3 years ago when we started this journey, “full time travel” was barely a thing. We simply saw that life was flying by too quickly and we wanted to find a way to create more experiences. Nowadays, a bunch of families are wanting to hop on the family gap year bandwagon and for a good reason. Travel opens up your eyes, brings you rich experiences, and creates amazing memories for you and your family. Here’s our story of how we’ve afforded it, how we planned it, and how we did it…
When we started off on this nomadic journey in April of 2015, we had no intention of traveling full time. What started it was the fact that we were paying a ridiculous price for the beachfront house we were renting at the time. We really started questioning the point of paying for a house when we barely spent any time there. We traveled often and when we were home, we’d spend most of our days out and about. What was the point?
On top of that, over the previous year or two we had become avid road trippers. We’d often take 1-2 week trips to Utah and the desert. That summer, we had plans to make longer 4-6 week road trips to Colorado and British Columbia in our 30 foot Class C RV that we owned.
So when our lease came to an end in March, we said, “Why not just live in the RV?” And that was how it all started. No moment in our nomadic lifestyle has ever been, “We’re going to full time travel.” It’s always been gradual.
After traveling around in our RV all summer, we bought one way tickets to Europe and camped through 15 countries for 6 months. We’ve surfed tropical destinations like Costa Rica, Hawaii, and Bali and cold destinations like Vancouver Island, Scotland, and Spain. We’ve tent camped in New Zealand. We hiked hundreds of trails throughout the western USA and Canada. We’ve trekked through the Pyrenees, the Dolomites, and the Alps. Read our story here.
Now I know the first thing your probably wondering…
How We Afford It + Career
We had the intention of traveling at some point in the near future (though we had no idea we would be traveling this much) so our family had begun saving for about a year before we jumped into nomad life. Anyone can take a gap year by focusing on saving money. Check out this related blog to see exactly How to Save Up for Long Term Travel. Cutting back expenses like wifi, cable/netflix, paying off all debt, and most importantly, becoming less of a consumer, were important steps.
We owned a gymnastics business in Coronado, CA for 20 years and at the time we chose to move into our RV, we had hired out someone to run the business while we were away. We didn’t really make any income while we were away, the business pretty much payed for itself but it made it so that we could come back to the business in the fall/winter and make money again for the next summer. This is how we payed for 6 months of travel through Europe in 2016 and for the following summer/fall in Costa Rica, the US, Canada, France, and Spain.
Renting your house? Another way you can afford your travels is by renting out or selling your house. This wasn’t a possibility for us since we were renting out home but if you own, renting could be the best option. You could fund a lot of travel and you also aren’t taking any big risks with finding somewhere to live after your gap year.
Should you sell your house? Before jumping straight to, “I can sell my house to afford travel,” consider your past experiences while traveling. What if full time travel is too much for you? Do you think you’ll be over it after a year? Don’t make a rash decision to sell your house before knowing if you absolutely love nomadic living.
Do you have to give up you career? I hate say it, but unless you work somewhere where they might let you back on after a year or more, then you will have to give up your current career. Having a career is honestly the hardest crossover for long term travel. You can’t have a career while traveling unless you have a job online. Reliable online jobs are hard to find and if you are trying to create your own business online, that’s gong to take a long time too.
2 years in (May of 2017), we cut ties with our business and closed the doors for the same reason we started traveling in the first place. The rent to run our business was getting out of hand and honestly, we had done that job for 20 years, we wanted to force ourselves in a new direction. We were done with hustle and bustle of SoCal and wanted a change.
Unfortunately though, that was our final winter of saving up money for the summer. At this point, we thought our online business would start making money but unfortunately it didn’t make enough and so after spending October (2017) in France, we came back to our clientele in San Diego and ran gymnastics and personal training in the park for a few months. This again, funded enough money for us to spend 3 months camping in Hawaii, New Zealand, and Bali (not camping).
Currently, we are spending a year in a mountian town in Colorado. We needed a new home base where we could sit still, work, and save up again and by choosing a new city it’s fulfilling half of the family’s need for adventure while allowing the more rooted half to have routine. Does it mean we are done traveling? Heck no, but like all our travels so far, it’s been a gradual process of adapting to everyone’s needs as they arise.
Summary: Anyone can save up enough money to travel within 6-12 months. Read this blog to see how to save up money for long term travel. If you can rent your house and make money, that’s a bonus and if you can find a way to make money online, even better, but having those income sources aren’t necesarry to travel for a year or more. Get creative and you’ll be on the road in no time.
Schooling for Kids
The 5 kids have always been homeschooled so this was an easy transition for us. While we did try to continue homeschooling for the first year, I can’t say it’s necessary. If you intend on just taking a year off to travel full time, I’d honestly just recommend worldschooling.
What’s worldschooling? Worldschooling is the buzz term for getting your education through experiences while traveling the world. This term became a thing when people started realizing that travel is a more valuable education than textbooks.
Related blog: 10 Lesson Travel Has Taught My Kids
If you plan on just downsizing your life to an RV or to live abroad, you really do want to try and homeschool, especially when it comes to the 3 R’s (reading,writing, arithemetic).
