3 Things We’ve Learned While Living Outside the USA

live life differently

Sometimes, it's fun being different!

When you live a "different" life than most people, you get to see life through a different pair of lenses.  Whether you homeschool or are a vegan or walk and bike instead of drive a car, the opportunity arises for you to be outside of the norm and experience, even if it's just a tiny bit, what life is like as a minority.

I'm certainly not comparing our life as long term travelers to those who have suffered the injustices of discrimination due to race or religion, but there are some things that only other traveling families "get" about our lifestyle.


That sounds so strange…yet we have fashioned the life we currently live based on our families goals, desires and faith.  And during this season of being thankful, I am thankful for the lessons (good and bad) we have learned along the way.

So what have been 3 things we've learned on this journey?

This is my great-aunt saying "Adios!" to the kids days before we left Costa Rica.

1.)  It is okay to not know where you'll be 6 months from now! 

You may not know that we went from happy Florida residents one day to "frantic sellers of all our stuff so we can take a HUGE leap of faith-ers" the next.  We literally had our landlady show up one afternoon with a pie in her hands to tell us she couldn't extend our lease (as we'd planned) and needed to move into her house in THREE months.

3 months + 2800sq ft of stuff + 5 kids + picking a place to live next with only weeks before our departure + transitioning our main business & income source into new hands = CRAZINESS!

But, we did it.  We uprooted and left everything familiar to embark on a life of travel experiences to enrich all of our lives.  Some people spend years planning and purging.  Not us.  I think I would have lost my sanity.  It was SO hard at times, but I never want to diminish the fact that we did it!

I used to be such a planner.  I wanted to know everything as far in advance as possible.  There are times when some certainty is nice, but I'm coming to grips that life isn't always a pretty straight line.  There can be good curves and bad ones and not living with a certain level of expectations of how life is going to be can be good!

We've now been "travelers" or "expats" for 15+ months and have no clue where we will be in another 6 months.  Like Abraham and Sarah in the Bible, we're on a journey and we only see enough into the future to take the smallest step forward, yet like these Biblical characters, we know we're on the correct path. 

Only other traveling families seem to understand this…we had "these" plans to go "here", but now "that" country looks more appealing and "this" airline has super low fares to "there" right now, yet "which one" to pick?  It can be overwhelming and exciting, all at the same time and I am thankful to know that not having a plan "set in stone" is okay!

crafting with grandma

Hard to tell, but this is my mom with the children, walking around the lake near her old house with luminaries.

2.)  Some people will be supportive and continue to love you unconditionally, even if they don't agree with your choice to travel.  And others, you continue to love them fully, but don't base your decisions on keeping them happy because for some, your best is never enough.

This has been a tough lesson to learn.  It's only human nature to want those you love the most to support you in the decisions you make, even if they prefer you chose a different path.  We have been taking SO many mental notes on how we want to raise our children and let them always know that we will love them, no matter what, before and after they leave our care.

We have experienced both sides of this coin and the deep hurt that comes from not being loved for who you are, but instead because of what you do or do not do, brings a sadness that sometimes seems too hard to bear.  The broken relationships that have occurred, as a result of how others have painted how we live, are something we mourn and wonder if they'll ever be repaired. 

There will always be naysayers, people who think you must be on the wrong path if you're not on the same path they are on.  Fortunately, we know that no one knows God's will for our lives except us.  The TRUE love and kindness we receive from others keeps us going forward, not any sort of rebellion, as some may think. We are so thankful for those genuine relationships where we can be our true selves without judgement…and thankful even for the hard relationship, for they have taught us so much.

My parents have been AMAZING!  Not once has my mother or father nagged or begged or even pleaded to have us come home to visit them…and our kids are their only grandchildren.  They have asked what our plans are, but never in a guilt-inducing way.  I know it is hard for them to have us and their beloved grandchildren far away, but they make the best of it and don't try to make us feel bad for not living close by.  I can't tell you how priceless that kind of unconditional love is.  It makes us want to visit as often as finances allow.

Kids are silly…no matter where you live!  He told me he was an apple.  See the leaves on his head? :)

3.)  Living outside of the USA looks very similar to living IN the USA on a daily basis.

There are some big differences between our life in FL and our life here in Mexico, but from the time we wake up until the time our tired eyes close at night, our daily routine is quite similar.

We all wake up at different times (our oldest and I are late risers, several of the children are not), all the children (except our little guy) do school work.  The Pilot works, as do I.  We eat 3 meals a day.  The kids laugh until someone hits someone else and tears flow.  We make messes…and they usually get cleaned up.  We take family walks.  We check email.  We do chores.  I go grocery shopping.  This probably looks a lot like your days.

Some days are great days.  Others involve late payments from clients that make finances tighter than we'd like.  We get sick.  We go to church on Sundays.  We pay bills. 

Someone lost her 1st tooth in Mexico!  She got $20 pesos from Ratoncito Perez…not the tooth fairy.

But, in all of this, we get to mingle with people from a different culture.  Life, as we live it, is NOT a vacation.  We do normal stuff every day, but in some pretty cool locations as non-locals.  Yes, sometimes we get what is called the "gringo special" when someone takes advantage of us, but those times are few and far between in the places we've been so far.  I'm thankful that slow travel affords us the opportunity to live a fairly normal life, lost teeth and all, no matter where we are on this beautiful planet.

Travel is an amazing teacher, often showing you things you need to learn without realizing how much you needed to learn them.  Other traveling families have shared what they have learned from their travels.  You can read about the lessons they've learned through the links below.



BohemianTravelers.com: Travel Lessons: Can You Embrace the Unknown?

The nomadic family: I Know Nothing (and 99 Other Things The Road Has Taught Me)

PearceOnEarth.com: 5 Life Lessons Learned from Traveling

Life Changing Year: Life Lessons From The Road – A Little Bit Of Planning Goes A Loooong Way!

LivingOutsideoftheBox.com – 6 Life Lessons From the Road

A King's Life:  Two things I know for sure

Flashpacker Family – Lessons from the Road of Life 

Family on Bikes: Complaining won't change a gosh-darn thing

RambleCrunch: 15 lessons I've learned traveling the world

Grow in Grace Life:  By Any Road..Lessons from the Journey

Our Travel Lifestyle – Travel: Teaching us about ourselves

So it’s been 6 Months – You won't believe what we have learnt!

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22 Responses to “3 Things We’ve Learned While Living Outside the USA”

  1. Life Lessons From The Road - A Little Bit Of Planning Goes A Loooong Way | Life Changing Year Says:

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  7. Jennifer Pearce Says:

    I too have learned so much about true love and kindness from others and have also endured the pain of broken and strained relationships. Like you, travel has taught me many things I needed to learn, even without me realizing how much I needed to learn them. I hope we can meet up with your family again sometime in our travels!

  8. Mary Says:

    So very true, I think we all have positive and negative reactions to this alternative lifestyle.  But remember that you are ony in control of how you respond to it all.  It is hurtful, but I look at it as athe best lesson in the world of how NOT to treat my kids.  A lesson we will be sure to remember!

  9. 6 Life Lessons from the Road | Living Outside of the Box Says:

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  10. Complaining won’t change a gosh-darn thingFamily on Bikes Says:

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  11. Living Outside of the Box Says:

    Isn't that funny how people picture our daily lives of travel as something they can't relate to?  I think a lot of people fail to realize that life goes on…no matter where you are!  Some days may be a little crazier than others…but we still have basic needs. And speaking of basic needs…it saddens me when people can't just love you and support you for who you are, even if it doesn't agree with their personal choices or preferences. They have to judge you and compare you to them, as if to further justify themselves, and disqualify you. It's kind of ridiculous.
    But the beauty is that you have other people to turn to for support!

  12. Renee Says:

    Susan, this really resonates.

    My dad is my only parent and my daughter's only remaining grandparent. He was pretty old when I was born, in his 50s, so now he's 94. Still, when we told him we were leaving the area to travel, he never nagged or made us feel guilty. He wished us well, waved goodbye and has been nothing but supportive. I am SO grateful for that. i treasure our weekly phone calls and can't wait to visit him as soon as finances allow.

    I will definitely follow his example when my daughter is grown.

  13. Travel with Bender (Erin) Says:

    I never knew I'd still be on the road at 6 months, thanks for sharing that it's okay not to know and how similar the world really is. :) 

  14. Tracey - Life Changing Year Says:

    We've been so lucky.  With both our parents living overseas, our travel plans were actually a way to visit them rather than move away from them.  We only had to say goodbye to a few close friends who were nothing but supportive.  It's sad you've had an experience other than that but at the end of the day "what other people think of you is none of your business."  Let it wash over you as best you can – your own family unit is happy – that's all that matters.

  15. Mom Says:

    Thanks for all the great, supportive comments!  I am thankful we have found an amazing support network of traveling families all around the globe!

  16. Nancy Sathre-Vogel Says:

    "Living outside of the USA looks very similar to living IN the USA on a daily basis."

    Yes! We taught in international schools in various countries for many years and our lives didn't look all that different than they would have had we been teaching in the USA. Sure, we had beggars lining the streets outside our gate, and we ate different food, but really, our lives were very similar to what we would have lived in teh USA.

  17. Two things I know for sure | A King's Life Says:

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  18. 25 Lessons I Thankfully learned from travelling and living abroad With My Family: Photos | Practical Adventure-ology Says:

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  19. Bethaney - Flashpacker Family Says:

    I think non-travellers somewhat romanticize this life on the road that we have, forgetting that wherever you go in the world with your children you still remain a parent and have to do all those parenty things. Life is still life wherever it is in the world!

  20. Susan Says:

    Very good lessons, indeed. Looking back, aren't you glad that you had to get out in 3 months? In my case, I need a push and an immediate deadline. Otherwise I can get complacent and take my time.
    As for appeasing some relatives..forget it. It's impossible to please man. As long as you are listening to God, you are headed on the correct path.
    Going the slow route in your travels sounds ideal. I would not want to rush through any country. We are still in the USA and I have a huge list of things we still want to visit with our family. And sticking to some of the same routines as you had in the US, is probably easier on the little ones as they adjust to such new environments.
    Thanks for sharing!

  21. Adam Sommer Says:

    Love your 3rd point…until you travel the world its hard to realize that most everyone, regardless of place, time, or money, really want the same things in life. 

  22. sabretoothed chickens Says:

    Yes, when will people understand the more you travel, the more you realise that basically other most people are much like yourself. They love their family, they want happiness, they too have dreams. The more you travel the more you realise that we all have different lives but if you dig deep enough we have more in common than we first percieve.

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