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This post is hard to write because our family lifestyle has very little consistency, nothing is fixed and the sands are always shifting. But people ask and people assume, so I’ll do my best to tell you about family life on the road, as it is. We’ve been travelling for 3.5 years now with two kids who were 6 and 8, now they’re 10 and 12. Obviously, their normal development brings a significant change in the family dynamic. My work, my career as a travel blogger, has become bigger, it dominates our lifestyle more now. But let’s see if I can explain a little about how family life on the road works.
Our Family Lifestyle
I wrote a post a few years ago ” What do we do all day?” it was set on Ko Phangan, Thailand, where we stayed for 6 weeks after my husband’s emergency surgery. A reader asked, so I answered her question. Much of it still holds true, our days are filled with meal times, walking, exploring, visiting, washing, laundry, reading and computers. To me it’s obvious, to you it could be totally alien.
Family Lifestyle and Being a Travel Blogger
I work very hard at what I do. If you just read email updates or occasionally click-through from Facebook, you’re only seeing the tip of the iceberg. I start work around 4am, every morning and put in as many hours as I possibly can throughout the day. Our family lifestyle fits around my work, it’s not determined by what has to be done to make a living.
That 4am start is to get a few hours in before the boys wake up, I have to be mum first, blogger second, mostly. Sometimes they just have to wait ’till I’m done, but it’s rare. I work far harder than I ever did at the hospital and put in more hours. But it’s a lot more enjoyable!
I love what I do but I don’t just do it for fun, the websites (there are 6, that was a mistake!) provide our income and it takes constant work to keep that trickle of money coming in. Blogging is not, by any means, a set it and forget it, passive income generating machine. At this stage, it takes constant daily work to get people to the pages and grow that income to a point where we can rely on it.
Maybe I’m doing it wrong. Possibly I am, but I’ve learnt a lot, starting from scratch 5 years ago and we do make a living blogging.
I don’t have any assistants or VAs and writers. Most bloggers do, a whole team even. I need help, but so far I’ve not found time to organise it.
We very rarely do promotional or sponsored work. When we do it’s cool, it makes a change, but mostly we travel our way. I don’t like having my hands tied by third-party requirements and I take professional perfectionism too seriously to take on sponsorship deals lightly.
We have 5 nights in fancy hotels in Phuket coming up, 5 nights out of a 6-week trip. That is enough, more and it would spoil our travel experience. Yes, we pay for our travel ourselves, I’ve never done a press trip and wouldn’t want to unless it was something that was good for the whole family.
When we’re on the road I work less, time is scarce, and when we settle for a while the available work hours increase.
Our Family Lifestyle and Being Frugal – Money
We spend as little as possible to do the things we want to do, our lifestyle is frugal or “budget.” If those things are expensive, so be it. If we really want to do something we spend the cash. We don’t scrimp but we don’t buy stuff we don’t need either (with the possible exception of Pokémon cards).
Sharing Our Family’s Lifestyle in Public
I’ve been asked many times how I feel about being so public with our lives. It’s a reasonable question, it looks like we share everything. We don’t of course, anything we want kept private, stays private.
Some things I’m comfortable with. I’m very open with talking about money and things like menopause. As a medical scientist I’m well used to talking about physical things and I think it’s a topic that should be discussed openly, particularly when it could help younger women. Some women would shy away from topics they consider personal or embarrassing. Stuff that! It’s about personal boundaries, yours aren’t necessarily mine.
I think people need to know that travel is desirable and affordable and that there are alternate ways of making a living. I’m on a mission to tell the world. We have nothing to hide there.
When it comes to protecting my kids, I’ll go silent. I will never and have never, used them to get page views.
Family Lifestyle and Being Mum
I’m mum to these two precious boys when they need me. I’ve been their constant companion for 12 years, there’s never been a day that I haven’t spent with at least 1 of them (my elder child went to school briefly, we regret that). They are my life, my reason for existing. I’ve said before that the day I started homeschooling was the day I realised what my life and interminable education had been about. That still stands.
The elder child is 12 now and we have the sort of relationship where we laugh a lot, together and at each other. The younger child is still my baby, when he wants to he’ll snuggle up with me. Both will still hold my hand in public, even though hands are now bigger than mine.
Lifestyle and Being Wife
Chef and I have been together forever, supported each other totally through everything the world throws at us and that’s all I need to say. We are rock solid. You see, I don’t share everything.
Family Lifestyle and Daily Practicalities
Laundry, eating, cleaning, washing, shopping, cleaning teeth, they still happen. Of course they do. On long-term stays (London, Romania, Vietnam) I return to being housekeeper, in hotels others take the strain. It’s different wherever we go, but always pretty easy, no big deal. We work as a team, there are no chores or schedules, we just pull together.
Lifestyle, Health and Diet
We’ve never had any difficulty finding doctors or dentists wherever we’ve been in the world. Medical intervention has been needed less than a dozen times over the last 3.5 years. Chef had a tooth pulled in Guatemala, I had a filling, the boys had dental checkups, all good.