Related blog: Curriculum I use to homeschool my kids (coming soon)
Summary: If you’re going to take a year off to travel with your kids, don’t worry about school. They’re not going to “fall behind.” Let them learn from the world, cultures, and experiences.
What We Own: The Absolute Bare Minimum
What you will pack varies with the activities you will be doing. We are active adventure travelers so we actually have a bit more baggage than necessary. Besides our big surfboard bag, our rock climbing packs, and our camping gear, we only carry one small backpacking backpack each.
We bring only the absolute essentials. Here’s a brief overview of what we pack. See our entire pack list here: What to pack for long term travel and camping abroad
Clothing? We carry 4-5 outfits. 3 outfits for hiking, climbing, and mountain biking, and 1 outfit for hot weather, and 1 semi-nice outfit if we go to a city (which we avoid). You will also need rain jackets wherever you go, even in the summer, as well as a warm jacket. We each bring 1-2 swimsuits.
Shoes? Don’t bring so many shoes! You should only have 2 or maybe 3 pairs of shoes. Have a pair of versatile sandals like Xero sandals for chilling but also comfortable for walking around, some hiking or active shoes like La Sportiva Bushdos, and/or a pair of nice shoes for cities.
Electronics? The oldest kids and parents each have their own smartphone, little kids have kindles/iPads mostly for long flights and drives, and we pack laptops which we use for work and running this blog. I also carry my camera gear to document our travel. I pack a Canon Rebel T3 (a low end DSLR), a GoPro, a tripod, mini tripod, iPhone tripod mount, and extra batteries and mounts.
Read the rest of what we pack below.
Related blog: What to pack for long term travel and camping abroad
Related blog: Family Travel Packing Tips
Accommodation & Pace of Travel
How fast should you go? There are a lot of families out there that take a year to travel and move really slow. They find and an AirBnb or a short term rental and stay in one city for 1-3 months before moving on.
There’s nothing wrong with that kind of travel, but we always go at a fast pace. We stay in one place for 2-3 days on average. We always try to fit in the maximum amount of adventure and want to be waking up at a new trailhead, rock climbing destination, mountain biking trail, or surf break. I would’t necessarily recommend this speed of travel unless you do decide to camp (see below).
Accommodation? Could you camp? The other thing to note is that we camp in every destination we go. It’s certainly not for everyone but it will save you a TON of money. If you’re a camper, consider renting an RV or packing a tent on your year of travel. If not, find accommodation via AirBnb, Booking.com, or Expedia.
Related blog: Guide to tent camping in Europe
Related blog: Tips for Tent Camping in New Zealand
Summary: To decide your pace of travel you got know what type of traveler you are. Find out if you’re a slow fast traveler by checking out our blog, Family Adventure Travel: Are you a Resortist to Adrenaline Junkie.
Getting Your Mail
When we travel, we just have family hold onto our mail and if something looks important, they will open it up and text us a picture of it.
If you don’t have someone you can trust with this, there is a Virtual Mailbox that will do the same thing. The cool part with using Virtual Mailbox is that it gives you a real USA mailing adress, free storage of mail for 45 days, discards and shred unwanted mail so you don’t have to deal with it when you come back, and will scan important documents and deliver your mial to a secure online mailbox for you.
It helped that I tied up a lot of loose ends and unsubscribed from as many mailings as I could before we started traveling.
Another feature we do use when we are traveling in the U.S. is Amazon. Amazon will ship to Whole Foods and your package will be waiting for you in a locker for up to three days. It takes a little coordinating when we are on a fast road trip but when we sat still in Frisco for two months, it was super easy.
Emergencies and Medical
People often have the idea that only the American medial system is good but that’s far from the truth. We’ve tested out the medial system in a few countries now especially after my dad’s surfing accident in France. Doctors are great in all parts of the world. If an accident happens, there are hospitals and emergency medical services in all parts of the world.
Sickness? Again, there are doctors in all parts of the world if you need it. Personally, we don’t get sick often. We eat very healthy while on the road. In 3 years we’ve only ever been to a doctor’s office once because of swimmer’s ear in Costa Rica.
Vaccinations? This one is all personal preference. We’ve never been vaccinated for travel but we tend to stay in wealthier countries. The only countries where we’ve considered them are Nicargua, Bali, and Costa Rica which are barely even third world. If you’re going places like India, Africa, and possibly Southeast Asia, you may want to consider it but if you’re staying in wealthier countries, I’d say you don’t need any.
Travel insurance? Do you need it? You don’t need travel insurance but after a few scary experiences, I would highly recommend it. Travel insurance is for emergency purposes like losing your passports, serious injury, emergency evacuation, or stolen items. For a while we brushed off travel insurance and thought we wouldn’t need it but after a serious injury while surfing in France, our 4 year old getting a terrible flu in a small village in Nicargua and having to book last minute tickets on Christmas Day to fly back to the US, and losing our passports in Spain (for one day) and thinking we were going to have to pay $2000 dollars to get new ones from the embassy, we’ve decided to stop being so frugal in this aspect and buy travel insurance. Get a quote for your trip by heading over to World Nomads travel insurance or inserting your destinations below.
Summary: Don’t worry about medical emergencies or sickness. There are doctors all over the world. Buy travel insurance in case of emergencies.
Got questions? Let us know in the comments section below!