How To Travel Indefinitely: The Barnes Family Quest To Travel With 3 Kids (Series #10)

How do you travel indefinitely if you aren’t rich and have kids? Katie and Jeff are two Californians with itchy travel feet. If they had their way they would travel indefinitely or at least until that itch to travel goes away. Find out how they currently travel and how they plan to make the dream of Full-time travel last as long as they can with three kids under the age of 6.

How To Travel Indefinitely

Hint, it’s not just about making the perfect plan. 

How To Travel Indefinitely: Barnes Family

Meet the Barnes family.

The Barnes family are an American family of five from Southern California who have been travelling with their 3 children since 2011.

The Barnes family are what we call Long Term Travellers who Slow travel.

Meaning, they travel for extended periods of time ( more than a few months) and rather than moving quickly from city to city every few days or weeks, they travel slowly. They choose a home-base, hunker down at that home-base for 6 months to a year before moving on to their next home-base destination.

Snap Shot Of The Barnes Family

  • Number Of Kids: 3 kids under 6 years old  (1, 3 and 5 – as of 2013)
  • Educating Kids: Combination Homeschool / Traditional Classroom Learning
  • Type Of Travel: Long term travel / Slow Travel with Home-Base / Location Independent travel
  • Length Of Travel: 1+ year
  • Where Travelled: —> Pre-kids: sailed for 3.5 years from Florida to New Zealand, —>Post-Kids: Costa Rica, France, Belgium, England, Germany with a home base in Prague. Italy
  • Challenges: Keeping a regular routine for the kids. Creating sustainable incomes while on the road.
  • Finances:  Combinations of savings, sale of home, investments and day trading
  • Budget: $117 / day.  $23person per day. $3,500 per month Total

Why They Travel The Way They Do!

Staying for six months in each place allows them to fulfil their dream of travel while also meeting their other goals without all the stress of travelling at break neck speeds.

Some of their goals include..

  • Spend more quality time together.
  • Raise globally minded, creative and independent thinkers.
  • Allow the children to pick up languages along the way.
  • Soak in the local culture and food

Now, before I get into how the Barnes are making their dream of Full-time travel a reality, let me tell you a little bit about Katie and Jeff’s story.

Theirs is a story straight out of a romantic adventure novel.

The Great Sailing Trip Before The Kids

sail-florida-new-zealand: How To Travel Indefinitely:

Pre-Kids

Jeff and Katie are no strangers to travel.

In fact, their desire to travel with their kids stems way back to a time before they were married and before they had kids.

These two love-birds met and eventually fell in love while working at the same mergers and acquisition firm in California where Jeff was working as a manager and Katie worked as the market researcher.

Eventually, they quit their jobs, sold everything, moved onto a sail boat and sailed from Florida to New Zealand over a period of 3 1/2 years.

How to travel indefinitely: sailing

Jeff giving Katie a sailing lesson. She had no sailing experience

As romantic, adventurous and dreamy as it sounds, it was not all a bed of roses.

Because of the nature of living in close quarters, that romantic sailing adventure proved to be the ultimate test of their relationship. In the end, their relationship survived, probably stronger than it was before.

While on their sailing adventure, Katie and Jeff met many families with kids who were travelling long term and that’s when they both knew that they wanted to do the same thing with their future children one day.

After Their Sailing Adventure

How to travel indefinitely: sailing panama canal

Katie and Jeff Passing through the panama Canal

When their amazing sailing adventure ended, they returned to California, married and had kids with the intention of someday returning to a life of travel with the kids.

Unlike some people who dream and do nothing about their dreams, Katie and Jeff started making plans right away.

The first thing they needed to figure out was how they were going to pay for their future travel. 

The Long Term Family Travel Plan: The Money

How To Travel Indefinitely: Build a log cabin and sell it to finance your trip

The money plan was simple. Build a few houses, pocket the profit and take off with the kids.

Plans don’t always work out the way we want them to.

Their plan didn’t exactly work out the way they planned. For one, they only built one house not four. A gorgeous log home on the side of a mountain in Big Bear Lake, California.

Two,  it took much longer than expected to build just that one house, almost 4 years.

Finally, they didn’t profit quite as much as they had hoped to leaving them short of their financial goals.

Katie and Jeff were at a fork in the road.

Jeff’s job was not going to last much longer which meant they would be free to travel but….they hadn’t quite met their financial goals.

They could wait and build more houses like they planned or take the money they had so far and figure out how to make more cash while travelling.

The urge to travel was too great and they decided to start their family travel adventure sooner rather than later.

