How We Did It
Our extended family travel started the day we escaped our California suburban life on August 1st 2010. We literally just picked up and left everything we knew behind to start a new life on the east coast. Or that was the plan.
Ever since, we’ve been living a semi-mobile life between Montreal Canada and Maryland. We carry only what we need and a few extra things for each of our three kids. What we didn’t sell or get rid of is in storage. Oh and the kids are home schooled, or as some call it, road schooled, so we can just pick up and go anywhere and anytime.
The goal was to take a career break and figure out our next move in life. We cut our living expenses by 80% of what it used to be and began exploring ideas and asking ourselves next steps for us as a family.
- Do we get jobs again or work on our own businesses.
- What businesses can we start that will suit our lives and the life we want to live?
- Where do we live?
- Do we buy a house
- Do we rent for a while?
- How long can we live like this
- etc. etc. etc.
What was supposed to be only a few months, turned into 8 months and counting. We now expect to live this semi-nomadic life between Montreal and Maryland for at least one year. We’ve learned to adjust to our nomadic lifestyle in both work and life. We are using this time to act on some of the ideas we think we need to take for our next, next steps.
After our 7th month of this semi-nomadic life, my husband and I decide we want to take our extended family trip / career break to the next level and travel to France with our 3 kids for a year or more.
It was a decision that was made in an evening and makes sense for us because our home is rented out and creates a passive income for us. We don’t have jobs tying us down to one location. All our stuff is already in a small storage unit. Moving to France would be an adventure for us and our family and also allow us to work on our own personal development goals. Who wouldn’t want to take an extended family trip to their dream location? So we are going to go for it.
My husband Blake decided to take what he did in the corporate world and start his own consulting business to help software companies & individuals debug and test their software. You can see it in progress at www.70relay.com
I decided to work on my product based home business which I started a couple of years before we became nomadic in 2008, I taught myself to sew, hired a developer to build my website, created all the sleeping mask designs myself and sew each and every mask myself. And for the most part I’ve loved it.
It’s been a challenge to run a product based business on the road. Especially since I do everything myself. It requires a lot inventory (bolts of fabric, thread, shipping supplies and a sewing machine), loads of planning and It’s labor intensive. Everything is made to order by me. You can check it out here: handmade sleeping masks. (update: i’ve stopped making masks to work on another business venture)
The business dilemma: we don’t have unlimited funds and we need to actually make money while away on any extended family trip. My business, while semi portable isn’t really idea for the life I want to lead if we go to France. I don’t’ want rush back to our flat whenever I have to make a sleeping mask. I know this, because, that is exactly what I am doing now.
The luggage dilemma: Even though we travel with mostly the essential; between my 2 teenage boys, my 3 year old, my my husband and I, we travel with a lot of stuff already. The last thing I want to do is schlep around my bolts of fabric and mask making supplies across Europe.
What do I do?
What do I do? I’ve asked myself this question a hundred times in the last month. Keep my sleeping mask business? Start a new business? New business? AHHHHHHHHHHH. So many unknowns.
I know one thing for sure. I need to build a business that I can run from anywhere using my computer, my brains and an internet connection. But what business will allow me to do that?
A telecommuting job might work but to be honest, I’ve grown accustomed to my lifestyle and freedom. I can go to a museum on a weekday and shop at any store I want and avoid the crowds because everyone is working. I spend time with my kids. Life is less hectic. I want to keep all that and not get bogged down with a 9 to 5 schedule. If I can.
Working for myself seems the obvious answer. This I know. But, I don’t want to just do any old business just for the sake of money. I’ll hate it and if I hate it, I know it will fail. I want to do something I am passionate about. Something that will blur the lines between work and life. Is this even possible?
I think it’s possible. And I’m having fun trying.
So what is the secret to paying for extended travel?
The secret is, there is no secret. Sorry for the let down but I’ve searched for the holy grail answer and there just isn’t one. You do however need to have a Brain, Ideas and the courage and will to pursue your dreams.
So here’s how we did it:
After brainstorming, the only solution for us was 1) Make our current funds go as far as possible. 2) Leverage our skills and strengths and start businesses based on those skills that we can run from anywhere. 3) Figure out how to make my existing home based business more portable 4) Get jobs and settle down back into our old 9 to 5 suburban life somewhere 5) Don’t go at all.
Here is the final draft of my solution to funding my extended family trip to Europe
1- Start a new business: Find the intersection between what I’m good at, what I’m passionate about, and what people will pay me.
I have a couple of ideas here.
a) write a newbie guide for people who want to start up their own home based craft business. Sell it online.
b) Write a budget travel and lifestyle blog for families and monetize it with eBooks and sponsors. I have always loved to travel. I have travelled to over 15 different countries in my life. I’ve lived abroad several times. I’m no stranger to travelling with kids and I know a few tricks to help ease the cost of travelling and reduce the stress of travelling with kids.I consider my self somewhat of an authority.
2- Outsource my sleeping mask production and let someone else fulfill the orders one by one? I’ve already built a business making cute gift-able sleeping masks. I just need to tweak it a bit so that I can achieve more mobility. Outsourcing seems doable and it would still give me a nice profit.
3- Outsource mask production and only sell wholesale in large quantities. sell my masks wholesale means selling them 40% below retail, I still make a profit because I’m eliminating the need to print and package each individual sleeping mask one customer at a time. I can focus on getting new wholesale accounts and sell a few hundred masks at a time instead of thousands of orders out to thousands of individuals.
4- Change my sleeping mask business to a digital one: Only sell downloadable patterns of my sleeping masks. This would be the best situation because I totally eliminate the need to carry inventory. I could develop new designs whenever I had time, make a pattern, then put it up for sale. There’s no need for me to ship anything because once the customer pays, they get an automatic email with a link to their downloadable pattern. I don’t know if there is a market for this. It’s worth testing though and I’ll probably try to put up a few test patterns to see how they sell.
5- Upgrade my skills: I’ve been toying around with the idea of starting a coaching and consulting business to help other families figure out how they can plan their own long term travel and or career breaks doing something fulfilling or travelling to their dream destination. This one is long term. I’m picking up a lot of experience now and once we achieve our goal, I’ll be in a better position to help other families
I’m not sure what I am going to end up doing. This blog ( www.AnnieAndre.com) is from solution number 1 above. All I know is that I have to give it a try. I might fail. But I know for every success I have, I’m going to have to fail a whole bunch of times. Even if I do fail. It’s been fulfilling and I really feel like I’m living my life to the fullest. I know that I will have lived a life with no regrets.
I hope that seeing how we came to our decision will give you something to take away and think about. Or at least inspire you to go for it.
What are you doing to do to make your dreams come true?