“Are you guys having a midlife crisis?” This question was recently posed to us by our 15-year-old son, Josiah. While we are admittedly living in our “midlife” years *gasp*, I hardly think that our life choices equate to a midlife crisis.
Let me tell you our story. My name is Carol Hintz. I’ve been married to my husband, Ray, for 20 years and we’re the parents of 5 kids – three boys and two girls ages 8 to 17. Last summer we left our friends and family, sold our house and most of our belongings, and hit the road for a year of family travel and adventure with our five kids! Are we crazy? You be the judge.
How it began
Let’s rewind to March 2022 – We had just sold our house in Phoenix, Arizona and bought our dream home in a nearby suburb. Our new house was everything we wanted – the right school district, the right number of bedrooms, space for our kids to hangout with their friends, it even had a pool! It checked every single box.
Now, in terms of style, it needed some love, so we moved in and immediately started demo. We were a few weeks in, having been living in the dirt and the mess and the hard work of renovation. I was sitting on our bedroom floor, completely exhausted. The long mirror that had once hung on the wall above the vanity was now temporarily propped up on the wall next to our bed for the rare occasion I cared to know what I looked like. Ray came over and said, “Don’t kill me…” Does your husband ever start conversations like that? One time he followed with, “I bought a lot of toilets at the auction. They’re in our garage now but I’m going to resell them for a profit.” Ha!
Thankfully, we didn’t have any extra toilets in our garage this time. Ray went on to ask me what I would think about selling our new house, homeschooling the kids and traveling for a year. This idea wasn’t completely out of left field. At the time, we had been pastors for several years, doing real estate on the side, and we had a sense that change was coming, but weren’t really sure what that looked like. We’d even asked the kids what they would think about homeschooling. However, coming from my non-adventurous husband, it took me by surprise. And I think Ray was just as surprised when I said I didn’t hate the idea.
The thought of traveling really resonated with me. While we had been better at taking vacations in recent years, with trips to San Diego, Disneyland, Dallas and Mexico, for most of our marriage we had been too busy or too broke to take trips other than the occasional road trip to Oregon to visit family. More accurately, our work/life balance was way off and we used busyness and money to justify our unhealthy lifestyle. But the older our kids got, the more I wanted to share fun experiences and make memories with them. In fact, I had listened to a podcast just a couple months prior to this about a family who was homeschooling their kids in order to have the flexibility to prioritize travel. I loved that, but just tucked it away, thinking it wasn’t a realistic option for our life. Now that it was a possibility, my heart really wanted it.
There was a lot to consider and we really wanted to make the right decision for our family, so we took some time to pray. We also talked to our kids and got their input, talked through the idea with some trusted friends and really thought through what this would look like and what it would take to make it happen.
While Ray is not as adventurous in the travel sense, he is more willing to take risks. When I think about travel and adventure, I think of taking trips, exploring new places and cultures, experiencing new things, making memories… Being homeless was not what I had in mind! Our new house was exactly what I’d prayed for and, after countless hours of blood, sweat and literal tears, it was so beautiful.
Like most women, having a place that felt like home to us, where we felt comfortable and at ease, was really important to me. The idea of not having a house to come home to was, frankly, terrifying.
Whether you have two, five or ten kids, you know that it’s almost impossible for everyone in your family to agree on anything. So, you can imagine that with such a big decision, we got some pushback. Our kids were very reluctant to leave the schools and friends they’d grown up with and the church they loved, to homeschool and travel. We had done school from home during Covid and it was a struggle! One of our sons had started playing high school football the previous year and was really excited to continue.
The thought of taking that away from him was honestly one of our biggest hurdles. But with the oldest two in high school, if we were going to do something like this, now was the time to do it.
The church we were serving at was also an answer to prayer. We had been lead pastors at a small church meeting in a high school when Covid hit. After months of doing church online, the high school reopened but decided not to allow outside renters. We tried some other things, but ultimately knew that our church could not grow without a meeting place. We didn’t have the financial means to buy or even lease our own space, so we approached some pastor friends of ours in the area about merging our two congregations together and they loved the idea. This gave our people and our family a place to belong, and allowed us to join an amazing ministry team. We had been part of this church for about a year and we were happy there. Our real estate business was also going well. It would have been really easy to just keep on doing what we were doing and try to squeeze travel in where we could. Or maybe we could homeschool for more flexibility in our schedule and take trips whenever we found a great deal.
As we were considering all of this, we started teaching a small group at church, leading couples through the process of creating a family vision frame (YT Video here). At the beginning of each year, Ray and I sit down and talk about what God is calling us to for that year. For 2022, we created a family vision frame, which outlined what we believe God gave us as a vision and mission for our family, the values we want to live out and ways to know if we’re successful. As we walked other couples through this same process, it was inspiring to hear the dreams God was placing in their hearts for their families and the ideas they came up with. The more we thought about it, the more we realized that this adventure could be a great way to move us toward our vision. It gave us clarity on why we wanted to travel with our kids – to make memories with them while they were all still at home, to have the opportunity to speak into their lives and instill in them the values we want to see in them, and to have fun!
