize them enough to make what remains manageable? Are you able to keep your home and things and hire someone to house sit? Material possessions impede true freedom, and the full time traveler desires to be truly free. Is breaking free from material goods something that you can do? Where do you want your mind to be — on your stuff or on your travels?
Over the course of seven years, we purged our belongings. We did so to lighten our load, not necessarily to travel, but it put us in a good position to do so. Many folks put things in storage; we kept memorabilia and a few other items. Ridding yourself of things can become a full time job, but if you make a plan, you can do it and you probably can make a little money from selling some of your things.
If you have children and you want to travel often or full time, school can become an issue — that is, attending school can be an issue. Education, on the other hand — your child’s learning — is a different story.
We are unschoolers, or natural learners, and we are part of a community of people all over the world who believe that learning happens all of the time, that there is no on/off switch to learning. It just happens — naturally. Add the life of travel, and your child (and family) becomes a world learner, an intercultural learner, a multicultural learner and more. Uschooling falls under the homeschooling umbrella, but it excludes a curriculum. Unschooling is our preferred way to live in the world, but homeschooling is a great way to set you or your family free to travel often or full time.
Homeschooling is growing and has evolved to be almost anything a family with children needs it to be, whether you prefer a religious perspective, a loose curriculum or a strict one, a modern or traditional lean, or one that is established for you or that you create yourself. Online instruction is a huge part of the homeschooling movement these days, making it that much easier for traveling families, especially ones that prefer a more standard curriculum. It is also especially good for homeschooled kids that have surpassed levels of standard high school curriculum. Parents do not have to be teachers to homeschool their children; it is a choice and there are many options available to parents who would prefer to have their child’s studies overseen by a teacher or facilitator.
In the U.S., homeschooling is completely legal and a relatively smooth process. Requirements vary by state; you may need to register your child or children to homeschool, and check in every once in a while to gauge performance. Homeschooling around the world varies, too. There are countries that strongly advocate for freer learning, such as Australia, Canada, the UK and New Zealand. Expats often are able to educate their children however they want. Some countries make it legal with restrictions or requirements, such as in France, or have ambiguous laws about its legality, such as in Spain. In other countries, homeschooling is a constitutional right, including in Belgium, Ireland and Italy. In many other countries, homeschooling is simply allowed as an alternative to conventional school, such as in South Africa and Sierra Leone, but in illegal in many countries, particularly in many other African and Asian countries, so you will have to do your research if you choose to travel abroad, as well as check in with the local laws of your home state or the state of your domicile.
Whatever you decide, homeschooling is a great way to break away from the grind and move into a life of travel. It has worked tremendously for us. Maybe it is something that you can do, too.
Insurance and residency
Many people wonder about health insurance while traveling. If you travel within the United States, check in with your insurance provider about national coverage. There are many options for travelers within the U.S. for health insurance, including Espcapees, Good Sam and AAA. For international coverage, there are many also many options, but good places to start are Global Travel Insurance, Geo Blue or many of the aforementioned sites. We maintain insurance from our home state and it works for us.
Also, it may be a good idea to keep your home address and/or a mailbox in your home state for awhile, especially if you travel full time. From there you can still receive mail and have it sent to where you are, and you will not have to change other aspects of your life while you travel, including your driver’s license. However, if you decide that you want to just uproot, Escapees offers alternatives for domicile, specifically in Texas, Florida and South Dakota. Your address would be in one of those states, your mail can be sent there and you would establish residency. It works well for roamers or winterers of all ages. We maintain a business and residence address in our home state. It is good for our business and for our unschooling practice, and we have our mail sent to us when necessary.
How will you travel?
Finally, how will you travel? We travel with an RV right now. We have plans to continue traveling the U.S. in it for another year as of this writing. Our long term travel goals include traveling similarly in Europe, as well as traveling for months at a time living locally in flats. There are so many other places that we’d like to visit, but these are our starting points.
Traveling the U.S. and Europe is pretty easy in an RV. It is cost effective, allows for immense freedom, fosters a sense of home (if that is important to you), and allows for a lot of home cooking and more. Slow travel also helps with budget and makes for more thorough visits, and is especially helpful for families or travelers with three or more people.
Of course, as you know, there are all kinds of ways people travel, so what suits you? If you have a tight budget, slow travel by car or small RV in state parks might be a good choice, or a plane ticket abroad for some backpacking, hostels and bus or travel. RVs also work well for larger groups, but then you may need to consider more campground amenities and, thus, higher costs. It is no secret that traveling by plane with families is quite costly. This is why slow travel is a good idea; it will save you money if you can stay in a location for a month at a time. Also, look for places that do not require the full cost up front. Airbnb requires full payment before you stay, and so do many corporate RV resorts on the coasts; however, VRBO does not, and that usually includes staying abroad. Rent a car or take your own. Stay with locals or on farms. Whatever you choose, travel is wide open.
Write down your big dreams, make budgets, create a list of your values and get planning. See if you can travel for longer than a weekend, two weeks or summer vacation at a time. Can you plan for several weeks- or month-long trips throughout the year? Finally, if full time travel is in your dreams, can you do it? Is it right for you? It’s fun to consider, but it’s even more fun to travel as much as you can. See the world. Have fun. Explore cultures and meet people. It truly is in your hands to make your dreams happen. What will you do?
Have good travels.