Hi, my name is Beth. I’m married to Adam and we have four children ages ranging from 1 year to 8 years old. We’re Americans originally from California, but moved to London for Adam’s work assignment in 2014. During that time, we travelled extensively including Europe, Africa, and the Middle East with our kids. Many of those were places I would not have dreamed of taking our family until they were older, but the opportunity was there so we jumped. We became very adept travellers and more fearless over time. Three years later when the assignment was up, instead of moving back to California, Adam quit his job and we took off on our family gap year. We’ve been traveling full time since August 2017. In that time, we’ve visited 13 countries and hopefully plan to visit many more in the coming months. There have been challenges along the way, but we’ve grown a lot as a family and haven’t looked back.
Where abouts in the world are you right now?
We have just arrived in Hong Kong after three weeks traveling in Thailand.
What do you love about this place?
It’s not as hot as Thailand! There were days it was 37 degrees.
Anything you don’t like?!
Since we just arrived in Hong Kong I don’t have much to share, but I can talk a bit about Thailand. We saw some beautiful beaches, but so many of them were covered in trash. On the resort end of the beach it’d be pristine, but at the other end it would just be filled with trash. It was hard to see. There’s a great program called Trash Hero where you can volunteer and help clean up the beaches throughout Thailand.
What are the three most challenging aspects that stand out?
The heat! We’re moderate temperature type of people so 35+ degrees has certainly been a challenge especially for our kids. We’ve learned to cope though by heading out early in the morning, coming back in the afternoon for a break, and then going out again in the late afternoon. Though learning how to deal with a little discomfort is probably a good life lesson for the kids.
Homeschooling. We were never the type of parents who thought we’d homeschool and here we are. Things we thought would be easy turn out to be hard and things we thought would be hard are easy. It’s really a full time job and each child learns differently. We have a newfound respect for those who homeschool!
Eating healthy. There’s this tendency to want to feel like you’re on holiday all the time, but if we all ate like we were on holiday for a year, the results would not be pretty! We try and cook often or make smart decisions when out. That said, it’s hard because everything is new and looks so delicious, or there’s the other end of the spectrum where you have hangry kids with only the least healthy option available.
How’s the food!
We struggled with the food in Thailand a bit. We have always loved Thai food, but we had just come from Vietnam where the food was a lot lighter with so many fresh vegetables. We found the food in Thailand tends to be heavier because a lot of it is fried. That said, we had so many delicious dishes like khao soi gai (coconut curry noodle soup), the most giant freshwater prawns that my daughter is obsessed with, fresh fruits like dragon fruit, papaya, mango, etc., and of course the sticky rice and mango!
Any funny, interesting or daunting experiences along the way?
Our kids were able to attend a small school in Fiji for a week. At the suggestion of Airbnb host, we walked into the local school and the kids were welcomed wholeheartedly. It was daunting for some of our kids because they had not been in a traditional school for about 6 months at that point, while another one of our kids knew everyone in the school by the end of the week. It was a true growth experience for them and it tested their boundaries of comfort, which I think is important. They still talk about going to school in Fiji to this day. I believe it’ll be one of the most impressionable moments of this gap year for them.
Can you give us 3 tips for making it work?
Don’t overthink it.
Kids will cry whether you’re travelling full time or at home so take it in stride.
Take a break if you need it (and you will need it).
Do you have any financial tips for travelling?
Travel credit cards with perks are great. We have a credit card that gives us access to airport lounges in most international airports. This is the best perk because travel days can be exhausting but the lounges usually include free food, wifi, and a quiet space (as quiet as it can be with four kids). The credit card also gives us miles on purchases which we use to fund some of our airline tickets.
If you’re staying in an Airbnb and staying for more than a week, it never hurts to ask for a discount. We will often ask and the worst thing that can happen is the owner will say no. Even if they say no we’ll still book if it’s a place we like. At the end of the day it’s a transactional relationship and they won’t hold it against you for asking.
It’s also good to check to see if the place you’re interested in staying has an independent website if using an aggregator website. Sometimes (not always) it’s cheaper to book directly because Booking.com, Agoda, etc. all have a service fee.
We haven’t done this but a lot of people do house sitting or home swaps to eliminate the cost of housing. Our guide in Vietnam told us we should look into house sitting because his friends stayed in gorgeous houses all over the world and all they had to do was feed the cat. There are websites that will match you up.
What do you miss, if anything?
We don’t miss our things, but we certainly miss our family and friends. It can be lonely on the road, but we make it a point to Facetime, email, and message as much as we can. Our kids also write postcards to their friends. We try and have regular communication days as part of our homeschool curriculum. We’ve been lucky enough to meet family and friends along our travels, not to mention new friends. The connections in life are the most important!
What advice would you give to other Mamas planning on travelling with their tribe?
Don’t be afraid. It’s scary to leave everything you know behind, but if it’s something you want to do, it’s truly a life changing experience. We are closer as a family and I am pretty confident our kids will best friends for life.
There will be times it’s difficult, but it gets better! In the beginning, we had trouble adjusting to homeschooling, spending every waking moment together, planning future travel, and just trying to figure out our groove. It was hard and we even questioned whether we made the right decision, but like anything else, it takes time to figure out what works.
It’s important to learn from others. I have found online communities where there are other families doing the same thing. It’s really helpful to read other people’s experiences, bounce ideas off of, or just share. Check out Worldschoolers on Facebook.
Where can we find you?!