Back in 2017, Jess and I decided that we were going to change up our comfortable, predictable, possession-based but ultimately less-than 100% fulfilling lives by seeking uncertainty, adventure, and experiences through full-time world travel. At that time, we set the goal to take the next 9 months to downsize our belongings, quit my job, figure out how to continue to earn a location-independent (and potentially passive) income, and take our family of four on an open-ended trip as we jetset around the world starting in June 2018.
Are we doing the right thing for ourselves and our children? Honestly, I don’t even know at this point. For every moment of excitement, we get an accompanying feeling of dread and anxiety. What if we do this and end up regretting it? What if we put our family in uncomfortable and potentially dangerous situations? However, we expect that as we solidify our plans throughout the next year, we will be creating processes that will help reduce those anxious thoughts and turn them into cautious optimism. With that in mind, here are our top 5 fears about selling everything and traveling the world that we continue to wrestle with as we plan to embark on our family journey.
1. You’re Leaving Your Career and Won’t Be Able to Make it Back
For our entire lives, we’ve been trained to want to go to college, graduate and get a job, and work long hours to get promoted to a better position. Once you’re there, you work longer hours just so you can have the income to afford all the cool stuff that you probably don’t have time to use (because you’re working long hours, remember)? Or, you save up to buy the big house to fit your family that you won’t be able to afford until your kids are grown up and have left the house anyway. Any deviation from that plan is going to put a career-ending gap on your resume and seriously, who wants to hire a person who just quit their jobs to travel the world anyway? That doesn’t sound dependable at all!
If you are all-in on the traditional “rat race,” then full-time world travel probably isn’t something that you’re interested in anyway. Turns out, I’ve started to question this “American dream” and am trying to figure something that will work out for myself and my family. While I will be walking away from my career as an aerospace engineer at this point, I’ve realized that as we’re planning this adventure, I’m learning all kinds of skills that I really enjoy. I’ve learned how to build a website, taught myself photography and videography skills, and even researched what it takes to become an “influencer” in social media. Even if we fail at this and have to come home, I am confident that the skills (and perspective) that I’ve learned along the way will be desirable to an employer if I can’t get a job in my original career field.
2. You Don’t Have Enough Money to Fund It
This one’s a big deal, because traveling the world as a family is not going to come cheap. Selling everything you have is only going to get you so far, and even when you finish your travels, you’ll have created some incredible memories, but you’ll still only have whatever you put in storage and whatever you traveled with.
So how the hell do people afford to do this full-time and long-term? Here’s where the Internet comes in to save the day! You may be one of the lucky ones and be in a career field where remote work is possible regardless of your location. If that’s not the case, here’s where the skills that I mentioned in Reason #1 come back into play. You see, us millennials have created this thing called the “gig economy.” The Internet’s global reach has created endless opportunities for freelancers and other skilled workers to develop and deliver digital goods. Are you a good writer? Can you edit words, pictures, or videos? Can you code? If any of those answers are “yes,” then somewhere out there, someone is looking for your services. Take the time to find out who those people are and show them the valuable work you can do! And, if you don’t have any valuable skills for the gig economy, there are a TON of free (or cheap) resources online that will teach you everything you need to get started. Sounds easy, doesn’t it? I’m sure it’s not, but if you take the time to cultivate those skills and find the venues to showcase them, eventually you will find a good match.
3. World Travel is Too Dangerous
J.R.R. Tolkien once wrote, “It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.” This quote can’t be more fitting in describing today’s society, can it? It seems like every day we’re reading news about a terrorist attack abroad, a new travel ban, or the threat of the next big attack. Why on Earth would we want to leave the comfort of our safe and predictable lives? After all, 46 of the top 50 most violent cities in the world are outside the United States.
I guess it all comes down to how much risk you are willing to take. Although the majority top 50 violent cities being outside North America may be cause for alarm, it’s also noteworthy that most regions around the world are very safe. Many countries earn a sizable portion of their income from the tourism industry, so they often place emphasis on protecting tourist destinations so they can continue to foster travel. The media also has a tendency to only report the bad stuff. After all, the bad stuff brings the eyeballs, and the eyeballs make the media money. There is a distinct lack of positive, enlightening coverage of the amazing work that people are doing in other countries. That work is out there, and I’d like to take the opportunity to highlight it through travel journalism!
4. It’s Not as Glamorous as You Think
This reason is subject to interpretation. What is “glamorous”? I’m sitting in an Airbnb tent in Carbondale, Colorado writing this right now. There’s no cellular service here and the nearest WiFi connection is at a barn five minutes away. To my right there’s a grassy field of cows, goats, and horses, and to my left there’s a dirty-looking pond that I’m trying to keep my kids from jumping into. These are the kind of environments I’m preparing myself to be in as we travel the world full-time (in addition to towns and cities of course). If your goal is to go to all of the epic places that all the Instagram celebrities are taking pictures at, then have at it (just prepare to pay a little more for that stuff). The truth is, we all have a vision of what our ideal trip looks like; just be sure to know what yours is and expect that there may be unexpected paths that will lead you there.
5. You’re Ruining Your Kids’ Lives by Taking Them Out of School
By the time we leave on our adventure, my children will be 5 and 2-and-a-half years old. My oldest will be finishing kindergarten (he started early), while my youngest will be at an age appropriate for preschool. Why would I be putting my kids’ futures at risk by leaving? Isn’t the American education system the best in the world? (By the way, it’s not).
I believe there is intangible value in immersing your children into other cultural experiences. They will be learning to adapt to a life of constant motion, less predictability, and living a life where it’s not about how much you have, it’s about what experiences you make. While Santiago will be at the verge of remembering the beginning of our journey and Nora will probably be too young to remember, at least along the way we are putting the processes in place to make full-time family travel a self-sustaining effort that we could execute long-term.
In addition to these intangibles, we’ve also gotten to a point where there are some pretty awesome homeschooling and other educational resources online. We are committed to continuing our children’s education while we are abroad, whether it is a cultural lesson at a world heritage site or practicing math problems at our accommodations (totally typed in “home” here then realized we need to re-define that word!) based on a curriculum that we found on Google.
As you’ve probably realized by now, this wasn’t actually written to deter you from selling everything and becoming a full-time traveler. On the contrary, I wrote this not only to put my own anxieties and fears on paper, but to rationalize that these reasons can be overcome with hard work and good planning (and in some cases, a bit of luck). In reality, there is never a perfect time to make drastic life changes, but if you make a plan to reduce the potential for negative repercussions, that change can be a lot more palatable and exciting to execute. Although we haven’t even left yet, our deliberate approach to planning for this has allowed us to remain motivated even after I sold the bed and am sleeping on the floor now (just kidding, we haven’t done that yet but it’ll probably happen eventually 😭…).