Growing up in Austin, Texas, Tsh (pronounced Tish) Oxenreider didn’t plan on traveling the world. She led an ordinary, middle-class lifestyle with parents who happened to make experimental name choices.
The farthest her family traveled together was Colorado. But in 1993, at age 15, she went on a two-week trip to Russia with her church. “That was the first experience I had that opened my eyes to different cultures, a different way of doing life, a different rhythm,” Oxenreider says.
After graduating from the University of Texas at Austin with a degree in English and Cultural Anthropology, she backpacked around Europe with a friend. Later she moved to Kosovo to teach English and met her future husband, Kyle, who was there to rebuild houses after the war.
“We knew from the beginning of our family that it would be in our DNA to immerse ourselves in other cultures and explore them,” says Oxenreider, who hosts a podcast called The Simple Show and blogs at The Art of Simple. After spending several years in Turkey, the couple moved back to the United States but agreed that when their three kids were out of diapers and able to carry their own backpacks, they would live overseas again.
When the children were 4, 6, and 9, the family embarked on their dream and set out to explore the world as a family.
Oxenreider chronicled her family’s journey in her latest book, At Home In the World: Reflections on Belonging While Wandering the Globe.
We talked to Oxenreider about how her family prepared for their adventure and what she learned from the experience. Here’s what she had to say:
THE BIGGEST CHALLENGE — AND REWARD — OF THE TRIP:
“The biggest challenge was the nonstop togetherness, but that was honestly the biggest reward, too. We’re still reaping the benefits of being a tight clan and of the shared memories that only the five us have.”
HOW TO START TRAVELING WITH KIDS:
“Don’t suddenly decide to travel internationally — start traveling in your own culture, whether that’s weekend trips from wherever you are or even day trips in your city. Practice using public transportation. Make [it a] game and see how you and your kids fare. Once you’re comfortable, try an extended domestic trip. Remember that you get better at traveling the more you travel.”
HOW TO PLAN FINANCIALLY FOR A LONG TRIP:
“My husband and I were fortunate in that we took our work with us, so we continued to make money as we traveled. But before we went, we saved up for things — like airplane tickets and visas — that [weren’t part of] our regular monthly life expenses here in the States.
“Otherwise day-to-day travel expenses were similar to our regular budget. For example, we have auto insurance and gasoline and tolls, but while traveling we had public transportation, train, or car rental fees. It all kind of evened out.
“We also sold our house, but many people rent out their houses or list them on Airbnb while they’re gone.”
THE BIGGEST TAKEAWAY FROM HER ADVENTURE:
“I learned so much about what it means to be at home. To me, being at home means belonging somewhere. It means knowing and being known by other people. Home isn’t about a dot on the map, geographic beauty, or great restaurants. It has so much more to do with people and community.”