about

July

2015

Inside a Traveler’s Walls: Jennifer St. Louis

INSIDE A TRAVELER'S WALLS

jl_3

jl_1

jl_2

jl_4

jl_6

jl_7

jl_8

jl_9

jl_11

jl_12

jl_13

jl_14

jl_15

Hola friends. It’s Wednesday again and time for IATW! Today I am writing to you from a very remote area on the Pacific coast of Costa Rica. We have an internet connection, but it is pretty slow and our phones don’t work at all, hence the lack of IG pictures. Get ready for massive amounts of uploads on Friday.

Our family today comes to you from Cozumel, Mexico. Are you ready to be inspired? They are a family of five, plus two cats. We have met many families who travel with their pets, obviously accommodations have to be made, but overall everyone is happy with the pets in tow. Our kids have been bugging us about getting a cat. We have told them it is not out of the question, but not today either. I would like another pet as well, but I am currently still mourning the loss of Peanut.

I love spending so much time with our amazing boys. We have the luxury of not worrying about homework or schedules. We just get to enjoy each other. It’s priceless.

Do you think travel is all rainbows and unicorns? Wait until you read about Jennifer’s many trials and tribulations regarding her rental homes in Mexico. I have to laugh when people think this life is all margaritas by the beach and bottomless bowls of salsa. It is fabulous, but it is definitely work as well.

Boy do I understand the food cravings Jennifer. We left Los Angeles eight years ago and we are STILL missing In N Out Burger. I can totally relate!!! If you have never had an In N Out Burger then put it on you list. It is well worth it.

Be prepared for most everyone in your life who has not traveled extensively to disapprove strongly, and then be prepared for anyone who has traveled extensively to say “YES!  YES!  Do it! You won’t regret it. Where are you going? Can I come?

This family travels with minimal belongings and they maintain simplified schedules. When I first read Jennifer’s words I could feel the calm of their life in her thoughts. There is such magic in the calm. Have you ever dreamed of ditching the commitments, activities, shuttling kids here and there? Well, Jennifer and her family did it and it has been a success? Are you inspired? The time to go is now, don’t put it off.

Ok, enough of my chatter, grab your coffee and get comfy. Dream big folks. Make it happen. There is no guarantee of a tomorrow. I am honored to have the St. Louis family featured in the IATW series. I hope they are an inspiration for you.

Introduce us to the people you travel with?
Rich is a tech guru, fabulous chef, master of linguistics and navigator of foreign lands. He’s usually found with his head in a laptop, but enjoys the beach, shopping in local markets and swimming with the boys.

Harrison is a 13-year-old graphic designer who loves logo design. He has developed a following on game boards, designing logos and banners for indie game developers. He prefers all-inclusive resorts and luxury accommodations. He loves water sports, but misses his friends and high-speed internet connections. His favorite country is the UK.

Aidan is our 9 year old family peacekeeper. He loves building shops in Minecraft and cuddling with mom. He’s always up for a hike or a snorkel. He wants to see Brazil but can’t wait to settle down so he can get a puppy.

Miles is also 9 years old. He is an artist, minecraft builder and swimmer. He would love to go back to Spain. He loves speed boats and wave surfing. Of all 3 kids, he embraces traveling the most.

Jen keeps the whole circus troupe functional. She has a keen sense of when the boys are hungry or tired, and makes sure we balance our time between education, fun and family time together. She’s developed amazing packing skills in our travels, and can be counted on to find the band-aid or tylenol somewhere in our things on a moment’s notice.

Cody – Cody is Harrison’s 4 year old Tabby cat who hates traveling altogether. He spends his days trying to escape and explore the jungle.

Rose – also known as “Baby Kitty” is fine with new homes but is not a fan of airplanes and ferries. She loves tile floors and stairs. She spends her days hunting anything that moves, and that includes Cody, dust bunnies and our feet.

Where are you in the world and what are you living in?
We are currently living in a 3 bedroom villa in Cozumel, Mexico. It’s a vacation rental that we found on VRBO and the owner was happy to let us rent it for 2 months with 2 cats.

Why did you choose to live in your current arrangement?
It’s all about the cats! In 2013 we took off on our first long term trip to Europe. We sold our home and cars. We re-homed our beloved dogs but my son’s cat Cody was a deal breaker. So we sent him to stay with my mom at her over 55 community in Fresno, CA. One week into our trip, my mom informed us that her dog had chased Cody out the front door and he was nowhere to be found. Harrison was devastated!  7 months later we returned to California. Harrison made fliers and went door to door until he found his cat. We promised to keep him close after that.

So fast forward 6 months and one kitten later. We wanted to hit the road again, but had to take the cats. Our solution was Mexico. It is the perfect combination of low rent, 6 month visas and it’s easy to import a cat. We keep a home base for the cats and travel around Central America on mini trips. It’s very easy to find house sitters who want to visit Mexico!

How do you make a living?
Rich works full time as a Software Engineer so we can travel wherever there is an Internet connection. Because he works full time we tend to slow travel. He works flexible hours so we can go out and explore and then he makes up the time on weekends. We also have a small family company with our oldest son. We make iOS apps. Rich does the programming and Harrison and I do the design. It’s fun to do as a family and hopefully one day it will support us.

What do you do to personalize your unique (less traditional) living situation?
We try to travel light and have foregone most personal items. We don’t feel the need to add to the space. We just try to enjoy it the way it is.

Tell us your favorite and least favorite room in your space and why?
In our current house, my favorite place is the courtyard. It has adobe walls covered with pink Bougainvillea and a small pool to cool off on those hot Mexico days. I also really like the master bedroom which features the first comfortable bed that I have found in Mexico. All of the other beds have had hard mattresses and sandpaper sheets!

We have had several issues with rentals since living in Mexico including realtors climbing over bushes to have their clients look in our window, major construction jobs going before 8 am on Saturdays and the landlord forgetting to pay her water bill and it takes several days to turn it back on. But, so far this house is fantastic!

What is the biggest misconception you had about your current location before you started living in it?
I don’t think I had one.

What is the one household item you carry with you every time you move?
We pack a knife and cutting board, as you can never predict whether they’ll be dull or missing, and it makes it hard to cook.

What do you miss most about permanent, traditional living?
We love our life but we do miss some things. We miss our friends and family. We miss having a dog. The boys miss English language TV and In N Out burger.

What is the one item your child carries with him to make his temporary bedroom more comfortable? 
The boys each have their own pillow and a couple of toys. The cats make them feel at home no matter where we are.

How do you school your children?
I’m not sure how to define our schooling style. The boys do math and science online. Aidan and Miles maintain a blog. Harrison takes online programming classes and all 3 kids study Spanish. When we started out we were doing online school full time but have gradually progressed towards letting the boys lead their education. It is working well for us now.

What is your best resource to find items you need for your place?
It can be hard to find the things we need in Mexico. It’s hard to find quality clothes and electronics. Expats groups are very helpful and we have been able to find some of the things we need from networking.

If you could only have one of the following in your home which one would it be and why?
space, natural light, dishwasher or above average internet.
Internet is the most important thing for us. We need it for work, school and so that our boys can keep in touch with their friends. So far, the internet has been fairly stable in Mexico, and faster than many parts of Europe. This villa has a dishwasher and we are so excited!  It’s the first place in Mexico that has had one and it’s a great luxury.

If you could compare your unique (less traditional) decorating style to a kitchen appliance or gadget what would it be and why?
I guess it would be a cast iron skillet. We fill the space temporarily and don’t stick, but we often seem to leave it slightly better than before, leaving behind electric tea kettles, spatulas, cutting boards, spices and other assorted items.

How do you keep traditions alive for your family in your unique living situation?
We cuddle on the bed and watch our favorite show a couple of times per week. Every weekend we play a family game of Minecraft. We go to the beach to snorkel and remind ourselves how lucky we are to be living in such a beautiful place.

How do you decorate for the holidays in your unique (less traditional) home or do you skip it all together?
We have really failed at the holiday traditions this time around. We missed Easter completely and the boys were pretty upset when they realized. We celebrated a few weeks after with a candy hunt in the backyard. In the future we will need to be more on top of holidays as they are so important to the boys.

What is your favorite part about this lifestyle choice?
I love spending so much time with our amazing boys. We have the luxury of not worrying about homework or schedules. We just get to enjoy each other. It’s priceless. I love waking up every day to another adventure. Or planning the next big move and going where we want and when we want. Everyday we feel so lucky to have this time together.

Many traveling families subscribe to the “house is not a home” theory. What is home to you?
A home to me is wherever we are, as long as we are together.

What makes you love the place you live?
This villa is so perfect for us. We can play in the pool, walk to the beach, grocery store or a restaurant. Every morning at 8am a lovely man named Javier comes by with his churro cart and delivers warm pastries to our door. It’s perfect!

Words of wisdom to anyone considering venturing out into the world of unique, less traditional living?
Just do it! There is such freedom in giving away your possessions and living out of a suitcase. Being away from schedules, homework and deadlines is amazing. We have been taught that we must follow a certain path, but it’s not for everyone. The world is a fascinating place, and despite our perceived national or cultural differences, people everywhere share a lot more in common than they realize.

Anything else you would like offer?
Be prepared for most everyone in your life who has not traveled extensively to disapprove strongly, and then be prepared for anyone who has traveled extensively to say “YES!  YES!  Do it! You won’t regret it. Where are you going? Can I come?”

Quote to ponder: We have been taught that we must follow a certain path, but it’s not for everyone. The world is a fascinating place, and despite our perceived national or cultural differences, people everywhere share a lot more in common than they realize.

Thank you St. Louis family for sharing your story and inspiring us. Anyone else ready to head to Mexico with me?

Have a fantastic day!

Besos,
Jessica

COMMENTS (5)

5 thoughts on “Inside a Traveler’s Walls: Jennifer St. Louis

  1. What a great idea to make this serie!
    We met Jennifer and her family a few months ago, our kids have similar ages and have a great time together! Now we are taking care of their lovely kitties while they travel 🙂

    1. Thanks Lorena. I am so glad I started it as well. I love reading about how others are living the life less ordinary. Thanks for commenting. Be sure to like Goodie Goodie Gumdrop so we can keep in touch. Cheers.

Leave a Reply