Travelers always seem to find other travelers one way or another. Sometimes you meet your best friend in the hostel lobby searching for wifi. Other times they find that they’re two travel happy folks living in close proximity to one another and would love to take off on new adventures. The Wagoners met abroad but actually lived close by to one another. They ditched their home towns on the west coast and made a move to North Carolina early in their marriage. Now with two kids in tow, they’ve set off on a new adventure abroad. Immersing their children in the cultures of Spain and now Southeast Asia, they’ve all learned to enjoy being outside of their comfort zone and see the world first-hand. Here they share their story and what they think are the ‘gifts of travel’.
1.When did you get started traveling? I started traveling over 25 years ago and I’ve been addicted ever since. For this latest adventure, we sold it all and left the USA in August of 2012. We had 4 one-way tickets to Spain and we haven’t looked back since.
2.What made you decide to make the jump to a location independent/travel-based existence? We were tired of the rat race and working 45-60 hours a week and not having much time to spend together as a family. We had it all, the American Dream! The big house (filled with stuff), 2 cars, fantastic jobs and 2 wonderful kids. We spent more time working and taking care of the house and stuff. It just wasn’t satisfying and we had very little time left for what was important to us, family. We enjoyed travel and would save up our few weeks’ vacation every year, for something extraordinary. We wanted to show the kids the world, but it was costly and dissatisfying doing it a week at a time a couple of times a year. We started making the plans and saving the money to go away for 1 year to Spain and fully immerse the kids into the culture. It went so well we stayed an additional year in Spain. Now we are adding yet another year and exploring Southeast Asia.
3.What benefits do you feel you get from this lifestyle? How do you handle the nay-sayers in your life? The benefits are endless! For all of us, we have learned to embrace change, step out of our comfort zone and accept people just as they are. We’ve learned to join in with customs and traditions and learn rather than to judge or just watch. The kids are completely fluent in Spanish and have made lifetime friends in Spain. We have met the most amazing people because of our journey and look forward to meeting more. If we don’t like where we are or what we are doing, we just pack up and go. We have all of our belongings with us and can pack in about 20 minutes. It is amazing how easy life can be when you live a simple life, without all of the stuff. That stuff really holds you back and anchors you in ways you wouldn’t understand, until you are free without it. We had several nay-sayers in the beginning, but they are all on board now. Back then, we would just let them say their piece and not try and change their mind. It was our life and we were going to do what we wanted regardless of their approval. Many people would follow along with us in the beginning, hoping for that day they could say “I told you so”, but it has yet to come.
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? We started saving for the sake of saving, not knowing we were going to travel. The economy was in a weird way in the USA and companies were laying off hundreds of employees regularly. After a few years of this environment, we knew the time would come for us eventually. So we decided to be proactive and assume we would be let go from our work and started saving for that day. It was very liberating, not linking our identity to our job. It was great knowing that we were replaceable and we were doing something about it on our own, for the day to come. As it turned out, we didn’t lose our jobs. We did however become detached enough to have new doors open and realize we had saved enough to travel. If we did slow travel, we could make the money stretch for a long time. Once we made the decision for long term travel, it was even easier to save. Our purpose was clear and we were no longer spending money on stuff. We were getting rid of stuff and the money saved faster. It took us about 10 months from the decision day to departure day.
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? Now that we are nomadic and moving around, we don’t make too many plans. We have a general idea of which countries we want to visit and check to see if there are events or celebrations we want to see. Southeast Asia has pretty well known travel routes, so we get loads of inspiration from other bloggers and travelers we meet. We have a triple entry visa for Thailand, so we plan to spend about 5-6 months in and out of Thailand. We also want to explore the other countries around. When we arrive, we usually plan for 1 week. If we like it we stay. If not, we seek out the next destination. We have stayed in a variety of accommodations, but I think we would be considered flash-packer style. We do like our AC and comfy beds, so a hut with a bamboo bed isn’t for us. We occasionally treat ourselves to a little luxury, but most of the time it is in an apartment or guesthouse. As far as resources, booking.com is our go to for last-minute accommodation bookings (within hours).
6.How much money do you traditionally need annually to support this lifestyle? When living in Spain the first year was about $44k, (we share all of the financial details on our blog). This included everything from housing, to food, insurance, transportation, to travel in 11 countries for a family of 4. It was slightly less the following year and we expect it to be even less in Southeast Asia. You can easily live on less than that as well as more. It all depends on your creature comforts and what is important for your experience.
7.How do you make money on the road and save for retirement? We do make small amounts while we are traveling from various sources. We have written a couple of ebooks that bring in a small and steady income each month, we have investments, we do freelance work and we make some money from advertising on our blog. It currently isn’t enough to pay for all of our travels, but it does supplement what needs to be drawn from our savings. We do have 401k that continues to slowly grow, while we are away.
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 just take care of it all online and use a family members address, in the US, as our home base. As far as visas, we do our research in advance and check the closest location to obtain them. When living in Spain, we checked where we could pick up our Thai visas. We ended up picking them up while we spent a week in Amsterdam, as there was a Thai Embassy near our rental.
9.If you decide to settle somewhere-where and when do you think it will be? We really have absolutely no clue! We ask that question of ourselves every now and again and we are really stumped. We do have some belongings in storage in North Carolina, so we will need to return there to pick them up. We don’t think that is the location we will return to long-term. Our families are mainly in the west of the USA, so that is appealing too. Ideally we can just continue our location independence, even in the USA. Only time will tell.
10.What advice do you have for others trying to make the jump to a location independent/travel-heavy lifestyle? My only advice is “just do it!” If you don’t like it, you can make a change. You can plan yourselves silly, so just go with the flow and life will be easier.
11.In your experience, what have been the two most significant gifts of travel? The most important gift is the time we have had together as a family. We have bonded in ways we never even dreamed of. We work, learn, plan and adjust to change together. It is amazing how adaptable we have become and how we are all growing as a family. The other most important gift are relationships both old and new. With technology, we are able to keep in close touch with family and friends back in the US. It has also given us the gift of making new friends online. It is amazing how the world becomes so small when you are out exploring and you have the internet.
**If traveling with children on the road:
1.How do you manage the education of your children? When in Spain, the kids attended public school. Now that we are nomadic, we are homeschooling. We are currently working out a routine and use travel and many online resources as tools.
2.How do they feel being world travelers and moving from place to place regularly? So far so good. They do like to stay in places for at least a week or two. In fact, we are staying in Chiang Mai, Thailand for 3 months in an apartment. This will give us a travel break and time to catch up on schooling. It will also allow us to enjoy the many activities the area has to offer, at a slower pace.
3.What do you think they gain from living life this way as opposed to a ‘traditional upbringing’? Their confidence has shot through the roof. They are also excellent communicators and researchers. They can hold a conversation with any adult or child in Spanish or English. We have met several Spanish-speaking travelers along the way in Thailand, so it has been fun. They have seen so many cultures and learned to adapt to a changing environment. These are life lessons that can’t be taught or just read from a book, they are best when experienced. They are very proficient with technology and keep in touch with their friends in the USA and Spain or around the world.
4.How has location independent living changed your family dynamics? More than we could ever explain. It has all been for the better and we are all very close. We spend so much time together, we experience the good, the bad and the ugly together. We also experience how we all cope and grow from each experience.
5.How do you feel this lifestyle will help your children in their future? I have no idea at all. I know we are giving them a solid foundation to grow in whatever direction they like. They understand the world is a small place and if you have a dream, you need to make it happen yourself. I do know they will be and are global citizens and have a love for people all over the world.
For more information about the Wagoners and details of their budgeting stats, check out their blog!