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November 2012

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So my husband and I have gypsy blood. We must. Otherwise, why would we have this longing to see the world, even though some friends with kids have long relegated that activity for their golden years?

Nope, we’ve decided, after losing three parents all at a young age to cancer, that you never know how much time you have left on this earth. We’re not waiting for retirement to do what we want to do. We decided that now is the time to see the world.

So we’ve left our comfortable house, our familiar community, our school, and our church. We’ve detached from our life and left town – with our kids.

When people heard what we’re doing, often they’d scratch their heads and say, “That’s fine for you. But I could never do that. I could never detach from my life. We have a mortgage, we have jobs, the kids have soccer practice…”

But they can. We all can. Even with kids. In fact, it’s BETTER with kids!

Here’s how:

1. Figure out your house.

If you’re really pulling up stakes and heading out for some long-term travel, sell your house. It’s just a house. You can always rent or buy another one, if the mood strikes. Making the commitment to sell can free your mind and soul for this new adventure.

This time we didn’t do that. Who knows what the future holds. If you’re only headed out for a short-term sabbatical, like us, consider renting your home out. Look around for friends and family members who might be looking for a short-term rental before advertising to the world-at-large. In some cases, you might be able to rent it furnished, which makes it easier for you to leave. We rented our home to my brother and his wife, who are sabbatical-minded themselves. They’ve already been to London for a month and plan another three-month sojourn somewhere else once we return from Belize.

Another alternative might be to just leave it. Arrange for someone to check on it once in awhile. Depending on your travel destination, your expenses there could be low enough to enable you to carry the costs of the house even as you’re living somewhere else.

Whatever you do, don’t think, “I have a mortgage. I can’t leave for six months.” You’d be surprised at what you can do!

 

2. Figure out school.

Many different school options exist these days for those families choosing to take a travel sabbatical. If you settle in one place, the best option, in my mind, is to place your kids in the local school. This is the best way for your children to immerse in the local culture, make friends, and learn the language. If you’re worried about the quality of education, you can always supplement at home to be sure they don’t get too far behind in key areas like math and science. If your sabbatical is 6-12 months, you probably shouldn’t worry overmuch about the lack in the curriculum since the worldview you’re giving them trumps falling behind in math for a few months.

The other option would be to homeschool them yourself. Today’s homeschooling families enjoy the benefits of online support communities and a multitude of online resources, making it easier than ever before to pull your kids from formal school environments. Some states even have cyber school options – with web-based teaching – which allow kids to learn from anywhere in the world.

When you decide to do a sabbatical, talk to your current school about pulling your kids for a short-term sabbatical. Our school was especially helpful in providing current textbooks and workbooks so the kids can keep up on what their classmates are learning back home. Also, their teachers and classmates are keeping in touch via Skype and email and everyone is following our kids’ blogs. This keeps our kids connected to their regular life as well as gives their classmates a glimpse into the learning adventures we’re embarking on.

NOTE: Since we send our kids to a private Catholic school at home, pulling our kids from their regular school means we saved a lot of money in tuition. As I understand it, our new school in Belize only charges $25/year. That’s a fraction of a fraction of what we were paying at home.

3. Figure out your income stream

Of course one of the first questions on the mind of anyone considering long-term travel is Can I afford it? Depending on what you usually do for money, you have many options. Some people, like my husband and I, own their own businesses. In our case, we hired extra support to take over the details so my husband can simply manage remotely. I’m a freelance writer, so I have a part-time income stream coming in that helps out with our travel expenses. I write articles, blog, and am working on a book about our experience of moving from middle-class America to an off-the-grid home in southern Belize.

Don’t forget renting your house will generate some income, or at least erase most of your regular bills associated with living in it. Many times, you can charge more for rent than what you pay for your monthly mortgage. The excess is yours to keep for expenses and… your travel adventure.

If you work a regular 9-5, though, there are still options for you. Many companies these days are offering paid and unpaid leaves of absence for those employees who need time to recharge. Savvy companies are realizing that when people are given freedom to live their lives, they make great employees. They’re well-rested, creative, and more productive than those employees stuck in cubicle prisons.

If your company has seen the light and offers a sabbatical program, you’re in luck. If not, maybe it’s time for a change of employment. Check out yoursabbatical.com for more information on companies that offer this sort of leave.

The other important aspect of financing your journey is saving up money. Having a reserve is always wise, in case your income streams run dry.

 

4. Pay your bills online

Lots of people already do this. If you don’t, consider how convenient it is for you to be away if you don’t have to sit and lick stamps.

If you pay your bills through autopay services or at least via the company’s website, you don’t need to wait by your mailbox for any bill you leave behind in your home country. Going paperless is the way to go, whether you’re traveling or not. Why waste paper, postage, gasoline for the mail truck, etc.

