9 Things I’ve Learned as a Nomadic Mom

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OK, so I may be a day late for Mother’s Day in the U.S. with this, but Mother’s Day is actually today (Monday) in Mexico and I wanted to take a moment to think about what nomad-ing as a mom has meant for me this year.  I can’t tell you what a fulfilling experience this has been for me as a parent.  Here are some things I have learned.

 

My children are capable and resilient

Now, I always knew this – but watching them arrive in a new location, learn 2 languages, make friends and become functional in 2 new cultures within just a few months has shown me how really amazing they are.  Sure, they’ve had some hard days but overall they’ve been real troopers and have taken on this challenge with enthusiasm and confidence.

 

Trust

Travel advice for parentsThis has probably been the biggest point of learning for me as a nomadic mom.  I fully accept that in our lives at home my kids have lived a pretty sheltered existence.  I mean, we live in an area where basically there is not much to do unless you drive to it and since none of them were of driving age before we left the U.S., I had nearly complete control and knowledge of where they were at all times.  Traveling has been a completely different story.  We have been living in areas of Brazil and Mexico where public transportation is readily available.  Not only that, but we have not owned cars while nomad-ing so we have been 100% reliant on this transportation or on our own feet.  What this has meant is that my girls have been much more independent.  While I’m happy for their new independence, on my side it has meant learning to trust in them and in the universe.  The first couple of weeks in Mexico where buses seem to run in an extremely chaotic system wasn’t easy.  At times they were gone for hours longer than expected, only to return with tales of being lost and finding themselves on buses that had actually left the city.  I realize every time they walk out the door that I must not only trust in their abilities to get through these situations but also in the universe to keep them safe while they do this learning.  It’s not easy.

 

We really don’t need much stuff

Again, this is something that I’ve known.  My kids have never been big purchasers nor beggars for the latest cool thing.  However, living out of 1 medium suitcase for a year I realize how little stuff we really need.  In fact, when we moved locations my girls actually reduced what they brought the second time significantly.

 

Being a single mom is tough

Can mums travel well?Since my husband was not able to join us this year I went overnight from having a parenting partner to being a single mom.  Now, that’s not to say that my husband doesn’t still play a significant role. He does.  We speak to him almost nightly and he is in close communication about the kids.  However, when it comes to the day to day, who’s going to get the meals kind of stuff, I’m a single mom and it’s tough.  I think the hardest part has been not having much time for myself.  Although I was raised by a single mom and always respected what she went through, I have even more respect now for what it takes to be alone as a parent.

 

This is the most important thing I’ll ever do

As Jackie Kennedy Onassis said “If you bungle raising your children I don’t think whatever else you may do well matters very much”.  In the big scheme of things, raising my girls to be conscious citizens of the world is probably the most important contribution I can make to the future.  I don’t know how to better do this than by letting them experience the world first hand, and not just as “tourists” but by remaining in locations long enough to join in their communities.  That’s where having the ability to keep my income generating so that we can travel at our pace has been crucial.  It has allowed our family to have this experience and hopefully has allowed our children to have a much greater understanding of the world and our place in it.

 

I’m really really lucky

Yes, being nomadic has taken a lot of determination and long term planning to make it happen.  But I also know that in addition to the efforts I’ve made I’m also incredibly lucky.  I’m lucky to have a husband who has been willing to let us go without him.  I’m lucky to have children who have been enthusiastic about this lifestyle.  I’m lucky to live in these times where technology allows us to work from where we want.  I’m lucky to have coaching clients who support what I do.  I’m lucky to have people who read this blog and leave their comments.  For all these things I’m grateful to the universe.

 

Time is the most precious thing

This year of nomad-ing with my girls has meant we have spent a lot of time together.  For me, time is the most precious gift I can receive as a mom.  To have had this year to be with them outside of our usual lifestyle has been such a gift.  I’m also grateful for that.

