I’ve always dreamed of traveling the world. It’s a dream that took me initially to Tokyo, Japan for one year of study abroad when I was twenty years old. It was my first time to ever travel outside of the United States. I relished in the new sights, sounds, places, and people of a city that was unlike anything I could have ever imagined. Tokyo was intoxicating, and I loved living in the constant buzz of the city. Tokyo is where my travel wanderlust began. During my study abroad year, I also had the opportunity to travel to Thailand, Cambodia, Korea, and China.
What became clear was that I wanted to travel more, and to do it sooner than later.
After graduating from UCLA, I moved to Beijing, China to study Chinese for one year at Beijing Normal University. I traveled all over China and became fascinated with the culture and the dizzying pace of development in the country. One year of living in China turned into over four years, mostly because I had met the love of my life, Karen, who is now my wife and the mother of our two beautiful daughters, Emily and Chloe.
During my time in Asia, I had many revelations and breakthroughs about myself, who I was, and what I wanted to do with my life. Being in different cultures, speaking different languages, and meeting different people of socio-economic backgrounds, I was able to see my life with fresh eyes. My lens of the world and myself had changed. Travel created personal transformation for me that I am certain could not have happened so intensely and quickly if I were at home in California or Hawaii.
In May 2009, our first daughter, Emily, was born. I had settled into a good job, we had bought our first house, and we had started our family. Life was steady and comfortable. Two-and-a-half years later, our second daughter, Chloe, was born. At thirty-years-old, I was the father of two young daughters. They were my number one priority. They were my world. Gone are my travel days, I thought to myself. I guess I’ll need to defer my travel dreams to retirement.
But I still had this lingering dream that kept tugging and tugging at me. I still dreamt of traveling the world, but how would it be possible with work and kids? Would it be worth all the time, energy, and money to even try to travel as a family with my girls when they were so young? And how would I find the time to do any meaningful travel with my family when I was working full-time?
I had my doubts and fears. I wanted to be a responsible father, but I also wanted to be a good example to my kids of someone who lives fearlessly and passionately. I knew travel was the only way for me to model the way for my kids that dreams can indeed come true. But there was one big question: How in the world was I planning on taking my kids around the world? I had a mortgage, a car lease, bills, responsibilities, and we were living off of my single income. Traveling the world with my kids wasn’t practical, logical, or responsible, but I knew I had to find a way to make it work.
I’m sure you’ve asked yourself some of the same questions I initially asked myself. International travel is usually the top one or two dreams on people’s lists. Starting a family is most likely the other dream on that top two. The two dreams seem to directly conflict with each other. It’s usually a tradeoff. Travel when you’re young and free of commitments or travel when you’re old and retired, but rarely in-between these two life stages. If you have kids, especially young ones, then travel isn’t usually part of the equation.
This is the parents’ travel dilemma: You want to share and experience the world with your children, but you think you just don’t have the time, energy, or money to do it. Most people accept this reality and settle for one or two-week vacations to Disneyland or to visit the grandparents over the holidays. There might even be weekend getaways to a beach or warm destination, but rarely is there time dedicated for long, extended international travel.
Kids should be the reason you travel and travel often, not the reason you defer your travel dreams. The travel lessons you learn on the road as a family far outweigh the sacrifices you make to get on the road. You become a stronger person, a more mindful parent, and a better part of your community when you return home. And most importantly, during the process of all the ups and downs of travel (and there will undoubtedly be many ups and downs), you build strong bonds with your spouse and your children that last for a lifetime. In the very least, you’ll have amazing stories to tell your friends when you get home about all your adventures—good and bad—with your kids.
When I was thirty years old, I made a decision which altered the course of my life for the better. I decided I wasn’t going to defer my dreams of world travel to retirement and that I was going to live my life intentionally and in the present moment…I would travel with my family, as early and often as I possibly could.
In the last few years, we have traveled through more countries than I traveled through in the first thirty years of my life. We’ve spent weeks and even months in different cities across the world. We’ve grown up together and learned more about ourselves through the process. It hasn’t been easy and certainly hasn’t been free of bumps on the road, but we don’t have any intention of stopping the growth now that the kids are older.
This blog chronicles our experiences of our travels and journey through life. It’s also a place where I share my perspective on family, parenting, love, happiness, faith, and everything in-between. In my life, the world has been my best classroom, and it is here that I also share all the lessons that I’ve been fortunate to learn through my travels.