Travel is good for the soul: Our family is headed on a month-long road trip through Europe!
The first time I went to Europe, I was just 21. I had signed up for a “work camp” arranged by an international nonprofit that hosted volunteer work experiences for young people to come, live, and work together from countries all over the world.
I stayed in a small town called Bad Doberan, situated on the Baltic coast in former East Germany. It was an experience like none other, in which I laughed, created, played and grew amongst 20 other new friends from Sweden, the Czech Republic, and elsewhere. We bought groceries at the local market, took turns cooking, toured the area with locals, and even got to go to East Berlin afterwards to stay in a new friends’ flat.
I learned the value of rich connections and seeing a new place from a local’s point of view.
And that feeling of understanding, perspective, and firsthand learning about a culture, from those who live it, has never left me.
We are creative beings. We thrive on new. On exciting. On change. On the joy of experiencing something outside of what’s normal.
What happens when we grow up and become “practical”?
Many people fear that once they “settle down,” that these kind of adventures are no longer possible. They think that once they have kids, have an expensive house, or too many obligations and responsibilities, that the joy of long trips or exotic destinations is a rare or impossible luxury.
I thought that too, before I was married, had kids, and had an expensive mortgage and obligations.
But the calling of travel never left me.
Then one day, my dear friends from Sweden told me they were getting married, and asked if I’d like to come.
“Yes, of course!” I said.
But, I had a 2 year old. I’d already planned out my vacation for the year. It was expensive.
Inside, I knew what I really wanted to do… I wanted to go! How often does one get to attend a wedding in a foreign country, or have an opportunity to be part of a lifelong memory all the way across the globe?
So, I did what I always do. I started working, one-by-one, through each obstacle, and a way to get past it.
What do the flights cost? How could we take off another week for vacation? What would it be like to take a 2 year old on a plane (and why did the wedding have to take place just 2 months after his second birthday when he no longer could fly for free)? And, most importantly, how do I convince my husband that we should go?
That was in 2007.
We did take that trip to Sweden, and got to enjoy my dear friends’ wedding.
They now have two little girls of their own, and have visited us a total of 3 times in California as well. It was they, who helped us see that our piddly week-long trip to Sweden was nothing, with our two-year old in tow, when they took their two young children on a month-long trip to India a few years later!
Maybe we really can be parents, have mortgages and obligations, and travel on amazing journeys with our kids, I realized.
Maybe Sweden and the U.S. have different cultures around travel and employment (hint: they do), but what’s to stop us from making it work?, I thought.
So, in 2012, we took our 2 oldest kids, then ages 4 and 7, to Belize for a week. It was absolutely incredible.
In 2013, we decided to commit more fully to travelling with our kids, and took all 3 of our children (then ages 3-8) to Costa Rica for five weeks. We got to experience one town as if we were locals, by staying so long in one place. It was glorious.
The Internet has made so much more possible – both in terms of researching and accessibility to work from anywhere. We found an international school in the small town of Nosara (gotta go there, one of the most lovely places on Earth) and brought our work. My parents and our dear friends came out and stayed with us part of the time. We loved it so much, we did it again last year.
What’s all this travel got to do with our soul?
If you are a traveler, you know. Travel gives you this ability to look at your life, exactly where you are. Not based on the small stuff, like how do we pay the bills or what appointments do I need to make for next week. It allows us to focus on the big stuff, like…
What do I really want out of life?
What makes me come alive?
Travel gives us the courage, confidence, and excitement, to more easily say, “Why not?” when, more often in our regular routine, we first see objections.
My dear cousins took the ultimate travel experience over the last year — they sold their house and moved to Italy for the year. While there, they pulled the trigger on the purchase of a new home in Oregon with only 1 of them even seeing the property in real life. “Why not?,” the adventuresome traveler can say, with full belief that it’s better to live fully and take risks than to stay in our safe, comfortable, cocoon.
There’s no doubt their kids have learned so much out of the experience, and will be able to pull upon the wide range of experiences, adversity, flexibility and perspective that travel has offered them (and, if you want to read for yourself, their daughters regularly write on their blog).
Because, it’s not just us adults that get so much out of travel. If it weren’t for how much it does for our kids, we may not be so dedicated to it. Because, for our kids, they come alive too!
My kids are the most social, outgoing, and explorative than I see them at any other time when we travel.
They are vibrant — exploding with energy and curiosity.
We have spent 5 weeks without video games, TV, advertising, or movies when we travel for the past two summers.
We pull out a puzzle, set it up on the front porch of a rental house. We swim. We play in the ocean.
The kids wake up early and pull out books and papers and draw and create. I bring my paints, and make art with them. They ask to ride horses, or play in the tide pools. We get caught in a rain storm and laugh and meet strangers and they become friends. We invite them over to play in our pool. We sit next to them at the juice bar, and share stories about back home.
Travel feeds my soul, and my family’s soul, in a way that nothing else does.
And that’s why, we are doing it again this summer!
This year, something a little different.
For my 40th birthday, this summer, my wish has been to go to Europe.
It is more expensive than our other trips. And we have no more money than our other trips.
There’s so much to see in Europe, we decided a road trip was in order. An experiment in travelling with the kids for sure!
So, once again, I had to list, one-by-one, each obstacle and how to overcome it.
There are so many ways to make travel work even when it seems impossible or cost-prohibitive.
My number one rule is: it’s about priorities. We know we can’t do everything, but in many ways we give up a lot to afford our travel. Our opportunity costs include driving a somewhat older car, that has been paid off for years, and putting some home improvement projects on hold (I guarantee my kids will thank me more later for our amazing adventures throughout the world more than they would for the built-in BBQ and brand new SUV).
We also make use of cost-savings or cost-cutting wherever possible. My favorite and most impactful ways to save money: rent your car, rent your home, collect and use airline miles. Done strategically, you can take a trip, just like ours, through Europe, without paying anything more than your living expenses (food, entertainment, etc.) that you would pay if at home. What about work? You are most likely to be able to take a long trip if self-employed or when you’ve got several weeks of vacation available. But I also have several friends that have found ways to work with their employer to work remotely or take unpaid leave combined with vacation to take a longer trip. It’s amazing how many people will support our dreams when we just share what we really long to do and find power in asserting ourselves to do it.
If you find yourself dreaming about taking a long trip with your family, or traveling to an exotic destination, I hope we’ll get to know each other more over the coming weeks in which I’ll be sharing more about our trip from the road, and about how to make this kind of travel a reality for you.
Because I want your soul to come alive in every way possible as well.
Your kids will thank you for it.