Do you think you could sell 90% of what you owned — including your house and car — to fly your family (including four kids) around the world?
Blogger couple Paul and Becky Kortman of Home Along the Way and NomadTogether did just this, and are currently on a RV journey around
Ecuador with their family of six, living a location-less lifestyle, but also looking for a new home. Here’s their story, as told by Paul.
1. Your inspiring story begins with your family selling 90% of your worldly possessions — including your home and minivan — before traveling the world. How did you come to this decision?
I was learning more and more about the location independent movement and the 4-hour workweek entrepreneurs.
In fact, I was a part of multiple masterminds where I was growing my business thanks to advice from these 20 something-year-old expats living in Thailand.
We had longed to travel and just couldn’t ever afford it. We did travel the world before having kids, but once we bought a house and had kids the possibilities of us traveling internationally (not to mention around the USA) seemed distant and not possible.
One day we realized we too could live the location independent lifestyle, business was going well and the lure of travel and cheaper cost of living was too much to say no to.
But in order to do it right, we needed to be committed. So we decided to sell our stuff versus packing it up and storing it. After it was all gone it was amazing how free and lightweight we felt!
2. What were the initial struggles of being without “stuff”?
The funny things like selling our can opener and wine bottle opener; suddenly we couldn’t eat canned food or drink wine.
But other than those small things which we re-purchased at Goodwill and gave back to Goodwill upon leaving the country, we didn’t struggle without stuff initially.
However when we changed lifestyles from flying around the world to driving (RVing) around the world the need for some of the stuff we sold came back, like bikes, kid camping chairs and pots/pans.
3. How did selling your worldly possessions pay off?
In many ways. Most importantly for us the yard sale we ran bought our initial set of plane five tickets.
The youngest was young enough to be a lap child and not need a ticket for the first go-round. And then selling the van paid for our travel insurance.
It was amazing how all the physical stuff evaporated into travel expense and insurance, but we’d rather pay for experiences than pay to accumulate stuff.
4. You and your wife did a Round-The-World Trip with your four children. Talk about a family gap year! What was the biggest challenge of the trip, and how did you overcome it?
Surprisingly enough the biggest challenge was the heat. We were planning on spending over six months in Southeast Asia and we found out that one of our kids suffered from heat exhaustion. It was something we had made a commitment to at the beginning of this trip, if something isn’t working for one of us then it’s not working for all of us.
So because of the health concerns from frequent heat exhaustion — passing out after a two-minute walk outside in the tropical heat — we decided to accelerate the Southeast Asia part of our journey and dramatically increase our time in South Africa from two weeks to three months.
That was a great decision and proved to be really helpful for the kids, as they too fell in love with Africa.
5. What was the biggest reward of the trip?
We’re still uncovering more rewards as the kids continue to see pictures of places they were or clips in a video/documentary, and to hear them say “hey, I’ve been there!” They’ll critique it, like “but what you cannot see in this picture is the great food vendors behind the photographer,” or “you have no idea how warm the water is in this video… but we do.”
It’s priceless to hear things about race, skin color and behaviors from our kids that show their innocence to racial issues, and how they have friends of most skin tones and colors. That combined with a sense of how small the world is to them. They figure it’s as easy as a flight to go hangout with their friends in Bangkok and their worldview is on one hand so large — they see all the possibilities in different lands and cultures — and so small, as if everything is just a flight away.
6. Once home you purchased an RV to explore Mexico as well as Central and South America. What’s it like traveling as family in an RV?
We love the idea of traveling with less, but due to many needs when in an RV lifestyle we’re traveling with about 5-8,000 pounds of stuff. While that’s significantly less than what most people have in their house we’d like to get that smaller and smaller.
There are some perks, however, as the kid have their full Thomas train set along, and also our full collection of Legos. We only took five pounds of Legos on the flights and eight train tracks with a train car. They’re really enjoying having all of their toys along.
There’s also the freedom of not needing to work around flight schedules, not having to drop thousands of dollars just to go to the next place and not trying to find the right accommodations — a family our size cannot stay in a single hotel room, and having two gets cost prohibitive quickly. Hostels and Couchsurfing are out of the picture, as well. With an RV we just pull up jacks and go, typically within an hour or two of deciding to leave we’re out on the road. It’s just that easy.
7. What essential tip would you give families wanting to become location independent?
Plan, prepare, enjoy each stage and marvel at it. Blog or at least journal about it, as you will experience so many things you’ll need to have a written record or it will be gone.
Above all else do not let fear, doubt or anything else get in the way of what your family desires. We’ve met many families who have what seem to be insurmountable issues and they are out on the road traveling, internationally, with their family. They’re choosing where they want to live instead of being locked into a place or held hostage by the societal norms and cultural expectations.
8. What has been your favorite and least favorite destinations thus far for family travel?
My favorites are Bali and South Africa. It’s a toss up as to which we would go back to if we decided to fly and spend six months in a place. We loved the people and cultures of both, the laid back people of Indonesia and the island lifestyle of Bali is like none other. While the adventures and cultural experiences of South Africa top our home country of the US. We’ve made dear friends in both and hope to someday be back.
The least favorite? I’d have to say Doha Qatar. We wanted to go to Dubai or Abu Dhabi to see what crazy things can be built in the desert. While we saw a lot of that in Doha — flights were too expensive through Dubai or Abu Dhabi — we also saw a lot of bad work environments and how FIFA World Cup was causing terrible things to happen there. It was more run down than we expected and not quite tourist-friendly.
9. What is one pro and one con of location independence as a family?
The largest positive of our lifestyle is the freedom to be whom we want to be and to do it where we want to do it. As stated above, if a place doesn’t work for us we move on, and that has been proven time and time again to work really well for us. If we want to sit still for a while and rent a house for six months, we can! It’s all about freedom.
The negative of our lifestyle is not being able to have horses and other animals. We do have a small dog on this adventure, but in general traveling with animals adds such a large layer of issues and complexity that it’s not feasible to have
10. For those considering selling their things and becoming location independent who are afraid, what would you tell them?
First off, you need support, we all do. Becky and I found it after we were out on the road, but then built a community of supporters at nomadtogether.com to assist others in this process and while traveling. It can get quite lonely as friends, neighbors and even family reject you, you begin to question your decisions, your sanity and your choices. But in the end if you see hope by seeing others who have been there done that, and are still doing it, there becomes an “I can do this” attitude. That is the most important thing about location independence as a family, stepping up over adversity.
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