Inside A Traveler’s Walls: Bibber Family

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Hola friends. Wow, what a week! I spent four hours in the hospital today because my muscles were affected by a virus I have had for almost a month. I’m fine, but they did give me a ton of meds and several shots. The doctor said the muscles in my chest will probably start to feel better by next week. Just in time for me to load up my travel backpack and head out adventuring with the family for a couple of weeks. Thank you to everyone who sent well wishes today.

Plus, by pure chance or should I say luck on Will’s behalf, they need him in Boston on our moving week. Funny how this keeps happening (sarcastic undertone) each time we need to move. This time I was a bit wiser and suggested (ok, I begged and then demanded) that we pack everything on Saturday before he leaves.

And then there is the whole visa issue. Oh yeah, that! I am making progress on gathering all the necessary material, but let me say it is a slow process. My goal is to have it all done by Friday, but this medical bump in the road has slowed me up a bit. But hey, lets get on to some inspiration, shall we?

If you are new here I would like to introduce you to our weekly series “Inside a Traveler’s Walls” where we feature families living in less traditional, unique homes. If you think you might be one of those families and are interested in being profiled please contact me for details.

One word: Freedom. ~ Robert

I would like to introduce you to the Bibber family from all over the United States. They are brand new to this travel lifestyle, but they are definitely enjoying it. After having to move around for years to find better work the family decided to just take their lifestyle on the road. It gives them the opportunity to have more Freedom! And you will see this word quite often in this post because they believe freedom is one of the greatest benefits to this travel lifestyle. I have to agree 100%. Once you get a taste of this type of freedom you just don’t want to let it go.

We simply don’t have room for all the junk that was cluttering up our lives. ~ Robert

Again folks, another pet owner traveling. It is possible! What I love most when I read that families in this series are traveling with pets is the creative ways they house and feed them, plus get rid of their feces. Can I tell you a little secret? We want another pet, probably a cat. It needs to be an animal that can function in an RV, on a boat and be left alone for a couple of days. Cat seems to fit the bill. We are still working on Will who is not 100% on board, yet.

I love that this family is just starting out, but they have already started brainstorm of other traveling plans they may entertain in the future. The same thing happened to us. At first it was to live in a foreign country for one year, now, well it has gotten big. Really big! One day I promise to share all of our dreams.

Lets give out a virtual award here today. I don’t know if many of you are aware, but I grew up in Maine and guess where this family used to live? Yep, Maine. So todays award goes to our first Mainer on the series. Congrats! I am dying for a lobstah right now! Yum!

Ok, enough of my chatter. Grab a cup of coffee, a comfy seat and get ready to be inspired.

Introduce us to the people you live with?
Robert(me) – I am a 46-year-old former lobster fisherman from Maine and Marine Corps veteran. In the late 90’s I used the GI bill to go to school for computer programming. After some time unemployed between 2008 and 2011, I left Maine to find better work and have thrived since but the necessity of having to move around to find good work has never set well. I have wanted to be “location independent” for a while now and this lifestyle is part of that. The freedom to go where I want, when I want, and still have my home and family with me are mainly why I do this but also I love the simplicity it brings. We simply don’t have room for all the junk that was cluttering up our lives.

Karen – My wife of 23 years and full-time mom. She has embraced the full-time RV lifestyle. To be honest, I was a bit hesitant to suggest this lifestyle to her last Fall but she turned out to be as excited about it as I am. For her, the best part is the ability to go visit the family we have scattered all over the country – some of whom we haven’t seen in 5 years or more. Of course paramount in that is going to visit our grown daughter, Kayla who we left behind in Nebraska almost two years ago to move to Montana for a new job. Kayla is an Army Reservist and is starting her career so opted to stay in Nebraska.

Dustin – Our oldest son (19). Dustin is a reserved young man still unsure of himself. He tried following in my footsteps and joining the military but that didn’t work out. He is staying with us until our travels bring us back to Maine where he has a job waiting for him working with my nephew.

Shawn – Our youngest child (almost 7). He is a bright boy with a sparkling personality. Much more outgoing than either of his older siblings ever were. He is excited for all the new things that he will get to see in our travels and is settling in well to the small space.

Where are you in the world and what are you living in?
We are currently in northwest Montana, but by mid-June plan to start heading east. Our home is a 37 foot long 5th wheel RV with two bedrooms and a relatively spacious living area (for an RV this size anyway). Since we plan on living in it full-time for years to come, we decided that it made sense to buy new so we could have exactly what we needed for space, floorplan, and quality. Also, since we are northerners mostly, we needed one that is well insulated and can function well in cold climates. We decided on a Grand Design Reflection because it had everything we needed at a price we could afford.

Why did you choose to live in your current arrangement?
One word: Freedom. The ability to go where we want is huge. We love traveling and exploring new areas and seeing new things but have never really been much for “vacations”. Often, my career did not allow much time – or at time’s money – for us to indulge in much travel but now we have the flexibility to go practically anywhere. I can’t stand the feeling of being trapped in an area by a job or house.

What do you do to personalize your unique (less traditional) living situation?
Since most of our furniture is built-in, we can’t really re-arrange but I did pull out one of the bunks to make space for my computer desk which I need for work. Also, we hung pictures on the walls wherever we could and fastened them securely so they won’t fall when we move.

Tell us your favorite and least favorite room in your space and why?
Family room is my favorite because that is where we all live. It consists of kitchen, dinette, love seat, and tv/entertainment center. I don’t really have a least favorite.

What is the biggest misconception you had about your current living situation before you started living in it?
At first I misjudged exactly how much space we needed to live without too much hardship.

What is the one household item you carry with you every time you move or the one item you cannot live without?
For me it would be the “Jetpack” wifi device that we use to connect to the internet. It is our lifeline to the outside world and enables me to work at my job from anywhere that has a reasonable cell signal.

What do you miss most about permanent, stationary, traditional living?
Storage space.

What is the one item your children carry with them to make their unique (less traditional) home more comfortable?
Shawn has his toys and stuffed animals but no ONE item that stands out as the ONE.

Do you have a pet joining you in this journey? If so, has this been complicated? Any advice?
We have a dog, Dakota, who is a 14-year-old retired racing sled dog and Willie, a 6-year-old house cat. The biggest challenge was figuring out what to do with the litter box. I converted some space under the dinette seats to a cat area with litter and food and a motion-activated light. Must be sure to keep the box clean but otherwise it has worked out well and helped Willie adjust to live in a house that moves.

What is your best resource to find items you need for your place?
Amazon mainly.

If you could only have one of the following in your home which one would it be and why?
space, natural light, dishwasher or above average internet.
Space of course.

If you were to compare your unique (less traditional) home decorating style to a kitchen appliance or gadget what would it be and why?
No idea…

How do you keep traditions alive for your family in your unique living situation?
We live pretty much the same as before just in a smaller space. Our traditions have not changed much.

How do you decorate for the holidays in your unique (less traditional) home or do you skip it all together?
We really didn’t decorate much before except for Christmas. We probably will not have a Christmas tree – or if we do it will be a very small one.

What is your favorite part about this lifestyle choice?
Again – freedom.

Many traveling families subscribe to the “house is not a home” theory. What is home to you?
Home is both a place where we reside, and where we feel most comfortable. To me, just because my house has wheels and is not stationary doesn’t make it any less a “home”.

What makes you love the place you live?
The fact that it allows us the freedom (there’s that word again) to live where we want not just where my employer says I have to live.

Can home be a person, or an idea?
To me, “home” is a place. Possibly an idea, but not a person.

Words of wisdom to anyone considering venturing out into the world of unique, less traditional homes?
Plan very carefully. You may find that you need more space than you think.

What is next for you? Will you continue to live in your current home or try something different?
We just started this lifestyle a few months ago and plan to live like this for years but someday maybe we could trade in the RV for a yacht and travel the seas. My background in commercial fishing gives me plenty of expertise to bring to that lifestyle.

If you have children what are your plans for education?
Our oldest 2 kids are out of school but the youngest is just finishing kindergarten. We plan to start homeschooling in the Fall probably with the aid of an online curriculum.

How do you make a living?
I am a software engineer. While I was planning this move I had expected to have to look for a new job that allowed me to work remotely, but my boss decided that I could work from home. I know have the freedom to live where I choose and still keep my full-time job and income.

Quote to Ponder:
The freedom to go where I want, when I want, and still have my home and family with me are mainly why I do this but also I love the simplicity it brings.

