How to live a Nomad life with kids? Is it possible? The answer is yes! Of course it takes some planning and forethought. Its not without some element of RISK and Stress of course. We quit our jobs, I closed my yoga studio down. Yikes that’s scary enough in itself right! Yet, what’s life without risk? Yes, there is the budget and the family home, affordability. All this needs to be weighed up realistically before you make any BOLD moves.
Your kids will possibly kick up a big fat stink as well. You will have to endure hours of torturous questions and tantrums such as “what will I do without my friends”, “It will be so boring”, “Ill have nothing to do” and so on. Of course your kids will be dubious and fearful, as well as sad to leave their homes, friends, families and their comfy lives. Its natural for them to feel this way. We began discussing the ‘idea’ with our daughter as soon as we had begun to plan our trip. We kept lines of communication open at all times, listened to her concerns and worries, talked them out. It is important to be honest and open. Our daughter Ella now still asks when we will be going home, to be honest we don’t have an answer yet.
Don’t get me wrong she is not with under duress. She is having a ball, but like any of us we miss the perks of a comfy bed, stable home environment and our TV. So, its important to be realistic and know that your kids will not always be jumping for joy like you are to be hitting the road. Does that mean you don’t go? Only you can answer that question. That is up to you. But, I will say we have no regrets at all at this stage. Each day is filled with awe and new places, smells, sounds, sights and experiences. Those experiences cannot be found on a regular day back in the burbs at home. Together, you will grow as a family, stronger, closer and more resilient. Its not chipper everyday, we have our arguments because we live on top of each other. We say GO TO YOUR ROOM ELLA – hmmmm what room he heee.
So, there are many ways we can live a nomadic lifestyle and enjoy all its fruits when with kids. It is all in the planning and what you allocate in your budget. What you’re willing to give up in order to live in the moment? Only time we have is really is now (no its not a cliche’ its really real, its fact). We can plan, plan, plan away for our future and it may never come. Really, like, do you know when your expiry date is? If you do, I’d love to know.
And yes, yes I know what your thinking in your head, or out load. Yeah, but she’s only got one kid. Ok, so you got me there. Yes, indeed I do have one kid (fact)and it is more affordable of course. So, you get better at planning, budgeting and compromising in order to make things fit. Lets delve a little deeper here.
First of all, if you are reading this blog its important to note that all countries are different with regards to taking your kids out of school. In Australia and New Zealand it is not really any issue. You do need to inform the education department of your intentions. Let your school know of course and then decide on how you wish to home school during your time away.
You do not have to school them if you choose not to (if you’re Australian). However, depending on how long you intend to be on the road will depend on how much your child falls back. Also their age will have a significant impact on their learning and curriculum, so doing some research is important. It is our legal duty to ensure that our children get an education, so how you provide this is up to you. Your choice would be Distance Education or Home Schooling Curriculum. There are many available and viable options around the world. For us, we have also written a blog on homeschooling you might find useful. See below more about legalities worldwide, We chose to use a homeschooling program that offers a comprehensive online program Complete Education Australia.
UK – The answer is yes you can take your child out of school, however, you may be fined in doing so. The penalty and fine is not huge, but be warned the school has the right to do so. Hopefully, the school will accept your written notification of intent to travel long term with you kids and you should be ok. Home schooling although not endorsed in UK can be done. You do have the right and the option to take your child out of a public or private school and home school them depending on the circumstances. The law states that parents have the legal responsibility to ensure that their children receive an education. I have added a couple of useful links here for you to read. Do note that in the UK you do have to inform the school, you cannot just take them out of school otherwise you face penalties and fines up to 1000 pounds.
USA and CANADA
It is legal to home school
It varies from each country, some state it is illegal to home school children and others allow it. Please see the table listed here on wikipedia.
ASIA, TURKEY, INDIA and MORE
Again some surprising finds here. The link above will give you a clear outline as to whether your country allows homeschooling as an option or not. However, regardless of where you live and where you are from, it is always imperative that you check in with the authorities first. I suggest chat with you school first and then go from there. I will be writing a whole blog on home schooling shortly so this may also assist you in your research. There is not much information out there. So why I decided to write these blogs.
Basically, home schooling is really affordable, its accessible and its possible. We pay around $575 for 3 terms in advance. Ella normally attends a catholic school which is much more expensive. So we have found enrolling with Complete Education Australia viable option. You will most likely need to buy a device such as a laptop or ipad for your kids if they are studying online as well as perhaps all the necessary tools such as pens, paper, texta’s, pencils, term books and novels. We also get a work book printed each term.
