March Book Club: At Home in the World

woman holding globe
Photo by Slava Bowman on Unsplash

Imagine this: you are offered the chance to travel the world for 9 months. You can work remotely, thus providing an income during your travel. You can visit anywhere and in any order. You are limited only by funds and time; the itinerary and the world are your oyster.

Oh, and you are taking your children with you.

at home in the worldWould you be able to do it?

That’s just what Tsh Oxenreider and her family set out to do. And they accomplish it. She details their life and travels in At Home in the World, a memoir of travel and life abroad with 3 children. Not every location and plan is successful, yet their year is filled with unique experiences and memories.

Tsh Oxenreider (pronounced “Tish”) is an author, podcaster, and entrepreneur. She started a website called “The Art of Simple” while she and her family lived in Turkey. What started as a small blog about cross-cultural living, grew into a massively successful site on simple living. She has published 3 books, and she’s been featured in countless publications. She and her family currently call Texas home but have lived and traveled around the world.

Tsh and her husband were travelers before and during their marriage.

As I mentioned before, they lived in Turkey for 3 years with young children. They actually met in Kosovo while working on separate humanitarian missions! Their relationship and life were built on travel and adventure; even with a growing family, the world seemed to be calling.

Tsh wrote, “I was infected with an incurable sense of wanderlust, but I was also a homebody.” Both of them felt that travel itch, despite the comforts of home and normal life. They had been earmarking money for a global trip for years. They also wanted to show their kids the world and expose them to it at a young age.

It would be a gift of experience; a year immersed in varying cultures, traditions, places, and people.

It wasn’t easy, even from the beginning.

luggage with safari hat and palm leaves
Photo by STIL on Unsplash

I like that Tsh was honest about all of the experiences. It was difficult to sell their home. Packing everything you may need for 9 months in a backpack was a logistical challenge. Convincing your young children to give up possessions and haul their lives on their backs for an extended period of time was not easy. Some travel plans and locations looked better on paper; some cultural barriers and languages were not overcome. I loved the anecdote of their idea to drive in a camper through the west side of New Zealand, only to have plans dashed by torrential rain for their entire drive.

Tsh wrote this in the introduction: “It’s not easy. You can bet the saffron in Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar that it’s far easier to pack when you’re single, and it’s decided much cheaper to move about the cabin. But traveling with family isn’t impossible.”

Yet she and her family did accomplish it. They could buy things here and there during their travels. She and her husband home-schooled the children and worked from laptops and Wi-Fi. With each new guesthouse and rental, the adapted. The family stuck to their budget and supplemented with their remote work through the year. They took the good and the bad in stride, knowing that their time was fleeting.

The biggest question our book club had was about finances.

Many of us have lived or traveled overseas; even with children, we would love the chance to travel around the world. But how does a family accomplish this financially? Tsh wrote about sticking to their travel budget and working during their travels. This is a difficult concept to grasp for most of us.

How many of us have enough money saved to travel and support a family for almost a year?

Jen stated, “You really need to be disciplined. I think as Americans we can get so caught up in the day-to-day that making those types of financial sacrifice is a challenge.”

Tsh does not give us a breakdown of their finances or the costs involved, but she does write about their budget frequently. The family also sold or stored most of their things, eliminating many monthly expenses. She points out that some backpackers simply work in each location to earn money; remote work is also an option.

Regardless, the idea of selling nearly everything and living out of a backpack and on a limited budget for an extended period of time is a challenging idea for most of us. 

We also wondered about traveling for a long time with children.

family outside Westminster Abbey
My daughters and I outside Westminster Abbey, London. We loved our travels while stationed in Europe and would jump at the opportunity to do it again!

What ages are the best? How do you continue schooling? How do you live with your children 24/7 for that long, with no breaks for school or work? Tsh and her husband home-schooled their children, ideal for living in multiple places, but both relied on their experiences in education as well. They had friends in some of their stops, allowing them to escape for a date or two and giving their children playmates.

Julie said that she would like kids to be a little older for this kind of travel, “old enough to not be destructive monsters but young enough to not feel too left out of missing a year of school with friends, sports, etc.”

Tsh also wrote of how well she and her husband worked as a team to support the family AND each other. If one needed time to work or to rest, the other gave it; their travel and life skills complemented one another. It reminded me of traveling in Europe with my own family. My husband is the navigator, and I am the planner. So long as I knew where to go and what it would cost, he could get us there and around cities as safely and as easily as possible with 3 small children. I think this kind of partnership was vital for Tsh and her family, just as it is for us!

This family circled the world.

woman holding globe
Photo by Slava Bowman on Unsplash

Tsh and her family started in China and made their way through Thailand, Singapore, Australia, New Zealand, Sri Lanka, Uganda, Ethiopia, Zimbabwe, Kenya, Morocco, France, Italy, Croatia, Kosovo, Turkey, Germany, and England. All in 9 months. That’s amazing!

Tsh admits that she has an “incurable sense of wanderlust” yet longs for home and its comforts at the same time. The traveling had to end, and they found themselves back in America and making a new home in Texas. We imagine that acclimating to life in one place was a challenge, but what an amazing experience. One of my favorite quotes from Tsh is about returning home:

It’s courageous to walk out the front door and embrace earth’s great adventures, but the real act of courage is to return to that door, turn the knob, walk through, unpack the bags, and start the kettle for a cup of tea. In our rituals … we are all daring to find ourselves at home, somewhere in the world.

 If anyone can understand this sentiment, it is military families. We are constantly making a home in new places.

It could be a move to another state or to another country; it could be a familiar area or new city. We are forced to unpack our lives, settle in, and make ourselves at home – somewhere in the world.

And just like Tsh, we find ourselves at home – at home in the world.

Come back next month as we read “The Tattooist of Auschwitz” by Heather Morris!