Stories from the road is an interview series with inspiring people all over the world. Meet backpackers, expats, nomads and full-time travellers, and learn how you can do it too.
Meet the Wagoners, they have managed to quit their jobs, live abroad and enjoy the life of travel for 4 years. Their family travel blog, Wagoners Abroad, provides loads of information, tips, stories and more to inspire others to move abroad, plan a vacation, or travel with kids.
For the people unfamiliar with you and your adventures, tell me a quick backstory and a little bit about your current life. How much do you actually travel during the year? Are you full-time travellers or do you have a home base? How does it work with school etc for your children?
When Heidi and I were first married, we moved to London for my job. While living in England, we were able to travel and explore when we could, and we’ve always loved travel. When we moved back to the U.S., our goal was to live and work abroad again, but that didn’t pan out. We bought a house, had two kids, and basically settled down into a comfortable lifestyle.
We were both working at fantastic companies, but we weren’t seeing much of the kids, and the amount of quality time together as a family was seriously lacking. That’s when Heidi made the absolutely crazy suggestion that we quit our jobs, simplify our lives, and move abroad. I really thought she’d gone off the deep end, but she proved to me that we could make it work, and it would be a great experience for the entire family. Four years later, we’re still living in Spain, and enjoying it thoroughly.
Our current home base is a small town called Almuñécar in southern Spain. Both Lars and Anya are enrolled in public school here, so we try to travel for 2 months during the summer while the kids are out of school for the summer. We also try to travel during public holidays.
Tell me about the process from idea to reality, how did you actually manage to make this unique lifestyle a reality?
Once we made the decision as a family to do this, and it did take some convincing, it really came together nicely. Almost as if this is what we were supposed to do. We had a huge house, and a bunch of belongings. You know the types of things that you just had to have when they were purchased, but get little actual use.
We went through the entire house, and threw away, donated, or sold a bunch of stuff. This was particularly hard for me as I’m a bit of a hoarder, but once I made the decision to simplify my possessions, it was easy. The other thing we did as a family was we stopped buying stuff. Unless it was going to further our goal of moving to Spain, we didn’t purchase it.
What has been the best travel experience so far?
That’s a tough one. We have been very fortunate in our travels. If you were to put me to the fire, I’d probably say our year traveling throughout Southeast Asia was pretty spectacular. We had finished our second year in Spain, and Heidi thought we should really shake things up, and travel for an entire year in a completely different (by Western standards) environment. We washed and fed elephants, meditated with monks, seen beautiful nature, and met some truly amazing people over that year.
What have been some of the biggest challenges?
I think fear of the unknown is the thing that affects most people. We’re fairly seasoned travelers, but it can still be daunting. Luckily, we’re a fairly flexible family, and we try to roll with the punches. Not being able to speak the language of whatever country you’re visiting can also be a challenge, but you just figure things out. Most locals appreciate a foreigner trying to speak the language, so that can go a long way in building goodwill. Also, being a good mime helps.
Spending so much time with anyone can be intense, how do you make it work as a family?
We try to have space or time to be alone. If the kids are arguing, it’s amazing how a walk to the mall, or to the local smoothie shop can help keep the peace. Or just giving Heidi a few uninterrupted hours to catch up on organizing pictures, or working on the blog help keep things running smoothly. As parents, Heidi and I have a good feel for when the kids are going to have a meltdown, so we attempt to be proactive in keeping things copacetic.
What would be your best advice to someone dreaming of your lifestyle?
Figure out where you are, where you want to be, and make it happen! Through this experience, I was amazed at how many naysayers there were. I’m so glad we didn’t listen to them. If it’s important to you, and you maintain your focus on the goal, you can absolutely do it.
What do you know now, that you wish you knew when you began this journey?
I wish we would have done this sooner. That said, with the way things turned out, I can’t complain. We are much closer as a family with this experience.
How do you make this lifestyle work financially?
Between Heidi and I, we’ve self-published numerous books, and we also do consulting for those people who are interested in relocating to Spain. That combined with some modest investments allow us to live abroad.
What do you love most about your lifestyle?
We spend quality time with the kids. It’s a very tranquil lifestyle here in Almuñécar. We’re not caught up in consumerism like we were in the U.S.
What’s your best advice for travelling as a family?
Know your (and your kids’) limitations. Got an indication that someone is going to have a meltdown, then be proactive in keeping the peace. Also, your kids will take their cues from you when dealing with new/unfamiliar experiences. Meet adversity and conquer it as a family.
Tell me about your next adventure!
Our next adventure is spending Christmas in Edinburgh Scotland. The kids have never been to Scotland, and Anya wants Christmas in a COLD climate, so we’ll be freezing our collective buns off (but having a great time doing it). If you see a picture of some dolt wearing shorts in Edinburgh during December, that’s probably me!
For more of and the American family travel blog, and their adventures, experiences, mishaps, expert travel tips and inspiration, head over to their blog Wagoners Abroad, or follow them on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube.