When we initially decided to sell everything to start a family gap year in January 2020, we had no idea the journey would lead us here. As I write this post in our apartment in Playa Del Carmen, Mexico I am proud to say we are a digital nomad family.
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We’ve been a digital nomad family for nearly three years and decided it was time to help other families that wanted to pursue a zip-code-free lifestyle.
Let me start by saying being a nomadic family does not mean we spend our days taking pictures on the beach or taking unbelievable excursions.
Yes, we do some of those things, but being a nomadic family means we must plan and budget our activities to stretch our money.
What is a digital nomad family?
A digital nomad family is a family that travels together while working online.
The term digital nomad describes someone who works online and uses technology to live a location-independent lifestyle.
A digital nomad family can be any size. We’ve met single mothers, single fathers, married couples, and even aunts or grandparents traveling with kids, teenagers, or young adults.
What are the benefits of being a digital nomad family?
There are many benefits to being in a nomadic family. The most important benefit for us is the ability to spend time with our son.
With the lack of paid maternity leave in the United States, I returned to work just 7-weeks after giving birth, and it broke my heart. I suffered from severe postpartum anxiety and wanted to spend more time with our baby.
Our son was the motivation we needed to take a leap of faith to become a nomadic family.
Here are some of the benefits we’ve experienced by being a digital nomad family.
- Save money
- No societal pressure
- Build a strong family bond
- Location independence
- Amazing experiences
- Learn about different cultures
- Great stories
- Becoming fluent in other languages
- Learning patience
The drawbacks of being a nomadic family
I will not pretend that being nomadic is always sunshine and rainbows. We’ve had some crazy experiences over the last few years.
Although most of them were out of our control, it’s still frustrating, and adding a toddler to the mix just made things more chaotic.
Honestly, there are times when it is downright frustrating or exhausting. Like when we got stranded in Cabo San Lucas, but luckily that worked out better than we imagined.
Here are the drawbacks we’ve experienced as a digital nomadic lifestyle.
- Difficult to build/maintain a community
- Language barrier
- Culture shock
- Unreliable power/internet/cell phone reception
- Price gouging (Gringo/American/Westerner tax)
- Navigating visa requirements (can be quite confusing)
What is the best age to travel full-time with kids?
The answer to this depends on your kids. I believe it is easier to travel with babies. They don’t need much and are very adaptable. Toddlers, although difficult, aren’t too hard to travel with because they are not school-age, so you have a lot of freedom.
Some little ones are not travelers. Our son loves to travel, see new places, and meet new people. For the first two years of his life, he spent more time on airplanes than in a car.
I believe it is most difficult to travel with teenagers because they have an established home base/life. At that age, their friends are more important than spending time with their family, so having an open discussion with your kids or teenager is the best way to decide if you should become a digital nomad family.
How do we make money to support of digital nomad lifestyle?
After being laid off in August 2020, I put a lot of time, effort, and money into learning how to make money online (generate income from different sources).
Although I work full-time in human resource technology, which allows us to be a digital nomad family, we generate additional income to support our lifestyle.
Our blog (finally) makes money, we trade stock options, created other niche sites, invest in real estate, and I am a freelance writer. In today’s world, it’s best to not rely on one source of income.
You do not need to be independently wealthy to travel with your family. I work a regular job, others run online businesses that generate more than enough money to travel.
There are several ways to make money to travel full-time with your family. Find what works best for you and your family.
Here is a list of the most popular ways to make money while being location-independent.
- Social media influencers (TikTok/Instagram)
- Work full-time job (remotely)
- Digital marketers
- English teachers
- Content creators (bloggers/vloggers/TikTok)
- Entrepreneurs (digital marketplace)
- Freelance writers
- Trade stocks/options/forex
- Customer service (stable WiFi)
- Cybersecurity (growing field)
- Developers/ UX designers
The key to affording to live a nomadic lifestyle is to slow travel. Spend a few months in a place, which averages out to cost less than traveling from place to place in a short timeframe.
For example, we are currently living in Playa Del Carmen, Mexico, and pay 10,000 pesos (roughly $500) a month for our apartment. If we opted for an Airbnb for a short-term stay (one month), we would have paid double or even triple the price.
