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How We Took Two Years Off to Travel and Spend Time With our Kids

Updated on October 7, 2015
capobeachmom profile image

Heather Arias de Cordoba is an award-winning and recognized writer, designer and artist with more than 20 years of experience.

Ever had an epiphany?

A few years ago, my husband and I were enjoying vacation time with our two young children when he said to me, “Wouldn’t it be great if we didn’t have to work, and we could just play with the kids?” At the time, the comment seemed innocent enough, but when we returned home and entered the “real world” again, we began thinking about it more seriously.

The turquoise waters off the coast of Koh Phi Phi
The turquoise waters off the coast of Koh Phi Phi | Source

We’ve been career-driven for over 15 years. Now that we had children, our focus was changing from work to our family. Our research over the next few months suggested it was possible for us to “quit” work for an extended period, take a “mini-retirement” and enjoy the time with our children.

The only catch – it needed to be in a different county, a more affordable location, which would make us less dependent on auto transportation, and where we could simplify our lives, living accommodations and leisure time.

Counties like Mexico, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Australia, Panama, New Zealand, Ecuador and Thailand all offer a very good standard of living, at a portion of what it costs in the United States. So we did our research and visited three of our top five destinations to decide where we would want to spend the next few winters. Our decision was Thailand.

Temple and monk in the Chiang Mai Province in Thailand.
Temple and monk in the Chiang Mai Province in Thailand. | Source

The epiphany of course, a part-time retirement…a break from our daily routine…a sabbatical…a retirement rehearsal, or whatever your might wish to call it, was possible. And at a fraction of the cost of ordinary living expenses, at little or no cost to our long-term retirement plans while we immersed ourselves in another culture.

Not long after our epiphany, we found ourselves on a plane with two small children heading off on a worldwide adventure.

Celebrating the Loy Krathong Festival in Chiang Mai, Thailand.
Celebrating the Loy Krathong Festival in Chiang Mai, Thailand. | Source

For the kids, it was a fantastic opportunity to go to early childhood school in another country, begin to learn another language and live and play with other children from all over the world. How do you quantify the influence of a special Buddhist monk on your five-year-old son, or an afternoon in the rainforest riding an elephant with your daughter?

For our family, it was a wonderful opportunity to bond, where we were all dependent upon one another, where we lived and played as a family and planned for our future.

Resident monks launching a Kome Loy during the Loy Krathong Festival in Chiang Mai, Thailand.
Resident monks launching a Kome Loy during the Loy Krathong Festival in Chiang Mai, Thailand. | Source

After we had done our homework and decided where we wanted to relocate for the next few winters, we immediately called our financial planner and asked for advice. After much deliberation and soul-searching, the wisest choice was to sell our house. We decided we were still young enough (under 45) and if we didn’t touch the profit from the sale, we’d be able to buy back into the market when we returned.

Since we were moving to the other side of the globe, finding a time to call our financial planner wasn’t really an option, so he set up our accounts online. This allowed us to track and monitor our investments from any Internet connection in the world.

Snorkeling off the coast of Koh Racha
Snorkeling off the coast of Koh Racha | Source

We pulled out $15,000 in mad money for flights, visas, passports, etc. and invested the remaining profits from the sale of our home in stocks, mutual funds and bonds. It was crucial that we have a monthly income, so we chose mutual funds that paid monthly dividends, and stocks that we could manage easily. We didn’t want to lose money on stock simply because we couldn’t find an Internet connection that day.

Because we had chosen to sell our house, we made the decision not to touch the profit from the sale, but to live off the interest alone. Once we calculated an estimate of our monthly income, we created an expense sheet.

Monthly income (estimate): $2850

Monthly expenses for a family of four (two children under the age 6)

  • Rent: $500
  • Food: $220
  • Private School with transportation: $175
  • Transportation (2 motorbike rentals): $195
  • Entertainment: $300
  • Shopping: $300
  • Clothing: $50
  • Gifts: $150
  • Misc: $50
  • Total: $1940

Snorkeling and enjoying time on the beach at Bamboo Island.
Snorkeling and enjoying time on the beach at Bamboo Island. | Source

After our arrival, our expense sheet changed a bit. We decided to buy motorbikes instead of renting them, our entertainment budget went up, but our shopping budget went down. But over all we managed to live for under $2100/month once we were settled into our routine. We chose to have high speed Internet installed in our apartment after we arrived, which at the time for Thailand was considered an extravagance. There was literally an Internet café on every street corner, inexpensive to use. However we preferred another option: Having it installed directly at our apartment, and although it was an additional $75/month, the cost was worth it.

We work with the Rain Tree Foundation to help bring clean drinking water by installing bio sand filters to residents of Mae Pun Dung in Northern Thailand.
We work with the Rain Tree Foundation to help bring clean drinking water by installing bio sand filters to residents of Mae Pun Dung in Northern Thailand. | Source

The bonus with the Internet was the ability to blog our adventure and keep in touch with family and friends on the phone using Skype. Our phone bill was less than $10 a month.

We spent our time in Thailand celebrating their holidays, learning their culture, taking Thai language lessons and learning to cook. The kids went to Thai immersion school where they learned Thai in the morning and worked on English and other subjects in the afternoon.

We celebrated Halloween with our new neighbors, Christmas with family, and took many, many road trips and adventures. We visited a tiny village in Northern Thailand and helped bring them clean drinking water. We adventured out on treks through the jungle and foothills. We motorbiked the Golden Triangle, we travelled south to Phuket and swam in the warm waters of the Andaman Sea.

Driving a Scooter in Chiang Mai

We shopped at night markets and local shops, we designed jewelry and had it custom made. We commissioned paintings from local artists, and bought many beautiful hand-crafted items from local tribe members.

We visited Bangkok and the Grand Palace, we took a river boat cruise along the Mekong and ventured north to Pai to celebrate the holidays in the cooler temperatures.

All in all, it was a once in a lifetime, dream come true. An opportunity to grown and learn alongside our children and celebrate our life with them.

Enjoying the sunset on Koh Lanta.
Enjoying the sunset on Koh Lanta. | Source

We kept our adventure going for two years. We stuck to our budgets and we succeeded in keeping our principal intact. We would have been very comfortable living off our investments only while in Thailand. However, working part-time gave us the extra spending money to take family vacations around Asia and enjoy a lifestyle very much like what we had living in California. It also gave us a financial buffer to set up house again when we moved back to California.

An afternoon hike and elephant ride in Northern Thailand.
An afternoon hike and elephant ride in Northern Thailand. | Source

Ziplining Through the Jungle

We’re now back in the “real world” now, and living in Hawaii. But we've definitely been bitten by the travel bug. The life lessons we shared with our children are invaluable. Can’t wait for another epiphany!

Taking a Year Off to Travel

If given the chance, would you take a year off to travel?

See results

© 2015 capobeachmom


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    • Anna C Taylor profile image


      4 years ago from Around the World

      I am so jealous. This is the kind of bold lifestyle I hope to live someday, and I believe it will make your kids better people as well. Travel is the best teacher.

      I'm so jealous that you chose Thailand, as their culture and beautiful country is among the places I most want to visit.

      Thank you for sharing your story.

    • stereomike83 profile image

      Mike Hey 

      4 years ago from UK

      Reading this I am so jealous that you a) got to enjoy this experience but more importantly b) were brave enough to take that leap. I've often dreamed of being able to bring up my own kids in a foreign setting but would always want/need the security blanket of a job!


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