Full time travel with kids: Day to day life
Hey friends! I thought I’d write a little post about what our day-to-day nomadic lifestyle looks like as unschoolers. At the moment we are in Sri Lanka, after having spent a couple of months in Bali and a month in Thailand, working with people in a refugee camp on a rubbish dump.
Although our country-hopping and unschooling are very different compared to most families with young children (ours are 6, 5 and 2) there are some things that are surprisingly similar to life in the UK.
We have always home educated and as such, our kids have spent pretty much every day, at least in part, with me. Back in the UK we spent our days visiting friends, playing at home, visiting parks, libraries and soft plays, doing chores and errands, having holidays in Dorset (where our extended family live) and abroad, and just living, slowly.
Well, take that a few thousand miles south east (5,490 miles to be exact) and that is what we are doing now in Sri Lanka. Kids are kids wherever you go; life is life and long-term travel and the nomadic lifestyle isn’t a holiday.
There is still work, washing up and cooking and shopping and laundry (check out these weird household chores we had to do in Bali!) There’s even paperwork, except instead of utility bills it’s visa extension forms and tax returns and flight passenger information.
We travel semi-slowly. If we find somewhere we like, we stay longer. We did this in Bali and Thailand and now here in Sri Lanka. It’s nice to find the good places to eat, shop and play, the best bits of the beach and to get into some kind of routine.
Most days are similar- we wake up and the morning is spent playing in the apartment/hostel, eating and reading and doing art. We might have a workout or do some yoga (the kids join in) and Patrick or I might get a bit of work done while the kids are busy.
Mum goes for a walk early each morning- she is the early bird of the family, while the rest of us are more like lethargic albatross. In Bali the morning was spent in the pool just outside our apartment doors.
After lunch here in Sri Lanka we head to the beach; in Bali it was the same (in northern Thailand we would head to the children’s charity we were visiting; in Bangkok to the park or a mall). We spend the afternoon on the beach, get the kids dinner at a beach cafe (usually pasta and fruit smoothies) and head back home after sunset, when the mozzies and sandflies come out in evil force.
We then shower sixty tons of sand off ourselves (I have a growing feeling that our family may be directly responsible for the erosion of Sri Lanka’s beaches); one of us pops out to pick up food for the adults from a local cafe and we settle down for the evening.
If we didn’t get the kids dinner at a cafe earlier then we cook on the gas hob in the apartment; we try to do a bit of both for their nutrition and for the budget. The kids do more playing, maybe watch a movie or I read to them while Mum reads and researches our next destination. Patrick looks up things like visas and flights and after the kids are in I get some work done and we might do some more yoga.
The main variation on the days is the volume of my work- a few times a week I’ll leave the apartment at just before 8am to work at the cafe down the street. I’ll generally have already got some work done before that as the kids love to wake me up at around 5.30-6.
I like to get really long work days in as I’m more productive when the kids aren’t around and I’m not distracted. Often Patrick works with me, doing business admin and logistical stuff like visa planning.
Sometimes Eira or Esmae come with me and play with the cafe’s toys or on their iPads; it’s nice to give them time apart and with different ratios of adults to kids. When I’m working Patrick or Mum will take the kids to a park, pool, soft-play or beach depending on what’s available, or if I’ve started really early I will come home in the afternoon and we’ll go out together.
Around once a week we go for a ‘proper’ day out to explore the area. Here in Sri Lanka we have swam with wild turtles, gone whale watching to spot blue whales and we have been on safari to Udawalawe to see elephants.
In Thailand our days out included the Bangkok Unicorn cafe or DreamWorld theme park; in Bali we headed to Waterbom water park.
We all really enjoy these days as it feels like we are seeing the best of a place; what most people go there to visit.
As I said, there’s still family life stuff to do each day. In the morning here in Sri Lanka Mum picks up bread from the little bakery around the corner and gets some fruit for breakfast. Some days we need to go to a bigger supermarket to stock up, or get passport photos taken for a visa, or do laundry. We hand wash some things and take some to a local person depending on the humidity of the country, the cost and how badly they ruin/lose our stuff (happens ALL the time!)
We tidy the apartment several times a day (sand, everywhere, always) shake the sand off the sheets and remake the beds each day, put cockroach blockers over the drains (don’t ask), deal with any ants that are trying to ruin our lives, take the rubbish out, turn the water pump on and off (otherwise we have noooo water ever) and just do that kind of life stuff, y’know?
Food shopping is usually done at a combination of supermarkets and markets. Fresh stuff is better and cheaper at market stalls, and they are fun to visit too- pasta, jam etc we buy from supermarkets. Here in Sri Lanka we’ve found a bakery that does a huge fresh loaf each morning for 25p and in Bali there was a place that did hot local breakfast for 60p, so we scope out places like that everywhere we go too.
Our kids are unschooled, which is a version of home education whereby we don’t distinguish between ‘learning time’ and ‘non learning time’, so we don’t have a set time to sit down and do ‘work’. A nomadic lifestyle offers incredible opportunities for learning, from figuring out money at restaurants and currency exchanges, to biology from the abundant wildlife around us, to ethical issues as we navigate the relentless plastic usage across different countries.
We have always found a slow pace of life good for our family. In Bangkok there was loads to do and our hostel room was tiny (4 beds for all 6 of us- never again) so we spent most days out, and although we had a blast, it was too much.
Meltdowns started happening (I’d love to say it was just the kids, but…) and we realised that we need to curb our excitement at being in a new place and remember to keep everything chilled and give us all plenty of down-time.
We’re not keen on strict routine and don’t see a need for it- we have a loose routine as I’ve outlined above, but the very nature of our nomadic lifestyle mean that the unexpected is to be expected and our days vary depending on lots of factors.
We base what we do on the kids’ enjoyment and we are very flexible, which we’ve found has helped the kids be very chilled and adaptable. If we stressed about nap times and bed time and getting 60 portions of greens into them each day and riding without seatbelts, the whole travel experience would be tarnished by anxiety.
When going for a nomadic lifestyle we’ve found being very laid-back the key to having a positive experience for everyone!
I hope that’s been a helpful insight into how we make full time travel work with three young kids. If you would like to know more, check out my posts on home education and gentle parenting as well as our destination guides.