Lainie is one of those people whose energy and intention seems to absolutely radiate from her. I have never had the honor of meeting this powerhouse of a single mom in person yet, but I consider her to be a kindred spirit, an incredibly inspiring human being, and a new friend. Her and her son Miro left the US to begin their expat adventure in 2009, starting in Central and South America. They are slow-traveling around the globe allowing inspiration be their compass. The pair is most interested in exploring cultures, contributing by serving, and connecting with humanity as ‘global citizens’.
Tell us a little about what your life was like in the US…
I have been a single parent for all of my son Miro’s life (which is the greatest honor I’ll ever know). In addition to being a full-time mom, I was also a business owner, which also required my full-time attention. In other words, I was over-tasked and overly busy. I somehow juggled my roles, but I was certain I did so at the expense of my son.
One of my most tearful memories is recalling a common phrase I heard from my son say, time after time (after “I love you” of course): “Mom, you work too much. You never spend any time with me.”
I had worked in the advertising, marketing and branding industry for 20 years in total. In 2000 I started my own agency focusing on brand strategy, graphic design and messaging exclusively for green-eco companies, non-profits and conscious business owners. One of the reasons I started my own agency was to remove myself from the destructive consumerist advertising world and do work for ‘good’. In 2008 the economy took a tumble and business in California was greatly affected, especially for those who relied on the non-profit world as its clientele.
One evening in September 2008, Miro and I were sitting in my office after everyone had left for the night. I remember letting out a grand sigh, looking at Miro and saying “I don’t want to do this anymore… Let’s get rid of everything and find a simpler life, climb a volcano, plant a garden, live in the jungle. Let’s go have an adventure in the world away from this consumerist lifestyle and get back to what really matters: Enjoying life!”
Miro looked at me and smiled. Then he said “I’m in!” That was all it took.
The seed was planted. Instead of choosing to struggle, we decided to opt for a change. I closed my agency just three months later, gave away (or sold in some cases) all of our possessions, and within six months, we set out to travel the world together. Today, 3 years in, it’s the best decision we’ve ever made. We continue to choose traveling with no plans, no agenda, and inspiration as our only guide.
What did your friends and family think when you told them of your plans?
Before we left on our trip we encountered a few friends and family naysayers. We had one friend suggest we get kidnap insurance. What? The concept of kidnap insurance is hysterical to me. “Yes, you can kidnap me, because I have insurance.”
Thoughts (and products like kidnap insurance) that are based in fear are something I just don’t subscribe to. And those naysayers opinions were simply ignored. But luckily, the majority of our friends and family were positive and supportive.
Because we’ve been public about our experiences through our blog, our family has felt connected to our lives. At first, they were a little uneasy of our decisions, but after witnessing our lives, the changes we’ve experienced together and the great deal of growth we have both experienced through our travels, our families have become our biggest fans. And for those few naysayers in the beginning… well, they have converted into our biggest supporters.
What advice do you have for others who want to pursue their dreams, yet they maybe don’t have positive support networks?
The biggest challenge is the belief from YOU that you cannot do it. These self-sabotaging thoughts are based in fear. Once you move beyond the fear, you can do anything you are inspired to do!
I’m not going to lie to you, it takes some planning, it takes some preparation and it takes some finances. But once you move through the practical side of planning, your greatest obstacle (as in life) will always be your thoughts. Choose your thoughts carefully and once you’ve learned to align the thoughts with your passion, inspiration and desires, you can take on a lifestyle of this sort.
There are numerous web sites, books, and seminars about living a location-independent life, working remotely and freelancing for a living. I do not focus on those specifically on my own web site, but I can recommend to anyone considering this kind of lifestyle, read the books The Four Hour Work Week The 4-Hour Workweek: Escape 9-5, Live Anywhere, and Join the New Rich (Expanded and Updated)
and Vagabonding . Vagabonding: An Uncommon Guide to the Art of Long-Term World Travel
The rest will fall in place. I assure you.
I believe our experience of the outer world is a reflection of what’s going on in our own inner worlds. If you travel with fear, you attract situations that warrant fear. We feel safe in the world, therefore the world is a safe place for us. We are filled with love and compassion, therefore our experiences are filled with love and compassion. It’s an awesome lesson and one we probably couldn’t have had being somewhat entranced in a conventional lifestyle.
Can you share with us how you make a living to support yourself and Miro on the road?
