Can you still travel around the world when you have kids? Astrid & Clint certainly prove it to be so. In this episode, the couple behind The Wandering Daughter shares their family travel adventures and their journey of discovery to a nomadic lifestyle . We speak about effective tips and tricks when traveling with kids, as well as how learning is so much more than just academics when the world is your classroom.
- 05:20: Job transitions to remote life
- 09:50: Family dynamics in a nomadic lifestyle
- 14:40: Challenges when traveling with kids
- 17:50: Maintaining social interactions for kids
- 22:05: Benefits of a slow travel mindset
- 26:20: Factors in selecting travel destinations
- 31:20: Tips for traveling with kids safely
- 37:15: Education for children on the road
- 40:35: Planning activities for children education
- 44:30: Developing a new card game as a family
- 50:35: Starting a Family Travel Blog
- 54:10: Diversifying income streams
- 58:45: Tips for family to start a nomadic lifestyle
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The following is an extremely summarized version extracted from the transcript of the full conversation. I strongly recommend listening to the podcast for all the valuable insights. You will also hear more detailed and contextualized stories from the guest(s), as well as pointers from me in a two-way conversation.
Please introduce yourselves and tell us about your family background?
A: I’m Astrid, and I’m the writer behind the Wandering Daughter. We have been traveling as a family for about two and a half, almost three years since 2018. We traveled around Mexico; we started traveling around the United States. Then we moved to Mexico, France, Italy, Costa 8Rica, Indonesia, the Philippines, Singapore, and Vietnam. And now we’re back here in Mexico. We have two kids who are ten and seven, and we homeschool them while we’re traveling.
C: I’m Clint. The other half, the technical half. We both work full time. That’s how we sustain our travels.
A: We have a game company now to which we started during the pandemic.
What led you guys to start the journey in 2018?
C: We’ve always had wanderlust. Astrid spent time in the Peace Corps and lived in Africa for a couple of years. I’ve done a tonne of road tripping around the US. So I think we always had wanderlust. We had an idea of a five-year plan to go live somewhere else or do a little bit of travel. We bought a house in 2016, and when we bought the house, we thought in five years maybe we’d travel, and we’d put it off and think about going another time. There was a conference in Canada that Asterid came across, called the Family Adventure Summit. It was the first iteration of this conference. It was five hours away from Seattle, where our home was. We decided to go there over the weekend and check it out and hopefully meet some people, but we had no expectations other than that. We went to that conference and talked to a ton of people about all the logistics required to travel full time. We both weren’t working remotely at the time. Our kids were in public school. We just talked to many people, and then the five-hour drive home back to Seattle, we decided we could do it. So seven months later, nine months later, we had rented out our house, and we were jumping in the car to start our trip.
A: I think what was unique about the conference was I wouldn’t even say it was a conference. It’s just like a gathering of families that travel, and a lot of those families travel full time. We talked to people who were already doing what we wanted to do and got a better idea of what life was like. That helped inspire us to get our act together and do this instead of just talking about it.
C: We just needed information on how to get started. We had questions that were hard to post on Google. Having actual people there that we could talk to was all we needed.
Do you both still work full-time online remotely?
A: Yeah, we both work online. For a while, I was doing freelance writing. Then, last year, I started a full-time job working for a nonprofit organization. The whole time we’ve been traveling, Clint has been working remotely for a company based in Seattle.
C: I’ve been working full time, the whole time. When I started, I worked remotely for most of the week anyway. I would work from home and come to the office a couple of days a week. So four or five months after that conference, I approached my employer and asked them. I had to talk to managers and figure out logistics. That’s what I’ve been doing for the last two and a half years we’ve been traveling.
A: The blog is more of a passion project for me. And then this new company is also a passion project.
Does being a developer make working remotely easy?
C: It wasn’t hard at all. Like I said, I was already working most of the week remotely and just come to the office a couple of days a week. The only time it became hard is when we were in Asia; we were literally on the opposite side of the world of my company. So I had to work late into the night or work early in the morning to cover the hours due to the timezone difference. But other than that, it’s been pretty easy to maintain office relationships.
Astrid, did you change jobs when you switched to traveling?
