Follow Our Nomadic #Vanlife Family

We are traveling South America in our “van”! 2 crazy parents, 2 kids under 5, and 2 large mutts! We are 10 weeks into our travels.  We have been in Ecuador for the first stretch and will soon be on our way to Peru, Bolivia, Chile, Argentina, and beyond!

Don’t miss out on our adventures!

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After 30 Days of Full-time Travel

It has now been one month since we left behind our house and committed to a life as nomads. What has happened in this short time frame is astounding. The first days gone by seem to be a positive premonition for what the future holds.

We travel not to seek the greatest number of stamps in our passports, but to gain the greatest amount of knowledge from our experiences in the world. This month has been the first tiny step in the revelations of what the power of the world holds. The personal growth that has ignited in each of us is evidence of knowledge untold.

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This month has revolved around a strong emphasis on empowering our family to be self-sufficient. These are tools that will not only prove beneficial to our personal travel style, but also towards an independent lifestyle in general. We are drawn to rural life and to destinations that are lesser known and off the beaten path. We want to understand life outside of modern society and to connect with the practices from the ancestors of each culture. We have a strong desire to go back in time and capture the essence of a simpler, happier existence.

Before this trip began, we were already a close-knit family. As in, a family that spent copious amounts of time together. We feel that we have always encouraged deep, personal relationships between each of us. The experiences of the past months have certainly strengthened that bond, but in new ways that we had not discovered previously. We had the opportunity to practice numerous activities that many would consider “team building” drills. Experiences that required the participation of each family member and highlighted the strengths in each of us. We have learned a lot about claiming achievements as a unit, rather than as individuals. Yet, in the process we have had many unique opportunities to cherish the attributes of the others.

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We have learned that both of our children have a very strong interest in food prep and “kitchen” duties. They are fascinated by the processes of how our food gets to the table. They are equally interested in gathering the food, preparing it, and eating it. At ages 3 and 4, they are much more capable of participating in meal prep than we had realized before. In just one month we have learned to make bread, cheese, ketchup, marmalade, and sugar cane syrup. We also took hands on classes for preparing long term pre-made dry storage meals. Our vehicle is now stocked for at least 5 weeks of quick-prep breakfast with whole, unprocessed foods and the best ingredients in the world! Think steel-cut oats and whole wheat pancakes.

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My husband has gained a ton of knowledge about how to make modifications to our car that support the vagabond lifestyle. We now have over-head storage, a 20-gallon water storage system with shower fixtures, two spare tire racks, a mattress and bed platform, under bed storage, and privacy curtains…all of which were designed by my husband and were custom made to fit our vehicle. He has also learned an impressive amount about how to diagnose and correct basic to major car complications. He even charged the car battery with a solar panel and learned how to create an adapter to charge our laptop while we are driving!

 

Our daughter discovered a huge interest in animal care and fully immersed herself in learning how to care for both goats and rabbits. She has never had an opportunity to care for animals before and her passion for it trumped all other activities of our daily life. Milking, herding, feeding, and pen care were the highlights of her days. Her ability to be solely responsible for what the animals needed was completely inspiring. Her desire to teach her knowledge to other people was also incredibly intriguing. Her confidence and independence blossomed ten-fold during our farm stay. We now recognize strong leadership skills and an obvious preference for animals over humans.

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Our son impressed us with his athleticism and physical abilities, hiking through meadows and mountains, likely several miles a day. Usually in lieu of nap time, too! We never imagined that a three year could be capable of such intense physical exertion. He also shows a clear strength in his social ability, to connect with just about any person in his presence. We have always known him to be sweet natured, but had not previously witnessed him reaching out to others with such eloquence. Always eager to include everyone, through sharing, eye contact, or body language gestures; he is quite the social butterfly! We really came to appreciate his adventurous spirit.

