Lessons learned from one year full-time traveling with kids

From Mexico to Malaysia, trains to RVs, here’s what being on the road full-time with two kids has done to us

In August 2022, the four of us thanked the friends who had helped us finish cleaning out our house. We locked the garage’s storage room. After getting rid of about ninety percent of our possessions, what we kept would stay in this little 10-foot by 10-foot space. Then we locked our front door, settled into our packed car, and drove away to begin at least one year of full time traveling with our kids.

Traveling the world with two kids

Since leaving our house, we have snorkeled in Oaxaca and wandered night markets throughout Thailand. LEGOLAND Malaysia recharged our wonder. The all-too-brief cherry blossoms of Osaka, Japan, reminded us to stop and appreciate beauty and the moment.

Our travels so far have included Mexico, Southeast Asia, Japan, and the USA. (In fact, Anthony is writing this from a library in Omaha, Nebraska.) We mark one year of full-time family travel while driving across the USA. A Class C RV that we’ve named “Cosmic Turtle” is taking us from Washington State to Florida over six months.

Some family travel Q&A

As we’ve traveled and especially as we hit the one-year mark, we’ve talked through various questions about our travels. These could be on your mind too..

Are you rich?

Nope. We are not rich. The two of us run our own company, creating content for ourselves and clients. We’re not rich yet, but we’re working on it. We’re simply determined. Travel has always been a big priority in our family. While we make a relatively modest income, we put that to work, making our travel dreams come true for us and our two children.

How long have you intended to travel this way?

We’ve been planning this trip loosely pretty much as long as we’ve been together. Our first date finished with us sitting on a couch and looking through an Oregon atlas together. We committed to each other, to building a life together and raising a family. We also committed to a big decision: One day, we would travel full-time with our kids for a year.

During the covid pandemic, we took more trips and got more serious about planning our year of traveling. The pandemic reminded us that lockdowns or not, childhood has no pause button. Our kids were still growing up just as fast. So we decided the time had come. We would show them more of the world within and beyond our own home country of the USA.

Did you sell your house?

As we worked toward our full-time travels, we discussed extensively whether to sell our house.

Something we discussed? How easy would it be to find a new place to live if we were returning from our travels? It could have been pretty darn tricky, given the current housing market and rising interest rates.

In the end, we kept our house and rented it out. We can always sell it, but we don’t have to. A local property management company tends to our tenant and anything that comes up.

What about your stuff? Your cute pop-up camper? Your cars?

Gone. We sold or otherwise got rid of about 90% of our stuff. We sold the pop-up camper and both our Nissan Leaf and our Subaru Outback.

It would be for the best. If we kept our camper and vehicles, then we’d be paying to store them somewhere, and that made little sense. Letting campers and vehicles sit is not a good idea. Selling them added money to our travel budget, saved us expenses and headaches, and put these items in the world for someone else to use and enjoy.

Do you have a big ambition like traveling to every country?

We have absolutely zero interest in trying to visit every country in the world. That’s a huge goal for some travelers, but not for us.

Our focus lies in a sweet spot of our interests (food, vibrant cultures, the outdoors), personal safety, and sustainability:

Food

Distinct food and pride in food has been a bedrock part of the countries we’ve enjoyed most. We prioritize visiting places where food is an integral part of a culture’s identity.

Personal safety

We travel with our 8-year-old daughter and 11-year-old son. We’re responsible for our children’s safety. Some countries face major conflict or have little infrastructure. We don’t feel right taking our children to places where their safety could be in jeopardy. That’s a choice Connor and Aster reserve the right to make as adults.

Sustainability (both planet and us)

We aren’t big on jet setting to country after country. Our travel style is more low and slow: We fly when we need to and stay longer in a country or given area. That not only fits our travel style better, but it cuts down on some of our own personal carbon footprint. This travel style is sustainable for us in a personal sense. We don’t force ourselves to race—and we don’t burn out. Our slow pace keeps us engaged and rejuvenated as we travel, just in a lower gear.