I need to be brutally honest, travelling on a shoe string budget with your kids is challenging. We researched for months prior as to how we could make nomad travel possible. We tossed up staying for 6 months initially, then we extended our plan to 12 months.Because, once you are committed you may as well take as long as you can. Packing up your home, giving up a regular income and job, buying a van oversea’s. Why would you bother doing all that for 6 months?
Now, we are thinking we may be on the road for 18 months or longer. You may have to quit your job, close a business? Thinking about how you can fund your trip is so important. Believe me, as much as we like to think we can stick to a budget, things come up. Plans go awry, you need to have enough money to be able to fore see any emergencies, changes to the plans if things don’t go accordingly.
Finding a suitable solution for your transport and accommodation whilst on the road is the key. It needs to be affordable, it needs to be sustainable and safe for you and your kids. We tossed up leasing a car initially but for us it was not affordable. Then we thought about camping and we are so glad we didn’t as set up and pack down would have driven us mad. For some it would be a hoot I’m sure (if you are a bigger family all hands on deck would work fine). Just wasn’t the right option for us. Some families choose air bnb and combination of trains and buses to get around. Others will choose to camp and hire cars, use a combination of trains, planes and buses. And, some like us will decide to buy a campervan or a motorhome to travel in.
For us this was the most sustainable and affordable option for our year long travels. Of course you will need to have savings or a line of credit to purchase a motorhome or campervan. If borrowing money for your trip you need to factor the costs of interest over the time you travel. We have had to use our line of credit, this all adds to the overall costs. But, in the end it still ended up be much more viable and cheaper to buy a motorhome than to lease, rent or enter into a buy back scheme. To lease or hire a motorhome or car is dead money. If money is not an option, you may choose some of the other options I have discussed earlier on.
In the long run buying your own home/transport will allow you to travel long term, give you a roof over your head, allow you get from A to B. The beauty about purchasing your own van is that you can sell it at the end of your trip which means your year long stay has cost you very little in terms of accommodation and travel. Your investment over 12 months will not have diminished, most likely you will be able to sell your van for same or similar price you brought it at or at the very least for not much less (if the van is well looked after).
BUT BE WARNED – buying a cheaper van will inevitably give you grief. We have heard of many who opted to choose buy back options and ended up stranded on the road with big bills to pay to fix their van. Buy back options usually entail buying older vans that have large KM’s on the clock and you will have to forfeit a large chunk of $$ at the end of your term. When selling your van there are so many facebook pages where you can advertise on to sell privately.
You can also sell on Ebay, Gumtree and AutoTraders in the UK. There are also many, many campervan/caravan wholesalers and businesses that will also pay you good money if you wish off load your van quickly. They will of course sell your van for a premium price but in the end if you have to sell for less that you bought but still get a good price it will work out much better for your financially then a buy back scheme. Also, buying a cheap van that is not road worthy is too risky when you have kids. Is it really worth it?
Being stranded roadside without accommodation or transport is a total headache. Make sure you get your van checked out and that it is MOT or Road worthy. Remember if you invest wisely you will get your money back at the end of your trip. If you buy a dud you will end up regretting it. We have bought a 2014 model with only 15 K on the clock. It so far has run like a dream. It is piece of mind for us.
We have written a blog on how to buy a motorhome when you travel into Europe. There are many options again here and its not a simple solution. For more details click here.
If you own a home you need to take time to plan your options. We chose to rent our home out. This would provide us with a small income and ensure our home was looked after whilst we are away. So as a home owner things to consider prior to leaving are:
All this took us at least 3 months prior. We needed to find suitable tenants who would be happy to sign a 12 month contract.
If you are renting then this alleviates some of the stress. You could choose to store your belongings or sell as much as you via facebook market place, gumtree, ebay, garage sales. This all adds money to the bank. If you cant bare to part with your stuff then storage is your next option. Or finding a Bestie, Mum, Dad or Aunty Marg may be happy for you to store your stuff with them.
Since we have been on the road we have had a number of incidents we had not been prepared for. Accidents happen, miscalculations, unexpected bills crop up. Make sure that you have some money left in the kitty for you and your family in times of emergencies. We ended up putting petrol in a diesel car at one point, this ended up costing us a cool $500 for them to siphon out and fix.
What I found after scouring many websites that hardly anyone ever talks about Budgets? I had no idea before we left for this trip how much we would need each week to survive. Would we survive on the bare bones of our butts or would we live like kings and queens? Well, I hate to burst anyones bubble, in reality, depending on your situation of course as we all have different circumstances. Living long term as nomads or for periods longer than 12 months without an income would be challenging. If you plan to string out your time you will undoubtedly have saved in excess of 100K to travel or you may have a part time income, rental income, investments, digital/online business, inheritance in order to maintain this lifestyle. Although its cheap. Its not free.
Maybe you are under the age of 30 and can apply for a work visa whilst you are away so you can work and earn oversea’s. Or perhaps you have dual citizenship? There are many possibilities. If you have either of these options then you are fortunate. Unlike us, we are over 30 and can not work legally in Europe. We do not carry dual passports and cannot apply for a working visa.
Depending on your budget and how much you plan to live off week by week. Some of you may have jobs that you can do online so income is not an issue. Some of you may have left behind two incomes and have sold the family home to travel. Some of you may have rental incomes, investments. Know that having a budget in mind is helpful. We had one but we have not yet managed to keep within the budget once in 13 weeks! (please don’t despair). How many kids you have will change the ratio and the budget outcomes.
We did not for see the costs involved with peak season, exchange rates, cost of petrol, cost of campsites, costs of setting up a van. We needed to buy everything from scratch right down to the toilet brush cleaner. We started in peak season in the UK (we had planned to leave in April but things did not go according to plan so we had to delay. This has in hindsight in some ways cost us more money.
So as I say, plan for the unknown and for additional costs. Be generous in your budget and if you think you cant survive off what you have budgeted for then perhaps delay for a year and save some more.
Since being in UK we have not been extravagant. We might go out for dinner once a week, cook in the van, make lunches, dinners, coffee’s and breakfast and pack our meals. We might have drink or treat a few times a week, like an icecream, a beer, cake, coffee. We have tended to stay in campervan parks and now find farm stays are much cheaper option than the expensive campervan parks. You learn as you go.
We have had to buy, clothing as our daughter has grown out of her with a growth spurt. Wet weather clothing. Set up of our van, bedding, cutlery, plates, glass ware, cups, pots and pans, cleaning utensils. Memberships for camping parks and apps. Buying our van and adding solar, gas fittings and other extra’s were all additional costs we didn’t account for. We pay for petrol, shop at Lidl’s and Aldi, Sainsburys mostly.
When we are touring and visiting historic sites we tend to walk around them rather than go in them. It is very expensive to visit historic sites. You can see nearly as much from outside as you would when you enter. You can join the National Trust in UK/Ireland and Scotland. We opted not to do this for this year at least. The occasional drink out and entries some theme parks so far. Wifi, sim cards, insurances, and app subscriptions. Travel via bus, train, travel passes. Ferry costs, flights, van storage, parking the van when visiting cities (needs to be safe and secure as there are many vans that are stolen). Costs for health care if you need to visit Dr’s or specialists.
We have also had free home stays when house sitting for trusted house sitters
For us we have been spending on average per week 650 pounds per week, which at the moment converts to 1200 AUD per week for 3 x people. This includes interest that we are paying on the van.
We had budgeted for 400 pounds per week x 3 people. We hope that now as we move into Europe that and that we are now set up with solar, gas, have all we need on board we will be able to meet our weekly budget. Hence, why I suggest you over budget for first 3 months as you find your feet on your travels.
We have yet to have made this budget. Could we cut down on costs. Yes we could, we are now finding Aire sites and farm sites to camp rather than more expensive camping sites we started out at. This is because our daughter did not feel safe ‘wild’ camping. To be honest neither did I. We have not yet camped wild. So you could definitely save $$ here if pulling up along the roadside and staying the night is something you are comfortable doing. Some of the apps we now use are Searchforsites, Wiki Camps, Campercontact, park4night. We have not always shopped at Lidls which is a really great budget option. But, I like to buy fresh and organic so this costs more money. There are some things I will not compromise. Health is imperative.
I would suggest adding up how much cost of living is for you at home now. Include all your costs, your payments, health care, schooling, interest, bills, and then food shop, weekly entertainment etc. I bet that nomad life is much cheaper and affordable in the long run.
Regardless of how you plan to tour and travel take some time to plan with your kids. There are plenty of free things to do along the way. Before you leave discuss with your kids expectations, what life will be like on the road. What things you plan on doing, how you will do them. For instance will you buy bikes so you can ride to tourist sites? Or will you walk or catch a bus and train? Will you drive your van and park and pay for park and ride?
What type of travel adventure do you all want? Do you want an adventurous travel experience? Cultural, active, laid back, animal friendly, Arty, Architectural, foodie type experience? We mix up our travel with house sits as our daughter likes to have space and time with animals. This is important to her, she loves the van but likes to have ‘chilled out days’ as she calls them when we house sit and loves looking after pets and animals. We all love live music, theatre and exploring old towns and old sites. Many of these things can be done for free.
We love visiting museums as they are mostly free and have loads of interesting information on that particular region. Set aside budget for some fun things to do together, some weeks you will do more, others less. Many of the towns have weekend markets, summer events, live music events. Decide with your kids who is in charge of researching interesting things to do in the villages or towns you visit. Whilst we were in London we went to Wimbledon, it was a once off experience that we all had so much fun experiencing. We also went to the Eden Project in Devon and to a Broadway Show. Our daughter loves theatre and musical’s, she was lucky enough to meet the stage actors at the back stage door after the show! These experiences are invaluable.
Decide with your kids and family before you leave on your adventure who will be responsible for what whilst you are away. Planning whilst you are on the road takes up so much time. Pack and pack down of the van on arrival to your destination takes time. Changing chemical waste, filling up water, plugging into electric, changing the toilet all takes up a big chunk of your day. Cooking, cleaning, washing, dishes. There are NO microwaves, NO Dishwashers, NO washing machines.
Work out who will do what on your travels. Planning your trip and where you are headed, where to stay takes up so much time. Work out with your kids who will be responsible for this. Maybe they can take it in turn? Depending on your kids age and ability, if they are young of course the parents will be left negotiating these tasks. This is what takes up a huge amount of my time. As well as writing blogs, working part time, working out where we are going next and what our ongoing travel plans are.
My husband and I take this in turns. My strength is English, Sciences, Arts and Personal Health so I help Ella with this. Michael is good at Math’s so he takes charge here. Be prepared for some disagreements along the way. But persevere and communication is the key.
This has been one of the most challenging things whilst on the road. Plan to eat fresh, organic food as often as possible. Buying locally is good for the villages economy and usually much fresher than packaged supermarket food.
Choosing to move your body regularly is important. We walk alot, sometimes we walk for hours. Some days we stay in but then we will roll out the yoga mats and do strength training and deep long stretches. Even in a motorhome, it is possible to move your body. I use resistance bands, pilates balls, weights, to keep up my mobility. My husband will play tennis when he can. We ride bikes. My daughter likes to listen to spotify music and dance. If you are not an instructor like me you might like to pay for an online subscription with Glo Yoga or Alo Moves. There are many you tube channels that have free classes you can join.
Choose your mode and method of movement with your family. Make sure you get out and get your regular vitamin D. There are always so many opportunities even when its raining to get out and explore your new surroundings. Park the car up and get out and get moving. Let you kids choose what method of movement they wish daily as well. Buy tennis rackets, balls, footballs and bats so you can kick and hit these out and about on your travels.
Its easy to get into the habit of going later to bed. As you feel like you are on a constant holiday. Kids love some routine, giving them guidelines around bed time is really helpful. Otherwise any sleep routine can go out the door. Living as nomads, life is less structured. If you are like me you may not necessarily like structure but has its merits and tired kids means grumpy kids. We allow our daughter time to wind down in the evening. We encourage Ella to come off her Ipad and have cuddle time with us as well as time to read before bed. Work out the best routine for you and your family. We also have subscribed to online meditation apps. These are really useful for our daughter if she feels she is unable to sleep as they have a plethora of sleep stories and sleep meditations, calming music provides the most wonderful support for sleep and mind health. I can recommend meditation.live or insight timer is another great app for calming soothing tunes and sleep stories.
Before we went away we discussed with our 11 year old how much time she was allowed on her device when we were travelling. Each family has their own set of rules. For us it is important to acknowledge that she has not got her friends to play with so Ella has time on Face Time to hang with her friends 3 x per week. She also has to spend time on her device for school. You will need to allocate a budget and time for any social media/device time as it does not come cheap nor is it always available due to poor reception and networking. Besides there is much to do when you are travelling on the road. Limit your time and the kids time as much as you can and get outdoors and adventurous.
We have got instagram accounts, obviously you are reading one of our blogs so we also have a blog site and we have Facebook. Your kids can have fun with technology, its not all bad. Ella loves to take photos for instagram to share with her private group. She also loves to edit mine so that I can upload. She has her own instagram account so she can keep in touch with her friends and upload her memoirs. She also posts videos of some of the places and sites we see. Such as war memorials, museums and points of interest.
So, getting interactive definitely has its pro’s. This is a wonderful exploration of creativity. Also a great way to keep a diary. She also has a manual scrapbook. The best bit about vandiaries and instagram posts is that we can go back anytime to view them and where we have been.
We also encourage Ella to do creative things on her device when we are travelling long distances such as MineCraft or Home Design.
I could go on and on but…..
I have spent the whole day writing this blog, I hope you have gleaned some gems from this at least. If you have any questions for us why not get in touch via Instagram or Facebook or leave your comments via the comments section I will be sure to get back to you. We really appreciate your feedback and your experiences and would love to hear back from you. How you found this blog. Please subscribe if you like our blogs and share with friends, we have loads of other useful tidbits on this blog site. xx Adios Amigos