Never Normal Newsletter

Raising a Never Normal Family

As I wrote last week, many of the sacrifices one used to make to travel the world have been eliminated.

Now you can work as an employee of a big company, live in comfortable apartments, and have an active social life, all while hopping from country to country.

But what if you want to have kids?

As a long-time digital nomad and now a dad, this is something that I think about quite a bit.

In my particular case, Covid hit the world just before our baby arrived, so settling down and staying put for a while was the only choice.

Now, as we start to emerge from the pandemic, there are a lot of hard questions, like:

  • How often can you move around once you have a kid? Is it even worth all the hassle? Or should you just hang up your backpack for good?
  • How much does traveling and seeing different places and cultures firsthand enhance childhood and learning?
  • Does not being “rooted” in one particular place harm children? What about having friends?

Of course, I’m not the first one to wrestle with these questions…

These days Nate Sawatkzy is based in Helsinki, but he spent years traveling around Europe in a converted bus with his wife and their six (!) children.

And traveling families are practically an entire genre on YouTube:

There’s Sailing Zatara, a family of six who left their life in Texas behind to sail the world while living aboard a catamaran.

And Or Go Travel, “We sold our house, quit our jobs, bought a RV and left California in 2019 to go travelling around the world.”

… to name just a few. These are all pretty extreme lifestyle choices, but you don’t have to live on boat to travel the world.

Nikolaj Astrup has written beautifully about his life and ideals as a digital nomad + dad. I love his approach:

We definitely still want to travel, but we definitely want to travel in a different way than before. We want to travel less, better, slower and more with friends and family and we want to travel with other expectations.

One of the ways we travelled after having our son was a trip to Northern Bali, where we rented a big villa with 5 bedrooms. We did the trip with some friends who have a little daughter. They also brought some family, I brought my mom and we also had another friend who joined.

Way less adventures and spontaneity, but a beautiful and awesome mix of friends/family, relaxing, everything in the pace of the kids, lots of time to work. In a few months we are doing the same, but in Oman. We also rented a big villa in Spain next summer and want to gather a big bunch of friends and family.

What if this was a service?

I used to say that RemoteYear and the other digital-nomad-as-a-service companies have zero appeal to me. In case you’re not familiar, these companies take groups of people around the world, 12 cities in 12 months. They plan everything, all you have to do is show up with your remote job.

For their target customers, having someone else take care of all the logistics is appealing. It’s the push they need to take the leap and become nomads.

When I started, I wanted to figure it out for myself. I liked researching each destination and mapping out a plan. And I enjoy the challenge of showing up in a new city and not knowing another soul there.

But having a kid now changes all that.

I still want adventure. But I also want playgrounds, access to good doctors, and other kids for my daughter to play with.

So if someone invents an alternative version of Remote Year where 5-10 families with kids around the same age all travel from country to country, sign me up. Especially if you can bundle in English-speaking nurses and excellent nannies in each country (or traveling with us).

When I describe this to people, they laugh. It sounds like a fantasy. But I’m fairly confident someone will launch this sooner or later, because there is demand.

There are over 50,000 adventurous parents in the Worldschooling Facebook Group and there are Worldschooling hubs around the world. If you’re interested in these ideas, that’s a great place to start.

Parents in these communities share advice on everything from homeschooling to the best bases in Central America for traveling with teenagers.

That’s all for this week! More on this topic soon…

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I write occasional emails to share what I’m thinking, learning, and doing. It’s all related to the idea of breaking free from the “default plan” in life.

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