How to be a digital nomad when you have kids
Berlin-based life coach and psychotherapist Katarina Stoltz shares her experience going on a workcation with her family, and offers seven tips on how to make it a success.
Going on a workcation is a dream many parents think is impossible. We’re always hearing about 30-something digital nomads working from far-off lands. But how can it be possible when you’re 40+ and have a family? Many of us find ourselves stuck in the “hamster wheel”, unable to jump off and do something different. But this dream isn’t as unattainable as you might think.
Taking your child out of school
Luckily, as an independent life coach and psychotherapist, I can work remotely with most of my clients. But taking kids out of the German school system adds a whole new level of complexity to digital nomadism - especially when your child is in her fifth year, like mine is.
“Welcome to the year that will give you the most anxiety and stress in your life’”. This is how the head teacher at my daughter’s school in Berlin started the Zoom session. We had settled into our little villa on the island of Koh Lanta, and I had dialled in to an important presentation.
Though I was several time zones away, I needed to educate myself about the German “Förderprognose” - a process that occurs in sixth grade when a student is recommended for a specific academic path based primarily on their grades. As an expat, I knew little about the process, but it was time to face the reality of what my daughter, and we as parents, would need to know about how her future would be decided.
A few months ago, when I asked permission to take my daughter out of school for six weeks, the same head teacher wrote me a long list of reasons why it wasn’t a good idea. One reason was that it was in the middle of “an important year for the kids”.
I had no idea what we had in front of us. I didn’t grow up in Germany. Should I be stressed? Apparently. In the end, the school left the decision to us. Will I regret giving my daughter a taste of the digital nomad life at the beginning of her most important school year?
I leaned my head on the sofa in our villa on Koh Lanta while the head teacher shared numbers and percentages on Zoom. I waited for the anxiety to kick in. I waited to feel regret.
What kids learn on a workcation
Instead, my mind wandered off thinking about all the things my daughter had learned during our time as digital nomads:
- The courage to try something new (Thai boxing)
- Focus and balance (joining me at yoga classes)
- Confidence (rowing a longtail boat)
- The appreciation of nature (everywhere!)
- Adaptation (new teachers, new classmates)
- The importance of relaxation (first massage)
The anxiety never kicked in, and I still haven’t felt any regret. Living like a digital nomad gave my daughter the opportunity to learn important “life skills” that she wouldn’t have learned in school.
Once the presentation ended, I went back to bed with a smile on my face, feeling proud of myself for taking her on such an adventure. “You’re going to have an amazing future, girl!” I thought to myself.
Tips for a successful workcation with kids
If you’re thinking about taking your family on a workcation, here are some things to consider:
Start planning at least six months ahead
You’ll need time to talk to your child(ren)’s principal, potentially find a local school for short-term enrollment, sort out how to work remotely and find a suitable place to stay.
Make a travel budget
Things end up being more expensive than you think. Don’t ruin your stay by thinking about money all the time. Be prepared for how much things will cost.
Check with your child’s current school
Ask early for permission to take your child(ren) out of school. Be sure to give a convincing reason in your application letter. Some schools may require your child to enroll in school in the host country (like ours did), while others might give you a packet of work to complete while you’re away.
Think about your family’s needs
A comfortable home is important for a family’s wellbeing. How many rooms do you need? Will it be okay to stay in one room all together or do you need more privacy as a couple and for work?
Decide on the best location for your family
Make it a family decision where you will go, then zero in on where you’ll stay. What places do you want to be closest to? Walking distance to the beach? Restaurants? Cultural sites? Depending on the age of your children, your priorities might vary.
Consider local transportation options
Will you rent a car during your stay, or can you walk everywhere? Does the school provide a school bus? Or is there a local bus? Find out what the options are.
Check the reliability of the internet connection
Internet stability can vary greatly from place to place. If your work requires a good connection, ask about the internet stability in advance.
Work-life balance at its best
Taking my family to Thailand is one of the best decisions I have made. We went to recharge, refocus and reconnect as a family and to individually get some alone time. We did all that and more! You never know what life has in store for you, especially when you take that first step off the hamster wheel.
If you’re dreaming of getting off the hamster wheel - going on a workcation or quitting your job and starting your own business, you need to get clarity on what stands in your way, then identify your first steps. Katarina has created an effective tool for breaking free from overthinking and ditching overwhelm so that you have energy to do the things that lift you up! Her free guided journal “Time To Thrive” will help you take action.