wagoners abroad

Proving Long-Term Family Travel is Awesome, Meet the Wagoners Abroad!

Growing up in a traveling family, I was bitten by the travel bug early.  So I love it when I see other families traveling and blogging about their experiences, especially when they are traveling long-term!  One such family is the Wagoners – they decided to leave their “normal” and lead a more unconventional one abroad, proving that you can travel extensively with kids.  So as a part of our ongoing “Love of Travel” series, take a few minutes to be inspired by this family of 4, and be sure to check out their website Wagoners Abroad.

Tell us a little bit about yourself and how Wagoners Abroad came to be.

I am Heidi Wagoner and I am married to Alan and we have 2 kids, Lars (14) and Anya (12).  We were your typical family of 4, with all the boxes checked for living the American dream.   Living on a suburban street, in a big house, a big yard, loads of stuff, 2 cars and 2 successful careers.  We had it all and gave it all up 4 years ago!

Even with all of that life wasn’t perfect or fulfilling.  We were both on the hamster wheel of life, just going through the motions of getting up, going to work, spending a couple of hours a day with our kids and just rinse and repeat.  There just had to be more.

Our passion is travel; in fact that is how Alan and I met over 20 years ago in Cozumel Mexico.  So we needed to get back on track.  The economy was taking a dive and so many people we knew were losing their jobs.  We knew it was just a matter of time for us, either months or years, but it would likely happen.

We decided to take destiny into our own hands and lay ourselves off from work.  After much saving and planning it all came into play.  We sold our home, most of our belongings and quit our jobs, summer 2012.  We hopped on a plane and moved out little family to Spain.  It was just meant to be for a year or two, but now we have the taste of the travel lifestyle and are going to keep it going as long as we can.

The Wagoners Abroad – in Costa Del Sol Spain

So many people feel like you can’t travel with kids, especially long-term.  What is your advice to them — and would you recommend it?

My advice is to follow your passion and be true to who you are.  If travel is your dream then your kids and family are part of that.  I find it fascinating to travel with the kids and see a new perspective on the things we experience.  It does allow us to go at slightly slower pace compared to our twenty something backpacking years, but that is really a good thing.  We no longer just want to check a country or sight off of our list.  We want to embrace and experience as much as we can and make that lasting memory or moment.

There is no doubt I would recommend travel with kids, even if they are very young.  So many people think you shouldn’t waste your money on taking the kids places, because they won’t remember.  I beg to differ, as you are creating the foundation of their being.  You are exposing them to things which are forming the building blocks of their lives.  They don’t need to remember it all for it to be part of who they are.  Actually, you would be very happy to know they sometimes remember things I don’t.

As a traveling family, what are your top tips to help make things go smoothly on the road and continue to keep everyone happy?  Because it’s not just one or two people living this lifestyle.

Oh wow, I could probably write a book on this one.  I would say I have 3 main tips to keep some harmony in the family.

1. Travel at a pace that works for the entire family.

We have been nomadic and moved at a fast pace of changing places every 3-7 days and also staying in places for a few months.  We have traveled from a home base in Spain as well.  A little variety is nice, but we have all come to learn that we get along better with the slower travel.  We prefer either having a home base or spending at least a month or more in one location.

2 .Make sure you have snacks

When the bellies are full, the family is happier.  If we didn’t plan for a delay or decided to “eat along the way”, only to find there was no place to eat.  That is when things start to unravel.  Just keep snacks with you and it helps get you through the times when everyone isn’t hungry at the same time or those moments when it is going to be a long day.

3. Go with the flow

I probably should have listed this one first, as it is just how it has to be.  No matter how much you research, plot and plan, the unexpected can and will happen.  It is best to just go with the flow and not let it take charge of the moment.  Make the most of whatever you have.  One of my favorite stories is our 15 hour train journey from Bangkok to Chiang Mai.

We arrived at the train station in Bangkok to purchase overnight train tickets to Chiang Mai.  We read all about the long journey and knew we wanted an air conditioned sleeper car.  Well that just wasn’t possible due to the Queen’s birthday and a long weekend.  If we wanted that, we would have to wait 5 days!

We decided to buy any tickets they had available, which were second class seats, with no a/c and no bed.  This was going to be a long 15 hours!  As it turned out, we met the most amazing people, became great friends and the time just flew by.  That experience stayed with all of us and the kids still have fond memories of that journey.  Read more about journey on the night train from Bangkok to Chiang Mai.

Describe your travel style to us, and what you love about it most?

Oh that is tough, as we are really all over the board with this.  We are typically more of a flashpacker family.  That said we sometimes treat ourselves to the luxury and other times wing it in a hostel.  It all depends on where we are and what experience we are looking for.  We like to get to know the locals and go off the standard tourist route a bit.  Of course we also enjoy that standard tourist sights too.

wagoners-abroad-stonehenge-england-1-1What has been your most memorable moment during your travels (Heidi and / or each of you) and why?

Oh there are far too many to choose from.  For me, I absolutely loved our experience on the 2-day Mekong river slow boat from Thailand to Laos.  Again, we met amazing people and still keep in touch with them 2 years later.  It is great to see the kids interact with adults and really hold their own conversations.  They are soaking up the world one moment at a time and becoming educated global citizens.


Another impactful experience was visiting Elephant Nature Park in Chiang Mai Thailand.  We spent the full day feeding, bathing and being with rescue elephants.  It was eye opening and amazing for us all.

wagoners-abroad-at-elephant-nature-park-chiang-mai-thailand-1-1Through this journey, what you have you learned about yourself and your family?

I have learned that we can all follow our dreams and really do anything we set our minds to.  We don’t have to live the cookie cutter life to be happy; we just need to live life.  I wouldn’t trade any of this for the world.  I am so thrilled that we are able to spend good quality time with our kids.  As a family we have become so close and are all very open with each other.  When you are living in tight quarters or on the road often, it somewhat forces communication to occur and great communication makes a happier and more cohesive family.

What does the future hold for the Wagoners?  Do you intend on continuing your traveling lifestyle for the long-term?

We have absolutely no idea.  For now we will continue as long as we can or until we come up with something else.  We will keep our home base in southern Spain and travel on school holidays.  We just returned from an Epic 8 week European road trip, so we all just want to stay put for a while.  The kids have great friends in Spain and we live in the perfect place, with gorgeous views of the Mediterranean Sea.

We offer consulting services and an ebook to help others move to Spain or just come for a visit.  To date we have helped hundreds and would love to see that grow.  If you need any help or advice you know where to find us.

wagonersabroad_annecy_france-2-640x381What’s on your bucket list for future travel as a family, and why?

We still want to visit Iceland, Eastern Europe, South America and southern Africa.  Slowly but surely we will visit it all.  We like to see different cultures, taste new foods and experience different things.  Alan and I have been to 50+ countries and the kids are at about 28 or so.  While we aren’t just checking countries off of our list, it sure does add up over time.

** All photos were kindly provided by Wagoners Abroad

wagoners-abraod-at-chai-lai-orchid-outside-of-chiang-mai-thailand-family-fun-1We want to thank the Wagoners for being a part of our Love of Travel Series and sharing their awesome story!

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 FacebookPinterestYouTube and many of the other social media channels.

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