Being exposed to new situations, living in unfamiliar places and meeting strangers on a daily basis can be a challenge at first. But it can also be one of the most rewarding things about travelling solo. You are not only constantly pushing yourself to step out of your comfort zone but you also adjust more easily to new situations and build a strong foundation. This can help you at work, in your relationship and in many more situations in life.
Whoever has eaten out alone once in their life knows what I am talking about. Or have you ever attended a day trip with a group of people you didn’t know? Does starting a conversation with the person next to you on a plane make you feel uncomfortable? Well, these are all examples that can happen to you when you go out to see the world by yourself.
Sometimes you’ll end up feeling uncomfortable but once you’re through it, you will realize that it was a necessary process to grow even a little more.
Hang on! While this might already be a constant learning process for yourself, how on earth is this working when there is more than you involved? I am talking about your family. Well, when there is not only your own concerns, fears and worries to be taken care of, this task of stepping out of the comfort zone is yet a whole different story.
In this post, I want to dive into the struggles, challenges and opportunities you are facing when globetrotting as a family.
Your takeaways from this post:
- Communication is key
- Listen: Everyone in the family needs to be heard
- Why you should always remember your WHY
- How to create a space of love
- Relax: You don’t have to be perfect (all the time)!
- Why you should (re-)watch Monty Python
When will you ever stop searching?
The other day, we went to have lunch in a restaurant, here on Koh Phangan. The woman next to me started asking questions after Vincent walked over to her to show her his toy cars. She noticed his strong little character and the confidence he has when talking to strangers – he is only two years and 9 months old at the moment of writing this. In fact, when we go to eat out, he usually sits with other people, as he likes to get to know them. And since he is a friendly little feller, there has not once been an occasion that a person sent him away or was annoyed.
In this particular situation, the woman was especially fond of him right from the start of their conversation. After she had heard that we are homeless by choice and have been wandering the globe since 2011, she asked me: “But don’t you feel exhausted by constantly moving around? When will you finally arrive at one destination and stop looking?”.
It’s not the first time that I have heard this question. It seems that people think that we are lost and on a quest to find our purpose in life or at least a destination to settle down.
While I am not saying that we will never settle down, it is clearly not what we are after right now. I responded as I usually would:
“We have already arrived. This is our life. This is what we do because we love it.”
She nodded and seemed to process the information. We kept talking for a while and I had the impression that she realized we are not some sort of hipsters who are following a popular trend. In fact, my reasons for still being on the road, even as a family, made perfect sense to her: we design our life the way we want to. No limitations, other than visa and money, of course.
All this being said, it is not always easy. Here is what we do to not go crazy when being together as a travelling family 24/7 for 365 days.
1. Communication is key when you travel as a family
First and foremost I recommend to never forget about the importance of talking about EVERYTHING. I mean literally every single thing. Even if it seems to be only a tiny little problem, spit it out immediately. Never carry it along with you. Because if you do this, it will most likely transform itself into a big fat elephant-like problem. And then, it’s a lot harder to resolve it.
Being together and most often not able to shut a door or leave the house to go for work, means that you don’t have these 8-10 hours per day apart from each other during which both parties can process the other one’s words and eventually calm down or even forget about the argument.
When you are never separate, or at least not for long, you’ll want to constantly be transparent with your thoughts and feelings. Trust me, this helps big time. I had to learn this, I was never good at it but now, I even feel comfortable when sharing something that might cause trouble. 🙂
2. Remember your WHY
While it might look like the perfect lifestyle (and to us, it certainly is), I would be lying if I’d say that we are happy all the time. There are moments when I worry and wonder if this is the right thing to do – especially since we have kids.
We human beings are designed to imitate and follow the masses. It’s so much easier too. Doing what everyone else does can’t be wrong, can it? And when you are swimming in the opposite direction, everyone else’s opinions and fears will always swim into your face. I learned to dive deeper and not let myself be affected by the current. I am, of course, not talking about swimming here, but I am trying to explain with this allegory that you can or cannot let other people’s opinions influence you in your process of making decisions in life.