A: I ended up leaving my job in Seattle to travel. And part of that was HR logistics that I didn’t want to deal with. Another reason was that we weren’t sure how the travel would happen or how the travel lifestyle would be. We decided it might be a little bit easier to transition if one of us was the stay-at-home parent and focus on homeschooling, which helped a lot. The kids transitioning from being in a traditional school to homeschooling was rough. The first year having one of us being able to focus our attention on that was helpful. Now that we’re both working full time, we’ve been able to split the homeschooling responsibilities between us. The kids are now used to it, and they can do a lot more independent study, too. So it’s a different homeschooling dynamic or learning dynamic, but it feels like it’s more balanced.
Do you think kids that travel grow up to be more independent?
C: Yeah, it seems like it. Some of the parents we’ve talked to have grown kids with this independent spirit. I don’t know if part of that comes from the parents because the parents tend to be that way. But then the lifestyle is transient. It comes with its drawbacks, but it comes with some benefits. I think one of those benefits is the independent spirit.
How is the family dynamic when traveling?
A: We try to be conscious about not fitting into typical gender roles. Clint likes to cook; it’s not just the mom. We try and share the responsibilities between the two of us. That kind of modeling behavior rubs off on the kids to see that parents can fill different families’ roles.
C: When we first started traveling because Astrid quit her job, we did kind of fall into those very typical gender patterns, where Astrid was with the kids all day and wasn’t working. I was working all the time to bring in the income. I think we didn’t like that because I enjoy spending time with the kids. I like hanging out, cooking, doing other things. I didn’t like being the sole breadwinner. So I think once we returned to our usual pattern, it was helpful to reset some of the stresses and things we were going through.
A: As part of the family dynamic, after being with each other 24/7, you realize you need to communicate your needs and feelings. Listening to what somebody is trying to convey is essential. I feel like as a family, we’ve learned to understand what the things that make each other tick are? Or what are the things that make each other happy? And what coping skills can help members of the family having a hard time.
C: It’s all the stuff you usually do in a family; it’s just when you’re traveling, and you’re pretty isolated. Many people have this experience now because of the pandemic and being inside with their family for long periods. When you start traveling, it’s just you and your family for long periods. So you do those things that you can focus on, but you can also have distractions when you’re in a traditional lifestyle. It’s like you have school and work, and then you have extracurricular activities; all that stuff doesn’t exist when you’re traveling. So you’re forced to resolve arguments; you can’t linger too long. That negative energy in the house has to be managed; otherwise, it makes everything rough. We also recognize we all have cycles, too. We all have moments during the month or during a specific stay where we’re feeling low or feeling high. So it’s also trying to recognize those.
What are the main challenges when traveling with kids?
A: One of the things that we’ve learned to do is not to over-schedule ourselves. I think it’s an instinct when you get to a new place to see as much as you can because who knows when we’re going to be here next. We have to experience it to the most, and do everything and try everything and see everything. But when you’re with kids, they get tired when you are on the go. So the challenge for us was balance. We were able to experience a place and maintain a slower pace so that it didn’t overwhelm or make us feel over-exhausted because then that would add to the stress of day-to-day family life. I think if everyone is tired, we’re not having fun. We do one thing a day; instead of seeing multiple things and squeezing it all in. We’re okay with that because it helps keep us from feeling exhausted.
C: The first time we realized that was important, we were in Mexico two years ago. It was a gorgeous, sunny day; we were a 20-minute walk from the beach, and we were just tired. We stayed in the apartment all day, and we needed that downtime. One of the classic challenges most families we talk to have is the socialization aspect, not just for the kids but also for adults. It’s just your family for long periods. We try to be intentional about planning to go places throughout the year that other people are going to. We go long periods where it’s just our family. But then when we have moments of socialization, it’s very intense for two weeks or a month, where it’s lots of meetups, lots of conversation, lots of hanging out because generally, those families are in the same boat. So it’s trying to get as much together time as you can in that short amount of time before you go your separate ways.
Did you find building relationships while traveling difficult?
