Nomadic Lifestyle Gone Wrong: We went after Global Adventures and ended up with the American Dream

April 21, 2015 Katja Presnal

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I sometimes forget how privileged our children are. All three were born in different countries, and they all also carry two passports, and are fluent in the language in the country we just lived as expats the past three years. Raising a multicultural family was not an option for us, it was mandatory since I am Finnish and my husband is an American. But raising world travelers was an option we worked very hard to accomplish.

Our oldest daughter Isabella is fifteen years old now, and on her first grade school project of celebrating the “100 days of school” she drew a world map and wrote the names of the “100 towns where I have been.” It was an impressive list for anyone, not to mention to a 6-year-old. That list has since doubled and the countries she has visited is higher than her age in numbers.

book-shopping-in-paris

I recently wrote for Huffington Post a blog post titled How to Give Your Kids the World, and in the post I listed 7 ways to think of family travel in a new light. I advice every parent to start traveling with their children when they are still young, and make sacrifices in your family’s lifestyle so you will have money and time for travels. It will be worth it.

Some of our lifestyle choices have been hard, like moving often for different jobs, or not living close to our families. Some of them have just added the fun, like me being a lifestyle blogger has opened us many opportunities we couldn’t have experienced without blogging. But being a business owner has also made it more difficult to travel at times, you can not take two weeks completely off when you are running your own business.

It would be easy to think we have only had the access to travels because of the travel writing I have done, but in reality, we were traveling long before entire blogging was even invented. Matt and I met in Germany, and by the time we had our first child, we had already lived in two countries together (USA and Germany) – and Isabella was born in a third one (Finland), while Matt was on a work assignment in a fourth country (Kosovo). Our life has always been an adventure, it didn’t become it when I started working online. Most of our family trips are still have nothing or very little to do with the work I do, although I sometimes still write about them.

elephant safari in Bali

My online work has enabled me somewhat fulfill my career dreams though, otherwise it might have been very difficult to keep our moving pace as fast as it has been (we have moved on an average every two years), and both of us to have jobs. Matt has been fortunate as well, and he has been able to find work from many great locations around the world, and now he has been working for the same company for 7 years (in three different locations). However, as his contract was ending in Sweden last year, he struggled finding another job. We were praying and hoping his company will offer him another position after the assignment was over, but it wasn’t until less than 30 days of the assignment ending that they actually offered one. Needless to say, the uncertainty of our future was killing us, and our last year was the toughest year we’ve had so far.

We lived in a mansion, drove German luxury cars, traveled in several countries, didn’t have any money worries because everything was paid for, and yet last year was the absolute low point in our 17 of world traveling together. It was because we didn’t have the secure future plans for our family. We were open for adventures, in fact, one day we were looking into schools in Bali, the next week we started taking Turkish language classes, month later we took a trip to Pennsylvania for a job interview and to scout the place. On one hand we felt the entire world was open for us, and we were ready to jump on the next amazing opportunity (a job for my husband), on the other hand we realized we were completely putting our trust to the higher forces, or even luck, and we had no control over our future whatsoever.

kids in Paris

We had had an amazing “rags to riches”-looking story the past 7 years, going from ski bums to living outside New York City to leave-it-all-behind when we moved to Sweden to live in a historic mansion. We lived every day to the fullest and enjoyed it all, but it became almost impossible to even enjoy knowing that the three expat years came with an extremely high price tag: uncertain future after that. We honestly were that stupid that with our “flexibility” and ability to adjust and being open to the world, we’d “find something,” figure it all out once the time came. It always just had, and part of the adventurous traveling lifestyle is giving away every single string of control in your life, and just trusting that when you fall, there will be something to catch you, and hopefully it will be just another adventure.

Of course we had back-up-plans. One was to buy an RV and move back to the USA and live from a RV for a year, while Matt would homeschool the kids and I would focus on working online. One was to move to Finland to live close to my family and start a new business there. Moving to a beach town in Thailand or Indonesia were also discussed. Picking a town, any town, moving and trying to find a 8-5 job and live a “normal life” was never really in our back up plans.

So, I am telling you, I am still in a shock that we ended up moving to a small town upstate New York, bought a house, and now plan hosting backyard BBQ parties this summer. We haven’t owned a house for over ten years, not since it became impossible to buy a house for a short term and fix it and make money from it.

kids-in-stockholm

In a way we succeed. We lived the crazy traveling lifestyle for 17 years and raised three children who are now open for adventures, and adjust anywhere in the world, and yet we were able to pull off the American dream of house in the suburbs with a pool in the backyard and kids succeeding in the academics at middle school and high school. We are able to now provide them the stable teenager years without the uncertainty of the future and knowing we will stay here until we are emptynesters. Maybe I am somewhat crazy though, because part of me feels like we failed miserably, and just when we were starting to have fun, we crawled back to the safety of New York state, where we had lived twice before, and chained ourselves with a mortgage to pay. At the same time – living is cheap here and the schools are excellent, and my husband got a high profile job offer that nobody would have declined.

kids-in-sweden

Life also becomes crazy when you officially become middle aged as I turned 40 this year. Now I am equally sad that we will only have 6-7 years of kids living at home, as I am happy that then we can sell everything again, and travel even more. The real question now really is – how to live the adventurous lifestyle without living other foot out of the door all the time, and how to build and plan the future that when kids go to college, we can have a middle-aged gap year or two and travel the world together?