Where To Go First?

The Barnes family had a lot of things to consider for their travel adventure. Namely where would their first adventure begin?

The kids were just 4 and 2 and the youngest was just a newborn.

At first they thought of heading to Costa Rica where the cost of living was much lower but an earlier trip down their left them feeling like maybe that wasn’t where they wanted to be.

How To Travel Indefinitely: Figure out where you want to go

Then they set their eyes on Europe where the food, architecture and culture were more in line with their current travel desires.

Narrowing Down Where To Go

Katie and Jeff didn’t know where in Europe they wanted to go but they did know that they wanted to stay in a city with all the amenities of a city.

it was a change from their small town living and that was just fine for them since both Katie and Jeff had never lived in a biggish city before.

Hello Prague

They narrowed their options to a few European cities like Munich, Strasbourg, and at the last minute decided on Prague where they ended up staying for a good part of 2012.

From Prague they travelled out on mini trips to Germany, France, Belgium, England and Poland.

After Prague

So far sticking to one place for 6 months or more is working out and at the beginning of 2013, they left Prague and moved onto their next home-base; Italy. From Italy, they plan on travelling out to Greece, Turkey and around Europe as much as they can.

After that, they have no idea but hinted at spending time in France and Spain.

Kids Education

How To Travel Indefinitely: set up a plan to educate the kids on the road

When it comes to education for the kids, the Barnes take an interesting hybrid approach.  It involves a form of home-schooling (which has turned into more of a world school / unschooling philosophy ), combined with more traditional classroom learning.

For instance, while in Prague, the kids took art, drama, music and reading classes while Kate applied world school / unschooling philosophy learning at home.

In Italy, their eldest school age child may attend school with other Italian children to take full advantage of language immersion.

The Technical Stuff

How much stuff do They travel with?

How To Travel Indefinitely: don't bring too much stuff

They flew from California to Prague with a total of 10 bags. It was the maximum they were allowed to take on their flight (2 bags per person) plus one seat for the newborn.

They eventually bought an Audi while on one of their trips out of Prague to Germany and they used the car to make their latest move from Prague to Italy taking only what could fit in the car and on the roof.

How Do They Finance Their Trip

How To Travel Indefinitely: Have a plan b, c and roll with the punches

Since their plan to finance most of their trip with the profits from building homes didn’t quite work out as planned, they finance their trip by pulling from several different resources.

  • First they sold most of their stuff. (The rest they put in a very small storage unit in California.)
  • Then they sold the house they they spent 4 years building . (This was part of their plan all along).
  • They also have savings and investments that they can pull from.

Long term, they needed to create an income while on the road:

To subsidize their funds, Jeff planned on creating a location independent business (one he could run from anywhere in the world). His business idea involved combining his passion for beer and travel into one. He wanted to give beer tours around the world.
He also started learning stock trading/day trading as an additional income stream.

“It feels amazing to get on a plane and know you don’t have a bunch of things to worry about at home.”

As time went by, Jeff found he had less motivation for beer tours and more for stock trading and has been spending long hours learning and practising methods for making steady income through trading.

Jeff says he actually loves day trading and after a year of learning, he feels confident that he will be able to support their travel lifestyle.

What Were their biggest Challenges?

How To Travel Indefinitely: Create a life balance. it's hard spending all your time together

Three of the Barnes’ biggest challenges were…

  • Creating enough routine for their toddlers while on the go.
  • Spending too much time together in a small apartment with Jeff working (a lot) from home with noisy kids in the house.
  • Deciding where to live next because there were just too many great options.

What is their ball park daily budget?

The Barnes Family spends about $3500 USD a month. This is their total cost including travel, car, food, rent etc. That works out to about 116 USD per day.

How Long Do They Plan To Travel This Way

How To Travel Indefinitely: Make sure the kids benefit

There is no end in site for their current way of life.  Once the kids are old enough, Katie and Jeff hope to end up living back on a boat again sailing hither and tither with the kids.

A lot is riding on the fact that Katie and Jeff will be able to create incomes while travelling.

Words Of Advice- For Would Be Long Term Travelers.

I asked Katie to give me her top 3 words of advice for anyone out their who  dreams of travelling full time and here is what she said.

  1. “Don’t over think it. It takes some of the fun out. We keep doing that and it drives me crazy.”
  2. “Don’t bring too much. The less stuff the better, its easier and you will find what you need or some version of it wherever you go.”
  3. “If you are considering it, sell the house rather than rent it. Unless it provides good income…It feels amazing to get on a plane and know you don’t have a bunch of things to worry about at home.”

