Sharon Gourlay didn’t want to stop traveling as her family grew—so she gathered up her two kids and husband, then figured out how to work less and have more time with the people she loved while seeing the world.
My family and I left our home country of Australia. We’re not sure how long we’ll be gone—or if we’ll return. We wanted to create a lifestyle where we weren’t running around all the time.
Currently, we’re based in Penang, Malaysia, and have a much more reasonable amount of family time than we did back in Melbourne.
What inspired you to travel?
I’ve always wanted to travel and I’m not actually sure why. Perhaps it’s because I grew up in Tasmania, which always felt like the edge of the Earth. It was a big deal just to get to the mainland of Australia!
As a teenager, I’d watch Australian travel shows and take notes on the destinations that appealed to me the most. I’ve always been fascinated by cities.
After the dot-com crash, which came around my 21 birthday, I went straight to a travel agent and booked my first trip. Since then, I’ve been to over 80 countries!
What’s it like to travel with small children?
It’s funny how minor things now become the most memorable for me because of my kids. Experiencing the world through their eyes changes what I remember.
We’re in Europe right now. At the Nobel Museum in Stockholm, the kids had the chance to participate in a special quiz. Upon completion, they each got a small prize. And they were SO proud of this. It was great to see them participating, happy, and to get to engage in an activity with them.
In Asia, we never sat down in a restaurant without the wait staff coming over to fuss over the children, holding them, playing with them, talking to us about them. One of our kids has red hair, which I think was a huge draw. The kids loved the attention, and honestly struggled when we returned to a country where they were invisible again.
No matter where in the world we go, our kids are an incredible entry point to the local culture. We’ve been invited to birthday parties of families who are almost strangers, and met people at playgrounds and local pools, giving us the chance to interact with locals in a way we’d never get to at a museum or tourist attraction.
How does your family pay to stay on the road?
At first, we used savings and my husband continued to work as a freelance programmer. I’ve been earning some money from my travel blog and a few niche Amazon sites (mostly concentrating on growing affiliate income, as that becomes passive income once it’s set up).
Thankfully, this is going very well. It’s interesting what can happen when you HAVE to earn the money, rather than WANT to. I’m currently making about $4,500 a month this way.
We need about $2,600 a month to live a nice life in Asia. It can be surprisingly cheap to travel with a family as long as you take it slow. We could definitely spend less, but we like eating out all the time, having a cleaner and basically doing what we want without being stressed about money.
It is great to be in a position where I am inspiring other families with kids that they can travel too, and I am very passionate and determined about making an online income work for us and helping others do the same.
Tell us about a memorable encounter you can’t get out of your head.
I was learning Spanish in the tiny Guatemalan town of Todos Santos. For four hours a day, I’d work 1:1 with a teacher, and we’d chat about problems in the town. There were too many teenage pregnancies where the father would deny responsibility, and many families who borrowed money to send one of their men to the U.S. to work and send money back – and the man would then never be heard from again.
Some parents didn’t want to send daughters to school, and excessive drinking was also a real problem.
Listening to all this was hard. The situations sounded hopeless and I felt helpless. However, the school was using profits to fund local children to get an education. For $30 a year I could sponsor a child to go to primary school. So I sponsored several after I left, and convinced family and friends to do the same.
Life just isn’t simple.
What has surprised you while on the road?
I think my kids get more out of traveling than I do. I used to write off travel with young ones as impossible or selfish, but I was wrong. They are constantly having new experiences and learning so much about how the world works.
Their toys are constantly taking taxis or trains to visit places when the kids are playing with them – something that never would have happened in Melbourne. Their toys are learning local languages (most recently, Polish!), and ordering local foods like samosas, noodles, or potato dumplings. Through their play, it is obvious the kids are not just learning, but understanding different cultures and places.
I can’t imagine they would ever have this understanding at this age without travel.
The great debate: aisle or window?
Window! But my kids get it now. 🙂
Where to next?
We’re in Europe for few months before heading back to Penang and maybe the Philippines… or the UAE and Oman… or somewhere else. Who knows!
Stay up to date with Sharon at Digital Nomad Wanna Be.