Jenn Miller is a Day Dreamer. She lives a life of adventure filled with traveling, writing, and teaching. Jenn and her husband, Tony, are raising their four kids through world schooling and have been traveling as a family for almost seven years, despite huge financial setbacks brought on by the Great Recession in 2008. They are an open-ended journey of living their dreams and finding their happy places, all around the world.
She chronicles her experiences and lessons on her blog, Edventure Project. She’s here today to help share some of her wisdom on travel, family, and life.
1. Almost 7 years and counting living nomadically with your family…What are your top 3 takeaways from living this lifestyle?
1. Time flies!
We set off to travel for a year, and here we are coming up on seven. Time flies, whether you’re having fun or not… so we might as well be having fun! Childhood is frighteningly fleeting and it’s easy to get stuck in a pattern, look up and find that half a decade has passed. One of our big motivators is, and has always been, making good use of the time we have with our kids and not regretting, in the end, that we’d missed out on something. We’ve got one kid half out the door now, and the boys right behind her. We’re so thankful that we took the plunge and lived a big dream while we had the time together.
2. Things don’t have to be perfect.
It’s really scary to take a leap when you’re not sure whether you’ve dotted all the i’s and crossed all of the t’s. A lot of people are paralyzed by their fears and the unknowns. If there is one thing that this life has taught us, it’s that it does not all have to be perfect. Life isn’t easy or perfect at home, in conventional patterns. It won’t be perfect or easy all the time when you’re living your dream either. Don’t let that stop you. Adversity breeds creativity and innovation. You’ll surprise yourself with the ways you grow and evolve through the process of being brave enough to take the leap.
3. Just do it.
There are a million reasons not to do it, but you’ve just got to do it. We’ve been amazed at how things come together when we make the commitment and take the dive. You’ll find the time, the money, the resources you need. It will all coalesce if it matters enough to you and if you are willing to give up the things you don’t want nearly as much. There’s never a good time, and there’s no time like the present. If you have your health, a way to support yourself, and your loved ones, then today is a lucky day; why waste it on anything less than your dream. For our family, we are committed to living the days we are given fully, to exemplifying a passion driven life for our children, and getting to the end of the road with as few regrets as possible. If you’ve got a dream in your heart, just do it.
2. After all this travel around the world, what have you learned about the world?
We have learned that the world is, by and large, a safe place populated with friends and chosen family. I’m a firm believer that you find in the world exactly what you are looking for and what you give back. It has been our experience, in every instance, that humanity conspires, on the individual level, to love and care for one another. Everyone, everywhere, is seeking the same thing: to make a living, keep a roof over head, get families raised with love and safety, and to exist in caring communities. It’s unfortunate that it’s the exceptions to the rule that make the news. We’ve learned that we can trust ourselves, and the people we encounter traveling. We’ve learned that the best international policy work is done around dinner tables, at the eyeball level. We’ve learned that childlife requires no translation and that there is a common bond in family life. We’ve learned that, if we approach the world in humility, with a sincere desire to learn, she will teach us.
3. Where did your dream of travel come from and how did it become 7 years?
We have always known we would travel extensively with our children. My family took several significant journeys when I was a child and our wanderlust finds its roots in the previous generation of our family. When we took off in 2008 it was with the intention to cycle Europe and N. Africa for a year, or maybe two, with our children. At the end of that year we realized that we weren’t done. Our gap year had quietly become our life, and so we kept going. Six and a half years has kind of sneaked up on us! Everyone was having fun, so we kept exploring.
4. What were the biggest obstacles you faced while trying to achieve your dreams? How did you overcome them?
Funding, obviously, is a major issue for anyone who sets out to travel longer term; especially with six of us in the family. When the economic crash of 2008 wiped out our investment savings we were faced with the difficulty of figuring out whether to keep traveling and find a way to make it work, or go home and get real jobs. We were committed to our dream and so we found ways to recreate our careers and become location independent in our work lives. Now, we work remotely as we travel and have found a balance that works for us. We don’t have a formula for that. We know lots of people who do lots of different things to cobble together a life and a career while they travel. The common denominator is commitment to their dream and creativity!
5. What advice do you have for others on overcoming fears and living their dreams?
Fears are difficult. Some of them are legitimate. Most of them are overblown in our own minds and are crippling in their results in our lives. Far too many people are paralyzed and settling for marginal existence instead of living their real dreams because of their fears. There is no easy way through. We’ve always taken the approach of asking, “What’s the worst thing that could happen?” Short of death, which could find any of us at any moment, our worst case scenario was going completely broke, being without a home or a job and having to start over from square one at 40 or so years old. That would be a drag, but it wouldn’t be the end of the world. We could do that. We’d be willing to do that. Realizing that the worst thing (which is also a very, very, unlikely thing) is something surmountable gave us the courage to take the risks necessary to pursue our dream. The reality is that life is better than we could have possibly imagined, and we wouldn’t go back to our previous “normal” (which we were very happy in, by the way) for anything. We’ve had the great joy of living an adventure with our children through their middle childhood that reads like a storybook. It has been worth every bit of struggle, difficulty, uncertainty and night spent awake and sweating through the present trouble. If your dream is hanging out there in front of you, I encourage you, with my whole heart, to chase it. Assess the fears, take the risks and give this life your absolute all. We only get one chance at greatness and one chance at our dreams. Today is your day.
Jenn Miller is gypsy mama to four wild adventurer children growing up with the world as their classroom. The Miller Family is in their seventh year of an open ended world tour that has taken them through about thirty countries so far. They’ve journeyed across Europe and N. Africa on bicycles, the length and breadth of North and Central America, deep instead of wide for six months in Guatemala, seven months across mountains and rivers across Southeast Asia and they’ve backpacked their way through Borneo and Indonesia as well as thoroughly road tripped Australia and New Zealand. She’s traveled with newborns through teens, homeschooled from day one clear to university, and is a freelance writer for the alternative education and travel markets. She and her friend Keri Wellman have written Bottles to Backpacks: The Gypsy Mama’s Guide to REAL Travel With Kids, a cradle to college primer on every aspect of child-life on the road for families who want more than a two week vacation with their children. When she’s not hiking in rain forests or SCUBA diving remote islands in Belize, she can be found riding off in to the sunset with Arab horsemen or swing dancing under the stars on her favourite lago with her husband of twenty years and life long adventure buddy. To join her on her adventures, you’ll want to stalk her blog: The Edventure Project.
Day Dreamers are living their dreams each and every day. They aren’t daydreaming about a better life; they’re living their best lives today. And because they’re living their dreams, they are truly happy, content, and passionate about what they’re doing.
I’ll be interviewing people of different backgrounds with different experiences with the common thread that everyone is living their dreams, right now, with every fabric of their beings. You’ll learn about their stories and journeys to become a true Day Dreamer and how they continue to live life on purpose. And you’ll be inspired to take your life back into your own hands and start being a Day Dreamer yourself.