Expat Interview: The International Experiment
Posted by Dannielle Noonan
This week's Expat Interview is a little different. Meet the family who sold everything they own to embark on a life of full time travel!
"We are Tracey, Rob, and Makai, a Canadian family that has been traveling the world since April 2014! Rob and I were both born and raised in Calgary, Alberta but lived in different parts of western Canada, as we grew older. After the birth of our son, Makai and some serious self-evaluation, we decided life was too short to wait to see all the places we wanted to visit around the world. We decided to change how we were living, sold our home and most of what we owned and set out to travel perpetually. Since leaving Canada, we have visited eight countries so far and we are currently in Spain."
What inspired you to become expats?
Our travel lifestyle was inspired by the belief that we could live well for a lot less money than we needed to spend for the same standard of living in Canada. We wanted one of us to be able to stay home and home school Makai but with cost of living as it is in Canada and the jobs we had that just wasn’t feasible. In addition, Rob and I both had a serious love for travel and wanted to give Makai, who’s now six, a world perspective at a young age.
In Canada, we read and researched about culture and cost of living in different countries. We decided we would try to experience life in the countries that fit our criteria for places we could settle down and live better for less. The majority of the information we read was from blogs. Personal accounts of couples, singles and families that were traveling or living in other countries for less than it costs to live in North America helped us devise a plan to change our lifestyle.
Where have you been so far?
We prefer to travel slowly so we can get a real sense of local culture in the places we visit. So far, we have visited Cartagena, Barranquilla, Cali, and Popayan in Colombia, Otavalo Ecuador, Bucharest Romania, London and Bury St. Edmunds in England, Madrid and Vera in Spain, and Istanbul, Ovacik, and Marmaris in Turkey.
We decide where we will travel a few ways, first thing being reasonable costs to live or a housesitting opportunity (we are professional house sitters). If an opportunity for a long-term house sitting assignment, (a month or more) arises in a country with a higher cost of living, the cost to visit plummets because accommodation is free.
What were your occupations back in Canada, and how do you fill your days now?
I was a retail store Manager and Rob was an Investment Specialist. We both work online now, I am a freelance writer and Rob builds websites and provides WordPress maintenance for businesses that need that support to grow their businesses. We are working together to home school Makai as well.
Building new careers online has been very difficult and extremely liberating at the same time. The skills we developed from our former careers, managing people and tasks and client care and security benefitted both of us when transitioning to doing business online.
What was the most challenging aspect of leaving your life in Canada?
Two things made leaving our life back home difficult. Selling our home took a lot longer than we had anticipated and saying goodbye to our family and our dog was very tough as well. Deciding to sell our stuff to live with only the contents of three suitcases was not something we took lightly. Mired with challenges the whole process to get on the road was very difficult. We persevered because we knew our decision to travel was best for our family. We were right and are all changed, for the better by this awesome family adventure.
What’s the best thing about bringing up your son, Makai, overseas?
There are so many great things! He naturally looks for similarities instead of differences when meeting new people and this is probably the biggest thing. Visiting countries that are very different from one another makes him think of many questions so we all learn together which is so rewarding.
Being six, his perspective is very different from ours, which helps us notice things we may have missed if Mak hadn’t pointed them out. He doesn’t fear new experiences for the most part and makes learning about new cultures, language, and food so much fun. Nothing seems to hold Makai back from approaching other kids, not ethnicity, not language barriers, nothing. We love that.
What are the disadvantages and benefits of living an ‘unconventional family life’ on the road?
I can’t really say there are disadvantages to this lifestyle but there are definitely challenges. Some of the biggest are managing work life balance, because when you're freelancing, you can work all the time so we have to make sure we keep the work in check. The same is true of home schooling so we try to adhere to a basic routine. Traveling and living minimalist are the other major components of our lifestyle, living with less definitely makes the travel part easier! We need to watch what we acquire because of our limited suitcase space.
There are many benefits for us living this way. Traveling as we do is substantially cheaper than how we lived in Canada. This has helped us afford to build online careers, home school Makai, and see the world as a family, exactly what we set out to do!
How do you make sure you have access to good healthcare on the road? Any experiences with medical emergencies?
We do our due diligence for healthcare a few ways. First off, we are members of IAMAT, a website that provides a directory of English speaking doctors in countries around the world. This helps us have names and numbers for doctors nearby always. We carry long-term travel insurance we can manage easily online as well. We haven’t had any medical emergencies traveling so far, thank goodness! Dentist visits and acquiring needed medications have not posed a challenge in the places we’ve visited so far.
House sitting has also been helpful in assuring we have access to good healthcare. Homeowners provide us will their personal contacts for medical emergencies, dentists and chemists (pharmacists) when we care for their homes and pets.
Tell us about your blog!
We started a blog, The Expat Experiment as soon as we decided to pursue this lifestyle. We wanted to detail our adventure and also provide others with tips and information about this way of living and share our opinions and advice about the places we visit. Blogging has helped us meet and connect with so many wonderful people all over the world. It also helped me discover how much I really love writing.
We are working to develop The Expat Experiment as a resource for house sitting. We started caring for people’s homes and pets while they vacation almost a year ago now. We’ve benefited personally and financially doing so. We have managed free accommodation for ten months because of house sitting! Caring for the pets has also helped us deal with missing our dog back in Canada as well.
We are writing a series on The Expat Experiment about cost of living to give others an idea about costs and culture in the places we’ve visited. We have learned so many ways to travel well cheaply we wanted others to benefit from our experience. For a minimalist family lifestyle, blogging is also the best way to keep track of memories and photos, the ultimate scrapbook!
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