My wife and I think our friends hate us. Okay, they don’t hate us, but they do envy our travel habits to the point where we’re a little embarrassed discussing travel with them.
While they squeeze-in one-week trips to Mexico or the Tetons, we’re busy vagabonding around Europe or Airbnbing our way through one of North America’s big cities for weeks or months at a time. Sometimes, they’ll just come straight out and ask: “How do you do it? How can you afford to travel…in Europe…for two months?!?”
Time and money — that’s what it comes down to when traveling overseas with family, but that equation is no different than anything else in life. Whether it’s choosing where to live, what hobbies to pursue or what to eat for dinner tonight — it all comes down to how much time and money you’ve got and how you want to spend it. Luckily, it’s your life and you get to decide.
Find your five
I’m unsure where I picked this up, but its simplicity resonated with me like no other life-design theory. It’s dead easy: Pick five passions you love, that make your life worth living, that make you smile, that get you out of bed in the morning, and base your life around those five things.
4. Outdoor recreation
I have other interests and hobbies in life, but if they don’t make my five, then they are more of a distraction than a passion. So I enjoy them in passing, as opportunities present themselves, but I don’t actively devote time to them. For example, I love food but I can’t fathom spending much money on gourmet goodies when I’ve got five expensive passions that give me a much deeper sense of fulfillment than cooking and/or eating a delightful meal. I also enjoy basketball and lacrosse; I’d love to coach my son’s teams someday but I choose not to devote my free time to coaching.
Whenever you’re faced with a decision about how to spend your time and money, ask yourself if it fits into one of your five life passions.
That new dress? Is clothing and style one of your five?
Fancy dinner out with friends? Are friends and/or food in your five?
A new car? Are cars a passion or a means of transport?
Be honest with yourself, and focus your time and money on things that make you feel fulfilled and content. If travel is one of those, then read on…
Making travel a priority
My family makes travel a priority because we love it. We sincerely believe travel brings us closer as a family.
Since my wife is a school nurse and my son attends elementary school, we travel on school holidays. We take our big, two-month annual overseas trip during summer vacation. We’ll never have a garden. My lawn will never be the envy of the neighborhood. We miss birthdays and weddings. We’re going to miss a lot more social gatherings, Fourth of July parades, team sports and incredibly amazing Colorado summer weather, but we’ve made our choice — it’s travel.
My advice to people who want to travel their whole lives while raising a family always starts and ends the same: Pursue a career that allows making travel a priority. Working remotely is a great choice — that’s what I do. But it’s not for everyone.
Look to seasonal jobs. Oil workers, teachers, outdoor guides, ski instructors, travel nurses, tour guides, summer-camp staff all receive ample time off. These aren’t get-rich, live the typical “American Dream” careers; they’re travel-friendly careers. I’ve got friends who teach skiing all winter, then travel New Zealand and Australia with their families all summer. I’ve got friends who work on Alaska’s North Slope oil fields all summer and can be found scuba diving Belize all winter. Nursing is another stellar and highly in-demand career path. My wife is a nurse for the local school district, so she receives about four months off every year. She doesn’t make as much as she would at a hospital, but maximizing her income is not a priority. And one of the best-traveled families I know, owns and operates a small, seasonal business — it’s hard work and 60-hour weeks six months a year, but they spend shoulder seasons abroad.
The point is: It can be done. It is done every day. Make it so.
Intersecting your five
The easiest way to fulfill your five is to combine your passions with travel. Every year, we visit the grandparents but we also try to meet the grandparents on our travels. Last year, we were able to get my brother and his wife and my parents together in Tuscany for two unforgettable, memory-making weeks.
Traveling with my family fulfills two of my passions, but it doesn’t end there. Travel is just leaving home — what you do while traveling should dovetail with your passions. I love woodworking and carpentry, so when we’re in Venice you best believe I’m stopping in at the gondola-builders workshop. My wife loves fashion, so we hit the boutiques and handmade shops of Paris (and leave a little extra room in her bag when departing). My son loves science, so we skip Florence’s art for an afternoon in the Galileo Museum. We all love playing outside, so we incorporate hiking, surfing, skiing and climbing into our travels.
Without question, the more of our five passions we can combine, the more alive and in-the-moment we feel. And the more alive we feel, the more we know we’re doing this whole family thing right.
What’s your five? I’d love to know in the comments.
Rory Moulton is a travel writer and editor who publishes blog posts about family travel in the US and Europe. © Rory Moulton. Do not reproduce or republish without permission.