How To Travel With Kids And Not Go Insane
We’ve now been a full-time traveling family, or ‘digital nomad family’ if you want to call it that, for almost five years! I sometimes can’t quite believe it when I look back at how long ago it feels we last lived in the UK.
The girls are now 5 and 7 and have taken more flights than I can count – Dubai, Australia twice, New Zealand twice, China, Thailand, France, Greece, Greece again accidentally thanks to a flight that caught fire while in the air and had to do an emergency landing!, and more flights to the UK and Cyprus, (where we lived for 3 years).
I’m sure we spend most of our life on planes actually. And we always get asked about how we do it with kids in tow, in fact people kind of look at me like I’m some alien species when I say we travel with kids full time 😊
So here’s how we do it and not only travel with kids as some sort of ‘thing you must do in order to get somewhere else’ but actually have come to love it this weird and crazy way of life!
FIRST then it’s probably that that makes travel with kids so much easier! If we were looking at each flight or destination as something that was ‘hard’ to manage with kids in tow, then it probably would be hard –
I know I’d feel more stressed and worried that the kids would be eaten by deadly mosquitos / contract some deadly diseases / not cope with jet lag/meltdown on the plane / if I felt that was going to happen!
To be honest, we’ve kind of been through some of the worst things that can happen while traveling with kids, from them both contracting some terrible virus on the way to New Zealand a few years ago which meant that for the whole SIX flights we had to take BOTH of the girls were projectile vomiting and I mean literally everywhere, graphic I know but they even covered a poor nearby passenger-
and of course they only wanted Mummy and of course I lost my mobile phone in the process! And then they carried on being sick in the taxi to our hotel in Dubai as well 😊
Right through to our plane catching fire en route to the UK and I was traveling alone with them when Summer was just 2, I’d timed the flights BRILLIANTLY to cover her naptime and bedtime, and totally thought I’d got this trip totally down but NO; plane caught fire instead, thankfully not inside the cabin but seeing the cabin crew literally lose the plot AND trying not to let the kids realise something was wrong while at the same time PRAYING we made it to ground safely and then landing to see ten fire engines waiting for us with hoses at the ready was probably one of the more scary situations we’ve been in as a traveling digital nomad family!
As a result I’m pretty chilled now when it comes to travelling lol, to the point where both girls didn’t receive a single vaccination going to live in Thailand despite everything I read online, and they would often run barefoot throughout the kinda grimy streets and happily eat all kinds of fruit from the market stalls!
But to be honest – I’d kind of be chilled anyway, even if travel didn’t physically and mentally break down your personal barriers and expectations about the way things ‘should’ be!
Because if you decide to be chilled and calm about it all, and in fact I’d say your family NEED you to be calm and chilled about it all, so that they can be too, NOT that you need to pretend or fake it in anyway but decide to be calm and the eye of the storm around you no matter what, then it’s amazing how much easier everything is either because it becomes easier due to your expectation, or because half of the stuff we concern ourselves with is made up in our heads / via mass media hype anyway.
2. Take responsibility. Seriously, the amount of posts I’ve seen lately that talk about ‘my kids tantrum is not my fault’. Actually… it sometimes is.
And this is one of the things I’ve learned about my kids while traveling. If my child is having a meltdown, it’s generally not because she is some kind of ‘naughty’ kid (NOT that I believe a child should EVER be labelled or described that way, but that’s a story for another time)!
It’s because I’ve flown her a thousand miles away across the world, launched her body into a different time zone, given her new foods to eat that she’s never had before, or just generally that she is surrounded by the new and unfamiliar, and actually of course an airport or ANY new circumstance is going to quite often be sensory overload to a child and trigger all sorts of rampant behaviour, of course they’re not just playing up, they’re simply reacting very physically and/or emotionally to the fact their world is out of their control by losing control themselves.
Kind of like how I feel when the coffee shops are shut during an early morning flight 😊 But seriously, the minute I can assume responsibility for my kid’s tantrum or emotions is the second I get chance to impact and influence them in a positive way! Get out their familiar toys from their bag, order them a familiar meal in a restaurant even if that IS chips five days in a row!
Tell them their favourite story or look at photos of our travels together, even say a prayer or write a story together – anything that tells them – it’s ok, I am here, and I will be your home and your constant NOT actually I’m going to put my foot down because you’re not behaving as I want despite the fact I’ve just totally thrown you out of your comfort zone.
Taking responsibility is hard sometimes, especially when you’re kinda feeling stressed yourself that you’re in a particular situation, but that’s how you can positively support kids through change, like round the world travel.
3. Go with the flow. You can’t expect to change your entire life without some upheaval and challenges. Well, ok you can 😉 if you believe it is so! But even then, sometimes you will experience challenges as your kids go through theirs in how to support them best – you can’t always manifest the journey of another because their journey is theirs to experience – and I’m taking about the mental and energetic journey here, not just the physical one!
