Saying good-bye to our Dublin neighbors of 12 years, four kiddos later. Left to right, Milo, Ruben, Benji, and Felix in arms. We're traveling with The Architect.
Traveling for a year has been a dream of my husband and I forever—travel being the fundamental inspiration of our lives separately and together, first as a couple and now as a family. After having our fourth (and final!) child, we were ready to mobilize, to get back to seeing the world for ourselves. This adventure is a re-creation of a trip around the world that we had planned for July 2020. And the pandemic doubled-down on our ambition to do this. Like many, the pandemic gave us a real priority check. There are so many reasons why we wanted to take the leap and travel this year, but here are a few:
Rediscovering the Soul of SteamLine
Making and promoting luggage while the world was paused was surreal. We had to lean entirely on our imaginations, our memories and dreams, and trust that we would one day be traveling again. During this time I thought a great deal about the soul of SteamLine, why I started this company in the first place. It was precisely because travel is so precious—and we all know that now more than ever—that I felt it should be celebrated with beautiful luggage, an elegant accessory that would complement style and communicate respect for the gift of travel.
The role of beauty also seemed even more important as the world slowed down and we all stared at each other and our possessions. I came out with fewer cases last year, but spent more time on the details, focusing on our printwork for the case linings and covers with our amazing team of artists. We came out with Annie Atkins luggage stickers and a travel journal. We put way more behind our photoshoots, celebrating the beauty of our cases, making more of what we already had. I think we all realized how much we had taken for granted. So now when able to travel, it was time to make good on the preciousness of travel that we had pondered and missed.
Greeking out in my Ancient Greek sandals with my Architect covered in our adventurous Annie Atkins stickers!
Chosen Family Time
Although we did get long confined hours with our family in quarantine, as with everyone, it was under sudden pressure and not as intentional as we would have liked. Being home together, but not able to be really present given the situation, emphasised that solidifying the relationships within this little nucleus was so important to us. There is a difference between having to be homebound and choosing to have family time. And with the ages they are (8, 6, 4 and 1), we want to spend more time with our children, while they still want to spend time with us! ;) And now to do so by getting outside our four walls.
Chapter 1: Lefkada, Greece!
My husband and I have always believed that our memories are broken up into experiences rather than time. When you refer to sections of your life, you say, ‘I think that was when we were living in Ranelagh,’ or ‘that was before we had children.’ Life actually feels longer when you break it up by major life experiences or reference points. Our memories will be so much richer from this year because their reference point will be so shifted. And it will ultimately elongate these years for us. Doesn't everyone always say that the early years with kids fly? This will too, but hopefully it will be rich with experience, world education, life lessons, and new friendships.
Turning Lemons Into Lemonade!
And then there was the practical push. We had to leave our house after 12 years and were having trouble justifying the expense to buy in our area where there is little to no inventory for sale or rent. We desperately want to stay in the community we have become part of in Ireland. Our children attend a wonderful little Gaelscoil (where their education is through the Irish language), giving them a strong tether to the culture they were born into. We have made wonderful friends, they are immersed in sports teams and the little village of Ranelagh is so sweet, safe, fun, and accessible. It is a very walkable/cyclable life and we love it.
But Dublin has ranked with NYC and San Francisco in being among the most expensive cities in the world to buy a home. Living in Ireland has been an inflated and bloated drain on funds. And for two entrepreneurs, the banks don’t make it easy for us. We thought we could actually travel the world for the exact same as it would cost us to live in Dublin for the year. Our childcare costs would be replaced by flights, our temporary accommodations would be our rent—and we would get the wonderful asset of staying in properties ON the beach and/or WITH a swimming pool and massive gardens so suitable for four young boys. For the exact price or cheaper than it would be to live in a 3-bed in Dublin with no garden. The space in itself is a luxury for us and our children.
Our "baby" Felix will turn two in Sri Lanka!
So How Are We Pulling This Off?
Naturally so many people are wondering how one does a year abroad, let alone with four kids. Firstly, my husband Duck and I are lucky to have jobs that were already fully remote; our businesses have teams who work across time zones, so we were already set up to WFW: Work from the World!
—We are flexible. We haven’t laid out a solid itinerary which suits us. We search for tickets on matrix.itasoftware with flexible dates and are not bound by anything except for prices within our budget, decent travel schedules for children and of course, destinations with good weather.
—We are only choosing locations that either have very high vaccination rates, or where we know people who care about us enough to help us out if we get into a bind. As my husband runs a mask company, we wear masks as if our lives depend upon it (cause they do!)
—We search for accommodation on Airbnb and find amazing houses (as we spend a lot of time in them with young kids). If it's slightly out of our budget and if it’s off-season, we message for a discount for a month’s stay. And so far, we have landed amazing pads that suit our budget and had the most wonderful stays.
—We are traveling light with one Carryon entirely dedicated to the kids’ school books, with which they do homeschool (renaming it #travelschool!) every morning. Traveling with us is a wonderful college graduate, a GAA player, and fluent Irish speaker to help them keep up with their Irish homework—a constant and everyday blend of cultures as we travel into new ones, we are very much retaining ours from home.
Our Lefkada Airbnb offered unfathomable space compared with Dublin!
A World-Class Education
Our ethos for SteamLine has always been about slow, mindful travel—to go to places and stay for longer in order to really immerse yourself in a community, to “slow down and look up.” We want to instill that in the kids this year, to bridge cultural barriers by getting to know locals in becoming part of the woodwork for a while, taking time to experience their lives in the small ways we can. We want the kids to form easy connections that make impressions, whether they are passing moments or the seeds of something more. I truly believe that the heart of goodwill comes from a curiosity and an appreciation for that which is foreign to ourselves—that we assume the best, conquer discomfort, set an example through our behavior, and take our lessons home.
The kiddos doing "travel school" with the aid of their SteamLine Journals.
So here we are looking to rediscover our sense of adventure through fresh eyes, pick up where we left off in the world education we wanted for our children, and live out mindfulness on a whole new level by traveling slowly, cleanly, and gently in ways that respect ourselves, the planet, and the people of our host countries. Travel with four kiddos is far from motorbiking around India in our single days; we fend off bugs and boredom around the clock. Even in paradise, life is still life. But we see our kids blossoming abroad, and we are together, on purpose, 24/7. And this is how we will navigate the world.
My cousin and her husband visited us for a long weekend in Greece.
P.S. A Note on Traveling in COVID Times and our Next Stops!
While our initial “world tour” was further flung, post pandemic we decided to start in Greece to keep it safe and watch the world (and vaccination rates) as it reopens. We just booked our next leg to Mauritius as vaccination rates are 64%, already more than the US. And they have just reopened their borders to international visitors so we thought it would be a good time to go.
Then we have been supporting some friends and communities in Sri Lanka and in Kenya during the pandemic, so we would love to go back to these places and say hi to these friends we care about. And then possibly to explore some countries that neither my husband nor I have traveled to, like Indonesia. My favorite trips provide something old and something new. We’ll land back in Ireland next summer and hope the housing market has improved, or go to my family home in Wisconsin while we plot next steps. One thing extended travel teaches you, wherever you stow your suitcase, kiss your kids goodnight, brew your coffee, is home sweet home!