There are a few reasons I love Gabi Klaf. Not only because she’s the one of the most super positive, lovely travel bloggers out there but also because she has a beautiful family that all rivals her own fun-loving crazy self.
In this interview we’re going to find out more from Gabi, her family and her site, The Nomadic Family ,and find out just what it’s like to travel the world with all your family in tow.
1. Hi Gabi and family! Could you briefly introduce yourself and your sites?
My name is Gabi, I’m a spiritual family therapist who helps people heal their traumas, fix relationships, and replace pain with purpose. I love the wind, exercising, and writing. Kobi is an ex-hi-tech manager turned dog-trainer who loves to laugh, play pool, and read aloud great books to the kids. Dahnya, our eldest girl, loves reading in English (very new for her), making songs, and playing with her Pet Shops. Orazi, our boy, loves making weapons out of rocks and sticks; playing with sand and frogs; and fluctuating between adoring and terrorizing his sisters. Solai, our younger daughter, loves cutting paper art, giving gifts and art to others, and doing whatever Dahnya and Orazi are doing.
We’ve got two sites, The Nomadic Family, the travelers who are spiritual, and Gabi Klaf , the spiritual soul who is traveling. The first is our family travel blog, a very untypically honest family travel blog about all the things we face on the road. It’s a travel blog about a family searching for themselves, and all the joys moments and hellish low points that we experience in open-ended world travel. The second is my inspirational spirituality blog about empowering us to find the light and love in our souls. GabiKlaf.com is a site that brings solutions to readers’ requests for help in personal life issues and Gabi’s own struggles. It’s an honor and privilege to share our lives on these levels with others.
2. Tell us about your family! Where have you all travelled together and when? What have been some of your favourite travel experiences as a family?
We’ve traveled now for 19 months. We travel slowly, and deeply, living with the locals and fully experiencing life in different communities. In 19 months on the road, as a family, we’ve been in 9 countries. In almost every country, we spent between 6 weeks- 3 months in same spot.
USA- 2 months (mostly RV trip, and Houston with family)
Costa Rica- 2 months (mostly living in a ranch/ volunteering/ kids attending school)
Panama- 3 months (mostly in Boquete, teaching/volunteering in an expat community)
Colombia- 1 month (most of the time in Taganga where Kobi got his diving certification)
Ecuador- 2 months( mostly in an indigenous village in the jungles. Kids went to Quichway/Spanish Indian school. We meditated and talked for hours in the river.)
Peru- 3 1/2 months (mostly in Lima, Peru working in a hostel, living with local friends; great part in Huanchaco where we lived in a tent and kids learned to surf)
Thailand- 1 months (mostly in Kanchanaburi off the River Kwai, playing with local kids through pantomime)
Cambodia- 6-7 months (currently still in Siem Reap, working at a hostel and adoring the Cambodians’ kind nature and smiling spirits; studying Buddhism and Quantum Physics intensively)
Favorite, for sure, is our lives in the village in the jungles of Ecuador. We lived, for the first time in our lives, totally unproductive. We learned to give ourselves permission to just be, in the river, relaxing, talking for endless hours into the night. We cleaned our souls in that river, and watched our kids fully engaged in a village life of school, exploring nature, and in constant adventure with the village kids.
3. When it comes down to your blogs, what role does your family play?
Gabi writes the inspirational self-help therapy blog alone. It’s my baby, how I face the unresolved issues within me and inspire others on the path towards enlightenment, as well. The Nomadic Family site was once written by only Gabi, but now has Kobi getting more and more involved. Kobi is loving to express himself online, as he writes his heart out and picks from our tens of thousands of photographs to capture the shots that best reflect the memories he’s conveying. Dahnya, our eldest, has written one post so far, and was so excited by having her own tab, and getting so many kind-hearted comments. Her online writing affair, began, and ended, there. We’ll see what the future brings.
4. What have been the best and worst places you’ve travelled to with your kids thus far? Why?
Best has been the village, even though it’s a bit unfair to focus on one place. The world has been so kind and inspirational for us. When we lived on the ranch in Costa Rica; we were volunteered like crazy- working with senior citizens, teaching English at the local school, working at an animal rescue, and teaching Clean Your Soul classes to the local ranchers. We fell in love with that community, and the beautiful people who wrapped us in their love. Likewise, we fell in love with the sleepy town of Huanchaco, Peru where we lived off the beach in a tent and spent our days walking on the sand, and the promenade that slopes across the town. And Siem Reap has grabbed us in a way that we never thought possible. I could easily see us living here for years; and can see how hard it will be to leave at the end of October.
So, so many places have been so meaningful and breath-takingly gorgeous. In Banos, Peru, the waterfalls were heart-stopping; in Boquete, Panama the clouds dancing around Volcan Baru were dramatically surreal; around Siem Reap, Cambodia, we’ve sat in silence and meditated with the wind caressing our bodies. We’ve lived in almost everything- cabins, huts, tents, rv’s, hostels, and host-homes. It’s all been the perfect ying yang of amazing and shitty, and not because of necessarily this location; but because of whatever state of mind our family has been in. There have been seasons of active hiking, exercising, exploring, everyday studies with the kids, and meeting locals and fellow backpackers; and seasons of being withing- learning, sleeping a ridiculous amount, reading, cuddling, writing, and chilling as a family with long leisurely lunch talks and lots of Kobi playing chess and ‘the worms game’ with the kids. It has been unreal.
5. Tell us about the best cultural experience you’ve all had together? What makes really great moments for all you guys?
Culturally, we’ve attended these amazing festivals and religious ceremonies that have blown us away. In Cartagena, Colombia, we partied late at nights with our kids, and screamed our hearts out in foam-fights with the locals. In Siem Reap, Cambodia; had the unreal esteem and deepest honor to meet the King of Cambodia. He is a kind-hearted, unearthly soul who took us each in two hands, with love and wonderment shining out of his eyes. In Mancora, Peru; Magdalena, Peru; and El Quinche, Ecuador; we experienced breath-taking beautiful church festivals with respectively fireworks, street parades, and paper lanterns released to the sky. Unreal. Fuckin unreal.
6. How do you handle spending so much time together? Any secrets to share?
How do we deal with it? We use drugs heavily, and give them to the kids, and hence, don’t have any problems at all, ever, ever,ever.
We do spend so much more time together than we had in our entire lives together. We no longer pass each other on the way to jobs, school, cleaning house, and errands. We are no longer running around in insanity. Now, we are calm, we are there, we spend hours cuddling, talking, reading, and exploring the world together. Our typical lunch date is a three hour leisurely affair with long walks to and from our little restaurant spot, reading aloud or playing games at the table, and talking and laughing tons. It does our family and has done our normal dysfunctional family dynamics miracles. To be clueless, lost and illiterate; together with your children,is bonding and enlightening.
But, when we feel we need space, we take it. When we are not on the move or exploring; we live a life in which typically do not see each other for hours at a time each day. I love writing; I treat clients online via Skype; I love exercising alone. Kobi loves reading, playing pool, and watching movies. Kobi and I love long walks together, and go dancing at often at nights. The kids play chess, play outdoors, and raid the hostel’s computers on their computer days. They, and we, make friends around the world which we enjoy spending time with individually; and we all fill our time doing what we are most passionate about.
One of the things that I feel make the nomadic family lifestyle possible for us is that Kobi and I give a huge priority to satisfying our individual needs. We spend a huge amount of energy making our individual dreams come true. It has been unreal, and a key to us finding joy in this travel life. Kobi went off for two months alone (to sell our car in South America); I am going tomorrow (from the date I am writing this) for a two week+ Vipasana meditation, followed by a week alone to write and meditate.
7. What are your biggest challenges when travelling with your kids?
We’ve overcome the greatest challenge, which was how to live joyfully when we are together all the time. When we move a lot; we find ourselves lost, exhausted,and a lot less able to give and love and take care of our children. The beginning was tough for us, as we didn’t know how to parent in a constantly changing world. We’re learning.
Like back home; we face the normal family issues, like melt-downs, fights, pushing buttons, and driving each other crazy. We work hard, in our travels, to remember to feed our kids before we hit starving; to drink enough water before we get dehydrated; and to put our kids to bed (even when we are doing really fun night-time activities) before we all get over-tired and can’t handle it. We’re normal, Will, so normal.
8. This is the dangerous one… Is there anything you would change about your family/kids when it comes to your experiences travelling? (Now no fighting please, criticism is productive remember!)
We are exactly who we are, Will, as we are, down to the very last detail. I believe, that our souls picked each other, and our family to learn from each other, to overcome the deepest issues that we were meant to. And so, though we each have pet peeves and character traits that drive us fucking mad; I, really, truly believe, we are meant to face those things, and learn from them. We are learning how to healthily express anger, how to set limits that respect us, how not to be taken advantage of, how to love myself while loving others, and how to deal with five people who sometimes act like the most irrational, selfish humans on the face of this globe. It’s perfect. It’s perfect. Blessed chaos, if you will.
9. It’s a common sweeping statement in the travel world that ‘you’re not really travelling if you’re with relatives’. Seeing as so many people travel as a family, this seems a little odd to us. What do you have to say about it?
I would go crazy, absolutely crazy if some relative, any relative traveled with us. I love them all, both sides of the family, dearly; but I could never travel with them. I do love it that it’s only us five and that I we have zero obligations to no one. Do you how freeing it is to not have to go hang out with people, or go to certain events, out of kindness or obligation? Our phone hasn’t rung in a year and a half; and I love that. I am free of any ‘relative’ dynamics, cuz I don’t count my kids as ‘relatives'; I’m a mom, they are meant to and supposed to be with me and Kobi. I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Moment of truth: Of course, at times (many), I see that sole female traveler, or that young twenty-something year old couple with light-weight backpacks and say, “Do I really have to have three kids (and a husband) in tow? Wouldn’t it be so much fun to be alone, alone, alone?” But, my choices are simple: A- Wait until I retire and pray, maybe one day, that I’ll be alive, have enough money, be married, or healthy enough to travel. B- Take my life in my hands and make my dreams come true, with my children, now, as we travel the world as a family. Take these short years that my kids are still with me, and cherish that time by spending it together, celebrating our lives together, not passing each other on the way to and from insanity.
10.What’s next on your agenda? Do you have any family travel goals for the year?
We plan to stay in Siem Reap, Cambodia for a total of 5-6 months. We work for the Garden Village Guesthouse and love it to death. It will be hard to leave. Leaving Cambodia will be hard, in fact; we love the people and the country so.
Here is the plan, but we all know how fluid that is:
– end of October 2012: Siem Reap, Cambodia
-Nov- Dec 2012: around Cambodia
-Jan 2013, Feb, March- Laos, Vietnam, and Northern Thailand
-September 2013- one month hike of the famous Anapurna with our kids (Nepal)
– a few more months Nepal, and then back to India for another 6 months
But, we meet someone in the street, sit next to a local on a bus and they invite us to their home, and the world of options opens up from there. We almost went to Moscow for 6 months for a hostel job. We’ll see. Anyone interested, can visit our site to see how we continue to meander the globe.