Full Time Travel: How This Family of Eleven Makes it Work

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Full Time Travel

Slow and Happy Travel on a Sandal Strap Budget

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?”

Make It Work

Camping for free in Paradise is one way we make full time travel work.

Slow Travel By Design

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.

Full Time Travel

Medically Aware

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.

Relationally Meaningful

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.

How This Family of Eleven Makes it Work.

Make It

Family moments spent playing on a stunning beach in Manzanillo, Mexico

Educationally Balanced

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.

Economically Reasonable

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.

Tricks of the Travel Trade

Make it Work

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.

Creative Living

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.

Starfish

Josiah holding a starfish. Time is better than money.

Fresh Fruit

Fresh fruit in season

Bucket Baths

A bucket bath for the little man.

Creative Eating

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.

Gleaning

Enjoying exotic tropical fruits gleaned from nearby farms and jungle areas.

Coconuts in the Wild

The children roughin’ with fresh coconut juice in the lagoon.

Seafood Freefood

Seafood Freefood and so delicious.

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.

Donuts

Not so healthy, but a special memory of hospitality on the beach.

Thoughts on Happiness

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.

“Where there’s a will…”

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.

Making Love Work

Love is Free

Love is Free. Fifteen minutes of splashing in the sea with a child will create lifelong confidence.

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?

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Brent and Stacey-jean Inion
Brent and Stacey-jean Inion
Brent and Stacey-jean Inion, parents of nine (including four children adopted with special needs), 2014 National Geographic Travelers of the Year and the National Geographic Travelers People's Choice Travelers of the Year. They love to laugh, to read and to explore as a family. The secret to their marital bliss is an early morning cup of freshly brewed coffee before the children awake.

33 Comments

  1. Katie Troyer says:

    Thank you for your postings. I love following you in your travels or everyday living or whatever.

    • Stacey-jean Inion says:

      Aww, Katie, thank you so much. I am really glad you like following our story. Your life in Sarasota is pretty fascinating as well.

  2. Kate says:

    Great article about a lovely family. Time with our kids is the best gift for ourselves (and them:) Two of mine are grown but we still travel together and watching them interact with the Littles is amazing too. Thanks for all your sharings. We have only been in Costa Rica once for three months (mostly Asia and Europe/Middle East) but I am thinking now Tulum then drive to Belize and onward — in late fall (we have a major scoliosis surgery for 12 year old to get thru this summer:(

  3. Great photos, I think that creative living is one of the most important parts of life!!! Nice article, Brent!

  4. Kelsey says:

    Your story is so inspiring! I’m glad I found you through Facebook and I plan to follow along. One question… how do you actually travel/transport a family of eleven? I know you mentioned a second car.. but I’d love more detail on this aspect of your traveling lifestyle!

    • Stacey-jean Inion says:

      Hi Kelsey,

      No second care here. A lot of larger families actually do go that route, but we enjoy each other’s company and want to invest in teh children while driving. We have used a lot of different sized vehicles. We used to own a 15 passenger van and then we moved into a mini bus. Those were both great options. We are now in a small RV and we love that the best. We added seatbelts for all. The RV adds the luxury of a bathroom, a kitchen and the ability to sleep if needed. Most of the time time when we camp, the boys opt for tents which gives us all more room. When we like an area, we rent a house for a while which is where we do our more stretched out living.

  5. Aileen says:

    This is crazy amazing! You guys rock for managing to travel with kids–what more: 11 of them! This is why I keep on telling my readers that travel is possible, no matter your circumstance. Anyhow, this post of yours will be very helpful for those who want to tag along the whole family wolf pack. Great post!

    • Stacey-jean Inion says:

      Haha. Crazy amazing or maybe just amazingly crazy. Nine kids so far, but who can tell the difference? We agree, travel is possible for most people who live in first world situations.

  6. What a sweet, intriguing family you have, Stacey-Jean! And you are a superwoman. I admire your strength and dedication to doing what you love. Your children are so blessed to travel the world in their youth. I can relate a bit to your family. My parents were missionaries to Latin America, and we lived a year in Guadalajara while my parents attended language school. My mother was a superwoman, too, with a blind husband and two children. After we left Mexico we spent many years in Latin America, primarily Chile and Paraguay. I hope your post inspires other families to follow their dreams.

    • Stacey-jean Inion says:

      That is an incredibly inspiring story Howard. I am no superwoman, but thank you for being such an encouragement. With what mission were your parents serving?

  7. Beautiful! I love your sentence: The greatest happiness we can give our children is our love for them. How true, and something that is often forgotten in the hubbub of life. Safe travels!

  8. Mary says:

    Lovely! You have such a genuine and beautiful mindset on life, travel, and children! Thanks so much for sharing it with the world!

  9. Meg Jerrard says:

    Thanks for putting this article together – you already know I think you’re incredibly inspiring! I particularly have recently realized the benefit in slower travel as well, so I really admire your commitment to using this to benefit your family and the destinations you’re traveling to. Keep up the amazing work – love your style!

    • Stacey-jean Inion says:

      Glad this inspired you Meg. Slow travel is excellent and especially so for children. Happy travels.

  10. Dana says:

    This is such an inspiring article! I’m amazed at how you are able to travel with 9 children. Sometimes I find it difficult with 2! Children do grow up so quickly. That’s why we moved abroad for a year and are homeschooling. It’s so it’s important to spend the time with them now and allow them to benefit from world travel and love.

    • Stacey-jean Inion says:

      Dana, how wonderful that you took your children abroad. Time and travel are lasting gifts. By the way, we always say two children take all of our time, three children take all of our time, four children take all of our time….well, you get the idea.

  11. Bailey K. says:

    Your family is beautiful and the way you live is very inspiring. I am not a mother, but I KNOW that you are blessing your family with the lasting education that you are giving them through travel, finding community, and living off the land as best as you can. Among other things, as well. 🙂

    • Stacey-jean Inion says:

      Bailey, Thank you so much. We are having a lot of fun and learning as we go. I am a grateful mama for being blessed with such a great crew.

  12. Your children are blessed to have such beautiful experiences at an early age!! I’m impressed that you are able to manage it all!

    • Stacey-jean Inion says:

      Thanks Francesca. The children seem to realize that they are blessed to get to travel. As far as managing it all….Brent and I keep learning as we go.

  13. Gina Zammit says:

    Great ideas for traveling on a budget! I will definitely keep these in mind 🙂

  14. Yvonne says:

    It is true. A lot of people keep on making excuses … well, I can’t to do this because. If you really want to do something, you can do it! Your story is incredibly inspiring.

    • Stacey-jean Inion says:

      Thank you Yvonne. Yes, it is easy to come up with valid excuses for so long that the opportunity is missed. It takes determination not to let that happen.

  15. susan says:

    Amazing!

  16. Eryn says:

    Being stuck at home on disability and bad joints, I’ve really enjoyed being able to “travel” along with your family. I HAVE often wondered how you are able to support your traveling lifestyle, but I did know you are extremely thrifty. I imagine that traveling with your 9 sweet children gives you a bit of an “edge” with some of the locals, because they can see where their hospitality is going to, and how amazing your children are. It’s wonderful to watch how much your whole family gives BACK in each area in which you spend time.

  17. Jonny Blair says:

    A family of 11?! That is huge and amazing that you can still travel and make it work with that. I struggle to organise just one person!

    • Stacey-jean Inion says:

      Thanks Jonny. Life is fun with more. Everyone helps each other although I wouldn’t call us organized.

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