Last year, I was interviewed by Jason Jenkins of An Epic Education for his podcast. Jason has been interviewing a wide spectrum family travelers and has a ton of knowledge about family travel, living abroad, and world schooling. He’s an American married with a Japanese wife, Keiko, and a son and daughter who were born in Tokyo. They’ve been slow traveling full-time since 2013 and recently had their kids enrolled in school in Valencia, Spain. He’s also a great photographer and writer.
Jason Jenkins is a Day Dreamer. He went all-in for his dreams to be closer with his family and travel the world. If Jason can live out his dreams, so can you. Read on to discover how Jason makes his family travel work, and what he has learned from doing it himself as well as what he has learned from the people he has interviewed for his podcast.
Why did you become a nomadic family in 2013, and why have you continued with this lifestyle for over 4 years?
My wife and I worked very long hours in office jobs in Tokyo and had very little time for the kids or each other. Also we wanted the kids to see more of the world. We’ve seen a lot since 2013, but now that the kids are hitting their teens, we may slow down and set a more permanent home base. We’re still weighing the options.
So you had your kids go to local school in Valencia, Spain. Now that you’ve left Spain, what are your plans for their education as they approach their high school years and college?
Nearly two years in local schools in Spain were great for the kids. They made lots of friends and picked up Spanish quickly. We’re experimenting with homeschooling/worldschooling again, but once we find a spot to settle for a few years, we might put them back in conventional schools. We’ll see. We definitely would like for them to go to college, and will be preparing them for that in the coming years.
How has travel evolved with your kids as they’ve grown up? Does travel get harder or easier?
We’ve had so many different stages and locations, so it’s always had some difficulty and reward. It’s never been “easy” for us. There’s always some new challenge or obstacle, but it’s been worth it. The biggest challenge is time management—working, traveling, and managing your kids’ education takes up every available moment.
Travel was easier in the earlier years because the kids were younger and wanted to spend all their time with us. On the other hand, it was hard because we were just learning to homeschool and that had its challenges.
You’ve interviewed over 100 traveling families on your podcast/blog. What are your biggest takeaways about these families?
Most people want to travel as a family to have more time with their kids. How they pay for it varies wildly: some live off rent from their old house, some sell it all and live on a shoestring, and others work remotely or run businesses as they go. There are too many ways to mention here, really, but the largest group still own a home that they rent out, and you can live quite well in some parts of the world for the rent in a developing nation.
Another common characteristic is to take it slow. Almost every family, save a few, started traveling at one pace and inevitably slowed down. A lot. They also often recommend planning just one activity a day. That’s it. Don’t get too ambitious in your itinerary because life happens and travel with kids and getting from one place to another takes longer.
At any point, did you think about giving it all up and not dealing with all the stress of living abroad or nomadically? If so, what did you do to stay motivated and how did you and your wife work through it?
It happens from time to time. Near the very beginning, I was working so much that it hardly felt worth it to try to travel as well, but we weathered that storm.
Then while living in Spain, there was so much paperwork and bureaucratic mess to deal with that I thought about chucking the entire process. Our kids’ grandparents are getting older, and there are occasional pangs of guilt by living so far away. To be honest, now after four years we are considering living closer to home. Where that will be is still up in the air, but it’s on our minds.
By actually living your dreams, what have you learned about yourself and your family?
I’ve definitely learned more about my limitations. I used to think this would be a piece of cake. Ha! I’ve learned that things take time. Much more time than I first expected.
What’s your advice for parents who want to travel meaningfully with their kids, but never actually do?
Make it happen, but plan it well. I know that there are many who say “Just go!” and let the universe take care of it or whatever. This doesn’t work for me. Dream big, and plan bigger. Don’t let plans get in the way, but have a strategy for where you’ll go, how you’ll pay for it, and how you’ll educate the kids. There are many ways for all of these, and I can’t tell you what works best for you. But study up and have at least a few ideas and plans for each.
About Jason Jenkins
Jason left his home in Atlanta in 1997 and lived and traveled abroad ever since. He and his wife, Keiko, lived, worked, and started a family in Tokyo, Japan. Then in 2013, they left their desk jobs, pulled the kids out of local Japanese schools and started living nomadically. Since then they have lived in Taiwan, Thailand, Malaysia, and Spain, while traveling frequently in each region. They have homeschooled, unschooled, worldschooled, and placed their kids in local schools, and they see pros and cons to each. They love adventure, hot muggy weather, and fresh fruit juice.
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