Living a Nomadic Life with Kids
Our priority when we decided to travel with our baby (at the time) was his and our safety. We had to get out of the mindset that everything outside the US is dangerous. Honestly, with the number of mass shootings (just this year), Mexico feels a lot safer.
You’d be surprised how welcoming other cultures are to kids, especially babies and toddlers. Everyone in our neighborhood loves Caleb. He gives them high-fives on the way to school every morning.
We take the usual precautions when traveling. We do not wear flashy clothes, do not carry a lot of cash, do not walk alone late at night, and always share our location.
Education is a significant consideration in the decision to become a digital nomad family. Our son was only 14 months old when we decided to live a nomadic lifestyle, so school was not something we had to consider.
Even now, he’s three years old, and it’s not a huge consideration. My wife was a preschool teacher before she became a work-at-home mom, and he wouldn’t start kindergarten until six years old (he has a late birthday).
Other families with school-age kids opt for alternative education such as homeschooling, worldschooling, or unschooling. We plan to take this approach when our son reaches school age, but we have a few years to figure it out.
Another alternative is enrolling your kids in local schools temporarily. As an only child, it can be hard to connect with other kids, so we enrolled him in preschool to help develop his social skills.
We love everything about his preschool. The teachers are amazing! They are inclusive (of his culture), there are fun activities, and he’s thriving.
He even understands Spanish now and can speak some words. He’s still having trouble with sentences, but he’s only three. I’m 30 years older than him, and I have difficulty with sentences in Spanish.
Most schools are understanding, and it’s very affordable. We pay 3500 pesos per month (roughly $175) for our son to attend a private preschool 6 hours a day, five days a week.
International schools are also an option, but they are expensive and can be high-pressure.
One of the reasons we decided to relocate to Playa Del Carmen, Mexico August 2020 was that I was laid off from my job and no longer had health insurance for my family.
We figured it would be more affordable to get sick in Mexico and pay out of pocket than it would be in the US. To have some insurance, we purchased travel insurance, which included emergency medical coverage.
We’ve been to the doctor several times over the two years we’ve spent in Playa Del Carmen. I was blown away by how easy and affordable it is to get medical care here. When I had strep throat, I got an appointment the same day, got a shot, and received medicine in less than an hour.
The cost was $30 for everything, including the doctor’s appointment and medication. I don’t know the difference between Mexican and American medicine, but after we took the prescribed medicine and woke up from our nap, we felt 1000% better.
I say all that to say there are different options for health insurance. You can pay out of pocket, use travel insurance, or purchase international health insurance.
We currently have health insurance through my employer, so if we get sick or have an accident (knock on wood), we can get care in the US. The premiums reduce my taxable income, and it’s part of our backup plan if we need it.
Now it is time to talk about everyone’s favorite subject, taxes! As a digital nomad from the US, you are required to file taxes. Period.
If you are an entrepreneur, I highly recommend reaching out to a CPA to assist you with the proper filings for yourself and your business(es).
For digital nomads with full-time jobs (like myself), taxes are a little more straightforward. My employer handles paying taxes for me, and I file them as if I am living in the US. Remember, this is the best option for our family.
It may not be an option for everyone, so I highly recommend speaking with a tax professional. You do not want problems with the IRS, especially while you are out of the country for extended periods.
We established residency in our hometown in Ohio, so we would no longer pay taxes in California. Again, this is our situation. You will need to speak with a professional and figure out what works best for you.
The Foreign Earned Income Exclusion (FEIE) is an option if you spend 330 out of 365 days a year outside the United States. We have not taken advantage of this because we frequently travel to the US for some reason or another.
Is being a Nomadic Family Worth it?
Yes!! Becoming a nomadic family is one of the best decisions we’ve made. We’ve had some great experiences, but more importantly, we’ve learned how to bounce back from anything life throws at us.
From being laid off to building this blog, we’ve weathered many storms, and although we’ve gotten wet, we haven’t drowned. I was devastated after being laid off, and now we are making 3x-5x more than the salary from that job.
We’ve created businesses that generate passive income, learned skills, met great people, and learned more about ourselves by being a nomadic family.
This is just the beginning for us. Traveling is great, but we want to serve a greater purpose. Our journey is how it starts; with a dream and the will to keep going when you want to quit.