What we’re doing instead of visiting every country

Instead of visiting every country, our goal is to visit each continent (including Antarctica), along with all 50 states of the USA.

Where have you been so far?

Here’s a more or less chronological rundown of where we’ve traveled so far, between August 2022 and August 2023:

2022

2023

  • Singapore
  • Malaysia
  • Thailand (Hua Hin, Bangkok)
  • Japan (Tokyo, Osaka, Kyoto)

We returned to the USA in April and bought a used Class C motorhome. Since then, we’ve been traveling across the country from Washington State toward Florida. Our progress so far:

  • Washington State
  • Oregon
  • Idaho
  • British Columbia, Canada
  • Montana
  • Wyoming
  • Colorado
  • Wisconsin (but not the kids yet. We adults went to Eau Claire for a conference)
  • South Dakota
  • Nebraska

Are you on vacation? A gap year? What are you strange people doing?

Initially, we aimed to travel with our children around the world for a year, maybe more.. During the pandemic, Jodie decided she wanted to transition away from being a private violin teacher. She closed down her studio, and she and Anthony began working more closely together on travel content.

Our plan was to travel for a year, then assess. A larger quarterly family check-in gives us an opportunity to see how we’re doing with our travels. We talk about what works and what needs improvement. So far, everyone wants to continue traveling.

We are not on vacation. Nor are we on a gap year. We talk about what we do as travel living.

6 things we’ve learned while traveling with kids full time around the world

The Globe at Tokyo DisneySea.

The two of us run our own business, worldschool our two children, and handle life’s difficulties while traveling the world together. We share amazing experiences… and we pay our quarterly taxes. The extraordinary and the mundane weave together in travel living. Our full-time travels with kids have taught us a few things:

Every yes is a no to something else.

Some families wish to travel more and keep their current lifestyle. When families pack travel in with everything else they do in life, they wind up stressed. Over-extended. Some wish they hadn’t bothered with traveling.

Every yes is a no to something else. Although our travels are more extreme, the same principle applies to most families. Saying yes to travel meant saying no to team sports and consistent get-togethers.

It’s been beyond worth it. Every family has to choose what they want to do with their children before their kids live their own adult lives. We say yes to traveling the world full-time.

Small moments are as important as big ones.

The past year has seen us release baby sea turtles in Mexico, wander an empire’s ruins in Cambodia, and feel the heat of a dragon breathing fire in Vietnam. We’ve ridden the waves with orcas in Washington State, and craned our necks, looking up at the ceiling of Jewel Cave in South Dakota.

Our family has shared incredible experiences, big and epic and days that will forever be a part of us.

We’ve also bought groceries, tended minor wounds, attended work and school meetings, and binged some shows.

Our travels are not fast-paced. Quite the contrary, really. Travel living also means living while traveling. The business of life, along with challenges and mishaps, is simply part of our travels. Slow means experiencing incredible memories-of-a-lifetime activities, attractions, and destinations. It also means making space for down days. During mornings or evenings, we tend to our needs while relaxing in our accommodation.

Many of our favorite moments come from ordinary times too. We share discussions around the table, or enjoy a show together. A walk to the store for a treat brings silly conversations. We notice delightful surprises along the way, whether that’s a cat dashing across the street or a bit of art outside a house.

We treasure our big experiences yet appreciate small moments just as much. They’re where the serendipity and quiet joy come in.

There’s no “return to reality.” This is real life too.

This may sound familiar when you come back from a trip. Someone mentions “getting back to the real world.”

Travel is part of real life.

What’s not real about navigating immigration, or an unfamiliar language? What’s not real about figuring out a city’s train system, or communicating with kids you’d like to play with?

Work and school aren’t the only parts of life.

When people ask us when we’re “returning to reality,” we gently point out that we never left.

No one will love every activity.