Hey, it’s your life. What good does it do if everyone else is happy but you?
So, the best way of going strong into your direction and keep walking your way, is, in my opinion, when you constantly remember why you are choosing this as your life. In my case, I only have to think about my life back in Germany before I left in 2011: I seemed to have had it all, a well-paying job, a nice apartment and a full bank account. But I felt empty inside and I was not happy.
You, as a family, can do this together as well! Just try to look at all the positive aspects of living location-independently and living like a digital nomad family. And then ask yourselves, would you be happier where you were before and with what you did back there and then? Most likely, it would not even be easier, just different. But trying out something new – even just for a little while – can be so rewarding.
3. Everyone needs to be heard
Before we decided to have kids, we talked a lot about how this would affect our current life. There were times when we were not so sure if we really wanted to change something. And yet, we plunged into the adventure and this unknown road of being parents. No one can prepare you for this, it’s the most challenging and at the same time most fun ‘job’ I’ve ever had. A journey, I wouldn’t want to have missed, so I am very glad we decided to go this way.
At the same time, we loved the way things were and knew it would never be the same. Again, there were these voices from other people who made it even harder to focus on our own voices. They kept telling us that when we will have kids, we would have to stop and settle down. Kids need structure, and a home, they need familiar places and faces and what happens when they need to go to school?
With all these questions and statements, it was – again – not easy to break out the norm and choose the uncommon way. But, as with my initial decision to quit my job back in 2011 and start travelling the world, having children and keep travelling is again, the best decision we could have made.
We made it our mission to listen to our children’s needs all the time and as they grow, it becomes a priority to choose the routes that THEY want. Even if that means that we might end up staying somewhere for longer or forever. This all only makes sense if everyone in our family is happy. If not, it’s like driving a car with a missing tyre, you will still be able to move but it won’t get you far and not as smoothly as before.
4. Create a space of love
I came to learn that children are little ‘wonderers’, they always want to know what’s going on. If one of us leaves the room or walks away, Vincent’s first question is where we go and what’s happening. He is absolutely fine with this change of situation if we are in a good mood. If there is a tense atmosphere because we are running late to catch a bus, for example, or if we want to quickly fit in an hour of work before dinner etc., he can’t handle it. He will stop you and demand to stay or take him with you.
The key to this is always to stay calm and reassure him that he is in the best place possible. If you make it sound fun and add something really interesting to him, he immediately let’s go of the thought of following you or wanting you to stay.
That made me realise that he is ok whenever he has the feeling of being loved. It’s such a logical thing to say, I know. But when you’re in a situation like the ones above, it’s not always possible to see these things. Sometimes it seems to be the exact opposite you had in mind. All you wanted was to quickly do XYZ. But if you remember that your kids always have first priority and that this thing that you wanted to tick off your to-do list actually can wait, you will take off the pressure.
Your children will thank you by not making a scene. It’s not always easy but if you keep responding with love, you will make everyone’s life so much easier.
5. Keep up with a routine
Speaking of easy – while keeping a routine might seem to be the exact opposite of what you are looking for after having left your former life, it will bring you and your family towards a much healthier state of mind. Even little things like brushing teeth and reading a story before we go to bed, no matter where and when can help big time.
Not only for my children, but it’s also important for me and Claudio to have a routine. For example, we always (try our best) to start the day with some sort of exercise. Here in Thailand, we rotate in the mornings and attend the yoga classes in the studio next to our resort. Or sometimes we simply swim or go for a run at the beach.
And when it comes to working hours, we also try to be as consistent as possible: most mornings are for who is involved in a bigger/more urgent project. Lunch is family time and depending on the workload, sometimes even the afternoons we get to spend time together as a family. When the kids are in bed, after 7 or 8 PM, we tend to work both on our laptops until the energy lasts…
Why is having a routine so important? Because everyone in our family knows what comes when and time slots can be used much more effectively when they are planned out. It’s my German genes that like efficiency a lot! lol
6. Don’t worry about being perfect!
I have long let go of the feeling of being an uber-human. No, seriously, in the beginning, after giving birth to our first child, Vincent, I tried to go back to ‘normal’ as soon as possible – I even started working again only 6 weeks after he was born and we made our first road trip to Italy when he was not even 3 months old…
Sometimes I think, it’s a mommy-syndrome to always wanting to be perfect. But I have learned with the time and especially after having our second child, that self-care is equally important to taking care of others. It’s not always on top of the list, of course, but whenever I can, I try to remind myself to ignore all the necessary things to do (like cleaning, taking care of the laundry or paying bills) and carve out time to recharge my batteries. After one hour of yoga or talking to a friend, I feel that my energy level is up again and then, I am a much happier mum than before.
