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5 Things We Wish We Knew About the Emotional Journey of Becoming Full-Time Family Travelers

Updated: Sep 12, 2019

We have been preparing to become full time travelers for 4 months before taking off on our journey and we have been going through very different emotional stages during this time. As an expat family for 10 years, we are not new to the thoughts of being on deep water culturally and far away from known territory, friends and family, but there is a big difference in being expats and full-time travelers.


Thats what you need for a year on the road

Initial Stage – Excitement

When we, Martin and I, had just made the decision of taking a gap year, it all still seemed a bit unreal, and it actually did until just before we started moving out of our home. I would say that the emotion of being excited, has been the most stabile emotion throughout the process. The initial steps which included Martin quitting his job after 12 years with the same company and sharing the news of our decision were two big milestones, but two milestones that made us even more excited because it made our plan more seem more real, emotionally.


Breaking the News Can Hurt

When we shared the news of a gap year with our boys, we experienced very different emotions. One was calm, curious and the thought of “no school” for a year seemed very attractive to him, (that was before he learned about world/home schooling:-). The other one was sad, upset and we had simply ripped his world apart by this news. We supported both of them with each their different feelings, and also let them be in their emotions. Both reactions were equally fair, and they were more or less what we had expected. It took 3-4 days to digest the news before we could have some good conversations about what we were about to get ready for. In the next month the same question came up quite a few times: “Are we really going to leave Barcelona for good?”, and every time it brought tears out and resulted in a good talk about why we wanted to take a gap year. The thought of not being with friends and in the school that he really loved and felt at home in was scary, and maybe still is. I don’t think it was until some school mates expressed that a year of traveling the world sounded pretty cool, he started to see that this could actually be an ok experience. When we heard from teachers at school that he had told about the plans of traveling the world with a proud voice, it made us feel better again. Even though we knew deep down that this will be an amazing experience for him and for us as a family, there is nothing that hurts more than seeing your child being genuinely sad.


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Goodbyes and See You Laters Were Hard

After a couple of months, school was out for the summer and it was time for a lot of goodbyes. We tried as much as possible to say “see you later”, but having lived as expats and with the boys in an international school, we also knew that even though we’ll be coming to visit Barcelona – and maybe even live again – there will be friends and families who are no longer in Barcelona at that time. Personally, I am quite an emotional person, and tears come easily to me – even writing this blog post now make tears run down my chins, but they are not sad tears. There are many different tears to cry: happy tears, sad tears, frustrated tears, tears of love and sometimes tears of a few or all of them mixed at the same time. Most of the tears that were shed saying “see you later” to me were a sign of us having set roots in a place that became our home, us having invested ourselves in new relationships with people who were strangers when we met and now people who meant and still means so much to us. We had come to love so many people and places in Barcelona, and if it didn’t hurt saying goodbye and see you later, something would have been wrong. It hurts to leave and to say goodbye because we have been fortunate to meet all these wonderful people and make new friends, and no matter how excited we are about our new adventure ahead of us, it has been important that we also have space and time in our hearts to feel the emotions that are not so happy and exciting, and feel the sadness of leaving our wonderful life and home in Barcelona.


Packing/Moving Was Stressful

We ended up with quite a few farewell parties, one for each of the boys and some with my girlfriends, Martin’s colleagues, friends and even a surprise party was thrown for us, and I’m so happy for each and every one of them, as we really got to spend time with the people we aren’t going to see for a long time now. After the parties, we still had 3 weeks to pack up and enjoy our last time in Barcelona. I have already written a blogpost about sorting and packing up our apartment, but this was an awesome and yet emotional tiring time for us. Now, we could really focus on what was ahead… the packing and getting ready to leave. At this stage all four of us were excited about becoming full-time travelers. It helped having done the big goodbyes, and thankfully some of the boys’ closest friends were still around to see and play with. Being focused on the sorting and packing of the apartment, was some kind of emotional therapy for me, and as most people experience, I’m sure, the actual packing up of your home was somewhat hectic and stressful. The fact that we had to pack down our home at the same time as we were packing our luggage to take around the world for one year, was what made it stressful. It’s already a big task packing backpacks for a year for a family, each one of us deciding what to bring etc., and when you at the same time have to pack everything else, it became a bit stressful for me. I should mention, that I am what some people would call a perfectionist and tend to be the kind of person who doesn’t thrive well with mess, so I tidy up basically all the time. This of course doesn’t help in this kind of situation, but we made it through, and seeing the apartment all empty in the end was such a relief.


How Are We Feeling Now?

We started our adventure 6 days ago, and it was some quite emotionally days for us just before and just after leaving Barcelona. It was like with the tears – a lot of mixed emotions. The sadness of leaving Barcelona along with the excitement of “this is it… it’s finally happening”. We are following our dream of taking a gap year to travel the world as a family.

I think we are all very happy to finally be off now. We are so happy to see our family and friends in Denmark now, and share our excitement of our adventure that’s ahead of us with them.

Are we nervous? Well, I haven’t been so far, but I must admit that there is a new feeling that I haven’t felt up until now, creeping in on me. It might be a tad of nervousness about how everything will go once we leave Denmark on Sep. 3rd. To be honest, Denmark is kind of a break for us, it’s where we know everything and feel at home. We can relax here in some way, though everyone living as expats knows that visiting your home country is usually not very relaxing as you run from one place to another to see and visit family and friends, but we are really enjoying ourselves now, and I guess some nervousness is ok too. It was a big decision to make 4 months ago and now it’s finally happening, and we are mostly excited now but also a tiny bit nervous – in a good healthy way.