“The steps of a man are established by the Lord, and He delights in his way.”Psalm 37:23
Going all in
With our why figured out, we decided to go for it. While we didn’t hear an audible Yes from God, we know that he gives us wisdom to make decisions for our lives and for our family. We took a step of faith and trusted that if it was the right decision, God would put the pieces in place.
As a realtor, Ray keeps a close eye on the housing market and 2021/2022 saw home prices rise rapidly in Phoenix, but the market was showing signs that it had peaked. We knew that if we were going to sell, we had to do it quickly. We had planned a trip to Costa Rica for our 20th wedding anniversary (kid free!!!) and wanted to put the house on the market before we left. The listing went live on a Thursday, we were leaving for Costa Rica on Monday. Our plan was to show it over the weekend and if we didn’t have any offers, we’d take it off the market until we got back from our trip. We had just two showings all weekend and the only person who came to our open house was a curious neighbor. My parents arrived Sunday to stay with the kids and as I gave them a tour of the house, I got pretty discouraged. The house was beautiful, nicely staged, it showed really well, but there didn’t seem to be much interest, and we had to sell it in order to make our travel dream a reality. I told Ray that it only took one person to see it and make an offer but on the inside, I was beginning to wonder if it was all a mistake.
As we drove to church that afternoon, I got a text from a realtor who said she had submitted an offer. I opened the email, not expecting much, and was shocked to find an offer for the full asking price. Even better, the buyer wanted to close in mid-August, which was exactly what we were hoping for. God showed up and it gave us confidence that we were doing the right thing.
Ray and I went to Costa Rica and had an incredible anniversary trip, zip lining through the rain forest, white-water rafting, hiking, swimming in the warm waves.
We’d love to go back with our kids someday! After two weeks away to rest and refresh, we flew home and got to work.
To prepare for our move, we had to downsize. We had gotten a bit of a head start when we moved into this house, taking the opportunity to purge things we no longer used or needed. While furnishing our new house, we bought only what was necessary for staging, so there wasn’t a lot of clutter. And I realized how much I love living that way – simple, clean and minimal.
We sold a lot of our furniture by word of mouth – friends, friends of friends, and other realtors – and used sites like Facebook Marketplace and Offer Up. We also had a huge indoor garage sale where people came to escape the summer heat and shop our house. For more tips, check out our post on How to Downsize in Preparation for Long Term Travel. We rented a small storage unit for the few things we were keeping.
In addition to preparing the house and packing what we’d take with us, we withdrew the kids from school, got what we would need for homeschool, signed up for a travel credit card, sold our Chevy Traverse and bought a 12-passenger van pic (more about that here), and started planning our trip!
As the end of our time in Phoenix approached, the kids hung out with their friends as much as they could and we took time to connect with those who had been such a huge part of our lives for so long. It was definitely bittersweet, but it has been so worth it. The house that we prayed for put us in the financial position to be able to spend a year traveling with our kids. The church that had become our family was incredibly gracious and excited for us to take this opportunity. And our kids have been extremely resilient. While homeschooling has had its ups and downs, they are doing well, and this time together is truly priceless.
Now six months into this adventure, we’ve crossed off 29 states, spending time in Missouri, Tennessee, New Jersey, New York, Washington DC, Florida and Texas, seeing some friends along the way.
We spent 6 weeks in Oregon for the holidays. This was the first time we’d been home for both Thanksgiving and Christmas since we moved away in 2009. Our last few trips home had been for funerals, so having some extended time with our family was really special.
Winter in Oregon also reminded us that we have acclimated to the desert, haha! We are no longer used to the cold, wet, gray climate that we grew up with in the Pacific Northwest. By the time we left, we were ready for some sunshine! We headed south to Phoenix and spent a month catching up with friends and enjoying the beautiful weather.
Right now, we’re in Sayulita, Mexico! Sayulita is a charming surf town about an hour north of Puerto Vallarta. The weather is amazing with temps in the mid to upper 70s, lots of sunshine and no rain in sight. Everything is within walking distance here, making it easy to reach my goal of 10,000 steps a day. Fresh tortillas are cheap and sold everywhere, you can grab tacos on the street for about a dollar each, and there are tons of restaurants and cute shops to explore.
At the end of March, we’re heading to Europe where we’ll spend a few months exploring several different countries. We couldn’t be more excited for our first trip together overseas!
You can travel too!
Maybe you dream about traveling more with your kids. Maybe you want to explore the world together and make fun memories. It’s never too late! We pulled the trigger and so can you. If the thought of selling everything and traveling full time feels too extreme, that’s okay! Start small. Maybe sit down with your spouse and talk about places you loved going when you were kids. Dream about places you would like to go together. Talk to your kids and create a travel bucket list. Then put something on the calendar, even if you just explore your home state. Get out and discover something new together. Family travel and adventure awaits!