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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.