Interview #12: Family on Bikes


The travel community is filled with incredibly interesting people. All are dreamers and doers who find a way to include travel as a focal point in their lives. If you’ve ever thought about living, working, continuous travel and education with your family in tow – meet John, Nancy, Davy and Daryl of Family on Bikes. John and Nancy are teachers by trade and adventurers at heart. They’ve lived and worked all over the world and have helped their children learn with the world as their teacher. Raising their family in the global classroom community as well as the traditional one, here they share their story, inspiration and ideals of adventure.

Riding bicycles from Alaska to Argentina

1.When did you get started traveling? My life of travel started way back in 1976, when my parents took us kids to Mexico for Christmas vacation. I remember walking down the Mexican streets in wide-eyed amazement – it had never occurred to me that people actually lived differently than I did in Boise, Idaho. When we arrived back home, I turned on the television and a commercial for the Peace Corps came on. I made the decision right then and there that I would join the Peace Corps as soon as I could. I haven’t stopped traveling since.

2.What made you decide make the jump to a location independent/travel-based existence? It was a gradual thing for us. We initially took off for one year, and financed that year entirely from savings. When we decided we wanted to continue on, we started looking for ways to make that happen. At first, the goal was to be partially funded by income with the rest from savings, but over time we realized it was possible to support ourselves entirely without a traditional job.

Family on Bikes in the Andes Mountains

3.What benefits do you feel you get from this lifestyle? How do you handle the nay-sayers in your life? I think the key to long-term happiness is to know that YOU are the one calling the shots. When you can wake up in the morning and say, “What I do with the next 24 hours is what *I* choose to do,” then life is good. Ultimately, it doesn’t matter if you are traveling or living a stationary life; the goal is the same. If you have set up your life in a way that you have chosen, then all is good. As for the nay-sayers? Who are you going to give a vote?

4.How did you save money to be able to afford living ‘on the road’/traveling often? How long did it take you to make the jump to a location independent/travel-based life? My husband and I were both schoolteachers. For 20 years, we always lived on one salary and saved the other. When we made the decision to head out, we had that savings to fall back on.

A stop with the penguins of South America

5.How do you choose your destinations and for how long you’ll stay? What type of accommodations do you typically choose? Are there any specific resources you recommend? We prefer to travel on bicycle, so have a basic idea of where we are headed and just go in that direction. As we ride into a town, we stop at various hotels and check them out – if they are good, we stay. If not, we continue on. We’re pretty flexible.

6.How much money do you traditionally need annually to support this lifestyle? Our basic, day-to-day budget is about $50 for our family of four, which translates to about $1500/month. That’s just for food and lodging. We also budget an additional $500/month for other, one-off expenses – that could be a trip to the Galapagos Islands or Machu Picchu, or it could mean rebuilding our bikes. We will go many months without tapping into that money and then spent thousands in a week. All that is to say that we live on roughly $25K/year for our family.

7.How do you make money on the road and save for retirement? We are basically retired and our investments are a large part of our income now. We own some rental properties, which generate roughly half (or maybe a bit more) of our monthly income. The remainder comes from freelancing in various ways and from my beadwork.

Entering Costa Rica

8.How do you handle visas, vaccinations, legal documents/passports, taxes and healthcare while living without a home base or an ever-changing one? We have everything set up online. Not having a home base was rarely a problem.

9.If you decide to settle somewhere – where and when do you think it will be? We are settled! We’ve been in Boise, Idaho for three years now, and plan to stay here at least two more until our sons are in college. We love it here.

10.What advice do you have for others trying to make the jump to a location independent/ travel-heavy lifestyle? Save enough money for the first year, and then work like crazy to figure things out once you are on the road. It’s very difficult to get it figured out beforehand, but once you’re “out there,” things start to happen. Be open to all possibilities and get creative!

Sights on the road-so much better than television!

**If traveling with children on the road:

1.How do you manage the education of your children? We used our experiences while traveling as the basis for our children’s education. I have actually written a book as a guide to how to do that – it should be out within a month or two. It will be called Roadschooling: The Ultimate Guide to Educating Through Travel.

2.How do they feel being world travelers and moving from place to place regularly? That varied tremendously as they developed. When they were small, it wasn’t an issue – their lives revolved around Mom and Dad. By the time they were teens, it became more of an issue, and is a large part of why we are stationary now.

With the world as our classroom…there’s always time for learning

3.What do you think they gain from living life this way as opposed to a ‘traditional upbringing’? What I’ve come to learn is that one isn’t better or worse – only different. Around the world, kids grow up in a huge variety of situations, and there are advantages and disadvantages to each. Is it better to grow up on a farm? Or in a big city? Go to school? Or homeschool? Eat organic, homegrown food or eat out at restaurants? As parents, we are in control of all those. We felt that, for those years we were on the road, that our life on the road had the most advantages at the moment. Our sons were able to swim with dolphins, scuba dive with turtles, climb Mayan ruins, and dance at Carnival. Those are all great things. However, in order to do all those, our sons gave up going on campouts with Boy Scouts, having sleepovers with friends, and having birthday parties at Chuck E. Cheese. Those things are good too. Overall, there is a cost for every decision we make. Every time we make the decision to DO something, we make a parallel decision NOT TO DO something else.

4.How has location independent living changed your family dynamics? We have so many shared experiences to draw upon! At home, each person is mostly living their own life, then they all converge in the same home to sleep. While traveling, we were together 24/7 and worked together toward a common goal.

Happy 11th Birthday ‘travel style’

5.How do you feel this lifestyle will help your children in their future? I like to believe our experiences will help our children in many ways. They know the world is not a scary place, so will not hesitate to jump on opportunities no matter where they are. Our sons know that if they can ride their bikes from Alaska to Argentina, then they can do anything. They learned to be flexible and to be determined. They learned to persevere through hard times. Many life lessons come from being on the road.

On their website they share their belief that ‘everyone can (and should) pursue their passion and follow their dream-wherever it may lead’. To read more about their story check out their website.

2 responses »

  1. Hi Stacey, I have been reading your great posts for a while now and think it is excellent that you help showcase individuals/couples/families who live a location-independent life. It would be great to also read more on people who have found a balance between making time for travel adventures– something more than a bog-standard 5-14day tour company excursion– whilst also enjoying the benefits of having a home base, the fulfilment of doing a job you love and having family and friends you see on a regular basis and can rely on. Most would agree that it’s nice being part of a physical community (vs. a virtual one) but that doesn’t mean you give up travel. Basically– can you get more personal about how you have managed to mix work, family, friends, community and all the great adventures you take? That seems a lot harder to manage than an all or nothing lifestyle, but also seems far more fulfilling! Having the best of both worlds. x

    • Hey Jacqueline-Thanks so very much for reading and writing and thanks for the kind words. Absolutely! For sixteen years as a school teacher (only recently resigned in January) that’s exactly what I did at every opportunity I had, travel and exist in the world of permanent job and travel when it fit and I do understand your perspective and thoughts well. I think it is difficult to do both, find a way to fit travel into your life during those holiday breaks or time off as well as travel full time (with/without a family in tow) as no matter what it often feels like you’re doing something different than the norm and that can always be difficult. Thanks for reading and I will definitely try to accentuate more of how I fit travel into my life while having a permanent home base in New York with friends, neighbors, colleagues and family in my physical life on a regular basis. No matter which way you choose, I think travel is without question, worth it. Cheers, Stacey

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