We educate our children while traveling the world on a shoestring budget

We educate our children while traveling the world on a shoestring budget

  • Beth McCarter and her husband pulled their children out of school to try “world school” three years ago.
  • They keep a modest budget by renting out their home, spending less and embracing slow travel.
  • She is criticized by her in-laws, but has no plans to stop homeschooling and travel the world.

“Look, kid, the shark’s right under the boat!” I shout, pointing at the disappearing fin. My 7-year-old pinches her nose and dives in.

“Wheee!” My 5-year-old screams, already halfway down the boat steps. Take a quick photo and scramble after them. I’m just as eager to see the shark up close.

It is Tuesday and technically we are “in school”. Instead of drawing different ecosystems while sitting in a classroom, today’s lesson plan involves snorkeling off the coast of Tahiti to observe blacktip sharks in their natural habitat.

Although it’s not your average school day, this has been the usual fair ever since I quit my teaching job to educate my children over three years ago. Since then, we’ve traveled through Europe, Mexico, French Polynesia, and most of the southern United States, all on a shoestring budget.

Couple wearing winter clothes hugging with snow background

The author and her husband retired from teaching and are fulfilling their lifelong dreams of travel.
Beth McCarter

The trip was always on the plan

Our transition to world schooling was a long time coming.

When I was in college, before I got married, I told my now-husband that I would never be happy to settle down. “Okay, let’s travel the world!” he said.

The journey didn’t start right away, as we took a few years off to have kids and start our careers. But after teaching in Texas for 7 years, gun violence and the school system’s disregard for staff welfare prompted me to accelerate what had always been my plan.

After my husband got a job that allowed him to work online, I quit, we pulled the kids out of school, rented out our house, and moved to France for three months.

Adjusting our lifestyle

We learned the hard way that financing global education is easier when you don’t have a lot of debt. Our first trip was planned without addressing this issue, as at the time buying plane tickets seemed much more attractive than paying off old credit cards.

These days, we look for the best travel deals before deciding on a plan. Our biggest find was when we paid less than $200 for tickets to France from the US, including our pets.

To enjoy world education without the stress of worrying about money, we need to balance being financially responsible with our desire to travel.

We started downsizing early and have tried to embrace minimalism whenever the kids let us.

Mother and son wearing helmets on motorcycle with ocean in background.

The author riding a motorcycle with her son.
Beth McCarter

Choosing what to do with our car and house was another big piece of the puzzle. Now, we rent out our home so we can still build equity while someone else pays the mortgage. We keep our car at my parents house and also bunk with them when we are in town in exchange for helping out on the farm.

These days, our family is constantly on the move. We take road trips across the United States and make it a point to venture abroad at least once a year. We go home and work full time from our laptops on the road.

To keep our lifestyle sustainable, we are constantly adjusting our budget. When we were teachers, we used to go to malls and end up blowing our budget. Now, we know how much we love having travel experiences over mindless shopping and eating out. We save whenever possible and are always looking for ways to increase our online income.

We’ve found that balancing frugal living and quality of life is key to realizing our dreams of world education while maintaining financial stability.

Our new strategy

Our ability to continue the journey depends on a combination of strategic choices.

We embrace slow travel. This means spending long periods in each country to minimize transport costs and take advantage of long-term stay discounts. When we were in Europe, we were surprised that renting a car for a few days cost more than a whole month’s accommodation.

We choose opportunities to sit pets for free when possible. Once, we spent Christmas vacation at a house near Disney World for free in exchange for seeing a pair of slobby bulldogs.

Two children looking at the mountains.

The author’s children admire the mountains from afar.
Beth McCarter

When it comes to international travel, we choose our next destination based on the affordability of the tickets. While we would love to return to Asia and Europe, our budget often means we have to explore closer to home for now.

A passive income stream, such as selling a digital product, can help. I wish I had learned about passive income earlier. The only drawback is that it can take some time to develop. I’ve been working on this project for a few years now, but now I earn a small amount of income every month from blog posts I write about both travel and homeschooling that include links to affiliate products.

World schooling is not an endless vacation

There have been many mishaps along the way – my children both contracted COVID-19 in Tahiti and I sprained my ankle down a rabbit hole in rural France. We have also faced criticism for our choice to travel. My in-laws are particularly disapproving and outspoken against homeschooling.

The biggest obstacle to world schooling has been the lack of “adult” time. Finding personal space is difficult when staying in hotels or small Airbnbs.

I did it for my inner child

World schooling, for me, is also about fulfilling my childhood dreams. I travel for my 11-year-old self, who spent countless hours daydreaming about traveling and watching House Hunters International. My current lifestyle is in many ways a hearty celebration of my inner child’s dreams.

In this way, it is about setting an example for my children. I believe it is essential for children to witness their parents, especially their mothers, pursuing their happiness and fulfilling their dreams.

My mother sacrificed everything to be able to homeschool me and my siblings. Since becoming a parent myself, I’ve learned that giving up everything for the sake of your children is not healthy for you or them. By living my travel dreams, I’m showing my kids, especially my daughter, that your dreams don’t have to die when you become a mom.

World schooling is not just about education and exploration; for me, it’s a journey of self-discovery and setting an empowering example for my children.

Beth McCarter is a certified teacher and creative e Home school graduate.

Have a personal essay about living abroad or parenting that you’d like to share? Contact the editor: [email protected].

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