We frequently hear these questions, ” Where are you going?”, “How long will it take you?”, “Why did you choose Argentina?”, “How in the world do you make this work?”
We left our small farm and began traveling fulltime in 2007. In 2014, we won National Geographic’s People’s Choice Travelers of the Year.
I am going to share a few tips explaining how we make fulltime travel happen in hopes of encouraging you to travel, too. We travel slowly by design.
We leaped into our travel lifestyle in January 2007. The journey is what our slow travel lifestyle is about, not the destination.
We have traipsed this amazing country for well over a year now. That was not the plan. We thought we would pause long enough to have a home birth, recover, and keep trekking. We had a beautiful underwater birth at our home in Guadalajara, Mexico. Our son Jeriah surprised us by arriving with the gift of Down syndrome. When he was three months old, he was diagnosed with heart failure and pulmonary hypertension. Thankfully, his heart is now repaired, and we plan to keep trekking southward.
We do, however, entertain thoughts of side trips to Europe, Africa, or back to somewhere in Asia. Slow travel affords us the freedom of changing our plans and doing what works best in the moment. We have always said, “we have more time than money.” As the children are growing, we see that time is slipping away pretty quickly.
By traveling slowly, we have the time to make lasting friendships and engage deeply enough into culture to begin thinking like the culture around us. We leave each community deeply aware of its beauty, its strengths and its struggles. As a result of going slowly, we have wept with sugar cane farmers over the unjust wages they receive. We have laughed with old ladies proudly recounting how they raise children in poverty. We have stopped to welcome newborn babies and celebrate grandmothers’ birthdays.
Slow travel gives our children the chance to learn from locals. They have studied painting with artists, piano with international musicians, ballet, basketry, and so much more. We travel to learn and learn while traveling as worldschoolers.
Traveling slowly is also the most economical way to travel. It’s a whole lot cheaper to rent a house for a month than to pay a hotel by the day. Traveling slowly is what separates our travel lifestyle from the tourist on vacation. We are not here just to soak in the sun and splash in the sea, but we also learn from and share with the surrounding culture.
A lot of people ask us, “How do you make it work?” Although there are many ways to create a location-independent income, the answer to the question is really found within the question. When you want something badly enough, you MAKE IT WORK. That’s the answer.
Great things in life seldom happen accidentally. We have no rich uncle… well, at least no rich uncle supporting us. We live simply on purpose and we MAKE IT WORK.
Sometimes we live for free as volunteers in U.S. National Parks. Other times we stay with host families. All over Mexico, we have camped for free. Sometimes, it’s been in someone’s backyard, like the time we visited Tulum after a hurricane wiped out campgrounds and resorts.
One of our favorites (when funds were particularly tight) was camping totally free in a small fishing community in Manzanillo, Mexico. We watched our children have the time of their lives. They taught us that poverty and riches are not determined by the amount of greenbacks in your wallet. While Brent and I were scrambling financially, the children were scrambling to find the next conch shell, save the starfish, and collect dried sand dollars washed ashore.
I focus on nutrition because that’s the key to health. Cooking nutrient-dense meals from scratch is not only the healthiest option, it’s also the most cost-effective way to go for large families.
As soon as we cross the border, food prices drop considerably. With year round sunshine, it’s easy to find grass-fed chickens or eggs for low cost. Eggs every morning for breakfast is a lot cheaper and healthier than cereal. Several times a week, we eat dishes created from homemade chicken stock or broth.
We also glean. Glean? Yes, just like Ruth in the Old Testament, we have benefited from gleaning after the first picking many times. We have done this both in the U.S. and in Mexico. I don’t think we have ever been turned down. Farmers are glad for gleaners. Gleaning keeps the trees and orchards cleaner. In Mexico, we have asked to glean and, more than once, have been surrounded by willing local helpers.
During that three-week camping excursion in the fishing village, we obtained most of our food for free or very low cost. We gleaned coconuts, a live, easy, and healthy electrolyte. Some places will even pay you to collect the coconuts. We were able to glean a huge case of mango seconds from a farmer who could not sell them to his U.S. contact. We picked avocados from the trees of local hotels happy to get rid of them.
In addition, we found lots of bananas and about fifty pounds of oranges. We had eggs, milk from grass-fed cows, and many basics–flour and seasonings, to name a few. The children regularly caught fish and crabs which we also ate.
A local donut salesman befriended our family. Every day he paraded his donuts in a basket perched on his head. He stopped by our site for a break from the intense sun. At the end of the day, he dropped his extra donuts off, to the delight of the children. We are now living in a house near that village. Our friend who sells donuts recently stopped by the house just to bring the children donuts.
Children do not need cash to be content. As long as their basic needs are met, children will thrive with lots of sunshine and a happy family life. They spent our fishing village encampment by snorkeling, building sand castles, boogie boarding, chatting with locals, and eating tropical fruits and whole foods. Each night we rinsed off in fresh water bucket baths and slept while hearing the waves crash. In the morning, we read the Bible together, scrambled eggs, and went out adventuring again.
Sometimes, we gleaned and made it work by living free by the sea. Other times, we enjoy a five-star resorts and sometimes that is in exchange for online ratings or advertising. In those times, our children are ordering off the menu and sipping smoothies in lounge chairs with fluffy white robes. We frequently rent a furnished vacation home for a month or three at a time. We have also stayed with locals which is a fantastic way to engage with and learn from the surrounding culture.
In all of those situations, the children are equally happy and equally free. The key is finding the inner resources for contentment. All the world’s money can not fill the gap for the perennially discontent. As the proverb says, “Wherever you go, there you are.” This will never be more true than for the traveler. If you are a happy person at home, you will likely be happy on the road.
If you are dreaming of travel, there IS a way for you to make it happen. Some may want, like us, to pursue photography and writing. That’s one way we fund our travel. Our blog is growing and we are finding it to be a great way to keep gas in our RV. Brent also runs a hospitality consultation business and we are planning to add new streams on income this year.
Find your passion and market it. Our own family values natural health. We mantain health and wellness on the road. In all of our travels no one in our family has needed to be hospitalized due to illness. doTERRA’s essential oils play a major role in how our family mantians health on the road. I travel with a kit of essential oils and two diffusers. Over the years, people ask us about oils and how I use them. Finally, I decided to sell the oils because they are a passion of mine. Today, doTERRA one of the ways our family is able to find our travel-lifestyle.
I also sell beautiful hair products online and in markets. It’s been an excellent and easy way to earn. I am always happy to help others get started in that as well.
Others use or obtain a nursing degree to fulfill their dreams. Some obtain a TESL (Teaching English as a Second Language) Certificate to open their doors to travel. There are many ways to become location independent.
More often than not, we have found that our pre-travel experiences pointed the way toward living more freely and earning as we traveled. Before you look for ways to fund travel, however, determine how strong your WILL to travel really is. Many of us give up that dream house, the second car and the retirement savings in order to embrace the moment.
The greatest happiness we can give our children is our love for them. By traveling slowly, the greatest freedom we enjoy is being able to spell “love” to them the way they understand best: T-I-M-E. We cherish being able to spend their too short days of childhood together.
Have you considered extended travel with your family? What are some ways you plan to MAKE it work?