You think your travel days are over once you have kids? Not for the Wagoners! Travel isn't over because you have kids, it just becomes more adventurous...
Today I want to share a very special story with you. The story of my friend Heidi Wagoner and how she travels the world with her husband and her two kids. I met Heidi and her family last year in Chiang Mai, Thailand. And just for the record, now, a year later, they're still on the road.
One evening we sat at a Mexican restaurant in Chiang Mai and Heidi told me the story of her life, how she gave up her job, her house and everything in order to follow her dreams. I was truly moved and almost cried when she told me her inspirational story. I couldn't help but asking her if she would be willing to write down everything so I could publish it on my blog to inspire more people.
My dear reader, no matter if you have a family yet or not, this story will surely touch you. Let's begin, here is Heidi's story, told by herself...
Your travel days are over once you have kids!
When I was younger I knew this to be true and that is exactly why I traveled just after I finished University. In my twenties I lived in Mexico and covered just about every state in that country, I even spent months exploring a bit of Central America too. This was my time to be crazy and get the travel bug out of my system.
In my thirties, I was married and we lived in London and explored much of Western Europe.
Now in my forties, with 2 kids, we have been a traveling family, since August 2012. I am here to say, travel doesn't ever have to stop, just because you have kids.
Long term travel is only for the young and kid free.
We have all been programmed to accept that you are allowed to travel after university, in your twenties or once you retire in your sixties.
It is taboo, irresponsible and crazy to travel in your thirties to fiftees as this is the time you are supposed to focus on your career and family. This is the time when you are to have all of your wild and crazy days in your past.
You were set free in your twenties and allowed to travel and explore the world. But by your thirties, you'd better be back at 'home' with a plan, a prospect for marriage and career in mind.
You need to show that you are "successful" by having a list of accomplishments, papers, degrees, a home and children, so you can make your family and society proud. These are the years when you make something of yourself and you build that resume to show the world you count, you are contributing, you are following the rules! This is the program that has been sold for years and it is the one most people live by.
There are many people whom have no desire to travel, just as
I have no desire to live in one house with one job,
for the next 40 years.
Travel isn't something you get out of your system
For those of us who are travelers, you know that travel isn't something you just get out of your system. It isn't something you check off your bucket list and you are done. We can't say "I want to explore the world", do it and then not have it change your inner core. It's not a goal you set, achieve and move on, at least it isn't for most people.
I know for my mother, travel wasn't a big priority in her life, until she visited Thailand with me in the late 1990's. She was in her 50's and had never been away from North America. It was her first exposure to a bigger world and she was hooked after that.
The American Dream
As I stated before I traveled in my twenties and lived abroad in my thirties. Yes, I was a good American citizen and got travel out of my system. I focused on building my career and a family.
Since Alan and I were both working, we happened to have 2 successful careers. We bought our first home, with a 30 year mortgage, owned 2 cars, had 2 kids and a dog.
We were living the American dream. We had it all, just like we were supposed to. We worked hard to build and maintain that lifestyle for over 12 years. With each new career accomplishment, we were rewarded with a new TV, granite counter tops, a gardener or having a more plush family vacation.
We were slaves to the life we built
Our daily lives were completely dedicated to getting the kids to/from school, as well as getting to/from work. We spent the evenings and weekends running errands, getting the chores done (mowing
the lawn, maintaining the home, buying things to decorate the home, kid’s activities, laundry, cleaning and so on).
In order to enjoy this big home (symbol of success), we needed to maintain it and improve it. We had every video gaming console which existed and over 900 cd's, beautifully displayed and collecting dust on our shelf.
Our careers allowed us 3 weeks of vacation time a year. They were carefully plotted and planned around existing holidays and weekends, to try to maximize the time and frequency we were away. We still had our fix of domestic and international travel, it was just in little micro-bites of time.
Even with kids in tow, we would hit up the Beaches Resorts and the like, so we could enjoy an adult vacation with the kids along too. Let me just say, those aren't the cheapest vacations, but we would save up for that one big trip a year.
The economy was taking a bit of a turn and for several years our employers were "letting go" of people and downsizing. At my company, I was flourishing being promoted with each round of layoffs. That is just how the cycle works, out with the old, bring in and up the new. Eventually the "new" become the old, so I knew it was only a matter of time when they would dip into the "good people"; the successful people.
I started to squirrel away every bonus and raise and put any extra money we had into savings. Over the years, this little pot grew into a slightly bigger pot. The goal was to save a full year's salary, for the day when one of us was laid off of work. That way we wouldn't need to change our perfect American lifestyle, while that person was out job hunting for the replacement.
We had the dream jobs, the dream life and building a savings too! Yet with all of this it wasn't enough to feed our hunger. We were missing the experience of travel.
Just one week at an Americanized resort doesn't fill the traveler's hunger for local experiences and thirst for connecting with others.
No problem, we hatched a plan to take 3 weeks’ vacation. Both of our companies were closed between Christmas and New Year’s, so we planned to add 1 week of vacation from the old year and 1 week from the new year, and combine with the company closure, for a total of 3 weeks at once.
The plan was to go to Peru and explore, just like we did when we were in our twenties. It would take a couple of years of careful planning with vacation time to accomplish this goal, but we were up for the challenge.
Once we were working more towards having deeper travel back in our life, my desires and dreams were reignited. We were working towards this goal of being travelers once again and sharing
that experience with our children.
We took a week away to Puerto Rico with the kids, but this time it wasn't at a resort. This time we rented an apartment in a local neighborhood for a week. This was the litmus test, to see if the kids were ready for some "real" travel and not just a family vacation. They passed the test with flying colors.
The turning point
I realized we were spending so much money on "stuff". I looked around our 4500 square foot, 5 bedroom, 4 bathroom home and realized we filled it all up with things, to make it look pretty or to entertain us. Things which collected dust, which in turn needed to be cleaned, which then occupied my time to clean. This was time that was precious; time away from us being a family.
Quite often, we were spread out all around the house doing "our own thing" with all of the stuff we bought. I realized all of these things were helping our family with independence, but not so much as a family. Yes, we did have fun playing Rock Band or a game of cards or just sitting down to watch a movie, but it wasn't all of the time. The maintenance of the stuff and the need for it became apparent to me.
We were in the land of the quick fix, let's buy something to create family time and then move on. Things would hold our interest for a while and then the latest and greatest, new and improved would be released and of course we had to have that. Things that just weren't that important in the big scheme of things. We would buy a new picture to hang on the wall, a new planter for the yard, a new toy for the garage.
The more things we would buy, the emptier I felt.
If you looked at our home, by no means was it full or cluttered, but it was full of stuff. I slowly began to cleanse our home. You know, get rid of the things which were no longer used. No one really noticed anything missing, so I continued with the purge. It felt great to give away some of the toys, clothes and gadgets to someone else, who would really appreciate them.
When I began to question everything
Through this process, I began to question why we have it all in the first place. Why do we need to be so "successful" to be happy and approved by society? I began to hatch a plan in my mind and get inspired by researching our future trip to Peru. In doing so, I found many blogs and sources of inspiration, some of which were traveling families.
My mind was racing and I realized there were people out there traveling with children. Life with travel didn't have to end in my twenties or thirties! More questions flooded my mind. Why are we sitting ducks, squirreling away our savings for the day when we will be laid off of work? Why are we just waiting for such a life changing event to happen to us?
Why don't we just take control of our own lives and destiny and do what we want to do? Why do we have to wait until we retire to travel and be free? Why do we have to travel just one or two weeks at a time?
Ideas began to form in my mind and I approached Alan with the thought of us taking control of our destiny. I didn't want to just sit around with our accomplishments and success and let life happen to us. I reviewed our savings and finances and suggested we not wait to be laid off. Why don't we lay ourselves off and be in full control?
I wanted us to make life happen, to live our dreams. I wanted us to quit our jobs and travel for 12-18 months and really soak it all in. A once in a lifetime opportunity.
Alan kindly digested the information and thought I was going a bit nuts and perhaps even thought I was having a midlife crisis. Every now and again, we would discuss these thoughts and after about 4-6 weeks, Alan began to see the light. He too realized he missed the life of travel and exploration, when we were expats in London.
Downsizing and decluttering
We began to focus on this new dream together as a team. Once we were in sync, magic happened. We had a common goal and the family joined in on the cleansing of "things". We stopped buying "stuff" and focused on downsizing and decluttering. The more we did, the easier it became and the more money we found available to add to our savings. It was amazing, how quickly we could save money, when we weren't out spending it all of the time.
Getting rid of (almost) everything we owned
When we went to sell our massive home in a terrible real estate market, we were told it would take over a year to sell our home. After all, the exact same home as ours had been for sale for 392 days, just around the corner. We knew we had our work cut out for us to make this happen and it would be against all odds.
After the serious declutter of things, we staged the home to be appealing to any buyer. We hired an agent to sell the home and then we added a bit of my crazy thinking to the mix. The first night the home was on the market, the four of us danced and chanted around in our living room, doing sort of a rain dance. We were sending the spirits our energy to sell the home. The very next day we had a showing.
We knew our energy was focused on the right thing. We felt it was all meant to be. It is amazing how powerful the act of positive thinking is. When you are working towards a common goal, your dream, your passion, the path finds a way to become easier for you.