So YES absolutely you can set your intentions for everything being easy and flowy and abundant and it IS likely to be, but perhaps seeing the challenges of others unfold is the real work here! And really, experiencing challenges – and I’m not sure what else challenges you quite like travel with kids – only enables you to grow.
I’ve dealt with the plane catching fire scenario, the most deadly snake in Europe on our driveway (it was dead, thankfully) seeing giant spiders in the jungle immediately followed by A GIANT BUG FLYING INTO MY FACE, dealing with the full awareness of the impact of PTSD in Thailand, being followed in Paris at 6am in the morning, right through to the standard and probably more important ‘non-events’
like how do I ensure the kids are learning enough while traveling (they almost always are learning enough and you don’t need to worry about it)
how do I ensure the girls are safe (most places are actually far safer than either the media leads you to think / or your paranoid Mummy brain thinks)
and again, most of the time don’t be an idiot and jump in dodgy taxis late at night or walk around in known unsafe areas or look like a wealthy tourist, and you’ll more than likely be fine wherever you go in the world except maybe known war zones and areas of terrorism or out of bounds to foreigners which let’s face it, you probably aren’t that likely to go to anyway!
But each time you get to grow through the challenges and not only that you kind of come to appreciate them as part of the experience and ‘worth it’ for everything else that’s so amazing.
4. Go with the flow re business. Working while traveling with kids is probably the hardest thing I’ve had to do! I LOVE having my own space, my own time for dreaming and thinking, and as a parent with kids in their early years most of the time you can’t even get that while in the bathroom 😊 let alone be able to take the luxury of ‘work time’ when you have kids with you 24/7.
But somehow you find ways if you set your intention as such! In Cyprus we found a wonderful sitter who took the girls for two afternoons a week, followed by part time enrolment in a gorgeous little Waldorf school.
France was definitely a bit more challenging, we’d deliberately found somewhere more remote so that the kids could play outside and explore nature, but it was so cold more often than not we didn’t want to go outside, which left us cooped up indoors throughout much of the winter with the nearest significant town (i.e one with a coffee shop you could happily work in) at least an hour’s drive away! BUT we had little chateau, which thankfully had enough rooms that you could hide away in, and when I worked upstairs it would often be so much effort to walk up the stairs and down the big stretch between the rooms upstairs a lot of the time the girls didn’t bother!
In Thailand we again had an amazing homeschool / school, and in New Zealand we managed to find a few coffee shops with wifi that we were able to work in for the time we were there – the point I’m making is that you can, always, somehow make it work even if it’s not 100% perfect.
To be honest I don’t think there IS an ideal or perfect scenario anyway when you have kids and I’ve ALWAYS worked with them at home with me, SURE sometimes I want to be more present, SURE sometimes I wish I had more time for work, SURE sometimes I feel like I’m dividing myself down the middle but what parent doesn’t feel like that at one time or another!? And you can either choose to feel guilty about that
just accept that for now that is how it is and that it IS, actually, kind of perfect. And from that place you’re in a much better space emotionally at least, to then start to consider what other kind of support you want to call into your life wherever you happen to be physically!
5. Get Your Head In The Zone. I don’t know what I would do without my journals while traveling. I guess I’d maybe practice yoga a ton more than I do or try to meditate a bit more perhaps. But seriously, journaling helps me to get my brain in the right place when the kids have been arguing all morning thanks to jet lag (like today), my tech has meltdowns to match (like… every day this past fortnight) my VA decides not vanish (like yesterday) and you lose your main bank card while traveling (like this week) and you STILL don’t have any accommodation booked for your next trip and you can’t find ANYTHING suitable (LIKE NOW) and you’re TRULY leaning into trust that the universe will provide here!
To be honest I don’t actually ever write about the negative or stuff that could be potentially fear-inducing in my journal, because rather than ‘cleansing’ for me it would be more like reliving it, and I really don’t see the point in that – I’d rather concentrate on what I could make happen instead and trust that any learning will unfold exactly as it’s meant to.
But you have to be able to create that space to get your head in the zone first, and that’s often the hardest part. You HAVE to create space for you during the madness of travel. No matter what.
No sight, experience or trip is more important than getting your head where it needs to be and to be able to create regardless of the amazing world around you. Because unless ‘travel’ which IS actually a form of consumption – yes experience and yes all things amazing but also consumption just the same – unless that is your purpose, then it needs to be a secondary thing to your purpose, no matter what.
And so it has to be prioritised as such unless you want to end up just like those who say they have a purpose but never follow it, say they are artists but rarely create, say they want to play and have fun but fill their lives with so much busy and stress that they lose all sight of what pleasure is bar the odd temporary moment of hedonism. Create first!
6. Because I know people always ask this one, the ‘how do we afford it’ question! Well, really, Rob writes freelance and has got to the stage where he can get clients whenever he wants and needs to, right now he is helping a client turn a script into a screenplay which I’m super proud of him for! And as for me, I make money however I want.
