In May 2012 we rented our house, packed our bags and took our then 2 & 3 year old off to Bali and we have been travelling ever since, that’s over 380 days! Our journey has taken us from the jungles of Bali to the beaches of Thailand through the cities of Malaysia and then a giant leap to the other side of the world where we traversed the roads of the US, played in the cenotes of Mexico and discovered the ruins of Guatemala. And we are still going!
It’s an open-ended, unplanned round the world trip discovering amazing places for toddlers (& we have fun along the way) that you can share by visiting our family travel blog at: travelwithbender.com. We look forward to bumping into you around the world.
My husband talked about travelling long-term a few years ago and I thought it was a nice idea but hardly feasible. In 2011 we spent a considerable amount of time out of the country on trips and realized that we actually saved money when we were on holidays, compared to living in Australia. So it started to make a lot more sense. My husband put together a plan and we worked towards that.
–Once you made the decision to go ‘all-in,’ did you or Josh begin to have any reservations or ‘cold feet’ at anytime? If so, how did you cope and work through those feelings? And what did your friends and family think of the idea?
I don’t think we really had much time to get cold feet since our short timeframe was sped up even further when we found a tenant for our house earlier than expected. It was certainly a rushed time for our family. Our extended family was supportive overall. At the time I couldn’t help but feel that my husband was a bit crazy because we didn’t do much research to find out if other people were doing something similar. In fact, we didn’t know anyone else close to our age that was doing a nomadic lifestyle. It was pretty much unheard of.
–Of all of the different and varied styles of travel, I believe family travel to be one of the most daunting style’s to plan for... Could you shed some light on what all you had to think of and plan for before setting off? And as with travel, nothing typically works out just right, so what surprises caught you off guard?
Doing anything with young kids, including travel, certainly has it’s fair share of challenging moments. But we were determined not to let that stop us from doing something that we knew would be great for our family. Since our youngest child was just about to turn 2 before we headed off, we were already into the swing of things looking after young kids. And having done several overseas trips with them before, we kinda knew what we were getting into. I had booked all the flights and accommodation for our first 4 months of travel prior to leaving Australia, so that side of things went fairly smooth (we now leave that kind of thing to the last minute).
But as far as the planning stages, it took a bit longer than expected to sell our cars and while we were travelling we were surprised by hidden bank fees charged by one of our ATM cards for overseas withdrawals.
We’ve learned a lifetime of lessons in such a short period of time. I guess to summarize it into a few things, we learned how to understand fellow humans from different walks of life in a deeper, more meaningful way. An understanding that transcends country borders, cultures, religions, and languages. Our kids have learned how to make friends so quickly as well as appreciate the variety in this world that makes it so beautiful, rather than fear something that is different.
Probably the toughest part of travelling is potty training for our 3-year-old on the road. The location of the nearest toilet is rarely the same twice, so it is taking him a bit longer than it took compared to our daughter who was already toilet trained well before we left Australia. We’ve been fortunate with good health as we’ve travelled, however my son picked up a virus in Guatemala which resulted in projectile vomit and diarrhea off-and-on for 2 weeks. That was tough, especially in a country where we couldn’t speak the native language. When we visited a pharmacy, it was like playing charades or Pictionary. It’s funny to look back in hindsight, but certainly was challenging at the time.
–Most families worry about how to take everyone on a week long vacation, but you managed to travel with your family for a much longer period of time... Your website counts upwards, displaying a multitude of days (400+ at the time of this interview) that you’ve spent on the road. Do you mind telling my readers how you managed to travel for so long? And how you have been able to afford it? Also, how much longer do you plan on traveling for?
My husband and I both love travelling and did plenty of it before we had kids. So travelling with kids is just a natural extension of that. His line of work lends itself to be location independent so that side of the transition was easier than expected. So he has continued to work as we travel, and uses email and Skype to stay in communicate with clients and staff.
It’s also easier for us since we’re actually saving money by travelling. The living expenses in Perth, Australia are very high, and since we now live a more minimalistic lifestyle, we’re not spending money on things that we used to, which leaves more room for us to simply enjoy life.
