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Why More Millennial Families Are Hitting the Road

Long-term family travel and what it means for modern families

Astrid Vinje

Published on: November 02, 2017

Lizz Quain's daughters
Lizz Quain's daughters at the Fearless Girl sculpture in New York City. Photo credit: Lizz Quain

This time of year can feel like a hectic whirlwind. From juggling class schedules and after-school activities to coordinating work meetings, parent-teacher conferences and play dates, a parent’s life can often feel overwhelming. 

Life certainly felt that way for Lizz Quain and her two daughters. The owner of a Lynnwood play café and preschool, Quain was struggling to balance the demands of her business while giving her girls the attention and effort that she wanted. 

“[My kids] weren’t able to spend a lot of time with me because I worked every weekend,” she says. “School was stressing them out, too. I realized we couldn’t live like this, with me working so much and my kids so stressed out at school.” 

Quain decided it was time for a change. After selling her business in 2016, Quain spent 11 months traveling through Asia and Europe with her then-7-year-old daughters. 

Lizz Quain and her daughters
Quain and her daughters in Japan. Photo courtesy of Lizz Quain 

“I realized that this whole lifestyle of working really hard, going to school, going to college, getting a job, working 40 to 50 years, then retiring and then traveling, was not the way that I wanted to live,” she says. 

For many families, particularly those with younger kids, finding a balance between work obligations and family time can be a challenge. More than three-quarters of millennial parents (those ages 25 to 34) say they’re worried about that balance

Some are taking matters into their own hands (see: families like the Dennings who've been to 39 countries in 10 years. Rather than staying in one place to raise their kids, they’re hitting the road, using the world as their classroom. Their experiences are diverse, but connecting them all is a desire to achieve a more equitable balance of family time and work. 

Long-term travel is not new, and neither is the concept of world schooling, a subset of homeschooling. However, the last seven years have seen a rise in long-term family travel. While there’s been no formal study to quantify the number of families living on the road, you don’t have to search far to find a crop of new blogs, books and Facebook groups dedicated to full-time traveling families. 

One recent Gallup report revealed that many millennials are not satisfied with simply doing things the way they’ve always been done, and are driven by a desire to achieve a sense of purpose in their lives. For the millennial parent, this translates into wanting a family life that is much more meaningful than shuttling kids between activities. 

Of course, the trend of long-term travel isn’t limited to a single generation. Quain, who is slightly older than a millennial, is one such example. For her, the time spent with her kids has been the biggest benefit of long-term travel. “We’re much closer now,” she says. “I feel like I’ve had the time to really get to know them better as people.” 

Now back in Lynnwood, Quain is building up an online business and preparing to embark on another 16 months of travel with her kids, this time to South America and Latin America. 

For families who aren’t able to give up their current lifestyle for long-term travel, there are still ways to cultivate a deeper family bond and achieve a balance between work and family. Setting aside time each day to actively engage with each other is a good first step. Similarly, finding opportunities to experience something new as a family helps promote the spirit of world schooling right here at home. Weekend road trips also work. 

“Just spend as much time as you can being present with your children,” Quain says. “We have one life. When you look back at the end of it, what do you want it to mean?”

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