The Realities of Long Term Family Travel

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Being on the road full time isn’t always all that it’s cracked up to be. While our Instagram accounts and Facebook status updates may make it look like we’re having the time of our lives, the realities of long term family travel can be quite different.

Life doesn’t stop just because you’re on the road. Parenting responsibilities, financial concerns, and work-life balance are as much a part of our world on the road as they were when we were stationary.

The difference now is that we have to figure out how to address these responsibilities while also changing our location from time to time. It’s just part and parcel to the realities of long term family travel.

This post was updated on May 17, 2020.


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A child walking by a mural in Hanoi, Vietnam while doing long term family travel
Walking by a mural in Hanoi, Vietnam (March 2020)

Getting real with long term family travel

I knew coming into this travel journey that the realities of long term family travel can be a bit stressful at times. I knew what we were signing up for. And I also knew that we are incredibly blessed to have this opportunity to be on the road full time.

But it’s inauthentic to show people that this lifestyle is perfect 100% of the time. Like any family life, we have our ups and downs. I shouldn’t only show the pretty sides of traveling full time with kids. Instead, I need to also show the realities of long term family travel.

During our years of traveling full time, we’ve experienced sickness, health emergencies, and the scare of having a lost child. We’ve also had our share of arguments over homeschooling, budgeting for travel, and even where to travel next.

A family waiting for a metro in Italy while doing long term family travel
Waiting for the subway in Italy (June 2019)

Carrying our own baggage

As we uncover the realities of long term family travel, I realize that baggage isn’t just the physical bags that carry our clothes and effects. It’s also the emotional junk we’ve acquired over the years.

We spent a good amount of energy prior to our trip purging the physical things we didn’t need. The physical possessions that we own now can fit comfortably into a 17 foot Uhaul truck. But in our process of minimizing, we forgot to also minimize the non-tangible things. These are the insecurities, worries, and hang ups that occupy our minds on a daily basis.

It’s tough to carry these things from place to place. They take up emotional space. And they prevent us from having the mental capacity needed to cope with the unexpectedness of travel.

I am still working on minimizing my own emotional baggage. But I know that it’s an important process to go through if I’m going to continue traveling full time.

My son sulking in New York City (October 2018)

The work-life balance struggle

Prior to our around the world trip, I really struggled with finding work-life balance. Working full-time, freelance writing, planning an around the world trip with my husband, and trying to raise two kids left me little time for myself.

Sadly, the struggle to find work-life balance is just as much a part of the realities of long term family travel as it is for families who aren’t traveling. This is particularly the case for families who are working while they travel.

A typical day on the road involves fitting in time for work, homeschooling, exploring the city, housekeeping chores (cooking, laundry, tracking our expenses), and planning for future travels. We try to keep the balance of responsibilities fair between my husband and me. But because my husband gets paid more for his work than I do (there’s little money in blogging, and freelance writing gigs are not as frequent as I would like), the bulk of the family responsibilities falls on me.

Finding time to pursue my interests, while still attending to the responsibilities of raising a family, is a struggle that I continually go through. That has not changed since being on the road (in some cases, it’s even amplified!). But I am hopeful that we’ll find that balance before the trip is done.

Visiting the September 11 Memorial in New York City (October 2018)

Cultural adjustment for kids during long term family travel

I’ve been lucky that my kids are just as excited about our around the world trip as we are. We didn’t need to convince them too hard about leaving home to travel the world. But as the novelty of the trip dissipates, and the realities of long term family travel settles in, I see the stresses of travel in my kids.

The other day my daughter said she wished we weren’t traveling. She was tired of saying good-bye to her friends and not being able to buy the toys she wanted because they take up too much room in our bags. I truly felt sad for her. And my son often laments about how he doesn’t have anyone else to play with on Minecraft.

We assume that the ability of our kids to adapt to new situations means that long term travel is a breeze for them. But in actuality, kids go through their own process of adjustment as well. As parents, we need to be mindful of the difficulties and stresses that they may be going through. And we need to help them along. I suggest reading the book, Third Culture Kids, to understand how kids adapt to growing up in an environment different from their own.

Children walking through a colonial style street in Guanajuato, Mexico, experiencing long term family travel
Walking through Guanajuato, Mexico (December 2018)

Adapting to long term family travel by living in the moment

I’ve always had trouble with living in the moment. As a writer, I am constantly jotting down my thoughts and reflections. And as a blogger, I’m always snapping up pictures of the places we visit, hoping to capture the perfect image to post. I forget sometimes to take a step back and appreciate the moment for what it is.

With all the realities of long term family travel, the most important thing to remember is that this moment is fleeting. With the exception of a few destinations, we will likely never visit the same place twice. And faster than we realize, this trip will be done. We’ll be back in our house in Seattle.

Instead of focusing on the hard parts, I need to remember to savor the sweet moments that happen during our trip: waking up to my little ones snuggling in bed with us; singing along to ‘80’s power ballads with my husband in the car; and watching the look of delight on my kids as they play imaginatively with each other.

At the crux of it, the realities of long term family travel are no different from the realities of everyday family life. We are all just struggling to do what’s best for our families.

Maybe a year from now I will have a better handle on things. But for now I’ll keep chugging along, doing what I can.

Have you experienced long term family travel? Share your experience in the comments.

The Realities of Long Term Family Travel | The Wandering Daughter

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