Two years ago my husband and I sold almost everything we owned and hit the road to slow-travel full-time with our 2-1/2-year-old daughter in tow. Born and raised in Texas, we were seeking a reprieve from the heat and the mosquitos, and we hoped to find the sense of freedom that had alluded us to that point. Our plan was to rent fully-furnished homes for a handful of months at a time and make our way around the United States and eventually the world.
We loaded a small u-haul trailer with clothes, toys and a few odds and ends and set out for our first stop in a cheery little mountain town in Colorado. We found a quaint nature school for our daughter and settled into making friends and exploring our temporary home.
As the weeks past, we watched ourselves fall madly in love with this little town. Five months rolled into nine, and the road wasn’t calling in the same way it had before. But after a hard winter, we both felt the nudge and decided to see our adventure through.
After Colorado we spent two months in sunny California and a month on the beach in Mexico. The time was sweet, and the sights were gorgeous, but we all missed the life we had begun building in Colorado. Our daughter complained daily about missing her new friends, and after just 12 weeks back out on the road we gleefully and resolutely decided to make our way back to the mountains.
We found another furnished rental, and within six months were purchasing a home, refurnishing our lives and creating a new kind of normal. When we left Texas we assumed travel would be the solution to a routine that felt stagnant and claustrophobic, but instead we discovered that it was simply the catalyst for claiming a life we loved.
Even though we’ve put down roots again, the way we interact with the world has completely transformed because of our travel mentality. And now we see that you don’t have to travel full-time to live the travel lifestyle. It’s about finding alignment with who you are and building a life in line with those truths.
For us living the rooted travel lifestyle now means:
1. Minimalism is key
Selling everything we owned was liberating and emotional and extremely impactful, and it changed the way we view “stuff” and the American pursuit of “more, more, more”.
When we settled back down we purchased a townhouse with just enough space for our family of three versus the larger single-family home we lived in before with yard and extra rooms. We opted to keep only our one car instead of acquiring another, and we still maintain small capsule wardrobes.
On the whole we weigh purchase decisions carefully and consume considerably less than we did before traveling. This means we have fewer financial obligations and more flexibility to travel while maintaining a home base.
2. Best lives are subjective
It wasn’t until we went through the process of selling everything we owned that we realized how influenced we were by our friends and families and the unspoken pressure to stay the same. We watched as the people around us grew increasingly uncomfortable as we liquidated our belongings and uprooted our lives and saw their own fears projected on us and our choices.
When we left it was like we were seeing clearly for the first time in our lives. Cutting that cord has helped us make decisions in integrity with who we are and what we actually want, and it has given us courage to shape this new chapter of our lives in alignment with what we desire.
We once wouldn’t have dreamed of living so far from our extended family, but now we understand that it’s a give and take to have life the way we choose. We’ve also made career choices that go against the norm but align with our values and desires for this lifestyle. And we’ve chosen a school for our daughter that values travel and allows her to take long trips with us throughout the year.
3. Being location-flexible helps
Before we left Texas, my husband was going to an office five days a week. He negotiated a telecommuting work arrangement specifically for our slow-travel adventure, and when we decided to settle back down, we quickly realized that was a part of the equation that we loved, regardless of how much we traveled.
Now that he is home-based we have considerably more time as a family. We spend sweet, slow mornings together, and he is around throughout the day to take breaks and hang out with me and our now-4-1/2-year-old daughter. Many days we eat all three meals as a family.
And because we chose a minimal home and still have few financial obligations, location-flexible work means we still get to take extended trips while maintaining the home base we craved while on the road.
4. Community is everything
Throughout our travels, we saw how the interactions with people were what made or muddied our experience of a place. It was less about the vistas and more about the human connections.
When we settled back down, we found a close-knit tribe of friends who made us feel supported and loved. Many, like us, have chosen to live in this town by design and do not have family nearby, which creates a special kind of camaraderie. We spend holidays together and help out with one another’s kids, and we truly pull together in times of need.
5. Challenges are expected
Just because we’ve so purposefully designed our life doesn’t mean it doesn’t come with its fair share of struggles.
One of the biggest hurdles for us has been around stuff. Having a young child means well-meaning relatives are constantly showering her with stuff. Being so far away, they are understandably searching for ways to show her how much she’s loved and thought about, and it equates to regular package deliveries that make her squeal and us sometimes groan.
Because of the way we’ve raised her though, she’s surprisingly minimalistic for a pre-schooler. She was an active part of the process when we sold almost everything we owned, and she understands what it means to give stuff away. We purge regularly as a family, and we’ve also started to ask relatives to give her money toward experiences versus more toys. They obviously don’t alway comply, but we try to balance it the best we can.
Another challenge of adopting this way of life has been the moments of feeling sucked into the comparison trap. Even though we have made friends who are aligned with our values and support our lifestyle, it’s hard not to compare the version of life that other people are building for their kids with the one that we’re creating for our daughter. It usually comes in the form of parental guilt about not having a home with a yard or raising her so far from her grandparents and cousins.
One of the ways we try to combat that is by planing trips often. Travel always seems to bring us back to center and reminds us why we choose to live the way we do. Because of the minimal way we live and the priorities we have around money, we’re traveling as a family to Mexico, Costa Rica, Spain and Florida this year alone while still maintaining our new home base in Colorado.
The truth is that every life has challenges. When we were in Texas we had family and stability, but we felt unexcited and trapped. When we were traveling full-time we found the freedom and excitement we longed for, but we missed a sense of community and the creature comforts of home. And now that we have roots and a group of people we love, it’s still easy to find ways to convince ourselves that there’s something wrong with how we’re doing things.
The best lifestyle is the one that brings you joy. And while it may take some sacrifices and courage to make big changes, it doesn’t have to mean selling it all and hitting the road. There’s a whole wellspring of joy to be found right there at home.