Wow, right? Another amazing family forging their own path. I cannot wait to touch base again with them in six months and see how things have changed. Will they be in the US still, or maybe Canada or Mexico. Or, even on a boat. Take that Freedom and run like the wind.

Thank you Bibber family for sharing your story and your inspiring travel path. I can tell you will have great success at this new adventure.

Besos,
Jessica

Weekly Round Up + What We Are Looking Forward To In France

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Hola friends. Well, I had good intentions of going live with this post on Friday, but life happened and we hit a couple of bumps that needed ironing out (more on this in a bit).

Did you have a great weekend? If you are a dad I want to wish you a belated Father’s Day. We had a pretty relaxed day since we were all recovering from our last party in Quito, but here is a post I did about Will a couple of years ago and one about my dad. I love them both very much.

ROUND UP time!

VISA: Here we go again! If you ask someone who is a slow traveler what their least favorite part is they will always say getting visa’s, right after missing family and friends. It is such a pain! I am sure you all remember this post, right? Well, with France it is a little different. We need to apply and be approved for the long stay visa before we go. It is a lot of paperwork, but pretty straight forward. Nothing complicated, however it is time-consuming. I thought we were totally on our game and then I realized we must apply for it in your state of residence. Ugh! We had planned to take care of the visa in Miami (our first stop on our summer US adventure). Nope, now we have to do it in Boston, not impossible, but we had to move flights around, cut our trip to Miami short and spend $1,000. Ah, the joys of the travel life. I still love it though!

RACE DAY: Did you see the video Will created about “race day” at Largo’s school? All of the proceeds from the race went to the victims of the earthquake. Go watch it!

SUBSCRIBE: Ok, I need your help folks. Will is loving making videos of our travel life. His goals is to do two a week, however we need your support. Please subscribe here (grey button on the right side of the youtube page), share with your friends and comment. If you let the commercial run in the beginning of the video for 30 seconds he gets a couple of pennies. Ok, I lied. He gets a fraction of a couple of pennies, no joke. Thanks so much for your support!

HEALTH: I have been sick for three weeks and three days. I am getting better, however it is a very slow process. This could not have come at a worse time, but I am managing through it. I am always grateful for our health, but today I am feeling even more grateful since I know how hard it is to work through sickness. Sending love out to all of you readers who deal with chronic pain.

BIZ: I am starting a new business (don’t worry I will still continue to blog). It is in the beginning stages, but I have an overzealous goal of having it up and running by October 1st. Will thinks I’m crazy (this is not a new thought for him), but I plan to prove him wrong. I am not ready to give any details, but what I can tell you is that it will marry my love of travel, real estate and family! I am very excited for this new adventure.

GUEST SPOT: My favorite blog in the whole wide world is going to feature us in one of her series. I am over the moon with excitement. It won’t be for a couple of months because we have a lot on our plate, but you can be sure I will shout it from the rooftops when it goes live!

 

SHARING TIME!

HAPPY: Are we trying so hard to make our kids happy that we are ill equipping them for the future?

DO YOU RELATE: I can relate to this. If you are a traveler do you relate? Why?

 

EXPERIENCE OF THE WEEK!

GOODBYE PARTY: We had our final party here in Quito over the weekend. It was a blast, however it was sad. I am really going to miss our community. There will be a full post in the next week or so, but lets just say for today that I am a bit depressed. It is time to experience a new country and this is the life we chose, but it is bitter sweet. Quito and its people have been so welcoming to us. I only hope that the French are as open arms. It makes the whole experience so much richer.

 

FRANCE!

As much as we are going to miss Quito I do find myself daydreaming about a couple of things I am looking forward to in France. I guess it will be no surprise that CHEESE is at the top of my list. I plan to eat my weight in cheese in the first week. I am not going to deny it. In no particular order, ok, the cheese is in the spot it needs to be in.

  • Cheese, cheese, cheese: Need I say more?
  • Toilet paper: I can’t wait to put it in the toilet. In Quito the city-wide plumbing is old, as a result we need to deposit our paper in the trash can. I have never learned to love this and I will look forward to flushing it again. I wonder how long it will take the kids to transition back. It took a while for them to get accustomed to putting it in the trash can.
  • Less smog: Quito is situated between the Andes mountain range. The smog just hangs here. Plus, the cars clearly don’t have the same emission standards we are used to in the US. When we are in traffic and in a cab we usually have to roll up the window because the exhaust smell makes us feel sick.
  • A patio: As much as we love our city apartment here in Quito we are really missing direct access to the outside. I loved having an outside space in Costa Rica. When we started looking at apartments in France the patio was a must. Luckily we got the patio and a pool! Woo hoo!
  • Bikes: We had a car in Costa Rica and hated it. We have our feet and taxi’s here in Quito which we love. France will be similar to Quito in that we will use our feet, but we will also get bikes. We are all excited to have bikes as our mode of transportation. Well, that and skateboards.
  • Bunk beds: The kids wanted me to add this one. They had bunk beds back in the states and they miss them. Largo is finally old enough to be on the top bunk and he can’t wait.
  • Faster internet: Although our internet here has been sufficient we are looking forward to faster internet. Will uploads a lot of videos and he is dying to be able to do it in half the time.

I am sure we will add to this list as time goes on, but for now this is where we stand. As you can see we have very little on this list. We can pretty much be happy wherever we land. Unless of course there is a shortage of cheese! Ha!

Have a fabulous Monday.

Besos,
Jessica

The Earthquake

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Hola friends. It’s Wednesday (Sorry Inside a Traveler’s Walls is absent this week) and I want to share something we did a couple of weeks ago. We went with our friends to the beach to do our part in helping Ecuador through the earthquake tragedy that took place on April 16, 2017. The 7.8 magnitude earthquake took the lives of over 650 people, it was the worst in seven decades and it injured around 12,500 individuals. Sad, right? Have you ever volunteered in a country that was not your birth country? We are happy to do it whenever the opportunity arises. We all love Equador and we will surely be leaving a piece of ourselves here as we travel on.

We had been looking for opportunities to volunteer, but we kept coming up empty. We could not find any options that would allow all of us to do it together. And then, my friend Jhoanna said that she was going to do collections and deliver the items to a beach community with her family. Of course, we jumped on board to be part of this event.

First, lets chat about the efforts our amazing friend Jhoanna put in. She distributed a list of items (to all of her friends) that a family of four would need to survive for four days. Then she pursued her friends to make sure they were gathering their goods. Finally, the night before we left she went to each house and gathered the prepared boxes. As you can see this woman put in a lot of effort to help her country? On top of it all Jhoanna is a radiologist and she pulled an all nighter two nights before we left to be part of a liver transplant. Amazing, right? I am sure going to miss this lady and her family when we move. Besos, mi amiga!

On the day of delivery we started our six-hour journey to the beach at 4am in the morning. I am not going to pretend it was a laid back and easy drive. Will and I had worked our butts off for weeks and were exhausted, I was pretty sick with some cough thing (which I still have), the road was windy and the drop in elevation drastic, it was dark and our car had alarm issues. Oh and Avalon threw up twice descending. There was no place to pull over so she just hung her head out the window like a dog. It was not pretty. However, we overcame the obstacles and pushed forward. These families needed our donations and we had no plans to disappoint them.

Upon arrival we settled into our rental (thank you to Jhoanna’s friend for lending us her condo), the kids immediately jumped in the pool and the adults sat down to rest for the first time in weeks. We were all so tired, but our hearts were ready to give. After some relaxing, lunch and a visit to the salt flats (looks like snow in the pics, right?) we hopped in our cars and headed to San Vicente to deliver the goods.

Once we arrived in San Vicente we met up with one of Jhoanna’s friend who was in charge of taking us around to the families that needed assistance in the area. San Vicente was not the epicenter, however it was hit fairly hard. While speaking with Jhoanna’s friend we learned that her place of business (a seamstress shop) was practically untouched, but two doors down a two-story building was reduced to rubble and the lady who lived on the second floor lost her life. We heard story after story like this as we walked through town. We saw piles of rubble, complete floors missing on three level houses and overall destruction. I cannot deny it was a lot to take in for myself and for the children. However, we do feel it is necessary for our children to volunteer and not be sheltered from tragedies like this. We want them to be able to find compassion and strength to help those in need.

We spent the next several hours in the back of a pick up truck jumping out to hand over boxes (and some toys) to families in San Vicente who were left with very little following the earthquake. I could see the sadness in their eyes, but I could also see the life as well. They all expressed gratitude for the donations, but overwhelmingly conveyed their gratefulness to be alive. Many of these families invited us into their homes to see the damage. Folks, they were missing walls, bathrooms, protection from the outside and so much more. It broke my heart to see that they once had these homes they had vested time and money into and now they had nothing. These are not families who have insurance and can rebuild. Most of them will have to live in their homes without outside walls, or staircases or even without them being structurally sound because they don’t have the money to repair the damage.

Once we had concluded our deliveries we took a drive through a neighboring town, Bahia. It was like a ghost town. It showed signs of once being a pretty nice area with modern high rises and well-kept streets, but during our visit there were few people to be found in the area near the water front buildings. What we did see on our drive were rows and rows of tents on the sides of streets and families hanging in playgrounds accepting food donations.

You all know I am Spanglishy, but I did my best to talk and connect with the locals. I asked how their teenage daughters were handling the situation, what role the government was playing in all of this, how many lives were lost in their community, how and if they planned to rebuild and much, more. The answers were hard to hear, but they were the reality of a natural disaster in an area with low-income. Even today, several weeks later I can still see the face that goes with each story and it saddens me. I know I should not be sad because they have their life and they are grateful for it, but it hits me to the core to know that many of these families will be unable to recover. For me I cannot even image what that would be like, to not recover in your lifetime. Can you? Think about it for a minute?

So why have I mixed the pictures of us volunteering with the kids playing in the pool? Kids are not equipped with the same coping mechanisms we have been cultivating for years. When we volunteer we expose them to the situations for small doses of time and then do something to take their mind off it for a bit. This is not to be confused with us trying to wipe the memories, but us giving them the ability to process it on their own timeframe. Then we talk about it again, process some more and then disconnect. I can only speak for my kids, but they put their heart and mind into volunteering and often it can be a bit emotionally overwhelming for them. At the end of the day I want to educate them, but I also want to allow them to still be kids and not take on the weight of the world. Small doses create big steps forward for our children. Each child is different, but since we volunteer and travel so frequently this is what we have found works for our children.

On Sunday we spent some time at the beach just recovering from weeks of exhaustion, chatting with our friends, eating an amazing lunch and then we hit the road. We arrived back at our apartment at 11pm. Our family was beat tired, but it was well worth it.

This was an experience that profoundly affected all of us. And we definitely left a piece of our heart in San Vicente. Besos.

Besos,
Jessica

We Want Our Children To See How Others Live!

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Hola friends. I am still thinking about you Orlando, the victims and how this nonsense just has to stop. I cannot stop thinking about it. Why is it so bad to have people around us who live different than us? I have never understood the mindset of only surrounding ourselves with folks that are of the same race, gender, religion, sexual preference, etc. Why can’t we all just be friends and accept the different lifestyle choices? Because at the end of the day this shooting happened because someone could not accept a different lifestyle choice, right? And before it even comes up I want to say that I see this often in the US, it is not just a mentally unstable human being that feels this way. Many people cannot accept people who are different. But, why?

Living this travel lifestyle has more benefits than I can ever begin to document, but one of my favorites is how it allows our children to have a front row seat to how differently people live. I remember when we first ventured down this world school road a friend made a comment about how Avalon would be isolated and only exposed to us and the way we live. Of course I adamantly disagreed. I knew where this was coming from since this friend had a cousin who was homeschooled because the parents did not want her to socialize with anyone outside of their religion, race or her gender. I can assure you that our thoughts are exactly the opposite. We want our kids to interact with people of varying religions, race and gender, as a result travel and world schooling offers them that luxury. Hence, we travel.

We want our kids to see and experience how others live. We want them to know that they are not “mini me’s” and they have choices in life as to how they want to live their life as they become adults. They will get to choose where they will live (or travel forever), how they will live, if they will practice a religion, who they will marry (if they choose so) and much more. We feel the best way for them to learn about how others live is for them to meet people different from us, to socialize with them and ask questions about their life.

I know quite a few unhappy adults because they were guilted into living the life their parents thought was best for them. We refuse to do that to our children. Our goal is to expose them to as much as possible so they can make an educated decision when it comes time for them to forge their own path. We want them to confidently live a life that is authentic to who they are, this is something we are very passionate about. We are living our life the way we want (with some heavy in put from the kids) and they should be allowed to do the same as they become adults. I see so many parents of traveling families giving them grief about their lifestyle, it’s just not fair. We all get a life and it is our choice to live it how we choose. As a result, we travel to give our children the tools they need to figure out what they want out of life. Of course, I don’t believe travel is the only way to give kids options, but for us it does give us a great glimpse of the world more than our previous life did.

Our friend base and our acquaintances are from all walks of life, ALL walks and we love it. These friends and lifestyle choices bring great richness to our children’s lives as well as ours. I love to learn about how others choose to live their life and quite frankly my only criteria is that they are good people. If they are racist, homophobic, chauvinistic, etc they are not people we want in our life. I must admit there has been some housecleaning in our friend circle since we started traveling and changed our lifestyle goals. We don’t have time for people who lack compassion and kindness towards all races and religions.

So what does our life look like then.

  • We have married friends with kids and married friends without kids.
  • We have friends who plan to stay single forever.
  • We have gay, lesbian and transgender friends.
  • We have friends who are deeply religious.
  • We have friends who have had sex with hundreds of people and others that waited until they were married.
  • We have friends who are atheists.
  • We have friends who hate travel and friends who have been traveling for decades.
  • We have friends who are radical unschoolers and friends who have their children in same-sex, gender and religion schools.
  • We have friends who full-time home school and others who have nanny’s while they work in an office.
  • We have friends who did not graduate high school and others who are PHD’s.
  • We have friends who have never left their home state and others who have lived in over 50 countries.
  • We have friends who are not US born.
  • We have friends who are US immigrants.
  • We have friends who are illegal immigrants.
  • We have friends who are US born.
  • We have friends who live in 2 million dollar mansions and friends who live out of a backpack and friends who live below the poverty level.
  • We have friends who have done every drug under the sun and we have friends who have never touched a lick of alcohol or drugs.
  • We have friends who don’t speak English and friends that only speak English and friends that speak five languages.
  • We have friends who have their entire bodies tattooed and others who would never let a needle touch their skin.
  • We have friends who are anti-vaccine and others who won’t leave the house without a box of hand sanitizer.
  • We have deeply spiritual friends.

And the list goes on and on. I could keep adding to this, but you get the idea.

And we love them all. How boring would it be if we only hung out with people exactly like us. Yuck!

The common factor in these friends is that they are all good people. They are loving, kind, compassionate and accepting human beings. Not one of them is homophobic, racist, chauvinistic, etc, well, not that I know of. I try my best to remove people like that from my life. I am not on a quest to “fix” anyone and that type of energy has no space in my life. It may sound harsh, but at this point in my life I want to be around lovers, not haters.

So, I say THANK YOU (yes in all caps) to our friends from all different walks of life. You enrich our lives more than you know. And thank you for spreading more love and less hate. 

Besos,
Jessica

Spread love, not hate.

Hiking To Pichincha Volcano (or not)

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Hola friends. Well, I honestly don’t think I can say Happy Monday today. Oh America, what is happening? My country and my people, this saddens me more than I can convey. I have a lot to say about this shooting, but I still need to process it. What I can say is that I went from wanting stronger gun control to being anti gun in the last two days, enough is enough. This was a hard decision for me to come to considering I grew up in rural Maine where people used their guns responsibly and to feed their family, but the time has come for me to make a change. I will explain this on a deeper level later this week and how it was hard for me to come to this decision, but necessary.

Did you adventure this weekend? We were suppose to go to the beach to volunteer again, but it got cancelled. Quite frankly we all needed the rest. I am still not feeling 100% and Will had work to catch up on. It is going to get really fast for us in the next three weeks so some down time was good for all of us. We did take a mini day trip to Otavalo market to replenish some of our favorite locally made items. Boy do I love the artisan markets here in Ecuador!

We have been wanting to hike to Pichincha volcano since we first visited the Teleferico when we arrived in Quito almost nine months ago. There never seemed to be the time to make it happen until a couple of weeks ago. I love to hike and after our four days on the Inca trail in December I was itching for even a day hike.

We began our day at our neighborhood bagel shop (yes, we have a bagel shop in Quito). We hit the protein, carbs and juices hard. We had snacks, water, warm clothing and all of our camera and video gear ready to go. The day had magic written all over it. We hopped a cab, took the cable car to the top of the Teleferico and began our hike. The temperature was perfect for a day hike.

