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Transition From Full-Time Travel To Being a Part-Time Travel Family: An Honest Reveal

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Last Updated on May 29, 2024 by Leslie Stroud

The amazing views that Portugal offers made us fall in love.

For anyone who has heard the siren call to travel full-time with your family, or to anyone considering it, the thrill of being on the road full-time is unbeatable.  Imagine a lifestyle completely controlled by you, with minimal to no outside influences or time commitments, all while seeing the world at large.  Be it RV families or full-time international families, the communities are strong.

We heard this call in 2015 and launched our own full-time travel adventure three years later. In those three years, our youngest was born, which I knew would be our final baby. Due to the immense work of having an infant and all the doctor’s appointments involved, we decided to leave for our full-time travel family adventure when she was one year old. We left 17 days after her first birthday!

What followed was quite possibly the best years of our lives.  Of course, we came to realize this with time, after all the adjustments and demands of being a full-time travel family.  We struggled with spending so much time together, with the lack of personal space and the fatigue of constant travel.  However, after a few months, we found a groove that worked for everyone.  We knew it wouldn’t last forever, and Covid sped up our re-settlement back into “normal life”.

What is it really like to settle back into a more traditional life after years on the road?  Challenging.  Similar to the transition into full-time travel, re-integrating back into society at large stretches the soul in new ways.  

I’ve tried to make a portion of this blog dedicated to those travel families following their hearts to abandon the corporate world rat race and seek adventure with their kids in a full-time travel way.  We classified ourselves this way for 2.5 years and over about 30 countries.  However, at some point, this lifestyle often needs to shift when children are in tow.  Not for all, but for many of our peers, we watched them make this transition, and I dreaded it.

Now, we have made this transition as well.  What had it been like?

A lot of airports and waiting!

What Is Full-Time Travel?

Most of us in this small community define it as a nomadic lifestyle, without strong ties to any one place and constantly seeking new places to experience life. Some keep houses to earn money for their travels, but we abandoned houses, cars, or any material ties to any one location.

We’ve connected digitally with many other families in this situation throughout the years.  Very few are able to keep up with a frantic travel pace for long, and all settle into some kind of normality, even if it’s three months at a time in different places.  We took our time and did two to four weeks in each location, really trying that lifestyle on for size for our family. 

Earning income and education always present challenges for families seeking this life.  In our series on How To Afford Full-Time Travel, we interviewed several families on how they do it.  Answers range from income properties to investments to teaching English online.  Our business is remote and allows us to work from anywhere.

Having five small children to educate challenged me during our full-time travels, but I found a lovely rhythm with our kids that we all miss.  We managed to keep them up to grade level, if not ahead, all while learning world history in person.  Imagine learning about the gladiators as you tour the Colloseum itself and visit a modern-day gladiator in Rome.  These experiences are incomparable.

We have fallen in love with our new home in Portugal

Transitioning Away From Full-Time Travel

The nomadic life, while magical, lacks personal connections outside of the family.  All important relationships outside of your core go virtual.  While we made several friends during our travels, it’s difficult to make a lasting connection in just a few weeks’ time.  While filling our lives with enchanting adventures, we ached for family and friends.

Eventually, it became clear that more emotional development was desired outside our core family, and we looked forward to the next transition: settling back down.

I’ve procrastinated on this post now for several years… I wanted to be in denial that we were no longer full-time traveling.  Covid threw a wrench into our lives, like everyone else, but in our case, it stole the last few planned months of full-time travel, among other things.  Like the rest of the world, we didn’t know when or how to mourn the loss of something we weren’t sure would not come back soon enough.

We will forever be grateful for this bank of memories we were able to harvest with our children in tow.  Like farmers remembering a once incredibly bountiful crop, we ache for that kind of harvest again.  We love the videos and photos we captured during that challenging yet joyful time, but for me, it always brings a deep ache of longing for a time now passed.  I could have easily kept traveling full-time for 1-2 years more.

However, we soon realized there was another way of life waiting for our children that they didn’t have as they yearned to settle down.  They wanted sports, a dog, and, most of all, friends.  They felt left out of a life that seemed to be just as, or more, enjoyable.

As parents, we also missed some of the life moorings that tie us to the community. We wanted to dig into our roots once again and grow the parts of our family that we had neglected for 2.5 years.

Choosing to settle down in this amazing country

Choosing To Settle Abroad

I’ve written several posts on why Portugal won our hearts in our family’s search for a new, fertile, growing place. It was a divine revelation that led us to Portugal, and it also checked several boxes we wanted, such as an international experience, a foreign language, a new culture, and a family-focused society.  

It soothed our aching souls, in the loss of a certain phase of life, to at least have access, within a short flight or drive, to continue to explore new places.  However, the loss of a full-time travel life is painful and traumatic.  Some families attempt to pursue this travel lifestyle and cannot handle the intensity of it.  On the flip side, moving away from that intensity of constant togetherness and newness comes with pains as well.

Throughout our journey, we always tried to rely on God’s direction in both where we went but also how long this phase would last.  It brought plenty of comfort to feel his guiding hand in settling, but it still stung.

As the years pass by, the memories lose their difficulty and take on the shine of treasured memories, not unlike the birth of a new child.  The labor pains fade into well-earned accomplishment and take on a golden sheen.

I’m grateful we settled abroad.  I think my husband and I might have quickly picked up our tender roots and fled had we tried to settle back into the life we had before.  We were completely different people after our full-time travel and could not have easily fit back into our previous lifestyle.  Choosing a new path and a whole new world, with all new people, has challenged us but also allowed us to be the new people we are now.

We’ve seen more than one of our fellow full-time travel families move abroad after trying to re-settle into their previous lives.  

Sunsets and nearby beaches make our move to Portugal a bit sweeter

Challenges To Consider When Settling After Full-Time Travel

We underestimated the cost of re-settling, especially internationally.  While we put a good amount of possessions into storage when we left in 2018, we kept little furniture and figured we would need to re-buy when we found a new house in the US.  However, we never really anticipated settling abroad and furnishing an entire home from scratch, which was far more costly than we could have expected.  I’d estimate between a new car, furniture, home essentials, clothing, and uniforms, etc., we spent around $40-50K.  We had not budgeted properly for this.  We also had to pay for our visas to Portugal and fund our new Portuguese bank accounts in advance of our visa appointment to show we had sufficient funds.

Of course, we anticipated difficulties with a new language but could never fully anticipate this immense challenge.  The loneliness and isolation of not being able to communicate still stings on a regular basis and were incapacitating in the beginning. Several of our kids cried nightly for months before resolving this to some degree.  I shed plenty of tears as well.

Settling back into social and church responsibilities, which for us is a daily commitment, was thrilling and exhausting.  We’ve not had many free Saturdays in the last two years to simply explore Portugal as we dreamed.  Kids have birthday parties, we have church activities, and we have to run errands.  We all miss and crave the sheer amount of time together we had at one time, not to mention the adventurous spirit of simply exploring.  Part of this is self-inflicted, of course, but the balance is difficult to achieve.  The kids need to improve their friendships here, and that simply takes time.  We also need social outlets and knew not a soul when we landed in Portugal.

For me, one of the most exhausting things was not knowing how to get anywhere or where to get anything I needed. Imagine having to use GPS anytime you leave the house, even to go to the grocery store or school.  That was us for months.  The windy European veins of roads still confuse me on a regular basis.  Not knowing where to go for a doctor, how to work with the new schools, and how to find crafts or other everyday items exhausted me daily.  While better now, I still feel fairly inept at many of these tasks.

Getting them involved in activities they enjoy has helped the kids adjust better. Some pets also made it feel like home!

How the Kids Adjusted to “Normal” Life Again

The kids were more than happy to experience all the new parts of settling into one place again. Once we landed in Lisbon, they loved looking for a new home, securing a car of our own, and envisioning pets and friends coming into our new home. Despite not speaking the language at all, they were even excited about school.

Dropping them all off the first day and sending them into what felt like a shark tank with no teeth of their own was heartbreaking.  We tore off the bandages and sent them in any way.  The next four months were torture… there was crying every night from severe adjustment culturally, physically, and emotionally.  The kids went from worldschooling to a brief stint in Utah during Covid to full, 8-10 hour days at school in Portugal.

However, we eventually hit a groove in our new home.  We got a dog and a cat, which brought much joy (and the normal headaches).  We had playdates again and parties and dove into our church community.  

If we ask our kids if they miss full-time travel, the answers vary.  The teenagers don’t.  They love having a community of other teens and friends, as well as their pets and space.  The younger ones miss it every day.  They beg to go back and experience that weightlessness of total freedom.  Our littlest, Grace, grew up this way for many of her formative years, and it feels more like home to her than anything else.