C: Luckily, many of the families we meet tend to be doing the same lifestyle, too. So I guess one of the challenges is we don’t get to meet as many local families as we would like. I think that’s just part of the transient nature of this lifestyle. So I think that’s one drawback. If you want to say there’s a silver lining to that, you could say we meet people in the same lifestyle as us. The way we help our kids similar to the ways they help theirs. For example, Facebook Messenger for kids is a common way most families communicate; we all have accounts. Then it’s a matter of exchanging handles, and that’s how you share information. The kids use Facebook Messenger for kids and Minecraft accounts. These are how they have social connections because they can chat.
A: They like to go into each other’s servers on Minecraft and play together.
C: That happens way more than anything like zoom calls or anything like that. I think those two avenues tend to be the most, into each other’s servers and play together.
A: I would add Roblox. It’s another game they use. They play games together on their devices and connect with their friends in another country and other time zones. That’s been helpful. As Clint alluded to earlier, having planned meetups with other families is helpful, too, because the kids can look forward to that. Saying goodbye to our friends is hard to do, but we know it’s not forever.
C: One of the things that many world schooling families or traveling families find hard is saying goodbye. We say see you later or something like that. We often see them later. That’s how we stay in touch with people.
Travelling for us is interesting because we can plan to go somewhere. If a family is somewhere else or haven’t seen friends of ours in a long time that live in a different part of the world in the United States, we can plan to go there and stay there for a bit to see them. We can visit and help them at home; we can stay near them or with them for a month. It’s not just the traveling that has been nice. It’s the flexibility of being wherever we need to be. It’s been nice.
Does the travel mindset change when traveling with kids?
C: Here in America, for example, we end up revisiting taco stands. It’s our favorite comfort, and we visit multiple times. Whereas before, you do it once because that’s all the time you have. Then you move onto something else, then check it off a list. For us, it’s more about what are the things we enjoy. We’ll explore deep and find more things to enjoy, but there’s no pressing idea to try to pack in everything at once.
A: I would say one of the other objectives or benefits for us as a family is we travel slowly. We experience the culture on a deeper level instead of just the superficial level. We can visit markets, see how local people interact, and buy their everyday produce. Or we can go to taco stands and taste different dishes. Otherwise, we would be there for one day and do a food tour of the highlights.
C: We get to relax and experience the culture a little more instead of just trying to get the highlights. It’s the repetition. It’s about being able to go there once or twice a week at least and buy your groceries there. Or it’s going to the same places where locals go after work and eat dinner. It’s about trying to live in an area rather than just visiting it.
A: We see the differences in the places in those day-to-day things. One of the things we like to do is take public transportation, although we don’t do it as much right now because of the pandemic. But in regular times, if we’re in a city, we’d get public transportation to different places. You could get lost; you could end up on the wrong bus or find somewhere different. We like taking the subway in New York or jeepneys in the Philippines or Mexico City. If you’re here for a more extended period, and you get lost, it’s not that big of a deal, as opposed to if you get lost trying to get somewhere because you have to take a tour.
What considerations do you guys have when choosing your next destination?
A: I think it depends on whether somebody in the family wants to go there. Before our first trip, we let the kids choose three places they wanted to visit before traveling. Each of the kids had three countries, and we tried to see all of those places. But there was one country that we didn’t end up going to, so we replaced it with Vietnam. That was for my daughter because she wanted to go to China, we convinced her to do Vietnam instead. It ended up being a good thing because we all ended up liking that country. If somebody in the family wants to go or somebody that we know that lives in that country, then that would motivate us to go.
C: So we’ve been to Mexico before, and we spent six months there. We’re back here for another six months, and we’re planning on coming again next year for another six months. We like Mexico because we like the culture. There are certain things that we enjoy now. We’ve recognized the specific size of the cities that we want. We realize we like being somewhere that’s warm. There are several things that we check off the list. We’re starting to pick up Spanish more, so that’s starting to play into some choices. Should we go to Spanish-speaking countries so that we can keep practicing Spanish? It ebbs and flows as far as how we choose destinations. Quite honestly, part of it now is where we can visit? What countries are open because of the pandemic? What is the visa situation? Also, where can we find reliable internet? Or at least backup internet.