We laughed, we joked, we complained (well actually one kid complained, but I can’t tell you which one) and we talked. We talked about doing hard things, our days on the Inca trail, families who struggle each and every day and how important it is to do hard things in life. It is crucial to see what our bodies can do, to see what our minds can overcome and to live life to the fullest. It was magical.

If you have watched the video you know that we never made it to the top. The visibility became poor quite quickly and the temperatures dropped. Although we were dressed appropriately we did not feel the risk of slippery rocks (according to other hikers coming down) and the inability to see in front of us were worth trying to accomplish our goal. I just hate to set out to accomplish something and be only about 70 minutes away from reaching that goal and throw in the towel, however sometimes the true value is in the journey.

Although we did not make it to the summit of Pichincha in my eyes we made it. We challenged our bodies and our minds, had amazing conversation and grew as a family. Goal accomplished.

Now, we do have some suggestions for anyone interested in hiking Pichincha.

  • Start early. Be at the cable car as soon as the service begins. It tends to get cloudy, rainy and cold by 2pm so you want to make sure you are on your way down at that point.
  • Bring loads of snacks. If you are traveling with kids bring triple the amount you had planned. Our kids got very hungry on the trail.
  • Dress warm. The temperature can drop dramatically at any moment, be prepared. Gloves, hats and scarves are very valuable.
  • Prepare for the altitude. Drink Coca tea, loads of water and even take elevation pills if you think it might be an issue.
  • Wear hiking boots. If you have boots wear them, if not then sneakers can work. However, sandals or flip-flops will not do the job.
  • Rain gear. Bring rain gear so you don’t get wet and cold. It can get breezy at the top and you don’t want to be wet and cold.
  • Bring your camera. The view is amazing so don’t forget your camera and video equipment.
  • Have fun. This is an experience that you will remember forever, laugh at yourself.

I hope you are having a great day, thinking deep and remember those who lost their lives this weekend.

Besos,
Jessica

Why Taking A Cruise In Galapagos Is The Best Option!

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Hola friends. Wow, what a week. My list of “things” to wrap up before we move just keeps growing. At the end of the day or in this case the end of the month, it all works out. I try not to get too stressed out or worked up about finishing the details. With every move we always make the plane, well, at least so far we have a good track record. How is life in your hood? Are you finishing up the school year, planning family trips, looking over summer reading lists and more? We are always worldschooling in our home, which really does not feel like school at all. But, we do have one in traditional school and Avalon has some classes online that run during the typical school year. As a result, we are all chomping to be done with traditional learning so we can spend all of our day learning out in the world. Anyone with me?

CRUISE! CRUISE! CRUISE! I know it is a lot of money, but there are ways to get it less expensive. We did it! I know, even with the discount it is still expensive, however you can see it ALL on a seven-day cruise and it is all-inclusive (except cocktails of course). Do it!

My first suggestion would be to FIND a way to AFFORD the cruise. Go for less days, skip another future vacation and just make it work. We did the cruise for seven days and then a week on land (with day trips) and I can tell you it is NOT the same. Period! I am the eternal optimist! I believe it is possible to have the travel life you want. Don’t waste your money to go all the way to Galapagos (which is expensive to begin with) and skip the cruise. Just don’t. Skip the lattes for the next year, get rid of cable, use public transportation, bail on the annual family ski trip, whatever you need to do to make the cruise happen.

I have said it before and I will say it again… you can get last-minute, discount cruises upon arrival. I don’t know if this is something that is possible year round, but it did work for us during off-season and they were plentiful.

So, why is the cruise the best option (in our opinion)?:

  • Less travel time: The boat we were on did most of its cruising from location to location while we were sleeping. This gave us all day to take adventures! Plus, we got to sleep until 7-8 am each morning. We did not have to get up early, ride a bumpy boat for two hours, adventure for three hours, eat a crappy meal and then take another two-hour bumpy boat back. We were able to eat, adventure, eat, rest, adventure, eat, sleep. And after an entire day of adventuring we were ready to have someone make us dinner and retire while we cruised to our next destination. No time was lost for commuting and let me tell you, after living in LA for 13 years I am not a fan of commuting. Ha.
  • Better guides: Our guide on Eden was amazing. He took his time, was patient, answered all questions and made us feel like the boat was our home. We had a rich experience and we had our own personal teacher for seven days. The guides on the long cruises are paid, but they also get tips after the week. They have more vested in the cruise than the day trip guides and you can tell in their performance.
  • Community: If you read this post or this one you know that we truly love connecting with others. I came back to Quito from the Galapagos really missing the connection that happens when we meet other travelers. When we travel with a small group for a week we become pretty close with some of the passengers, hence a community and a bond is formed. I don’t think you really get that same connection when you do the day cruises.
  • Remote areas: When you take off on a cruise for a week you are able to travel to more remote areas that cannot be reached on a day cruise. I loved that the further we got from civilization we only saw one or maybe two other boats. The land was free of tourist and the damage we cause, it was raw and natural. It almost felt as if we were the first visitors ever.
  • Prepared, yummy meals: I know when we returned from our day trip we were tired, a bit sea sick and starving! At that point we had to make an effort to find food and pray that it was going to satisfy our hungry bodies. This was not the case on the week-long cruise. Food was always there and delicious. Just about the time we felt a little hungry it was snack time.
  • Easy to sleep: This one does not need too much explanation. I don’t think any of us have slept that well in months. After a day of adventuring and a delicious meal it was all I could do to keep my eyes open past 9pm. I crashed big time and slept through the entire night. Imagine being rocked to sleep in the darkest room you have ever seen. Magic. I keep wishing I will have just one night of sleep like that back on land.
  • Unpack once: You only have to unpack once. It was nice to drop our stuff and leave it for a week. The way we travel often involves changing locations every night or every couple of nights. So it was nice to settle in for seven days.
  • Small group: Our cruise only had 16 passengers on it. I have only taken cruises before with hundreds and thousands of people. Frankly, I am not a huge fan of traveling in large groups and that is why cruises have never been my favorite type of adventure. However, I have a new-found love for the smaller ones. A smaller group gives you the opportunity to connect on a deeper level with the other passengers, hear their stories and grow.
  • Fun: This needs no explanation. It was so much FUN and stress free!

There you have it, my final Galapagos post! I hope you have enjoyed them. If you are planning a trip and have questions that have not been answered in all of the posts please feel free to reach out to me.

Besos,
Jessica

Galapagos: Santiago, Rabida, Seymour and Baltra

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Hola friends. It’s Wednesday! And I am happy to report my altitude headache is gone. What a pain! This is the 3rd one I have had and they are no fun. I am thinking I probably won’t be making any more trips to sea level before we head out of Quito. I tried everything and nothing worked except just waiting it out. I guess this is something to think about if you are planning to visit and have issues with elevation.

Boo hoo! It’s the final day of cruise posts, pics and videos. I hope you have enjoyed this detailed walk down memory lane with us. We truly loved cruising the Galapagos. Tomorrow I will share why we think the cruise is the best way to see Galapagos and then we are on to new adventures. And let me tell you there are NEW adventures on the horizon!

Our final two days on the cruise were amazing. Will and Largo were able to realize their dream of swimming with a shark, well, actually several sharks. Avalon and I were able to realize our dream of some “quiet time” on the boat alone. We had to skip a snorkel adventure to get it, but both of us needed time to recharge. Plus, the kids had an “on the front lines” sex education class. Lets just say there was never a dull moment on this cruise. From hitting other boats, to seeing more than we wanted to see in regards to skin (don’t even ask) and I am not talking about the Boobies and much more, it was a trip to remember. Ha!

During our last couple of days we hiked over and in lava tunnels, we walked on red and black sand beaches, explored pools of water, inspected crabs up close and learned so much about the wild life on the Galapagos islands! However, my favorite part of the final days was our visit to Seymour Island. We were able to see more Blue-Footed Boobies than I had ever imagined. In addition, we sat quietly and watched their mating rituals, observed a mama (pictured above) taking care of her young and saw several BFB making it known that they were “available” for the opposite sex. Frankly the whole ceremony was fascinating. I don’t think my kids sat still and quiet for that long on the entire trip. On the same island we also spent time with the Frigatebirds. Another amazing experience. Apparently the males puff out their red necks in order to let the ladies know they are available (pictured above). They are beautiful birds with a very eccentric mating ritual. Overall I think our children got an interesting, up close look at some amazing native birds. When in our life will be that close to marine birds in their natural environment again?

OUR ITINERARY (the map above shows where we were on each day)

  • San Cristóbal (day 1): lunch and boarding
  • Lobos (day 1): Lobos (hike to see wild life)
  • Santa Fe (day 2): Santa Fe (swimming with sealions)
  • South Plaza (day 2): Rocas Gordon (land iguanas)
  • Santa Cruz (day 3): Puerto Ayora (Charles Darwin Station and Highlands, we skipped this to work)
  • Isabela (day 4): Puerto Villamil (flamingoes, tortoise reserve, snorkeled in mangrove, beach time, boat crash)
  • Tortuga (day 4): Tortuga (turtles, dah)
  • Isabela (day 5): Punta Moreno and Elizabeth Bay (hike on lava, swim with turtles, dingy tour in mangroves)
  • Isabela (day 6): Tagus Cove and Vicente Roca (hard hike to viewpoint, snorkel with sea life, dingy ride in caverns, Blue Footed Boobies)
  • Fernandina (day 6): Punta Espinoza
  • Santiago (day 7): Puerto Egas (hike, snorkel (penguins), hike, snorkel with sharks)
  • Rabida (day 7): Rabid (I forget)
  • Seymour (day 8): Seymour Norte, Islote Mosquera (Frigate birds and Blue Footed Boobies mating and babies)
  • Baltra (day 8): Baltra port (back to land, boo hoo)

I thank all of you for joining us on this journey through the Galapagos islands of Ecuador. This is the final post about the cruise. I hope you have enjoyed them.

Besos,
Jessica

Keep Your Daydream Interviewed Us!

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Hola friends! It is Monday Tuesday and time to get this week of blogging started. Did you have a great weekend? We drove to the coast to do our part in helping the earthquake victims. It was a lot to swallow, but I am glad we were able to help. I will have a full post, pictures and hopefully a video by the end of this week. I have so much to say, but right now I need to get to work on other time sensitive issues (OMG we leave Quito in 3.5 weeks, yikes) and I have healing to do. I have trouble with the elevation here. Whenever I leave Quito for sea level I have a debilitating headache upon return. I mean, really bad, so painful that I have trouble sleeping and medicines do not help. On top of that I have a cold so I am a mess. I am going to try to get rest this week and be back to myself by the weekend. Fingers crossed.

If you have time today grab a cup of coffee and enjoy my most recent interview with Keep Your Daydream. I just love this series. I highly recommend browsing through their archives for inspirational stories about individuals keeping their daydream. You will walk away enlightened I guarantee it. And apparently they found me because one of you readers requested that they contact us to share our story. Thank you. Besos.

What I will share in this interview:

  • Our history (again, I know)
  • Our biggest struggle and how we survived it
  • Why I am grateful
  • Our WOW moment
  • Why we want this lifestyle for our children
  • The impact our dance group in Costa Rica had on us
  • Who makes up our community
  • and much more!

I have so much to share with you this week… our volunteering efforts, another Galapagos video, a book giveaway (if I can get my act together) and so much more. Stand by!

Have a fantastic day.

Besos,
Jessica

Inside A Traveler’s Walls: Weary Family

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Hola friends! We’re back! It’s INSIDE A TRAVELER’S WALLS time again! Have you missed it? I know I have missed the weekly dose of inspiration.

If you are new here I would like to introduce you to our weekly series “Inside a Traveler’s Walls” where we feature families living in less traditional, unique homes. If you think you might be one of those families and are interested in being profiled please contact me for details.

The biggest realization was the cost. We didn’t need to be millionaires to take on this lifestyle. But we did need to make changes to how we were used to living in the States. ~ Mickelle

Are you ready to meet the Weary family? You are going to gasp in the first couple of paragraphs, you are going to say to yourself “wow, these people are cool” and then you are going to wish this was your life. Trust me! I don’t want to give everything away, but lets just say that Ken has experienced something probably none of you readers have (I know I have not). I teared up when I read it. And wait until you hear their WHY for choosing this lifestyle, it’s magical. I felt like I was right there with them experiencing the Mayan culture, shopping at the markets and learning about the local culture. I know I am being very cryptic, but I just don’t want to give away too much. This post is something you need to read slow and focused, it’s that good.

My kids are seeing how different people live, and they see that many of the people we would deem “poor” are actually “rich in happiness” ~ Mickelle

And to think that their amazing travel lifestyle all started with a run in the mountains of Guatemala. And now this family has traveled all over Mexico and Central America with plans to hit South America very soon. It’s that easy folks, well we all know it is not that easy, but it is possible. Housing is available at a discount, internet is possible, adventure is awaiting and culture is alive. Bam! Go for it!

Life south of the US border is slow. Family life is a priority. Women bring their children everywhere and breastfeed them everywhere. Education is a luxury, it is highly valued and too often scarce. People are gentle, kind and always willing to help. We find so much beauty in every place we visit. ~ Mickelle

Thank you Mickelle for sharing your biggest misconception about this travel life. Many families have mentioned the same misconception to me. I think it is difficult to get it immediately while moving every month or two. We have had to seek outside help to make it happen for our kids and myself. Frankly the kids are doing great, but I am still struggling. Your advice on how to do it differently is noted and I am sure my readers will appreciate it.

Get ready to laugh out loud, this lady is funny, smart and on her game. I think my favorite part of the whole post is her bathing suit adventure. Each culture has their different way of dressing and I can concur that trying to find an active wear bathing suit in Central America is very challenging. Think bling and tiny! Another laugh out loud moment was when she wrote this, “Yes, I’m the mom that shows up with two kids and three digital devices hogging the bandwidth.” How many of you travelers can relate to this one? You are going to enjoy this post readers. It is written from the heart, with wit, love and a great desire to share. I think this family has spent a lot time developing their “why” and it clearly shines through.

Ok, enough of my chatter. Grab a cup of coffee, a comfy seat and get ready to be inspired.

Introduce us to the people you live with?
We are a family of four that left the comforts of suburban Seattle, Washington in the Summer of 2014 to experience a whole new way of living.

I am Mickelle, a school teacher and math specialist. I have a Master’s Degree and spent 5 years working for a start-up company building math software. When the kids were young, I worked and then quit to take care of the family. The decision to quit my job changed much of our family dynamics for the better. We were all happier and healthier. I felt like I was living the American dream – Stay at home mom with one girl and one boy. A devoted, loving husband in the corporate world making the American Dream possible. Nice vacations every year. Organic fruits and veggies. Money going into retirement accounts and our only debt was our mortgage. Occasionally I felt restless, but not unhappy. I felt lucky and grateful.

And yet, I still gave up this life.

My husband Ken is a self-described technology geek and avid learner. On the infamous 9/11, Ken was in the North Tower of the World Trade Center. He walked down 72 flights of stairs, along with thousands of others. On many days since then, he has evaluated his life. On most occasions, he decides he wouldn’t change a thing. He is where he wants to be. On those occasions that he’s unhappy with some aspect, he works to make it different. Ken spent years working his way up the corporate ladder which frequently involved travel and long days. Today he works independently from wherever we are, together as a family. While we’re no longer collecting the frequent flyer and hotel points at the same pace, we’ve got plenty of ways to spend them (he hoarded them in his past life). He is an avid runner, has completed several marathons and long distance relay races. Most importantly, Ken is a family man. He makes sure the two of us continue dating (each other), and he makes sure he has special time alone with each kid.

My daughter Ela is a 10-year old, independent girl, and is a bit obsessed with “girl power” (her words). She gets carsick, which isn’t her best quality on long, winding driving days. But, she still loves traveling, and she often dreams about the places we’ll go next. Ela is the most social person in our family. Her best experiences are often those coupled with chance meetings with English-speaking girls her age. Like me, she prefers living near warm, tropical waters where she can spend several hours at a time snorkeling, swimming and splashing the rest of us.

My son Tag is a 7-year old boy who rarely stops talking or moving, except when he’s sleeping (and not always then). He is obsessed with Legos, sticks, rocks and collecting the odd objects that appear in his path. Tag wants to return to Seattle, but only because he thinks we’ll buy him a Xbox and he can collect more toys. I believe Tag would be happiest in an unchanging home, where we could provide a regular schedule. However, he also thrives under the constant proximity of his immediate family and doesn’t express a need for other kids his age. He doesn’t recognize it, but he enjoys hands-on activities where he can take in the sights, smells and culture of new environments. Traveling is good for his soul.

