Families Who Gave It All Up to Travel the World — With Kids
So, you’re waiting to pick up the kids from school while simultaneously answering yet another "ASAP" email from your boss and wondering what you’re going to cook for dinner. For a moment, you scroll across an Instagram photo of a jaw-dropping destination in Europe, Africa, South America, you name it, and you think to yourself, "If only I could pack up my family and see the world."
Well, why can’t you?
That’s the question these five parents asked themselves when the desire to explore the globe — with kids in tow — hit them hard. Instead of brushing off what seemed like a radical idea, they took it as a challenge: How could they make the lifestyle they dreamed about a reality, all while giving their kids the education and experiences they deserve?
Here, the best advice on taking that leap of faith and booking a one-way ticket to a nomadic lifestyle — from families who gave up everything to make it possible.
Expect the unexpected
Journalist Janis Couvreux and her husband Michel Couvreux, an architect, met in France. After being married for four years, they knew they wanted to start a family, but they struggled with the concept of giving up their traveling spirit. They also didn’t want their kids to grow up in suburbia; Janis says this type of community promotes the idea that "the world stops at your door." Instead, Janis and Michel wanted the globe to teach their kids what cul-de-sac living never could. So when they were given the opportunity to take their friend’s boat from the Bay of Biscay in France to San Sebastián, Spain, spending several days at sea, they had their epiphany.
“Both my husband and I turned to each other on the deck of the boat at our arrival and said, ‘This is how we will do it.’ Traveling on a sailboat seemed to be an ideal method while raising kids and spending vital time with them in their early years. We had a vision and began planning for our ultimate goal of sailing around the world,” Janis said.
When their first son, Sean, turned 1, they stepped away from their careers to set sail — literally. Sean grew up on the sailboat (until age 11), while younger brother Brendan spent his first eight years at sea. While eventually, the Couvreux kids went to school in San Francisco (the boys are now in their mid-30s) the experience was one they’d recommend to any family who can make it happen. Janis' advice? Traveling —and parenting — means expecting the unexpected. Just be prepared for how the experience might impact your kids.
“This lifestyle will influence them, but maybe not how you would wish or like. Some will accept it; others reject it," she explains. "Both our sons are adventurous [and] adrenaline-driven, and live in the outdoors; one is an America's Cup professional sailor, the other a fanatical rock climber and paramedic/firefighter with a Denver fire department. They don't have nine-to-five jobs, and one never went to college, but they are both hugely successful."
Just do it — & let it go
Three years ago, Cindy Bailey Giauque and her husband, Pierre Giauque, looked at their comfortable life in Silicon Valley, California, and felt like it wasn’t their own. Though they had everything they needed, including a four-bedroom home and stable careers, they felt trapped by the routine and obligations of their daily lives — work, school, raising children, community commitments... the list goes on. Not only were they feeling unfulfilled and uninspired, but after struggling to conceive their kids — Julien and Lily — they wanted to spend more time with them than they were, especially while they were young. So they started saving and budgeting for two years of travel. They began on the islands of Guadeloupe in the Caribbean and are currently preparing for their next adventures in Africa and Australia.
The experience of jet-setting with their 9-year-old and 6-year-old has not only brought the couple closer; it's made the whole family happier by teaching them about what they really need: each other, not a big house and a lot of stuff.
“Americans especially are really attached to their stuff," Cindy has realized, "but you'll find when you travel, you won't need any of it beyond the basics you take with you. It was hard for us to give up almost all our possessions, but while traveling, we found we didn't miss a thing. Even the kids: They played with chopsticks and empty boxes. And you'll need to travel light anyway."
You can still have "normal" days around the world
After living in central Japan for almost a decade while running a Montessori school, Karen M. Ricks and her husband, Dave Varnes, felt they had accomplished all they could in their work and community. So when Ricks was offered one of only a dozen spots at a renowned cooking school in Italy, they decided to take it as a sign to begin their trip around the world. Their most important carry-on? Their 7-year-old son, Christopher. And what a ride it’s been: The family began with three months in Sicily before traveling through London and then six months in Mexico. There, they practiced the Spanish language while trying their skills at cooking traditional local dishes. After traveling through the United States to visit family members they hadn’t seen in 10 years, they headed back to Japan for a culinary tour. With every month, both Ricks and Varnes focused on their passions, writing blogs, a cookbook and romance novels.
And while it’s all been a whirlwind, Ricks says what’s comforting — and surprising — about traveling full-time is how much you can feel at home wherever you might be.
“As exciting as it sounds to jet around the globe, we really are just a ‘normal’ family that still has ‘normal’ days," Ricks says. "While we have incredible tales to tell about some of the amazing places we've been, we also still enjoy quiet days at ‘home,’ wherever in the world that may be. We still go for walks around our neighborhood, play in the local park and have conversations around the family dinner table before taking a bath, reading a story and bedtime. The most magical parts of our adventures have been when we slow down to appreciate all the little nuances of the experiences we are sharing.”
Remember: It’s never going to be the perfect time
After meeting in the Middle East where they were both working, Hawaiian-born Wendy Awai-Dakroub and her husband, Lebanon-bred Youssef, began building their lives in Dubai. But once they wanted to start their family, they made the choice to move to Awai-Dakroub’s native island. Six years and two children (Leah and Jaffer) later, the family found themselves trapped in what Awai-Dakroub calls "the rat race."
“We worked more than we needed to. The kids had after-school programs they didn’t really enjoy. Getting stuck in traffic daily was no fun, and chores consumed our lives. What’s worse is that we lived in Hawaii, aka paradise, and yet didn’t have time to enjoy the beauty of our island,” she explained. So in 2014, they changed everything: They listed their house for rent, sold their belongings, took their kids out of private school and booked a one-way ticket to Europe with the intention of "world-schooling" their children as they traveled.
For two years, the family slow-traveled through Europe, where Awai-Dakroub developed a world-schooling program for her children — and they experienced some of the most beautiful sites in the world along the way. They only decided to stop trekking full-time when their daughter approached her teenage years. Today, the family spends six months in Oahu and six months nomadically. Awai-Dakroub’s best advice to families who want to try their hand at globetrotting is do it — and do it now. “There’s no ‘right’ age to start traveling with them. But from our experience, traveling has opened up Leah and Jaffer to new experiences and taught them empathy, something we find difficult to learn in a traditional classroom setting,” Awai-Dakroub explains.
It’ll teach your children about gratitude
Rebecca and Nicholas Bennett used to live and work in the United Kingdom, where they ran country craft courses and landscape garden-design classes — and offered a luxury vacation accommodation from their sprawling 16th-century farm in the South of England. But when they learned the farmer next door to them was going to sell his land for a housing development, they knew the shift would dramatically change their business and lifestyle. So they went back to the drawing board — over drinks, of course. Instead of looking at the situation's negatives, they found the silver lining: an opportunity see the world. They sold their home and business. And instead of booking multiple flights and finding accommodations, the Bennetts bought a sailboat, finding comfort in having their home always with them.
The couple spent two-and-a-half years on their boat with their daughter, Amelie. They traveled 10,000 miles, including a full cross over the Atlantic, after which they eventually sold the boat in the Bahamas. They then flew to have their second child, Rufus, in Panama.
It was the experience of close-quarters living that inspired the Bennetts to start their new business, The Solid Bar Company. “While sailing, we saw dolphins, sharks and flying fish, but also quite a bit of plastic, which was sad. All our big bottles of shampoo and other toiletries would fly about the boat in rough passages, so we realized there really was a need for personal care products that travel well but could remain luxurious and preferably plastic-free. So we set about creating The Solid Bar Co. products that are waterless, solid and eco-friendly,” Rebecca explained.
After receiving their business visa and spending time in the U.S. Virgin Islands perfecting their products, the Bennetts finally decided to move to Florida. But overall, Rebecca says that being on a boat with kids for an extended period of time taught their family about gratitude more than any other experience could. “It taught us all an immense amount about ourselves and each other in a positive way, made us value things like water and space. I’m glad we traveled when our daughter was still very young and not too set in her ways. She has seen different cultures, poverty, experienced school in different languages and countries, and I can see the maturity and confidence she has gained from it,” Rebecca adds.
Let your children open doors
Originally from South Africa, Sue Campbell-Ross and Rod Campbell-Ross moved to the United Kingdom to work and travel thanks to a job opportunity. They lived for more than a decade in various places in England, including London and Birmingham, before they settled in West Yorkshire and welcomed their clan of three children: Pip, Harry and Emily. But Rod’s hectic career schedule kept him commuting for hours each day, leaving little time — or energy — to spend with his family. Sue and Rod decided to make a change — to prioritize family, love and life. Rod had fallen in love with Australia after a work trip there, and he dreamed of moving his kids to this continent, so they were off.
The family opted against flying and took the long way ‘round: by boat. Or rather, by yacht.
After selling their home and most of their belongings, the Campbell-Ross clan purchased their floating home and Rod took a redundancy from his job. For Sue, it was quite the adventure considering she had never set foot on a yacht in her life, but Rod reassured her that not only would she learn, but it would be an adventure she’d always remember. He was right.
“At almost the exact time that Rod proposed this adventure, I was attending a life-coaching workshop and was given that quote, ‘Twenty years from now, you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did. So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbor; catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.’ It hit me like a bang to the head when I read it. And you know, I did exactly all of that,” says Sue.
With the intention of giving their children stories they could tell for the rest of their lives — and the hope of savoring every last second as a family — the clan began the two-year trek to the land down under. Sue explains there was nothing quite as powerful as witnessing the world not only through her eyes, but through those of her children too. She describes the experience as "multiplying joy a hundredfold."
She also says kids have a way of opening doors while traveling that adults never could, and when you let them be, their wanderlust is free to roam. “So many local families would reach out to us because of the children and invite us in. Our children would meet other sailing children, and we would then get to know the parents,” she shared. “They were shown love and kindness by strangers everywhere. It was an amazing experience for the children… they had such freedom to be.”
If your travel goals for 2018 include introducing your children to the world, why not take it a step further and see if 365-day country-hopping is a fit for your family? After all, with growing opportunities for freelancers and remote workers — plus an entire burgeoning digital-nomad marketplace — the possibilities are endless.