SoulTravelers3 – Nomading Families Talk

For our newest round table discussion I decided to interview nomadic families about their lives on the road with children.  Four amazing families agreed to the discussion and their answers were so full I simply could not present them as a group.  So – in order to allow you to experience their responses with the attention they deserve I am going to present them one at a time throughout the week.  Here’s the schedule:

  • Monday –

    Soultravelers3

    – an amazing RVing American family based in Spain who has visited a myriad of different countries with their young daughter.

  • Tuesday –

    the Atkins Family

    – this family of 6 took on the challenge of renovating a large bus to accomodate themselves for their adventure.  Along the way they entertained with their own family band and are now making a film.

  • Wednesday –

    the Frost Family

    – with 4 daughters they have found a way to travel the world and provide them incredible educational opportunities without incurring any student debt!

  • Thursday – Vogel – cycling from Canada to the tip of Argentina with their two young sons.  True pioneers.

All four families will be responding to the same set of questions.

soultravelers3So – for today allow me to introduce you to  SoulTravelers3.  Da Vinci and Jeanne have been on the road now for four years with their daughter, Mozart (these are their online names used to protect their privacy).  Having sold some assets in the U.S. they purchased an RV in Europe.  The family bases themselves in Andalusia, Spain for part of each year and travels by RV for the remainder.  They have visited numerous countries over the years and have entertained thousands with videos of young Mozart playing violin at their many destinations.

Here’s what they had to say about their life on the road:

What was your initial goal for your children and family when you chose to take on a traveling/nomadic lifestyle?

Our primary goal for our opened ended world tour that began in 2006 was to educate our child and have more time together as we explored the world slowly.

This is how we answered the why question on our website before we left in 2006:

“To see the world and know it more deeply, connect deeper with ourselves as individuals, as a family and with others and experience freedom, bliss and peace in new and profound ways with time to bask in it and breathe it all in and serve the Lord with every step.”

It still remains just as true today!

Do you feel you have achieved or that you are in the process of achieving your goal?

Interview with soultravelers3Absolutely! We had very high expectations, but the reality has far surpassed anything we could have dreamed about. My daughter was 5 when we started (but reading well at a Harry Potter level and doing school work many years ahead of age peers in every area) and just turned 9 and we feel she has gotten the best possible education through our travel, homeschooling, web connections and deep immersion in her second language, literature and culture by attending a local school in Spain for five months since 2006. It became clear before she was 5 that even great public or private schools would not meet her needs, so our journey was/is an out of the box way to handle that challenge.

The incredible family bonding and such rich shared experiences through the travel has been a priceless blessing beyond words. We have been to 4 continents, 30 countries, traveled over 160,000 miles (most overland) and used every mode of transportation from cargo ships to camels, stayed in a Berber tent in the Sahara, 5000 year old cave in Cappadocia, Turkey as well as luxury hotels in Provence and Salzburg etc.  One can not experience so much together without it affecting you deeply.

We have found it such a rewarding and life enriching family lifestyle that we have no plans on stopping and know that it will continue to awe us and enhance her education like nothing else could. We are really honored that we have been chosen as a featured case study for the new edition of the 4Hour Work Week and hope we can encourage others to find there own way to do family extended travel!

How did you deal with educating your children while you were traveling?

Books are and always have been the mainstay of our homeschool. Raise a reader and life becomes easy because they learn so much on their own just having fun! We bring more books on our travels than anything else and they  many are geared to our travel. We are bookaholics and started reading to her in two languages daily starting in the womb!

Recently we toured Melk Abbey and the tour guide was astounded that our 8 year old knew so much about Austrian history. When we were touring ancient ruins in Greece and Turkey, an American  teacher that sailed with us aboard the gulet sailboat along Turkey’s Turquoise Coast, said our then 6 year old knew more about Greek Myths than he did! The secret? Just feeding great books before, during and after travel!

Our basics for on the road homeschool is Singapore Math (our 8 yo is doing 6/7th grade math), books geared to the travel like historical fiction, Core Knowlege series ( our 8yo is doing 5th grade), Brain pop, Educational CD’s like Zoombini’s, Mathra, Zoo Tycoon,Storybook Weaver plus journal-ing every day, book reports, lots of discussion,games, violin & piano practice, story of the world at bedtime?plus legos & snap circuit!

We homeschool all year and almost every day in English, so do not have to put much time into formal schooling. We usually get it done quickly after breakfast. Most of the school work is self directed and my child doesn’t even think of it as school, yet when she recently took an achievement test before turning eight, she scored well above grade level with some areas at high school level (which confirmed that our homeschool method was working).

We also do some online things like piano lessons done with a teacher on another continent, john Hopkin’s University’s CTY program and Teddybears around the world , MIT’s scratch, e-libraries etc.

We also have done many service projects like the disadvantaged school kids from Harlem, south bronx etc that come with us virtually. I think teaching service is important!

Do you have an opinion about the age of children and doing extended travel?  In other words, do you think there is a particular age group that benefits most from experiencing the world?

I think that a child that is reading well is most important …more so than age. We did lots of traveling with our child since she was 2 weeks old, but we wanted to have a very stable environment for her first five years so that she had a real sense of home.She still remembers that home well and keeps in regular touch with family and friends there.

Because we tend to spend a long time in each area that we visit, we have been delighted that our child has very clear and sharp memories of all the places that we have been, Most of the places are not just places for a fleeting vacation, but places that she has actually lived, grocery shopped, befriended locals etc. We love laughing, talking about the places we have been together and going down memory lane looking at all our photos (75K) and videos (over 200 hours so far!! I am grateful that they will be past on for generations, especially when I read that some will no longer exist in the future!

We wanted to do our serious, extended educational travel at an age when our child would consciously remember it forever…where it would always be a vivid part of her. Our extended travel is focused primarily on her education like life as a world field trip, so for our purposes, it did not make sense to do extended travel if she did not remember it and learn/experience in very concrete/deep ways.

Thus the ideal age depends on your reasons for doing the extended travel. For some folks it is parent led, but ours is definitely child’s education led. I do think that kid’s that are reading well will benefit the most from extended travel and be able to participate much more in the whole experience from reading menus, to reading and helping out with subway maps, guide books etc (besides books).

What are the most difficult aspects of extended travel with kids?

The biggest challenge for us has been books and music lessons. Our child is a voracious reader who also plays both violin and piano. We use to  bring bag fulls home from the library every week, had a huge home library and spent many hours every week since birth in book shops reading and buying more books, We were also spoiled by a fantastic musical community with superb teachers,

We have found ways around that and still spend considerable time in book stores and libraries where ever we roam, but the opportunities are quite different with this lifestyle. I am a big believer in “if there is a will there is a way” so we do our best to make the most of what we do have and stay open to out of the box solutions.

Perhaps one of the most important skills needed for the future 21st century global citizens is adaptibility, flexibility and creativity and one learns that in spades on an extended world tour as a family!

What have been the greatest joys?

All of it! Just seeing & experiencing this beautiful planet together as a family and meeting amazing people is incredibly life affirming! Having the time that we have together just having fun in awe inspiring places is perhaps the greatest dream come true.

To read more about this amazing family, visit their website – soultravelers3.

And don’t forget – tomorrow – interview responses from the Atkins family!

28 Comments

  1. Really interesting to hear more about traveling with children! It's difficult enough to travel solo, and I can imagine things just get exponentially more complicated from there!

    Great that there are so many of you out there, though, so we can get insightful Q&A's like this one!

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    • Hi Colin! Thanks for coming out to the blog. You’re right that traveling with children poses its own set of issues – but I truly recommend it someday if/when you have kids. When I was just out of college I did some pretty extensive solo travel. Now I’m on the road with my 3 daughters and it’s such a joy to be able to share the experiences with them. It also helps ward off feelings of homesickness or loneliness that I used to have at times. I never feel that way now.

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  2. Hi Soul Travelers, great to read your interview, and to hear that you are still having such a positive experience! We kind of entered our adventures at the same time, didn't we? Ours too has been a life-affirming, family-affirming joy. Love to you all and long may it continue – hope our paths cross physically, (rather than just virtually) one day! All best wishes Manny and family… (our story tomorrow!)

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    • I’m excited to post your interview tomorrow Manny!

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    • I remember when you started a year or so after we left America in 2006! I was surprised when you stopped traveling after just one year, but it sounds like you have been having a ball in your own way! One never knows where this kind of travel will lead one, eh? Thanks for your kind words & we send you love and continued joy! It would be fun to meet in person one of these days!

      I recently broke my arm/had surgery due to a bike wreck while biking the Danube and have temporary paralysis of my rt dominant hand/arm..thus that has slowed us down a bit, so we will probably do at least one more summer in Europe after I recover this winter…before heading to Asia to immerse kidlet in Mandarin. Maybe then?

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      • Biking injuries appear to be on the rise among our nomading families. Nancy Sarthre Vogel – of the family in our third interview of this series has just injured her back biking in Colombia.

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  3. Before I traveled solo I traveled with kids. One time for a school year. Teaching your own children has certain challenges but by adapting the curriculum to travel it can be fun.

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    • Definitely, adding travel into the education process is a great way to teach kids. Solotravelers3 are an amazing example of this. The opportunity to let your children see first hand what they are learning about is invaluable.

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  4. Great topic! I suppose I would home school my kids whether I was roaming or growing roots.

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    • Hi Matt, yeah, homeschooling is a great way to allow your kids freedom in their education.

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  5. Great questions and answers. It's good to learn more specifically about the Soultravelers' 3 homeschooling experience—I'd love to apply some of the same when I have my own kids one day! 🙂

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    • They really are inspiring in what they've been able to offer their daughter.

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  6. Great stuff about how they're schooling their child. As a Nomad myself, I'm wondering how they're maintaining their income? They've been on the road for 4 years now, I'd imagine they have to put in some work hours.

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    • Hey Richard,
      it’s a great question. I know they sold some assets before they left home and they’ve been very successful with their site/blog but I don’t know if that’s all they do. The fact that I put up the blog today and we haven’t heard them comment makes me think they’re in transit. Perhaps we’ll hear from them in a day or two and they can answer that question

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    • First we live large on little and travel the world for much less than we can live at home. We live & travel on a total of 25K a year…total for a family of 3! We mostly got out of the dollar in 2004/5 which i highly recommend as "that dollar in your pocket is now worth 18 cents" and due to fall more!

      We live cheaper in Europe (and extremely comfortably like new 3 or 4 bedroom rental home with amazing Med sea views) than most do in SE Asia!

      Most of our income is passive, so our website and soultravelers3 youtube channel is our only work. We take the 4 hour work week literally! We have always lived well under our means & never believed in debt.

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  7. Great questions and a fantastic experience for Ms. Mozart! We're living in Uruguay with our 2 year old daughter and plan to do extensive traveling when she turns 5-6. Unschooling is definitely an interest of ours and we can't wait to see the other featured stories!!

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  8. I really enjoyed this, might share it with my older brother and sister who have a family. I couldn't imagine the will power you'd need to start traveling with family, but I could see the fun in and value of experience with it.

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    • Thanks for reading, Robert and please – do share it with your family! You’re right that it takes a lot of will power but the rewards are fantastic.

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  9. Homeschooling while traveling would give children an amazing international perspective. Those are exactly the skills needed in the future.

    I wonder about friendships though. It must be hard to develop close friends if you are always traveling?

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    • Yes, kids who are growing up this way will have so many life skills to carry them into the future, let alone understanding of the world and other cultures that most kids never get a chance to experience. Interesting the comment you make about having close friends. In the 3rd part of this series, Nancy Vogel talks about that a bit with her sons. And yet, while long term friendships may be missing for some of these kids I imagine they are expert at making friends quickly and with almost anyone.

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      • We actually find no trouble in this area and the internet/free webcams helps some with this as my daughter is still close to the kids she left at home that way. When we returned for a visit after being away over 2 1/2 years, it was like time never passed!

        We are also heading to our 4th winter in Spain to the same small village where she has done 1,2,3 and now 4th grade in local school where she has the same friends.

        She has best friends in Ca and best friends in Spain & also has gotten very close to some she only spent a shorter time with.

        She meets and bonds with kids on the road, many that she keeps up with.

        Now she has friends around the world..so actually more friends than if she stayed at home!

        I grew up moving a lot & found that really served me in life. Mozart can make friends within seconds now with folks of every age from babies to grandparents & I witness daily how that serves her now & will in the future.

        I am a BIG believer (and studies bear this out) that closeness to parents not peers is what is most useful to children…and one of the problems with today's society that pushes peer time & closeness over family.

        If one puts conscious thought into all the child's needs, extended traveling can be an ideal childhood and perfect education! I don't feel my child is missing anything and adding so much!

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  10. This was wonderful to read. We're currently making the transition of moving abroad (starting with Costa Rica) and are almost finished selling our "stuff". We are also in our first year of homeschooling our two children. I enjoyed hearing about your emphasis on books, and it makes me want to make that a bigger part of our childrens' (and our own) education. We LOVE the library here in the states, but I'm concerned there won't be quite the selection elsewhere. Carrying around lots of books in our suitcases doesn't sound fun, either. Maybe I should just get us each a Kindle? 🙂

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  11. We have a 6 yo and we have talked about home schooling on the road. That just sounds really scary to me, at least for now. We've traveled with her since she was very young as well and I agree wholeheartedly that travel in itself can be a powerful source of education (parents play a huge role in this obviously). We have decided to relocate to Thailand because we are both from that part of the world and we want our daughter to grow up surrounded by those similar cultural surroundings that we did! So eventually the rest of the world will be explored after we have slow-traveled in Asia.

    Living abroad and slow travel has been a lifelong dream of mine. However, it's taken a bit longer to convince my other half. We are finally here and beyond elated to say the least! 🙂

    We went on a three month long cross country camping in the US then to Thailand and Cambodia this past summer– Happiest times of our lives! I find that children are more resilient than we give them credit. I find that my daughter surprises me with her ability to adapt to changes to her environment. We have taught her since very little to appreciate going with the flow attitude as well as recognizing the importance of having structure (not a easy task but we have discussions about it almost daily). She is currently in a Montessori school!

    I'm very eager to learn from other families who are already living this incredible life. Thanks to The Nu Nomads for this exciting and educational series!!

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    • Thanks for coming out to the blog. At first the idea of homeschooling can be a little scary and overwhelming, but in my opinion, homeschooling when your child is young is the best and easiest time to do so (I must admit I haven’t homeschooled older ages although I may in the spring). When your child is young their curriculum needs are very simple and it doesn’t take a lot of preparation as a parent to be able to pass down what you know. Our two older daughters attended montessori in the 3-6 year classroom and then moved on to a Steiner/Waldorf school. Our youngest was homeschooled for 1st and 2nd grade. Looking back, I now wish I had homeschooled all three in the early years. The rhythms of a young child are so much better suited to the home environment. Plus, we would have saved an enormous amount of money!

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    • It is not uncommon for homeschooling to sound scary or intimidating…it was for us as well before we began…but just like extended travel, it is MUCH easier than most people realize.

      It really is a false fear that you can not facilitate your child's learning which every good parent does from conception.Who helped facilitate your child to learn to walk or talk?? Parents are the primary educators of their children & every good parent should take full responsibility for their child's education, even if you do use schools. No teacher will ever love your child like you do & love/passion are the greatest tools to learning.

      Kids/humans are geared to learn and parents are always and always have been the first teachers. Most brain development takes place in the first 5 years..so most parents do all or most of the teaching/education in that time period! The rest is a piece of cake in comparison!

      We have all been brain washed about the value of schools…which are a relatively new mode set up primarily to train a work force for the industrial revolution. Read John Taylor Gatto or Holt (award winning teachers) on why schools don't educate. Did you know the literacy rate was higher BEFORE compulsory schooling began when most taught their own kids? Old ways of the industrial revolution, no longer serve in the internet/digital revolution & education/schools are going through a paradigm shift.

      I am not against schools, but like most things, just blindly following the status quo, will rarely give you the best results. It sounds like you are looking for greater freedom & embracing homeschooling/roadschooling can add a lot to your freedom (who wants to be tied to a school's schedule to time travel?) as well as greater bonding/ quality AND quantity time as a family & the best education in the world.

      Some of the most brilliant people in history were homeschooled by ordinary parents. Most schools are meant to teach conformity which is the LAST thing that future 21st century global citizens will need.

      For us, the only real value to school is language/culture immersion, connecting deeply with local families through the local school and friend consistency while doing world travel (returning yearly)…but we also picked a school where we can come or go as we please & do an incomplete school year.

      Don't let a false fear keep you from learning the joys & great value of homeschooling! The true joy, freedom & value of a digital nomad life is that you can work AND SCHOOL anywhere today!

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  12. Are they still travelling? If they started in Sept 2006 and the article was written in Oct 2009, wouldn’t it be 3 years, not 4 , that they’ve been travelling?

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  13. Awesome. They are an inspiration as we worldschool our five kids around this big, beautiful planet. Thanks for this interview

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