Where are you in the world and what are you living in?
We don’t have a permanent home. We’re nomadic. We travel with whatever we can fit in our car – a Toyota Highlander, with the third row ripped out (this gives us more trunk space) and a car top carrier. For the past two years, we’ve driven in and through Central America and Mexico. We usually find a city and stay between 2 weeks and 3 months. When Ken is on a contract, we tend to stay longer. When he is not, we intensify our travel and explore more places. Currently, we’re in the Yucatan Peninsula, living in Playa del Carmen, Mexico. For the past 6-months we’ve bounced all around Southern Mexico. Our Mexican Tourist Visas are up soon, and we plan to spend the following 2-3 weeks in Belize. We like the Yucatan so much that we may return. Or we may read an article about another fantastic place and go there instead. Sometimes we plan to stay in a place for 3 months and then uproot after 1 or 2. It depends on how much fun we’re having.

In the past, we’ve rented a house in Guatemala for $450/month, an apartment in Nicaragua for $390/month, house sat in Costa Rica for free, and stayed in a hotel/apartment in Mexico for $600/month. We’ve spent countless nights in hotels, often booking the hotel only minutes after our arrival at a new place. We’ve lived in the mountains of Guatemala, Mexico and Nicaragua, and along the coasts of Costa Rica, Panama, Honduras and Mexico. We’ve stayed in big cities with populations nearing 1 million and smaller towns closer to 10,000 people.

Our car (which still has US plates) is central to our lifestyle. It gives us the flexibility to up and go, tour the surrounding areas or quickly hit the beach.

Why did you choose to live in your current arrangement?
Seven months before the idea of nomad travel had even come into our mind, my husband and I embarked on an adventure – running the mountains (and one volcano) in Guatemala on a guided trip. Our guide and his family of 5 are US expats that live in a small town surrounding Lake Atitlan. It didn’t take long before we fell in love with this area, the Mayan traditions, and the markets full of fruits, vegetables, beans and other delicious foods. I could see myself shopping at the market and taking the food home to cook. This is particularly telling because I’m not a natural in the kitchen. I cook to eat, not because it is relaxing or enjoyable. More than anything, I wanted my kids to see the simple lives that we were witnessing every day. The small homes with dirt floors, wood burning stoves and corrugated metal fences. I wanted them to see traditional Mayan traje (clothing) and women carrying baskets to the market on their heads. I wanted to live in a town small enough that we could walk to everything and where most families didn’t have one car, let alone two or more. And in front of us all week, leading us on grueling 6-hour trail runs was Greg, our guide, answering all our questions, and proving to us that many other families had done what he and his wife did.

It was an epiphany. We didn’t need to wait for the kids to go to college before we traveled. Ken and I are healthy, educated and resourceful. Why wait until we’re older and perhaps less mobile? Also, by taking the kids, we could give them a perspective of the world that most kids in the US aren’t exposed to. We could show them different lifestyles and transform the definition of what is normal. We could show them the world.

The biggest realization was the cost. We didn’t need to be millionaires to take on this lifestyle. But we did need to make changes to how we were used to living in the States. By eliminating most of our monthly and annual expenses, controlling impulse purchases, and renting places by the month, we could afford to travel for a long time, perhaps indefinitely if we wanted. Goodbye corporate paycheck and benefits. Goodbye traditional public schools. Goodbye closets full of clothes and shelves full of toys. Hello world!

What do you do to personalize your unique (less traditional) living situation?
We carry more stuff with us than most traveling families. Since we have a car, we fill it. However, I don’t think I do much to personalize our living spaces. We resist buying rugs or throw pillows because those items become a burden when it’s time to move on. We only spend money on household items that truly make our day-to-day living exponentially better. Some might think we’re being cheap, but really, it’s about not taking on more than we can comfortably take with us.

Whenever it’s convenient, we display our kids’ art. Santa brought them a bunch of clay for Christmas and we proudly put each character they built on the mantle. When it was time to move, we took pictures of the clay animals and got rid of them. Taking pictures of their achievements goes a long way to taking less with us.

We used to have pictures of family and friends from home, but I stopped putting them on the walls. It was too much work.

Tell us your favorite and least favorite room in your space and why?
This is the hardest question to answer because our living spaces constantly change. However, our day-to-day life is better or worse depending on the state of the kitchen. A larger kitchen makes it easy for me to make homemade applesauce or tomato sauce, favorites for our kids. A smaller kitchen is less motivating and more difficult to eat healthy food at home. We always ask for a fridge in a hotel room and probably get it 2/3 of the time.

What is the biggest misconception you had about your current living situation before you started living in it?
I thought the kids would easily pick up Spanish. Not so. Our youngest refuses to speak it. Outright refuses. He’s quite stubborn so we have to wait him out and simply hope that there’s Spanish working in his brain that will come out some day. Our daughter is slowly learning some Spanish, but it’s not coming easily. That said, she can order the most sophisticated desserts in Spanish. Her sweet tooth is clearly her motivation. I’ve never been strong at learning languages, so I continue to struggle. While my vocabulary is decent, when I keep it up, I can’t understand Spanish when it’s spoken to me. It all sounds like Charlie Brown’s teacher – Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. My husband, a Texas native, speaks Spanglish (broken Spanish with English mixed in) and it gets us by just fine. He’s our lead interpreter.

If I had to do it all over again, I would have tackled the language in a totally different way. I would have signed up for weekly or bi-weekly classes and inundated ourselves with it. I wouldn’t have counted on the exposure of our surroundings to have a big impact. Sadly, we have gotten by quite easily with English.

What is the one household item you carry with you every time you move or the one item you cannot live without?
Our Vitamix. Our Guatemalan housekeeper used to make us fruit smoothies every day for lunch. I use it for crepe mix and soups. It brings us expat envy.

What do you miss most about permanent, stationary, traditional living?
Oh, so many things!

  • It’s very yuppie of me to admit this, but I miss Starbucks. At one point we went for over a year without one, and I was elated to find several in the Yucatan.
  • We also miss the library and carting home 30+ books at a time. We use Kindles now, but I still prefer the real thing. eBooks aren’t quite the same for my 7-year old either.
  • At times I wish we had more options for regularly scheduled extracurricular activities – martial arts, swim lessons, art lessons, etc. We participate in extracurriculars, but usually for one for two sessions only.
  • Consistent, stable internet access. Imagine living without it. This can be painful.
  • Finally, we miss family and friends. A lot. My daughter used to spend the weekend at her Grandma’s house, and we got together with the extended family several times a month. The hardest part of this lifestyle is being away from them and not getting to participate in the Friday night campfires or the family dinners.

What is the one item your children carry with them to make their unique (less traditional) home more comfortable?
One item? I wish. My kids need recognizable stuff at bedtime. Each child has a special blanket made for them by their grandma and pillow cases from their beds in Seattle. They also have special animals that they’ve slept with since infanthood.

Our daughter has quite the collection of Monster High Dolls, while my son has a set of Magnatiles. We have a bin of Legos and a decent amount of art supplies. This keeps the kids happy.

Do you have a pet joining you in this journey? If so, has this been complicated? Any advice?
No. I cannot imagine adding a pet to the already long border crossings. As much as my children would love a pet, it’s not going to happen while we remain mobile.

What is your best resource to find items you need for your place?
There is no one best resource. Often, there is no resource, and we make do without (which is also an amazing life lesson). Every city is different, and we simply make adjustments. For months, I needed a new bathing suit. I had no idea how fast we would go through them. Here we were in Costa Rica where you’d expect to find a plethora of options. However, I wasn’t looking for a tiny bikini with fringe and even tinier bottoms. I wanted a high-quality sporty two-piece that would stay in place while I frolicked in the ocean dragging the kids along with me. This was nearly impossible to find, and if I did find it, it would cost three times what I’d expect to pay in the US. I chose to wait. I chose to wear my old bathing suit and hold onto the bottoms whenever I emerged from the water. We feel the same way about clothes. If we want US styles and quality, then we go to the second-hand stores, where we pay ridiculously low prices, usually $1/piece. When we buy new clothes, I find that within a week, I’m hand sewing a seam that came loose or that the material is uncomfortable.

Regardless of what we’re looking for, it’s a two-man search. We actually keep lists on our phones (wunderlist app) so that we always know what we’re looking for.

Finally, visitors from the US are the best mules! They bring watermelon toothpaste, updated car tabs, red vines, electronics, new cotton t-shirts and many other goodies.

