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.
Getting real with family travel
This past week we were visiting our oldest son in New York City. The week was a juggle of spending time with our son, homeschool lessons, working, writing, sight seeing, and commuting in an out of the city. The East Coast is generally much more fast-paced than the West Coast, but after a week of shuffling here and there in New York City, we were exhausted!
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 would be deceiving to have people believe 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.
Carrying your own baggage
One truth I’ve come to realize as we uncover the realities of long term family travel is that baggage isn’t just the physical bags that carry your clothes and effects. It’s also the emotional junk you’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 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 prevent you 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.
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.
Cultural adjustment for kids
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 has settled down, and the realities of long term family travel are starting to seep in, I am starting to see the stresses of travel in my kids.
The other day my daughter said she wished we weren’t traveling because 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.
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 try to help them along.
Remember to live 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 probably never visit the same place twice. And faster than we realize, this trip will be done and 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.
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