You work from your laptop. You’ve heard stories of people just like you who travel for months at a time. You think you’re ready to give it a try. I think you’re ready, too. When planning your first trip, make sure you avoid these eight common mistakes of would-be traveling families.
1. Wait another year.
There will never be a perfect time to leave the country for a few months. Well, maybe election season. But in terms of your personal finances and to-do list, chances are you’ll never feel like you have enough money or time. Don’t let that keep you from the nomadic lifestyle if it’s something to which you’re drawn. We never know exactly how short life will be, so get out there and see as much as you can, while you can.
2. Wait for your kids to hit a milestone.
Potty training sucks whether you’re in San Francisco or Singapore. And your teenagers have the ability to roll their eyes at you with the same insolence in Ixtapa as they do in Indiana. Waiting for the right time to travel with your kids is a mistake. Every age will have its challenges and benefits. And since the phases and emotions kids experience can change at any time and without warning, don’t waste energy trying to predict them. A common objection I hear from parents is that they can’t take their kids away from all of their activities. Soccer, band, gymnastics and the glee club will be there when you return. Let your kids know that travel is a gift. If they still balk, force them to go before they turn 18 and have the legal right to say no.
3. Be afraid to pull your kids from school.
Talk to your children’s teachers about leaving the country for a few months. They might surprise you. For every trip we’ve taken, our daughters’ teachers have gone above and beyond to supply us with a wealth of materials to keep our kids on track. And I’m not talking about a stack of worksheets, but online programs and special projects that incorporate the elements of travel and different cultures. And if you do get materials from your children’s teachers, they probably spent a considerable amount of time (and possibly their own money) putting those materials together, so make sure you use them. While you’re at it, bring back nice souvenirs for the teachers.
4. Be afraid to explore other education options.
If your child’s teacher is not the type described in the paragraph above, look into the local schools in your destination city. You can also find Montessori schools around the world. If those don’t seem like viable options, you’ll find considerable resources on the Internet for home schooling, as well as free public online schools like Connections Education. If an online school is the route you’re taking, make sure your child has their own laptop unless you’re willing to share yours for a chunk of time each day.
5. Fail to fully vet your Internet connections.
If you’re going to work abroad, you don’t just need Internet, you need Internet that works. There’s a big difference. And no matter how much you vet the digital capabilities of your destination, something will go wrong. Spend as much time as necessary in the first week getting everything up to speed to minimize hassles during the rest of the trip. Many parts of the world have improved 3G and 4G options, so check with locals to find out which cell provider has the best coverage, and consider getting a local phone and/or data plan.
6. Fail to have a digital contingency plan.
Is your backup Cloud-based? Are there Mac and/or PC repair shops where you’re going? And just how screwed will you be if your computer is lost, stolen, crashes or falls victim to a spilled cocktail? Consider these carefully and have a contingency plan in place. You might also want to make a copy of your hard drive and keep it with you on your travels.
7. Act like you’re on vacation.
If you spend every day at theme parks and restaurants, you’ll spend your money, as well as your time. When you first arrive in a new place, it’s tempting to treat it like a vacation, but living abroad is just as much about living a normal daily life as it is about taking in the sights. Remember that if you truly want to incorporate extended travel into your life, you need to keep your work/play balance in check. Employ the same logic to make sure you’re not working all the time. One of the benefits of getting away from your home office is that you’re less distracted and more likely to get your work day finished in less time than it normally takes you. Wake early, work hard, and use your afternoons to explore your temporary home.
8. Limit your world.
Before you rule out potential destinations, do a little research. Look past the headlines and stereotypes. Connect with expats in different countries. Likely you’ll find they are more than willing to share their knowledge regarding the pros and cons of visiting a new corner of the world. Sit down in front of a globe and you might find places that you really want to visit but that weren’t readily on the tip of your tongue when you thought about where you wanted to go. The hidden places of the world, the ones that don’t immediately come to mind, might just be the best.