How do you do it when you are alone with the kids? Great question, I am glad you asked! It’s, of course, my big fat luxury that Claudio is there too. He does have work to do but is flexible enough to work around our family schedule. So, our children enjoy the rare case of having their mom and dad around them all the time. And I can sometimes simply say: “It’s your turn!”.
When he can’t take the kids and I need a break, I usually bank on nap times. Or I ask a random stranger to watch them for a while. Just kidding! Many times, I just wait and see what fun things we can do together that are not as exhausting as others, like for example reading a book together, painting or playing with playdoh. And then, afterwards, the show can go on. 🙂
7. Zoom out and look at the bigger picture
This tip is good for anyone, I think, who has sometimes the feeling of being overwhelmed with a situation: whenever this happens to me, I try to remind myself that all your feelings are self-made. You are the one who reacts to the situation, the situation is not responsible for your feelings and thoughts. Plus, ask yourself: does the moment that you are experiencing right now affect your entire life or just this very instant. If it’s the latter, you might want to take a deep breath and relax because you are most likely overreacting.
What I mean by that most situations are not as big or bad as they seem when we are in the middle of them. I ask myself in these situations if it’s really worth spending all this energy on something that is not important, or if I should just let go. Usually, it’s a lot better to let go. It takes a lot of practice – that’s why I love yoga so much, it helps you to focus more on the important things in life and readjust your inner balance.
But I am no master, by all means! The other day, Vincent was playing with his ball right before bedtime. Most days, he is full of energy right before he falls asleep. This is especially challenging if the rest of us is tired too and simply wants to have it peaceful and quiet. So, when he started kicking the ball right towards the face of his 9 month-old brother who was laying on the floor on a cushion, I first told him not to do so, but when he still continued with his game, I took his ball away and threw it outside.
I totally overreacted, I admit. But in the situation, I was so angry and I didn’t see any other solution. Later, I felt stupid because there are a million ways to react better than this. I could have moved his little brother or distracted him with some other toy.
You see, if I had taken my own advice that I am sharing with you today, then I would have totally said that the situation is not affecting my life as a whole and that I should not spend any negative energy on it. Zoom out and look at those kinds of moments as often as you can. It’s so helpful!
8. Make every day a fun day
Travelling and working remotely can result in a blur of endless days of sunshine. It’s very easy to forget which weekday or date it is. And because we humans always get bored with everything after a while, it might happen so that we sometimes feel bored by yet another beautiful sunset or yummy tropical fruit juice. Even if you are not travelling like us, you can probably relate to that. Your life might be really good and still, sometimes you forget to appreciate all the positive aspects of it.
What helps me the most when I get a feeling of boredom or when I notice that my three boys fall into a low mood, then I pull the silly card. Laughing and fooling around is like waking everyone up and reminding ourselves that life is good. Making fun or doing something completely different helps a lot with staying connected as a family. So, if you can, you might want to try humming (just for yourself or with sound) Monty Python’s version of ‘Always look at the bright side of life…’. And I am sure you’ll instantly feel a little better!
I consider my family as some sort of company or community: we all have our roles to play and every character contributes to our well-being. While it is not always easy to be together every single day, we have found that living the digital nomad lifestyle as a family is such a fun way. As long as you remember the reason why you initially chose to start this journey and if you always keep in mind that most situations are not as bad as they seem, you can make this work and be a much happier family than you used to be.
Please let us know what you think about these tips in the comments below. Did we miss something? What is your best advice for someone starting out as a digital nomad family?