Keep your suitcase handy while you read this one. And maybe open another browser window and so you can check flights, because there’s a very good chance this home tour will give you the travel bug (if you don’t have it already).
Jessica is a designer and entrepreneur, who currently lives in the south of France with her husband and two kids. But not for long. They are a slow travel family, which means they choose a new country to live in every 9 months or so — just long enough to really dig in a get to know a community.
I’m so glad I get to introduce you to this adventurous family.
Hello! Hola! Bonjour! My name is Jessica. I am so happy to be part of Design Mom and to meet all of you.
I am the mama bear of our family, an adventure-seeker, voracious dream-pursuer, photographer and glass-is-half-full kind of gal (even when the glass is broken into 1,000 pieces and I am out of super glue). I have been known to jump without a net, and wouldn’t you know it? I married my best friend and fellow jumper.
My husband, Will – whom I affectionately refer to as my Hot Latino – and I are slow traveling the world with our two kids and Sunshine the hamster. (Doesn’t everyone travel with a pet?) Avalon, is almost a teenager and much prefers that description to “12 years old.” Her brother, Largo, is 9 AND four months. Currently, we call a quaint village in the south of France home, but that is only until July. At that time, we will choose a new hometown and begin our next adventure. As slow travelers, we live the world one hometown at a time. We have had three hometowns, so far.
Our lifestyle is perfect for our unconventional family.
I met my Hot Latino 20 years ago at a travel tradeshow in San Diego, California. The short story is that he was an exhibitor, I worked for the company producing the tradeshow and he wanted more free drink tickets.
The longer version is that we met by chance, neither one of us was supposed to be traveling that week. I was never the type to believe in fate, but even to this day I wonder how we would have ever met otherwise, with me living in Los Angeles and him in Miami. And the rest is travel history, well, sort of, but that is a story for another day.
I have been a graphic designer, business owner, real estate investor, photographer and blogger. One year ago, I retired from my graphic design business in an effort to live more authentically and grow a passion-based travel business, WorldTowning, based on our experience with slow travel.
The experience is challenging me, but I believe that you only live once and there is no promise of tomorrow. That’s why you should love hard, laugh often and dye your hair pink. Oh, and you should also eat lots of amazing cheese and warm baguettes while living in France, even if the only pants you now can fit into are your yoga pants.
Will is an accountant in a contract position for a global company. But, as I type this, is ready to jump with me (yet again). He is the hardest worker I know, honest down to the penny and an impeccable judge of character. It was not until we decided to slow travel the world that he took stock of his hours in the office (and lack of hours at home) and contemplated a better way.
He loves our children tirelessly, still thinks I am 23 and hot, hot, hot, and makes me laugh, even when I want to cry. In just a few weeks, Will is joining WorldTowning with me, growing this one-woman start-up to a two-person family business.
Avalon is a protector of her brother and an outspoken defender of our lifestyle. She is quick to respond to anyone who thinks she does not have friends, because she is a traveler. She has a strong moral code and empathy toward those less fortunate, a trait that is more pronounced as a result of our travels. Avalon relentlessly pursues all things creative, challenging and out-of-the-box. And reading is her lifeline. She claims she may die if she doesn’t read. (I admit she gets her flare for the dramatic from me.)
She did everything early, talking, walking, reading, and she is in a great hurry to be an adult, as well. I try to remind her to enjoy her current place in time, but I make sure I balance that with her desire to learn and grow.
Largo is our thrill and adventure seeker. This has me hanging on the edge of my seat most days. While we practice a free-range style of parenting, this little guy pushes my comfort level. He is the first to hike the Incan mountains, jump into the frigid waters of the Galapagos or “zip line” through the cloud forest of Costa Rica. He redefines “fearless.”
Largo is a builder – and he will work with whatever he gets his hands on. This mostly means Legos, but sometimes includes clay, parts of trees, or even toast at the breakfast table. He fancies becoming a drone builder when he grows up, so he is eager to practice his craft. He loves to talk, a lot. He is comfortable in his skin, knows exactly what he wants and is not easily influenced by his peers. He also loves and admires his sister.
Our reasons for choosing this lifestyle are five-fold: 1. We want to spend more time with our kids before they take flight on their own adventures; 2. we value learning through travel; 3. we want them to have real world experiences and interact with people who live differently than us; 4. we want to create memories instead of buying stuff. 5. we want to give our children our version of an epic childhood. We have found these things in slow travel, and, while this lifestyle choice has had many benefits, the greatest part is our family unity, support and love, hands down.
Our current hometown is the quaint village of Hyères (pronounced yeah). The silent H and S often has me joking, “Oh yeah, we live in ‘yeah!’” Nine months of the year, Hyères is a sleepy town with a population of 56,000. It swells to double that size, however, at the first sign of warm weather. We arrived at the end of August 2016 – the beginning of its resting period. Hyères stretches 51 square miles that include mountains, beaches, wetlands and the cutest 12th century historic city center.
Hyères has the charm you would imagine in a French village: fresh baguettes, shops closed for afternoon lunch and locals practicing the art of great conversation. In the late afternoon, the town is ablaze with people enjoying a coffee or aperitif before their dinner. In the early evening, you can hear the clanking of silverware and light laughter (the French are not loud) from the outdoor cafes, but by 10 p.m. the sidewalks roll up, the shutters shut and the town settles in for a long night’s rest.
On Saturdays, we visit the local market for all the amazing fruits and veggies, fish, meat and cheese. France has officially been termed our “year of food,” for obvious reasons. On Sundays, our town shuts down for a day of rest and preparation for the upcoming week.
We live in a two-bedroom apartment a seven-minute walk from town and we pay $1300 a month. As with our other moves, we came to the south of France without visiting first. We have rented all our apartments through Airbnb, sight unseen. So far, it has worked out. Our rent includes utilities, Wi-Fi, a yard and a pool. We don’t have a car, but, when we need one, it costs 5 euros a day, plus gas and mileage.
An important part of our lifestyle is living simple and consuming less. We have been able to lower our overall expenses by 75% since leaving the United States. This has given us more money for the adventures and memories we want to create. Just last year, we realized two dreams: hiking to Machu Picchu on the Inca trail and visiting the Galapagos. We never could have afforded these adventures when we lived stateside.
Typically, slow travelers stay in a location for 3, 6 or 12 months at a time. Our primary goal is to create community wherever we live. It is very important to our family that we connect deeply to the local culture. For us, that means making local friends, learning the language (or in my case butchering it), understanding the food, studying the religion, appreciating the history and living like locals. We have found that the best way to do this for our family is to stay at least nine months.
Avalon and Largo have adjusted remarkably well to this lifestyle. We worried that Avalon, not yet 10, would resent the move when we made it, but she never has. In fact, she sees the value in it more with each passing year.
Like his sister, Largo transitioned to this lifestyle remarkably well. The only difficulty he has had is that he misses my parents. Luckily, they visit often.
Will and I have always said that if either kid becomes disenchanted with this lifestyle, we will stop. So far, they want to see more and make moves more quickly.
Our journey into slow travel and WorldTowning unfolded over a decade. Our story is a long one, with lots of curves, a handful of disappointment, but a happy ending. An ending that took two ordinary people to the brink of collapse to create what they felt was an extraordinary family adventure. A story that started over margaritas in Venice, California and ended underneath the Eiffel Tower many years later. We are not that overnight miracle, not by a long shot.
It all began when an opportunity surfaced for Will to work abroad for a global company with a cushy expat package. We saw that as a ticket to our dreams. The offer changed, however, when I became pregnant with Largo. So, we buried our travel dreams and settled into a fabulous suburb just seven miles south of Boston.
Within a few years, we were back to seeking options to move abroad. Then, one day, I had an epiphany (some may say I snapped). It stemmed from one question: Why couldn’t we go to Paris for the summer? I worked from home and could easily do that from anywhere.
With that simple question, Paris became our goal. We got creative with our finances. Will’s company agreed to let him work from the Paris office, enabling us to rent our apartment on Airbnb while we were gone. Things came together, and we spent the summer of 2013 in Paris in the smallest, crappiest one bedroom apartment. The toilet was broken most of the time, there was no air conditioning, Avalon was hospitalized for five days with Mononucleosis and I was sick for two weeks.
Despite all that, we loved it.
We returned to Boston determined to pursue this slow-travel lifestyle. We spent every spare moment planning. It was what we talked about over dinner as a family. We began selling our stuff, scouring blogs, reading books, and checking items off our spreadsheet lists. We all saw our journey into this lifestyle as a natural progression of things.
We also began telling friends and family of our plan. Most were encouraging, but some thought we were crazy. Still others told us we were not giving our children a proper childhood, that we were ruining our careers and putting our family in danger. Early on in our relationship, though, Will and I adopted the philosophy that no one else gets a vote on how we live our life. We removed ourselves from conversations in which people attacked our choices and surrounded ourselves with positivity.
When we were deciding where to move, we initially considered cost of living. We quickly learned that many countries offer an affordable lifestyle, so we began to add in several other wish list items: French school, Spanish speaking country and culturally rich environment. All of this led us to Costa Rica.
On October 6, 2014, we left Boston bound for Costa Rica. While we envisioned paradise in a land full of monkeys, lush greenery and good coffee, we found that the transition was hard for everyone and presented a huge learning curve. We all processed the change differently.
Will, who had only always known the corporate 9-to-5 (or 8-to-8) lifestyle, was lost, having left his company when it would not allow him to work remotely. I had bitten off more than I could handle, moving my design business, homeschooling one of the children and moving to a new country. We were unable to support each other at the time, but the ending was happy. We made it past our largest learning curve to date, but I would never want to go through an experience like that again.
Our next destination was Ecuador, as neither Will nor I had been to South America. And for location number three, we threw all caution to the wind and let AvaLar, as we collectively call our children, pick the country. They chose France, our current location.
We are discussing our fourth adventure now, and it will prove to be the grandest, thus far. Our plan is to speed it up a bit and reduce our living space square footage. Moreover, the kids will plan the whole 18-month itinerary. Our end game dream is to one day live on a sailboat, if exhaustion doesn’t set in first.
As much as it would be nice to just pick any place on the map to live, we take cost into consideration. We believe the lessons the kids are learning about how to live simply and below our means will stay with them forever.
Regardless of where we go, creating a sense of home is important. When we arrive in a new location, we make a trip to the local home goods store. We buy a couple of throw pillows and blankets to snuggle with on movie night. I am a sucker for local art, and we always create our own art for the walls.
Overall, however, for our traveling family making a space feel like home, comes down to what we experience within the walls rather than what contents exist. A location feels like home when we enjoy a favorite meal (I travel with my spices), bake or play a game together.
We carry our traditions with us, and we gather new ones as we go. Some of our traditions involve holidays we’ve invented. Dream Day (consisting of creative ice cream sundaes) celebrates the day we left the United States to travel. Freedom Day (a “no work” day) commemorates the day we launched our start-up, WorldTowning.
In addition, we maintain our routines, like reading before bed, enjoying our weekly movie night and eating dinner together each evening to reinforce that feeling of home. I cannot deny that there are days when I miss having their childhood art framed on the walls, my grandmothers 1940’s tea cups on the shelf and displays of all of the treasures we have gathered from previous travels; however, I have learned the great art of compromise and making it work. If the walls have love within them, we can compromise a bit on aesthetics.
Once we are in a new location, we settle into our day-to-day lives. First thing every morning, I go for a run. This is my “me” time to get out and greet the day. I get up early enough to see the shop keepers setting up their storefronts and soak in the delicious sent of fresh baguettes drifting from the ovens at the local boulangerie. By the time I get back, the kids and Will are just starting the day.
Breakfast time is never organized, as we encourage the kids to get themselves ready at their own pace. Avalon, the ever organized one, needs 10 minutes of reading before jumping out of bed, cooking her breakfast and jetting off to her school. Largo’s morning is a bit more relaxed. He treats every morning as if it was Sunday. No rush for this cool cucumber.
Both children currently attend a local school. When we embarked on this lifestyle, we embraced a form of education called worldschooling. For us, worldschooling means an education philosophy that has a heavy emphasis on global learning. It often involves multiple language components, local activities, academics and a business education option.
Some years, the kids are educated at home, in the community or online, and other years they attend local schools in the towns we live, as they do now. In all forms of education, we take United States standards into consideration, as well as their personal goals and learning styles. Next year, both kids want to be worldschooled at home.
After we walk the kids to school, a luxury we did not have in Boston, the rest of the morning is all work for Will and me. We absolutely love setting up office at our favorite local café. The barista knows us by name and automatically brings us our order of coffee and croissants.
French school goes until 4:30 p.m., but the kids come home for lunch three days a week. This gets our noses out of the laptop and gives us time to connect as a family.
At dinner time, the kids are a huge help as chefs in training. We get dinner going using locally grown ingredients, while Will, who works on Boston time, is usually occupied with phone calls. He takes over on the weekends, though. Dinner is earlier than is typical in France, and then we have our bedtime routine – reading, snuggles and lights out at 8:30 for the kids. Finally, Will and I go back to working. We keep long hours, but we have flexibility to mold them around family life. As with any family, balancing it all is challenging.
We are often asked if we miss our former lives. Overall, the answer is no. We miss bits and pieces, and moments and people. Personally, I miss having a multitude of food choices. I miss our friends. I miss our family. I miss Chipotle (did I really put that in writing?). I miss efficient systems. I miss having a washer and dryer. I miss that some relationships are not what they used to be and others have dissolved. But, I miss all the bits and pieces at different times and to varying degrees. If it all hit me in the same day at the same time, I would probably be on the first plane back to Boston – or maybe not. But the list of what I/we love about this life is double in size, so it all works out.
There have been so many memorable experiences on the road, but forming community and friendships has been at the top of our experiences. We have been invited to be part of family celebrations, local traditions, weddings and birthdays. We have felt so much love and warmth for no reason, except that people are good, everywhere. Travel has reaffirmed my belief in humanity.
Engaging socially in a culture isn’t always easy, especially if you don’t speak the language. It can be done, though. We have created community in three different countries where my command of the language has been limited. One way I have found to do this is by sending out party invitations to the families in the kids’ classes. I am an extrovert, but it still scares me to death. But, there comes a point where you must just go for it. It has been one of the biggest gifts this travel life has given us and worth every scary moment.
Meeting the fascinating people of the world cannot help but change one’s thinking. My most profound experience came from a parent at Largo’s school in Ecuador. I was still fairly new to the travel life and subtly mentioned my disappointment with some United States practices. In a matter of three minutes, this gentleman reminded me how lucky I was to be an American. We enjoy freedoms many others do not. Our children are raised with a level of self-esteem that sets them up for success and much more. I was embarrassed, humbled and enlightened all at once.
Probably the greatest lesson I have learned through slow travel, however, is that children are capable of more than we think. They are capable of change, empathy, unconditional love, hope, creativity, understanding and doing hard things. I have always felt that our children were pretty darn cool, but traveling with them has brought me to tears of joy on more than one occasion. They are forgiving and understanding way beyond their age, but also playful, unique thinkers at the same time. I often wonder if I would have ever truly seen the lessons they present to me each day in our previously over-scheduled life.
Whether a traveling family or not, I, like so many others, wish I was the perfect mother. I wish I had learned earlier how to forgive myself for not being that. Launching a business is a lot of work. I have been sleep deprived and sometimes short with my children more than I prefer to admit in the last six months. The house is a mess, meals are less than healthy, and I am not always available to have those long talks we used to have.
My logical side says this is only temporary. It tells me that the kids can pull more responsibilities for the short term and their exposure to their parents creating a passion based business together will teach them how to dream big and bring them to fruition.
But, as I type this, the tears are dripping on my keyboard. I still want to be “that” mom who has her professional work done when they arrive home from school, with crafts ready to go and a home-cooked healthy meal headed to the table.
I hope one day they will forgive me for forgetting them at school last week and visiting McDonalds after they had just watched Super Size Me. I hope they look at us with admiration for creating a business that helps other families plan and realize their slow travel adventures – a business that embraces kindness, diversity, global learning and family.
In closing I would like to thank you readers for opening your hearts and minds to our less traditional choice of life. I continue to learn a very important lesson as we travel. Parents want the same thing for their children across the globe, we all just have our own version of how we do it, our own authentic normal. Have a fabulous day. I am sure this last part will not come as any big surprise…Go Travel! Bisous!
Okay. Who’s ready to pack their bags and leave their cubicles and school schedules behind? Let’s all spin a globe and see where our finger lands and book that flight. Jessica definitely has me feeling the wanderlust.
So many good quotes too. This one is so beautiful: “We have felt so much love and warmth for no reason, except that people are good, everywhere. Travel has reaffirmed my belief in humanity.” And the one about the privileges of being America has me feeling patriotic: “In a matter of three minutes, this gentleman reminded me how lucky I was to be an American. We enjoy freedoms many others do not. Our children are raised with a level of self-esteem that sets them up for success and much more. I was embarrassed, humbled and enlightened all at once.”
What do you think?I know it’s not a lifestyle that would appeal to everyone. Does the idea of finding new homes around the world sounds appealing to you? Would your kids be into it? Or do you feel like the lack of structure would be challenging for your family? And if you choosing 3 places to live in the next 2 years, where would you choose?
Would you like to share your home in our Living With Kids series? It’s lots of fun, I promise! Reach out at email@example.com.
75 thoughts on “Living With Kids: Jessica Sueiro”
Wow this is amazing! I love your balance of passion and humility! Your piece really inspires me to think about what is really important about raising our kids no matter where we live or what our lifestyle is … Avalon and Largo are cool names too!
Thank you for your kind words Amy! I firmly believe there is no right or wrong answer to the perfect way to raise these little buggers so thank you for noticing that in the post. I know when we started on this journey we had a lot of naysayers and I refused to ever be like that.
I will tell the kids. We named them after islands. We figured if we were never going to live on an island we could at least fantasize about islands through their names. At that time travel was never part of our plan. Ha!
I love the honesty in this post, my husband and I dream of living abroad at some point and really see it as a great way to expose our children to the wonders and diversity of the world. Jessica, thank you for sharing your beautiful family with us, such an inspiration :)
Thank you Carol! When we started off on this travel journey it was pretty bumpy (as you read) and NO ONE before us prepared us for how tough the first months would be. At that moment I told myself I would be brutally honest on my blog in order to help other travels through the transitions.
Please do follow through on that travel dream. We are just ordinary people who had an extraordinary plan, if we can do it anyone can do it. Ha. It was hard, but it has been worth it more than I could have ever imagined. And you can always reach out to me if you have any questions.
It is truly an honor and a dream come true to be part of the Design Mom community. I remember when I first found this blog so many years ago. Gabby’s parenting style and honesty really resonated with me. Thank you all for taking the time to read about our WorldTowning life. And please feel free to reach out to me if you have any questions about how we make the all happen. I LOVE helping others get on the road to travel. firstname.lastname@example.org
We also vlog about our travel life at https://www.youtube.com/willsueiro
I love so much about this! I would love to travel more but having a business we can’t move elsewhere makes travel tough. That aside, 3 places I’d like to live if I could would be Italy, Iceland and Chile.
What resonated with me most was, “It tells me that the kids can pull more responsibilities for the short term and their exposure to their parents creating a passion based business together will teach them how to dream big and bring them to fruition.” My children amaze me daily and I hope our decision to have our own business teaches them to reach for their own dreams.
Thank you Wendy! Ok, I am on a quest to get more folks traveling so I will just throw this out. Can you hire someone to manage the biz, even if it is only for a couple months at a time? Just a thought. I hope that was not too forward.
I am glad that quote is being well received because I truly believe in it. I grew up in a family where my parents had businesses together and it inspired me tremendously. I had to pull double duty many nights, but I think it had a tremendous impact on my life today.
And yes to Italy, Iceland and Chile!!!
Such a good idea and I wish it could work in my line of work! I’m a therapist in private practice. My hope is that as I add more therapy groups and trainings I will increase my flexibility and income so I can travel even if just for short periods of time. Thank you!
Love that you have a plan Wendy! You will get there. Good luck. Reach out to me if you ever want to bounce ideas around.
Thank you for sharing your story. It’s very inspiring.
How did you figure out the legal/visa issues? That’s always seemed complicated to me.
Thank you Janet! Don’t even get me going on the visa renewals in Ecuador. 14 visits to the immigration office and I think I cried 13 times, an ice cream saved me from cry #14. France on the other hand was very seamless. They had a list of items they needed according to the French consulate in Boston and we made sure we had them all when we went to our appointment. We had our visas within a week. We are on what is called “one year long stay tourist visa”. We work online so we could prove income, otherwise you have to be able to show money it the back. The difficult part is that they never tell you exactly how much you need. Below is a link to a video we did explaining the process since we got so many questions. It really is not as complicated as most people think, just annoying and time consuming, but then you get the reward of being able to be in the country. Ha!
Oh how I loved this story! I have such admiration for you, Jessica, for taking what can be a very scary leap. I’m not sure I could be so brave even though I desperately want to travel more. I was especially moved by your comment regarding being the perfect mother and wanting to come home from the professional job and have crafts ready, etc. It seems that even if you are accomplishing extraordinary things, we still all go back to a certain expectation of motherhood. Why do we do that? Why can’t we give ourselves a break? I very much appreciate your honesty and transparency in this post- thank you for sharing!
Thank you Kimberley! I always tell people I am not that brave. I just have a HUGE fear of regret and I knew we would regret it if we did not take off and travel. You would be surprised at how much bravery you have hidden deep within your soul.
I know, weird, right? I have worked really long hours the last six months to get our biz off the ground and each night I go to bed focusing on dinner and crafts and where I failed. I then tell myself that what our kids are seeing by watching their parents build a passion based business together that helps others realize their travel dreams has great value as well. We are in a different season with our kids now and I have to remind myself that there are many other ways to bring value to their life that differ from their younger year. All of us mamas are in this together.
Thank you again for your transparency and kind words.
This is all very fascinating to me. I agree with Janet about the logistics. Stuff like health care, etc. I guess that is why I’m not an adventurer – I always look at the negatives. However, this seems such a happy care free life. Thanks for the insight to your world. Loved it.
Hello Stephanie and thank you for your support. The logistics are what we believe to be the biggest stalling point for people who want to go off on a one year adventure or even make it a lifestyle change. Once they figure out the finances part of it and begin the planning it seems overwhelming. And I am speaking from experience as well, lots of tears during our year of planning. I don’t want this to sound like an ad, but honestly, that is why we created our business so we could remove that stress and let the families enjoy the fun parts of the planning process while we do the hard stuff.
I will say that I was super worried about health care. We have travelers health insurance which only covers serious stuff and chronic issues, no office visits. But we have had very inexpensive office visits. We have also had some hospitalizations, a colonoscopy, pre-cancer cells removed and much more. The care has been as good (and sometimes better) than our care in the US. I no longer worry about it.
It is carefree in many ways, but in many ways we still have some of the same stressors as we did stateside. However, overall we do feel it is more carefree than our previous life for sure and that is one of the many reasons we continue.
Hugely inspiring! I am beyond the child-raising years and fortunately we were able to take our sons on many trips over the years. But living in various countries and getting off the hamster wheel of work-school-soccer would have been amazing. What a fabulous time in history to experience how good people are the world over!
Thank you Cynthia! Travel in any capacity is powerful. I am sure your sons remember those trips as happy times from their childhood.
