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Family Aspects of a Nomadic Lifestyle

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<— Read Chapter 3: Purge your Stuff, Shed the Anchors 

Read Chapter 5: Green Your Travel – Environmental Nomadism –>

Family, biological or intentional, is a mighty important part of life.

And we often hear the excuse that making family a priority is the reason that people don’t travel as much as they would otherwise like.

Whether it be raising kids, care taking for a loved one, just wanting to be close by, or even concern about a loved one’s reaction – family plays a huge role in many travel and lifestyle choices.

We personally think that family connections are hugely important, so we’d like to offer up some alternative ways to think about incorporating family in with full-time nomadic travel – whether you are focused on staying close to your family, or maybe are trying to stay as far from them as possible.

The family that roams together..

“As soon as the kids are grown up – we’re hitting the road!”

This is one of the most common reasons we hear from people about why they aren’t undertaking the travel they want.

While Chris and I aren’t resources for inspiration on this particular topic (we’re intentionally childfree by choice and have specifically made choices to not have any kids) – we address the subject often however, as folks sometimes assume that it’s our childfree status that gives us the freedom and agility to travel.

And while this is undeniably at least somewhat true, raising a family does not necessarily preclude a nomadic travel-filled lifestyle.

We actually both grew up with a good deal of travel in our lives as kids, and we’re pretty proud of the way we turned out!

Granted, we didn’t travel full time (darn!), but we both greatly appreciate and honor the travel experiences we had growing up. Some of my fondest and most pivotal experiences as a child where not from sitting in a classroom, but from the many travel adventures I had with my family and out on my own. And Chris actually spent four years living as an expat in Indonesia with his family as a kid, and he actually loved growing up in a family that moved around every few years.

The Gilbert Family (Almost Fearless) at Burning Man 2010, Filming us for their documentary on digital nomads.

There is a common assumption in our American culture that kids need a stable place to be in order to get a good education and grow up “right”. However, after meeting many kids growing up on the road, I can say with certainty that that’s not always true. Some kids absolutely thrive on the variability of experiences.

Most of the families on the road we’ve met homeschool their kids, or as some prefer to call it – Road School. Think about it – isn’t it exceptionally educational to travel to places to experience them firsthand, instead of just sitting in a classroom reading about them? The kids I’ve met who have a lot of travel in their life are well rounded with great perspectives on life and people. And they often grow up to do amazing things in their own education and careers, well prepared for life on their own.

As we’re not qualified to provide detailed guidance on this topic, we’ll point you to some traveling families who blog regularly about how they make it work:

  • Tricknor Tribe – For anyone who says that having kids means you can’t travel full time – you need to check this group out. Imagine – a family of 14 traveling the US in an RV! Two of the kids have grown up and are on their own now, so there’s now *only* 10 kids and two parents on board. Yes – you read that right – 10 kids!
  • Boyink Advenures – After a year-long trial run, this family of 4 is currently preparing their lives for indefinite travel!
  • Family on Bikes – The Vogel family left June 8, 2008 for a 2 1/2 year bicycle trip traversing the Pan-American Highway from Alaska to Argentina. Their new book Twenty Miles Per Cookie: 9000 Miles of Kid-Powered Adventures – has just come out, and is a very inspiration-filled & informative read about epic family travel.
  • BumFuzzle – This couple started out traveling on their own, and embarked on building a family while on the roam. Presently, they are back to living full-time on a sailboat.
  • Almost Fearless – Christine & Drew started traveling the world on their own, and didn’t let the arrival of their son Cole slow them down at all. They’re still traveling the world and are raising him on the road – currently they are in China.

Follow any of these amazing inspiring families, and you’ll soon be linked to dozens of others doing similar things.

This isn’t to say that every family is suited for traveling together full time, or that there aren’t other situations which would make family travel but a pipe dream. Obviously special needs, sharing custody, and other situations may mean needing to hold off until the kids are grown. But do think outside the box and realize that there are more ways than in a traditional fixed home to raise a family.

Talk to your family. Present the idea to your kids. You may be surprised about what is possible.

Extended Family

One huge advantage of nomadic life that often goes overlooked is how travel can actually help bring an extended family closer together.

Being nomadic gives you the flexibility to visit far-flung family for prolonged periods of time, vastly increasing the amount of quality time you can spend with them.

Part of our decision to hit the road starting in our early 30s was a realization that our parents and grandparents are aging – and a time would come that we’d want to be able to easily be closer by for extended periods of time. Our lifestyle gives us an incredible amount of flexibility to integrate in lots of quality time with loved ones, really being there when needed and not feeling like we’re compromising our style, or theirs, at all.

Holidays with both our parents!

With his past Silicon Valley corporate job, Chris might have been able to travel to St. Louis to visit his parents for a long weekend over the holidays once or twice a year, managing at most a few days each time. The time together would always be rushed and chaotic, with more time seemingly spent hustling to and from the airport than actually catching up together.

But thanks to our current nomadic lifestyle, we’re able to pull into St. Louis and enjoy the more relaxed pace of a several week visit if we like. And because we bring our own house with us, we don’t necessarily have to stay in a guest room and give up our own privacy and autonomy.

We get to enjoy extended every day life with our loved ones, and we cherish that!

And by being nomadic, we’re also better able to respond to family crisis and pull in to help out longer term when it’s needed. This is what we’re currently doing by positioning ourselves in central Florida to be near Cherie’s family as her father is undergoing medical treatments.

It’s really been wonderful to have built in flexibility and mobility to really be there, without it needing to be a disruption to our lives. Because our lives are designed to be mobile, and we can work from anywhere – we’re not having to balance vacation time, keeping a home base going, travel expenses, and being where our hearts want to be. We just bring our home as close as possible and setup camp for as long as needed.

And for those that are wishing for more distance from family (not us!), being on the go is actually a great excuse for getting away from the family you don’t get along with! Maybe a little distance is just the thing that will let you come back together and eventually connect. We know of many estranged families that have grown closer via the perspective and growth brought about by extended travel and time apart.

Dealing with Unsupportive Family

So you’ve made the decision to hit the road full time…

You’re full of excitement, making plans, selling your stuff and figuring out all the logistics. The friends you’ve told so far are supportive and calling dibs on all your cool stuff. Your boss and co-workers are sorry to see you go. Now it’s time to make the big announcement to your parents. Your aunts and uncles. Your grandparents. Your siblings.

How will they take it?

Sure, many of us expect our parents to someday announce that they’re selling the house and traveling in their retirement, but when the dynamic is reversed – it’s a more unusual situation. Family members tend have a different reaction than friends.

Sure, some of them may be genuinely excited for you, and even envious. But do anticipate that some family members may be less than thrilled. Your excitement bubble may be painfully burst if you get a strongly negative reaction.

Some in your family may be concerned that you’re throwing your life away, ditching your career, exiting society and living a carefree lifestyle. They may feel you’re throwing away what they have invested in your upbringing, education and values they hoped to instill in you. Some may be more concerned about how they’ll explain it to their friends and how your choice reflects on them. And some may be concerned about supporting you in the future should you come back broke and homeless.

When you give up a fixed location home to be a nomadic traveler, you’ll be battling whatever prejudices they (and their community) have about gypsies, the homeless, nomads, vagabonds, hobos and the like. There’s just not a lot of examples out there that they’ve likely seen of financially secure, career accomplished people who choose to combine a rich life with travel full time.

Being able to work remotely is a relatively new concept in our society, thanks in large part to how technology keeps advancing.

So before you break the news, be prepared to answer some questions.

Here’s some things to have thought through that you should be able to address to help get your family more comfortable with your decision:

1) How will you afford your travels? If you’ll be working – explain your business model or job situation. Share your progress. If you’re taking a gap year or able to retire early, be prepared to share some of the financial planning you’ve done to get here. Explain that this isn’t like taking an extended vacation – you’re not paying for a house ‘back home’ while you travel long term, and your not burning through cash reserves at a vacation-style pace.

2) How are you planning for your future? Do you have savings, will you be continuing to save for retirement? How will you handle emergencies? How will you handle it if nomadism doesn’t suit you after a while?