The kids enjoy traveling around, whether in Portugal or abroad. We love this Tower de Belem near our home

What Are We Now if Not a Full-Time Travel Family?

I’ve seen the classification of part-time travel family, and I resonate with this.  We are probably heavier on the part-time than most.  We’ve taken our kids out of their new school extensively (and have gotten in trouble with teachers many times, but what can they do at the end of the day besides fail them or let them pass?).  We made very frequent trips back to the US for the first year, blaming it on business but also using it to soothe our transition into an ex-pat life.

We’ve managed to see around 15 new countries since we’ve moved, many in Europe, but also on other continents.  We are still constantly craving travel, but it does get more difficult the more we settle in.  

We also live in a culture now of relaxation and procrastination.  We often find out about activities only 1-2 weeks before, if not only days before.  This has resulted in missing MANY important activities, at school or otherwise, and has made us become more “last minute” travelers than we ever have been before.  While this can result in some OK deals on flights, I wouldn’t recommend it as the best way to travel. 🙂

It’s great to enjoy every little moment!

How Do You Balance Extensive Travel With a Settled Life?

Like many good things in life, it’s a constant balancing act to try and continue to travel while maintaining a home base.  We constantly debate when we can have our kids miss school or activities in order to travel and gather more memories with us.  It gets more and more difficult as they get older.  On the one hand, they need to be settled to thrive academically and socially.  On the other hand, these teenagers are so busy that we sometimes feel the best quality time with them is when we travel.  Home life is a series of comings and goings, whereas travel is dedicated time together making memories.

We simply embrace both and embrace that we fit into neither category.  We are not the teacher’s favorite parents.  Not only are we asking the teachers to help our foreign children adapt to a new language and culture, but we take them away for periods of time. We miss tests and assignments, and, sometimes, our kids get bad grades on them or fail them altogether.  

We don’t fit well into the parent groups because we are gone for almost all holiday periods.  We can’t get very close with others in our community because we are simply gone a lot.  Even if we are home for two months and then travel, it feels to others that we are always traveling, and they soon give up trying to get to know us better.  We host many events and dinners to try and bridge the gap, but I basically feel as if I’m always failing at one side or the other if I’m being honest.

We firmly believe that our kids get real value out of not only being with us but also seeing new things and learning along the way.  So far, our kids haven’t been held back in their grades. 🙂  That may change, but I kind of doubt it.  We’ve met with all their teachers at this point and have a fragile, unspoken truce between us.  It also helps that all our kids currently attend private school, so there is a financial motivation to keep us appeased and attending school.

Lots of adventures to come.

What Does the Future Look Like Travel-Wise?

We are currently shopping for homes in Portugal and wondering to ourselves what the future looks like.  We know it will always involve travel on a more regular basis than “most people.”  Even if our finances significantly change and we need to stay within driving distance, we will likely disconnect often with time away.  We are, in a way, the opposites of home bodies.  We love being home for a bit and then love to leave.  This is the painful consequence of full-time travel.

However, life always brings change, and we anticipate that once our kids start to settle down, we will settle too.  We love them more than any kind of travel and want to be near them and their future families.  We are open to the strong possibility of ending up in the suburban USA soon enough.  

In the meantime, we are creating traditions around travel that we hope to continue into their adult lives as much as possible.  We are starting to do girls’ and boys’ trips each year, as well as birthday trips one-on-one for those ten and older.  All things willing, we want to continue these and someday involve our grandchildren.  

We throw around the idea of returning to full-time travel for a short period, like 6-12 months, but the kids are not all on board with this.  Pets make it extremely difficult (especially as we have no family to leave them with in Portugal), and the teens really don’t want to.  We hold to slivers of hope that the younger kids will still want to as they become teenagers and the older ones leave the nest.  It’s definitely still a possibility for us!  We’d likely pack up and leave in a couple of months if it was the right path for us.  But we try to ignore this and act as if it will never happen, which is more likely the outcome.

If we ever do get the chance to travel full-time again, we will count our lucky stars and use all we’ve learned.  Our kids will be completely different at older ages, and we plan to maximize that and see many areas of the world too difficult to reach on a school break.  We’d love to dive deep into South America and Oceania.  

Most of all, we count ourselves incredibly blessed to have been able to experience full-time travel at all with our five amazing children.  We relish the memories and the shorter trips we take now and trust that God has it all handled. 🙂



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