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Personally, I learned a lot about homesteading and off-the-grid life. It is a strong interest of mine to learn how to live and provide necessities without refrigeration and with very little to no electricity. Each year I try to learn more about living an unprocessed life. We buy less processed goods every month, so understanding how to purchase and prepare homemade goods has been a very beneficial part of my experience. Gaining knowledge of appropriate family portions and the “shelf life” of a prepared meal have become  important values in waste reduction and efficiency. I also felt very fortunate to have numerous experiences to learn about natural plant remedies for minor ailments like cuts, bee stings, seasonal allergies, iron deficiency, fevers, stomach ache, indigestion, and a lingering cough.

As a family, we learned to identify numerous trees and plants that we were previously unaware of. We harvested all sorts of edibles including oranges, guayaba, aloe, coffee, and macadamia nuts. We genuinely learned how to plan our day around the sun and routine, not by a clock. We learned about compost toilets, mountain water systems, and solar energy.

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We spent more time in nature than we have in 7 years. We learned more about living the kind of life we want to live, than we have in our entire lives.  Imagine the potential of 30 weeks, 30 months, or even 30 years of travel? We understand that there is more information to be gained from the world, than we can possibly absorb in one life. We are more inspired than ever to claim as much of this knowledge as possible in whatever time we are allotted.

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Why We Chose to Pursue #VanLife

Why do you want to live in your car? Won’t you miss your home? Where will your kids sleep? What will you eat? What about school? Don’t you need a job? What about a doctor? Where will you get your mail? Is this safe? Is this healthy? Wait- You have dogs, too?! Are you crazy?

These are just a tiny fraction of the questions we were asked when we decided to start this journey. That is, to move into our Landcruiser and travel full-time as a nomadic family. As we travel, the same questions in many variations resurface over and over again. We enjoy the conversation most of the time, encourage the questions, are even pleased to share our viewpoints. Occasionally there are people that we must laugh at or simply walk away from. But, overall, it is fun to let people in on the big mystery.

Yes, we have thought this over. Talked it over. Analyzed it, reanalyzed it. It was not a light decision that we just woke up one morning and decided to move into our “van”. We have carefully scrutinized every tiny detail, imagined the worse possible scenarios, recognized the scrutiny we will receive, AND decided to do it anyway.

WHY? Because we genuinely believe that this is the best fit for our family. This list chronicles our answers to the biggest questions.

  1. We Don’t Settle 20170512_152941Literally. We have tried it out for years, it just doesn’t fit. Suburb life, small town life, rural life, beach life. No matter how grand the place, how great the house, nothing lasts forever. We love everywhere. We want to try it all, live it all, experience it all. Staying in one place, in one house, just doesn’t suit us. Settling down is not the right life for us. But, moving in and moving out, selling, renting, whatever… it is all rather exhausting. We see this life as a path for skipping all that hassle. We are nomads, moving as slowly or quickly as we like. Lingering when we love it, passing when we don’t, hanging around as little or as long as we see fit.
  2. Anti-Attachments DSC_0072 (2)We don’t do “stuff”. Not anymore. We did that once. We felt tired, overwhelmed, and exhausted just looking at the stuff. Forget cleaning it, organizing it, and remembering we had it. All of the money and time we wasted on it. We are sick of stuff. We took a stake in minimalism when we first moved abroad. Not on purpose. It happened by accident. It was so liberating to have only what we needed and to stop “needing” more. Teaching our kids the concept has been rewarding, too. They are 3 and 4, but they get it. We are all happier with less. More creative, curious, adventurous, and spontaneous. None of us have any one thing that we are particularly attached to. In fact, much of what we still need; we really wish we didn’t.
  3. Natural TherapyDSC_0039 (1)We are not anti-medicine or anti-doctor, but we are pro-independence. We will use a doctor if we need it, go to the hospital when necessary. However, we do not wish to live our lives dependent on prescriptions, physicals, and programmed check-ups or injections. We love to learn about and practice natural medicine, gaining as much knowledge as possible to treat daily ailments with the same methods of our ancestors. The world is full of alternatives to pharmaceuticals, ancient practices that pre-date medications. We aim to learn as much about them as possible.
  4. Money Matters 18446887_10154617042390662_1980677124200578081_nWe both have “jobs” that are location independent. However, we don’t work much because we don’t need much. This lifestyle costs LESS than a traditional one! Yes, you read that right. Traveling full time as a family costs us less than it did to own a home and new car and all of the expenses that go with them. We don’t pay any costs associated with owning a home like electricity and plumbing, HOA’s, lawn care, cleaning costs, appliance maintenance, insurance, etc. We also don’t pay for health insurance. In South America, health care is affordable and good quality. Insurance is not necessary or required. It is important to note that we are economically minded travelers. We are not paying for flights or hotels, taxis, or high-end restaurant foods. We drive, we camp or stay at low cost venues when necessary (in Ecuador, hostels cost an average of $8-20 per night). We eat like locals, shop like locals, live like locals everywhere we go. We typically avoid tourist traps and focus on authentic experiences instead. Incredibly, they are always a fraction of the price. Realizing that traveling would be cheaper than staying in one place: was a huge factor in making our lifestyle decision.
  5. Schooled By the World
    DSC_0163 (2)“Not all classrooms have four walls.” This is a simple way to sum up how we feel about our children and their education. Although our children are not yet old enough to be enrolled in school, we have already begun a learning a system that we intend to practice for as long as it is working. It is a home-based education principle that relies heavily on interest-based learning. We intend to teach them through the world and their environment over workbooks and curriculum. We hope to instill in them that learning is not related to an age, grade level, testing success, or to a generalized standard. We want them to love learning and for this, we aim to teach them in natural ways that interest them at the time that curiosity strikes.
  6. Safety Concerns 20170512_153001We are aware that the world is not a perfect place, and therefore there can be no perfect destination. We are not looking for perfection, we are looking for real life. Every location we visit is well researched and every risk completely calculated with the best interest of our entire family in mind. Thus far, we have learned that the greatest risk to any of us, is to let fear interfere with our discovery of incredible places and perspective changing experiences. We travel to get of our comfort zone, to immerse in diverse cultures, and to gain an intimate understanding of the world. Ultimately, we have learned that world is not as bad as it seems. People are mostly good and the planet most beautiful in the places we are afraid to look.
  7. Close Knit Family 20170508_070940.jpgPeople wonder where we get our alone time, who babysits the kids, how the children will have their own space, etc. The truth is, none of that exists in this life. We choose to be together all the time. That literally means every moment. It has been this way from the beginning. We are happiest this way. There is no babysitter, no school hours or working time. We are together 24/7 and we truly struggle to function when we are not. Our kids get along very well, usually better together than with other children. We have raised them to be team mates. When they have their moments or days of adversity, they have learned how to separate from each other. They understand how to negotiate duties, space and time. Sometimes with a little help from us and other times on their own. As for intimate time between parents, there is plenty of room for spontaneity and creativity. No room for routine or a schedule. We like to believe this is the way nature intended it to be!
  8. Dogs Love Travel                                  DSC_0213 (2)                                                              If people tend to think we are strange for traveling with young children, they tend to think we are completely insane when we mention our dogs. It is not easy to travel with dogs, but it has surely has been worth it. For us, it simply was not an option to leave our dogs behind. They have been with us before our children, they are a definitive part of our family. For us, it was not feasible to simply discard them when we chose to move abroad and then to embrace full-time travel. Fortunately for all of us, both of our dogs travel very well. In fact, they genuinely seem to thrive on the road. Just like the rest of our family, they seem content so long as they are with us. We always choose destinations based on their needs. If they are not welcome or accepted, we simply do not go. Luckily, most of what we like is complimentary to traveling with dogs and we rarely encounter a problem.

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