I refused to let my travel dreams die when I became a mom. Here's how I budget to keep my family of 4 traveling the world full-time.

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I refused to let my travel dreams die when I became a mom. Here's how I budget to keep my family of 4 traveling the world full-time.
Author's daughter pointing out a shark — the lesson plan for the day was to snorkel off the coast of Tahiti.Beth McCarter
  • Beth McCarter and her husband pulled their kids out of school to try "worldschooling" three years ago.
  • They maintain a modest budget by renting out their home, spending less, and embracing slow travel.
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"Look, kids, the shark is right under the boat!" I shout, pointing at the disappearing fin. My 7-year-old pinches her nose and dives in.

"Wheee!" my 5-year-old screams, already halfway down the boat's ladder. I snap a quick pic and scramble after them. I'm just as eager to see the shark up close.

It's Tuesday, and technically, we're "at school." Instead of drawing out different ecosystems while sitting in a classroom, today's lesson plan includes snorkeling off the coast of Tahiti to observe black tip reef sharks in their natural habitat.

Although not your average school day, that's been the usual fair since I left my teaching job to homeschool my kids over three years ago. We've since traveled across Europe, Mexico, French Polynesia, and most of the southern United States, all on a modest budget.

I refused to let my travel dreams die when I became a mom. Here's how I budget to keep my family of 4 traveling the world full-time.
Author and her husband both left teaching and are fulfilling their lifelong travel dreams.Beth McCarter

Traveling was always in the plan

Our transition to worldschooling was a long time coming.

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Back in college, before I got married, I told my now-husband I'd never be happy with settling down. "Alright, let's travel the world!" he said.

Travel did not begin right away, as we took a few years off to have kids and get started in our careers. But after teaching in Texas for 7 years, gun violence and the school system's disregard for staff's well-being prompted me to speed up what had always been my plan.

After my husband landed a job that allowed him to work online, I quit my job, we pulled the kids out of school, rented out our house, and moved to France for three months.

Adjusting our lifestyle

We learned the hard way that financing worldschooling is easier when you don't have much debt. Our first trip was planned without tackling this issue, as at the time buying plane tickets sounded much more appealing than paying off old credit cards.

These days, we look out for the the best travel deals before deciding on a plan. Our biggest find was when we paid less than $200 a piece for tickets to France from the US, including our pets.

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To enjoy worldschooling without the stress of worrying about money, we have to balance being financially responsible against our desire to travel.

We began downsizing early on and have tried to embrace minimalism whenever the kids let us.

I refused to let my travel dreams die when I became a mom. Here's how I budget to keep my family of 4 traveling the world full-time.
The author riding a motorbike with her son.Beth McCarter

Choosing what to do with our car and house was another big piece of the puzzle. Now, we rent out our house so that we can still accrue equity while someone else pays the mortgage. We keep our car at my parents' house and also bunk with them when we're in town in exchange for helping out on the farm.

These days, our family is constantly on the move. We take road trips around the US and make it a point to venture abroad at least once a year. We homeschool and work full-time from our laptops on the road.

To keep our lifestyle sustainable, we're constantly tweaking our budget. Back when we were teachers, we used to go to the mall and end up blowing our budget. Now, we know how much we enjoy having travel experiences over mindless shopping and eating out. We thrift whenever possible, and we're always looking for ways to increase our income online.

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We've found that balancing frugal living and quality of life is key to living out our worldschooling dreams while maintaining financial stability.

Our new strategy

Our ability to keep traveling hinges on a combination of strategic choices.

We embrace slow travel. This means spending extended periods in each location to minimize transportation costs and taking advantage of long-stay discounts. When we were in Europe, we were surprised that renting a car for a couple of days cost more than an entire month's lodging.

We opt for free pet-sitting opportunities when available. One time, we spent the Christmas holidays in a house next to Disney World for free in exchange for watching a couple of slobbery bulldogs.

I refused to let my travel dreams die when I became a mom. Here's how I budget to keep my family of 4 traveling the world full-time.
Author's children admiring mountains from a distance.Beth McCarter

When it comes to international travel, we select our next destination based on ticket affordability. While we would love to go back to Asia and Europe, our budget often means we have to explore closer to home for the time being.

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A passive income stream, such as selling a digital product, can help. I wish I had learned about passive income earlier. The only downside is that it can take a while to develop. I've put several years of work into this project, but I now earn a small amount of income every month from blog posts I've written about both travel and homeschooling that include links to affiliate products.

Worldschooling isn't a never-ending vacation

There have been a lot of mishaps along the way — my kids both caught COVID-19 in Tahiti and I sprained my ankle in a rabbit hole in rural France. We've also faced criticism for our choice to travel. My in-laws are especially disapproving and are openly against homeschooling.

The biggest setback of worldschooling has been the lack of "adult" time. Finding personal space is hard when you're staying in hotels or small Airbnbs.

I did it for my inner child

Worldschooling, for me, is also about fulfilling my childhood dreams. I travel for my 11-year-old self, who spent countless hours dreaming of traveling and watching "House Hunters International." My current lifestyle is in many ways, a heartfelt celebration of my inner child's dreams.

In that way, it's about setting an example for my children. I believe that it's essential for kids to witness their parents, especially their mothers, pursuing their own happiness and fulfilling their dreams.

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My own mother sacrificed everything to be able to homeschool me and my siblings. Since becoming a parent myself, I've realized that giving everything up for the sake of your children is not healthy for you or them. By living out my travel dreams, I'm showing my children, especially my daughter, that your dreams shouldn't die when you become a mom.

Worldschooling isn't just about education and exploration; for me, it's a journey of self-discovery and setting an empowering example for my children.

Beth McCarter is a certified teacher and the creator of The Homeschool Graduate.

Got a personal essay about living abroad or parenting that you want to share? Get in touch with the editor: akarplus@businessinsider.com.

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