At this stage, the travel plans are open-ended, but we may slow down the pace next year. We’ll just see how things go!
–Where are you right now? Where are you off to next? And what was your favorite place to travel to and why?
As I write this, we’re in Haifa, Israel visiting my husband’s family. We have a few trips within Israel which are being planned out at the moment and then possibly off to Turkey.
We have so many favorite locations for different reasons, so that’s a tough question. But the USA has probably been the best all-round location. It is essentially 10 countries in 1. The food, culture and experiences there are so diverse, from the deep south, to the bright lights of Las Vegas, to the techno-centric Silicon Valley, to nature-rich Pacific Northwest and bustling concrete jungle of New York, and the Cuban flavours of southern Florida. There is so much to experience within such a large country and it’s very travel-friendly with plenty of motels, hotels and campsites to choose from.
I asked my daughter what was her favourite place after she visited Disneyland, and her answer was “a playground”. So as long as there is a playground somewhere nearby, she’s happy. She has been looking forward to visiting her grandparents in Israel as she often speaks to them on Skype, and now sees them in real life. Both kids love the kids club on board the 2 recent Carnival cruises we’ve taken. We literally had to pry them out!
–I can imagine that traveling with young children can be a trying experience at times... How do you deal with the stresses and the many mishaps of parenting, while constantly moving on the road?
From time-to-time we try to get some alone time where 1 parent takes both kids out and lets the other parent have some “sanity time”. We also take each child out on “dates” every so often, so they have 1-on-1 time with one of their parents. This creates valuable bonding time that can’t be replicated in any other way. We definitely now try to pace ourselves. We’re not in a race, so we plan for downtime and rest days in advance, as we know how much our children can handle. That makes life much easier for us all. We also build routine into the kids so they have common things that occur regardless of where they are in the world, such as their favourite “3 steps to bed” (toilet, brush teeth, hop into bed).
–I can imagine the beauty of traveling with your loved ones and being able to share each and every special moment together... Would you tell us a few of the most special and most memorable moments/experiences you’ve had together?
Just a few of the thousands of memorable experiences off the top of my head:
- Making chocolate with the kids at a cooking class in Antigua, Guatemala
- Seeing the Christmas Tree at the Rockefeller Square in New York, the kids first time they saw real snow.
- The look on their faces when they met Mickey and Minnie Mouse at Disneyland.
- Releasing turtles into the wild at Xcarat, Mexico.
- Riding elephants in Malaysia
- Meeting the Sesame Street cast at Universal Studios LA
- My daughter climbing the tallest Mayan pyramid at Coba all by herself (42 metres tall)
–I’m sure that many of my readers who are interested on the topic of Family Travel would love to read any and all sorts of tips and tricks to make this lifestyle possible for their own lives. Please give some advise for other families who are thinking of making a similar move in their own lives... Also, please touch on the good and the bad, as well as pinpointing some of the worst things that will be sure to cross their paths once they make the jump:
Some of the best tips to transition to a lifestyle of family travel:
- Find out what other people are doing, and learn from their mistakes (and successes) – we should have done that more before we made the first step.
- Plan out your income stream. We’ve met so many other travellers whose income streams range from online businesses to blogging to simple savings. There’s no “right” answer, but at least think about how that will work out for you, and try to build up a small savings “buffer” for any unexpected expenses.
- If you’re travelling to the US, it’s best to get travel insurance (since their medical care is super expensive).
- Take your time. There’s no need to rush the journey in the same way you would with a short 1-week holiday. The pace needs to be something that you’re comfortable with for the long-term.
- Travel lightly. Only take what you absolutely need, and no more. If you’re unsure if you will wear a certain outfit, then leave it out. We can now live out of 1 suitcase quite comfortably, and we didn’t think that was possible before we started travelling. It’s easier than you think to pick up those warm clothes you’ll need when the weather turns cold. Then give them away to a clothing charity when you no longer need them. You’ll end up saving on the extra baggage charges from most airlines.
- Keep track of your spending. Since your spending patterns will change day-to-day and week-to-week, we use free an iPhone app called Money Journal. At a glance we can see how much of our budget we have spent.