 

I love being a nomadic mom

Before becoming a mom I already loved traveling.  But traveling alone was a completely different experience.  I mean, I loved the independence, being young, and getting to do what I wanted, when I wanted and with whom I wanted.  It was exciting to be out in the world on my own.  But I also got incredibly lonely and homesick at times.  Traveling with my children has been so different.  Granted, I don’t have nearly the freedom I did before but I also have never felt lonely or homesick even once.  And getting to share my love for travel and the world with the girls has been amazing.  It’s so wonderful to see their enthusiasm that I enjoy the experience even more through them.  Also, having children in a new culture means that you experience another side of local life.  Suddenly the world of families and children is opened to you as well and you meet people at a very personal level when you meet as parents.

 

I may have lighted a fire

In this year our girls have learned how incredibly large and abundant this world is and they’re already wanting to see more.  They talk about where they’d like to go next and where they may eventually want to live.  I realize that through this experience I may have started a fire within them that will take them very far from me some day.  I imagine mother birds feel this way when they see their young on the edge of the nest flapping their wings and they know that at any moment their precious treasures are going to take that leap and perhaps never return.  It’s hard to think about.  I’ll just have to trust on this one as well.

20 responses to “9 Things I’ve Learned as a Nomadic Mom”

  1. Love this! Gorgeous girls, happy Mother's Day!

    I so agree with all points!! OK, not too unexpected since I have been a Nomadic Mom since 2006 when we took off on our open ended world tour, but it's always nice to hear someone else writing about it! 😉

    I wish more mom's would be as brave as you are as it really is a truly amazing experience for kids. What a fantastic way to grow up and bond as a family while deeply experiencing the world.

  2. Thanks for the comment Jeanne. And Happy Mother's Day to you as well! I always forget that we started nomading around the same time although you have been full time and we have been off and on. Our first larger excursion was also in 2006. I believe we nearly crossed paths in Provence at that time. Hopefully our paths will cross again in the near future and next time we can meet each other. Our youngest is almost the same age as your daughter. I bet they'd enjoy each other!

  3. Carmen. A very handsome lot you travellers certainly are! What an awesome legacy you and your crew are co-creating. I've enjoyed a few short trips overseas with my girls and they are some of our fondest memories. I can only imagine what a positive impact sustained travel must be having on you all. Got to hand it to you … 'waving them off on the bus', single handedly … man, that must be tough. Most excellent travels for you all.

  4. A EILEEN says:

    My big adventure—-finding my waythrough the mysteries of the internet to your blog! It was well worth the effort to read about all your life enhancing, exciting experiences. The five of you make a great team , one at home base four on an adventure, Keep growing, lerarning, loving. A Eileen

  5. Wow, we are really soul mates as I just put up a post on my blog entitled “Do It For The Kids” about the benefits of overseas life for not only yourself but your children. We took our kids with us when we went overseas to live in England, Israel, Australia, and Kenya and they loved every minute of it. I cannot understand parents who, when given the opportunity to live and work overseas say “Excuse me, I have kids at home. What do you expect me to do with them!” The simple answer: Take them along! Just like you did. Check out my blog if you are interested in this topic.

    • Hi Michael, Always great to meet a soul mate! Sounds like your kids have had amazing travel opportunities. I agree with you about not understanding when people don't want to take their kids traveling. What better way to learn about the world than to actually experience it. I'm off to check out your blog now.

  6. I'm a Dad and I agree with everything you have to say there.

    We've been on the road with our kids now for 4 months, and yes, sometimes it hard (but it's just as hard back home in a stable environment at times). The experiences we have with our kids are ones we'll never forget.

    Our kids are only 2 & 4 so they may not remember a lot of the specifics, but I am sure they'll learn a lot of valuable lessons that would have taken them a lot longer to learn in the sheltered, structured life we used to live.

    Great post!

    Cheers,
    Colin

    • Good for you for being out there! It's not easy traveling with little ones
      – but as you say, it's not easy being home with little ones either. Your
      kids will learn a lot about flexibility and adaptation and you'll have an
      amazing time in the process! Where are you traveling?

      NuNomad

      • At the moment we are in Laos. Next month we are in vietnam for 3 weeks and then Cambodia for a month or so. We're having a pretty awesome time. Just gotta work out how I can do it forever. Well maybe not constant travel for ever, but definitely nomading whenever we want.