If you could only have one of the following in your home which one would it be and why? space, natural light, dishwasher or above average internet.
Easy. Above average internet. In fact, we all go a bit crazy without good internet. It’s a must-have for my husband to work and we’ve often paid dearly for it. My kids want it to download library books and to play education and not-so-educational games. I want it to keep in touch with my mom and friends. After a couple of days without it, I load up the kids and we find an internet café. Yes, I’m the mom that shows up with two kids and three digital devices hogging the bandwidth.

Natural light is second, but it’s a far distant from the internet. Space – Nope. We’ve learned that we prefer less space. What is a dishwasher?

If you were to compare your unique (less traditional) home decorating style to a kitchen appliance or gadget what would it be and why?
A sponge. Our sponge is available in 1 brand, 2 colors and is easily replaceable. Our sponge starts out new and firm, and we use it until pieces are dropping off of it. We use it daily and it has several purposes – cleaning everything from food to counters and yes, the floor. I use it to squish bugs, especially ants that are rampant in this climate. Gone are the days of different colored sponges for different jobs. If we’re lucky, it dries overnight, killing most of the bacteria that grows during the day. This sponge isn’t high quality, but it doesn’t need to be. Because it’s small, we may take it with us to the next city. But, if its substance is used up, we let it go, replacing it only if it’s truly needed at our next stop.

How do you keep traditions alive for your family in your unique living situation?
Like everything else, we keep only those traditions that have deep meaning for someone in the family. I like having an annual picture with the kids and Santa Clause. However, this can be challenging. One year, our picture was with a powder-blue Frozen style Santa Clause taken for free in a fancy mall in Panama. Before we’d encountered this option, I thought our best option was taking a picture of the kids with a large blow-up snowman outside a second-hand store in Guatemala. Last year, our best option was a blow-up Santa in the lobby of a hotel in San Cristobal de las Casas, Mexico. I enjoy these pictures. Someday, we’ll line up all the pictures and it may be these unique ones that mean the most to us. They’ll tell a story and bring back more memories than those with department store Santas and long lines.

Holidays come and go. Many are ignored unless the kids make a big deal upon their arrival. Birthdays are much simpler. The birthday person gets to choose the events of the day. We’ll buy special decoration if that is important to the birthday child. Menus are planned, often including lots of candy and favorite meals. Birthday cake has been replaced with brownies, dressed with chocolate frosting, ice cream, whip cream, m&ms and whatever else we’re able to find. Presents are coupons for extra digital time, digital books, digital music, dates to choose special activities and even Slug Bug points.

How do you decorate for the holidays in your unique (less traditional) home or do you skip it all together?
Really? Spend money on holiday decorations that I’m absolutely NOT going to carry with us to the next country? Actually, I do. Two years ago, I went as a Christmas tree for Halloween, and we used the decorations at Christmas. I found colored lights and cheesy ornaments at the 3Q store in Guatemala. (3 quetzals equals about 25 cents!) Last year we found ourselves celebrating Christmas in Oaxaca, Mexico. We’d walk through the streets and see all these stands selling pink and blue Christmas trees and tons of cheap ornaments. My daughter begged for a tree to decorate. We gave her a budget of 100 pesos (about $6) and let her go crazy. She bought a turquoise tree, cheap, sparkly wrapped mini presents and other tawdry additions. She also bought thread for stringing popcorn and fruit loops around it. She spent every last peso and it was the best $6 spent all month. Both kids spent hours making decorations out of recycled cardboard paper to add to their tree. We strung adorable handmade Christmas angels, snowmen and elves across the front window.

What is your favorite part about this lifestyle choice?
Last summer, while living in Costa Rica we found ourselves surrounded by white-faced monkeys at Manuel Antonio Beach and watched a three-toed sloth cross our driveway. Last November, my 10-year old daughter and I learned to scuba dive together while staying on Roatan Island, Honduras. In January, we took hour-long walks through the town of San Cristobal de las Cases, Mexico often ending the day with hot chocolate and our daily trip to the mercado. In March, the four of us spent 30 minutes feeding manatees at an animal rescue sanctuary in Palenque, Mexico. Last week, my husband and I saw a shark, two baby turtles, a stingray and a seven-foot barracuda while snorkeling in the Caribbean Sea. Every month we share unique experiences and make memories that I never dreamed possible. This lifestyle choice is as much for my interest and desire as it is to educate the kids about the world. I never know when one of these magical days is about to happen, but they are not far and few between. They happen all the time.

But there’s something else happening. Something even more incredible than swimming in cenotes in the Yucatan Peninsula and releasing baby leatherback sea turtles into the wild. My kids are seeing how different people live, and they see that many of the people we would deem “poor” are actually “rich in happiness”. At the same time, they see those that are poverty-stricken, like the little kids begging for leftovers in restaurants in Esteli, Nicaragua. They understand what it’s like to live where you can’t drink the water and toilet paper can’t be flushed. They have friends that live in houses with ash toilets or fancy port-or-potties. At ages 7 and 10, they see first-hand how fortunate we are. I don’t know what this means for their future, but I’m confident it will make them good world citizens.

Many traveling families subscribe to the “house is not a home” theory. What is home to you?
This is a great question, and I enjoyed thinking long and hard about it. Home is where I can make homemade applesauce for Ela and tomato sauce, freezing half of it, for Tag. Home is where we gather in the kitchen for warm crepes, stuffed with loads of strawberries or raspberries, or pancakes every morning. We know we are home when we do big food shopping at the mercado, carting bags of fresh fruits and veggies from the market that will last us a week. Home has more than one sink, with one in the bathroom and one in the kitchen. Home means my husband and I can go to bed at separate times than the kids, which means more than 1 room, but not necessarily 2 bedrooms. Home often, but not always means, leaving the car parked for weeks and only driving for out-of-town outings. Home also means that educational materials are scattered over half the dining room table or piled on an out-of-the-way shelf. Remnants of art projects litter the floor and Lego creations are displayed somewhere prominent. Home is wherever we can maintain some daily routine and eat more than peanut butter and jelly sandwiches without going out for supplies.

What makes you love the place you live?
Do you ever stop and think about how lucky you are? How wonderful your life is? I do. All the time. I marvel at the architecture of Spanish colonial architecture, cobblestone streets and wrought iron balconies. I hold my husband’s hand while watching our kids splash in the turquoise waters of the Caribbean Sea as day turns to night. I feel the community spirit while watching Mayan men, women and children shuttle their way to worship, all dressed in the same pattern of traditional clothing.

Life south of the US border is slow. Family life is a priority. Women bring their children everywhere and breastfeed them everywhere. Education is a luxury, it is highly valued and too often scarce. People are gentle, kind and always willing to help. We find so much beauty in every place we visit.

Can home be a person, or an idea?
Absolutely. My home is Ela, Tag and Ken. And even though she’s not with us, home is my mom. We miss her more than you can imagine. We dream she’ll be able to join us some day.

Words of wisdom to anyone considering venturing out into the world of unique, less traditional homes?
Go. Just go.

Stop making excuses about why you can’t do it.

And maybe don’t tell anyone about it until you have solid plans. We planned for seven months before we left. We told our family two months before we left and my husband gave his resignation one month before we left. Keeping things quiet gave us the time to get our ducks in a row so that when people tried to tell us it was too dangerous or career limiting we’d have the research we needed to respond or reflect.

What is next for you? Will you continue to live in your current home or try something different?
We hope to continue traveling until we no longer want to do it. The amount of time we spend in each country often depends on how long they will issue us and our car visas. Every border crossing is different and must be researched ahead of time. (I can’t imagine doing this before the internet!) Right now our goal is to be in Columbia, South America for Christmas. But that could change.

How do you educate your children? 
My idea of education is a constantly changing one. I’m still trying to figure out what works for the kids and for me. (Remember, I have an education background.) Recently I learned the term “Worldschooling” and that describes a lot of what we’re doing. I also love the idea of unschooling, but I don’t think I can do that for math. In my opinion, math is the most important subject, and probably because the kids know this, they fight me on it the most. We do as many hands-on projects, science experiments and field trips as possible. For us, a field trip is simply an educational term for exploring a new town. Often these excursions will spur the kids to do more research on their own. Recently we went to a cave and the kids watched several YouTube videos on other caves around the world. They were fascinated. Then we started swimming in cenotes in the Yucatan, and they’ve been asking questions about those. We’ve also been studying the ocean – salinity, buoyancy, coral reefs, animal life, ocean and seas. I don’t believe any of this is related to Common Core in the US, and frankly, I could care less.

As long as my children show growth in their reading, mathematical development and ability to explore and research the world, then we will continue with this hodge-podge education. The results I’m seeing are astounding. Both kids use the digital world seamlessly, download free audio and eBooks from the library weekly, seek their own knowledge when curious and ask an unending list of questions. Honestly, it’s a challenge keeping up with them.

You don’t need to be an expert to teach your kids. I would encourage anyone that wants to travel, but is hesitant to leave their country’s school system to do it anyway. There are many schools in the world and there’s an abundance of resources for homeschooling. The help you need is out there. Find it and you won’t regret it.

How do you make a living? 
We started out two years ago with some savings which initially was a big help. My husband took a sabbatical from working. This was great for all of us. He recharged his batteries and we spent more quality time together as a family than ever before. Today Ken does consulting and works from wherever we are. To date, he’s found contract work using his personal network and websites that cater to digital nomads.

Our long-term goal is that he will continue to find online consulting gigs. We believe we’re 2-3 years ahead of the curve on this, and that exponentially more and more remote working opportunities will continue to enter the marketplace. We’re lucky that he has both technology and business experience.

There are three other things that help us financially when traveling long-term.

  • We don’t have any debt, except for our mortgage in Seattle. All college loans, cars and credit cards are paid off.
  • We keep our annual and monthly expenses to a minimum. Our house in Seattle is rented, and therefore we are not paying both a mortgage in the States and rent on the road. Gone are the Amazon Prime, Costco and Hulu memberships. Gone are the reoccurring cell phone charges.
  • Although living expenses vary in Central America, we find that we are paying significantly less overall, and therefore we need to make less money.

And the biggest benefit. Time Together. We spend more time as a family in one year than most families get in several years. I no longer miss my husband and kids during the day. We spend hours and hours together, and I wouldn’t want it any other way. 

Quote to Ponder:
Do you ever stop and think about how lucky you are? How wonderful your life is? I do. All the time. ~ Mickelle

Contact:
BLOG – SunglassesRequired.com
Email – info@sunglassesrequired.com
facebook.com/SunglassesRequired

Wow! Take it all in! This is a family, just like you and I, making their dreams come true. Was I right about this post being filled with so much goodness? I just love that she added in the part about how certain “things” make it more financially possible for them to travel. I found this most helpful. We live by all of the same rules and we don’t miss any of it one bit. If anything we feel less weight on our shoulders.

What do you think? Could you live this life? Why or why not?

Have a fantastic day.

Besos,
Jessica

The Benefits Of Spending Copious Amounts Of Time Together

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Hola friends.

Hello new followers and welcome to the adventure! Introduce yourself please. I am excited to hear your story!

Ok, I know I said that today would be a Galapagos cruise post, but I changed my mind. As summer approaches I become quite nostalgic about our time with our children. Are you with me? I am blindingly aware that we only have six summers left with our eldest. Only six summers left! How did this happen? She was just born. Wow, does it go by so incredibly fast. I just blinked. I know I have more time than most people have with their kids since one is world schooled, the other is out of school by 1pm and I work from home, but I guess I always want more. We have had some amazing summer adventures void of responsibility and schedules. And we have another epic summer planned this year with trips to three different countries, another move, seeing friends and family, camping and so much more. I CAN’T WAIT! There is positive energy buzzing around this house in anticipation for another amazing summer. Are you ready for summer break and copious amounts of time with your children?

I am not going to pretend that our travel road is always paved or that we are sipping margaritas by the sea. But, what this lifestyle has provided us with is a life that we never thought was possible. We are able to intensely immerse ourselves into a culture different from our own, work from home, reduce our living expenses, learn new languages, live more authentically, remove external pressures and much, more. However, by far, the greatest benefit this lifestyle choice has offered us is the ability to spend copious amounts of time together as a family.

Today I plan to get a bit more specific with the actual benefits of spending extensive amounts of time together. Are you ready?

Family Bonding
I remember a day when we were ships passing in the night, overscheduled kids and over worked parents. There was no time for us to bond, we were just trying to survive the day and repeat, repeat, repeat. Why? Because that is what “good” parents do. They make sure their kids get to try their hand at every activity, they make sure they have an active social life and they make sure they have the childhood that will yield the greatest future professional success (sarcastic undertone here). Family bonding, there was no time for that.

Flash forward 20 months and wow, we have bonded. According to the internet family bonding is time the family spends together interacting with each other over a group of activities or a project. It is nothing complicated and yet so many of us forget to make it a priority in our lives. I was guilty, some days we are still guilty, but mostly we are not.

We now play games, build stuff, volunteer, develop childhood businesses and so much more as a family. These moments in time give us the ability to get to know each other on a level beyond homework, activities and social engagements. These moments grow our bond as a family in new areas and bring us to levels I had no idea even existed within families.

In addition to family bonding I have watched Avalon and Largo build a stronger bond as siblings. Their bond has grown into one of respect, friendship and general care for each other’s well being. Now, they are still siblings and they do fight, but the change over the last 20 months has been greater than I had every expected.

Teamwork
In our previous life we had no time for teamwork. Our family motto was… divide and conquer. It was the only way we could accomplish everything we needed to accomplish. I always felt like we were four people on four different agendas and that I was required to live in all four worlds. Each night when my head hit the pillow I convinced myself that tomorrow would be easier and we would take time to smell the roses.

In order for this travel life with digital nomad parents and world-schooled kids to work we have to have teamwork. Team Sueiro. Our roles are interchangeable and that goes for the children as well. Sometimes Will and I both have calls in the evening so Avalon reads to Largo and snuggles with him. Sometimes Largo has tons of homework (ok, all the time), Avalon has been in activities all day and I have a deadline. Guess who helps Avalon with her schooling?

I love that our children know they are part of our team and that we need them. Plus, it is great for them to observe my husband and I stepping way outside traditional roles. I see this as such a gift for them as they enter into adulthood and possibly choose a partner one day.

Understanding
Will and I have been able to develop a deeper understanding of each child and how they function. It is truly a gift to have the time to understand what makes your child tick rather than just pushing them through their emotions to the next task on the list. Plus, it gives them the luxury of time to understand why they feel the way they do.

Being able to understand each child on a deeper level has made us more patient parents because we are able to deduct why something happened and sit with the child while they figure out an alternative solution.

We are by no means perfect and each stage and age offers its own set of challenges. But, we have become much more aware and in tune with our children’s needs through spending copious amounts of time with them and slowing life down a bit.

Emotional
As our children age their needs change. I am finding that emotionally they need us to be much more accessible than in previous years. Our lifestyle choice has allowed us to be available for them throughout the day. Yes, we are working, but we can always stop to talk if need be. The more time we spend with our children the more likely we are to be approached when these topics come up because they know we are receptive and accessible.

Our daughter is entering an age where she has questions about her body, the opposite sex and her emotions. I remember when we were in the states these questions would always come up at the end of the day during snuggle time. Why? Well, that was the only time we had a moment to stop, think and reflect on the day. I was so tired at that point that I was not fully emotionally present. Most days I just wanted to get the kids to bed and sit down for the first time. Now that I am available during the day these mini chats can take place when the topic arises. We have had some of the best emotional connections over a snack, or on a walk to an activity or during our morning routine.

Present
We get to be there to watch them grow up. The way I see it is that we have them for 18 years, if we are lucky (some more and some less). Over the course of a lifetime that is a small number of years. I want to be present as much as possible during those years because once they fly away they will be off on their own adventures.

Spending copious amounts of time together affords us the luxury of being present for all of it. We get to see them lose their teeth, discover something about themselves, rejoice in the simple moments, snuggle, read to them and rejoice at the end of each day that we were truly present.

Influence
When we spend loads time with our children we become the biggest influence on them, not the nanny, the grandparents or the daycare. Of course, we want our children to interact with other adults during their time with us, but we also want them to be raised with our morals and values. Whether they choose to adopt them as they become adults is their choice, but while they are with us we hope to instill many internally motivated characteristics that project kindness. I am not saying that this cannot be done if you have limited time with your children, but it is much harder.

Fun
Well, I think this goes without being said. Kids are fun. Period. When you spend a lot of time with your kids you do get to be there for the fights and emotions, but you also get to be there for the FUN! Kids have energy, they have creativity, they have a zest for life and appreciation for the simple things. I truly believe it is the greatest gift to be chosen as their parents on this amazing journey.

There you have it, my list of benefits for spending copious amounts of time with our children. Let’s grow this list. Tell me your benefits.

Hope you are having a fantastic Tuesday.

I will meet you back here tomorrow for Inside A Traveler’s Walls! Yes, it’s back!!!!

Besos,
Jessica

 

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