Bonjour, friends. It’s time for some Wednesday inspiration! Welcome, new followers! Introduce yourself and let us know where you reside in the world. We have a great community here and are excited to invite all of you into it.
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.
Today I would like to introduce you to the Hedderman family. Many (and most) of the families featured on this series we have never met in person, however we had the pleasure of meeting this lovely group during our time in Costa Rica. I have been bugging Domini for several months to come on the series so you can imagine I am delighted that she is now here to share her story.
Secondly, we realize that this life is brief and beautiful… and we never really owned any of these things, anyway. ~ Domini Hedderman
What I particularly love about this series (besides being able to look into many different homes) is that we are all able to learn about how other families do this travel life. I am continually enlightened by how differently everyone does it, but also how similar we all are with our travel goals. The Heddermans are part-time here, part-time there and part-time somewhere else. Amazing! It just gives me goosebumps thinking about how adaptable, curious and accepting these young adults are becoming because of this amazing experience.
Breaking out of the herd to travel frequently can be an authentic and stirring experience, one that allows you to appreciate every moment and every location in great depth—but it can also leave you feeling lonely and isolated, and a bit rushed. ~ Domini Hedderman
This post brings up some new topics which we have not discussed yet on this series. First, the idea of house swapping in order to travel. For those of us who travel full-time, this is not a new concept, but for anyone reading this who cannot figure out how to make it all work for reasons that relate to housing, then this is a great option. Thank you, Domini Hedderman, for sharing your house swapping stories and how it has enriched your family life. Secondly, thank you for sharing how you make money. This is a big, huge, gigantic obstacle for many families. I don’t believe we have had any real estate careers on the series so far and if you know me you know that I am a big fan of the real estate angle for a variety of reasons. There are many ways to make the financial end of this lifestyle work and sharing our secrets (ok, maybe they are not secrets) can help anyone that is several years away from launching.
Domini’s words read so smoothly and peacefully. I am sure some of you will be wondering if they can adopt you. It is truly beautiful to read the words of other travelers who have found their groove in this travel lifestyle. Congrats, Hedderman 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 the Heddermans. I’m Domini, mom to four and all-around planner and executor of education and travel. I saw many years ago that, despite living a happy, normal life, something seemed to be missing. For us, travel seemed to fill the voids apparent in the conventional American lifestyle. As a writer, I find travel a necessary part of a creative, mindful life.
Kevin is the primary breadwinner who wasn’t so sure about the travel thing at first, but eventually came around to his wife’s way of thinking. He is a people person and loves any experience where he can get to know other people and their unique perspectives. Travel is a wonderful way to understand how other people think and behave and he enjoys many experiences talking to people from all over the globe.
Andy, 15, takes the role of the “third parent,” and we joke he is probably more responsible than we are. He is already planning a trip on his own, studying abroad for a year in another country (location not yet determined). He loves new experiences and thus is totally on board for our in-and-out lifestyle, though he misses his friends when he’s gone. He also is very good at teaching himself whatever he’s curious about: history, science, ukulele/guitar, theatre, or biking.
Brenny, 14, is our second-born wild child. He loves the outdoors and particularly loves fishing, kayaking, and biking. He also is a great lover of language and seems to be the first to pick up new words and phrases. He is a sensitive soul and has a quirky sense of humor. He’s very social and loves spending time with his friends.
Laura is our third child, age 11. She is a bake-aholic and reads cookbooks for fun. She is also our resident songbird and can’t seem to be able to stop singing. She loves reading, crafts, writing, and hanging out with her cousins and friends. She is as sweet as the cookies she bakes for us almost daily (that is, when we are someplace that has a good kitchen).
Addy, the youngest at age 6, is growing up much too fast. She is a ray of sunshine for all of us and we all probably spoil her. She is a nature lover and loves fairy tales, playing with her dolls, and riding her bike. She is addicted to playgrounds so it is a must that we find the parks wherever we happen to be in the world. As the youngest, she reminds us all to keep playing.
Where are you in the world and what are you living in?
We are able to settle well wherever we happen to be, but our main homes are in Pennsylvania and Florida. We are originally from Pennsylvania, which is where our business, family, and most of our friends happen to be. But, whenever we get the chance, we escape to our little orange house in Florida, which we bought out of foreclosure almost three years ago and renovated top to bottom. We love Florida since it always feels like we are on vacation when we are there, even while we are working and doing school.
Why did you choose to live in your current arrangement?
We chose to buy our house in Florida primarily as an investment, but also as a place to escape whenever we needed to get out of our regular “normal” life or to get a respite from the cold, gray winters up north. The best part about owning a house in Florida came shortly after we bought it and we hit upon a realization that we could swap this property with people from all over the world.
