Navigating Relationships and Family:
The Untold Challenges of Being a Parental Nomad
Life on the road with a family is as rewarding as it is challenging. Before our kids came along, my partner and I loved the nomad lifestyle – and now we’re trying our best to instill this enthusiasm in our kids too.
And while it doesn’t always go to script, packing up a small collection of travel essentials and hitting the road to become a digital nomad family is totally doable with a bit of planning, care and attention.
In this post I’ll break down everything you need to know about unschooling or worldschooling as well as some of the pitfalls of how to travel with your family.
What are Nomad Parents?
As a parental nomad, you don’t have a permanent home or community. Your family is always on the move, traveling to new places and temporarily settling in cities across the country and World.
Living life out of a suitcase, so to speak, rarely staying in one place for more than a few months at a time. This transient lifestyle gives you the freedom and flexibility to have new experiences together as a family.
But, at the same time, it also comes with a load of challenges when it comes to maintaining relationships and raising happy and healthy kids.
While living a nomadic lifestyle with your family allows you to see and do things other families may never do, it undoubtedly takes a toll when it comes to relationships, community ties, and stability.
And while the constant travel is exciting, challenges are very real and should be carefully considered before embarking on this non-traditional path of parental nomadism.
So, with the doom and gloom out of the way, let’s rip into more details on friendship, marital unity, extended family connections, resources, finances, and children’s development.
Building community and support systems is difficult without a home base
As a parental nomad, one of the biggest challenges is the lack of a home base. When you’re constantly on the move, it’s incredibly hard to establish a community or reliable support system.
Every time you arrive at a new town or city you are essentially starting over in building connections and a support network.
Friendships and potential mom groups rarely have the opportunity to take root due to the timings – that is unless you are staying for months on end.
Kids can sometimes miss out on the stabilizing friendships and experiences that come with growing up in one main place. And I think there is a bit of anxiety there as a parent – I think you want your kids to have the best parts of your own childhood. And if you had a ‘regular childhood’ of having a lot of friends nearby, the guilt of taking that from your kids is real.
Coupling this with the physical detachment from grandparents, aunts/uncles, or old friends the isolation can get very real at times.
The impact of instability and on children when on-the-road
As an adult, I can rationalize the frequent moves and disruptions knowing about the bigger picture. My children, however, often struggle with the uprooted feeling our transient life brings.
While it often is exciting, sometimes the constant packing and unpacking can be unsettling. One thing I have noticed however, is their ability to go and play with other kids – if we are at a park or campground, they have become much more confident in approaching new kids.
It’s one thing I have noticed with my adult friends too – the friends who moved around a lot as a child. I think it’s a great quality to be able to enter a room full of strangers and be able to talk to practically anyone. Hopefully something your kids will develop after even just a short period of a nomadic lifestyle.
The difficulty of finding childcare and school resources
Logistically, accessing basic family care and services poses headaches when nomadic. Securing quality, reliable healthcare and dental care in each new stop can be challenging.
Transferring medical records and establishing insurance can be tedious – thankfully the team at Insured Nomads can help with this, to make the whole thing easy and stress-free.
When it comes to education, I think the simplest form is to enroll with a homeschooling organization like Clon Lara – They offer an ‘off campus’ program, so your kids can be educated to a personalized curriculum.
They will be able to complete projects they are actually interested to discover, so they can hopefully take the love of learning into adult life. You can be based practically anywhere in the World too, so it’s a good option to look into.
The mental and emotional toll on parents
As much as we try to model adaptability for our kids, the emotional rollercoaster of nomadic living often leaves us drained. The anxiety of uprooting everyone yet again mingles with the fear of missing out by leaving places we’ve grown to love.
I think the thing to do is just embrace the change, and think about all of the memories you are making as a family. And also, how strong the bonds will be when you return to see the loved ones you may have left behind.
Coping strategies and keys to making it work
While parenthood always requires sacrifice, certain strategies help ease the unique challenges of nomadic parenting. Firstly, make time for self-care and maintaining your mental health.
I also try to set aside some time for yoga – just a short 20 minute session can make you feel great. Oh and of course, my partner and I need to take it in turns because otherwise the kids want to climb all over us!
Video calls with loved ones keep us connected and technology allows the kids to maintain friendships from afar too.
I’m mindful to maximize quality time spent with my kids adventuring whilst also trying to be fully present. Despite the disruptions, I encourage them to embrace adaptability as an invaluable skill.
This lifestyle isn’t easy, but focusing on the enriching rewards and each other helps us through.