Do you visit countries where the daily environment is more chaotic?
A: We’ve been to India with our kids.
C: We’ve been to India, we’ve been to Vietnam. We’ve been to Jakarta, Indonesia, which is also really crazy. We also love big cities, and big cities tend to be crazy, especially in Asian cities.
A: I would we are a bit more mindful of safety considerations. Just because we have kids with us, but it wouldn’t cross a destination off of our list.
C: Our only consideration would be if there were legitimate safety concerns, things that are well-vetted or well stated that you are at risk by visiting. It’s not that we’re risk-averse, but that is the one consideration. Suppose a country is going through any civil dispute or political turmoil that plays into whether we go there. So we hope to visit some of those countries someday, but right now, they’re just not on my list.
What are some good strategies to practice when traveling with kids?
A: One that we use when taking public transportation is a plan for if we get separated. If we get separated on the bus, the kids know to get off at the next stop, and then we’ll take the next bus and find them. They learn to stay where they are. This happened to us in Rome, Italy; we were waiting at this busy bus stop, the bus arrives, and we all get on the bus. I looked down, and I couldn’t find our son. He was all by himself. He was and by himself at a bus stop in Rome. We’re trying to tell the bus driver to stop. Finally, the bus stopped about a block away, and we ran back to the bus stop. He was standing there crying, and a woman was trying to comfort him. It was one of the scariest moments in our lives. We lost our kid. So that’s one thing we make sure the kids understand. What is the protocol if we get separated?
C: I think the other thing is we’re huge on is flying under the radar and not making a spectacle of ourselves. I think we try to convey that to the kids as well. Even in the United States, when we’re back home, you go with the flow when you’re in a crowd. We like that mentality, so we try to keep a low profile.
A: That’s also prevention. We carry lots of expensive machinery and devices, so we try not to flash it around. During one trip we got a bag stolen. So that’s one thing that we try and teach our kids to like look after your stuff because we don’t want to be targeted.
C: Other than that, there’s physical safety. Make sure you are all hydrated and take lots of breaks. The one thing we found traveling around is that it’s not much different from when you live in other cities in the US; we have the same protocols to make sure that we’re safe.
A: Our friend suggested that we have a safe word for the kids, and only our family knows. If we’re not there for some reason and send somebody to pick up the kids, we tell them the secret word. So the kids know it’s okay to go with them. If not, then they stay right there. Fortunately, we’ve never been in a situation where someone has tried to take one of our kids. So that’s good. I would say another thing, and this is not so much safety. But show respect, cultural respect. Whenever you get to a new place, learn how to say basic phrases like hello, thank you, please, goodbye. Don’t be the type of traveler that thinks everybody should speak English. We try and impress that on to our kids too. That’s hopefully a habit that they’ll absorb so that when they’re grownups and traveling on their own, that’s their default behavior.
C: Sometimes, that’s easier said than done. But we make an effort in every country we visit. Sometimes the languages are a little bit harder for us to try. But we make an effort.
What is your mindset with regards to academics and world schooling?
A: Some people consider world schooling separate from homeschooling. You don’t even actually have to be traveling to be world schooling. It’s more of a mindset than a learning philosophy because it’s identifying experiences in the world that can be educational. You could do that even when you’re at home. So when it comes to us teaching our kids, there are specific topics and subjects that we do because that’s just a fundamental learning skill. We do mathematics, and it’s not influenced by where we are.
C: Sometimes, I do mathematics in Spanish. Sometimes, we’ll do math lessons, where we practice addition, subtraction, and multiplication, but we do it in Spanish.
A: Or something like spelling, we try and incorporate our location into the learning. If it’s a writing activity, I’ll have the kids write about their experiences while traveling. If it’s reading, we can read stories from that culture. If it’s a science activity, we use or experience for learning. When we went swimming with whale sharks, we learned about that animal and its life cycle. Our travel experiences give inspiration for organizing the learning activities we do for school.
As parents, do you have to plan for these learning experiences consciously, or does it come naturally?
A: I think we spent a little more time planning the activities in the beginning. But now that we’ve been doing it for over two years, almost three years now, it’s more natural. We look up some YouTube videos about our topics and research information from books.
C: I think it is a learned behavior. I think the comfort level of where we are is pretty standard among homeschoolers. World schooling is putting a world context on top of homeschooling. Everything is a teaching moment. So I think you just get good at doing that. We used to teach in daycare many years ago, and I think that’s where we started. You always had to find teaching moments or ways to engage kids. So t’s just learned behavior. It takes a little practice at first, but it does become intuition at a certain point.
Does digital content play a significant role in education while traveling?
C: iPads are essentially their number one tool, just like our laptops are our number one tool. They get entertainment through them, but they also do lots of their lessons. They draw, read, and do languages. That’s where their socialization happens sometimes. That is our number one investment for them, as far as material things. It’s become critical because we can’t carry books. There’s no room to take anything like that.
A: We have hundreds of ebooks, we’ll check out ebooks, and then they can read that, or sometimes if it’s not available, we’ll buy the book on Amazon. They go through books so fast they can read for hours. The kids mainly read graphic novels right now.
Where do you guys get inspiration from for your card game? And tell us more about what the card game is?
A: We have a card game called ‘Stack the Scoops,’ and it’s an ice cream-themed matching card game, where players have to build sets of cards. They collect points, and the winner is whoever has the most points at the end of the round. But then you can get double or triple scoop cards, which will double or triple your score. There’s a math element to the game because the kids can practice addition. Then there is simple multiplication, two times tables, and three times tables. It’s an excellent educational game, but it’s also fun for families with kids of all ages.
C: We love card games. Even before we started traveling, that was one of our things. We love playing card games. And I used to be a graphic designer before I was a programmer, so I have years of experience as a corporate graphic designer. So just for fun, I liked to redesign things that exist. So I redesigned a card game, one of my favorite card games, and we had it printed for our use. So we were in Vietnam playing that game.
A: And during the pandemic when it started, we weren’t able to leave the country yet.
C: I think they had just locked down the cities. We weren’t able to do lots of things, so we played card games. Then I commented on designing another card game or redesign another card game. I asked my daughter what’s ideas she had, and so we started brainstorming. Then we told Astrid about it later that night. And we started designing it and build it. The next day, we cut out a ton of paper, and everyone in the family just drew a card and made the deck. And we played it several times, just with those cutout pieces of paper. By the end of the next week, I had designed a whole deck, and we had called our lawyer to start an LLC.
A: Yeah, we decided to go ahead and make it into a product on Amazon, wanting to get into the Amazon product sales. Some people will buy whatever cheap product that seems interesting to them, and they’ll sell that on Amazon. We wanted something where we felt we were connected to it more. So this game ended up being an excellent catalyst to get into Amazon.
C: Amazon has been our business school; the last year has been our business school. We were still in Vietnam. We had to wait until we came back to the United States to get them printed and shipped. We just ordered and did a beta run, where we sent it out to some friends and family to try it. We made some changes, and then we ordered a batch, and we’ve been selling since July last year.
A: We just sold our 500th game this week. We’ve had awards from different organizations that rate the game. So we’re excited. What was nice was our kids were involved in it too. Our daughter helped design the game, and my son provided feedback for the game. He was the inspiration for the name, and he gave us inspiration for things. It feels like a family business, and the kids get to see all of the ins and outs of what we’re doing. They feel pride in the awards that we get and the sales.
Talk to us a bit about the blog? It sounds like there’s an interesting story behind it.
A: I started the blog after returning from the Peace Corps. So right after college or my undergrad, I decided to join the Peace Corps. I went to West Africa into Togo, and I lived there for two years. I was blogging there; I kept like an online journal about my experiences. When I came back, my mom called me her wandering daughter. I thought it was a good name for a blog. So I started a new one on Blogspot, and I became a blogger. I had it on for a while, and only my Mom and Clint read it. Then, once we had kids and started traveling, I decided to turn it into a travel blog. That was around 2014, and then we switched it on to WordPress and made it into a more robust blog focused on family travel content. I feel like it’s a good resource for families interested in the kind of lifestyle we have and how to travel and incorporate learning into their travel.
