People often tell us that it isn’t possible to live a nomadic lifestyle with kids but we know this isn’t true as we’ve met many digital nomad families on our travels. We are happy to hear from one of them in our latest Nomadic Interview. Sabina King and her husband have been travelling with their two small children for two and a half years and inspiring others to do so too at A King’s Life.
1) How long have you been travelling and where have you been?
We’ve been traveling for 922 days and counting. Our first move was to Costa Rica, where we explored nearly the entire country and neighboring Nicaragua. Then, while flying over the Caribbean Ocean we noticed the most splendid water and wanted to live near it. We moved to a tiny island off the coast of Belize and enjoyed the turquoise, warm waters every day. We explored Guatemala and part of Mexico from there. Now we are living in Bali, Indonesia, using it as a home base as we explore Southeast Asia. We’ve been to Malaysia and are heading to Thailand soon.
2) What made you decide to become digital nomads?
It was part design and part necessity. We have owned several location based businesses in the past and with each business we learned what we wanted and didn’t want in a business. The idea to create a business that could potentially give us the freedom to travel was actually born out of necessity. During the economic collapse of 2008, we lost everything and were starting from scratch again.
I decided to try my hand at marketing a product that wasn’t widely popular at the time, but that I felt could help save thousands of lives. For six months I researched internet marketing, SEO and web design and then launched my website. It has been growing since. Like a Phoenix rising, we rose out of the ashes of collapse and created this lifestyle that is beyond our wildest imagination. We are proof that sometimes the worst of times can become the best of times.
3) How do you fund your travels?
I am so thrilled to be able to work on a business that provides for our family and is satisfying to our interests. My business, Veppo gives back the freedom of choice and health to millions of smokers. We are so proud to have a business that helps enrich the lives of our customers. I work on web design and marketing while Mr. King does our product design and sourcing. Together, we make an excellent team, but it’s been a lot of trial and error and learning to appreciate each other’s strengths.
4) Do you find it difficult to balance travel and work? How do you manage it?
Yes and no. Luckily, we have designed our business to run without our everyday involvement. We have incredible people we work with, from our customer service ninjas to our blazing fast shipping department. They take care of the everyday details of running the business.
But we DO work. We work on expanding the business. We have a home base from which we take weekly and monthly trips. We work while we are at ‘home’ much more than when we travel. We have designed our home life to be very easy for us. We are the Kings of outsourcing! Here in Bali we have a full time cook, a nanny, a housekeeper and a security guard. These beautiful people help us live a relaxed life where we are free to work on our business in the morning and pursue our passions in the afternoon. And in return, we feel fortunate to be supporting 4 local families.
When we do travel, we keep work to a minimum, as we don’t really need to be involved everyday. However, we are starting to travel more extensively and for longer periods of time. During these times, we catch up on emails and work in the early morning and evening, ideally when the children are sleeping.
5) You sold most of your stuff before you left the US. How was the process and do you miss any of it?
Honestly, the only thing I miss is my Henkels knife. Otherwise, all the other stuff was just an ego boost. Once I sold it all, it was a huge relief to not have to worry about storing and maintaining it.
In western society, so much value is placed on obtaining things and it costs us much more than what we pay for them.
We had a total of 6 garage sales to get rid of everything. I thought I’d have a harder time letting stuff go, because I really did enjoy my things when I had them. But they just don’t fit this life. I’ve traded things for experiences.
6) You have a personal chef at the moment in Bali. Tell us about that and what other luxuries do you find you can afford while living abroad?
Living in a country where labor is inexpensive, comparatively speaking, has many advantages. We have a full time nanny that plays with our children while we work in the morning. She takes them on walks around the rice fields, jumps on the trampoline and visits with their friends. Our personal chef comes in 3 times a day to prepare fresh, organic, healthy meals for us. We have a gardener and housekeeper to maintain the property, take care of laundry and clean. And we also have a security guard in the evening that takes in the pool cushions, lowers the bamboo blinds at night and lights beautiful oil lamps around the property.
It’s very indulgent to have so much help! All of our domestic duties are taken care of, which leaves us with a lot of time to choose what we want to do. We can focus on working, pursuing our passions, learning a new skill, visiting and lingering with friends. Quite frankly, it’s awesome and very relaxing. Mr. King and I have also enjoyed going out together again without the children. It’s been fabulous for our relationship.
Our staff have become such an integral part of our family and have given us the choice of how we want to spend our time. Really, it’s a luxury of time.
Other luxuries that we’ve had in the past include getting beautiful, custom furniture made, hiring drivers for the day, living right on the ocean, getting the local price for scuba diving, staying at high end all-inclusive resorts, among the list.
Oh, and we can’t forget about the massages and spa treatments that we have every week.
If it sounds like a tropical paradise, it’s because it is. We won’t lie. We love the life we’ve created.
7) Which destinations so far have you found most digital nomad friendly and why?
We haven’t had any issues accessing the internet in the places we’ve traveled, for the most part. The one place where we could not get any internet was the remote Osa Peninsula in Costa Rica, where there was no electricity during the day and a generator was used in the evening to power 2 lightbulbs in our cabin. That’s when the way we’ve designed our business works to our advantage. Since we are not involved with the day to day business activities, we continue to generate income despite not being always connected.
8) What are the benefits and challenges of travelling long term with your children?
My children are very young still, but I can see that traveling certainly has impacted their minds already. They are 4 & 2 yrs old at the moment and have a decent grasp on 3 different languages already. My 4 yr old is well aware of geography and remembers where we have done activities. Miss I (2 yrs old) also knows where she has been by saying “I go there”. It’s hilarious. I can already see that the world has no boundaries for them. G is used to traveling to different countries to meet up with friends and thinks that a trip to Australia is no big deal. I think that’s really great.
This is just a sampling of the benefits of traveling with children.
- The example they get by seeing their parents loving life, spending time with them and relishing in the experiences we are having as a family, like riding elephants, learning to surf or fishing in tropical waters. A happy family starts with loving, relaxed parents and we hope we are emulating that to our children. One of the best decisions we’ve made was to leave the western ‘busy’ culture and move to a place that isn’t so commercialized. Our focus is on sharing beautiful experiences.
- They are a great ice-breaker into a culture. Our children have been the reason we have been invited to a Costa Rican family Christmas celebration and a traditional wedding reception in Bali. Kids naturally lower the threshold of interaction with different cultures. We love that!
- They experience children from all different backgrounds and socio-economic status, but it doesn’t matter to them. They don’t see the segregation.
- They’ve learned to value and respect what they do have since they are limited in toys and they treat their toys lovingly (for the most part…there are certainly exceptions).
- They learn at an exceptional rate. Because their learning is experientially based, rather than just by reading or hearing a story, they remember incredible details of the experience. They’ve seen how the furniture in our home was made to how Mayans grind and make corn tortillas. It’s such a wide variety of hands on, immersion experience.
- I could go on and on and on. It’s been the best world education of all our lives!
- We always give ourselves plenty of time at the airport, train station or bus station, as we don’t want to always rush and push our kids along. Kids find those places fascinating. We get there early so they can explore the shops and watch the planes take off and land. We’ve learned to be very flexible with our time schedule. It also makes for a much more relaxing journey when the parents are relaxed.
- We go almost anywhere with them, like canoeing in caves, jet skiing, climbing waterfalls and mountains. However, because they are so young we won’t be going to Everest Base Camp just yet. They have to be able to carry their own packs first. We don’t necessarily find this limiting, rather we’ll just wait to do some of those things that are more extreme in physical nature later in life.
- We tag-team. When we are traveling, there are things that Mr. King and I would like to do together, like scuba dive, but can’t because one of us usually needs to stay with the children. It’s just a season in life and it’ll be easier, in this respect, as they get older.
9) Many people say they can’t travel because they have children. What advice would you give them?
I find that statement to be a self-limiting belief imposed by the person saying it. If you believe that your children should be sheltered or that it’s too much hassle to travel, then so be it. I, obviously, think otherwise. Frankly, my belief is that traveling with children is not hard…parenting is hard and it doesn’t stop while you’re traveling. If you can get all your kids in the car and take them grocery shopping with you, you can travel. It may not always look pretty, but it can be done and it’s totally worth it.
Children make great travelers. They are curious. They provide a easy ice-breaker to meet other people and locals. They love exploring new places with zeal. They don’t over think everything. We adults could learn a thing or two from them.
10) Where are you heading to next? Do you think you’ll ever settle down in one place?
My concept of settling down has changed. When we purchased our property in Colorado, we thought that we’d be there for 30 years. It was so beautiful and we loved it. But, life changes and priorities change. I know that nothing is forever and that this life is an incredible journey.
Since we have a ‘home base’ in Bali, we do have the sense of being settled. Wherever we call our home base feels like home to us. Possessions and ownership don’t make a place home for us anymore. It’s the sense of community and people that make it feel like home. The friendly waves to people like our coconut water lady or to all the folks at our favorite restaurants that always give my kids a little something extra. That’s why we like staying in one place for a while. It peels back the layers of a place and allows you to soak in it and really feel its vibe. It may be hard to leave Bali because our everyday life is so rich with Time and beautiful people here. We’re thinking of keeping this as a home base for a longer term and exploring from here for the next few years.
If you enjoyed this interview then read about other digital nomads in our Nomadic Interviews series. You might be particularly interested in mother and son team Raising Miro and Shannon from A Little Adrift who spent six months travelling in Asia with her niece.
Are you looking for Christmas gift ideas? See our guide to the 50 Best Gifts for Travelers. They are ideal for travel lovers who want to pack light and include something for every budget.