Traveling with the kids at their current ages (8 and 11) allows us to make decisions together about what we do. We adults set most of the agenda and the ultimate choices about the countries and cities we visit. But for activities, we try to discuss those options, make compromises, and reach a decision each family member is okay with.

Though okay doesn’t have to mean thrilled.

The kids didn’t enjoy some temples or long tours. We’ve also taken the kids to places like LEGOLAND Malaysia, or built in activities solely focused on their interests.

No one will love every activity. And that’s okay. Communication and compromise matter more. We aim for a balance, and do our best with every choice. Each of us gets opportunities to do something we consider important or fun.

Long-term travel needs a mix of hustle and hibernation in order to be sustainable.

With limited time, we try to do as much as possible on a trip. You won’t be there long. You may never go there again.

On a longer scale of trip, however, priorities can shift. There are full days of sightseeing and activities. Other days can be different.

Mixing hustle and hibernation makes our longer-term travels not only more sustainable, but more enjoyable. We have days where we go hard on activities and attractions. On other days, we find balance by having mornings, afternoons, or entire days where we just hang out and chill in our accommodation.

Both go-go and no-go modes have their place. For long-term travelers, taking breaks is as crucial as exploring new places.

Traveling abroad opens the heart… traveling at home replenishes it.

Seven months of our first year traveling were abroad. Traveling internationally has inspired us and challenged us. We’re braver, confident, and more trusting with the broader world and with each other.

Traveling abroad opens our hearts. Not knowing the language, being in new climates, biomes, and cultures all stirs possibility in our hearts. Our wonder and curiosity has us excited about what each day might bring.

Traveling abroad increases our appreciation for the world, others, and our family. Travel opens the heart. But we find that some real magic happens after returning home.

Five months of our first year of full-time traveling have been in our home country, the USA. Our travels abroad have informed how we perceive—and appreciate—home. The ability to read every label while grocery shopping is wonderful. We’re familiar with the way things work here. Traveling at home reminds us to appreciate our home culture, including the little things that help the day go more smoothly.

Travels through our home country replenish our wonder, excitement, and motivation. We soon find ourselves ready to go abroad again.

Speaking of…

Our plans for Year 2 of full-time traveling with kids

We celebrate our first year of full-time travel from a campground outside of Omaha, Nebraska. Later today, we’ll go bowling and discuss our travels, interests, and what we can do better.

And we’ll keep traveling.

Here are our plans for Year 2 of full-time traveling with kids. Some of our plans are firm, and others, shall we say, quite squishy.

Finish our USA cross-country RV trip

We’re about midway on this. Starting in Washington State in April, we’ll finish up in Florida in November.

From Nebraska, we’ll be crossing Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, and West Virginia. We’ll spend some time with Anthony’s family in Virginia. Then we’ll head down the eastern seaboard, through Georgia and the Carolinas.

Our only solid plans include visiting a few sites, seeing some friends, and doing some RV work in Virginia.

Use the full 90 days we get in Europe’s Schengen Area and visit some of Northern Africa

From Florida, we fly to Portugal. It’s the first time in Europe for all four of us.

We’re able to be in Europe’s Schengen Area for 90 days out of 180. We’re looking at

  • Portugal
  • Spain
  • Morocco
  • Turkey
  • Greece
  • Croatia

Since we’ll winter in this part of the world, we’re sticking more to the Mediterranean area. We will be in Portugal and Spain in November and December, then in Morocco. We also want to visit Turkey, and then may go to Greece.

What happens to the RV?

Our Cosmic Turtle is taking us across the country most valiantly, and we’re not inclined to let it go.

We’ll decide what’s happening to the RV over the next few weeks. Our loose plan is we want to rent it out when we’re away from the USA. We can drive it when we come back.

Return to the USA for the 2024 total eclipse… which falls on Jodie’s birthday

Visible only from North America, on Apr. 8, 2024, there’s a solar eclipse. It’s also Jodie’s birthday! It struck us as pretty special that someone could get an eclipse for her birthday. So we’re planning to come back to the USA around late March, and head to an area where we’re likely to have clear skies and excellent eclipse viewing.

We viewed the 2017 total eclipse from a friend’s farm in western Oregon, and we still talk about that experience. The way the summer air cooled in the sudden dimness. The total quiet, as all the birds and insects went silent. During those few moments when the moon covered the sun, the world paused.

There are places we’d love to visit that are on the eclipse’s path. Some, like Newfoundland, Canada, we aren’t figuring will have the best eclipse conditions in early April. Odds are we will catch the eclipse from somewhere in Texas.

And after?

Squishy plans

2024 is shaping up for us to make a lot of progress toward our broad goal of visiting each continent.

Southeast USA

After the eclipse, we’re traveling in the US Southeast, toward our goal of visiting states such as

  • Louisiana
  • Arkansas
  • Mississippi
  • Alabama

Conference in Puerto Rico

In July 2024, we adults attend the travel content creator’s conference TBEX North America, hosted in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Along with the conference, we’re seeing about some of our relatives meeting us there for a family vacation afterwards.

Other parts of the USA?

Other time in the USA during 2024 depends on our work. States like Nevada, Arizona, North Dakota, Wisconsin, Michigan, and Minnesota are among the many still on our family list to visit.

Central and South America

2024 will have us visiting not only parts of Europe and Africa. Central and South America may factor into the latter part of 2024, such as

  • Belize
  • Costa Rica
  • Panama
  • Colombia
  • Chile
  • Uruguay
  • Brazil
  • Ecuador

Repositioning cruises

Our understanding of travel is always growing. Something that has our attention is what’s called a repositioning cruise. One-way cruises transport ships seasonally from one part of the world to another, like the Mediterranean to the Caribbean.

We love the idea of crossing the ocean by ship, so we’ll be digging more into options around how all four of us can travel trans-oceanic via a repositioning cruise.

Travel in Japan as much as possible

Our family has visited Japan twice now. Every time we left, we wanted to return. We feel a deep respect for Japanese culture, and love wandering its cities (especially its restaurants and bakeries).

Returning to Japan for a longer stay is a major priority for our family. We are learning Japanese, researching visa options, and keeping tabs on a longer-term visa program Japan is developing.

Return to Vietnam

When we visited Vietnam in December 2022, the country only offered 30-day visas. Though we made the most of a month, we’re excited that Vietnam now offers 90-day tourist visas.

Returning to Vietnam for 3 months sounds incredible. Da Nang in central Vietnam would be our base. We would return to Hue, where heavy New Year rains kept us from checking out the Imperial Palace during our first visit.

Traveling with kids has strengthened our bond as a family and with the world.

Happy New Year wishes from the Learners and Makers, Anthony, Connor, Aster, and Jodie!
Happy New Year wishes from the Learners and Makers, Anthony, Connor, Aster, and Jodie!

We realize our travel is a little extreme. This isn’t what most people, including parents and children, usually do. Parents choose how to create closeness as family and readiness for the world with their kids. Travel is what works for us.

Traveling full time for a year was our original goal as a family. We’d go for it and see how it went. We’ve learned that we thrive on the road. We love the lives we’re living, the work we’re doing, the experiences the four of us have and share. Are there challenges and hard days? You bet. But those are just the difficult bits in between all the good ones.

Now that we met our original one-year goal, we have decided to travel as long as it suits us. We will visit every state in the USA, and we will visit every continent. And we will go to each new place with our open hearts, open minds, and a slow pace that helps us stay engaged, fascinated, and connected.

Traveling with kids has strengthened our bond as a family and with the world. It’s broadened our kindness, perspective, and understanding. Our kids have a sense of what a big, diverse world we’re so lucky to live in. That alone is reason to keep going. Here’s to Year 2!

About the author
Learners and Makers
We are the St. Clair Family: Anthony, Jodie, Connor, and Aster. As Learners and Makers, our family of four slows down, connects, and enjoys the world and each other's company. We have been traveling full time since 2022.

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