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 of having an expense rent/mortgage?
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.
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 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 To Travel
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 19 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 our 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.
Placing your house on Airbnb is another great way to make money to full time travel.
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. Read my book to see how hard travel was on our marriage the first few years.
Do you have to give up you career? Updated 2023. In the post-covid world we now live in, it’s much easier to find remote work or to start up your own side hustle.
When we first started, it was hard for us to transition to a digital job. Now, between this blog and our coaching business, we can easily support our family while traveling.
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 necessary 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.
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.
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
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 is not a necessity, but I highly recommend it based on our own experiences. It covers emergencies like lost passports, serious injuries, emergency evacuations, or stolen items. Initially, we dismissed the idea, thinking we wouldn’t need it. However, after a serious injury while surfing in France, our 4-year-old falling ill in a Nicaraguan village, last-minute Christmas Day flights to the US, and a brief passport loss in Spain that almost cost us $2000 for replacements, we’ve reconsidered our frugality in this area. It’s worth investing in travel insurance to mitigate unforeseen circumstances. You can get a quote for your trip from World Nomads or by entering 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!