Because if there is one thing I learned from last year, I will never again be that open for any adventure that it will land me to the safest option out there. Who said that life is a daring adventure or nothing at all….? I agree with that, and I’d check the quote, but I am busy going to a dog shelter to adopt a dog next. What else this suburban life would need?

Post by Katja Presnal

“My mission is to inspire you to live life to the fullest and find your own “skimbaco,” how you enjoy life where ever you are in the moment. For ideas for travel, home, food and fashion, subscribe to weekly Skimbaco Lifestyle feed on Mondays and I hope you get my newsletter that I send out sometimes on Fridays.” Katja Presnal, editor-in-chief and the owner of Skimbaco Lifestyle.

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Katja Presnal

Katja Presnal shows how to live globally inspired life to the fullest and plan your dream life. Katja owns Presnal5 strategic marketing intelligence agency and wants to help marketing professionals to combine a dream career and dream life via freelance work.Katja is an award-winning marketing strategist, and a well-known speaker. Katja has lived in five different countries, and seven states in the USA. Her three children were all born in different countries within three years. When not working or jet-setting the world, Katja is at home cooking big family dinners.She has been featured in NY Times, Glamour, Redbook, Fodor's, Forbes and Woman's Day magazines among many other national and international publications and written for MTV3 and Lifetime TV networks.

Comments (13)

  1. Beautiful post, Katja. I know what you mean about ‘it will sort itself out.’ I freelanced for 12 years, writing travel for newspapers and thought it would always lead to something … but to what? Now I’m blogging full time, sure it will lead to something …. sometimes we have to lead ourselves.

  2. Congrats on the choice you’ve made about moving and staying in NYC! The place is great so I;m pretty sure you’ll have a great time there!

  3. Robyn

    Well, even staying put offers a new perspective. :-) If you are planning to travel and move on in 6-7 years, please make sure you adopt an older dog whose expected life span will only be about that long. They are harder to place, and will probably fit in with your lifestyle best, rather than a very young dog that will live 14 years or more. Looking forward to your local and stay-at-home adventures! (And to seeing the new dog.)

    • Enjoy Life Oils

      I actually could not disagree more about the dog! I think the younger the dog gets used to our lifestyle, the better. It would be very difficult to get an older dog to get used to traveling with us, but like kids – they get used to it when they travel from puppy age. Our old dog lived with us in 3 different countries, and several states in the USA, and probably saw more world than some people ever do. The only way we were able to do this was because he was part of our family and our lifestyle since he was two months old.

      • Robyn

        Oh, that’s different! I should have known that if you got a dog, you would be committed to him for his entire life, and integrate him into your adventures. Sometimes working in rescue – and finding homes for the wonderful dogs that “don’t fit into our lifestyle anymore” – is heartbreaking and makes you a little jaded. And that pup is a cutie!

    • Enjoy Life Oils

      Thank you! It has it’s crazy and crazy good parts to live adventurously :)

  4. Katja I feel your emotions on so many levels.

    We are at the empty nester stage now. We lived the suburban lifestyle while raising our kids then after my daughter graduated from university we sold our home (last year) and bought a condo in the city.

    I raised two artists so safe to say our kids love that mom and dad bought a condo in a cool part of a thriving city (we live in Toronto). As for my husband and I, it’s like we’re courting again :)

    I think you have the best of everything – the exciting world travel that shaped your kids in their formative years, and now the stability that teens sometimes need. It all looks good Katja – and trust me when those empty nester years come (they’re not far off for you) I’m certain you will make the most of it. It is definitely another adventure!

    • Enjoy Life Oils

      That is so cool you did that! And yes, I try to think of the years ahead already, otherwise they will come as such a shock for me.

  5. What a beautiful story. My kids haven’t traveled the world quite as much, but they have been to two different continents and several international cities and have lived on both sides of the Atlantic as expats, and I see how that contributes to making them open to new experiences and interested in different cultures, and how it helps build tolerance rather than fear of anything and anyone that’s different.

    I definitely don’t think that settling down for a while is failing, by any means! I have always wanted my daughters to feel settled down but also be able to roll with the punches, because I believe that most kids function better on a routine, but that routine doesn’t have to necessarily happen forever or always in the same place ;-) (I guess I may have a bit of a looser definition of “routine” ;-)). Thank you for sharing your inspiring story!

    • Enjoy Life Oils

      It is difficult to get it all – adventures AND stability. It’s funny that now when we have been here for a few months, kids are already bored and asking “when is the next big thing in our life” going to happen. The adventures are their routine!

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