Hola, friends! I’m still alive! I don’t have a good excuse except that we have been selling the remaining 15% of our stuff that we had in storage (still keeping 5% for sentimental reasons), catching up with family/friends, working, and developing our new business. Honestly, it is frustrating and exhausting, emotional and freeing, hopeful and exciting all at the same time. I am working on a post about the whole process of coming back and simplifying again. I plan to share it either tomorrow or at the beginning of next week. We are doing one final estate sale tomorrow and then the rest is getting donated!!! It feels so good. Maybe the next time we come back, we can just enjoy everyone instead of working ourselves to death.
If you are new here, I would like to introduce you to our weekly series “Inside a Traveler’s Walls” where we feature families living in less traditional, unique homes. If you think you might be one of those families and are interested in being profiled, please contact me for details.
One year in Vietnam, we drew a tree on a piece of paper and had a fire going on our laptop with holiday music playing. ~ Heidi Wagoner
Today I would like to introduce you to Heidi Wagoner and the Wagoner family of Spain. Another amazing story of a family that took off for just a short trip and now they are four years in. One day, not that long ago, they quit their jobs, sold everything, and dove into the unknown. Now they have kids in local public schools, holiday adventures, an abundance of family time, and a zest for life. Are you dreaming about this life and how you can do it? Good! These stories of real people and their travel homes are why I do this series. People are doing this! Real people!
They see the world in a different perspective and have amazing social skills. They are friends with kids from school, the 20-30 something nomadic backpackers as well as the parents and grandparents of the world. ~ Heidi Wagoner
I think one of the big takeaways from this family is how they went from so much (in regards to home and possessions) to so little (space and stuff) and are still happy. So many people think their happiness level will go down and in all actuality, it goes up. I know we are much happier not being saddled to our stuff, the maintenance, and the cost. Love the spatula! You will have to read the post to find out what the heck I am talking about.
Besides the inspiration portion of this series I truly enjoy the traditions everyone shares. I love how each traveler keeps traditions alive (their fireplace concept rocks). I have kept four boxes of Christmas decorations in our storage because they have sentimental meaning. However, we have yet to go “all out” for a holiday on the road. We too make it work with what we have and our holidays are still full of joy. It’s funny how being in the US makes us feel so pressured to go over the top when it comes to the holidays.
I can relate to so much of what Heidi Wagoner shares with us. I could see us hanging out with this lovely family swapping travel stories. Maybe one day. But for now, I just want to share them and their amazing journey. I know I say this every post, but I just love this family.
So, enough of my chatter. Grab a cup of coffee, a comfy seat and get ready to be inspired.
Introduce us to the people you live with?
We are a family of 4, so a Dad and Mom (Alan and Heidi) as well as Lars (14) and Anya (11).
– Alan is the tech and gadget geek, he loves chatting about world affairs and politics and is very easy-going and full of great stories.
– Heidi is the control freak, travel planner and financial freak in the family. I am always on the lookout for creating experiences and making memories.
– Lars is the family perfectionist and full of the most amazing creative ideas and deep thoughts. He loves to work on producing and editing videos and loves to hang out around town with his friends. Of course being a teen, he does enjoy his alone time, which mainly consists of sleeping.
– Anya is our little packet of sugar and spice. She loves keeping a messy room no matter where we are. She is very social, caring and helpful (when she isn’t asked to help).
We have all traveled so closely with each other for so long, we understand clearly how to push each other’s buttons and how to avoid doing so. We all have cycles, tell-tell signs and moods, so it is a fun game trying to all have the emotional intelligence to pay attention to it all.
Where are you in the world and what are you living in?
During the school year, we are living in a 3 bed 2 bath condo on the beach in southern Spain. Once a school holiday hits, we are usually on the road. This may mean we are in an apartment, hotel, hostel, camping, boat, train, plane, bus station, or villa. We spent a year nomadic in Southeast Asia, so we have slept just about everywhere you can imagine.
Why did you choose to live in your current arrangement?
We originally wanted to live the life of travel for 18 months – 2 years. Our main goal was to connect as a family and be available for each other. This was our dream, rather than continue the hamster wheel we were in of working 50+hours a week and just seeing each other a couple of hours a day. We felt Europe was a baby step away from our home country in the USA and thought it would be best to ease into travel. So we saved money, quit our jobs, and just moved. Now nearly 4 years later, we love this lifestyle and are going to continue open-ended.
What do you do to personalize your unique (less traditional) living situation?
Ha! Our stamp of personalization is a bunch of shoes by the front door and electronics (laptops, ipad, cameras, phones) plugged in all over the house with various adapters. Our digital life means the world to us, as we can capture, make and save memories with very little physical space being taking. It is all portable, so this is how we roll.
Tell us your favorite and least favorite room in your space and why?
My least favorite room is our downstairs bathroom. We live in a terraced apartment, built into the cliffs overlooking the Mediterranean Sea. It is an upside down house, which means at the front street level you walk into our main living space. This is where you will find the laundry room, small kitchen, bathroom and living / dining area. It is a trip down the spiral staircase to reach the bedrooms and an additional bath. Because we are built into a hill, the back bedroom and bathroom are more like a little cave. There are no windows and natural light or fresh air. That is what I dislike the most, but as long as we leave the doors open it works.
Not that this is a room, but I don’t particularly like the lack of storage and furnishings in our place. That is just what you get when you rent a furnished place, but it also means we aren’t tied down with owning “stuff”. The owner of our apartment has many of the cabinets full of his personal items, so we are left with using the exposed shelves for our belongings. It works out well, but just looks cluttered and messy. Anything we don’t want or need, like a high chair and play pen, are all bundled up and stored under our spiral staircase.
What is the biggest misconception you had about your current living situation before you started living in it?
We felt it was going to be too small for us and we would all get on each other’s nerves. We downsized from a 4800+ sq ft home in the USA, into a 1000 sq ft apartment in Spain. After spending 2 years in this space and then traveling around Southeast Asia for a year, we returned to the same apartment in Spain. Now it feels like a perfect sized space for us. We realized the more space we had the more we would clutter up with things. Of course when nomadic we adjusted very well to extremely small spaces. We each only had 1 bag and a back pack, so we didn’t need as much.
We also thought Europe would be an expensive place to live. We have a furnished 3 bedroom, 2 bathroom apartment with a “to die for” sea view, all for $700 a month!
What is the one household item you carry with you every time you move or the one item you cannot live without?
Call me crazy, but I usually carry an old broken silicon spatula around with me. Yes it traveled all over Asia too. It is small, lightweight, and makes my life easier when we have a cooking space to use. When we have a rental we never know what we will find in the kitchen. This is my one go to item which makes me feel at home.
What do you miss most about permanent, stationary, traditional living?
We miss several things, but most of it is “stuff”. I know the guys miss owning every video gaming console and Alan misses his tools to work on things. All of which we can get in Spain too, but don’t really have a need or the space. There really isn’t too much more that we miss. I guess that is why we just keep going, as the pros outweigh the cons. While we might miss certain foods and spaces, we gain exposure to so much more as we continue with our lifestyle. In essence, we miss stuff from everywhere we have been.
What is the one item your children carry with them to make their unique (less traditional) home more comfortable?
The kids each have their own blankets from when they were little. Yes they are now 11 & 14, but still have their small blankets to sleep with. They were small enough to easily fit in a carry on while we were nomadic too, so the blankets have traveled the world. By no means are these security blankets, but just something to have handy to cover up on a bus, train, plane or in a bed.
Do you have a pet joining you in this journey? If so, has this been complicated? Any advice? No pets, but we get our fix by doing housesits along the way. In August we will have a housesit in the French Alps, with a 9 month old chocolate lab puppy. We are all very excited about our summer plans!
What is your best resource to find items you need for your place?
We usually find what we need at the grocery store or the equivalent to a dollar store. It is rare we need larger items.
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.
Ooh that is a tough question. My first gut reaction was natural light, but I think that is mainly for me. I think the family would all agree that internet is key for our lifestyle. This is how we remain connected with family and friends around the world and keep this lifestyle going.
If you were to compare your unique (less traditional) home decorating style to a kitchen appliance or gadget what would it be and why?
First of all, we don’t really decorate at all, we just take in what is already there. So, to answer your question, while it isn’t really an appliance, I would say our style is like a spice rack. Just a little pinch of this or that here and there. We don’t have many “things” of ours in our daily life, so just a small touch of our temporary artwork or belongings display our personal touch.
How do you keep traditions alive for your family in your unique living situation?
That has been no problem at all, as our traditions are portable too! We have creative ways we give gifts, by making puzzles, digital packages, games, scavenger hunts etc. Christmas was almost always on the go no matter where we have lived, so that is our tradition.
We also carry around a “birthday hat” and have used that for many years. It usually follows us where ever we go and that is a tradition of ours as well.
How do you decorate for the holidays in your unique (less traditional) home or do you skip it all together?
