Stephanie and Jordan Jones have done what few parents would ever even consider doing, let alone actually do. Together, they sold off the contents of their entire home, packed the basics into backpacks, and took off to travel the world.
With their five children.
I literally get exhausted taking my four kids to the grocery store so excuse me while I just sit here in awe.
The Jones’, both 29 and self-employed, were parents to five young children — Oliver, 6, Natalie, 4.5, Eliana, 3, Edison, 1.5, and Stanley, 2.5 months — when they decided that it was the perfect time to live out their dreams of traveling the world. With jobs they could do from anywhere, the adventurous couple thought, well why not?
“We had always wanted to travel as a family,” Stephanie explains. “We took a short trip to Zurich, Cairo, and Istanbul when our oldest was 9 months old, and we were hooked. We wanted to give our kids a culturally rich childhood and let them experience the world while they were still young.”
So, they just did it. Over the course of two years, Stephanie and Jordan went through several rounds of purging — donating and selling household items and toys on Craigslist and eBay. They even sold their house and almost all of their furniture and replaced essentials with smaller, travel-sized versions.
Eventually, the family was able to downsize all of their possessions into carry-on backpacks so that when they traveled, they didn’t even need to check their luggage. (Yes, really.) On August 27, 2015, the family began their adventure in Istanbul, Turkey and later moved on to Vienna, Austria. For the next year, they rented homes through Airbnb and focused on forming relationships with neighbors and soaking up experiences like true locals by visiting zoos, aquariums, and everything the cities had to offer.
While I’m over here wondering how anyone could juggle traveling the world with five kids that young, Stephanie says the experience was actually a lot less difficult (“and more wonderful!”) than you would think. She claims that the kids adapted easily, learning to nap on-the-go and sample foreign cuisine.
She also notes that many other cultures are a lot more family-friendly than we are used to and that the parents were pleasantly surprised to find how helpful and accommodating strangers were to them. In Turkey, for example, the family found that there were always plenty of women who would offer to help them onto buses, hold children on their laps, and make sure all of them got back off safely.
And in Vienna (one of the top-rated cities in the world for families), the Jones’ felt very comfortable, as well. “Our Airbnb hosts had candy and toys waiting for the kids,” says Stephanie, “and there are amazing playgrounds and things for kids to do everywhere in Vienna.”
All in all, the Jones’ family travels have been full of surprises along the way, and they’ve learned a lot about themselves and the world. Such as …
- Before their fourth child was two, he learned to say “thank you” in three languages.
- Quality regulation for diapers is much higher in Europe than in the U.S, so cheap, store-brand diapers are way better overseas.
- Monthly Airbnb units are a very affordable way to travel with a family.
- Working overseas can actually be easier with a family. (Thanks to the time difference, Stephanie actually increased her income because she was able to work off-hours and get more done with clients in the U.S.)
- Learning history is a whole lot cooler when you’re actually immersed in it.
- Nothing strengthens a marriage quite like traveling together.
The most surprising and challenging part of traveling the world with five kids? Believe it or not, Stephanie says it was coming back home — which they did this past September.
“Everyone settled into our new way of life without any difficulty, and fully enjoyed it,” she explains. “Re-entry was rough, to be honest. We were enjoying traveling so much we weren’t ready to come back. After being gone for over a year and spending several months in a Middle Eastern country (Turkey), we were treated with quite a bit of suspicion — and even hostility by our own country’s customs and border control. Readjusting to life in the U.S. was almost more challenging than adjusting to life out of it — [it was] a true culture shock.”
In the end, Stephanie believes that traveling — even with little kids — is worthwhile, totally doable, and an experience you will never regret. For their next adventure, the family is planning to travel to Australia, Antarctica, and either the European Alps or New Zealand’s Southern Alps.
“A lot of people basically freak out when they hear what we’ve chosen to do with our lives … essentially saying it’s crazy and they’d never have the courage to do that,” she says. “But really, though it does take courage to let ‘the norm’ go, the traveling and exploring and LIVING is the best thing that’s ever happened to us. If you can find a way to make it work, DO it. And I don’t mean have thousands of dollars in reserve and wait until the exact right moment. I mean dive off a bridge and get messy and have an adventure.”