I now pay my mortgage, health insurance, electric, gas, credit card, cell phone, car insurance, and every other payment online. Most of these are automatically deducted from my checking account or credit card (for which I get air miles). And right now, we have close family members living in our house, so they are paying rent and reimbursing us for the bills they use.

 

5. Get rid of stuff

Getting rid of things you don’t need, don’t use, and don’t want is perhaps one of the biggest reasons to consider traveling. In our modern culture, we all have access to great quantities of items that inevitably find their way into our homes. While having resources available to us can be lovely, too much of a good thing can definitely be bad. Stuff can hamper us, hold us back, rob us of simplicity and awareness. We have to pay for everything we own and pay for its upkeep. We have to pay to store it, upgrade it, and replace it. By selling the stuff you own, you’ll clear out your house and raise money for travel. Even giving it away will simplify your life and open up brain space for new adventures.

That chair no one ever sits in. The smoothie maker that seemed like such a good idea for Christmas last year. Books you won’t read or already read. Chuck them all. Grab the cash. And take off.

 

6. Break the news

Telling our friends and family about our insane idea to leave our regular life behind for a half a year of living off-the-grid in Belize and traveling around Central America was one of the hardest parts of our journey, so far. People just didn’t want to believe it. They told us we were crazy. They told us we would get robbed, kidnapped, and/or killed. They said they would miss us.

After awhile, though, most people got their arms around the idea and were supportive, loving, and excited for us. The key is to stay strong and remember your dream when people are dishing negativity. Not everyone will understand why you want to do this. But, in the end, it’s none of their business, anyway. It’s your life.

If you have parents or others you don’t want to leave for a long time, consider a couple of smaller periods of travel with a visit home in between. But, beyond that, simply remember that absence makes the heart grow fonder. And most of the fears they have on your behalf are unwarranted and not at all true.

We’re here in Belize now, and came for three weeks in July. We have never once seen anyone eat a baby, pick a pocket, or sell a kid drugs. I’m certain crimes, and even serious crimes, happen here, as they do all over the world. But, just as I would in my own hometown, I watch my back and encourage my kids to do the same. An important life lesson.

7. Plan how to stay in touch

It’s 2012. Let’s face it: there are few places left in the world where you can’t get free wifi in your hotel. Get a gmail account so you’re always able to check your email, on any computer, anywhere. Sign up for Facebook. Not only is it a great way to stay connected with friends and family while gone, it also gives you membership into various travel-related groups for advice and friendship. It’s a big, big world. You can use all the friends you can get!

Many traveling families start blogs. Mine is at renaissancehousewife.com and tells the unfolding story of our sabbatical to Belize. All three of my older kids have blogs to help them connect with their friends back home.

 

8. Have a party

Before you leave town for good, have a party to hang out with everybody you love. This is a great way to kill two (or ten or thirty) birds all at the same time. Friends who we hadn’t seen in six months as it was wanted to see us “one last time.” By having a party, we didn’t have to get together for separate visits with everyone in those last few busy weeks before our departure.

It’s a great way to get rid of your excess booze. It’s a great way to get some support when you’re nervous and wondering if you’re doing the right thing in taking your family on a world adventure. People want to help and support you. You just need to tell them how they can.

Life is all about people. The ones you’ll meet while traveling, sure. But don’t forget about the ones you’ve left behind.

 

With its beautiful beaches, picture perfect scenery and wide range of activities on offer, the legendary island of Cyprus is an island that will keep the whole family entertained. The third largest island in the Mediterrean, situated near Turkey, Syria and Lebanon and long covetted by both Turkey and Greece, Cyrpus has an amazing mix of cultural influences from Africa, Asia and Europe.

Whether you choose to spend your days relaxing and soaking up the sun or exploring the cultural delights that the island has to offer, you won’t be disappointed as Cyprus offers plenty of distractions to delight every member of the family. Many locations in Cyprus have been well and truly ‘discovered’ offerring a very comfortably family vacation if you like tourist destinations, however there are still plenty of off the beaten path beaches and villages to be found.

 

Discover Cyprus’ History

Paphos ruined cathedral

Situated on the south west of Aphrodite’s island, Paphos is recognised as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is home to Cyprus’ esteemed cultural treasures, making this excursion a must for anybody wanting to soak up some of the island’s rich history.

The House of Theseus, Pafos (Paphos) Mosaics - Pafos Archaeological Site, Nea Pafos, Kato Pafos (Paphos), Cyprus

The world famous Tomb of the Kings is situated in this region and dates back to the turn of the 4th century.  Despite its name, the tombs are not the final resting place of royalty, but instead house the last remains of around 100 aristocrats. Made and carved from solid rock, these tombs are an impressive piece of architecture and an important piece of local history.

The tomb of the Kings

Visiting the various sites at Paphos and the Tomb of the Kings are a fantastic and educational outing with children but they can be very hot. Opening hours are long so go before 11am or after 4pm when it’s cooler. Take hats, water and snacks.

For those interested in mythology, Paphos is also home to the Baths of Aphrodite. According to legend, the Greek Goddess of Love used to bathe here. This is also said to be the spot where she met her famous lover, Adonis.

Baths

Just above the baths, lovers of the outdoors shouldn’t miss the Aphrodite Trail, which follows the mythical route taken by Aphrodite and Adonis. Make sure to equip yourself with enough water for the whole family so that you can comfortably soak up the unforgettable spectacular views across the blue lagoons, even in warmer weather.

 

Visit the beach

Sitting amidst the azure waters of the Mediterrean, if there’s one thing Cyrpus excells at it’s stunning beaches and coastlines. From wide sandy expanses to rocky coves, from touristy stretches where you can enjoy every family friendly activity you can imagine to deserted beaches, Cyprus has them all.

Phinikoudes Beach in the heart of Lanarca is one of the island’s most popular beaches and is ideal for any family. Awarded a Blue Flag rating, the beach is a 500 metre-long stretch of fine grey sand and is situated close to many cafes, bars and restaurants. Phinikoudes beach is perfect for a lazy day of topping up your tan or dipping your toes in the crystal clear Mediterranean Sea which is usually calm, making it perfect for parents and kids to splash and stay safe. For the more active members of the family, there are numerous water sports on offer including jet skiing, snorkelling, and paddle boating.

Ride a camel

The Camel Park at Mazotos provides a fun experience for the whole family. Here, you can learn how to mount and ride a camel, as well as having the chance to help the keepers out at feeding time. There is also the opportunity to see other farm animals in the parks ‘Noah’s Ark’. For a little extra on your entry fee, you can also have the pleasure of using the park’s spectacular pool and taking full advantage of the poolside waiter service.

 

Make a splash at the water park

For the kids (and parents too!), WaterWorld Water Park in Ayia Napa is home to Europe’s biggest themed water park. Based on Greek mythology, the park boasts over fifteen slides and attractions. From twisty slides and vertical drop rides for the brave and daring to lazy rivers and bubble pools for those who’d rather chill out, WaterWorld Water Park is ideal for all ages and is a great way to cool down from the island’s hot climate.

 

 

Hays County Courthouse, San Marcos TX

San Marcos, Texas is called the “City That Charms” and for good reason. It is a small town located in the Texas Hill Country close to the larger cities of Austin and San Antonio. This is an excellent area for a fun-filled family vacation in Texas. San Marcos is the home of Texas State University and it draws thousands of year-round visitors.

Water fun

One of the most popular activities that the whole family enjoys is to go tubing on the San Marcos River. There are local companies that rent equipment for a day on the river, including tubes, kayaks and canoes. There are also great spots to stop and jump in for a swim in the cool water.

Also nearby are the Blanco and Guadalupe rivers where you can also spend a leisurely day afloat.

The Texas State University operates the Aquarena Center, which educates the public about the Edwards Aquifer and the San Marcos River. You can all take a ride on the glass-bottom boats, a popular attraction that has been taking visitors out on the river for nearly 60 years. Tickets are $9 for adults and $6 for children aged 4-15.

If your family loves a day at the water park, you can drive over to New Braunfels and visit the original Schlitterbahn Waterpark. There are tons of exciting water rides that will keep everyone screaming with excitement. Adult tickets are $34.50; children $28.50. They also offer discounts for multi-day passes.

Mid Float

Educational fun

For some dry activities, take the family to Wonder World Park. The park offers cave tours, a wildlife park, train rides as well as educational programs about earthquakes. Tickets are $19.95 for adults 13 and over; $14.95 for ages 6-12 and $7.50 for kids 3-5. Included in your ticket is a cave tour, Anti-Gravity House, Wildlife Petting Park and Tejas Tower.

Shopping and dining fun

San Marcos is also known for its outlet malls that are full of shops to suit every style. And no trip to San Marcos would be complete without enjoying the local cuisine at any of the great restaurants serving steaks and Tex-Mex food.

 

There is always something great for the whole family to enjoy in San Marcos. When you plan your stay there, you are also close enough to some of the major cities that you can make a day trip to visit some other sites, including the Alamo in San Antonio.

Get your family ready for some Texas-sized fun in one of the greatest little towns in the state and start planning your trip today.

San Antonio, Texas