“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma—which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition.” ~ Steve Jobs
I remember family life before we made the big change to become slow-travelers.
Our existence consisted of over-scheduled kids and over-worked parents who functioned more as ships passing in the night than as passionate partners. Our focus became surviving each day.
My husband, Will, and I thought we were “good” parents by doing what society told us we should do. We made sure our kids tried their hand at just about every activity, had thriving social lives, and got the childhood experiences they needed to ensure future professional success. Though we spent time together—in the car, at practices, back in the car, at the table for a quick meal, in the car again—we were not bonding.
Fast forward three years, and wow, have we bonded. Our life of WorldTowning, as we call it, involves living in the world, one hometown at a time. To date, we have lived in three different countries, each for nine months at a time. As I write this, we are preparing for our next adventure. We structure our work and our children’s education around this unique lifestyle. While it has not always been easy, it has been rewarding. More than that, it helped us achieve our greatest goal—true family connection.
Family bonding while on the road is easier, because, when we travel, we naturally spend more time together. This is a matter of logistics, but we take advantage of those logistics. We play games, build things, volunteer, create childhood businesses, and so much more. These moments give us the ability to get to know each other on a level beyond homework, activities, and social engagements. They help us strengthen existing bonds, create new connections, and bring us levels of intimacy I had no idea could exist within families.
Here are some of the unique advantages to slow-traveling as a family:
I have watched our two children, Avalon (12) and Largo (9), build a stronger bond as siblings. Over time, they have grown in mutual respect, friendship, and general care for each other’s well-being. They are still siblings and they do fight, but the change over the last three years has been greater than I could have ever expected.
Our family motto used to be “divide and conquer.” It was the only way we could accomplish everything we thought we needed to accomplish. Now, to maintain a travel lifestyle that includes digital-nomad parents and “worldschooled” kids, we have to work as a team—Team Sueiro. There are no traditional roles on Team Sueiro. Everyone does what is needed, and that includes the children. I love how our children know they are part of the team, that we need them and we are not bound by conventional duties. I see this as such a gift for them as they enter into adulthood and possibly choose a partner one day.
Will and I have been able to develop a deeper understanding of each of our children and how they function. It is truly a gift to have the time to understand what makes our children tick, rather than just pushing them on to another task. We’ve become more patient parents by understanding the deeper feelings behind the behaviors.
As children age, their needs change. I am finding that, emotionally, they need us to be much more accessible than in previous years. Our lifestyle choice has allowed us to be available for them throughout the day. Yes, we are working, but we can always stop to talk when needed. The more time we spend with our children, the more likely we are to be approached when important topics come up because they know we are receptive and accessible.
We chose this lifestyle largely because we wanted to be present with our children. The way I see it, we only have them at home with us for 18 years, if we are lucky (some more and some less). Over the course of a lifetime, that’s not very much. I want to be present as much as possible during those years because once they fly away, they will be off on their own adventures. Living how we do, we get to savor each moment with them without hurrying even one minute away.
My husband and I have become our children’s biggest influencers. While our kids have relationships with other people—like their grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins and friends—we have held on tightly to the role as the primary influencers in their lives. We believe this is true for most parents, but the sheer amount of time we spend with our children helps us meet this objective.
I think this goes without being said: kids are fun. Period. When we spend a lot of time with our kids, we do see our fair share of fights and emotions, but we also get to be there for the fun! Kids have energy, creativity, a zest for life, and an appreciation for the simple things. I truly believe it is the greatest joy in life to be parents on this amazing journey.
Slow-travel has given us the luxury of spending copious amounts of time together as a family. Living in foreign locations has stretched us and caused us to rely on one another in ways never before experienced. However we choose to structure our lives, we can be purposeful about our family bonding time. All it takes is a little prioritization, saying “no” to the agenda and saying “yes” to meaningful family activity and fun.
Author: Jessica Sueiro
Image: Author’s own
Editor: Danielle Beutell