3) How about logistical stuff? How will they be able to reach you? Send you birthday cards? How will you pay your bills? What about health insurance, driver’s licenses and voting?

If you want their support, you’ll need to ensure them that you’ve thought through this all and have a good grasp on what you’re doing.

We began writing this series to help answer all the questions & assumptions that we’ve encountered over the years. If it helps, feel free to point your family here, or send them a copy of this eBook.

Be confident in yourself and your decision. Share your dreams of location independence and the adventures you want to have, and balance it out by sharing how you plan to deal with the responsibilities that come along with life.

Use real life examples and stories that make it all seem real and approachable. There are probably even stories within your own extended family to use as examples. How about your cousin who is a traveling nurse? Or a nephew who just lost his job due to being downsized in this rough economy? How is your choice to pursue a location independent career any less risky than assuming a traditional employer will remain loyal to you?

And if you feel your new traveling lifestyle will benefit them in any way, such as increasing opportunity for quality time together – make sure they know of your plans to include them. Invite them to plan their vacations around meeting up with you in amazing places where you’ll be able to show them around. Tell them that this lifestyle can prepare you to be there when they need you, more so than being tied to a fixed home and job might.

Don’t expect them to get comfortable overnight. It’ll take time to see your success. Our parents were both a bit hesitant about our decision, but they were also supportive of us making our own choices – as whacky as they are. At first, we think they thought it was a phase we’d get out of our systems in a year or so, and then want to settle down – and for Chris in particular, go back to a traditional job.

Nearly six years later, we think our families have come to accept that this is our lifestyle. That we’re making it work, that we do contributive stuff. Our careers continue to advance, we’re happy, we’re financially independent, we have amazing pictures & tales to share, and we get to spend lots of quality time with them.

We’ve even overheard them brag to their friends sometimes about how proud they are of us!

<— Read Chapter 3: Purge your Stuff, Shed the Anchors
Read Chapter 5: Green Your Travel – Environmental Nomadism –>  

Resources:

Families on the Road – A community of full time traveling families, with an emphasis on RVing nomads.
Vagabond Family – A community and family listing for global nomadic families.
Dear Uncle Calvin – Full time nomads Dalene & Paul Heck ran a series on their blog of letters their readers would write to their unsupportive ‘Uncle Calvin’ explaining their traveling lifestyle.

 


What happened to the eBook version of this series?

 

Great for those gearing up to RV – RV Love’s new book that goes over EVERYTHING!

We used to offer an eBook version of this content on a ‘Pay as you Wish’ basis. That book got so out of date and we have no time to keep it updated – so we took it down.

We do our best to upkeep the segments in this blog series, but realistically can’t see republishing the book edition.

In November 2018, RV Love released their brand new (professionally published) book – Living the RV Life. It goes over a lot of similar content to this series (and more) on RVing. We highly recommend picking up a copy!

You’re of course welcome to browse the No Excuses: Go Nomadic series online for more of our tips & tricks on the logistics of nomadic travel.

If you do appreciate this series or the content on our blog, we always LOVE hearing your appreciation – leave a comment, leave a tip (link at bottom of every page) and/or share this post.  Thank you!


 

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2 Comments - Still Plenty of Room for Yours!

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  1. I love your blog, thank you for answering many of my questions and concerns of traveling full time.

    I am interested in the nomadic lifestyle, our children are grown, but we do have grandchildren. I will miss them at times, but at other times, I think we can take them with us when they are out of school. Which will actually allow us to spend more time with them in the long run.

    We are now studying many kinds of RV’s to decide which one will be best for us. We will need something big enough to sleep one or two of the adult children and grandchildren when they decide to go with us. But not so big that it is expensive and awkward for us to use on a full time basis.

    I plan to finish reading all your articles for the incredibly good information you have provided.

    Thank you for doing this!

  2. It isn’t the stability of the place that is so important for children – but the stability of those who care for them. Travel for children can be very rewarding as long as those travelling with them have their heads screwed on right! Routines are important, but these can be put in place anywhere on the planet. And they don’t need anywhere near the amount of junk that they have in one place as people seem to think.

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