For years one of the biggest travel myths out there was that you had to be an heir to the Rockefeller fortune to be able to vacation overseas. This was, obviously, poppycock as travel can be very affordable. While it wasn't First Class travel, per se, it was doable. And for decades a small fraction of society quietly loaded up their non-matching suitcases to visit Argentina & beyond. Eventually the wealth-travel association was worn away and more and more people understood that you don't have to be insanely rich to travel. This happy truth carried on for a bit until the dawn of social media, which birthed a myth conceived as a new sort of Rockefeller: The family who sold it all to see the world.
The new (unattainable) story-topping gold standard of family travel abroad.
The new excuse.
The new reason to compare.
The new thief of joy regarding all travel accomplishments.
And it was, of course 1000% false. Alas, this small but mighty idea that you must "sell out" to travel has secured itself as a loathsome limpet on the face of the international travel community. I know this because I've seen it for myself, but also because it literally gets brought up almost every time I talk about the subject of family travel with some sort of new acquaintance.
Person: I would love to travel!
Me: Great. You totally should.
Person: Well, I can't. Jobs and kids and... and have you heard of Such-and-such Family who sold all their possessions and now travel the world documenting their travels with that peachy turquoise filter that is designed to make us all wish we were them?
While no one actually talks about the nauseating peach/turquoise amplifying filter on these Instagram Tourist photos, the spirit of "I guess I can't travel because I have a normal job and kids and a dog" is totally there. The new Rockefeller. "I can't travel because I'm not them..."
Excuse me while I go and vomit. In the mean time, enjoy this similarly filtered photo of my not-full-time-travel-family in Hawaii.
The bringing up of the social media families who "sold it all to see the world" is concerning to me for two reasons.
1. These accounts are not reality, nor are they the standard by which we should judge our own travels. So stop. These lifestyles are not for everyone, nor are they always sustainable.
2. Travel is travel is travel. See the world, however you can, whenever you can. Bonus if you can do it without taking a single selfie.
Long before these Instagram tourists were gumming up our social media with their over-saturated envy currying images, there were plenty of families who made the most of their nice, white collar jobs while still visiting Santorini with their munchkins.
So here's a secret that isn't actually a secret about family travel:
You can see the world without having to quit your job, sell your house, or even wear Patagonia products. Shocking, I know.
Prioritizing travel never meant "leaving it all behind" and traveling the world. For me, and for plenty of others, it means driving an older car you paid cash for, wearing used clothes, not going into debt, and having fun for free on the weekends. Since I've already talked about money. Let's talk about time. The second biggest hangup when it comes to international travel and how to manage it.
(I'm assuming that most of us here have some sort of white collar 9-5 job, with some sort of paid time off allowance, and insurance with an annoyingly high deductible. If this is the case for you, then here are some ideas for how to stretch that PTO into some epic trips with your family. Also note: Talk with a lawyer/CPA/financial advisor/HR Representative first- Before doing any of these things. In other words: Please don't try to blame me for any sort of bone-headed financial/career decision you are planning to make.)
Here we go:
1. Trade the raise. Yep. You heard right. Decline the raise and ask for more paid time off instead. Many companies have tiers of paid time off allotments that, as you gain as your tenure with the company, increases. Rather than accept that 5% raise, ask for additional time off. The truth is an extra week off of work probably costs less than 5% of your annual salary and your company is more likely to agree.
2. Make the most of what you have. Like turning the refrigerator dregs of last week's grocery run into a delicious chicken pot-pie, be creative with the time off that you have. Plan your trips around paid holidays and weekends. Turn that "week of PTO" into a 10 day trip by departing on a Friday night giving you two weekends (4 days), 5 PTO weekdays, plus 1 holiday letting you stretch that return flight until Monday. With some careful planning, that is more than enough time to checkout some pretty far-flung corners of the globe.
Also: Check your company's policy for combining floating holidays with PTO. Honestly, just get to know what kind of vacation time is allowed at your company. If time is money, then this is doubling your income.
3. Volunteer for work assignments abroad. This system works out for plenty of people. It is well known throughout my husband's company that we are on call for any and all abroad work assignments. While the rumblings of Madrid and Zurich have been downgraded to "video calls", we keep ourselves open to the possibility of temporarily relocating our family to international locations for work stuff.
4. Work less to travel more. While this idea may seem to be applicable to the eccentric dermatologist or stock market whiz who can afford to work less because they make craploads of money anyway- the truth is that this practice isn't reserved for the odd super high income earner. Plenty of people across different professions are able to have this sort of lifestyle. Take a good honest look at your finances and see if you could swing working a "part time" sort of schedule. Talk with your boss to see if you could have a modified schedule of longer workdays in exchange for shorter work weeks or more vacation time. *Provided this doesn't mess with your insurance coverage. Be responsible, people!* If that doesn't seem possible, consider gaining new skills that will make you more valuable giving your more bang for your time buck.
5. Other options include getting into education/academia. I personally know plenty of people who have taken advantage of the "time off" that comes with these professions. And if living abroad is a goal, but you want to be responsible, consider teaching in a foreign country. The benefits are, of course, quite obvious. But, really being in a more central location such as Spain really makes for an amazing launch point for destinations within Europe and North Africa.
The point here is be creative and work within the sphere you have. There are plenty of cool options to see the world without feeling like you need to trade the stability of a "regular job" and a home base for being able to see the world. Plenty of people have done it before Instagram Tourism, and plenty of people will do it after.
So, please, take heart, and know that there is no drastic lifestyle needed when it comes to travel- family or otherwise. It is all about taking an objective look at what you value and finding ways to shuffle things around to make it happen- with your time and your money. And remember Theodore Roosevelt's wise words "Comparison is the thief of joy."
Rock your circumstances, make the most of what you've got, ignore everyone else. And please, don't use the turquoise/peach filter on your photos.