Chef had surgery in Thailand, one of the kids had antibiotics for tonsillitis, once, one child had a hospital visit for suspected Dengue and I was treated for giardia after India (The antibiotics made me sicker than the bug!).
Chef famously had emergency surgery in Thailand. No problem, all went well. Menopause has given me a hard time but that’s just life. I’d rather do it travelling than stuck at home.
Diet-wise, we’re not picky. We eat pretty well, Chef is an extreme athlete, he eats Mc Breakfasts sometimes along with the rest of us. Supplements are handy, your intake of, for instance, green veg. meat or dairy, can go down dramatically in some countries.
I’ve been vegetarian most of my life, that’s easy, being vegan was hard. I’m eating meat occasionally at the moment. We eat out 3 times per day in Asia, every day. Eating out is cheaper than cooking in some parts of the world. In Romania or London I cook. There’s really not much to tell!
The Kids’ Education
It changes all the time. Because I had those few years of being a registered, government-approved, homeschooler in Australia, I’ve done my research and I think I know what I’m doing. I was asked to speak on a panel at an Australian Homeschooling Conference recently, get me!
These days we’ve more or less shifted to the UK way of doing things. The UK has more flexibility and more options along with a standard curriculum that I prefer. If the boys choose to take exams at 16 or 18, it will most likely be through the UK’s iGCSE system. If either of them wants to go to school at any point, they can, it will most likely be in the UK. If they want to go to university, we’ll make it happen.
They’re too young to know what they want to do yet, I didn’t know until I was 40+ (I’m doing it!) but I’ll tell you that both of them now have very small, fledgling income streams. If they can set up an income stream online (youtube, websites, affiliate sales, blogging etc), it will increase their life options and be a great showcase of their abilities. The world has changed and I’m waiting for everyone to catch up, we really don’t care about paper qualifications, and neither do employers in the fields that we think (right now) they may go into. That could change again in future.
You can teach yourself just about anything from the internet. Nobody needs lessons anymore in many fields, teachers are not the holders of knowledge.
Want to know more about a Worldschooling lifestyle? click here.
Want to know more about blogging and earning online? click here.
We 3 are together all the time. Chef occasionally works away from us, we miss him, but we’re fine as just 3. When we are 4, which is most of the year, we eat together, play together, all go to bed at the same time in whatever sleeping configuration works best and split our time between what’s best for the kids and what’s best for the grown-ups.
Sometimes we take trips just for one member of the family, Wales was for Chef, for his Ironman. Greece was for my history and mythology obsessed child. Trekking to Tangboche monastery was for me and my total love of the Himalayas. My younger child is just happy with Pokémon. He’s very impressed with the Pokémon opportunities here in Thailand, but one day maybe he’ll pick a trip other than Disney. We’ll be home in London soon for them to catch up with friends and family, for a while. London with kids is the best!
Some mornings we adapt life to allow Chef a 3 hour training ride, other days I’ll be allowed some quiet hours to work. Yesterday one of them wanted to go on a Poke-walk, he adores Pokémon Go, so 2 of us took off to a temple. We find ways to keep everyone happy.
We have no fixed rules, timetables or schedules. If we find ourselves hanging about doing nothing too much (which for us means, using computers all day), I’ll break out the school books.
Our Friends and Family
We have really good friends all over the world. We don’t see them to play once a week or for coffee on a Tuesday and a Saturday night pint, we see them in intensive short bursts. It works and it’s a great lifestyle choice.
We’ve lost several old friends and a few family members along the way. Resentment runs high when you’re perceived as rejecting something. Sad, but I think unavoidable. The new friends and support network make up for it and those people are welcome back in our lives when they’re ready.
We also meet people all the time. I’m stunned by how many families we’re meeting in Chiang Mai and most of them seem to know us already, but it doesn’t have to be families. Some of my boys’ best friends are adults, old and young. They learn so much from meeting diverse and interesting people, all of them, without exception, living life uniquely.
We’ve never received negative comments in the media, others have and part of me is waiting for it to happen. I’ve had good friends ripped apart by trashy publications, they get over it but it’s not fair and it’s not nice. Maybe we’ve escaped because we’ve never taken our story to the papers. We’re fairly publicity-shy.
If it happens I think I’m strong enough to deal with it now, we’ve been doing this a long time and the results are good, there’s no supposition on what might happen. We’ve almost proved that our lifestyle works and is good for the kids. The worst I’ve been called is self-indulgent. The person accusing me of that was wrong, simply wrong. I don’t know where people get their strange opinions on our lifestyle and chosen way of living our lives.
We’re very happy with how things are, if we weren’t we’d change something. If you would prefer an alternative family lifestyle don’t be afraid to change things. I’ve had a normal working lifestyle, a student lifestyle, and now a farming or homesteading lifestyle. They are all what you make them, but for us travel was the best of the lot. You don’t have to be the same as everyone else, don’t be afraid to live differently.
Is there anything I’ve missed? If there is, leave me a comment and I’ll add it to the post.
All the very best and wherever you are in the world, live your life to the fullest, your way.
Back to our Living Differently series or read how to sell everything and start over in a travel lifestyle.