When we first started out, we had savings, enough to support us for one year. When we decided to extend our travel lifestyle into a permanent way of living, we had to reevaluate how we were going to sustain ourselves. Here is our formula: I do one or two freelance projects a year based on my old career, but in all honesty, I’m trying to phase that part of my life out. Also, we generate a small income from our primary website www.RaisingMiro.com through advertising and sponsorships. Currently Miro and I have developed three more websites in hopes of generating an income from all four websites to help sustain us. We are in the beginning stages now, so check back in with us in six months to see the progress. Hopefully, I’ll have good news to report.
Name the first 10 things that come to mind that are still on your bucket list…
Wow, that’s such a difficult question to answer since the most gratifying experiences don’t really relate to the adventures we have, although we’ve had many that are noteworthy. They relate to moments¬ shared between my son and myself. The smiles, the deep belly laughs, and the sentimental experiences that we’ve had the privilege to share. The desire for those moments together was the authentic inspiration for our trip. A way of making space for those moments to happen, a way to escape the distractions we call work, paying bills, going to school, living a routine within a conventional life. Our life has been free of those distractions more or less, for the last three years. Our lives have been so rich with experiences ‘in the moment’ that can fill a Book of Sentiments. That’s what I’ll reach for when I’m old and wrinkled.
Ok, so you want 10 MORE things on my bucket list? 10 more rich loving experiences with my son. Then 10 more. And so on.
What is the biggest change that you see in yourself since leaving the US? In Miro?
The biggest change is how we perceive the world, what our place is in it and that people everywhere are so much alike.
Before we set out, our perception of traveling was very different. Before we set out, we were in a ‘defining’ mind-set and it seemed very important for us to have a plan. Before we set out, it seemed scary and unknown. Before we set out we defined our travels ‘doing’, instead of ‘being’.
But being on the road, our perception of life actually shifted and we have learned to live in the moment without the need for plans, that life and traveling were not scary at all, and it was okay to live at a slower pace guided by inspiration and doing the thing that bring us joy.
Miro is such a mellow, go-with-the-flow kind of guy. He’s growing up in this lifestyle, so it’s difficult to determine if the changes I see in him are because he’s been traveling, or because he’s becoming a teenager. (He was 10 when we left, now he’s 13). I’m not sure who he would have become had we remained in the states with our old lifestyle, but I am so honored to be a part of his life because who he is now is an amazing, intelligent, sensitive and globally-minded young man.
What advice can you give people who want to go after their dreams and change their lifestyle, yet they don’t know where to begin and they may be scared or daunted?
The only tip I have for a family of any size or shape who is considering a similar lifestyle, is to learn to listen to your inspiration. As a family talk about what inspiration feels like, tap into it together and become aware of its signs. Your inspiration will be your guide as you travel, a way of experiencing the world around you and a way of sharing the incredible moments together.
My travel advice to you is about the journey inward. This focus will keep you grounded when your rational mind is cycling through the giant to-do list, feeling stressed and fearful, and experiencing self-doubt. Yes, it’s all part of the experience, (and it’s magnified once you are on the road) unless you have tools to keep the surface noise in check.
Just what is that spark of inspiration that led you to this place? Let’s look at the ‘spark’ itself. Like any living thing, it needs attention to stay activated, to remain alive. Simply, give it attention. Give it attention often. Feel the feelings associated with your inspiration and just sit with it. With a little practice, you’ll be able to access that feeling at a second’s notice, and it’s there with you when you need it.
Imagine the quiet place inside of you that contains that complete knowing that you are doing what you are doing because your inner guidance is guiding. It’s there, doing its job, doing exactly what it’s designed to do. Guiding. Trust THAT. And you are not alone, every single person has this inner guidance system. I call it inspiration. Some call it purpose, intuition, motivation, gut feeling or faith. Some even call it God. It doesn’t matter what you call it, but the singular, most poignant piece of advice I can give you is to trust it.
Did you hear that? TRUST YOUR INNER GUIDANCE SYSTEM.
Now, here’s some thoughts to try on while you are sitting with your inspiration:
Trust everything will be ok.
Trust the world will support you and your family.
Trust that things will always work out.
Trust that the world is a safe place.
Trust you will find a way to support yourself and your family.
Trust things will happen in its own time.
Trust, trust, trust.
With so much constant change, how do you keep some sense of stability for yourself and Miro? How important is a sense of stability to you anymore?
We don’t find stability in being stationary just as we don’t find stability in movement. Our location continues to change, and that keeps us present. But in terms of stability? I think everyone in the United States is struggling with that right now with the recession and all economic challenges. At least we’re out in the world enjoying our lives. I find stability in that.
Unschooling. I know you are a fan. Tell us a little of how it works and what you see as the pros and cons…
As we started our trip, I had no idea such a thing called Unschooling existed. However I noticed Miro was talking about geography, sociology, history, economics, mythology, language and second language, literature, math, science. I sat back one night and realized how brilliant the idea of having the world teach my son was! Engage in life and children (and adults) learn!
Soon thereafter, I discovered the formal name for what we were doing as ‘unschooling’. In some circles it’s called ‘Radically Unschooling’, ‘Worldschooling’ and ‘Roadschooling’. There are similar principals to each of those ‘disciplines’ which is based on child-led learning. This is a radical departure from homeschooling circles that teach a formal curriculum only in the home environment.
The philosophy behind unschooling is that children will learn what they need to know when they are ready and want to learn it and this flows through every other aspect of life. The whole essence of unschooling is that children, when empowered, will learn based on their individual interests.
I’ve seen games spark Miro’s interest in mythology, quantum physics, history and culture. We’ve had an open platform to discuss humanity, violence, and choices because of video games. I’ve also seen Miro’s research skills improve as the internet and Google are second nature to him. I didn’t like going to the library to research when I was his age because it was so overwhelming for me. To have the library at your fingertips is a drastic change for this generation.
I have discovered firsthand that by virtue of being in this world, we can’t help but to learn. Children learn naturally and retain so much more when they are engaged and leading the process themselves. I realized this just by observing an empowered Miro blossom daily. As a result of my unschooling education, I am growing as Miro teaches me how to be a better and more effective parent in the process.
What would it take for you to stop slow-traveling and plant roots again? Would you ever consider moving back to the US permanently?
Neither Miro nor I have any intention of moving back to the States. We both enjoy our lifestyle and since we travel slowly, we do plant roots every place we go. They just may be shallow and wide versus the traditional deep rooting we are used to.
This next sections’ questions are directed at 13 year old Miro:
I’m curious to hear what your reaction was when your mom told you this plan to leave the US and travel the world…
Well, she didn’t really tell me, but we had discussed the possibility. My mom and I have a special relationship. What I mean by this is we make our decisions together. If one of us disagrees, then the other must respect that. What I’m getting at is that my mom didn’t propose a plan, instead she had told me about dreams she had been having about Latin America. We had talked about it a lot and eventually it got to the point when we made the decision together to travel the world.
Do you have a hard time relating to other kids your age, now that you have so much more life experience than most (and even more than most adults get in their lives!)?
I do, and I generally don’t like children anyways. However, recently I have found myself spending more time with other world travelers online.
Editors Note: There is a wonderful Facebook group called Families on the Move (https://www.facebook.com/groups/travelfamilies/) that is a great place to meet other like-minded people with kids who are traveling the world.
What are some of the biggest changes that you see in yourself since you left the US? In your mom?
Well, obviously I’m growing. I guess I’ve also become more confident then when we first left on our trip. So has my mom. She has become very resourceful as well, but that’s just something people pick up from being on the road. Oh, I also speak Spanish now.
Are there days when you just want a ‘normal’ life? If so, what do you do to deal with that?
Define a “normal life”. If you mean a house in the suburbs with a little white picket fence, then no. I enjoy our lifestyle, and I am grateful that it is possible for us to do what we are doing. Not everyone can handle the world travelers life, but since we can, I appreciate it.
What are some things that you have done while abroad that you would never have pictured yourself doing back when you were in the US?
I probably would have never imagined that I would be walking around with a backpack that holds all of my belongings. If we were in the US, I would still be under the curse of capitalism, and would be ridiculed and laughed at if I mentioned that all of my belongings can fit in a bag.
In what ways do you feel like unschooling prepares you for adult life better than traditional schooling? What are some of the biggest differences that you see between yourself and kids whose education comes from traditional schools?
Well, before we left I went to traditional school. I think that the freedom to do what you want during your childhood will make a big difference during the later parts of your life. The most impressionable moments are when you are young. The biggest difference I see between children going to school and not going to school is that Unschoolers are happier. Happier that they have the freedom to do what they want, and not be weighted down by subjects that they don’t want to learn about. You may know calculus, but how is that going to help you when you’re working as a rock star or basket ball player? Another thing is that schools destroy dreams. You want to be an athlete? Nope, sorry.
Why do you think that so many adults have so much fear about taking their kids abroad? What advice can you give families who maybe deep down want to move, yet think it may be in some way ‘traumatic’ for their kid to be uprooted to go live in a different country?
Well, I don’t have much advice, but I can share my philosophy. Live now, Think later. In the end, everything will work out. Don’t worry about it!
You can find out more about Lainie and Miro’s adventures at www.raisingmiro.com. They have a travel podcast called Raising Miro on the Road of Life (https://www.facebook.com/RaisingMiroPodcast). Also follow them on twitter at @ilainie.