After just 3 weeks on the market, they made an asking price offer on the home. To top it all off, they also wanted purchase most of our furniture too. They wanted the kid’s bedrooms as is, with everything on the walls, beds, desks and lamps. They even offered to pay for this in addition to the home. Seriously, when do things like this ever happen?
Goodbye America, hello Europe!
Our plan was to move to Spain and travel around Europe. For us it was important for the kids to become fluent in Spanish. We worked towards living in Spain. We sold our home and most of our personal belongings. The more we got rid of, the more liberated we became. Everything was just clicking into place.
We moved to Spain in August of 2012. After nearly 2 years of living in Spain, we decided to become nomadic and travel for a year around Southeast Asia. We traveled Europe for 1 month, Southeast Asia for 10 months and then a quick month in the Southwest USA. Following that we returned to Spain, as a home base.
Our 12-18 months career break has turned into 3 years of travel, with an unlimited amount of time remaining.
I say unlimited amount because we now know we can live the life of travel. We will do what it takes to keep this going, as long as it is a priority for us. One day it may not be, but for now it is.
Our new life: A life of travel
We can travel the world, with kids, on far less than we could ever live off of in the USA, with all of our success. We have a nice furnished home, with a stunning sea view in Spain. We also have very inexpensive health insurance and along with a very simplified life. The best part of it all, we have an abundance of quality time together as a family.
The kids too have a hunger for travel and see the world far differently from most kids. After having experienced over 26 countries, about half of Alan and mine, they have the travel bug too. They love meeting new people and immersing in new cultures.
We have busted the myth that travel is only for those fresh out of University or going into Retirement. Why do we have to follow the rules and only travel when others want us to? We took our destiny into our own hands and made the life of travel work for us.
How we afford to travel long-term as a family
So many people think we must be rich to live the life of travel. They also wonder how we can live for so many years without working. Well, I wouldn’t say we aren’t working. We do run our family blog Wagoners Abroad and sometimes that is more than a full-time job.
We earn a small income from the blog with advertising, branded content, affiliate links as well. We have also written 2 popular ebooks: Let the Kids Cook - inspired by kids for kids, is sold on Amazon and our most popular book is Live in Spain, for those that would like to follow our path. Live in Spain helps non-EU Citizens navigate the cumbersome process of obtaining a resident visa in Spain. We have successfully helped hundreds of people move to or visit Spain and are contacted regularly with messages of gratitude.
All of this is not enough to cover our expenses of $3000 USD a month, but it is enough to supplement and allow our savings to stretch much more than we anticipated. We have also made some wise investments, which add to the mix as well.
Little by little it grows, as we focus on making our lives of location independence open-ended. Our goal is to make enough money to continue this as long as we want. We are finding there isn’t one magic recipe for a steady income, but rather many small and diverse sources.
Over time, we will build all of these streams and be able to fund our life completely. So while, we don’t consider ourselves rich with money, we are rich with experiences, stories and memories. We live off of just what we need to get by, yet it doesn't feel like we are deprived in any way.
Would you travel the world with your kids?
This is not the life for everyone, nor is it accepted by everyone. We get our fair share of naysayers and people who just don't understand our choices. We too feel the same about some of their choices. That is the beauty of it all, we are all different and need to march to our own drummer.
We need to follow our passion and our dreams, sometimes it isn't the norm or what society says is acceptable. Sometimes we are called irresponsible, because we don't own a home and aren't giving our children roots. On the contrary, they have roots that spread around the world and go deep into the core.
Our children are citizens of the world and have a good understanding of this place in which we live. They have been taught to follow their dreams and think outside of the box.
Not everyone will go to the extreme that we did, by selling it all and moving abroad. For most travel from a home base is the best mix and more acceptable as well. Follow you dreams and make them come true. If travel is your priority and passion, you can do it any time in your life. Travel isn't over because you have kids, it just becomes more adventurous. I wish you an unforgettable journey.
More about the Wagoners:
Heidi and Alan Wagoner are passionate about travel (50+ countries) and both authors of the popular travel blog Wagoners Abroad. In August 2012, they left the “perfect American life” and quit their jobs, sold their belongings and moved to Southern Spain, with their two kids Lars and Anya. After nearly two years in Spain, they have become nomadic and are exploring Southeast Asia for a year. They are a true source of inspiration and proof you can make your dreams come true.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Sabrina Iovino is the founder of JustOneWayTicket.com. She's half German, half Italian and has traveled to more than 50 countries around the globe. She feels weird to write about herself in the third person, so she'll switch now. Phew...much better! Let's restart:
Hi, I'm Sab! This is my blog and I write about the things I love. Mostly.
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