It is rare for us to decorate in our home, as we usually have plans to travel. We usually create some way to decorate no matter where we are. If we don’t have means to have a tree, we will figure out how to make one. Sometimes it is with branches found or perhaps a drawing hanging on the wall. One year in Vietnam, we drew a tree on a piece of paper and had a fire going on our laptop with holiday music playing. We had 3 rooms at this location, as Grandma was traveling with us. We just moved the tree and the music around to each room.
What is your favorite part about this lifestyle choice?
The bond we have as a family and being present for our children. We love seeing them soak up culture, nature, languages and becoming world citizens. They see the world in a different perspective and have amazing social skills. They are friends with kids from school, the 20-30 something nomadic backpackers as well as the parents and grandparents of the world. Age, race, religion, upbringing and borders aren’t limitations in their world. They have a safe environment to be very independent and live a healthy active life.
Many traveling families subscribe to the “house is not a home” theory. What is home to you?
Home is our family and all of the memories we have made around the world. We spend 3 months in one apartment in Thailand or a couple of weeks at a hostel in Siem Reap and those were home to us too. Home is us! Where ever we are, we create home and have memories of that home. I recall one day, when flying from Singapore to Japan, Lars stated that we were officially homeless once again. And then he quickly corrected himself and said, well actually we are just living on a plane today. Sometimes home on a 12 hour sleeper train or bus and at times on a ferry too.
What makes you love the place you live?
You can’t beat our sea views, as well as the simple and tranquil lifestyle of our little Spanish beach town. We have close access to travel around Europe and sometimes even inexpensive flights to other parts of the world. We make the most out of any location we are in. The key is to just enjoy the moment and appreciate what you have right now.
Can home be a person, or an idea?
You bet, home can be a person, idea, food, song or even a smell. Whatever triggers that memory of giving you comfort, security, and love. We have many memories around the world, which give us that home feeling. It may just take talking about a fruit smoothie or street food in Thailand and a big smile will come over us. This just proves it is a fond memory and what better thing to be “home”?
Words of wisdom to anyone considering venturing out into the world of unique, less traditional homes?
My best advice is to just roll with the punches and make the most of what you have in front of you today. Don’t dream about what could be or what was, just enjoy the now.
Anything else you would like offer?
Travel opens your eyes and especially your hearts. There is a misconception that travel is expensive and it doesn’t have to be. If you have the will, you find the way. We spend about 1/3 of what we did when we lived with a traditional life in the USA. You get crafty, smart and wise as you go.
What is next for you? Will you continue to live in your current home or try something different?
Ah what is next? Well summer starts in a few days and we are off on an epic 8 week summer road trip. We will cover Spain and southern France, so we will be on the move to about 10-12 locations during that time. Our home will become the car, a villa, apartments, hotels and who knows what else. We are all excited about it and about 5-6 weeks in, we will see if our personal space buttons get pushed. This is usually our limit for “fast travel” before the tension is high. We have done our best this time to help prevent it from happening, so it will be fun to see how it all turns out and to see if we have learned from the past.
How so you educate your kids?
The kids attend public school in Spain and we usually travel on school holidays. That said we always supplement their education at home and always have. When we were nomadic, they were homeschooled/worldschooled by us and our travels. You can read more about that year here.
How do you make a living?
We are still living off of the savings we thought would last just 2 years. We have been able to supplement dipping into that savings all of the time with small income streams around. We have provide consultations for moving to Spain and obtaining residency, we have ebooks and make a small income from ads and affiliate links on our blog. None of it is enough to completely fund our life, but it all helps keep it going. We get into more details here.
Quote to Ponder
Travel opens your eyes and especially your hearts.
Heidi and Alan Wagoner are passionate about travel (50+ countries) and both authors of the popular travel blog Wagoners Abroad. In Aug 2012, they left the “perfect American life”. They quit their jobs, sold their belongings and moved to Southern Spain, with their 2 kids (Lars and Anya). They also spent a year as nomads exploring Southeast Asia. They are now back in Spain as their home base and continue to embrace the world.
They have inspired hundreds of people to visit Spain and helped many actually move to Spain as well. They are a true source of inspiration and proof you can make your dreams come true. Follow them on their blog, Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Pinterest or Instagram.
Let’s go! Thank you Heidi for sharing your home and your travel life. I am so ready to head to Spain, but the kids picked France so that is where we will go.
Don’t you just love where they live? Can you visualize it? I think it sounds blissful. We might have to pay them a visit since we will be so close.