Finding Our Travel Groove
What we gain when we invest in community
Transitioning into a traveling lifestyle when you’re coming from a stagnant suburban life—where you have lived in the same house for twelve years and sent your kids to school—is a daunting undertaking. We’ve been traveling around now for almost two years and it’s still a lot of work, figuring out how to do it so that it works in the best way for our family. We don’t even travel full-time, and still, it’s tough.
When life changes loom that large, the only thing we can do is break the insurmountable task into smaller and smaller pieces until one piece is a move we can tackle. Take one step forward, make one decision, change one thing. For us, starting to travel meant spending one month away from home. We did this twice—first, we drove to Austin to stay for a month, then returned to our house for about six weeks, and, finally, drove to stay in Denver for a month.
We had a great time. This was the first piece of knowledge we needed to decide whether we could travel as a family longer-term, the first threshold for us to stand on: we learned that the family can function and everyone can have a good time when we’re away from the house for a month. It takes some work, we need to line up some activities, find homeschooling groups to join, and keep up with school work, but it works. We can do it, and we can have fun too. The exciting nature of a new place and new people helps us enjoy ourselves.
After our second month-long adventure in Denver—the whole family loved skiing—we had some time that I wasn’t sure how to use. Our stay in Denver finished in mid-February of 2022, and we had plans to head to Europe at the end of March that year. Originally, I was supposed to need to go back to Ohio to choreograph a musical, but that musical ended up being cancelled, like so many things that year. A pilgrimage I was supposed to attend earlier that year had also been cancelled. My husband was trying to finish up his private pilot’s license before we left for Europe, so he definitely needed to go back to Ohio to take flight lessons. When I thought of spending more time homeschooling my family in that house in Ohio, though, I wanted to scream. We knew that being out away from the house worked, and that meant I didn’t want to go back.
So, what to do? I was on my own. I thought about driving with the kids to see family in Arizona. I thought about taking the kids and flying out to somewhere fun we’d never been, like San Diego. Everything I was finding seemed pretty expensive, though. Then, I thought about these events I’d seen on social media called Worldschooling Popups. I checked the web site, and learned there was a popup happening in Merida, Mexico the week after we were finished in Denver. Bingo!
(Side note: I am not on social media other than one family account we have on Facebook to be able to join worldschooling groups. To keep our use of algorithmic social media as limited as possible, our Facebook account does not accept friend requests.)
We could fly down to Merida, Mexico, straddle the pop-up week for a few days on either side, fly back to Ohio, and I would only have to be in the house for a couple of weeks before we left for Europe. Perfect. I talked to my son and daughter about it, and my daughter seemed interested. My son said he preferred to go back to Ohio with my husband so he could take a few flight lessons too. Fair enough.
I booked our flights to Merida, found a place to stay, and signed up for the Pop-up. The first thing my husband said to me after I booked everything was, “Good job.” The second thing he said was, “Are you nervous?” He knows me so well. I’m as introverted as they come, quiet and reserved, always the first person ready to leave a party. I’ll have a long one-on-one discussion with you about deep philosophical thoughts, but small talk? Forget it. So, the thought of flying down to a new country as a sole adult with my daughter and meeting up with a bunch of people I didn’t know was, to say the least—what was the word I used earlier? Oh yeah, daunting. It was daunting.
The day we left, I rotated between bouts of excitement and panic. I was seriously nervous about flying again after three years, and when we arrived at the Merida airport and the customs officer asked me if I had any fruits or vegetables in my bag, I responded that I didn’t, completely forgetting that I had a bag of apples in my backpack. My daughter was still in hermit-mode from the pandemic too, feeling super nervous about going to join and meet new people. When we arrived at the first day meet-and-greet, she didn’t want to speak to anyone, and refused to even let me go introduce myself to some people.
Fortunately, the person in charge of the pop-up (the one and only, lovely, Rachel Carlson), made sure to come over and introduce herself, she chatted with us for a bit, and that softened my daughter up. Little by little, petit a petit, we started introducing ourselves to people, she started playing, enjoying the playground and joining in with some of the other kids. By the end of the week, we had made some new friends, and one family who was in Merida for a month even invited us over to hang at their apartment one day when the pop-up was over.
Fast forward to fifteen months later, and we’ve attended five pop-ups put on by hosts on Rachel’s platform, Worldschool Popup Hub. (Here's the web site) After Merida, our family attended pop-ups in Madison, Wisconsin and New York City in the fall of 2022. In the spring of 2023, we were lucky enough to attend a pop-up in Porto, Portugal. We topped off our experience with a trifecta of fun in Normandy this spring: a castle stay at a co-living chateau for a month, a pop-up week, and a worldschooler’s prom.
Every time we go to a pop-up, we meet wonderful traveling families, make new connections, and have the opportunity to re-connect with families we love hanging out with. It’s a great time. There are usually families who have been around traveling for a while who know each other quite well, and there are always a few brand new families who either just started traveling or for whom it’s their first pop-up. The hosts are welcoming and make sure everyone is included, and they expressly ask all of the kids to make sure of this as well. It’s such a relief and a wonder to hang out with other families who are traveling too.
I find a real sense of community when I run into members of these traveling families again and again. As I wrote about in my last post, my son just attended a week-long camp in Italy. The day I went to pick him up, I ran into another traveling dad who we know from two other communities, who’s son stayed at the chateau with us in France. It was great to get to chat with him for a few minutes. Another fun fact—the week that I was writing this, I heard from a mom I met in Merida who was working on moving to the same city in Portugal where we are. Walking home with my daughter that same afternoon, I heard someone yell my name. I turned around to find this mom and her two daughters waving at us from their car; they were in the car that had stopped for us to cross the street at the cross-walk. So delightful.
Here are a few highlights from the popups we’ve attended:
New York, New York
It’s been such a blast, and I’m so grateful for all of the world-schooling families who have contributed to make these experiences worthwhile. I know that I can’t always rely on others to take the reins, so, I decided that I need to host a pop-up too! Coming to you at the end of August in 2023, in Cincinnati, Ohio. I’m biased, but, if it’s anything like the other pop-ups we’ve been to, I’m guessing it’s going to be a rocking good time. If you can come join us, we’d love to have you. You can sign up here.
Thanks for reading Portable Roots. Until next time!