We have been hanging out at home in Calgary for a while now and during our time here I have experienced many emotions. Staying in places for longer periods always inspires reflection for me. Being back in familiar territory after 18 months on the road has caused contemplation but also moved me to question our future.
Reverse culture shock is a real thing and I have to say it hit me like a ton of bricks. So much so, I started to question if this unconventional lifestyle was the best thing for our family. Our nomadic lifestyle choice has affected and changed us all in so many positive ways. I know that, but I also know others at home don’t view it that way.
I knew it would be hard being home but I didn’t understand how insidious reverse culture shock would be. My ideas about living are so different than people at home and that made me feel alienated and very negative at times. Caught in a vicious downward spiral I finally bottomed out and started to feel more like myself again. After purging the many negative thoughts in my head and weighing the pros and cons of the way we choose to live, I finally concluded what I knew all along.
Nothing worthwhile ever comes easy. And the truth is, we wouldn’t want to live any other way.
As a lover of inspiring quotes, I have read so many about risk and reward that have resonated with me. Sacrifice and perseverance are always part of any success story. This life can be hard and incredibly fulfilling.
For many people, the idea of traveling the world without the pressures of a job or a mortgage beckoning you to return home would seem very appealing. What family doesn’t want more quality time together? What could be better than a never ending travel adventure?
We definitely understand the allure. That’s why we choose to live the way we do and write about our experiences. We love helping and supporting anyone interested in pursuing location independence. Where there is much that is attractive about this kind of lifestyle there are pros and cons of full time travel as a family. Honestly, it’s a lot harder work than it may seem, and I’m not talking about lumpy hotel beds and dodgy cab drivers.
The biggest challenges exist in the effort to build a whole new life. A very labor intensive, unconventional life. There is no guidebook or instruction manual to help figure out how to deal with the hard parts. There are a lot of leaps of faith and educated guesses that go along with choosing to live this way.
1. Being together all the time with little personal space
Going from 40-hour workweeks outside the home to 24/7 together is quite an adjustment for anyone. Enough said!
2. The incredible effort needed to build a career from scratch online
It is a constant hustle to find decent paying online jobs. It can be exhausting and frequently disappointing because of the huge number of opportunities and the quantity of them that pay extremely little. We set out on our adventure with some savings in the bank but had not yet figured out how we would earn money online. We’ve worked hard and read a lot to learn skills suited to online work. I opted to develop my skills as a freelance writer and am starting to get more jobs as a result. Rob builds websites and takes care of WordPress support for clients. Finding the right path for online work is still a work in progress but we are on the right track now. This is the one thing I wish we had had a better handle on before we began traveling.
3. The long periods in front of a computer
In relation to the incredible effort needed to build online careers from scratch, our eyes are glued to our computer screens for hours every day.
4. Living a minimalist lifestyle
While living a minimalist lifestyle is very rewarding it has been frustrating from time to time. Rob and I are two people solidly in our mid-forties. We worked hard throughout our lives to own whatever we needed or wanted. That means we had every kind of gadget, cooking utensil, or newfangled thing that could make our lives easier or more comfortable. Now we don’t have room for any of that stuff living out of suitcases. We often remember (and sometimes kind of long for) things that we used to have in different situations on the road.
5. Dealing with second-guessing a lot
Embarking on a new career, homeschooling a child, or traveling all the time, each can cause a person to feel a little insecure or inadequate. Do them all at the same time results in a lot of second-guessing yourself.
6. Constantly being in unfamiliar territory
Navigating a new place is one of the most exciting things about travel. It can also be exhausting. It feels like we are always getting to know a new place. Getting the stuff we need and want can be a bit tricky. Our “needs” include medications, so we are always calculating and scouting to stock up enough on meds where we can.
The things we seem to always be looking for are rubber bands, and in Airbnb rentals; drain stoppers, and the right size pot or pan for cooking. The stuff we “want” involves satisfying some kind of craving. We spend a fair bit of time searching the internet and following Google Maps to find the foods we crave and 50% of the time we are unsuccessful in our endeavor.
7. The holidays
Our first Christmas on the road was spent in Panama. We bought a small $5 artificial tree, decorated it with ornaments from the dollar store, and taped paper snowflakes to the windows. It felt very different than previous Christmases. The Grinch nailed it, Christmas doesn’t come from a store. Every holiday just isn’t the same without all of our family together.
8. Losing touch with people
Because our lifestyle is different than most people, it’s become more difficult to find common ground to build deeper conversations. The disconnect is the growing difference in life experiences. Talk to us about the things most people our age care about like mortgages, new cars, and popular T.V. shows and the conversation seems to fizzle out. Similarly, a lot of people stare at us in silence when we talk about challenging border crossings or the astoundingly affordable cheese in Spain. It’s hard for all involved to relate.
The pros and cons of full time travel are like most relationships in life, you rarely get good without some bad. But, we can definitely say the challenges actually help us reap so many meaningful rewards. Sometimes, I can’t believe we made such a big change in the way we live. And then I feel so immensely grateful that we had enough support and blind faith to change the course of how we live so positively. Here are the best parts of our unconventional lifestyle.
1. Learning so many new things together
Being together 24/7 can be challenging but it also delivers so many rewards. It gives us the opportunity to work through the challenges we face together. Doing so helps us overcome fears and really understand each other better. Visiting a new destination we learn and remember so may things because we are experiencing everything together. We all have different perspectives and it’s so cool to hear each others opinions. It helps us all see more in the places we visit.
2. Gaining a better understanding of different cultures
We ask locals a lot of questions to satisfy our curiosity. We always want to learn their opinions about their city and their culture. Doing so has helped us get a deeper understanding of the places we visit. One thing is always abundantly clear, there are struggles all over the world but most people want the same things; love, peace, and opportunity.
3. Gaining the ability to see beauty where most people don’t
Traveling we are always looking for beautiful things the places we visit. Our favorite type of exploration is where local people like to hang out. Always seeing new things keeps or eyes and minds sharp. This helps us see beauty in many things most people see as ordinary.
4. Being comfortable and even enjoying change
Travel invites novelty. Working through the unknown on the road has helped us develop stronger coping skills. Being around new things all the time ignites creativity in our brains and hones our focus and resourcefulness. Now we all thrive on change.
5. Learning to trust people
We need to rely on people we don’t know all the time. Dealing with new cities and language barriers, we often benefit from the kindness of strangers. We’ve learned to accept we can’t always be in control traveling. Because of that acceptance, we know that there are many more good people than those who’d wish to do us harm.
6. Living in the moment more
Travel has helped us develop a deeper consciousness of time. Visiting new places all the time we are more acutely aware that we may never be at this spot again. That has helped us appreciate many views, feelings, and moments.
7. Suddenly recognizing opportunities everywhere
Traveling has given us a range of experiences and knowledge. We get to see new and different ways of doing things being exposed to different cultures. Learning new ways of doing things helps us see opportunities to help with problems we or others encounter as we travel.
8. The incredible changes we’ve seen in our Son
The most rewarding thing about our lifestyle is the growth we have seen in Makai. When we set out he was five and we had just begun homeschooling. He has learned reading, writing, math and a whole host of other things. Helping, and watching him learn and grow in these areas has been an incredible experience. But, the most incredible thing is he’s grown so much as a little person. The development of his confidence, his ideas, and character are what make this life so rewarding.
We knew when we decided to take this path it would be bumpy at times and smooth sailing at others. But, we wouldn’t continue to live this way if the positive aspects didn’t far outweigh the negatives. We realize how fortunate we are to see so much of the world as a family and the hard parts don’t seem to matter as much. We all agree, full time travel has been the most challenging and rewarding adventure of our lives.
Families make different lifestyle choices all the time to live how they deem “better”. There are pros and cons to all walks of life. Did I miss any challenges or rewards that you’ve experienced? Please feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments.