9 Ways Travel Has Changed Us!

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Hola friends. 9 Ways Travel Has Changed Us! But, first…this will be my last post for the week because… AVALON IS TURNING 12 TODAY!!! And we celebrate birthdays big time in Casa Sueiro! Plus, my dad is turning 67 tomorrow, so we will celebrate AGAIN! And since Will was in Hong Kong for his birthday we will celebrate yet AGAIN on Sunday (and lets throw in our anniversary while we are at it)! So now you know why I am out of here for the weekend. Will miss all of you, but I have singing, baking and celebrating to do.

But, before I go…

Travel has without a doubt changed us, A LOT. It has become blindingly apparent to me in the last week as we spend time back in the US that we are not the same people who left almost two years ago. We see things different, we feel things different and we are more aware. This is a good change in us. A change that was necessary, especially considering the state of affairs in the US and beyond. I know I can start to sound like a broken record, but travel changes you, deeply and for the good. We are not perfect human beings, quite frankly perfection is something I would never strive for anyway because I believe that is when learning stops. However, what we have gained is a greater understanding of the world, the people in it and we have developed a level of empathy we did not have before. This is hard to obtain unless you have lived amongst people who are very different from you and you have had the experience of being in the minority.

9 WAYS TRAVEL HAS CHANGED US:

We have more compassion: I put this at the top of the list because to me this is incredibly important. The ability to look at a situation different from your own and have compassion towards it is a trait that is undervalued. When we started out traveling it was important for us to teach our kids compassion towards those less fortunate than us, as well as those more fortunate. Often the people with the “most” need the greater level of compassion towards them. After spending two years in developing countries I can say that I am proud of the fact that my children do not walk by homeless individuals on the street with no regard. They give them money and can see their struggles, they have developed compassion. We are not rich, however we always have enough change or some extra food to share with someone in need.

We don’t obsess about diversity: When we lived in the US is was very important to us that we lived in areas with a diverse population. If we were going to live a stationary life we wanted our children to be exposed to people of different races, religion, culture, sexual orientation and much more on a daily basis. We wanted their every day life to be diverse. Now that we travel we are able to live in different countries and we want them to have a powerful cultural experience in the country we reside in at the time. For this reason we don’t seek areas that have a lot of Americans, we actually avoid them because we have had that experience. We want them to have new experiences with other cultures and to do that the less diverse the area the richer the experience. As a result, our children now have friends from many different different countries across the globe. I think these global friendships are great for global alliances and understanding. The world needs more kids becoming friends with other countries.

We see with our eyes wide open: Wow, do we see! We are not busy going through the motions of the daily rat race (of course we have it to some degree) and as a result we are able to walk and SEE. We take it all in, we stop, we watch, we listen and then we discuss. Life was so busy for us in the US that we seldom took time to be still and see with our eyes wide open. It is truly amazing what you can learn when you are silent and just watch and listen.

We have grown closer as a family: Our family has grown incredibly close over the past two years. We have learned some amazing conflict-resolution skills, developed an understanding of each others wants-needs, enjoyed jokes only our family would get and much more. We are a team, Team Sueiro and we are getting pretty darn good at it. Where one person leaves off another can easily continue seamlessly. Where one person is hurt another is there to pick them up. And where one person is joyous we are all there to share in this amazing happiness. We have come a long way as a family and I look forward to what the future holds.

We give more: When we lived in the US we would give to large organizations and school sponsored programs who then gave the money to a specific group. Now that we are traveling we still give, but it happens in a different capacity. We are fortunate enough to physically see the individuals benefitting from our giving. We now know who the money, time and efforts go to and that gives us great satisfaction. Also, we have become more generous with our pocket change. We travel to developing countries and many of the people we pass on the streets do not have money for food. We have learned to share what we have whether it be food or change with individuals who clearly need it more than us.

We have a greater understanding of the world: I am a huge fan of reading, however the type of learning that takes place on the ground in these developing countries is far different from that on the pages of a book. When you can touch, smell, see and feel the ways of the world in a new country your understanding of that area is heightened tremendously. We have finally hit a point where I can see the global mind in our children and it is glorious to watch it unfold.

We are grateful: Our family has so much to be grateful for. We have been able to bring our dreams to fruition, spend copious amounts of time together as a family, live an epic life, have amazing health, enjoy love from family/friends and so much more. I can honestly say that I wake up every day grateful for the life we have. It has taken a lot of hard work to get to this point and it is still hard work, but we recognize we are also very lucky to have the freedoms and choices in life that many people do not have across the globe. There are a lot of big conversations about appreciating what we have in life (and I am not talking about material possessions) in our travel family. The overall energy that travels with us is gratefulness, all the way down to the kiddos. The more we travel, the more grateful they become.

We need and want less: We travel with very little and we still live a full and happy life. In today’s world where over consumption is prominent it is so nice to live a life on less. Our children have learned to value people and experiences over stuff. When we left the US they were allowed to bring three small (zip lock) bags of toys with them. Would you believe that they never even end up playing with all of it. They are able to make due with what we have, use their imagination to create and go on adventures. All of these bring such joy to their life that they actually forget about traditional toys until one is gifted to them by a relative visiting.

We don’t tolerate racist comments: Before we left the US when I would hear someone say something racist I would sit by silent (secretly thinking “what an idiot”) and I would not say anything because I wanted to keep the peace in the group. Not any more. Never again. If someone says something racist I will speak up. I don’t want my kids to see me sitting back “saying in my head” that it is wrong, but doing nothing. In my eyes this is just as bad as being racist. It is not comfortable to call someone out and I don’t shout “hey you racist,” however I do address it as politically correct as possible. The more we travel the more we see that we are all the same at the end of the day. Children, mama’s, grandparents across the world all operate the same, maybe in a different language with a varying religion, but we are all the same in the end. Our children are the generation to make change and spread the love to all. They learn their views about other cultures from us (their parents) and we need to be held accountable for equal treatment.

Honestly this list could go on and on. We are very much a work-in-progress. Each and every day we grow and are changed by travel. I don’t think we will ever hit the stopping point of being changed by travel. The more we learn and know the more I realize how little we actually know. I am humbled daily in this season of our life.

How has travel changed you?

Have a fantastic weekend!

Besos,
Jessica

Healthcare In Ecuador

Hola friends. Hello Wednesday (almost). Sorry, I don’t have an Inside A Traveler’s Walls for you today, but I have something better, healthcare in Ecuador! Fun, right?

I have talked about this topic several times during our two years of full-time travel, however I still feel it is a topic that needs some more screen time.

As a traveling family we are often asked the same questions over and over again. For example, money, social, safety and healthcare, these are the hot topics. After being out here on the front lines of travel I can tell you that NONE of the above are worth fretting over or worth staying home for. I would go as far to say that healthcare is the last reason I would stay home, unless of course we had a chronic condition that only had the care we needed in the US. But if you are a generally healthy family, then go and don’t worry.

*My post is based on our experience with the medical care in three different countries and in the US. I cannot vouch for other countries that we have not lived in, however I can say that overwhelmingly we have had amazing healthcare outside of the US. FOR A FRACTION OF THE PRICE!

We have insurance, however IMG only covers serious issues. Plus, many visits (even though considered serious) still need to be pre approved with them before the service is rendered. As a result, we are very selective when/for what we visit the ER in our travel countries.

Several months ago I had a terrible virus. I had a sore throat, a cough, a sore throat and then a debilitating cough deep in my lungs. After six weeks of this mess I developed a pain in my chest near my heart. I tolerated it for an entire week until I woke up one morning and I could barely get out of bed. Will insisted that this had gone beyond the “its just a virus” stage and I needed to go to the ER, immediately. As a side note, I have MVP which is not usually a problem. However I am susceptible to bacteria getting in through my fluttering valve. I had been sick for so long and then my chest was hurting so he figured it was time to get the heart checked out just as a precaution.

We went to the private hospital in Quito knowing that we would most likely be paying out-of-pocket, but we also knew it would be a fraction of what we would pay with IMG insurance had we waited until our US visit. I had a chest X-ray, blood word, EKG, injections and prescriptions all for $775. I left feeling better (for the meantime) and confident I had received a thorough examination. I was told to follow-up with my cardiologist for an ECHO if the pain did not subside just to rule out bacteria in my heart. However, they were confident this was not the case because I did not have the symptoms.

Over the course of the next few weeks I visited the doctor for more injections and he assured me that the inflamed nerve under my ribs would eventually heal and I would be completely pain-free. I am very close to that point now, but it has taken a long time to heal, as well as been incredibly painful.

I was pleased with the price and care I received during my ER visit in Quito. I also had a colonoscopy at the same hospital (I had a preexisting condition, not 50 yet, don’t get excited) and that cost me $540. The doctor, equipment and professionalism was the same (if not better) than what I received in the US. As a family we have visited the ER (and been hospitalized) in France, had precancer cells removed in Costa Rica, had dental surgery (don’t even ask the price on this, you will cry), got braces and so much move over the course of two years. And each and every time we have been handled with care and expertise.

Now we are back in the US for six-week and as much as we tried to get all of our medical and dental care taken care of in Ecuador sometimes things creep up. Lets just call these things… food poisoning from eating ceviche. Yes, I eat raw fish and yes I know what can happen, but in 27 years of eating raw fish I have only gotten sick twice. Knock on some wood for me please. Well, the night before we left Ecuador we went out to an amazing Peruvian restaurant with our friends and I got sick five hours later. My friend was fine, her hubby was sick for three days and I am still dealing with the symptoms one week later. Can you believe it? On Sunday I decided it was time to visit the Urgent Care in the US. I had held off as long as possible because I knew the cost and result. And it was exactly as I had predicted. The doctor barely touched me, had me in and out quickly and gave me a “traveler’s diarrhea” diagnosis. I explained to him when they tried to discharge me that I did not drink the water in Mexico (or in this case Quito) and I was not on vacation. I knew I did not have traveler’s diarrhea. I had lived in Quito for 10 months, ate some bad fish and wanted to make sure I did not have a parasite. He would not entertain that theory, gave me antibiotics and sent me on my way. I have to tell you that I was completely disappointed by the cost ($500), the lack of service and the diagnosis with barely any research. I never experienced such crappy treatment from a medical professional in any developing country. Now, I am not saying that all US doctors are terrible, but the point I am trying to make is that the US is not the only country where one can get superb medical care.

So, as I sit here typing, healing (thankfully) and sharing I must say I am grateful for good medical care wherever it is. Don’t be scared, go travel.

Besos,
Jessica

Why We Choose To Stay In Hostels

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Hola friends. Greetings from my balcony in Cocoa Beach, Florida. Last night I slept on the sofa with the sliders open so I could hear the ocean all night long. It was glorious! I love you ocean! The kids are off for the morning to work on cleaning up the overgrown yard of a nearby house and I am sitting here to write, smell the salty air and spend some time with my birth country. The US feels good and overwhelming/broken at the same time. It saddens me, greatly. There is a post in development don’t you worry.

Hostels! Do you do them? Or not? Why? Or why not?

We love to stay in hostels. I mean who does not want cold showers, noisy hallways, hard beds and hand towels to wipe their butt? Right? Ok, so I must admit the aforementioned is not the allure for us, but the price and atmosphere definitely is.

Why we love hostels:

  • They are less expensive. They are almost always less money than airbnb and hotels. If we are planning to stay in a location for a month or longer then we usually book an airbnb so we can cook at home. Otherwise we are hostel bound when they are available.
  • They have yummy breakfast! Ha! We only book hostels that have breakfast included. This saves us a ton of money and gets us off to a good start for the day. The quality and size of the breakfast usually varies, but we can adjust to save money.
  • They have interesting clientele. We meet friendly, optimistic, well read, open-minded individuals who are traveling to learn more about the world with the idea of one day making a difference. To me this is the biggest advantage to staying in a hostel. Our children are exposed to people from all over the world who are forging their own path in life, living different and thinking outside the box. They are our tribe. Most of these folks are 20 and 30 somethings, but there are also some traveling families like us and seniors who have spent their whole life traveling off the grid. I just love the seniors because they are people who have chosen a travel life that goes beyond the fancy hotels and fine dining. They have stories and so much to share. These people bring great knowledge and hope to our travel life. Plus, they are so darn accepting of differences and excited to see families out traveling as they did when they had young kids.
  • They are spontaneous. Hostels are full of individuals who wake up having nothing planned for the day and then decide in a minutes notice to go on a three-day safari with four people they met at breakfast. I love this because it teachers our kids to be spontaneous and not get too set in routine. Also, it teaches them to keep their mind open for adventure and to be flexible in their day.
  • They have social and well equipped common areas. Unlike hotels or airbnb, hostels have a common area that is buzzing from morning until night. Since many people who sleep in hostels have been traveling for an extended period of time they don’t feel the need to sight-see every day. They take rest time to work, check email, recharge, chat and much more. As a result, you can usually find comfy sofa’s, hammocks, games and other items that make the common area feel more like a living room. This works very well for our family since Will and I still need to work as we are traveling around. The kids will hunker down in a hammock with a book, play a game of chess with another resident or just chill while we pay the bills. Oh and there is always food readily available from the cafe. I think my kids ate their weight in guac and chips in Cuenca.
  • They are a wealth of knowledge. As I have mentioned before, we don’t do guide books. We do FB and other travelers, well, we don’t really DO other travelers. Ha! Our greatest source of information for travel is to ask other travelers. These travelers are not sharing knowledge to brag about how much they have seen, but rather to share their favorite experiences. This stuff is not in the guide books, but the young, avid travelers know it all.
  • They are not comfortable in regards to accommodations. And that is a good thing. We don’t like our kids to get too comfortable or be too pampered. We want them to do hard things and come out of their comfort zone. We could afford a hotel, but we choose not to. We choose not to for all the reasons listed above, but we also choose not to so they can learn to adjust to situations that are not always within their norm. They have slept on floors, showered without hot water (gone without showers for weeks), dried with hand towels (dried with napkins), worn dirty clothes for days on end and so much more. Yes we could pay to have all of this removed from their travel life, but we choose not to for a very specific reason.
  • They are noisy. Now for me it sucks because I am a light sleeper, but we do it for the kids. Again, as I mentioned above we want them to be able to acclimate to different situations. This will only help them as they become adults. Hostels are noisy, that is just a fact. They are filled with young folks with lots of energy who are ready to connect with other travelers. I love exposing our kids to the world of solo travel that will one day be theirs if they so choose.
  • They are safe. Yes, I said it. Hostels have small rooms, thin walls and lots of people. We have never once felt threaten or in a dangerous situation while staying in a hostel. And if there happened to be an incident we could scream and the whole building would wake up to help us.

Have you stayed in hostels with your children? Why not? I have to say that there are very few children in hostels and I find it to be a huge disappointment. There is so much to be learned by spending even a week in a hostel. Do it once, just once and you will be surprised how much it opens your child’s mind and helps them to become a better traveler. And for yourself, get out of that comfort zone. Take the plunge and try something new. You might just make a new friend, learn about a new adventure or discover something amazing about yourself.

Besos,
Jessica

A First For Me!

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Hola friends. How is everyone today? Happy Monday! Are you following our travels on Instagram or Youtube? Just because I may be a little quiet here for the next six weeks does not mean we won’t be posting pics and videos. Follow us! Subscribe! And join our adventure please.

Well, you all know we are spending a little time in the US to reconnect with family and friends, plus apply for our French visa’s and do some repacking. But, did you know we will also…sell the rest of our stuff. Yep, we are selling most of the possessions we have left (except for sentimental stuff). Crazy, right? Well, we have been happy without them for almost two years and we have no plan to stop this adventure anytime soon. So if you are in Maine get ready for some pics on FB come the beginning of August. Lots of stemware! And other kitchen stuff, some art, camping equipment, Christmas decorations and much more.

Ready for airport drama?

As much as we fly it is inevitable that we will experience some airport drama, right? Usually when we travel we pack incredibly light, actually unbelievably light. However, when we move countries (approximately every 9-12 months) we have full, overweight, busting at the seams bags. We sometimes have obscure travel trinkets we have collected, odd shapes and weird carry ons. Can you see where this is going? As a result, we always make sure we give ourselves 3-4 hours at the airport before our flight takes off.

Our first bump in the road leaving Ecuador was at security. We had a handmade hammock from Otavalo as one of our carry ons. It did not cost us a ton of money, but we loved it. It was my favorite item we had purchased in all of our travels thus far and then it wasn’t. Apparently the wood in the hammock could be considered a weapon and therefore was not allowed on the airplane. I was not willing to let it go that easy so I went back to the counter to check it as baggage (after I paid $15 to wrap it in durable plastic). Unfortunately, we had already hit our baggage limit, therefore it was going to cost us $171 for a hammock that we paid $40 for. Nope! I loved it, but not that much. So back through security I went. The conclusion was that it would be best for us to cut the fabric off the wood and try to salvage that at least. Done! At this point we had gone through security twice, wrestled with the plastic wrapping machine and shed a couple of tears (the kids loved the hammock also). We were ready to relax and eat and figured the drama was behind us.

We settled into Outback for a bit of snack food (aka comfort food) and decompressing before our flight. The minute the food arrived my name was called over the loud-speaker. Great, now what! Little side note here: I had just put an IG pic up complaining about the airport. I figured that had sent up a security alert and I was in deep shit! I proceeded to the gate while the kids devoured a plate of french fries and pancakes (don’t ask). I was told that I would need to go with the gate agent to another room while they searched one of my checked bags. I quickly returned to the kids, left them my cell phone and told them to call daddy if I did not return. I then went with the gate agent down a long hallway, down some stairs and entered a basement room. There I saw my overweight bag and an agent eager to shuffle through it. I proceeded to ask some questions, but he kindly pointed to a sign that said “no talking” in several different languages. After about a 10 minute inspection I was released back to the gate with absolutely no explanation.

Now, this freaked me out for many reasons.

  • First, Will had been detained in a similar room months before when bringing the hover boards into Ecuador and that was a creepy situation.
  • Second, I was alone and had no back up support system if need be.
  • Third, my friend (who for the sake of this post we will call Megan Renaud) recommended a movie about a woman (true story) who was jailed in Ecuador for having drugs in her bag. The conditions were horrendous and it took years to get her out of jail. And no, I did not have drugs in may bag, but neither did she, someone had put them there.

So, you can imagine all sorts of things were running through my tired mind and sick body. I knew I had not done anything wrong, however you never know what someone else might do.

Now I know many of you readers have had this happen before, but this was a first for me and a pretty scary first since I was alone and responsible for two kids (and I had watched that damn movie, thanks again Megan). Needless to say the next time they called my name over the loud-speaker I was a bit nervous. Luckily, this final time was just to give away our seats to someone flying who had the same status, go figure. I did not complain because I figured at this point there must be some man in a secret room following the girl with the pink hair around the airport on his video cameras.

End of story? Yep! Boarded that plane, released a sigh of relieve and passed out from exhaustion. I love Quito, Ecuador, but at that point I was happy to get the wheels off the ground.

And for those of you who are wondering where the USA adventure takes us today… I am sitting on a balcony overlooking the Atlantic ocean. My pink hair is flying in the warm breeze and my tired (and still sick) body is hoping to be healed by the salty air. Until tomorrow folks, miss you already.

Besos,
Jessica

Inside A Traveler’s Walls: Alyson Long

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Hola friends. Wow, what a busy week. Sorry this is so late, but the US called and we answered. Ha!

As most of you know we flew back to the US for six weeks on Wednesday. We had a very complicated morning at the airport when we left Quito, more on this later. Then I apparently ate some bad ceviche the night before we flew out. I am still paying the price today. I will spare you the details, but lets just say I have some pain and frequency that is not pleasant. All this while I am still having chest problems. I know, I am starting to be the annoying blogger who talks about her aches and pains all the time. I apologize, however I am not used to being sick for this long and it is running me down. The good news is that the food poisoning will pass and my chest is mildly better. Can it be the elevation that was causing the nerve in my chest to not heal, who knows. I am just happy that I see some progress. I have so much more to share about the last couple of weeks, but it will have to wait a bit since we are busy adventuring and soaking up family time. Ok, enough of my complaining, lets start the fun stuff.

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 first night here I HATED it. No restaurants, no coffee shops, just cow poo and green meadows, but then a funny thing happened, we all fell in love with the village. ~Alyson

Today I would like to introduce you to the Long family! I have known Alyson for several years through our online travel groups and I am honored to have her as part of this series. The Long family currently calls Romania home, although they are continually off traveling the world. When I read Alyson’s story I could not help but think how magical and peaceful life in Romania sounds. I just love the simplicity and back to nature approach their village life offers, plus the traditions and festivals that are specific to Romania. I think it might be time for a visit to that neck of the woods. Anyone with me?

I’m just really surprised how much I enjoy keeping house as people would have done 100 years ago. It’s quite satisfying to wash everything by hand, sweep wooden floors and build fires for warmth. ~ Alyson

You will be surprised to learn what Alyson thinks complicates traveling, what she CAN live without and the beauty she so much loves about life in Romania. Her descriptions truly read like a magical fairytale from a time long, long ago.

I feel strongly that I’m more “me” when I have a backpack on my back, I belong on the backpacker circuit so that has a “home” feel too. ~ Alyson

This family went from high end beach life to the simple life of Romania. In the process they sold all their stuff, traveled the world and started unschooling. Most people would be too fearful to make such drastic changes in their life at this point. This is what I am talking about folks when I say get ready for some inspiration. Could you do this? Would you do this? What is holding you back? People are doing it and the Long family is a perfect example and role model for living our lives to the fullest. I am so honored and humbled to have them on my series.

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?
My name is Alyson, I’m an almost 50 year-old menopausal travelling mum, home educator, writer, photographer and blogger. I’m British, from Wales. My husband is James, he’s an Australian top chef. These days he only works a few months of the year, the blogs support us and we travel almost full-time. Our two children are D, 12 and Boo, 9. You couldn’t wish for two better boys but they don’t make my life easy! We asked them where they wanted to live, did they want to carry on travelling? Do they want to return to London? Do they want to go back to Australia? They both picked Romania and gave the travelling a big thumbs up. These days they tend to pick the destinations more than us, but sometimes I’ll bribe them to get them to go where I want them to go. D is coming to Everest Base Camp with me soon, that’s costing me 3 computer games. A return to India will cost me a new laptop.

Where are you in the world and what are you living in?
We travel a lot, in the last 3 years I think we’ve taken the kids to around 35 countries, so we don’t have a house like most normal people. We do own a house, a rather large swanky affair with pool in an up-market resort town, Port Douglas, Australia. But we choose not to live in it. Instead we’ve been renting a traditional 100-year-old home in a remote peasant village in Romania. We absolutely love village life and being surrounded by the most stunning mountains and countryside.

Why did you choose to live in your current arrangement?
We had been travelling full-time with no home base for 2 years when we were invited to this village to help a guy with some promotion. We’re rather a big travel blog, we do a lot of that sort of thing. Initially I said no. Who wants to go to Romania right? But then the Nepal Earthquake happened, the day before we were due to fly to Kathmandu. We had to think fast as we were in India and our visas were all but expired, so we took up Romania-dude on his kind offer. The first night here I HATED it. No restaurants, no coffee shops, just cow poo and green meadows, but then a funny thing happened, we all fell in love with the village. We fell so hard that we bought a house here. Unfortunately the paperwork STILL isn’t complete on “our” house, so for now, we rent from a lovely local family. They really look after us and think we’re a bit clueless. We can’t milk cows, make cheese, grow all our own food, slaughter a pig, build a haystack or cut the grass with a scythe, so they do all that for us and try to show us how things should be done. They’re just the best people!

What do you do to personalize your unique (less traditional) living situation?
We don’t really personalize it. A few trinkets from our travels are building up and the kids toys are everywhere. The house is traditionally decorated throughout, the mud walls are painted and hand decorated with a roller. There are embroidered fabrics, plates and religious paintings on the walls. We’ve just had to add things we’ve needed. Ikea blankets for curtains to help us stay warm, a few rugs on the bare boards. An extra bed for D. Nothing fancy, we’re not really setting up home here. I don’t want to fall into the trap of accumulating “stuff” again, we sold just about all we owned before we left Australia and it feels great to be clutter-free.

Tell us your favorite and least favorite room in your space and why?
We have a little sun room/porch type area. It fills with light in the early mornings and has double doors that we can throw open. In winter it got down to about -15 C in there, it has no heating, so it’s a fair weather only room.

It’s also where our bunnies live in winter, they’d freeze outside.

The second bedroom is my least favourite, it has no heating, in winter we seal it off and hang a rug over the door to keep what heat we have in the first bedroom. We all share 1 bedroom to maximize warmth. To you that may seem odd, but we’ve all been sharing hotel rooms for 3 years, it’s our normal.

The kitchen is where we do everything, eat, cook, hang out, use computers. It’s the only room that’s warm in winter, I try to keep the little wood stove burning round the clock but when temperatures reach -25C it’s pretty chilly! We use the wood stove for heating and cooking, I love the economy of that and the wood oven is a dream for pizza. In summer we use a gas stove.

What is the biggest misconception you had about your current living situation before you started living in it?
I thought it would be harder than it is. The water freezes, I thought that would be more of a hardship. In fact it only froze for a few days and we could still get water from the stream to flush. I’m just really surprised how much I enjoy keeping house as people would have done 100 years ago. It’s quite satisfying to wash everything by hand, sweep wooden floors and build fires for warmth.

What is the one household item you carry with you every time you move or the one item you cannot live without?
My laptop. It’s just our life. My work, my photography, all of our organization and travel plans, entertainment, education, everything. The only “household” item we carry is my Swiss Army Knife. It comes in handy.

What do you miss most about permanent, stationary, traditional living?
Well it would be nice to jump in the pool when it’s as hot as it is today! But really, I don’t miss anything, I’d far rather be here.

What is the one item your children carry with them to make their unique (less traditional) home more comfortable?
Nothing, we have an assortment of Lego, cuddly toys, sonic screwdrivers and Harry Potter wands, but no household furnishings. When you travel with everything on your back you have to be very minimalist.

Do you have a pet joining you in this journey? If so, has this been complicated? Any advice?
We now have 2 bunnies and a guinea pig and yes, they’re a MASSIVE pain. We adore the little baby bunny, she’s a sweetheart, but the big one isn’t very friendly and the guinea pig makes me itch, so Tuft is our favourite. She just hops around outside with us, never runs off. Advice, yes, don’t buy pets, they’re a nuisance. We have to get people to look after them when we’re away and that’s hard. We’re road tripping right across Europe this week, Romania to London, the bunnies are coming too. We have the perfect vehicle for bunny transportation, a 4×4 truck called Sexy (after the TARDIS) otherwise we’d be looking for bunny-sitters again.

What is your best resource to find items you need for your place?
Our nearest Ikea is about 10 hours drive away, but I’m still going to say Ikea, love that place! Local shops are very limited here.

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.
Above average internet! Ours is bad and it makes life hard. I don’t want a dish washer, ever, space isn’t a big deal, but yes, I do need light and to be able to see outside, I hate being boxed in.

If you were to compare your unique (less traditional) home decorating style to a kitchen appliance or gadget what would it be and why?
Sorry, I don’t have a decorating style here, it’s not my house to decorate. But I always go very Asian inspired in our own properties, so I’ll say a Sri Lankan string hopper maker. If you don’t know what one is, you need our Sri Lanka travel blog

How do you keep traditions alive for your family in your unique living situation?
Christmas is our only real “traditional” thing. We don’t celebrate things like Halloween, Mother’s Day, Easter etc.

We’ve been stationary every Christmas so far, that’s important. We always have a tree and Santa comes. Here in the village we’re immersed in their traditions, so it was lovely last year to have small children come carol singing and be gifted with Romanian Christmas food. On 26th December there was a huge festival of tradition, the costumes, the really weird goings on, bears, bells, it was like nothing you can imagine, stunning. We usually pop down to the church for the big events here too, Easter is bigger than Christmas, the villagers all dress up, floral skirts, white blouses, headscarves, waistcoats, hats, sheep coats and fancy embroidery. Actually they dress up every Sunday for Church, but sometimes it’s just bigger, more people, adult kids home from city jobs. The Romanian traditional events are fascinating, I can’t tell you all about them here or I’d be writing a book, but we document a lot of them on our dedicated Romania travel blog

How do you decorate for the holidays in your unique (less traditional) home or do you skip it all together?
As I said above, we have a tree, I bought a real one last year to plant outside. Sadly it died, I have no idea why!

I have a few decorations, we don’t go crazy. In previous years we’ve bought a fake tree and a few baubles that’s gone to the charity shop once we’re done. We had fun last year making natural wreaths for the doors with pieces from the pine trees. Our garden is full of pines and fir cones along with apples, pears, plums and walnuts.

We have fairy lights out on the porch that we use all year round, and Buddhist prayer flags that we just brought back from Nepal. The villagers probably have no idea what they are!

What is your favorite part about this lifestyle choice?
I just love this little house and the village, for me this is paradise. Funny isn’t it? We lived on a beach in Australia and I really didn’t like it much at all, but here, this is my happy place. I think the weather and the seasons are a big part of it, I love watching the village change, the succession of wild flowers in the meadows, the planting and harvesting then the snowy winters. We ski then, just up the road.

The freedom that comes with living here is great too, it’s easy to fly to London, or east to Asia. We can drive all over Europe if we choose. Our living costs are tiny here so we have good financial freedom too.

Many traveling families subscribe to the “house is not a home” theory. What is home to you?
Cities towns, or countries are homes. London is home, so is Wales. Now this village is home too. But we also feel at home in places we visit often, like Bangkok, Sri Lanka or Kathmandu. My favourite place in the world is the high Himalayas, but it’s a bit impractical to live up there!

What makes you love the place you live?
As I mentioned above, the seasons. Of feeling connected to the weather, the soil, the plants and animals.

Being outside surrounded by wild flowers. These incredible, hard-working, generous, resourceful people. The snows that turn the mountain roads into Narnia. I just love it and I love that my kids are getting a chance to experience and observe this lifestyle.

Can home be a person, or an idea?
No, I don’t think so. More of a feeling of belonging. I feel strongly that I’m more “me” when I have a backpack on my back, I belong on the backpacker circuit so that has a “home” feel too.

Words of wisdom to anyone considering venturing out into the world of unique, less traditional homes?
Just do it. If you have a dream, follow it. Live your life your way and ignore the traditionalists. And seriously think about not sending your kids to school!

What is next for you? Will you continue to live in your current home or try something different?
Tomorrow we’re heading to London for a while, in the fall we’re going to do something spectacular for my 50th birthday, we have no other plans. We take life as it comes. I hope we’re here in the village for Christmas and all of the ski season this year, last year we missed a lot of the snow as we were in Sri Lanka, Nepal and Dubai. This year I want the kids to get really polished on the slopes. Maybe our paperwork for the house will come through so we can start building!

How do you educate your children?
We are dedicated to home educating the kids. We were doing this before we started travelling and will continue for as long as it works. I would see school as a total waste of their time, they learn so much more pursuing their own interests and travelling as we do. You can call it worldschooling or maybe unschooling, I don’t mind, I’m not one for labels. In Australia, where we began their education, all forms of home education come under the label “homeschool” for registration purposes and that word has stayed with me. I have a dedicated homeschooling website and I talk about homeschooling on the road on our main family travel blog.

Because we started out as registered homeschoolers, I know the curriculums and system very well, I used to have to submit learning plans and reports. It was a pain having to do all that paperwork, but I’m glad I have that deep knowledge. I feel strongly that education outside school is a brilliant option and I’m dedicated to spreading the word and helping now homeschoolers make the shift.

How do you make a living?
My websites bring in money, at the moment, just about enough to support us, $2000 per month or thereabouts. We can travel and eat, all four of us, on $50-$100 per day, depending on destination. Money comes in through Agoda and Amazon affiliate links, Google Adsense advertising and paid advertorial content. When you have a big social media following, as we do, people will pay you to share their product or service. Sometimes, not very often, we take up free travel and hotel deals in exchange for covering them on the blog. We’re very choosy about the ones we take. Our income is growing but it’s a lot of work and I don’t as yet have any assistants. I’d like to live 100% from the blogs, soon ! I want my husband to be free and to work alongside me, at the moment he hardly contributes, but he’s taken on Snapchat for me at least. My husband works a few months of the year in London as a chef to top up the funds. Our house back in Australia is rented out which more than covers the mortgage. I work as a VA from time to time, mostly on Pinterest, that’s my speciality, we can also do paid travel planning and advice.

Quote to ponder:
If you have a dream, follow it. Live your life your way and ignore the traditionalists.

Contact:
http://worldtravelfamily.com

http://simpleliferomania.com

http://boyaroundtheworld.com

http://homeschoolgrouphug.com

http://worldtravelchef.com

I have too many websites, I’m going to start merging them.

You Tube World Travel Family TV
Lord Pug ( my 12-year-old!)

Facebook World Travel Family

Twitter

Pinterest

Snapchat (WorldTravelFam)

Instagram

WOW! RIGHT? I am totally loving this family and I cannot wait to meet them in person one day. By September we will be closer to Romania so hopefully we will be able to connect. Make sure you go and follow them on all of their social media.

Thank you Long family for sharing your amazing, inspirational and heartfelt life. And please come visit us in France.

Besos,
Jessica

Art Class In Quito, Ecuador!

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Hola friends. Wow, I cannot believe we are leaving Quito tomorrow! It has been a fabulous 10 months. Today we are gathering some of our favorite items to take back with us, eating at our hot spots, seeing friends and feeling sad. I have a post in the making for Thursday so lets not spend too much time on our departure today.

We are a big art family as most of you know. And when we find amazing teachers I do my best to share them with you. If you are passing through Quito or staying for an extended period of time you might want to visit some of our recommendations.

Today I would like to recommend Mon Atelier Studio in Quito!

Many schools nowadays just don’t place enough importance on art so we have been forced to find outside help in art education. Avalon took a month-long intensive at Mon Atelier and Largo/I took two classes. Both kids also took a weekly online art class which I will mention in a later post.

The class at Mon Atelier was professional, personal and very welcoming. You don’t need to be a professional artist to enjoy and learn from this amazing studio. The instructor is dedicated to helping the children learn in an interesting and unique setting. The studio is large, has amazing light and a great sound system. Nothing beats painting to amazing tunes.

I am going to keep this short and sweet, but I wanted to give a plug for this studio since we had an amazing experience.

Besos,
Jessica

p.s. They also offer group classes at night for couples or girls night. And they have wine!

Cuenca, Ecuador

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Hola friends! Sorry for being a bit MIA this week, but I have a good reason… AvaLar! I wanted to soak up as much time as possible with them before we head to the US and life gets a lot faster. However, I must admit you can probably expect my posting schedule to be reduced to 3 times a week until the beginning of September. I want time with my kids this summer and blogging will have to take a back seat for a bit. Don’t worry, I am more committed than ever to travel and sharing our lifestyle choice with all of you. Plus, we have some amazing changes, a new biz and so much more coming to you in September. Get ready! I don’t say it enough… thank you all for following us on the path less traveled to living life different. Thank you from the bottom of our heart.

And goodbye Cuenca! Wow, you were a lot of fun and I hope to visit you again sometime. Next up…Loja for some time with one of our favorite Quito families. Then the city where people live to 100! And then… the US! Get ready, here we come…

 

CITY:
Cuenca, Ecuador

 

DO:

  • River Walk: On our first full day in Cuenca we walked along Rio Tomebamba for hours. We started off with a visit to Parque de la Madre and closed it out with Parque de Paraiso. I highly recommend a river walk and the park visits. This itinerary is perfect for one of those low-key days when you just want to hang local. On our way to Paraiso we stopped at Anima for lunch. It was fabulous and the attention to detail was amazing. If you have kids make sure they get the kid’s meal, you will be pleasantly surprised.
  • City Bus Tour: We always hop on these buses each time we get to a new city. It gives us the lay of the land as well as some ideas of areas we would like to visit in the future. We boarded it in Parque Abdon Calderon, the ride was 1.5 hours and it cost $8 per person.
  • Zoo: I will update this one later.
  • Calle Larga Street: This is a lively street and a great place to eat, people watch and maybe have a cocktail.
  • Pumapungo Museum: This place is one of the most talked about museums here in Cuenca. I must admit I was unimpressed with the interior. It was small, lacked English support (signage, tours or recordings) and was not very informative. The grounds are an archaeological site and quite cool. They have native birds, llamas and traditional buildings, however if you have seen Inca sights before this does pale in comparison. It is free so if you have a couple of hours then it might be worth it, I would not necessarily recommend it though.
  • Parque Abdon Calderon: The park, the church, the experience. Take a half day and walk all around the area. Eat local food, people watch and visit the markets.
  • Kushi Waira Tour: AMAZING! The highlight of our time in Cuenca. This tour was beyond what we could have imagined. We learned so much more about the indigenous communities, specifically the Cholos. I plan to dedicate an entire post to this tour, it was that good.
  • Cajas National Park: We took the tour with Wilson Avila through a local agency. It was a full day tour of hiking, learning, eating and laughing. The hike took place at 13,000 feet, was a tad cold (ok, very cold) and had some tough terrain, but I still highly recommend it. We visited the Quinoa forest, crossed bodies of water, learned about the medicinal uses of many plants, saw animals and pushed our bodies.

 

EAT:

~Anima Cocina De Autor: Amazing food and unique presentation. I don’t even know where to start with this place. We sat down and were immediately delivered “snacks” as they called them. They were mini test tubes with samples of all their juices. Next a pepper plant arrived with two peppers for us to pick off and eat. Finally a delicious bread with amazing sauce closed out our complimentary “snacks” before we even ordered. The food was amazing, but the presentation was unbelievable. The kid’s meal came with a painters palette and a paint brush to apply the condiments. The dessert had a caramel ball that needed to be hit with a rock to drizzle it out. Overall the experience was fun and yummy for the whole family. And the view of the river was amazing.

~ Fabriano’s: We have been dying for western food so I must admit that we have strayed from traditional Ecuadorian meals here in Cuenca. We had our fair share of them in Quito and now we are ready for a change. Fabriano’s is an Italian restaurant with delicious pizzas, garlic bread and salads. Plus, it is very affordable and the portions are large.

~ Mediterraneo: Another tasty Italian restaurant that happens to be right next door to our hostel. Yummy pizza, salads and pastas.

~ Cafe Goloso: This cafe was in our hostel. We ate more meals here than I care to mention, but they were incredibly tasty. After a long day we often hunkered down to respond to emails and take care of business while enjoying a meal. If you like quinoa their burger is amazing, yummy hummus, amazing drinks and so much more. Plus, it is affordable and has a strong internet connection.

 

SLEEP:
~ Cigale Hostel: We enjoyed our stay here very much. We intentionally choose hostels for many reasons (post to come) and this one did not disappoint. However, if you read the review about it being noisy this is VERY accurate. The rooms are on the balcony facing a center courtyard below where the restaurant and bar is. The music and noise are loud until midnight, very loud!!! If you can’t handle noise then this is NOT the place for you. We like places like this since it gives our children the opportunity to sleep through challenges, but also because they offer so many learning experiences, bare bones accommodations and often lack hot water. We like to take our children out of their comfort zone. We paid $60 per night (breakfast included) for 4 beds and a private bath. The wifi was strong.

FUTURE:
~ So much. We could spend a month in Cuenca and never see it all.

Kids And Adjusting To The Travel Life

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Hola friends. Happy Tuesday! And Happy Belated 4th of July to our American friends and family in the US and across the globe.

Greetings from Cuenca, Ecuador. We are on a pseudo holiday. Of course I am always working mornings, nights and weekends, but this week I am adventuring during the day with my kiddos before we take flight for six weeks in the US. I know our time in the US will be fast, busy and full so I wanted to get some alone time with my kiddos and the hot latino beforehand. Unfortunately the hot latino needs to head to Asia tomorrow for work so I will be flying solo, but at least we had some time in Cuenca together. Our plan is to finish out the week here and then meet an Ecuadorian friend in Loja for the weekend. Woo Hoo! But, right now I am taking notes, snapping pictures and preparing post about this amazing city. Get ready!

Today I want to chat about children and adjusting to the travel life.

Many people ask me how long it takes for children to adjust to the travel life. The short answer is… every child is different. Every family dynamic is different. I can only speak for our personal situation. For us it took approximately 18 months for this to become our new “normal” and for our children to think like “global citizens” as opposed to solely American. They will always identify with being American and we would never, ever want to take that away from them. However, it is important for us that they understand the world on a global level. Which in essence means accepting and understanding different ways of life. Bingo, we are finally there! And it has been glorious to watch it unfold. GLORIOUS! These young travelers (and not just my children) give me so much hope for the future of our world.

Lets take a step back and talk about the process, the ups and downs, how it all began and much more.

We left the US when our kids were almost 7 and barely 10. It was a good age to take off for all of us in regards to timing, but if I had it to do over again I would have left earlier. My opinion is that under 8 is a good time to make a lifestyle change, however there will be a bunch of people who think any age is fine. And that is ok. This is an area where I welcome being wrong because you know I want more young adults exploring the world with their family. Take those teens and adventure damn it. DO IT! I guess you have to think of your child and what would work best for them in order to make a successful adjustment. I wish we could have left two years earlier and I say this while thinking of our children and their personalities.

Our son (the younger one) really missed my parents for months and months. We lived over three hours from my parents when we lived in the US and quite frankly we would go months without seeming them at times. But I think the idea of them being so far away was hard on him. He still misses them, but he has transitioned to this being his new normal. He knows they visit us and vice versa and that gives him much peace. He has grown to like the big blocks of time with them versus a night here and there. Otherwise he adjusted quite quickly.

Our daughter (the older one) was ready for the adventure and had no adjustment difficulties for the first six or so months. Avalon loved her new life. However, she seemed to have a delayed homesick reaction which didn’t manifest for a very long time. She then started saying she missed the US, the food, her friends, etc. We all experienced this and knew it was quite normal, but it still does not make it easy. It only took a couple of months and eventually she adjusted. She had more difficulty accepting differences in food, music, culture, language, etc in the beginning. Avalon sees this travel life as her new normal now, but I do believe because we left when she was 10 her “normal” was pretty solid and well-formed. It took time for her to see that “normal” can mean so many different things. Now she is completely adjusted, has embraced Spanish and is more comfortable stepping outside her comfort zone.

Luckily with both kids we chose to not deny these feelings and they quickly dissipated. Now neither child was miserable or sad daily for months and months and months. If that had been the case we would have reevaluated the situation. We don’t ever want this journey to be a burden on them and reduce their happiness. However, we did feel we needed to give it a shot and not give up right away. What we did notice with each child was that these feelings were triggered by something. I am not saying they were not authentic, but there were reasons. Largo always missed my parents at bed time. He has never been a great sleep and loves to co sleep. He often felt lonely at bed time even though we let him in our bed. Avalon’s triggers were when we asked her to do something she did not want to do, mostly chores or re doing an incomplete school assignment. Go figure!

What did we do? It was quite easily really. We never denied their feelings. We let them voice their concerns, sadness and what they missed. Will and I also shared what and who we missed. It gave them great comfort to know that they were not alone in this journey. We also gave them more decision-making power in our adventures, education and much, more. We have never wanted them to feel like they have no say in this journey. This is a family journey and they get a vote. Speaking of votes, guess who chose France? Yep, AvaLar! Talk to your homesick kids. Ours just wanted more of their opinions considered. Easy. Done.

I get emails all the time asking how long it will take. As I said, every family and child is different. However, what I do think is important is that the parents stay strong in their commitment. That does not mean deny your emotions, but reinforce why you are doing this. What is your why? Share it with your children. Also, give them TIME! Time cures all! Don’t give up after six months because it is hard or you have a child that seems like they will never adjust. I can tell you that for us the best times have just arrived. Truly! That does not mean that the other 20 months sucked, it just means that they truly get it and love it now. Our kids understand our why and they love this life now as well. They still miss food, people and conveniences (we all do), however they are enjoying the journey.

So tell me, how long did it take your travel kids to transition? If you are not a traveling family do you think your kids would adjust fast or would it take time. Any suggestions you want to add to the list?

Have a great day.

Besos,
Jessica

 

Weekly Round Up + What We Will Miss About Ecuador

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Hola friends. Happy Sunday. Yes, I missed Friday. It was moving day. We are no longer living in Quito, Ecuador. At 8pm Friday night we put our bags into our apartment storage and hopped a night bus to Cuenca for two weeks. We are going to soak up time with our kids, immerse ourselves in more culture and rest a bit before we hit the US full force. We will split our time in the US between Orlando, Miami, Boston and parts north (Maine). Our plan is to hang with family and friends, eat our hearts out and sell the rest of our stuff. Yes, you read that correctly. We are planning to sell most of what is left in our small storage space. We are loving this travel lifestyle and we have no plans to stop anytime soon. If and when we do settle into one location again then we will buy only the basics. After almost two years of travel we have realized we can survive on so little and still be very happy.

I am going to keep it short and sweet today. We are finishing up breakfast at the hostel and ready to adventure!

 

ROUND UP time!

VIDEOS: Have you been following the hot Latinos youtube channel? If not you must go SUBSCRIBE! This week he added two new cameras to his collection to better serve all of you. Check out this one or this one or our medical report. And please SUBSCRIBE!

GOODBYE: Well, we actually got everything done before we left Quito. The lists were a mile long, but in the end we made it all happen. Goodbye to our lovely friends. We are going to miss you all so much. Come visit.

4TH OF JULY: To all my American friends I wish you a very Happy 4th of July. May your day be filled with family time and appreciation for many of the amazing freedoms we enjoy living in the United States. I am thinking of all of you and hamburgers on the grill. What can I say, I miss BBQ food! Someone save me a hamburger and hotdog. It’s the only time of year that I will actually eat a red hot dog (It’s a Maine thing) and love it!

 

SHARING TIME!

TEEN DAUGHTER: Do you want to stay close to your teen daughter? I know I do! I have learned a lot from friends who have older kids and how they have a healthy relationship with them. It is quite beautiful to see our friends have a relationship of mutual respect with their teens. I will say the common thread is that they give them a lot of freedom, trust and allow them to grow up to be their own person, not a mini me or a reflection of what the parents ego wants. I found this article particularly interesting and helpful.

SERVICE LEARNING: What do you think of it? Would you do it? Have you done it?

READING: Does it make us happier? Is it therapy in a sense? We love to read in our family.

ORLANDO: You are still in my heart.

 

WHAT WE WILL MISS ABOUT ECUADOR!

  • Our friends (community + tribe): What can I say! We love traveling, learning about different cultures, eating new food and so much more, but the biggest benefit is the relationships we form along the way. Quito and its people have been welcoming to us. We will never forget all of you.
  • Our homeschool group: I am glad we found them. Almost every Friday we met with this progressive learning group. It was refreshing to see parents committed to alternative education and breaking out of the mold of “how things have always been done” to forge a new path that fits their child’s needs. I was inspired by them each and every Friday.
  • Amazing bananas: In all the places we have traveled I have never tasted bananas this sweet and yummy. I am ruined and will never be able to eat a banana from anywhere else.
  • The weather: Although the altitude and rain has been challenging it has not been cold. I really cannot stand being cold. I am a bit nervous about heading to France, but hey, they have CHEESE!
  • Low cost of living: Although our apartment in France will cost exactly what we pay here it will be much smaller. Food and many other necessary elements will be more than what we pay in Quito. I am sure we will find ways to save money, but I am not excited about paying more living expenses than we currently do.
  • Dryer: We will have a washer in France, but not a dryer. Although it is not a deal breaker for us it will be a transition. The kids are excited to add “hanging clothes on the line” to their chores. I wonder how long this excitement will last?
  • The park: We have a huge park just three books away from us in Quito. I am really going to miss it. However, we will have two patios, a yard and a pool in France. I think I will be able to tolerate living without a park.
  • Walking everywhere: We walk everywhere in Quito and we love it. On average I walk about eight miles a day. No joke! We don’t plan to have a car in France either, but I am guessing we will be using bikes, scooter and skateboards more.
  • Large apartment: Our apartment in Quito is huge! Our place in France will be a fraction of the size, but at least we will have the outside space. Quite frankly our family loves to squeeze into small spaces anyway. I guess we are always in preparation mode for RV and boat living. Ha.
  • Juice: Fresh squeezed orange juice for $1 on the street and just a little bit more in a restaurant. Plus there are tons of flavors! I will miss this so much! We might just start juicing on our own.

