The title of Alisa’s blog, Living Outside The Box, encapsulates their family philosophy, they live life differently! They have been expats, full-time travelers, and now travel from a home base. They are living proof that even large families can travel!
Tell us a bit about your family and what kind of traveling you have done.
My husband and I met while working seasonally in Alaska during our college years. We continued the seasonal lifestyle in Alaska for almost a decade, and after several years of marriage, we started our own retail business so that we could start a family and have the flexibility of bringing our children to work with us. Later down the road, we found ourselves as Expats living and traveling in Mexico for about two years, which included extensive road trips through Mexico, Guatemala, and Belize. We then decided to travel full-time, which took us through Europe and Southeast Asia. We’ve been weekend warriors, snowbirds, expats, full-time travelers, and now choose to travel on trips with a 3-month maximum.
How old were your children when you first started your traveling lifestyle?
Our first child was just four weeks old when she made her first big road trip from Washington State to Southeast Alaska (a 3-day drive, consisting of 12+ hr driving days). I guess you could say that all of our children have grown up understanding that travel is just something that we do! Whether it’s been extensive road trips or international flights, our youngest have all experienced extensive travel by the age of 2. We drove from Alaska to Mexico (the first time) when our oldest was 3 and our youngest was nearly a year old. We took off on full-time overseas travel when our children were just 2, 4 and 7. We flew to New Zealand this past year with a 6-month-old baby, and our other children were 2, 5, 8 and 10. The “start” of our travel lifestyle is a hard thing to pinpoint…because it’s always simply been a part of our lives!
What was the catalyst that made you decide to live life differently and travel the world with your family?
When we lived seasonally in Alaska, our jobs catered to cruisers who were in our town for only one day. We met people from all over the world, and it’s hard not to get itchy fit when foreigners are telling you all about the wonderful places they are from! Not only that, but many of the seasonal workers in Alaska live very out-of-the-box lives, and often spent their winters teaching Scuba Diving in the Caribbean, doing volunteer work in South America, etc! When knew for a fact that having kids didn’t have to limit our ability to travel by vehicle, and when we realized that people were flying across the world and backpacking with their entire family, we figured…”why not us, too?!
How have you chosen to educate your children while traveling? What are your educational philosophies?
We have done just about everything–from worldschooling to homeschooling to enrolling our children in schools abroad. We have loved it all–for different reasons–and appreciate the elements that each schooling philosophy offers. Currently, we homeschool our children and have them on a set curriculum, but that’s mostly because it’s convenient for me (the teacher) and it gives me peace of mind that we are making progress and working towards educational goals. However, when we travel abroad there is a big shift and instead, we become worldschoolers–writing about and exploring what we are seeing, and only doing textbook work for math. Our educational philosophy is simple=learn! We are supporters of higher education, as well as hands-on life and work experience that can’t be learned in a classroom–but only by doing!
Tell us one of your best worldschooling moments.
It’s hard to think of just *one* best moment while worldschooling! We love cultural festivals and holidays–and absolutely loved our experience with Semana Santa in Antigua, Guatemala, and the Yi Peng Festival in Chiang Mai, Thailand. More recently, however, we spent three months in New Zealand and met up with two other traveling families (Pearces and Kings) for an epic month-long exploration of the South Island. We spent 2 1/2 weeks together in the Nelson area, and then drove down the Western coast for about 2 weeks. We went on beach walks, hiked through the dense forests, learned all about glaciers first-hand, etc! What better way to explore the world than to do it with friends?
What is one thing you know now that you wish you had known before you started out on your traveling lifestyle?
I wish I had known it would be so hard to keep up on documentation of our travels. If I had known–perhaps I would have been more diligent about blogging/writing daily about our adventures, so that I wouldn’t have become so hopelessly behind. When I write about an event that is fresh in my mind, the details flow and I record so much more. When I’m trying to remember something that happened a year ago (via memories and photos), it is much more difficult to remember the details that make the written accounts so much fuller.
How do you find community on the road?
We like to connect with other traveling families as we go, so we typically check Facebook groups for other traveling families that may be in the area. We also love to coordinate with other families and plan itineraries around when other people may be headed to an area for a special event. We’ve enjoyed festival and holidays with friends all over the world–meeting up with some families in as many as six countries (and counting)! Also, we are very active in our church—which is located and organized the same way throughout the world—so whenever we land in a new location we find the local congregation and are immediately able to plug ourselves into instant friends and social events!
How do you finance your travels?
We have several home-based businesses, which require only internet and sometimes a phone line to conduct business. We are sales representatives for gift store products, wholesalers of a jewelry line we import from Mexico, and private label marketers of products that we brand and sell on Amazon.
What is your favorite country so far? Why?
Every country is just so entirely different, that it is hard to pinpoint one favorite. We love them all for different reasons! We love Mexico, because we have done the most exploring there (two years), and fell in love with the culture and variety throughout the country. Guatemala is a rainbow of colors! My husband is in love with Europe, due to the ease of driving (he doesn’t like public transportation) and the closeness of each new adventure. Southeast Asia was a whirlwind of new flavors, foods, and discovery–a feast for the senses! New Zealand is a breath of fresh air–wide open spaces and endless beauty everywhere you look. How could we possibly pick one?
What are some of the difficulties you have encountered in traveling and how have you overcome them?
I think the most difficult thing for us is simply trying to work as we travel. Our businesses don’t require specific business hours or even a large amount of dedicated hours per day. However, they do require constant care just to maintain, and extra effort if we want forward progress and growth. When we travel we go into maintenance mode, and therefore our business growth becomes somewhat stagnant. We end up spending late hours on our computers after the kids go to sleep, and/or we have many work days when the kids are stuck in the house (we prefer rental houses over hotels) while we catch up on work that can no longer be ignored. We balance those days with exploration days–which means we have a constant flow of busy and slower days. It works for us, although sometimes the kids get bored in inside days. The beauty is that this kind of works allows us to do long, slow travel–but it does have its challenges.
Tell us one thing that you have learned about yourself, your family, or the world through travel.
I have learned that the more we see, the world seems to become bigger and bigger. I’m constantly in awe of how much more is out there to explore! Every single person I’ve met is interesting—and I love to learn about the nuances of their life. I’ve learned that someone always does it bigger and better, and while traveling as a family of 7 sounds outrageous to some people, it is nothing in comparison to what some other families accomplish every day! We’re just another family, and whether we’re “normal” or not depends on how you see/experience the world. Everyone is capable of stretching themselves, and everyone has different dreams and goals. For some people, “travel” may simply entail taking that extra day off work and heading into the woods near home. I commend and applaud everyone who stretches out of their comfort zone and seeks to experience and learn something new about the world and people around them.
What are your future travel plans?
We’ve discovered that a home base is just what the doctor ordered! We enjoy 1-3 month trips, and hope to spend at least 3 months a year traveling (sometimes in one chunk, and sometimes in smaller bites that add up). We’ve learned to embrace flexibility and realize that some years this may be attainable, and other years it will be more difficult.
What aspect of the Family Adventure Summit are you most excited about?
The networking! We’re so excited to catch up with the many traveling families we’ve met on our journeys, who are also excited to be there! Traveling is exponentially better when shared with friends, and we’re excited to make more connections, so we can explore new opportunities to travel and meet up with like-minded families around the world. Everything else will be a HUGE bonus!