10 Questions for Emily and Ryan

Why uproot yourself from beautiful Southern California to wander around the world with your family while living out of a backpack?  

It is easy to see why many would consider us crazy after spending one evening watching the sun go down over the Pacific Ocean in our current home town. My mother in law recently asked “why would we ever want to leave this place?” While that is a perfectly understandable question, my husband and I can’t help but wonder how our lives would be immeasurably different had we never swam in a 250 million year-old gorge in Western Australia or danced tango at a secret milonga in a Buenos Aires suburb.  Truthfully, everywhere we go becomes something so vital to us that we could have never pictured our lives prior to that experience.  Now the object is to pass on that perspective to our kids; to see how our adventures together inform their personalities. 

Did you win the lottery? Inherit millions? Don’t you work regular jobs? How is it that two people in the prime of their earnings years are out traipsing around the world and not sitting behind a desk somewhere?  

Admittedly, it is odd to see a couple in their thirties with two young children vagabonding on an international scale. At certain points during our life together, Ryan and I were forced to make some pretty humbling choices.  Both of us spent a combined 17 years working in jobs that demanded everything from us and left very little time to focus on personal relationships, least of all those required to raise and care for a family.  So in 2007 when our son was born, we walked away from our professional lives as we knew them and made the commitment to learn to live with less.  Since then, we’ve made some half-way decent investment decisions, reinvested our profits, and have always spent less money than we had coming in.

Where are your favorite places?

We are asked this question a lot and arguably, it is a very tough one to answer.  That said, the destination is not neccesarily what we are after, it is really all about the journey together and even the toughest days of traveling are better than the alternative. Very briefly, our favorite places so far are: Nepal, Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam, New Zealand, India and Argentina.  For more information, check out Love/Places & Spaces.

Do you ever get tired?  Don’t you just want to sleep in your own bed sometimes?

Even if we desperately wanted to, we couldn’t…we sold our beds on Craigslist when we left California.  But seriously, for us, home is more an idea than a place.  When we’re tired we stop and take a nap!

How do you educate your kids while traveling?

THIS could be the main argument in favor of traveling, above all else.  It is through travel that our kids understand the world and their place within it.  Even a two year-old can very quickly arrive at a rough understanding of their relationship with and impact upon everyone and everything they encounter.  Through travel, our children come into contact with different religions, cultures, ideas, lifestyles and beliefs. They learn to eat different foods, pick up bits of new languages, and interact with people from all walks of life.  Affirmation for us as teacher/parents then is manifested in all that is essentially good in our children.  So, yes, we will home school, but, through our wanderings, we will also unschool, roadschool and worldschool. In all that we do, we teach them that we are here to do more than just observe.

How do you keep everyone healthy and safe?

A lot of luck and common sense. Our simple philosophy is that life is too short to worry about what could happen. One of our kids could fall on the playground at preschool and require ten stitches here in California just as quickly as he could run into trouble abroad (this, in fact, did happen!). We let our children wander and explore, but we try to set boundaries and keep a watchful eye when they are not by our sides. After all, Ollie is a roamer by nature and there is not toddler leash long enough that could contain him. While we travel with a well-stocked first aid kit, our greatest asset is that we try to keep level heads and open minds. 

Do you ever grow weary of each others’ company?  How do you manage to spend so much time with your wife/husband/two kids and not lose your mind?  

Mark Twain once said, “there ain’t no surer way to find out whether you like people or hate them than to travel with them’.  How lucky are we then that we each married our best friend? Truthfully, in all our years on the road, Ryan and I have been possessed by the urge to strangle each other only a handful of times.  As far as our kids go, we brought them into the world to spend as much time with them as possible. If we had planned to pass them off to a nanny or our in-laws, we probably would not have ditched our careers in favor of our nomadic lifestyle.  Of course, all children have their melting points, and ours are no exception.  There are several occasions I can recall that I longed for noise-cancelling headphones, or perhaps even a taser.

What kind of accommodation do you stay in?  Do you ever RV?

We have slept in everything from a 9’x9’ windowless ‘box’ in Taipei to a Maharaja’s summer lodge in Rajasthan.  We have tent-camped across Western Australia and peered out at Shanghai from the former headquarters of the Japanese Army Liaison Office.  Despite all the different places we have rested our heads; because we are A) cheap, B) keen on patronizing local cottage industries, and C) really only using the room to sleep in, we tend to pick the $10 a night bamboo hut over the Westin.  We are backpackers, after all! Hostels with private rooms are right up our alley, as are vacation rentals by owner.  As for RVing, we wandered all over New Zealand for two months in a 5 berth motor home, and made it clear down both the east and west coasts of Australia in a tricked-out campervan.  When I was in my second trimester of being pregnant with Kendley, we spent three months car-camping through the national parks on the Colorado Plateau.

How do you and your husband ever find alone time?

Emily’s answer: Where there is a will, there is a way.

Ryan’s answer: Emily is out of her mind. Prisoners in solitary confinement have more ‘sexy’ time than we do. If you are married and have young children, you can probably relate. The simple answer is that it is my birthday only ONCE a year and traveling is not always as glamorous as it may seem…

Where do you see yourselves ending up?  You will end up somewhere, right?

We certainly have a shortlist of our favorite places (see above). That said, it is next to impossible for us to consider settling down right now. In fact, most days, the term “settling down” carries a pretty negative connotation for us! Over the next five years, we hope to wander about as much as possible, in search of a handful of places that warrant longer-term consideration.  But in the meantime, you know where to find us; here, there and everywhere.