And Baby Makes Three: An Interview with Wade Shepard
In his 2007 interview, Wade was described as a “modern-day nomad” and “travel was his lifestyle”. Not much has changed since that discussion. He’s still the “modern-day nomad” and “travel is still his lifestyle” but these days… That lifestyle includes a family. Wade met Chaya in 2008. They married and then gave birth to their daughter, Petra, in 2009. If you think parenthood overrides seeing the world – think again!
A lot changed in your life last year. You got married. You became a dad. How has this changed your perspective on travel?
Finding myself with wife and child has just strengthened my resolve as a traveler, and that traveling is the best way that I know of to cultivate a family. If I can travel with a family and raise a child on the road it would show that this is a sustainable lifestyle, it is a way of life that can be passed down through generations.
In my experience, the traveling life offers far more to savor, to learn, to figure out, to question, to answer than just about other way of living that I have been exposed to. When traveling, challenges occur daily which force you to use all of the resources at your disposal — this builds character, intelligence, and wisdom. If I had to choose a life for my daughter to lead — if I wanted to prepare her for anything life may toss her way — then I would want to raise her while traveling around the world.
This is what we are doing.
Raising a child while traveling is no longer an ideological rant that I use to have over beers with other travelers, but is something that is now real, raw, in my face, and in my hands.
Raising a child while traveling is no longer an ideological rant that I use to have over beers with other travelers, but is something that is now real, raw, in my face, and in my hands. I am not sure how well this will work further down the road — I do not yet know where to tell you to place your bets — but we have already traveled the USA from end to end as a family and are now in the Dominican Republic. We are living day for day, but if tomorrow is anything like today was, then I am quite sure that we can keep traveling on for at least these first phases of Petra’s development.
Marriage and parenthood aren’t usually considered to be compatible with full-time travel. What are your thoughts on that?
I would have to say that it is my impression that not much in the sedentary frame of existence seems to be compatible with full time travel. Whether you are talking about a career, health insurance, a retirement fund, a home, loans, mortgages, or having a wife and child, if you have the outlook of being secure and sedentary than none of it will mesh very well with traveling. I am just as free to travel now as I ever have been, because I intentionally set my life up in a way that would allow me to live like this.
I did not become a traveler by accident, I chose to live this way and made sure that my parameters were set up to allow for continuous travel. If I was burdened with many of the above stated responsibilities or values, then having a wife and baby would further nail down my tether. But I don’t. I set up a frame of living for myself a long time ago that took traveling to be at its center. Where many people prepare for a career or buying a home, I worked on cultivating skills that would allow me to live a full life moving from one part of the world to another.
Travel is not an escape from my life, but it is my life. Having a wife and child has so far blended itself in well with this frame of living. If any of you read the Vagabond Journey Travelogue you will see that I do not go hungry, I am seldom cold or without shelter, I think I live like a king on $10 a day. But I am only able to do this because I had to sacrifice other ways of living — other value sets — to enable myself to live like this.
There are sacrifices to any lifestyle. There are tons of parameters, drawbacks, and sacrifices in the typical life of a doctor, a lawyer, a truck driver, a construction worker, and the same goes for being a traveler. Petra may not have all of the amenities of life that a doctor’s child would have, or the wholesome security of that of a skilled trades man, but these people’s children will not have the experiences, the thrills, the knowledge, the education, and exposure that Petra will have. Any lifestyle is a trade off: you trade certain values and parameters for others.
Petra has her mom and dad with her almost 24 hours a day, her days are generally relaxed, we are rarely every stressed out. We wake up in the morning, I publish a travelogue entry, and then we go to the beach and swim, meet people, and check things out. How many children can claim to have this?
There is one thing that babies are, and that is curious. There is no better way to satiate and encourage curiosity than traveling. Long term travelers tend to just be big children anyway, so it would be an easy move to induct a real child amongst our ranks.
It is my impression that most people who would like to travel long term — even those without children — find reasons and excuses to stay home. They say that they can’t travel because they have children — and maybe they can’t, what do I know? — but we have a child, we are traveling, for us, traveling full time and having a family is working out well. I think the challenge was found more in initially structuring my life around traveling than with traveling with a child. I traveled for a little over 10 years before I became a father — I had my plot well set — and my daughter, Petra, and wife, Chaya, have fit in nicely with this plot.
How has having a baby changed your travel habits at a practical level?
It is true that we have had to alter our strategies for traveling with a baby. We now travel more slowly, staying in places for a month or two rather than weeks. We had to get use to having a little person telling us what to do all the time. We now need to spend less money, so we rent apartments rather than hotel rooms or hostel bunks. We now need to make more money, so I find myself sometimes working in archaeology again and staying up late into the night trying to squeeze more money out of our website, VagabondJourney.com.
My wife and baby are two more traveling companions, and their desires must be fully taken into account. I found that if I treat my baby with as much respect as I would another adult traveling companion, then everything seems to works out alright. It is difficult adding another adult companion to your group, so the extra parameters that we give to Petra are similar to what we would need to give any traveling companion. The only difference is that Petra’s needs are baby needs. If Petra wants to stop somewhere, we stop; if she is hungry, we make space for her to eat; if she gets sick of walking around, we go back to our room.
It is challenging traveling with a baby, I admit it, but adding another traveling companion — of any age — to your group is challenging no matter what. In my experience, the frustrations of traveling with a baby are nowhere near the frustrations of trying to maneuver through the streets with a group of adult travelers: “Where do you want to eat? I don’t know, where do you want to eat? I can’t eat there, they don’t have a vegetarian option. Well I can’t eat there because I don’t like how they handled the food. That creepy guy is looking at me creepy. I want to go shopping. I need to go to an ATM. How much money is that it in dollars? Where do you want to eat? I don’t know.” ARRRGGH!
At least Petra just cries when she doesn’t like doing something.
What about being married? Has that had a big impact on how you travel?
Yeah, I no longer need to move about the world chasing tail anymore. It is amazing how much energy a person can save by not searching for romance all the time. I can now sit back read a book, grow a great big beard, smoke my pipe, wear aviator sunglasses and funny hats. Marriage is pretty good.
I say this in sort of a tongue in cheek way, but I am serious: it is also good to have a solid companion when traveling. Where I falter I can depend on my wife to pick up the pieces and where she stumbles she can depend on me to clear a path.
Where I falter I can depend on my wife to pick up the pieces and where she stumbles she can depend on me to clear a path.
We now have a baby together and we run the website as a family business, so we are now on the same team in more ways than one. I have no complaints, but, then again, my wife also plays the game of travel very well.
My wife, Chaya, was traveling for five years through Africa, Central and South America, India, and Asia before we paired up, so this is nothing new for her. She had her own plot in place as well before we made Petra — and our lifestyles blended in smoothly together. She also has a university degree in international education, TEFL certificates, and has a sleek, clean, USA sitcom sort of look to her, so she is fully prepared for working on the road and finds jobs easily.
Where are you, Chaya and Petra planning to travel to this year?
We are in the Dominican Republic right now. The plan is to stay here for the next month and then move on to El Salvador via Mexico, Belize, and Guatemala, and then at some point go to Colombia. I really want to go to East Africa. Maybe I will try to pick up some archaeology fieldwork over that way and maybe Chaya will find work teaching. But if we boot the cost for the flights to East Africa this year, we are going to have to do a lot of work at something to make up for it.