Are you curious about taking your family to travel the world for a long period of time? Have you been intrigued by this emerging trend of taking a family gap year? We were too! We learned that there are families all over the world who are traveling for months at a time to explore and learn about other places, cultures, and people. Many are going for a month or two, but many families are heading out for an entire year!
Plitvice Lakes National Park in Croatia -- one of the places we hope to visit this year
The phrase, family gap year, is used to describe a year long period of traveling and exploring with your family. Some families take time off from work and school to travel, while others (like us) plan to keep working and worldschooling the kids while slow traveling. For us, taking a family gap year is not just about visiting amazing places, it is about expanding our world view, connecting with people and cultures, and inspiring others to do the same. The Earth and the beings in it are all amazing and we cannot wait to learn all we can. In fact, as I write this post, we are one week into our family gap year. Here is a picture of us ready to go on the plane to Europe. First stop is Germany!
Me, Zane, Chewy the dog, and Tanis all ready to head off on our first flight to Europe (Arlo is taking the picture)
Some of our friends and family have asked us why we decided to do it and how we managed it. So, I wrote this post to give some insight into how we made our dream a reality. I will continue to post tips and share our adventures as we travel into different countries. Whether you plan to go on shorter trips or longer ones, we hope these posts inspire you to go for your dreams of traveling - remember - you only go around once, and this is the once!
How we Decided to Take a Year Abroad
I cannot remember a time when my husband and I didn't talk about the dream of long term traveling and maybe living in a different country. When we first were married, we traveled overseas on vacation and had fun exploring abroad. After the kids came along though, we couldn't imagine a long plane ride with diapers to change and fussing to sooth. Not to mention the time change! So, we switched our travel to places we could easily get to in the U.S. In fact, when the kids were 2 and 5, we took off on a year long road trip in our RV visiting National Parks across the nation. Needless to say, we were in a different stage of life and were happy to table the idea of traveling abroad during our kids younger years. The dream was still there though -- in the back of our minds.
Hiking up to Grand Arch in Arches National Park when the kids were little -- Moab, Utah, USA
Some years passed and the kids got a bit older. We started getting excited at the prospect of taking the kids on a trip to Europe. Then, boom -- pandemic! Along with everyone else in the world, we didn't know what the future might bring. So, we settled into a peaceful home rhythm and kept going camping whenever we could. In 2021, just when things were feeling less stressful, we were devastated by two deaths in our family. One was my mother and the other was my father-in-law. We spent a lot of time helping manage end of life decisions and their deaths really took a toll on all of us emotionally. While we still feel grief linked to their loss, we have come through it with more gratitude in our hearts and a stronger appreciation for the years we have left. One thing became crystal clear to Arlo and I -- life is too short to wait on our dreams. So, there we were -- we had the perfect opportunity with both of us working remote and the kids being homeschooled again -- we knew we had to go for it!
Camping on the Selway River in Lowell, Idaho, USA during 2020
I remember when Arlo and I brought up the idea to the kids one evening at dinner -- they didn't even wait for us to finish before yelling "YES -- 100%" Everyone in the family agreed that this was an opportunity we couldn't pass up. So, the research began! We began by thinking about how we wanted to travel and how we could do it financially. We did not have a ton of savings to use towards the trip so we knew we had to continue to work. We also quickly realized we would have a lot more fun and have less money stress if we simplified and sold everything -- the house, furniture, camper, car, etc. Arlo and I had both been talking about simplifying and living mortgage free -- so all of this felt very aligned with our travel plans. Thank goodness selling the house was fairly easy (hallelujah for a sellers market) but there was definitely a lot of work involved in getting the house sold. It was a game changer to have our kids pitch in and help but we all kept wondering -- why oh why do we have sooo many pillows? Seriously, we donated and sold so many things but we still have a storage unit stuffed with "sentimental" items and tons of pillows. Sigh -- I will never become a total minimalist although I do like the feeling of having just a backpack of stuff and no debt.
One of our trips to the storage unit with many, many tons of pillows.
Once the house was sold, we used part of the money to finally pay off my student loan (thanks to my PhD). We saved the other chunk for our next house (because I know one day we will settle again). So, now we have no big bills and can use our monthly income for full time travel. The hardest part of the whole thing was, honestly, telling our closest friends. We all moved to Colorado together and built our houses across the street from each other. Our kids are super close friends and we survived the challenging years of Covid together as a pod. While we thought about renting out our house and returning to beautiful Colorado after our trip, we honestly didn't know if that is where we would end up. We wanted to stay open to anything that might come our way. Before we left Colorado, we made sure to spend quality time with our friends and enjoyed visiting some mt. towns that were on our bucket list. It was a fun summer full of beautiful memories. Yes, it was really hard to leave but we know we always return to visit our friends and those beautiful snow covered mountains.
Hiking up to Emerald Lake in Crested Butte, Colorado, USA
While we have always been a family that has done things a little differently -- homeschooling, full time RVing, and heading out to travel for months at a time -- we also know this kind of life is not for everyone. For Arlo, the kids, and I -- it just works. It feels free. It feels fun. It is full of new people, new places, and new adventures. It is full of infinite possibilities!
As my family and I pack up to drive to another Medieval town in Germany, we feel immensely grateful to have this time together. This trip isn't happening because we have a ton of money or have someone planning everything for us. It is happening because we set our intentions on this dream and we all worked together to make it a reality. If this is something you have been curious about -- go for it -- start looking into it and have fun dreaming about it. Don't be afraid to get a little sidetracked from your normal life -- the whole world is waiting -- and normal life will still be there when you return.
Nancy & Family
Early morning is the best time to sightsee in Medieval Rothenburg ob der Tauber, Germany
Not sure how you could travel with the kids? Read Five Tips to Stay Sane While Traveling With the Kids
Need help with planning an amazing family trip? Read How to Plan an Epic Family Vacation
Be sure to stay tuned for more tips on planning and getting ready for traveling with your family (and a dog). I will also be sharing our Worldschooling adventures as we travel across the world. Sign up below to get on our mailing list so you don't miss future posts and follow us on social media where you can see pictures of our travels. Thank you for getting sidetracked with us!