When most people think about travel, I think they imagine life is like a permanent vacation. But there is a fundamental difference between vacations and long-term travel. With a vacation, you have a "home" you return to. Long-term travel for us means having a rental home we live in that is often in a vacation setting.
Here are some other things that distinguish long term travel is not like a vacation.
1.) A hotel room is not "home sweet home".
We like to say that "home is wherever we all are" and if we stay somewhere as short as 3 nights, we do refer to our hotel or vacation rental as "home" when referring to where we rest our heads at night. As a general rule, we live in a home and have all the responsibilities that come with living anywhere like cleaning and washing bath towels.
2.) Restaurants are a "bonus" not regular occurrence.
When we go on vacation, cooking is generally left for someone else to handle. I have cooked meals while on vacation when we're in a rental home with a full kitchen, but usually we sample local fare. With long term travel, I plan meals, buy groceries, cook and clean up the kitchen, with the help of my oldest girls. We do have access to more unusual ingredients and lots of cheap fresh produce when in Latin America, but overall, meals are pretty close to what they were in the US.
3.) Clothing is stored in dressers and closets, not in suitcases.
Unless we're on vacation for about a week or more, I generally do not like to unpack our bags completely. But since we travel slowly, all of us have dressers or shelves in closets for all of our clothing.
4.) Working and paying bills are part of daily life.
Vacations are normally a time to "take a break" from normal life, bills are taken care of before leaving home, you add an "I'm going to be away from the office" automated reply on your email account, and generally don't work. But we do work (email clients, Skype with business contacts, manage our Amazon account) and pay bills. It’s the same stuff everyone has to do.
5.) We go through the same emotional highs and lows and everyone else.
Something tends to happen when we're on vacation. Mom and Dad are more relaxed. The kids seem to get along better. Everyone is in an overall better mood than when we're in our normal routine. Maybe it's because we're willing to let go and have more fun that we do when we know there's an email that needs to be sent, laundry that needs washing and those mystery dishes that appear and need washing even after we thought they'd all been done.
While we do try to take breaks while we're living abroad, we get stuck in daily routines and have to push to break free from them to enjoy the beautiful surroundings we’re in. Everyone has up and down days, the kids get bored, we make each other mad. It is truly NOT a vacation.
Long term family travel is just like life in your home country…just in a totally different culture, living among locals (for us, anyway) and MUCH more affordable than your average vacation.
For example, from 2012-2013, our family of 7 lived on a very modest $2000 a month in Mexico, give or take a couple hundred. That paid for a 4 bedroom, 3 bath house ($750/mo rent), utilities, internet, groceries, the occasional meal out, a maid and gardener, and other incidentals.Now, for our family to fly round trip somewhere for 4 nights, stay in a hotel, pay for food and any attractions we might want to see, that budget *might* work. Maybe, but not likely in an international destination.
So, the next time you're setting aside some cash for your next vacation, imagine if instead of going for a week, how that same amount of money could last you for an entire month…or more…if you were traveling long term. Sound appealing? Learn how to make it happen in my family travel course.
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