Conclusion

There are some important lessons to be learned here.

First,  if you want to travel for any length of time, having a plan is great and even necessary but…..It’s not enough.

You need a Plan and you need to be FLEXIBLE and willing to adjust your plans on the fly.

Just look at the Barnes family. They started off with a plan to finance their trip with the profit from building homes but when that plan fell through they didn’t postpone their dream or give up. They rolled with the punches and decided to figure it out as they go.

If you wait until everything is perfect, you may end up waiting a very long time to live your travel dream or worse; you may never do it. 

It’s not clear how long the Barnes family will travel but it is clear that they are working hard to give themselves options.  I’m pretty sure they won’t regret their decision either.

What do you think? Leave your comments below!

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The Barnes family one of many families feature. See other families and couples who are travelling full time or for extended periods of time.

I Hope It Inspires You To Take Actions on all your dreams not just your travel dreams.

Want to get featured on this site like this family? Please fill out this form and I’ll post the story here..Know someone who should be featured?

About the Author

Annie André Is a half Thai, half French Canadian/American freelance writer, digital marketer and author of THE LIVE IN FRANCE GUIDE: an expat travel and lifestyle blog featuring destination guides, inspiration, travel tips, personal advice and anecdotes on working, living and playing in France. ( Equal parts weird, wacky and wonderful).

Karen

Fabulous-my partner and I are about to embark on a similar endless adventure using Portugal as our base and bicycles as our transport.
We are both artists and the three children are aged 9, 12 and 14. We plan to cycle our way around the world, initially funded by renting out the house in Cornwall, UK. We may sell it later on if we find somewhere to settle permanently, but as things stand we just plan to paint our way around the whole world.
The children have lists of things they want to see, as we do, and we can’t wait to leave!

    Annie André

    Karen, that sounds like an amazing journey you are about to embark on. I know a few biking families and it sounds like something so life changing. The kids are going to have an adventure of a lifetime.

Paz

Great interview with such an interesting couple. Props to them for thinking so much in advance and having the income from the sale of a house. Can’t wait to see where they go next!!

    Annie André

    I just love that they are figuring it all out as they go. and i think that’s part of the fun Paz, just planning the next place they will go with the kids.

Anne

What an awesome family! I agree on the planning thing! Be prepared to change your plans without thinking that it is “all over!” Just make the adjustments and continue moving forward.

    Annie André

    Hi Anne, that is the best part of their story. The little adjustments they keep making and tweaking to push forward . They really are making the best of it..

Harleena Singh

Loved to know about the Barnes family Annie!

Gosh! I was all engrossed reading about how they started out, and their kids and the love for travelling. All that they underwent, and yes, things aren’t easy when it comes to funds, more so because they had plans about building homes, though landed up with finding other options because they wanted to make things work – that’s commendable indeed! I wonder if I had been in their place, how much of it I would really have done. 🙂

Yes indeed, as you rightly said in the end, a plan is good but that’s not enough. You need to make sure that your funds are in place, and yes, remain flexible in all situations so that you enjoy your trip.

Thanks for sharing, and I love the pictures you add in your posts. 🙂

Adrienne

I’m constantly amazed with all the stories you share here Annie of all the families that are able to travel with their kids for an extended period of time. To learn that it’s not always as expensive as we’ve first thought it to be is really amazing.

I so admire families like the Barnes who can just pick up and go, of course with lots of planning. But because they love the traveling they are more then willing to give up some of the other things that’s obviously not really important to them in their life.

I love this and thank you for sharing another great family of travelers.

~Adrienne

Tim Bonner

Hi Annie

I love these stories of families travelling all over the world and making it their life.

I’m sure it takes a particular kind of person to be able to do it for an extended period of time and not think about settling down somewhere. Eventually I’d want to just get on a plane home and set down some roots.

Evan

Oh, lovely! really rise up my travel spirit! i was always scare to think how I’m going to travel with kids ( I don’e have them so far but plan, if i’m allowed to say so). You are a very bright example that it is really possible!

Steve

Love the story. Even though plans didn’t go quite right and ended up being a few houses short, they still made it work. That’s good inspiration for anyone who wants to travel abroad. Sometimes you have to change your planning as you go in order to reach your goals. Just because something doesn’t work out exactly as planned doesn’t mean you can’t make it happen anyway.

I want to do a sailing trip like that one, but my wife gets seasick way too easily so it might not happen. Looks like it was a great adventure though.

    Annie André

    They are a great example of tings work despite their plans not being perfect.
    I absolutely love the sailing part too.
    know what you mean about the sea sickness thing. My husband says that after a few days your body regulate and the sea sickness goes away. ha. i get sea sick just looking at the water in the bathtub.

Rob

Hey Annie!

It’s been a while. It seems as if all of your endeavors are smiling sweetly upon you…and your family. The Barnes family is indeed an inspiration to those of us who are like-minded in one way or another. We recently touched our bike tires in the Pacific Ocean after pedaling across the southern US.
I believe that the relatively short planning time enabled us to do it. Of course talking my family in to it took some time (wink). Most folks (myself included) spend an inordinate amount of time in planning our adventures.
Few ever see them to fruition. I hope your story and the Barnes’ will inspire others to take that leap into the unknown…awaiting them.

    Annie André

    Rob wow, i thought you dropped off the face of the earth. Now I know why because you were pedalling across the souther US. HOW AMAZING. what is next for your adventure? I knwo a family that biked from North America to South america. they are called Family On bikes. I’m sure you must have heard of them..

Rob

Hey Annie,
Many thought Columbus had fallen off the face of the earth, but alas, there was exploring to be done. For us, it wasn’t all on the road. Life can be explored no matter where you are!

Indeed. Family on Bikes have some amazing adventuring under their tires. Is it okay for me to say I’m jealous (just between us)?

We have a few things in store. How about you and yours?

    Annie André

    Rob, so true, “many thought Columbus had fallen off the face of the earth”.

    Our family is just living like French people.. That was our goal to totally emmerse ourselves in French Culture and to know it very well.
    I did the same thing when I lived in Japan and i prefer it over living nomadically and moving from city to city. Having said that, we are planning on doing a 5 country tour this summer with just our youngest daughter throughout Europe. backpacking with her. It’s still up in the air but we our homeless for the summer so we have to do something.. 🙂

Bethany Lee

Hi Annie–found your site from a comment on “do something cool.” 🙂
I really really liked this article. All the detail about how they financed it and how much they spend each day is great! This is something I would love to do, and possibly coulld do in a couple of years except one thing. I have FOUR dogs. And I refuse to give them up. If you’ve heard how to travel with four dogs, would love to hear about it.

    Annie André

    Hi Bethany.
    I love “do something cool” and Steve who runs the site. he’s very low key and a great guy.
    So glad you liked this article. I really love doing these little expose’s on people travelling the world especially with family’s because I think most people don’t realize that there actually people out there doing it.
    As for travel with four dogs? Hmm, I will look into if for you and see what I can come up with.. My first instinct is maybe Europe might be the best way to travel with four dogs but then again what about in an RV with your dogs in our home country?

Costa Rica

Love the advice for long term travelers. I’ve personally rented a property while on long term trip and it turned into nightmare. Really inspirational article. I’m hoping to become a long term traveler with my wife in a few years after we save some more money 🙂

Cheers,

Jason

Disha

Hi Annie,
I love this trip of The Barnes Family With 3 Kids, In fact travel fun can be see on this travel pictures. I see there are some amazing & beautiful travel pictures “Jeff giving Katie a sailing lesson. She had no sailing experience” “Jeff & Katie’s this travel trip was perfect 🙂

Bonnie Creel

We know this family and actually lived across from them when they were building their log home in Big Bear California. They are amazing! Some people dream and a few, a very few actually live that dream. The Barnes family is one of those rare families that has the adventurer’s spirit. We can’t wait to see where they go next, (although, selfishly, we hope to see them back here in California one day soon!
Bonnie

Darren Kucko

Traveling alone is much easier than traveling with kids. I’ve found travel with kids very difficult during my last three trips, but the way you guys been traveling is amazing. I’ve certainly gained inspiration through reading your travel stories. Thanks for the nice sharing.

Michael

We’ve now been on the road for over 1000 days. People that do this long term with children impress us immensely. We know how hard it can be at times when you only have to worry about ourselves. Add children into that… and I imagine it can get… hard and stressful at times.

Well done!

    Annie André

    1000 days, congrats.
    I love travelling with my children. I love seeing the world through my childrens’ eyes. but yes, it can be super stressful but totally worth it.

Dean

You didn’t mention how they worked out the visas.

    Annie André

    That’s a whole other post Dean.
    I am working on a visa book for France by the way.

Aaron Jade

Hey Barnes family, congrats on creating an awesome life together. We are nomads (without children) and understand the difficulties of all the various aspects to long term travel but it is well worth it. And completely resonate with this: “It feels amazing to get on a plane and know you don’t have a bunch of things to worry about at home.” Freedom

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