We are still sometimes on the hamster wheel, but in a different capacity if that make sense. However, we are continually trying to improve and spend less time on it. Our next adventure (starting in July) will definitely take us to a whole new comfort level. Ha.
I agree, now is the time to see the good and it is definitely out here.
Hi Cynthia – This is Will, Jessica’s better half :). I was a bit skeptical of the journey, but she (Jessica) was the driving force telling me that it was all going to work out and that we would find a way to survive without having a secure income when we launched. I am forever mesmerized at how amazing these last three years has been and I am eternally grateful that we have made this happen. Travel in any capacity is medicine for the soul and expands our level of understanding and compassion. The goal is to experience the world first hand.
This article came at just the right time. My husband and I are embarking on a pretty big adventure with our two-year-old. We are all moving to New Zealand soon so my husband can peruse his dream PHD. It is big and scary but we always wanted this–living abroad with a family–and it is thrilling to actually be making it happen. I will definitely be poking into your biz as we check all the items off our lists.
I am so glad it came at the perfect time Nicole! And congrats on the big move. And yes, it is big and scary at first, but you will quickly find your way. Feel free to message if you have any questions. Plus, we have tons of resources on our biz blog and on our youtube channel. When do you leave?
Wow. Thank you both! We’re leaving sometime in July or August we THINK. Hopefully all goes well and smoothly with the visas. We have doctors visits next month and then the paperwork is all done. More scared right now about transitioning into a working parent. Really excited for all of it.
You wil do great Nicole. Just be kind to yourself while you make the transition, there will be bumps. You can always PM me if you need to bounce around ideas or just vent. I have been there multiple times. Good Luck and let us know how it goes.
Nicole – It is scary indeed. But it is the first three months that is actually scarier (if you can imagine that). It does get easier, promise. Just have faith that you made your decision for the right reason.
I cannot even begin to tell you how fortuitous the timing of this post is, Jessica! I’ve been following you on Instagram for some time so it was a treat to read this post of yours here on one of my regular blog reads! I don’t even know how I found you initially, perhaps through research on wordlschooling, but I’m inspired by how you travel and have been following along. My husband and I are, finally, after many years of dreaming about similar travel, about to take the leap ourselves this summer for 6 months with our young son. We’re looking it as a trial-run to see if we can permanently leave our home base of San Francisco. It’s been a headache (to say the least) planning this trip and more than once I’ve almost given up. Today especially I was wondering, have we lost our minds? These were the words I needed to hear today – that it’s worth it! So thank you!
Deborah – When you see your child embracing the local culture and calling their classmate from Ecuador their best friend, that is when you know you got it right. This is this what resonates for us when we ask if are making the right decision or whether we are depriving them of the U.S. life we left behind. Our only regret is that we did not start traveling earlier, but all things happen for a reason. Keep pushing towards your goals. It will be worth it. If you need an occasional morale boost, check out our vlog. If you click on my name above, it will take you to our YouTube channel.
Hello Deborah! And thanks for your kind words and support over at IG!!! And CONGRATS! I know first hand what a big deal this is and how much work (and tears) goes into the planning. We were at “give up” mode so many times in the planning process. Good job for sticking it out mama!
You have not lost your mind, absolutely not! Don’t be surprised if those first couple of months are a tough transition, but take solace in know that it is TOTALLY normal. And if you need to vent or just need someone to talk with feel free to PM or Skype me. I have been there and I would have killed for someone to just tell me that it would pass and it was normal. And when you are over that hurtle you will only wonder why you did not do it sooner. It is that good and totally worth it. I am so glad my words came to you at the right time. Please keep in touch and let me know how it is going. Will you IG or blog about it?
Thank you so much for your responses, Will and Jessica! I’d love to keep touch, thank you. And I’ll be capturing it all on IG at @dmcberg if you’d like to follow!
Going to follow you now. We are @worldtowning on IG.
What an amazing story! I love each new installment of this series but this one in particular struck a cord. As many have mentioned, I too dream of living abroad at some point in my life and I’m so grateful that you shared your experience Jessica with honesty and humor. I particularly love the concept of “world schooling”. This really seems to capture so much of what my husband and I talk about exposing our daughters to through travel. Wonderful! Good luck on your next adventure!
Thank you Marilee for your positive feedback! Yes, this is possible. It won’t always be easy, but hey, no ones life is super easy. What I can tell you is that it will be worth it, absolutely. Keep that dream of travel on your list and if you ever need a sounding board PM me.
Worldschooling has brought so much depth to the kids education. It is a cool concept, right? All the families we meet are doing it slightly different from one another which makes it even more intriguing. The basic premise is education with a global approach and who wouldn’t want that.
Thanks. The next journey will be a true test of our organization, patience and much more, but we are up for it. Stand by. Ha.
Hi Jessica! I absolutely love this, this is my dream life :) . My husband is not as on-board though, so in the future I’m hoping to compromise and live in a “base” country for 9 months of the year, then house swap during the summer break (my husband is a teacher) and experience as many countries as we can. We are currently living for a year in Samoa while my husband studies, and I agree that living in different cultures is the best learning experience children can have. Mine are 3 and 4, and are absorbing so much of the local culture. I’m trying to talk my husband into Costa Rica as our next destination! You guys need to consider the Pacific Islands as a future destination, it is amazing here :)
Cathleen I have a secret to share. I see Will has been commenting here so he might find us. Ha! He was NOT on board at first either. He wanted the cushy expat package (which never came) that was totally safe. Once he identified why he was so fearful of doing it on our own then he was able to move past it. For what it is worth I hope this helps a bit. I know everyone is different, but if it is fear based it can totally be overcome.
And that is a great compromise, good job! I know tons of families who do summers only and it really works out well. And if anyone ever objects to this lifestyle in our family that will be the route we go. There is always a way to “modify” a plan so everyone is happy.
Wow, so great that they are getting this exposure at such a young age. We did Costa Rica for a year so if you want to pick my brain let me know. I also have tons of posts about it on the blog as well. We plan to hit the PI’s at some point after we are done with Europe. We are talking about sailing them. But, I guess we had better learn to sail first. Ha. Keep in touch and let me know how it goes. Good luck.
Love this story so much. I also found and enjoy watching their vlogs for more of their day by day adventures. https://www.youtube.com/willsueiro
Thanks so much Megan for your support over at YouTube and for your kind words. Get ready because we have tons of new vlogs ready to share in the upcoming month.
This is such a fun family! I love how they choose to live their life so differently and that it just works out for them! It’s something our family could never do since our daughter is in need of a constant medical team, and I think that would be incredibly hard traveling the world, but the entire thing seems to dreamy and appealing on so many levels.
Thanks Paige for your “fun” comment. I am going to tell the kids you said that the next time they think we are boring parents. Ha! It is dreamy on most days and then there are those times when a real kitchen and a comfy bed would be fabulous. Ha!
We do know some families who travel with children with special needs, but I don’t know how much constant medical care they need. Check out this family https://www.facebook.com/traveldeepandwide/?pnref=lhc. They are amazing! Tons of kids, lots of love and so much more.
Lovely to hear about your journey- my French family that I did a high school exchange with (their daughter stayed with us and then I stayed with them 25 yrs ago) whom my parents and I are still connected to, retired to Hyeres. I haven’t been to visit but my parents have- although I plan to.
Thanks for reading about our journey Amy. How funny, small world. This is a great place to retire. You will definitely have to visit one day. Lots to do, great food and kind locals. Cool that you did an exchange in high school.
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Love, love, love this! I am reading this as I start my day and this is the perfect send off for a busy day… realizing that you can get off the hamster wheel. You just need to be creative and change your expectations somewhat. What you are offering your children is priceless. They will grow up with such creative, open minds. Just signed up for your newsletter.
Looking forward to keeping up with you!
Thanks so much for your compliments Sharon and for signing up for the newsletter. You definitely can get off the wheel. It is not easy, but it can be done. We are not superstars, just ordinary folks who said “lets give it a try” why not. And yes, we have changed out expectations. I compromise and tolerate things I would have never considered years ago, all in the name of being able to continue traveling. Please keep in touch! Have a great day.
Bonjour Jessica and Will! A friend sent me your story and I was so excited to see that you guys live in Hyères. Our American family of six lives just down the road from you in Cuers. We’ve only been here for nine months, but we learning to love the slow(er) paced lifestyle of the Côte d’Azur. If you haven’t already been check out the amazing hiking paths of the Giens peninsula – it’s my favorite place in France!
Weird. I have tried to reply to you 3x and it won’t load. Did you get my response Sarah? I would love to do a meet up if you are interested. I have so many questions about how you ended up in this area. We love Gien as well. Like, REALLY love it. We even put it in our channel trailer for our YouTube channel. Message me at World Towning if you want to connect. Small world.
Loved this so, so much! Congrats to your family! It sounds like your kids love it, and that, if they don’t at some point, you will be in a better position to hear and respond to their changing needs than most families are, with your flexible and adventurous approaches.
We threw our lot to the wind eight years ago and left NYC to start a farm in rural upstate New York. Our kids were homeschooled and loved it… until our son was 16, and rural life became isolating and he longed to move back to the city. Now 18, he lives in Manhattan with his grandfather. Because I am in the thick of parenting teenagers, I would love to know how your kids will navigate the teen years, if they will continue to embrace the adventure, or if they will want to hunker in with their peers (and what nationality those peers will be!) Like I said, I think you will be in a terrific position to respond either way.
Larissa thanks so much for your comments of love! Wow, what a fascinating life you lead. I am totally intrigued. Do you have a blog?
Our daughter is almost 13 and says she never wants to stop, but she is still young and that could change. I too am interested in seeing how they will navigate the teen years. Either way we will absolutely re-evaluate if one of the kids becomes disenchanted. We want them to remember this with stars in their eyes, not anger. Fingers crossed! And good job to you mama for embracing what your son truly felt in his heart.
I slow traveled off and on through my 20s but for the 6 years since my oldest was born we have stated stateside. I have always had this longing to take my children abroad and, for a season, when my son was a baby this desire was more of a gentle whisper. A hope. However now that my baby is three and we have established that he and his sister are adept travelers my hope has morphed into pants on fire, passionate, insistence . I told everyone last year that the summer of 2017 WOULD include a trip to Europe and I have doggedly stuck to my guns. In fact, in June I will be right up the road from you with our friends in Cuers. For that reason, I found the timing of this post to be très amusant and affirming. :)
Niki AWESOME! Your post makes me so happy. You had a dream, you set a deadline and now you will be making it happen. Congrats! I responded to your Cuers friends. Would love to meet up with all of you if you are up for it. You made my day, now the bug will never rest in you. Not a bad thing.
Hi Jessica, my husband and I do not have children. However, your story resonates with me. I am leaving an enjoyable (working with kids) but blah (no growth, poor supervision) job to return to teaching. My husband is a professor. We saved to buy a small camper van and are planning a 3 month adventure this summer. We are also going to use our similar school breaks to travel more. For us, it is about the journey and our relationships. Thanks for sharing what is possible.
Awesome Ali!!! I just love reading about folks bringing their travel dreams to fruition. I am so happy our story resonated with you, that is our goal. We want people to realize they are not alone in wanting these travel dreams and that it IS possible. If we can do it, anyone can (wink, wink). Will you be blogging about it? If so please share your address. Would love to follow your journey.
Hi Jessica! Thank you for your response. Your site looks great. We are in the process of updating our blog, https://offcape.wordpress.com/. We look forward to following your inspiring adventures!
awesome. i would LOVE to pack up and live like this. but we don’t have portable, on-line careers!! My first three homes would be in Ecuador, France and Uganda.
Hello Home Economist! Thanks! How about shorter trips? There are so many ways to do this lifestyle. Ecuador has been my favorite country, right beside India. Uganda sounds very interesting. Thanks for commenting.