Which YES sounds entirely arrogant, YES sounds like there is nothing you have to learn or do, but don’t forget I’ve been in business online for over a decade and at this point if I don’t know how to make money online then what on earth was I doing all that time!?
Ok SOME of the time my business wasn’t entirely online, my hair accessory brand and my photography business both weren’t fully ‘online’ businesses, although the majority of my sales for both DID come from online actually, but it’s more that right from day one when my business partner and I founded our video production company twelve years ago! I KNEW that our marketing was online! And guys – this was in the days of myspace, or soon after it!
So I very quickly learned a ton of lessons around blogging, copywriting, and what it means to market online, so that I’m now at the point where – as long as I choose to not let my old habits and fear creep in around money, which is ALWAYS the thing that holds people back from success online, and even me, last year, they reared their head and I slipped an entire ton backwards in terms of business income! – as long as I keep THOSE in check, I know exactly what ‘to do’ to ‘make money online’.
The ironic thing is I don’t really follow ANY of those step by step, here’s how to make money online programs, I show up for my writing first and foremost as you can probably tell by the length of this post 😉 and as soon as I made the commitment to do that, my business flew, as I believe it does when you hit that sweet spot of understanding how energy and time truly work and how to follow your purpose!
It’s definitely not the easy route, it is actually MUCH easier to follow the step by step programs and courses out there that tell you how to make money by building a prettier website, or by creating particular graphics, or following some sort of other course or program step by step – I believe those programs ARE wildly useful for some people who just want to create some sort of income online, and they work too!
I definitely started out by following blogs like Copyblogger and reading Yaro Starak’s blog, and definitely, some of my ideas took shape from those ideas of how to make money online, in a sense, but really, they were ideas that if we weren’t online, would have come to fruition anyway! I’d simply find another way – for example, my books weren’t even sold on Amazon back then, and the closing of the internet certainly wouldn’t stop me writing books!
BUT. Thankfully 😊 the world IS online, and it’s an amazing way to be able to share and create. Another vehicle really, for your message to unfold, a digital marketplace! OR – a place to build relationships, just like you would in the ‘real’ world. And for me being able to build my businesses online has enabled me to live this life where we can travel around the world, location free. BUT the funny thing is, we actually began our first trip moving to Cyprus when I was not an ‘online business’ owner, I mean sure I was online, but as a photographer, I didn’t even stop to think that my business was dependant on being in any one location, and really –
That’s a pretty limiting way of looking at things, and of course, if you don’t see that your business/life CAN be lived and run even more successfully by moving your location, then, of course, it will be difficult for you to move or travel in this way. It all starts with believing in what might be possible for you!
And in terms of money, then, we NEVER worry about ‘making money’ even when it FEELS as though we are short on cash – yes this still happens, I still have business expenses which are relatively high, my email provider charge alone is the equivalent of renting a small condo in Thailand! – and my business literally plummeted in 2017/ early 2018c when I came out of PTSD and took a long time to recover! – but you WILL recover –
PLUS travelling a family around the world isn’t exactly ‘cheap’!
But I simply never worry about it and then of course, the money always flows soon after I make that choice! PLUS – when you worry about something, you’re much less likely to be able to focus on the real work that needs to be done and that you are called for!
7. Ignore all of the above because if you’re anything like me you will do anyway, and just know it will all unfold exactly as it’s meant to.
The kids tantrums, the CONSTANT pull away from your work or squeezing into the back of a plane to record a training or a podcast while at the same time knowing that EVERYONE will have something to say about the noise but you do it anyway because you can’t not, the jet lag and the actual EXHAUSTION as you kinda go into overwhelm at trekking kids AND a business around the world with ZERO security or anything to return to;
indeed you don’t even know where home is anymore! All of it, you do it all because quite probably you are the crazy ones and really, for those of us who just know we aren’t meant to step the beaten steps of everyone else, well, travel is an entirely normal and natural part of that, just like life and breathing is for most people!
I guess I wrote this for people who want to travel, or maybe worldschool their kids, or maybe even are just intrigued by the likes of us who live life a little differently but really… you know if this is in you or not. And it’s not like it’s a bad thing to NOT live this way, there have definitely been a whole ton of moments where I’ve wished I could just be normal and settled maybe, in that normal kinda way..
And then I look at the elephants bathing in the river or the dolphins next to our boat or even just the fruit on our plate in Thailand and the HEAT on my skin and the buzz of the night cafes and markets and know that if you know –
Then you know!
This was always going to be your life, and WILL be your life, if you decide it is so –
And of course, if you feel at all called to experience life in this way then you already have decided! Just not yet committed, like you’re waiting for the push or the call to be stronger or your stars to align or whatever it is
And yet there is NO perfect time, other than now.
You get one life, or as my Nan used to tell me when I was blessed to have her here with us on this earth, life is not a dress rehearsal.
Might as well live it as you fully intend to then?