Have a fabulous day! I will meet you back here tomorrow morning.

Besos,
Jessica

Inside A Traveler’s Walls: Allison Sherman

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Hola friends. It’s Wednesday and time for inspiration.

Thanks to all of you who reached out to me yesterday thanking me for writing this post. I meant every word of it. We work damn hard as travel partners and comments about our “vacation” lifestyle are not ok. However, I do think we have a responsibility to share what we do all day and enlighten the people who think we are on a permanent vacation.

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.

Ok, let’s get this day started.

If the queen comes to dinner, we’re toast. ~ Allison

I would like to introduce you to the ever so lovely Sherman family, currently of Cancun, Mexico! Allison paints the most beautiful description of her family. I feel like I have known them for years! Pants or no pants, that is the question (you will have to read on to understand the joke). And get ready for some amazing advice on how to make this travel adventure work. The best part about having this series is that I get to learn right along side of all of you readers. Every family is different (as Allison states), but we can all take something away from learning how others do this.

I have dreams of a house in the distant future that is full of decorations from all over the world. ~ Allison

We have families featured here who one day decide to sell it all and head off to adventure immediately and then we have families like the Sherman’s who took a baby step and then a bigger one and then a bigger one. I think the most important take away is that there are many ways to do this travel lifestyle. We did the baby step route as well and it was a good decision for our family.

I particularly love how this family finds creative ways to make their traditions work, as well as creative gift giving options. I know most traveling families have very limited space to carry items from one location to the next. We are always looking for new and innovative ways for our kids to get gifts from family back in the US or to decorate for celebrations.

I don’t want to give away all the morsels of goodness, but lets just say we might be able to do a meet up with them on their next adventure. Where are they going?

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

We are a family of four. Dan, Allison, Haley, and Zoe. We hail from Gilbert, Arizona. Before Arizona, we lived in Oregon. But we consider Arizona our US home and that’s where we will return once we’re done with this Worldschooling thing.

Dan (Age 52): He’s an Aries. Now we all know astrology is not real (science rocks!) but if you’ve read the description of an Aries, Dan’s picture might be next to the description somewhere. He’s the big picture guy. He leads us in a way that GPS cannot. (Although, he’s also in charge of the GPS.) He’s always thinking of the latest business idea and that’s probably what he’s thinking about when you talk to him. So tell him to snap out of it if you see his eyes wandering. He spent 9 years wearing ONLY orange shirts. (He quit on the 9th anniversary on April 27th, 2015.) He loves watching NFL football, playing poker and creating businesses (not in that order). His favorite shirt says “I hate everyone. And pants.” Although he doesn’t hate EVERYONE, he is one of those introverts that thrives on solitude. He’s a late riser and late to go to bed. Oh, and he definitely hates pants. Dan spent his childhood moving around (23 schools in 12 years) and chose to go into the military so he could have an opportunity to explore the world. He’s nomadic by nature and is very comfortable on the go.

Allison (Age 46): She is the glue that holds it all together. (Insert any lecture of the importance of moms here.) She’s the go-to person on everything that doesn’t include money, electronics or driving. She is the kid’s teacher and their everything else. She’s a planner… she’ll make a plan to make plans. She’s never idle and sits down only when gravity has fought her into submission. She turns into a pumpkin at precisely 9:35pm when her eyelids no longer function in the open position. Then early to rise, so that she can accomplish something, ANYTHING. Sometimes just for the sake of accomplishing something. And she has typically led a fairly productive life in her morning hours before Dan has even made it to REM sleep. She can also teach a class on how to worry when there is nothing to worry about. In a nutshell, the family would wander the desert for 40 years without her amazing skills at keeping us focused and on task. Her need for social time is only slightly less than her need for sleep. She had her first international living experience at age 13 when her family spent 4 months in Spain. This sparked a love of the Spanish language and a desire to live abroad again, taking her to Ecuador in college and now Panama and Mexico. She’s WAY more roots-based and is still getting comfortable with the idea of moving around a lot but it’s growing on her. Seeing the closeness among the family is well worth the sacrifice of no home base.

Haley (Age 14): She’s much like her Dad in that she loves solitude and working alone. We have to check her room every once in a while to make sure she hasn’t fused into her bed. She would stay inside for weeks on end if we didn’t force her out into the sunlight. (She’s not a vampire, we’ve checked.) She’s got a techy mind and plans on going into the tech industry in some capacity. Robotics maybe. Coding maybe. Who knows. But she’ll be able to go into anything she chooses, being the smart cookie she is. Did someone say cookie? Haley loves to bake as long as it’s not on demand. Banana bread, cakes from scratch and cookies are her favorites. Baking is therapy for her. It’s not easy being a teenager but being a teenager while travelling the world…? Double whammy. We never said it’d be easy. Just amazing.

Zoe (Age 10): The wild one. Loves to dance, sing, apply makeup, do up hairstyles and in general, thrives when she’s in the limelight. She would stay outside and play with anyone that came along if we didn’t force her into the house now and again. She’s the last one to show up at the dinner table, usually rolling in dirty and sweaty. She makes friends faster than anyone on planet earth. When she was about 7 she got the number of a little girl she talked to for 30 seconds in the toy aisle of Target. The girl is social. Like her sister, she’s also as smart as a whip. We find ourselves very fortunate to have such a bubbly person in our midst to keep us entertained. She’s our little Zozo. When Zoe doesn’t have enough social time we all feel the pain. Zoe is happy to be on the road and seeing new things. But she is the one that might want to return to the USA for traditional school at some point. If that’s the case, we’ll indulge that request. Happily.

Where are you in the world and what are you living in?
We currently live in Cancun, Mexico. We live in a gated community full of parks and cool walking paths and green spaces. We live around other Mexican families. We don’t see any expats around here. Zoe has made a lot of neighborhood friends. The kids walk to their Spanish lessons at a nearby Starbucks and restaurants and movie theaters. It may sound like we haven’t left our comfortable life in the USA but we spent 14 months in a small town at the end of the road in Panama so we were ready for something a little more comfortable this year.

Why did you choose to live in your current arrangement?
There were very few housing options when we arrived in mid December, looking for a 5 month furnished rental. We were very surprised! We wanted at least 3 bedrooms and it was nearly impossible to find. A realtor helped us find this house in her neighborhood but it was 1) unfurnished; and 2) only available for a year lease. But the neighborhood was just fantastic and a much-needed change from Panama. So we decided to furnish it (with minimal furnishings!) and stay in Mexico longer that we had originally planned.

What do you do to personalize your unique (less traditional) living situation?
Since it was not furnished we were able to buy things we liked and things we knew would be easy to sell when we left. We opted for 5 reclining chairs – 1 for each member of the family and 1 for guests – instead of the traditional sofa. This way we all get the chair we want and they are much easier to sell when we leave. We have mattresses on the floor for our beds and a plastic table and chairs for our dining room. If the queen comes to dinner, we’re toast. Otherwise, it works fine for us.

Tell us your favorite and least favorite room in your space and why?
My favorite spot is my reclining chair (this is Allison). Dan says I can rule the world from that chair! I like to be on my computer and check in with “the network”. Or we like to watch TV. We are currently working our way through a great documentary called “Mankind: The history of all of us”. It’s fascinating.

What is the biggest misconception you had about your current living situation before you started living in it?
I think we thought it would be easier than it is since the neighborhood is so nice and there are so many amenities nearby. But renting a house like a local means acting like a local. We have to arrange for water, electricity, internet, pool care, lawn care, laundry service and housecleaning. It’s up to us to find those things, there is no landlord who helps. There’s a property manager who will fix things if they break but he’s fond of saying “I don’t know why it’s not working” and leave it at that. Until we’ve complained about it 3 or 4 times. It’s a good thing I speak Spanish because it’s a lot of work.

What is the one household item you carry with you every time you move or the one item you cannot live without?
We carry our Amazon FireTV box and a DD-WRT configured wireless router (using ExpressVPN as our VPN service). That helps us stay connected to US programming easily and gives us our entertainment for the down days when we need to just veg out, in between the active days.

What do you miss most about permanent, stationary, traditional living?
I wish I could decorate with all the cool things we see around us. The artwork here in Mexico is so pretty with such vibrant colors. Our house is white. White inside, white outside! I wish we could make it pretty the way we want but it’s just not feasible if we are only here 9 months. I am collecting a few decorations here and there and am sending them back to the USA with friends. I have dreams of a house in the distant future that is full of decorations from all over the world.

What is the one item your children carry with them to make their unique (less traditional) home more comfortable?
Haley brings at least 1 blanket with her. Zoe has a pillow shaped like the poop emoji that comes with us. They each have 2 stuffed animals they bring and their aunt stores a bag of stuffed animals that we “swap out” every time we see her. So they trade-off which animals come with them.

Do you have a pet joining you in this journey? If so, has this been complicated? Any advice?
We had our dog, Phinny, join us in Panama but when we left Panama and knew we would be travelling a lot more we found a new home for him in the USA and we visit him when we go back. It was hard to have a dog as travelers. Rental houses are much more limited, you have to find housesitters and worry about other dogs who are not very nice, diseases that are new and where the nearest vet is, and if they even speak your language. I would not advise bringing a dog on the road, it caused a lot of extra stress. I love that he’s in a stable home and happy and we visit him and see pictures often.

What is your best resource to find items you need for your place?
Well we definitely can’t live without the expat pages on Facebook for suggestions of stores but we’ve found a lot of great stuff at Costco and Sam’s Club. I have purchased the same pillow three times: once in Arizona, once in Panama and again in Mexico. It’s too big to take with us but I’m hoping to find it again when we go to Europe!

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.
My husband would say internet, followed closely by space, I would say natural light. My kids would say 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 hand mixer. It’s white, it’s basic, it’s not fancy, but it does the job well and everyone needs one.

How do you keep traditions alive for your family in your unique living situation?
We do a lot of the same things we have always done. We bought a Christmas tree and stockings, for example. We made our favorite cookies at Christmas time. The kids always are greeted by signs and post it notes on the floor on their birthdays. We had an Easter Egg hunt (using Peppermint Patties) for Easter. So we try to do a lot of the same things even if it has a different flair wherever we are. Just the mere fact of being somewhere new means we have fewer traditions to uphold. We have our Elf on the Shelf with us and he appears at Christmasttime. Last year he showed up with his new Panamanian brother, Juan Carlos.

How do you decorate for the holidays in your unique (less traditional) home or do you skip it all together?
I tried to skip it but the family wouldn’t let me. So we got some Christmas lights and hung those up, we got a cheap little tree but it did the job. We got some stockings and some garland. My mom desperately wanted to send a box of Christmas gifts. But we just don’t need anything that can’t be carried in a suitcase, so I told her to send decorations that we could use in the house and then discard when we go. She liked shopping for that and most of our decorations came from her box. It worked out really well.

What is your favorite part about this lifestyle choice?
How can I pick just one favorite part???? I guess it’s the time we spend as a family. Getting to know my kids so much better and being a very close-knit team on this journey is amazing. Being much more ingrained in their education and how they learn is so rewarding. I can’t believe how much I missed out on when they were in school. I love learning along with them. I love hearing how their thoughts are changing as we continue this journey. I know them so much better now. After becoming so close, if they were gone 5 days a week for so many hours, I’m not sure what we’d do.

Many traveling families subscribe to the “house is not a home” theory. What is home to you?
Home is Gilbert, Arizona but it’s not a structure, it’s just a place. We don’t have a house there but we will again someday. So for now we appreciate the familiarity of our favorite restaurants and weather but we don’t have any dwelling that we long for. I think it’s easier that way.

What makes you love the place you live?
Sounds crazy to say this given that we live in Cancun, Mexico, but I love that it’s away from the tourists but has all the activities for tourists. Yes there’s plenty of tourists in Cancun but not where we live. We don’t see them on a daily basis. I love that our house is big and we can have people over comfortably. I love that the kids can walk to Starbucks or the grocery store. I love that the guards are crazy about security and could work for TSA after staffing our front gate. I love that we can have an entire family of 4 stay with us for 2 weeks and no one has to be kicked out of their bathroom or bedroom. I love that there are so many things to do! We had a lot of down time in Panama and here it’s the exact opposite. We have to consciously clear our schedule in order to have time for road trips or homeschool! It’s been an excellent second stop on our adventure. It’s just what we needed in between Panama and Europe.

Can home be a person, or an idea?
For us, home is a group of people. It’s the 4 of us. If we are together, we are home.

Words of wisdom to anyone considering venturing out into the world of unique, less traditional homes?
You just don’t know what you don’t know so keep your expectations very loose and open. You’ll be surprised at what you end up with and what feels comfortable. We subscribe to the “soft landings” theory. When arriving at a new place, especially the first place in a new country, we make sure the first couple of days are easy. Whether it’s a nice hotel or an above-average condo, we want to make sure the first few days (weeks?) set the tone for a nice experience. If the adventure gets difficult after that we can deal, but at least the first few days set a good momentum. We try not to arrive anywhere new when it’s dark, either.

Anything else you would like offer?
Sometimes it’s hard to take the leap of secure, stable, comfortable life in your home to a life on the road. But you don’t have to make the leap all at once. Try out smaller, shorter trips first. Go places that you see other people who are like you enjoying. Go for a week or two or a month if you can. Just put your toe in the water and go from there. Don’t try to make the leap all at once.

When we moved from Oregon to Arizona it really showed us how the earth didn’t stop revolving just because we uprooted our entire lives to live in a place where we hardly knew anyone. From there it was not such a leap to think of starting over in Panama. Baby steps are never a bad idea. Above all, make it YOUR journey, not someone else’s. You can read about how other people do it but if they have different standards or budget or needs than you, then it will be impossible to emulate. Forge your own path based on what you know your family likes and you’ll find your own way, which will be comfortable to you. My husband will tell me to take my own advice, I’m sure!

What is next for you? Will you continue to live in your current home or try something different?
We decided not to fulfill the entire 1-year lease which is pretty easy to do in Mexico and other places. You just lose your deposit. We have too many places we want to see! We will leave Cancun in mid-August and explore other parts of Mexico and Central America for a few months and then go to Europe in mid October. We’ll be in Europe for 3 months and then, as dictated by the Schengen Agreement, we will leave for 3 months before returning again in April of 2017. Our first “out of Schengen” journey will be 3 months in South Africa. There happens to be a home schooling conference there in Feb. So that was good timing. That’s the plan, anyway. We’ll see if we stick to it!

How do you educate your children?
We do a combination of homeschooling and unschooling and worldschooling. We have a few structured topics (math and writing), language lessons in whatever language we’re living around at the time, and then some very loose educational activities based on the world around us and what interests the kids. We have a nightly research question the kids have to speak about at the dinner table. It’s called “QbyD” (questions by Dad). All of our learning centers around their interests and our involvement. Those are the two key ingredients. Neither of us are teachers but all kids really need to learn is a coach (we call ourselves “learning cheerleaders”) and an internet connection. We make sure they have both.

How do you make a living?
Dan has worked for himself since 2002 so it was not difficult to pick up and move. He’s an entrepreneur with many business endeavors. He just needs the internet and an occasional plane ticket. We also qualify for the Foreign Earned Income Exclusion (FEIE) from the IRS. That dramatically increases our disposable income. Anyone earning money over the internet, that wishes to worldschool or travel, should be very knowledgeable of the FEIE. It might be the difference between being able to travel and not for many people.

With the advent of the internet and the ability to disassociate your location from your work, this lifestyle is becoming more and more tenable by more people. This will only get more pervasive, we think, over time.

Quote to ponder:
Getting to know my kids so much better and being a very close-knit team on this journey is amazing.

Contact:
Follow their blog at www.letsjusttravel.com if you’d like to see what they are up to.

How cool is that QbyD activity? Or the FEIE? Any other readers taking advantage of it? I would love to have someone do a guest post on the blog explaining it to my global readers.

Thank you Sherman family! See you in Europe.

Another amazing story of inspiration for your Wednesday.

Besos,
Jessica

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