I’d heard about the idea of home exchanging long ago and always wanted to try it. But since we lived in an out-of-the-way, non-touristy place (Erie, Pennsylvania), I never thought anybody would want to exchange with us. When we bought the Florida house, we went to the beach and realized half the people sunbathing there were Europeans. Aha! Quickly, I joined HomeExchange.com and immediately started getting requests from people, especially Europeans from France, Germany, Denmark, Great Britain, Spain, Sweden, and Norway. As we had an upcoming 3-month trip already planned to Costa Rica, we didn’t take any of these people up on their offers. But this past winter, while we were in Merida, Mexico, we got an email from a family who lived in the Loire Valley in France. They wanted to exchange with us for two weeks in August (when many Europeans take their holidays), so we ended up making a deal. In fact, as I write this, I’m sitting in their living room in France and they are enjoying our beloved home in Florida!
What do you do to personalize your unique (less traditional) living situation?
Since our house in Florida is a vacation home, we spent some time thinking about how to furnish it. We made it as fun and relaxing as possible, adding things like a cushion that says “Relax” and wall decor that reminds you to “Breathe.” Even though we spent considerable time, money, and effort decorating the house, almost all the furniture we bought was second-hand, since Florida is a vacation market and thus has lots of quality second-hand furnishings for a fraction of the cost of new stuff.
Sharing our space with other people takes a bit of getting used to. When we leave it, we know that other people will be sleeping in our beds, eating from our dishes, riding our bikes, etc. But we’ve been able to let the idea of ownership go… First of all, when we share with others, it means we’re either earning rent on the property or getting a trip somewhere new and exciting. Secondly, we realize that this life is brief and beautiful… and we never really owned any of these things, anyway.
Tell us your favorite and least favorite room in your space and why?
My favorite room is the screened porch on the back of the house that is connected to the pool and outside patio. I love being outside. In fact, I feel guilty and even unhealthy when I’m inside too long (which is why I HATE winter up north). This porch lets me sit outside while still having comfortable furniture and an outlet for my computer. This past April, I wrote an entire novel in two weeks on that porch.
I don’t really have a least favorite space. The family room, where we watch movies in the evenings, is the least connected with the outdoors. But the time of the day we usually use it is in the evening, when I don’t mind curling up on the couch, anyway.
What is the biggest misconception you had about your current living situation before you started living in it?
I didn’t realize I wouldn’t want to leave. The house is smaller and simpler than our house back in Pennsylvania. It’s a typical 1950s Florida house—small, no garage, tiny galley kitchen. But we opened up a wall in the kitchen to make it one, unified space, painted the walls a pale, sunny yellow, and polished all the windows until they shimmered. The house is flooded with sunshine and, when I’m there, I don’t ever want to leave.
What is the one household item you carry with you every time you move or the one item you cannot live without?
A few things always come with us. A knife sharpener, my purple sarong I bought in Costa Rica many years ago (that can be used as a beach cover-up, a picnic blanket, a table-cloth, or a sun shade), laptops, iphones, portable bluetooth speaker, and as many new books as I can get away with.
What do you miss most about permanent, stationary, traditional living?
Well, we still dip into conventional life every few months, for a few months at a time. So we have times where we feel more “permanent” and “traditional.” We leave so often, however, that I still sometimes feel nostalgic for a “normal life.” The kids don’t go to school, for instance, so we don’t have that built-in community that comes from being part of an institution like a school. We miss some life events like our friend’s 40th birthday party next weekend. It’s also sometimes difficult to start classes, be involved in a theatrical production, or volunteer anywhere, since we’re only in one place for a few months at a time. Breaking out of the herd to travel frequently can be an authentic and stirring experience, one that allows you to appreciate every moment and every location in great depth—but it can also leave you feeling lonely and isolated, and a bit rushed.
What is the one item your children carry with them to make their unique (less traditional) home more comfortable?
Ha Ha…! We don’t leave home without her. “Ha Ha,” a small pink blanket doll that our 6-year-old received when she was two months old, has been more places in the world than most Americans. She is our constant companion. She endured being washed by hand in Belize in our off-grid place by the sea, saw waterfalls in Costa Rica, visited a castle in France, and was gifted with a colorful, little sombrero in Mexico.
Do you have a pet joining you in this journey? If so, has this been complicated? Any advice?
Nope. Not at the moment. We once had a beloved dog, Shelby, a 75-pound golden/St. Bernard mix, who we gave up when we took our first six-trip to Belize. She went to live on a farm (not the big farm in the sky, just a regular farm!) and she is probably happier there on those wide acres than in our cluttered little suburb where she got put in a box and wasn’t allowed to let her true dogness shine.
What is your best resource to find items you need for your place?
Second-hand stores and Craigslist ads. We furnished our whole place (except for the linens, pillows, etc.) with second-hand stuff.
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.
Natural light. Hands down. When there is no natural light in a house, I feel like I’m in prison. (More practically, I guess, we also need good Internet, especially since that’s how we keep the wheels going on our business back home.)
How do you keep traditions alive for your family in your unique living situation?
Good question. We never know whether we will be in Pennsylvania or Florida or perhaps another, more temporary place, like Costa Rica, Mexico, Belize, France, Italy, or a couple-month roadtrip across the United States. We’ve realized that the house has nothing to do with our life. Where we are and who we are have nothing to do with each other. The constancy of self—and thus personal habits and traditions—transcends location.
So we read at night together, or watch a favorite show like MASH or Andy Griffith (if TV is available where we are). We jump in the car (or bus) and go “see what there is to see.” We tell jokes, learn, play, walk, bike, fish, and swim. Wherever we are.
How do you decorate for the holidays in your unique (less traditional) home or do you skip it all together?
The last couple of years, we’ve spent Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas in our Florida house. Since it’s a home we share with others, we don’t have stacks of holiday boxes to bring down from the attic, as we do in Pennsylvania. So we simplified. We buy a little tree from the hardware store and decorate it with homemade decorations, strings of popcorn, and a few second-hand ornaments we bought from thrift shops. We cut out paper snowflakes and strung them along the kitchen counter. We hung a couple of strands of white lights in the screened porch. And that was it! Christmas is not about decorations or physical things. It’s about experience, love, and hope.
What is your favorite part about this lifestyle choice?
Well, I love warm weather, love the beach, love sunshine, love the outdoors. So, obviously, I would love Florida. That said, the best aspect of having bought this house is its exchange value. We already traded it with a family from Quebec City, Canada, for a week this past spring and had a great time in their house, biking around the city and driving out to beautiful rural locations. Now, as I mentioned, we are in France, in another cool house in the Loire Valley, this time for two weeks. Florida seems to be a popular destination so we think we’ll be able to swap our little orange house for years to come.
Many traveling families subscribe to the “house is not a home” theory. What is home to you?
I would agree with that. Home is wherever our family is.
What makes you love the place you live?
Sunshine, living spaces that are incorporated with the outdoors, views of clouds and lush greenery, and books all around. Plus, there’s the oxymoron of a simplicity, a lack of clutter, combined with the happy chaos of my children running around, singing and laughing, and generally making those sounds of joy only children make.
Can home be a person, or an idea?
Sure, home is where we all are. Home is the comfortable feeling you have when you’re content in yourself and in the company of your loved ones.
Words of wisdom to anyone considering venturing out into the world of unique, less traditional homes?
I’d say go for it. Some of us need the constancy of one house. But I would argue you miss the delight of unique experiences if you get too stuck on one place. Rooting your feet to one place is comforting but this method of living won’t let you fly.
What is next for you? Will you continue to live in your current home or try something different?
We plan to back-and-forth it for a while. In France/Italy for five weeks this time, then back to Florida for a week or two, then back to Pennsylvania for a month, then back to Florida for a few months. Then (you guessed it) back to Pennsylvania, where we’re finishing up some renovations. After that (January 2017 and on), we may take another trip—yes, exchanging with someone!—or we may stay put. Our son Andy will be leaving for his year abroad next August. At this point, we don’t have specific plans beyond the next few months. We do know that there are so many places in the world we’d like to get to know—and are always open to where the winds might blow us. We look forward to many years of traveling.
How do you educate your children?
We are worldschoolers. We do more “book work” when we’re settled somewhere in our home country and more experiential learning when we are traveling (so we can pack light).
Our oldest is in 10th grade. He plans to do a year studying abroad, but hasn’t chosen his country yet. He will also enroll in some dual enrollment classes through local colleges (either in Florida or Pennsylvania) in order to get a jumpstart on college. Beyond that, he has not yet decided what his specific plans are.
How do you make a living?
My husband and I own a real estate rental business. I also do some writing on the side.
Quote to ponder:
Home is the comfortable feeling you have when you’re content in yourself and in the company of your loved ones.
Amazing, right? Who wants to travel to here, there and everywhere with their tribe of kids? It is possible, you see it every week right here on Inside A Traveler’s Walls. These are real people like you and me!
Thanks again Domini! I can’t wait until our travel paths cross again. You know where to find us for the next year.