Relationships with partners/spouses can suffer without community ties and stability
In addition to platonic bonds, the relationships between spouses or partners also face immense strain in the nomadic environment.
The stresses and discomforts of constant change can sometimes take a toll. Arguments seem to erupt more easily when we are already a bit stressed. So be aware of yourself when these feelings come – and I’m sure they will.
Roll with the punches, is something I like to say – be ready for these moments, accept them and move on. The rollercoaster of travel will no doubt strengthen your connection with your partner. I promise!
Complications when you're a parental nomad without nearby family support
When sickness strikes is when you realize how important a support network can be. Just having a friend drop off some fresh fruits and honey to make a simple home remedy may be out of the question when you are on the road with your family.
And it’s times like these when you feel like you may just want to ‘go home’.
Preparing for these moments, even just mentally is a great idea – but also, ensuring your medical cover is up to par is a good idea too.
The logistics of healthcare
Healthcare can be a challenge if you are constantly traveling to new cities and even new countries. Thankfully World Nomads can help with their comprehensive packages designed to suit couples and families.
Read more about what is on offer here.
The financial challenges and sacrifices
To live this nomadic dream requires giving up a certain level of comfort and stability. For me the days of paying a couple of dollars a day for a mosquito-infested dorm room are a thing of the past.
Try to set budgets for each location and stick to it!
One thing we have done in the past is to try and mix up budget destinations with more expensive ones – hit the rural locations to get cheaper accommodation and then splurge every now and again on a beach side Airbnb for instance.
Depending on where you get your income, make time to work or check in with whoever you need to – I have neglected things in the past when we have been on the road with the family. If you have some form of digital business, taking your eye off the ball for just a moment can end in trouble down the line.
Don’t make the same mistake as me!
The rewards of traveling with your family
Some of the places we have visited so far have been incredible. And I think the pursuit of travel is addictive. We hope that our kids will love to travel when they grow up too – and maybe this nomad lifestyle will be the norm, who knows?
Both my partner and I feel very connected to our children, and we wonder if this is because we spend so much time together or not. I think this is one of the big plus points of the nomad lifestyle as a family – your connection.
The other thing that I think is truly valuable is sharing experiences. Recently I was left alone while my wife and kids flew to a family emergency. At first it was great having so much time on my hand. But after a few days, not being able to share my experiences with anyone became a bit boring and I longed to have them back with me.
While the nomadic life brings profound experiences that many other families do not encounter, the tradeoffs are also pretty significant.
It requires a lot of planning, dedication and effort to raise healthy, well-adjusted kids without community ties or permanence. But if you get into certain habits when you arrive at a new place, the whole family can adapt to this way of living quite quickly.
And the thing that does it for me is the ‘newness’ – That feeling of getting off the plane, bus or train at a new location, with another adventure just around the corner!
“Jobs fill your pocket, but adventures fill your soul.”
– Jaime Lyn Beatty
Living a nomadic lifestyle: Q and A
Is it possible to be a nomad with kids?
Yes, it is possible for families to live a nomadic lifestyle with children. However, it presents unique challenges compared to solo nomadism. Parents need to ensure their children’s needs are met regarding education, healthcare, emotional stability, and community.
It requires a lot of effort and sacrifice from parents to make this unconventional lifestyle work for kids. But with intention and adaptability, some families are able to travel the world together long-term – and make some epic memories along the way!
Is the nomadic life good for children?
The nomadic life can provide enriching experiences for kids through travel and exposure to diverse cultures. But the frequent transitions and lack of permanency could negatively impact their development if not handled carefully.
Frequent moves and school changes may disrupt educational progress and social growth. So whether it’s ultimately “good” depends a lot on the individual child and parents mitigating the challenges thoughtfully. Stability, routine, and community are especially crucial for young kids.
Can you legally live as a nomad?
There are no laws prohibiting living nomadically within your home country. However, long-term nomadic living across borders can get tricky legally depending on the countries’ visa requirements.
Typically visas restrict staying in one foreign country to 6 months or less before requiring you to leave. So perpetual travel between countries usually requires some visa planning. But with research, some nomadic families find ways to legally “live” all over the world.
Does international health insurance for digital nomads exist?
Yes, there are health insurance options available for location-independent families and digital nomads.
Insured Nomads offers all manners of international health insurance plans that provide coverage across the globe. Having this sort of flexible health insurance is crucial for nomads in order to access care anywhere they may be. Comprehensive plans ensure families have coverage for medical emergencies, evacuations, and routine care on the road.