Permanent Road Trip: How This Couple Travels the World With Their Kids
Miranda Stamps and her husband Jay Albany had great jobs. They had healthy 4-year-old twin boys. Some might say they had it all.
But they weren’t fulfilled.
“We were doing what we thought we should be doing for an unknown payoff, and it felt stressful and not free,” explained Albany. “I don’t want to say we weren’t happy, but we didn’t feel like we were in touch with what we really wanted.”
So, unlike many people in their situation, they took the time to think about what they wanted — and then they made it happen.
Stamps and Albany decided to travel the world with their kids, and they’ve now been on the road for more than two years, supporting themselves and teaching their twin boys about the world. Although their lifestyle certainly isn’t attainable for everyone, their outlook might be…
Why They Decided to Leave
They lived in New York City, and like many people, Stamps and Albany had talked about leaving for a while.
“In New York, with the exception of sitting in a wonderful but busy park, you’re always involved in commerce,” explained Stamps. “You’re always either shopping or sitting at a restaurant, or buying something.”
That wasn’t a life they wanted for their sons.
“We wanted to be in a place where they got to be outside without us wondering what might be going on in the woods, whether it was a good idea to let them be climbing and exploring.”
Both 37 years old, they’d been saving for a house since getting married 12 years earlier.
They had good jobs — Albany worked in finance and startups, Stamps in education and technology — and together, had managed to save $100,000.
They considered moving to different suburbs, but couldn’t settle on a place… so they started thinking bigger.
A decade earlier, they’d fallen in love with Australia. And once that idea entered their minds, it never went away.
“It was easier to make the decision to go to Australia than to choose which New York suburb we wanted to move to,” said Stamps.
“Yeah, it was Australia or New Jersey,” quipped Albany.
Although confident in their decision now, this initial step — the leaving, the letting go — was the the hardest thing they faced in their entire journey, Stamps recalled.
What It Cost to Move to Australia
Their upfront monetary costs were huge, as well. Here’s a breakdown:
- Flights: $0 (used frequent flyer miles)
- Living expenses: AU$4,000 (about US$3,000 in 2015)
- Car: AU$38,000 (about US$29,000)
- Camper: AU$28,000 (about US$21,000)
They say they probably could’ve found the car and camper for cheaper, but they wanted new, reliable vehicles that would serve them well while off-roading. And because their research showed both vehicles had a high resale value, they felt comfortable with the massive investment.
Stamps and Albany left with enough savings to travel for six months — but now, two-and-a-half years later, they’re still on the road. That’s thanks to Albany’s ability to earn money remotely.
Drawing on his years of experience in startups and finance, he works as a business consultant for young, growing companies — both for new clients he’s met while traveling (mostly in co-working spaces), and for former colleagues.
He started out working only a few hours a week, but quickly realized if he found more business — enough to work half time — it would cover the family’s living expenses, which were significantly lower than in New York.
“That was really an epiphany moment for us,” said Stamps.
Albany soon attained those hours, and more. He now works full time, which even allows the family to put some money in the bank.
But… What About the Kids?
Although few of the leave-it-all-behind-to-travel stories we hear involve kids, Stamps and Albany have met “tons” of families on the road. And they’ve found their own experience to be quite rewarding.
“It’s not the same as a trip you do without kids, but it’s wonderful to experience the world the way they’re interested in exploring it,” said Stamps. “Their excitement in going to new places and trying new things is really inspirational for us.”
“It also really allows you to move more slowly and engage more thoroughly, because with kids you need to make sure you’re eating enough meals and finding playgrounds and taking life at a reasonable pace,” she continued.
As for tantrums or other issues, Stamps made a valid point: “To the extent that kids are challenging, they’re challenging at home or on the road.”
And even though they’re not in school, the boys are learning.
“My goal for our first year was to make sure they learned to read, because that’s what they would’ve been exposed to in school,” said Stamps, who has a background in education.
The twins quickly became avid readers, and since then, their curriculum has followed their curiosity. “As they expressed interest in something, we gave them more opportunities to explore it,” explained Stamps.
They’ve investigated everything from addition, subtraction, division and square roots to Greek myths and Native American history. Stamps encourages their continual learning by providing books, conversation, documentaries and real-world learning opportunities.
“It definitely is untraditional,” she admitted. “And had I not seen it happening for myself, I never would’ve believed it [worked].”
For Stamps and Albany, the twins’ thirst for knowledge has been the biggest surprise of the entire adventure.
“It’s been really wonderful to see how travel has helped them unfold as human beings, and how different things they’ve been exposed to have triggered their curiosity to learn more,” said Stamps.
“I always pictured learning being about school. I knew they’d get life experience from travel, but I didn’t really imagine the way it would create the passion for learning academically that we’ve seen.”
Their 3 Best Travel Savings Tips
After traveling for more than two years, Stamps and Albany were eager to share some of their best budget travel tips:
1. Have 2 Bank Accounts
First, set a monthly budget; then, open two bank accounts.
Keep your savings and paychecks in one account, and set up a monthly transfer (in the amount of your budget) into the other. That’s all the money you’re allowed to spend that month — once it’s gone, it’s gone.
“A lot of travelers have set a monthly budget,” explained Stamps, “but they don’t have tools in place to prevent themselves from overspending.”
Taking this step forced their family to be disciplined — and even if they return to a traditional life, Stamps predicted they’ll stick with the practice.
2. Learn to Cook
While traveling in Australia, Stamps said they rarely went out to eat. Instead, they cooked most of their meals in their camp kitchen.
That way, she explained, “we could buyer nicer ingredients and have treats — without going out to a mediocre meal and spending $100 of a $400 monthly budget.”
To spice things up, she also learned to cook other cuisines — like Korean, Japanese and Indian — by downloading lots of cookbooks.
“It was a fun project on my own, but also allowed us to eat a really wide variety of things without paying someone else to cook it,” she said.
3. Buy High-Quality Clothing
Although it might seem counterintuitive, Stamps suggests paying upfront for high-quality clothes.
“Buying better quality clothes that can go through terrible washing machines a million times is much more cost-effective,” she says. “The clothing we brought that wasn’t as high quality, we ended up having to replace more frequently.”
She recommends end-of-season sales from brands like Patagonia, Boden and Hanna Andersson.
What’s Next? It Doesn’t Matter
The family has since left Australia and traveled in Asia and Canada, and Albany said: “What our future plans look like is always a question.”
They’re hesitant to put too much value on the future — and instead deliberately choose to focus on what’s happening right now.
“The good thing is we don’t have to decide, because we’re in a situation right now where we can continue to do what’s working for us as a family,” explained Stamps, “and when that stops working, we’ll do something different.”
For a couple whose lives used to revolve around planning, the shift in perspective has paid off.
“By keeping ourselves open… we’ve had so many opportunities to go places, to meet people, to do things that we couldn’t have imagined,” said Stamps. “When you have plans all the time, you miss opportunities you might not have considered as a possibility.”
“It’s been so much more fulfilling to live our life without being focused exclusively on what happens next.”
You can follow along with their adventures through their blog Miles From Brooklyn.
Susan Shain is a freelance writer and digital nomad. She covers travel, food and personal finance (basically, how to save money so you can travel more and eat more). Visit her blog at susanshain.com, or say hi on Twitter @susan_shain.