        Thanks, I love the site.

        Cheers,
        Colin

  7. What interesting places. So it sounds like the next step is making the
    mobility sustainable. Do you have nomadable work?

    NuNomad

  8. Drew Jacob says:

    I just want to take a moment to say thank you for writing this. When I talk about minimalism and travel, the most frequent objection I hear is “you can’t do that with kids.” This post has become part of my standard repertoire of links to share to show people it’s not only possible, but practical and awesome.

  9. Brianna says:

    May I ask what kind of work you do that able’s you to travel as well ? I am looking for that, thanks. 🙂

  10. Brianna says:

    I would like some advice and direction as to how can do this myself with a son on my own. I have been thinking of this for a long while. I am wondering how financially I could pull this off. Of course , we do not need all the new things and or every material thing, but I would like to know what kind of job you need to have to make travel with a child ? I have thought of missionary work and it has always interested me to be able to take my son to experience this with me. Thank you anyone, who responds:)

  11. Diana says:

    Dear Carmen,

    I loved reading your blog. We are a Dutch nomadic couple who have been living on the road since 2011 in our 1972 Volkswagen van, primarily in Mexico, Belize, Guatemala and bits of the US. In November we are expecting our first child, who, if all goes well, will be born in Mexico. I am very curious as to how old your girls were when you started traveling as well as to the minimalistic side of your travels: what to pack with a newborn when you live nomadic (we have to be able to carry it all ourselves, so not your typical baby room for us ;-)), or young kids under 4? Looking forward to your reply! Love, Diana

    • Sydney says:

      HI Diana
      Good to see your post – good on you guys. I thought I’d reply because I’ve been living and moving round the world since 1983 and had my eldest in 1991. Ive had three girls and they have been along for the ride. I was a solo mum almost all of it and no digital or even mobile phones back then so they have had me working traditional jobs and they have had traditional school (or no school) in about 10 countries. Because I was working traditionally we would live in a place a while and then move on – interspersed with travel etc. When I had only one we lived in a van for a while, and we backpacked as well (with only one of me I had to use a pushchair as the backpack was full (nappies are bulky!!) You may or may not keep living in your van but I just want to say whatever way you go, you really dont need much stuff for a baby. A few clothes, a sling, then when bigger a backpack (my 3rd almost lived in a backpack as I only had two hands and was solo again then), if you are breastfeeding you need no bottles – if not then you will need them and a standard pot of boiling water is all you need to sterilise them in! A bed of some description – a good box works well, or a little a basket cocoon bed with a mosquito net throw is great as then you can take them outside to sleep (I’m assuming you are still in the van). You can use a multipurpose big plastic bucket for bathtime – always useful for other things like clothes washing etc too. As they get older, toys are found in markets for next to nothing but more important there are so many ‘toys’ in the world – sticks and stones and flowers and grasses, trees to climb, water and mud to play in etc. The biggest problem is books! I used to pick up books as I went but also had a lot of stories on tape (haha now you see how old I am!) We had to recycle them often and this and nappies (if you are backpacking without a van) were the hardest things to deal with – size and weight. If you stay in the van this is easier. The other thing as they get older is simply pens and paper – this is always good to have for drawing as a playtime passtime. Also when they got older I specialised in a few very small toys (like little matchbox sized cars and polly pocket dolls) and this meant hours of entertainment. I hope this helps. Good luck with your journey – and with the little one!
      Sydney ([email protected] if you wanted to ask anything else)

  12. Madi Taskett says:

    It’ll be okay even if they do move far away- people in secure relationships (like you and your husband) feel safe exploring and being away from those they love BECAUSE they have such a secure connection with the other person! They know that no matter what, they’ve got their loved one’s back and their loved one has theirs too.
    I was raised by a single dad and I encouraged him to go all the way to the south Pacific to join the Peace Corps when I went off to college. Then when I wanted to spend a year studying abroad in Brazil, he had my back. This ability to be far away from each other has only made our bond stronger; even though we live in different states we talk pretty much every day and he’s my best friend in this world.
    I hope this helped. 🙂 -Madi

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