C: It’s worth it for the family itineraries. She gets a lot of traffic through family itineraries, people using her blog to figure out what to do with kids in a particular city.
A: The benefit of us being in cities for at least a month is that I know 20 different things to do that I can list on my blog instead of five things to do. I’ve had friends, and readers send me messages thanking me for my blog posts as they found them so helpful. I think the blog is a resource for families, whether they want to explore a city or whether they want to make the travel experiences a little more educational.
C: There are many ex-pat and nomadic articles around for what to do in Morocco. But there are very few family articles on what to do in that city. Some of the places that we stay are not substantial tourist destinations for families anyway, so it’s just another exciting writing niche.
Are there other income streams that you guys are looking into?
A: I think one of the things that we’ve learned, and lots of other families will probably echo this, is to have a diverse source of income. You can’t rely on one source. Now we both have full-time jobs. But no one knows if they have job security. In the future, we’d love to have this Amazon business. We are looking into potentially more property rentals. But that’s further on down the line because we have our house in Seattle that we have for rent. We’ve been talking to lots of families who have some sort of real estate investment, whether it’s just other homes that they rent out commercial investment. So that’s something that is on our radar; we just haven’t made that leap yet. We’re still in the learning phase of that. We’re doing the Amazon stuff and eCommerce in general and product development.
C: I think that’s our focus right now. Beyond working full time, I tried doing freelance more at scale and supporting myself that way. I realized I didn’t have the mentality for that kind of thing. So I enjoy working full time for a company. It’s nice to work on this product because it’s completely different than what I do in my day job. It’s an excellent outlet, and we have a passion for learning about product development. It doesn’t feel like it’s a continuation of my work during the day, so I enjoy that aspect. It’s funny because it’s one of the conversations we always have with many people. I love talking to other families about what they do for work or what they do for income because it’s diverse as far as what people do. We know photographers; we know podcasters; we know bloggers; we know all sorts of people that do all kinds of things.
A: I think every family is different, too. It’s not always that they’re traveling and supporting themselves while they travel. Sometimes there’ll be families that work intensively for a short period, and then they take off and travel for a short period, and then they come back, and then they work again. They rely on miles and points to travel, so I feel like that’s a job in itself. C: We also know families were half the family travel and the other half stay back and work while the others travel.
What advice do you have for families are looking to go into this lifestyle?
C: I would say there are many groups out there and tons of Facebook groups of people. There are Nomad Facebook groups, there are ex-pat Facebook groups, and there are families that are doing that. So there’s a lot it’s easy to find people. There are also world schooling groups because that methodology is growing in popularity; there are many world school blogs and world schooling groups on Facebook. That’s how we started. My advice would be to find people and organize a meetup. See if there are any world schools in your area. Even during the pandemic, you could do a virtual unit. Or try to organize a zoom call or, after the pandemic, a meetup. If any world schools are in your area, have conversations with them. Ask them any questions you have, or organize a mastermind session. All it is is information. It’s the same with starting businesses. You can’t start a business unless you have information on what are the things you need to get started. It’s just a matter of having that information and seeing how it applies to your situation.
A: Also, take time to think about why you want to do this? Do you want to travel because you’re curious about the world or want to give your kids the type of experience? Or is there something that you feel is missing in your family dynamics, and you think travel would fill that void? Sometimes not having a good understanding of why you’re doing it in the first place will make those challenging times that you face a lot more complicated. So if why you are doing it when you face more difficult times, then you can remember why we’re doing this? Remember what the benefits are?
C: I also think it’s healthy to have a four-hour workweek. But imagine what your worst scenario is. Everyone knows worst-case scenarios. But imagine, you go, and you don’t like it, or you start to run out of money. Chances are most people have some support system to come back to, or they have a plan D. Have that in your mind, so you know what that is. And then the last thing for me, I think, is to start small. We began by road tripping around the US, and then we went to Mexico. Then we just kept moving time zones away from the US. But we did it in an iterative style instead of just jumping to Asia, for example, from the United States. So start small. Start in your comfort zone and extend to the edge of it and keep extending. Pretty soon, you’ll realize that your comfort zone is essentially nonexistent.