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Married for 10 months now, I keep getting asked when I’m going to start popping out children.  The secondary question to this is “what’s going to happen when you have kids” – referring to my travel addiction.  And funnily enough everyone asks already thinking they know the answer.  That I’ll be forced to settle down, buy a house, stay in one place, pick out schools.  People are quite shocked, many even laugh it off, when I reply with “They’ll be the most well traveled children the world has ever met!”

Because you know what, there are no rules to life.  Who says you can’t travel full time with kids in tow? Seriously – who says? There are specialist family holiday companies that provide creche’s for those with younger kids and who says you can’t homeschool them on the road? Honestly, with the way a lot of children are turning out these days and with the state of their education, an education on the road while traveling would probably be better for them!

And you would be wrong to think it’s never been done before.  Erin Bender and her husband Josh have been on the road for 584 days now…with their 4 and 2 year old in tow.  These kids have seen more of the world than I probably have, can count to 10 in 4 different languages, and already have a huge repertoire of food knowledge and tastes.

So please…before you tell me again that I’m insane for not letting kids get in the way of our travel plans…meet the Benders.

Bedr

Travel with Bender

What do you love the most about travelling full time?

Sparing the expense of going back. We only book one way tickets and it has saved us a fortune considering often we were returning to remote Australia. I also value the time I get to spend with my family. We definitely would not have been as close as we are if my kids were in school and my husband at work.

What inspired you to start travelling full time/what did you have to sacrifice?

My husband talked about travelling long-term a few years ago and I thought it was a nice idea but hardly feasible. In 2011 we spent a considerable amount of time out of the country on trips and realized that we actually saved money when we were on holidays, compared to living in Australia. So it started to make a lot more sense. My husband put together a plan and we worked towards that.

The biggest sacrifices we made would be relationships. We got a friend to look after our family dog, the kids had to say goodbye to grandparents, friends, aunties & uncles. It’s not the house we rented or the cars we sold, but those relationships are missed.

What is ‘Travel with Bender” all about?

Our blog originally started as a simple diary reporting our comings and goings to family and friends. However, soon we had more strangers reading then friends and we realised there was a genuine demand for destination information from parents travelling with toddlers. So while our writing is still aimed at informing the ‘folks’ where we are and what we are doing, we also now fulfil a niche to parents giving them solid, real information on places to take the kids… Places that could be anywhere, not just an all-inclusive resort close to home.

Mex

Mexico with the family!

You travel full time with your two children – is that difficult?

There are times when it is immensely difficult. Toilet training has been hard, not being able to be out a lot in the evenings because the kids need bed and sometimes even family rooms are hard. But more often than not it’s enjoyable. They see so much more then we do, and the world through their eyes is a special thing. They also provide a great excuse just to relax and do nothing, not something I am usually fond of, and am very sure I would burn out without them.

What kind of approach do you take for school in regards to your kids?

The kids are not school age yet, however both are already way ahead of any schooling they might have been able to do. They are great with geography and my 4 year old can count to ten in 4 different languages.

She heard of an online program back in the US and has been steadily working her way through it. When she asks, she can do it. We are very much encouraging their learning through their own passion, rather than forcing it on them. When they are older we are not sure which path we will take, but my husband is all for homeschooling – we shall see.

Local School Bali Indonesia

Visiting a Local School, Bali Indonesia

How long do you plan to travel for?

We never made any plans and still don’t have any. It’s been 15 months so far. My brother is getting married back in Australia in January 2014, so after 18 months we will be heading back to Australia. I believe when we get there we will know – if we want to stay or if we want to keep going. I can’t imagine quitting yet as there is so much more to see!

How do you afford to travel – are you rich?!

Filthy rich. Haha. No. My husband is a web designer by trade and continues to work as we travel the world. All he needs is his laptop and wifi.

Truth be told we actually spend less money travelling the world then we did living in our house in Perth, Australia. Travelling is not like a vacation. It’s not all hotels and fine dining and when you really start to look at an area you realise how affordable travel really is.

Do your kids get pocket money for the road?

Not yet. At 3 & 4 we have started teaching them the importance of money, but they can’t even carry their own suitcases yet so they certainly can’t buy their own things.

My 4-year-old hates having her hair brushed and does get money if she survives without having a meltdown. She doesn’t really spend it; she just likes having a purse. Although she is already a mean haggler when it comes to markets!

Old City Jerusalem Israel

Old City, Jerusalem Israel

One thing which you don’t like about travelling?

Luggage. It’s a pain in my rear end. We are always struggling at every stop to get rid of things and try and keep the luggage minimum. Such a difference from a “holiday” frame of mind where you purchase, purchase, purchase.

It’s also our biggest hassle at airports, especially if the children fall asleep. Wish I had a Mary Poppins handbag.

Biggest cultural shock you have experienced while travelling?

Possible Cancun. We had just spent 2 months travelling the US and getting used to life in a Western Country again when we headed to Mexico.

It was a shock. The old cars, dirty streets, no one speaking English. We don’t speak any Spanish except what our kids taught us from Dora the Explorer! Once we moved to Playa Del Carmen we were less in shock and more in love.

Cozumel Mexico

Cozumel Mexico

Biggest highlight to date?

How am I meant to pick just one? Tough call. There has been so many from walking tigers, swimming with sea turtles, hanging my legs over the Grand Canyon, riding hot air balloons over Turkey, but out of them all I can safely say that the Lantern Festival in Chiang Mia, Thailand was an absolute highlight.

It was a warm Asian evening when we gathered with strangers and monks from around the globe and in unison released between 20,000 – 30,000 lanterns into the sky. It was magical, romantic and a very special moment I will never forget.

Lantern Festival Chiang Mai

Lantern Festival Chiang Mai

Three things you can’t travel without?

I have more then 3 that’s for sure. But if it was just me travelling and I had to choose you wouldn’t find me without my laptop, kindle and dry shampoo. The last one keeps you looking like you have washed your hair despite long flights and tired children.

Which destinations are at the top of your bucket list?

We have fulfilled my bucket list so I’m writing a new one. I’m looking for inspiration and just found Pinterest is a great source for that. My bucket list grows daily. Top of the list Uluru & the Great Barrier Reef. Oh you gasp, yes it’s true, I have seen more of the world then my own country!

Most practical piece of advice for those travelling with kids?

Don’t go too fast. Take it slow. Pencil in down days or afternoons. Remember kids need sleep to function and travelling with them will be so much more rewarding if they are sleeping well.

Why should people travel long term?

It’s cheaper, no really. One way tickets are fabulous. But I don’t know if all people should travel long term. It’s not for everyone. But if you have that inkling, that travel bug, then doing it long term will certainly be more beneficial than the occasional holiday. Long-term travel gives more cultural immersion, it allows for more family bonding or soul searching and above all… It’s super fun!

Why should people travel with kids?

Here are 4 reasons why you should travel with kids.

  • They will learn a global language. That they can play with kids who don’t speak the same as them, but still share moments and life. That the “other” English is not bad, just different. That a smile means the same in any language (as does “no”, usually).
  • They will try new foods and be grateful for the times they get their hands on a pizza. Sometimes in our travels we can go months without seeing a McDonalds and the kids are now realising what a treat it is. They are learning the importance of food, its value on our bodies and that trying new things is not scary. They have a huge repertoire of food knowledge and tastes.
  • Full time parents. Not many kids get the opportunity to have both parents around all the time and this advantage gives my children’s thousands of more lessons to learn.
  • Kids see things differently. When you travel with kids you get to experience the world from their eyes and it is more beautiful, more exciting and more adventurous then we realise. Suddenly Disneyland is not just an amusement park, it’s real life. Having been without kids and with kids, I can definitely say Disneyland was 100 times better with my kids and so is the world.
Crater Lake USA

Crater Lake USA

 About Travel with Bender

In May 2012 we rented our Australian house, packed 3 bags and took our then 2 & 3 year old off to Bali and we have been travelling ever since, that’s nearly 500 days! Our journey has taken us from the jungles of Bali to the beaches of Thailand through the cities of Malaysia and then a giant leap to the other side of the world where we traversed the roads of the US, played in the cenotes of Mexico, discovered the ruins of Guatemala and walked the sacred grounds of Israel. And we are still going!

It’s an open-ended, unplanned, round-the-world trip discovering amazing places for toddlers that you can share by visiting our family travel blog, following us on Facebook or catch us tweeting on Twitter. We look forward to bumping into you around the world.

    23 Comments

  1. I don’t have children and probably won’t for a very long time, but I really enjoyed reading this interview!

    My parents never really took me anywhere and that’s part of why I think I’m keen to get out there and learn everything now.

    Nice one guys. It sounds like a lot of hard work, but really, such a cool way to grow up!

    • Meg thanks so much for giving our journey a voice in your world. We are so happy to share that having kids is not the end!
      Anastasia it can be exhausting at times, but the rewards so far have far outweighed the tiredness. 🙂

  2. I love this interview!! I have been a fan of travel with bender for a long time, and they are definitely one of the reasons why we are in the middle of a ten week trip right now with our 1 and 3 year old. It is so easy to listen to the general consensus that travel ends once you have kids (at least travel like you have known it before if you are at all adventurous), but that definitely does not need to be true. I am so thankful that you guys helped me see that! It is more work travelling with kids, but then so is normal life. I actually think it is easier when we are on the road and my husband is around full time than when we are at home and he is at work more of the time. The rewards are also just so much greater travelling with little ones in tow. We all love it 🙂

    • Aww Sharon you are so sweet. We love seeing you out in travelling with those kids of yours. Can’t wait to bump into you somewhere.

  3. Considering long term travel with wife and 2 kids, but have concerns regarding Visa requirements. Most countries allow only 90 days without a visa. How do you deal with that or do you hop around more frequently?

    • Jeff,
      Great question. Certainly we do travel quite fast, but next year plan on slowing it down a lot more. I think 90 days is an adequate amount of time in a city if you are travelling, but there are certain cities who don’t mind you popping out and coming back in fairly fast (like Malaysia), some places will even offer holiday visas for longer (like the US). In the last 500+ days we’ve never been anywhere for more then 2 months so haven’t faced this problem yet. For instance we went to the US for 2 months, then headed to Central America for 2 months before going back into the US. So it’s certainly easy to get around. Feel free to check out where we have been on the blog and send me an email if you have any other questions. Visa’s are generally pretty easy if just annoying so dont let it hold you back! 😀

  4. I really like Erin and her family. I follow her blog all the time and I always think how wonderful travelling must be for those kids.
    I don’t want to have kids myself, but if I have them one day I will do the same as Erin.

    • They’re an incredibly inspiring family! We don’t know if we will have kids – I hope so someday; but as you said – will be following in the footsteps of Erin if it happens!

  5. I’m with you! Our lives feel pretty crazy at times, traveling and sailing around the world… and I won’t lie, it has kept me avoiding the kids talk for quite a while now. But we’re getting to that stage where we’re thinking of just going for it anyway… what the hell, what’s the worst that could happen?! I may eat those words… but who knows. Let’s see how 2014 goes!

    Anyway, I love your blog and I’d totally love to read about more full-time travelers with kids out there. You know, for inspiration. And laughs. 🙂

    – Tasha

    • “What’s the worst thing that can happen” is my motto too lol! Honestly if I’ve learnt anything these past few years is that you adapt to new situations and circumstances – traveling with kids would just be something new to adapt to, and then after a while I’m sure it would be the most normal thing in the world!

      Best of luck for 2014! Thanks for your kind words – Will aim to feature more full time traveler interviews 🙂

  6. Megan, Thanks for the introduction to the wonderful Bender family! And by the way 10 months is not long to be married! We are married four years now and still feel like newlyweds. I am glad you found a way to answer other people’s questions. I agree with you there are NO RULES!!

    Happy Holidays!
    Lisa
    We Said Go Travel

    • Congratulations! It’s so refreshing to see couples who are still in love!

      So glad you enjoyed the post – Merry Christmas from myself and Mike!

  7. It’s also pretty great to hear of someone who’s finished their bucket list! Writing a new one?! Incredible.

    • I’m pretty impressed by that also! I’ve only made a small dint in mine lol!!

  8. Wow you have a very sweet and loving family! I would love to have a nice vacation together with my two boys. I am very excited for our trip next week and you inspire me to make things fun and simple. You are right travelling can be affordable as long as we set a budget and follow it. Thanks for all of your tips. I want to spend more time travelling with my family and enjoy every moment of it!

    • Safe and Happy Travels Joseff. I too am inspired by the Bender family – when I have a family of my own I hope to follow in their footsteps!

      Have a wonderful trip next week – here’s to making things fun and simple!

  9. Wow! You definitely had the best experience. I love traveling alone but after reading this post, I realized that it’s great to travel with your husband and have the best time in every places you go to and feel the love everywhere. I can’t wait to let my husband read this too and maybe plan a trip soon just the two of us. Thanks for sharing this lovely read.

    • Best of luck April – traveling with your family can be truly special. I know that people often say traveling with kids can be a nightmare, but I think it can actually be the opposite. We recently traveled with my small nephews to Hawaii and actually had a better time with the kids than most of the adults! Keeps you young!

      Best of luck and happy travels!

  10. This is so inspiring. I travel when I can with my 12 year old daughter but it is coming up to an important time in her schooling so may have to slow down a little. I would not think twice though about travelling full time with her while she was younger. I think kids can get just as good, if not better, educated by travelling the world, experiencing new cultures, learning new languages. Really glad I’ve found the Benders, I’m away to have a read…

    • Completely agree with you – and honestly, with the state of the majority of education systems at present, traveling probably does provide a better education. You don’t get taught appreciation for world cultures or common sense in school, where-as these are things you learn very quickly on the road!

      Best of luck in all of your endeavors 🙂

  11. I had no idea that traveling with one-ways tickets was the way to do it. Thanks for sharing some wonderful insights!

    • I only learnt this after speaking to Erin as well! We’ve started aiming for one way tickets only, and it does actually save you a tonne!

      Glad you enjoyed the interview Betty 🙂

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