The FUNemployed Family was one of the first Instagram accounts we ever followed when we created Crayons and Carry-Ons! We were getting ready to leave on our adventure and they had just set out on theirs. Even though we seemed to take a similar route, we were never in the same place at the same time. Hopefully one day our families can meet up and enjoy some craft beers together!

Tell Us About Your Family!

We’re Ben, Kelly, Liesel (3) and Mason (2 weeks old). We’ve been traveling internationally for roughly half of the last 2 years and Liesel has visited 25 countries during that timeframe. There is A LOT to how we got here, so here’s the scoop. Kelly and I are originally from Michigan, but we didn’t meet until the first day of our real jobs after college. We had to share a fun fact in an ice breaker exercise. Kelly said she loved water skiing and my fun fact, directed right at her was that my family had a boat. The rest is history 😂 We we’re both Accounting majors and our jobs us to Washington DC for a couple years before we decided to move to San Francisco. We lived it up as dinks (double income, no kids) for 8 years while climbing the corporate ladder. Travel has always been important and we used every last vacation day we could to get away and recharge, sometimes even taking unpaid time off just to fulfill our travel desires. When Liesel came along we quickly realized the life we had been building for so long didn’t have us on the “happy train” and some huge changes were upon us.  About 2 years ago we created The FUNemployed Family as a way to document our family’s journey from “perfect life on paper” to “aspiring family travel content creators”. We knew so many other families likely felt the same way we did about the American dream and we wanted to share our ups, downs, highs and lows of living an alternate lifestyle and bucking the societal norms we were all taught. A major life change was in the works.

What led you to the decision to become a traveling family?

When Liesel was born in 2016 things started shifting and our focus on what was important became clearer. I had been falling out of love with my chosen finance career for years but kept it going to make sure we were financially secure in an expensive place like the SF Bay Area. After balancing demanding jobs, long commutes, rising monthly costs and spending very little time together as a family we knew a change was needed.

In 2018, we decided to give up the stable (yet predictable) life we had built in California to follow our passions and travel the world. We quit our jobs, sold our house and most possessions and planned to travel for at least 1 year before settling at a “home base” closer to family, where we could continue to jump off on travel adventures.  The goal: To bond as a family, find new, passion filled & flexible careers and reset our lives to break away from the rat race mentality of living and working for the weekends and vacations. We wanted each and everyday to come from a happier place, even if the meant giving up many things to which we had become accustomed. Our biggest fear was getting sucked into the mindset that travel needs to wait until retirement and that we would pop out at 65 and wonder where our lives went. We wanted to experience it now. Even if that meant we would struggle financially in the future.  It was worth it to us.

Reactions to our decision to flip our lives on their head were mixed. Our close friends were excited, envious and protective. I remember some of our finance work colleagues asking us all the money questions and just couldn’t wrap their head around the idea that we would be pausing our 401k contributions indefinitely.  Our parents were mixed as well.  Most were excited for the long term goal which was that after our full year of travel we would move closer to Michigan as our home base. Some were also excited that we were taking life by the horns and starting to figure out and plot a situation where we worked for ourselves instead of working for “the man”.  One thing was consistent across the board.  All of our friends and family were a bit in shock and awe that we would give up the lives we had built, but they were still supportive. We knew they just didn’t see things the same way we did.

What are some of the highs and/or lows of being a traveling family?

For us, there are many highs of living this lifestyle, but hands down the most important is TIME.  By our estimates, it would taken us 10 years to get the same amount of quality family time with Liesel as we have these last 2 years.  We’ve experienced so much with her over the last couple of years that it’s even hard to describe. We’ve been there for her nonstop. We’ve witnessed every growth and development milestone first hand. She’s experienced new cultures, religions, skin colors, languages and food that she never would have otherwise. She’s an absolute pro when it comes to air travel, adaptability and rolling with changes. And to boot, we’ve had massive amounts of fun with her.  We’re confident that our relationship with her is forever changed based on the decision we made to carve time back. And, when people naysay about how she’ll never remember these early travels… well, we have one response; “We will remember it, and this is about our lives as well. Happy parents definitely make for a more fulfilled family environment.”  One more positive aspect that often gets left behind is the value this can have on a marriage. Living a lifestyle like this cuts to the core of who you are and what’s important to you. Material things are essentially out the window. Your real, true self comes to light and realizing that you have a partner that is fighting for the exact same thing as you, and is willing to give everything up for it, is such an empowering thing for Kelly and myself as a couple.

The main downside of being a traveling family is always being far from the rest of your family and friends. The physical distance can be huge. We were often literally on the other side of the world between 11-15 hours ahead of them.  But, that being said, when you’re that far apart you make a point to FaceTime more often.  The longest stretch of time we were away from the USA was 7 months in a row. During that time we FaceTimed with all the grandparents FAR more than we would have in our old lives in California. So, in one sense they saw more of us and Liesel than they would have had we been working and doing daycare in the states.  Another downside depends on how fast you travel. We mix it up, but laying your head on a new pillow every few days can be exhausting for the parents and kids.  We turned our travel days into a fun game and Liesel would often be asking when it was “new house day”.  Over time, the travel days became routine and some of our more favorite experiences.

What are some places you think every traveling family should visit? Are there any places you wouldn’t recommend?