My husband and I lived in Peru for a year before we had kids (we had traveled pretty extensively in South America previously). It was such a wonderful experience, and I was pretty intensely homesick at times too. This past summer, when our kids were 9 & 5, we took them to Peru for a month. I am a writer writing a series of novels based in Peru, so I was mothering & working simultaneously, and my husband had 2 weeks off and 2 weeks where he worked from Peru. We rented one house through Air Bnb for the month, though we did a few 2 or 3- night trips as well. Overall, it was a really fantastic month. Because we had already lived there, we didn’t feel a huge amount of pressure to “see the sights” which made us relaxed with the kids when they weren’t up for doing something we otherwise would have really wanted them to do. As we were leaving, my 9-year-old, who while not the most flexible kid at home has always been a great traveler, said he would have happily stayed 2 more weeks. I agreed. I was wondering whether being there would make me feel like I wanted to live overseas with them for longer, especially as we had friends moving to Germany for a year at the same time. But so far, that urge hasn’t hit — though I am already thinking about when we’ll go back to Peru next!
Love this inspiring story! I find it thrilling when people raise their kids “out of the box” especially when that’s a set-up that works well for everyone’s personalities.
Rebecca your trip sounds AMAZING! We loved Peru. What a great experience for your entire family. I love your insight and your honestly about living in the moment. Good for you. We know many travelers who do a couple months at a time once a year and visit the same place because it has a special place in their heart, sounds like Peru is that place for you.
Thank you for your kind words. It is not always easy “living different,” but boy are we glad we did it. We are fortunate it does work for all of us, at least in this season of our life. Happy traveling.
I love the education you are giving your children! Such a great gift! We homeschool and one of the reasons I love it is because we can pack up and travel, anytime. You’re kids are on a never ending field trip!! I love that! Thanks for sharing!
Thanks Audrey for your sweet words. Yes, homeschool (or worldschooling as we call it) offers so much flexibility. I just love that about it. Congrats on the homeschooling. I knew there can be challenging days, but it is so worth it.
Oh my. The internet can provide little miracles sometimes! We are on the cusp of our second foray out into the world and I know enough from previous travels to be extremely excited and quite nervous! You touched on a few of the things that have been nagging me…..how can i help my kids assimilate when I can’t speak the language AND that the work/travel balance can be tricky and makes me testy sometimes. We will leave again in the next few months, destination unknown, packing up a full house….selling most, storing some reluctantly, farming out the much loved family pet and pulling three kids out of their delightful little world, pretty much on a shoe string. My middle son will have to leave behind his first love. That’s a tricky one. HOWEVER. It’s what everyone wants. The kids will continue their language studies and hopefully become close to fluent and I will try, even harder, to keep my clients happy from afar….Large scale travel is unexpected and we, too, get different reactions. But mostly, everyone wants to know how we make it happen logistically and financially, because they long for something similar. I wish we had tons of savings in the bank and a trust fund, but we have neither. We are VERY average folks who are making a lifestyle choice that pays off in a different way. My husband often says that his primary parenting goal is to raise interesting people that can contribute dynamically to the world and I think we are well on the way! And your children sound fun and lovely! SO Glad to “meet” you, Jessica! You feel like a twin flame out there burning bright….perhaps our paths will cross!
Hello Ivey! Wow, you are my sister from another mother. I can relate to ALL of this, including not being trust fund kids. Ha! Connect with me on FB so we can keep in touch. I would love to follow your travels and connect in real time one day. Congrats on your second round of extended travel!!! And good luck in the final stages. I know how crazy they can be even if you are seasoned at this.
We have found that the kids have learned to assimilate on their own very well (out of need) which we believe to be a useful skill. However, I still wish we could help a bit more. Ah and the balance. I have no idea to get it, just being transparent here. I find the less I shower the more balance I get. That extra 15 minutes makes a different, TMI. Ha. And I LOVE your husbands quote. LOVE IT! We feel the same way.
I truly hope our travel paths cross one of these days. Thanks for reaching out.
Jessica, your family story really moved me this morning. Although we didn’t slow travel when I was young, my parents are European and took me all over the world as a child. The cultural education and fond memories this travel instilled in me are a gift I will carry with me for a lifetime. Our twins are 3, but I hope in the next few years to start more adventurous travel with them as well.
I can completely relate when you say that it is hard to not live up to your idea of being the “perfect” mother. But when you say you hope your kids will forgive you for various *misgivings* (like a forgotten school pickup), I propose that in their eyes, no forgiveness is needed. I believe that children that grow up in loving homes with parents who are engaged in their lives, like you are, don’t remember (or at least don’t dwell on) those times their parents raised their voices or forgot to do something for them because it was the anamoly–I know I don’t have such memories from my youth even though my mother promises me these things happened! Thanks for sharing your story, and best of luck to you four in your next destinations.
Lucy, wow, what a cool childhood. I would love to hear the motivation your parents had for the travel. Or maybe it is just because they are European and it is so much built into the mindset, which I personally LOVE.
Thank you so much for your support, you made my eyes water. Thank you again. As I stated in the post, it has been a long six months and I have had some bad parenting moments. It is nice to hear your voice and thoughts on these matters. Have a lovely day and please do keep in touch.
I think Europeans have more of a travel bug than Americans, or they used to when I was growing up. We spent a lot of time in Europe, the Carribbean, Polynesia, and driving to far flung locations in the US (particularly to learn about the lifestyles and contributions of native american tribes), and a little time in Africa and Central America. The experiences that resonated the most with me were the times when we got out of our hotel and went into town, met locals, and I saw how others outside of my community lived. My all-time favorite memories are of street festivals in small Carribben town centers, dancing to reggae and steel drums, and eating street food. I would bet every place you’ve lived has that event or place at which the community gathers, and I bet so much can be learned from spending time there!
Reading your story makes me want to pick up my family and move, but I’m relieved to hear that each lifestyle choice has its rewards and challenges. Please keep us updated on your travels!
Wow, I love your childhood and all the community aspects. Super cool.
Oh, it does. Sometimes people ask us what it is like to be on a permanent vacation. I have to laugh. It is an awesome lifestyle choice, but we still have all the same responsibilities as we did stateside and sometimes on a more complicated level. But I would not change it for the world. Please keep in touch would love to hear how your life changes over the years and the impact your childhood travel has on it.
What a beautiful post! I teared up at, “children are capable of more than we think. They are capable of change, empathy, unconditional love, hope, creativity, understanding and doing hard things.” I have moved about 35 times in my life… and I am 30 years old. I always adjusted well to moves and love that I gained the ability to get to know people quickly. Now as a single mama to 3 little kids I am seeing that I need to move to a larger city in a new state to get a more ideal internship that will give me the experience to work a more flexible schedule in web development. But I worry! And why do I worry? I can pack up a house so easily, make connections and build a community better than most! Why do we get stuck in the way ‘things are suppose to be’? As if staying in the same home with the same neighbors is the best way to live? All is not lost if my kids have to join a new soccer team. Thank you for sharing a bit of your life.
Amy thank you so much for your kind words. Children are just so darn cool, right? Mine teach me every day, as I am sure yours do. I just have to say I have such admiration for single mamas. You have a strength, conviction and love for your children that is beautiful. Keep up the great work.
I always say that if mama makes change a positive experience (which I know you will) then the kids will adjust to the change and even thrive. Good luck with your move. I know it is hard, even now we get a bit of anxiety every time we get ready for a new move. Good luck!
What a wonderful story and family! Thank you for sharing your experiences and words of wisdom with us, Jessica.
While we are not in the season of life to travel the world with our kids (we are actually doing a bit of the opposite–we are preparing to move closer to family and narrow the range of our adventures right now), I can definitely appreciate Jessica’s perspective. I’ve been reading a lot lately about simple/frugal living as a means to early retirement, which is all about the idea of getting off the hamster wheel of working so you can buy more stuff and instead aligning your spending with your values and greater goals in life. Reading about this has really been eye-opening and freeing, as I see so many more possibilities for my family’s future, including living abroad. It sounds like Jessica has found a way to live this kind of life while still running a business, which is inspiring. :)
Thank you Rachel for kind words. I think it sounds lovely to move closer to family. We lived in Los Angeles for seven years and then did the same and moved to Boston for eight. My parents were then only four hours driving distance away. It was truly a magical time for the kids and they do miss my parents a lot. Luckily they like to travel and see new lands with us.
Oh boy, I get it. I have become obsessed with minimalist, living with less, small homes and an earlier retirement. Since we have been traveling for almost three years we have learned to live on so much less and frankly it has not been a sacrifice at all. When we left the US we sold our stuff, but we let the kids keep most of their items at my parents cottage. When we went back this past summer they were eager to sell it at our lawn sale. It is amazing the change once you start living it. Circle back and let me know how it goes. I am always eager to learn how others are doing it. There is so much benefit in sharing. Have a great day and thanks for commenting.
I am a huge fan of Will and Jessica :) Thanks for inspiring me with your story. I must add that I love Jessica’s honesty…. feels like a close dear friend. Because of this awesome family, my family got inspired and I am so excited that this summer we are leaving behind the comforts of a life in Florida to go experience our first slow travel adventure :) THANK YOU!!!
Carolina you made my day!!! Or should I say night since it is late over here in France. I love hearing that folks are going after those travel dreams. Congrats! It will be fabulous. And thanks for your kind words about Will and I. I always try to write with the utmost honesty and I am glad that it shines through in this piece. It is the only way I see us all being able to help each other. Please let me know how your first slow travel experience goes, pm or email once you get settled. CONGRATS!
WOW! This is my ultimate dream with my family, though I’m not sure my partner totally agrees. I’m so excited to read more about your journey. Have your kids picked up Spanish and French?
How did you get a visa to stay in France for longer than 3 months?
Hello Kristen. My hubby was not onboard initially either. But once he identified what his big fear was it all fell into place. You just never know.
Our kids already spoke French because they were in a French school in the US. As for Spanish they picked it up in Costa Rica and Ecuador. Me on the other hand, ugh, you know those young brains are like sponges. Ahhhh.
We did a long stay tourist visa. We did a video on it if you want to check it out. It was a lot of paper work, but pretty seamless. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=138e_av3jJs if you have any questions feel free to reach out to me.
Thanks for commenting.
This is probably my favorite Living with Kids yet. I so, SO admire Jessica’s honesty. It’s so nice to hear that sometimes, things just suck and we react accordingly. Sometimes I wonder if I’m just too tenderhearted to deal with some things (side note: I totally have a version of Gabby’s “We Can Do Hard Things” hung up – I always need that reminder!).
I can tell what remarkable parents they are (what an experience! Travel really does provide some of the best education). The McDonalds after Supersize Me totally made me crack up (in a good way – because that’s always the way it happens)! You’re kids won’t hold the school pickup against you, but they will probably make fun of you forever. :P Spoken as someone with a busy, business owner mother, kids are resilient. My biggest piece of advice would be to not be busy all the time/set aside some time to give direct attention to them. It’s that whole be present when you’re present thing, but of course that’s different when you work from home. They’ll know the difference though!
Thank you so much for sharing, and all the best!
and *your. Aaargh!
Thank you Annie for you sweet words. When we started traveling and having some ups & downs I made a promise to always be honest about this journey. The grass is always greener and I needed the readers of my blog to know that our life was no different than theirs, except that it had an ever changing backdrop. Glad you appreciated it, thank you.
I am laughing out loud right now. Every day when our daughter goes to school she now says, “remember today I get home at xyz, you forgot me once and it can now happen again,” then she laughs as she walks off. And I love your advice. Now that we have our biz launched we are going back to our old ways which brings me so much more peace. And by “old ways” I mean trying not to work at all between 4-8pm. Your post is filled with so much lovely. Thank you for sharing your thoughts.
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