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July 17, 2017

Tampa Bay’s Retired Toddlers take on the world!

By Laura Byrne

Michelle Schomp (34, from Cincinnati) and Jake (37, from Rhode Island) met through a friend at the University of Georgia some 12 years ago and have a small consulting firmtogether. Michelle works on her Beautycounter business while traveling abroad. Jake has mostly taken a sabbatical from enterprise  Salesforce.com  implementations and spends his time planning upcoming travel. The two are traveling around the world with their “retired toddlers,” and like many of their social media followers, we were intrigued!

Tell us about your family.  

Our two little Retired Toddlers are Henley (4) and Jagger (2). They are the best little travelers we could ask for. While they do have numerous typical tough toddler moments, we feel these stages would happen wherever we are, so why not be gone?

Retired Toddlers
What inspired this worldwide trip? How long will you be gone? 

Jake: I like to blame my mom for this trip. A while back I told her that when the kids get into their elementary school routines, I would like to stop traveling for work and spend more time with them. Her response really stuck with me. She told me that this young age is when the kids are most in need of their parents’ presence instead of when they are older and less reliant. She noted how much toddlers need their parents, want to be around their parents, and how much they can absorb from their parents at this early age. That conversation kept repeating itself in my head, and I finally realized that I will never get this time back; this is my one chance to spend this time with them while they have this distinct littleness to them.

We also realized that we aren’t guaranteed our health in the future and we don’t want to wait until ‘retirement age’ to explore distant parts of the world to check off our bucket list.

So we just lined up our life in a way that made this big trip possible. We didn’t plan for it to be this long of a trip, but we are enjoying so many aspects of it that we aren’t ready to put away our passports anytime soon.

 

Retired Toddlers

How were you able to make it happen? 

We’ve always worked hard, saved harder, and have tried to avoid extra expenses: we’ve always shared one car, we didn’t go out to eat often, no daily $5 coffee habits.

Once we felt we had a decent base put away in our retirement funds, kids’ college funds, emergency reserves, and cash, then we started budgeting for a trip. We never planned for it to be more than a few months, but we find that beyond flights and accommodations, we don’t spend nearly as much money on “stuff” like we did back in Tampa. If anything we are regularly trying to get rid of stuff out of our luggage to lighten our load rather than buy anything new.  No souvenirs on this trip!

We do need to have some self-restraint while traveling and we do often get tempted to see and do everything, as if we were on a one-week vacation. We have to remind ourselves that in order to travel full time, we need to take it slower and not feel the urge to see everything and to go all out spending on high dollar dinners and drinks. If we tried to keep up with those daily celebrations, we’d have blown our budget a long time ago. Instead we may pick up a couple drinks at a grocery store and piece together a dinner in our rental’s little kitchenette. We save on things that aren’t as important to us and spend on things we feel are worth it. This type of full time travel isn’t for everyone and we realize that, but for us if it means we can stretch our trip out another few months (maybe even an extra year) then it’s worth it!

Retired-Toddlers-Tampa-Bay-Parenting

Where have you been? Any favorite spots? Any locations you’d recommend other families to visit? 

We sold our home in Tampa in June 2016 and spent the whole summer in New England; then we took a long trip to California and Hawaii before spending holidays with family in Cincinnati.

In January of this year we flew to Seattle and took a ferry to Victoria for the kids’ first time out of the country. We took a small Harbour Air seaplane to Vancouver which was a highlight on its own. Next we flew overnight to New Zealand for a month exploring the north and south islands. We did a short week in Australia around Sydney and the Blue Mountains. We spent a few nights in the jungle off the grid on the island of Borneo in Malaysia. We had really nice villas in Bali, Indonesia. We explored a lot of Cambodia’s treasured temples, crowded cities, and laid back beaches in just under a month. In the UK we spent time in southern Wales exploring castles and some long daytrips into England/London. Scotland was another highlight with dramatic mountain and coastal vistas around every curve. We were able to do a lot of little hikes and nature walks all over the western Highlands there.

We wandered Copenhagen by foot and ferry. We spent a month in Norway, visiting friends in Oslo, we took the train to Bergen, and we took an incredible Hurtigruten cruise into the Arctic Circle exploring every little fjord port town right up to the Russian border.

Right now we are island hopping the ‘ABC’ islands of the Azores, Baleares, and Canaries off of the Iberian Peninsula (not exactly short hops!). We’ll spend the rest of this month drinking vinho verde and port wine in Portugal’s Douro River Valley with a stint in the Algarve along their sunny southern coast.

It’s tough to narrow a recommendation to one place, but we each have our favorites:

Jake: Explore Scotland before New Zealand. Much easier/cheaper flights, still no language barrier, very drivable (or get a rail pass), immense history with iconic castles and city centers, so many world renowned whiskey/scotch distilleries to tour, and the true gem is found in the countryside with its glorious glens, hidden creeks and crags, smooth serene lochs, majestic mountain peaks and plateaus, and crisp bucolic coastline.  So many little hikes for the little tikes to be immersed in the outdoor elements!

Michelle: This is hard. I tend to fall in love with many places. But for me, it is usually about the experience. Along those lines, my highlights would be taking a long boat with the Iban tribe into the Sarawak jungle, learning about all the beauty of the people and tough history of Cambodia, cruising into the Arctic Circle and feeling like we were literally on top of the world.

Retired Toddlers

 

Any travel tips you’ve learned while on this adventure–what can other parents learn from you? 

The majority of questions we get from parents revolve around sleep and things to do for kids. We go into each travel day with a fun attitude. We know those days are long days and we strive to all get a lot of sleep the night before. We try to prep the kids on what to expect and that helps immensely.  Even something as simple as “we will be going through customs, where you are expected to hold my hand the entire time” or “once we get on the airplane, take your seat, buckle up and I’ll give you a snack. You can then pick an activity for 10 minutes and then it is nap time”. Easier said than done for sure, but you’ll be surprised what a little prep talk can do. Kids like to know what to expect.

As far as sleep goes on various time zones, we don’t try to negotiate time zones before we arrive. Once we arrive, we just do our best to get on that new time zone. It may mean an extra nap at times or an early or later bedtime and we just go with it. We do try to stick to a nap, wake/eat/sleep schedule. It just may fluctuate by an hour or two.

 

Retired Toddlers

Our favorite products for travleing families: 
*  Noise machine is still a great idea for toddlers; you never know what kind of chaos/loud noises may be going on at the rentals/hotels/resorts/cruise boats.
*  Pop up tent:  When we don’t have extra rooms or beds, Henley sleeps with us and Jagger in a pop up tent we bring for him. It has saved us many times!
*  Stroller – We purchased a SUPER lightweight, but durable single stroller for this trip. When we need to ‘make it a double’, Jagger sits on Henley’s lap and off we go!

Where can people follow your adventures? 
We’ve had so much connecting with other families to see their travel tales on social media:
Instagram @RetiredToddlers
YouTube @RetiredToddlers
Facebook @RetiredToddlers
Or  RetiredToddlers.com

Retired-Toddlers-Tampa-Bay-Parenting

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