This is always so tough 😂  Our opinion is that experiencing as many different cultures and ways of life is the best way to really open your mind and see exactly how the world works for people of all backgrounds. So far we’ve spent extensive time in Europe, SE Asia, Australia/NZ and the Pacific Islands.  It’s hard to narrow down “can’t miss” locations, but knowing what we know now, if we were planning it all over again we would make sure we revisit Siem Reap, Cambodia and the Angkor temple complexes. Siem Reap was one of our biggest positive surprises. Lovely people, and energetic vibe or growth and promise for the future, not to mention the ridiculously amazing temple complexes.  We would always recommend Thailand, and for us we have fallen in love with the islands in the south including Phuket, Phi Phi, Koh Lanta and Koh Kradan.  Bali, Indonesia is also a favorite as it’s such an interesting place with some amazing natural beauty and mysteriously addicting culture. We also love the Philippines. The people are some of the warmest we’ve encountered and if you’re looking for some beautiful beaches at a fraction of the cost of the South Pacific, the Philippines is your place.  And, cost and city size aside, Singapore was fantastic and the Cook Islands and French Polynesia are an absolute dream.  The most picture perfect and unspoiled postcard perfect beaches you’ll ever see.  But bring your money.

We always have a super hard time finding flaws in destinations.  It’s just not how we roll.  But I will share 2 places that for whatever reason didn’t feel very family friendly to us.  Penang, Malaysia and Jamaica.  Penang is a bustling island in Malaysia, has some amazing food culture and street art.  But for whatever reason we weren’t feeling it.  It may have been that we had just come from months in low key places like Bali and Thailand’s islands and we arrived to a busy city that reminded us of the rat race life we had left behind.  But, we also felt that the people were also not nearly as friendly as many other places we traveled. Maybe it was because it’s a larger city.  And, our most recent country was Jamaica. We spent 2 weeks there in Negril and Ocho Rios and while we loved the beaches, weather, food and hospitality of the people (some of them anyway), we couldn’t help but feel it was a bit overrun with tourism and there were countless instances where we were pressured to buy something and/or didn’t really feel that comfortable.

What advice would you give to other families looking to take the leap into long term travel?

Research, Plan, Commit, Enjoy. It may seem like a daunting decision to flip your life upside down, and it is, but being organized and thoughtful about your decision is important. Research how you will make it work from a financial, childcare, education and logistics perspective. Plan it to a T.  Will you be quitting your job?  Can you work remotely? Will you be selling your house? How long will you travel? Domestic or international? Compare cost of living in your target destinations. Make a realistic budget. Commit to your decision. Once you make the big decision to travel long term everything else will end up falling into place. Be strong when you doubt yourself.  Giving up stability, income and everything you’ve ever known in order to travel as a family will definitely make you question yourself, especially when those around you are also questioning your decision.  But always remember that it’s your life and your decision. Trust yourself that you know what’s best for your family.  And finally, enjoy the journey! Make sure to be present with your family. It’s easy these days to get lost behind your camera or on your phone trying to “capture” all the memories you’re making.  But make sure to really enjoy the moments you’ve worked so hard to attain. Reach out to other families that have done it (including us!) to get their point of view, follow their advice and journey and learn from them. We continue do to that today.  Lastly, don’t be afraid to pat yourself on the back. Most people dream of doing something like this.  There will be tough times for sure, but in those moments make sure you put it all into perspective by looking back at how far you’ve come.  2 years ago I would have never imagined we would have accomplished our goals in the way we did and found new remote/flexible careers as a freelance photographer/videographer and remote financial consultant.  It can happen, just believe in yourself and push forward to reach your goals.

How do you afford to travel long term?

We get this question often. Earlier I mentioned that in our old corporate rat race lifestyle we would sometimes take vacation days even if they were unpaid.  Well, for our first year of travel we committed to the same concept.  We had worked super hard all those years in DC and SF and after selling our house we decided we would use a portion of our savings to travel for a year. In the beginning, we purposely did not want to work. We wanted to experience the adventure in it’s fullest and spend time bonding as a family.  We made a budget and tried best to stick to it by traveling to destinations that were for the most part, very inexpensive.  However, we knew from the beginning that the money we had set aside would run out at some point.  Part way through that first stint of travel, we realized my photography/videography skills and our social media presence could provide value to brands.  We slowly began reaching out to hotels and tourism companies to exchange content for experiences and lodging stays.  This has helped us immensely when we begin planning to visit a destination as it offsets costs.  However, it still doesn’t “pay the bills”.

Over time Kelly has taken on a part time, remote based financial consulting job while I have fully transitioning from a finance guy to a professional photographer/videographer and licensed drone pilot. Now that we’re based in Michigan for multiple months in between travels, I’ve been able to establish my photography business quickly and have also started working as a brand and social marketing manager (in a flexible capacity) for a local real estate company.  So, essentially while at home base we live very minimally and work extra hard, plan trips where we can offset lodging and excursion costs and just take it one trip at a time.  Our goal is to use Michigan as a base for 6 months a year while we travel the other 6 months.  Now that we have another child to look after, our financial situation is even more in the front of our minds.  It works for now, but we are constantly evaluating whether it makes sense to continue while always focusing on the long term goal of becoming fully financially sustainable while traveling.

You can follow all of their adventures on their website, Instagram, Facebook and YouTube page.

Check out last week’s featured family!

About Author

We are your typical American family who decided life is too short to live in one place.

You might also enjoy:

Leave A Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *