The highs and lows of a family of five traveling for three years
Traveling for most moderately affluent working families might be a perfectly pleasant all-inclusive week in the Caribbean, a 10-day sojourn throughout Vietnam or perhaps a lovely two weeks in Italy. For the more eccentric, it may even be a yearlong sabbatical for which families plan and invest in making their rat race get-away an experience they’ll never forget. And then, there’s us – a steadily growing population of young families who want to travel forever.
We are part of a slow but growing movement of working-class parents who no longer find ‘bigger, better, and newer’ their goals in life, a rippling handful of career professionals who don’t see the point of the ladder they are climbing if they’ve lost touch with their families, their health, their joy and themselves. These rightfully coined ‘outsider’ families are redefining family world travel as they sell their possessions and buy oneway tickets to anywhere, create locationindependent income and explore far-flung locales, eschewing suburban homesteads for overstuffed backpacks. Welcome to the nomadic family way of life.
My name is Gabi and together with my husband Kobi and three children, we left our lovely sunlit, mountainside home in Israel in March 2011 with one goal in mind – to travel indefinitely – though we did honestly question whether we’d maybe last three months without killing each other.
Our plan was to start by taking an RV through the Rocky Mountains. At six months, we were living in Boquete, Panama, volunteering in the community and hiking around Volcan Baru. Then at nine months, we were living with an indigenous tribe in the jungles of Ecuador. In those seven weeks, the kids attended Quechua/Spanish school, Kobi got dengue fever (for the second time), and we washed our clothing, our bodies, and our souls in the river, while living an unplugged life of zero productivity. Surely, we would be ready to go home to our familiar life in Israel? Not just yet.
Falling in Love
At 14 months, we were living in a tent on the beach of Huanchaco, Peru, and watching glorious sunsets in Lima, Peru’s Malacon Park. We had local friends, playdates, and lots of nights of really great dancing after the kids were asleep. And so it continued as we entered our second year of family life on the road, and landed in Bangkok, Thailand. Fast forward to year three, and we’re still in Southeast Asia and loving it.
It’s hard to remember when we fell in love with Asia. Was it Kanchanaburi’s Erawan Waterfalls or that birthday party off the River Kwai that made us learn to love sweltering Thailand? Or maybe our first glimpses into Buddhism and a culture that reveres barefootedness? Perhaps it was the lingering smile of the Cambodians, or just how lovely the Khmer language sounded to us after living in Cambodia for eight months? It could’ve been Dalat’s crisp coldness or the university students so eager to talk to you in any given park in Ho Chi Minh City. Maybe it was swimming with whale sharks and sea turtles of Moalboal, Philippines but then again, we’re pretty sure it was the marvelous Filipino street kids that made our own children love the Philippines with such passion.
After almost 30 months on the road, it’s hard to quantify those moments that take our breath away and justify, again and again, why we wish to stay “The Nomadic Family.”
But we know it’s the people who help us, guide us, and love us in every corner in the world. It’s the random discussions with a street vendor or a fellow bus rider that ends up determining where home will be for the next three months. It’s the two hour lunches and lingering talks and morning cuddles that tell us this is what we want out of our family life. It’s deleting all those other obligations and identities that kept us conveniently busy through life, and with them stripped away, suddenly finding ourselves naked, daring to figure out who we want to become next. It’s dancing to the rhythms of life which are alternatingly light-filled, fun, and energy-explosive, but also sometimes dark and miserable. It’s the rawness of being five souls out there, holding on to each other, and facing the unknown with unilateral, equalizing cluelessness.
This fall we’ll be hiking the Annapurna Circuit in Nepal and then registering the kids for six months in a Waldorf school in Goa, India. We’re looking forward to yoga, meditation, and other passionate, meaningful pursuits. We anticipate pausing our nomadic wanders in the summer of 2014. We miss family and friends, our native tongue, and not living out of a backpack. We think we may stay in our safe nest for two years before settling down in Spain, where the kids can attend school, while we spend vacations biking throughout Europe. We’re really not sure how things will be or where we’ll end up next. On the one hand, we have plans, ideas, and dreams and on the other, the wind, inspiration, and opportunity that will inevitably combine to create our colorful, nomadic family reality.
Bio: Gabi Klaf blogs about her family’s ups and downs in their now third year of nonstop budget world travel. Hugely romantic, tantalizingly sweet, and hysterically funny, Gabi Klaf represents a rare Rubik’s cube of family world adventure. Follow her adventures at www.thenomadicfamily.com and www.gabiklaf.com
Images by Gabi Klaf