You may recognize Ali, the mom from our latest family in our Traveling Family series, as the mom from past promotions for our Boba Wrap and the Boba Carrier. Since shooting photos with our team, she and her husband, Greg, have added two daughters to their family of two boys. I caught up with them recently after they returned to Colorado from spending four months on the Pacific Coast of Mexico where their second daughter was born at home. Ali and Greg have generously offered a peek into how their family balances work, travel and everyday adventure with a treasured family life and loving marriage.
I am delighted to introduce you to the Kuuhotti family.
We are a family of six who love adventure and seek out experiences that bring us closer to the beauty of the natural world. We have four children (2 boys, 2 girls) ages 5 and under: Orijah (5), Jezai (3), Jaia (21 months), and Mareyna (5 months). Daddy Greg is a Wellness Coach and nutrition consultant
, and mama Ali is a full-time stay-at-home mom, as well as an Ayurvedic postpartum doula and massage therapist
. Together we are a dynamic duo taking on this parenting journey with all the challenges that come with it.
What was your first trip after having your first child?
We took our first trip with child when Orijah was 9 months old to Akumal, Mexico for 10-days in 2009. The mission behind this was to scout out a location for our wedding (which was in Tulum, Mexico a year later). Because Greg and I had been seasoned travelers from the very beginning of our relationship (we met while I was traveling), we knew that when we had children that we would naturally integrate them into our lifestyle. In fact, we traveled abroad for nearly 6 months during our first pregnancy. Our first extended travel with child took place when our son turned 13 months old; we lived in 4 different locations in Argentina for 4 months. We put all of our belongings in storage (we were renting at that time) and began our travels. The biggest challenge at that time was managing the redeye from Atlanta to Buenos Aires (10 hours) and hoping that Orijah would sleep OK with the changes that were in store. Having a small child with us didn’t hinder our experience, but it influenced our activities and experiences. For example, we would have backpacked and explored the refugio circuit there; instead we did day hikes. We continued to travel as we grew as a family; over the past 5 years we have been to Mexico 5 times (in 3 different places), Alaska, and various places around the US in our VW Westy van. Our most recent trip took us to Troncones, Mexico
where we lived for 4 months and where our 4th child was born! We love how travel really anchors memories as our children grow. This is why travel is better as a family — it is so gratifying watching them learn and explore and develop relationships with people even when they don't speak the same language.
We believe that traveling with kids is wonderful and that one’s mindset determines how enjoyable it can be. Some people become paralyzed at the thought of traveling with kids because of the chaos and unpredictability: it’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the details involved with travel or to get caught up in the fears of all that could go wrong when you’re so far away from home. For us, this is part of the adventure and figuring it all out is exciting for us. The beauty and magic of travel is not just the final destination, it's the journey that is between getting from here to there. That's what weaves our story in life.
Many people mistakenly believe that you have to be financially wealthy to make long-term, family travel possible. We know that some families sell their home and belongings as a means to financially support their traveling lifestyle, while other families build up a home to rent out to others while they are away. How did you decide what was staying or going in order to launch your adventure?
When we first set out in 2009 for Argentina, we didn't own a home, so we put everything in storage and took off. However, we are now home owners. So for our 4 month stay in Mexico this fall, we rented out our house during that period of time leaving our home furnished and storing away a lot of our personal items. What has made most of our travel feasible and so flexible has been Greg's work situation — he has always worked from home and therefore he took his job with him wherever we went. So even though it seemed like we were always on an extended vacation, it really has been temporarily “relocating” to desirable destinations and creating a home wherever we go. What this means is that we haven’t been sightseeing on a daily basis in the traditional sense of traveling, but are taking in the culture more slowly and over a longer period of time than we would stay otherwise. This means more opportunities to seek out the markets, hear about things to do off the beaten path and to meet more locals.
What were you looking for when searching for a place to live out of the country each year as a family?
First, it had to be a place that had solid internet (which is becoming increasingly easier to find) in order for Greg to work. Other priorities include stunning natural beauty (from lush mountains to gorgeous beaches) as well as a cultural aspect that nourishes us. We want our children to have diverse life experiences and to be exposed to different ways of living including what they eat, what activities they engage in, what they look like and how they speak.
While traveling is immensely rewarding, it is often challenging too, especially in making that first leap. Please share with us how you overcame your biggest concern(s) around being a traveling and living abroad family?
For us, traveling with kids never felt like a big leap. We have always been thrilled to share our passion and the magic that comes with travel with our little ones. We pack pretty light for a family of six, although with our kids so young and not really carrying stuff yet, it can be challenging for both of us to carry all the gear for 6 of us…and wearing or carrying a child or two! For us the biggest concern when traveling with young kids has been if/how they will be on the super long car ride or plane ride. And to help ease those transitions, we pack plenty of healthy foods and give them the attention they are craving. We believe that feeding our kids healthy whole foods helps balance their temperament making them pleasant and easy going travelers. For the long drives, we have driven through the night (like 16 hours straight!) to make it easier on them (they slept most of it), and breaking it up so they could run around a bit, stretch and get exercise.
What do you see that your kids are getting from your travel that thrills you and keeps you going on tough days? How has traveling together benefited your relationships as a family and as a couple?
Our kids are already gaining a sense of perspective and contrast. Our beach life in Mexico is giving them an intimate relationship with the ocean and a much simpler way of living. It's so beautiful to watch them become enthralled with treasure hunts in the sand, playing with sticks, frolicking in the waves and taking in the beauty of the sunsets, every day. They are gaining respect for other people's way of life, beginning to learn another language and understanding why learning another language is important. They are very respectful children and are open to new things and taking on adventure. We have always been close as a family, but traveling pulls us in tighter because we rely on and look out for each other even more. A deep sense of trust is reinforced. We also turn to each other for entertainment. Traveling as a family doesn't allow for much alone time for Greg and I (which can be challenging at times), but we feel nurtured by being together most of the time and sharing in making meals, story-time, and seeking out daily adventures. When the children get older, it will be easier for us to spend more alone time.