What was the first country you visited? Who with and why did you choose it?
Nicaragua for 25 days was our first trip as a family of four in July 2012. The girls were 6 months old and 3 years old. We wanted to go somewhere a bit off the map, but also close to home in California, so we didn’t have to deal with jet lag and long haul flights with the kids. Nicaragua was billed as the “next Costa Rica,” so we decided to check it out before it became flooded with tourists.
Before our trip, we’d get questions such as “Why Nicaragua?” and “Is it safe there?” Frankly, it was challenging to find the courage to travel with our kids to a developing country like Nicaragua. But once we were in Nicaragua, we had a blast with our kids in Granada and San Juan del Sur. We never felt threatened or unsafe traveling with our little ones. On the contrary, we discovered another beautiful side of traveling when we received the boundless hospitality, generosity and compassion of the locals because we were traveling with kids.
When did you start a travel lifestyle? What inspired that change?
I started my world traveling in college when I studied abroad in Tokyo, Japan in 2000-2001. During that period, all my free time (and money!) was spent on trips in Japan and other countries in Asia including China, Korea, Thailand, and Cambodia. After that year in Asia, I realized that the best classroom for me was the world and I wanted more of it.
Once I graduated college, I returned to Asia to study Mandarin at a university in Beijing, China. My one year in China turned into over four years. By 2008, I returned to the States, married and ready to settle down and live my “American Dream” of a nice job, a house, a new car, and kids. Once I got those things, I realized something was missing in my life. I realized I needed to travel more to make things right in my life. And I was not going to use my little kids as an excuse not to travel, but rather use them as the reason for traveling.
Since our Nicaragua trip, we’ve been traveling in small and large doses all over the world. At this point, we’ve been in ten countries together as a family in the last two years. Our most memorable experiences have been the ones in which we traveled slowly and for extended periods of time. Through our travels, we’ve been fortunate to have spent 5 weeks in Buenos Aires, Argentina, 4 weeks in Antigua, Guatemala, 4 weeks in Taipei, Taiwan, and 3 months in Hangzhou, China.
Do you have a base you travel from? Or is it continuous travel? And why do you choose that style?
Our travel base is in San Jose, California, where we live in Silicon Valley. We do everything we can to make travel our lifestyle. We’ve taken extended vacations with paid time off, we’ve taken the kids on business trips to various cities in the States, we’ve traveled abroad when I could work remotely, and we recently returned from our six-month cultural sabbatical.
The travel style that we have found to work best for us is to live in a location for at least 4 weeks. Since our kids are of preschool age, we’ve been able to put them in preschool at each of our last 3 stops (Guatemala, Taiwan, China) for our short-term stays. This “world schooling” allows my wife and I to do our sightseeing and activities during the weekdays and provides our kids a much more engaging and immersive experience while abroad.
How do you fund your travel lifestyle? Is it something you do when travelling or are you a saver?
Our travel lifestyle is sustained by saving and prudent spending. Both my wife and I have been brought up this way and it helps us achieve the lifestyle we have now. Traveling to most destinations in the world isn’t that expensive, as long as you’re creative and flexible. The bulk of expenses while traveling is for flights and accommodation, but there are many ways to save on both of these things.
For flights, we’ve saved money by booking numerous flights with mileage points and getting cheap flights during off-peak seasons and flash sales. The deals are out there to be had. You just have to look and have some luck. For example, we successfully booked roundtrip tickets from Los Angeles to Lima for $150 USD per ticket (normally $800-$1000) and roundtrip tickets from San Francisco to Guatemala City for $249 USD each (normally $600-$800). Multiply those prices by 3 or 4 for a traveling family and the savings becomes quite significant. The key is to book immediately when you see the deal because in both instances, the deals were no longer available the next day.
For accommodation, the emergence of apartment sharing sites, specifically Airbnb, has changed the way we travel and how extended traveling can be affordable. We’ve used Airbnb for our family for places to stay in five different countries. By staying in apartments or guesthouses, not only have we saved money, but we’ve been able to have better experiences than if we were staying in hotels.
If you could tell yourself one tip before you started your travel lifestyle, what would it be?
Just go. As soon as possible. But slowly.
What does 'Living The Dream' mean to you?
“Living the Dream” is doing what you love with the people you love most.