Tips for Becoming a Digital Nomad Family (And Mistakes to Avoid)
Ever fantasized about giving up your nine-to-five job for a life of endless travel?
I know I have.
Imagine if you spent your weekdays sipping cocktails on a hammock overlooking the Mediterranean. Or how about trekking through the thick Malaysian jungle on the lookout for wild orangutans?
Wouldn’t that be bliss?
It’d certainly be better than this dreary office job.
But then you remember you’re married with kids, and there’s no way you could ever make that work!
Or could you?
More and more families are abandoning their conventional life and venturing off to live and work on the road instead.
It isn’t easy, but it certainly can be done.
Why Become a Digital Nomad Family?
In a word, freedom.
The freedom to work whenever and wherever you want. Rather than being constrained to a cubicle, you gallivant around the globe with the people you love in tow.
Monotony morphs into a distant memory. Excitement and adventure become the new norm.
And I’m not just talking about the grown-ups. A nomadic lifestyle provides children with unbridled freedom and opportunities to flourish in creative ways.
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The Challenges of Becoming a Digital Nomad Family
In a word, children.
Your kids probably don’t share your enthusiasm for resettling every other month. And even if they do, they’ll need to be educated, entertained and socialized, which will require a vast portion of your time, money and energy.
Then there’s the loneliness. Bid farewell to your extended family and friends because you certainly won’t be seeing them for a while. Sure, you’ll meet people along the way, but it’s more difficult to form meaningful relationships when you’re always on the move.
Tips for Becoming a Digital Nomad Family (And Mistakes to Avoid)
How to Travel as a Digital Nomad Family
As with most big life changes, getting started can be the hardest part. Overcome adversity and transition seamlessly into your new roving lifestyle with this easy-to-follow advice.
Get the kids on board
Convincing your children of the merits of a nomadic lifestyle must be your top priority. After all, if they’re miserable, the entire family will be, too.
Start by explaining how cool traveling the world would be. Exciting new experiences every day! A gang of international chums! No more grumpy teachers or boring classrooms!
If they’re enthusiastic about a dramatic lifestyle change, they’ll be much more likely to enjoy the experience once you’ve finally hit the road.
Set a budget and stick to it
Depending on your job, inconsistent income can be the most difficult part of being a digital nomad. Freelancers and entrepreneurs never really know exactly how much they’ll bring home at the end of each month.
But it’s crucial to have a rough idea.
Work out approximately what you expect to bring in and travel accordingly. Developing countries are a godsend for the digital nomad who struggles to make ends meet.
Finally, be sure to leave room in your budget for an appropriate travel insurance policy. Try to find an insurance provider that caters both to families and to digital nomads.
Ease into the lifestyle
Adapting to a nomadic life entails an assortment of logistical, physical and emotional challenges.
So go easy on yourself.
At first, seek out a destination not too unlike your home. Waver there for several months and get to know the area well. Only once you start to settle into the rhythm of your new life should you pick up the pace and begin to explore more exotic locales.
Doing so won’t only improve your own mental well-being—it’ll keep the kids considerably more grounded, as well. Many children struggle to adapt to big changes, so it’s vital to take things one step at a time.
Of course, a little moral support goes a long way. Join the Digital Nomad Families and Worldschool Family Facebook groups to touch base with a team of seasoned digital nomad veterans.
Keep the kids socialized and entertained
Your children’s emotional well-being should be at the forefront of your concerns.
And few things make them more restless than a lack of interaction with kids their age. Satisfy their social appetite by seeking out other traveling families, homeschool groups and child-friendly activities at each and every destination.
Remember, theme parks are infinitely more entertaining than museums.
Formulate a foolproof education plan
Author C. JoyBell C. once famously proclaimed, “Travel is the best teacher.” She was onto something, for your children will indeed obtain wisdom on their global journey.
Nevertheless, they do need to know their reading, writing and arithmetic.
A steadfast mobile education plan is essential to ensure they don’t fall behind. Also known as “world schooling,” homeschooling children on the road is the only practical means of keeping their education in check.
Nomadic families on a short stint could request work from children’s teachers. But for the indefinite wanderers, a considerable amount of effort and research will be required instead.
Online educational resources such as WorldSchool Academy and Worldschooling Central provide a vast amount of worksheets, activities and lesson plans for a reasonable fee. Add in your own bespoke classes and consider hiring a private tutor for additional guidance.
Want to intermingle the kids’ travels and education? Teach them the language of the countries you’re visiting. For example, maybe you’re traveling to Belgium, then France, then Morocco. Sounds like French would be a valuable subject to fit into their curriculum!
There are plenty of online resources out there ideal for teaching traveling kids foreign languages. Try FluentU to teach your children through fun, authentic videos.
FluentU takes real-world videos straight from the culture you’re visiting—like music videos, movie trailers, news and inspiring talks—and turns them into personalized language learning lessons.
FluentU’s enhanced video player comes with interactive captions: Click any word for an instant definition and native pronunciation. Each video also comes with flashcards and exercises to help your kids remember the words even after they’ve finished watching.
One of the best ways to learn a language is through immersion. When you travel, your family will learn through immersion with locals. With FluentU, you and your kids can still immerse yourselves in the culture while on the road or in your hotel room.
Check out the full video library for free with a FluentU trial!
Insist on fast internet
As you’ll be working online almost every single day, it’s not enough just to have an internet connection. You need to have a fast and reliable one.
Low speed and unreliable service will ruin an otherwise productive day. To maximize your earnings, think twice before relocating to a country with notoriously poor online infrastructure.
Furthermore, always test your connection before paying upfront for a lengthy stay. Landlords around the world are notorious for exaggerating their internet speed.
Seek out co-working spaces
Having kids around the house is distracting, which ultimately results in lost productivity.
Therefore, the household breadwinner should consider undertaking the majority of their work in a co-working space. Affordable options are plentiful in most major cities.
As a bonus, co-working spaces are excellent spots to network with other freelancers and perhaps even learn a few new skills.
Remember, when using public Wi-Fi in places like co-working spaces and cafes, it’s essential to implement a VPN to safeguard your personal information.
Mistakes to Avoid When Becoming a Digital Nomad Family
Avoid these common pitfalls for a more peaceful nomadic family life.
Overcommitting to the idea
Life as a digital nomad family doesn’t have to be permanent, so don’t feel obliged to sell everything you own from the get-go. After all, what if it turns out this lifestyle isn’t for you?
If you happen to own a house, try renting it out instead of selling. You’ll receive a modest monthly income (depending on your mortgage), and you’ll always have somewhere to come home to.
Not having the skills to pay the bills
Countless blogs out there smugly boast how easy it is to freelance your way around the world. In reality, it takes a considerable time investment to build up a client base and the appropriate skills.
Remember, you have a whole family to shelter and feed. Work remotely at home for several months before packing your bags to ensure you can bring in the dough you need.
Alternatively, ask your boss if you could switch to remote employment. You’ll likely take a sizable pay cut, but it’ll still be enough to live and work in affordable regions.
Treating it like a holiday
You’re not on vacation.
There’s no need to go sightseeing each day or traverse around the world at lightning speed. Take it slow. Focus on building your online business and ensuring you can meet your children’s developmental needs.
Despite all the floury inspirational prose you may have read online (such as my introduction), the life of a digital nomad is a disciplined blend of work and play. Add a family to the mix, and you’ll spend even more time on the former.
A Monday-to-Friday work week is more or less what you should expect.
Waiting too long to make it happen
There’s never a “perfect time” to get married. Or to have a baby. Or to buy a house.
Similarly, there’s never a perfect time to take your family down the digital nomad route. The kids will never be the right age, and you’ll never have enough money saved up.
But a few minor challenges shouldn’t stop you. Just get out there and do it before it’s too late.
If you have a steady income, you don’t need a huge safety net. As little as 5,000 to 10,000 USD will suffice.
Most digital nomad families agree the experience is easier with younger children. As they reach the late high school years, it becomes increasingly important to enroll them in formal education or at least provide some semblance of stability.
Ready to take the plunge?
Transitioning your family from a sedentary to nomadic lifestyle may well be one of the most nerve-wracking things you could do. But once you’re peering out over the Mediterranean with a cocktail in hand at the end of a short and stress-free workday, you’ll curse yourself for putting it off so long.
And if not, you can always pack it in and come back home again.
Harry is a South American-based freelance writer who covers travel, the arts and culture, among many other things.
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