Reducing Stress On the Road with a Family of 4 with Project Trek

Published on March 8th, 2022

I’ve been traveling for so long, it’s difficult to conceptualize what stick n’ brickers think of what we’re doing. The newness of full-time travel has long since worn off, but the realities are never far from the front of my mind – be it positive or negative. Obviously, since my family and I are still out here doing the dang thing, the benefits far outweigh the disadvantages, but that doesn’t mean it’s the stress-free, whimsical, footloose lifestyle that the popular van life Instagram accounts might have you believe.

There’s a certain amount of determination and grit required to make this lifestyle work, but oh man, if you can push through the inconveniences, the payoff is enormous. While there are certainly stressors that plague traditional homeowners that nomads don’t have to worry about, there are things like consistent internet, campground reservations, conserving battery power, the constant maintenance, etc. that occupy that nagging space in our brains. The only thing that could rapidly multiply that chaos is introducing children into the mix. But we did it. And while I’m not an expert on the subject by any means, I’ve managed to find a few key ways to help reduce stress while traveling with kids. Full-time travel is always going to have its challenges but, for us, it’s worth it. If you’re considering this lifestyle or are currently living it, hopefully these tips will be helpful.

Channel your Inner Dane

If you’ve never heard of the Danish concept of “Hygge,” don’t worry, you’re not alone. Americans tend to pride themselves on their work ethic and “bootstraps” mentality. Hygge (or hyggelig) refers to finding comfort, pleasure, and warmth in simple, soothing things. After quitting my career as a firefighter, this was a hard pill to swallow. I’m not exactly sure why it was so difficult, but now the allure of a hot cup of tea before the kids wake up is undeniable. Take a lesson from the Scandinavians and give yourself the gift of a break: This one is HUGE for me and something I’m still working on every day. When you’re constantly on the go, it’s so easy to feel like you need to be Super Dad/Mom and do everything perfectly – cooking, cleaning, playing with the kids. Believe it or not, there’s time for all that, but prioritizing your well-being will only help you and those around you.  Relax, take a bath, read a book, watch your favorite show – do whatever it is that makes you happy and helps you recharge.

Kids Need Downtime Too

Believe it or not, these tiny embodiments of perpetual energy – that somehow defy all the documented laws of physics actually need rest. It doesn’t always look like a nap either. Sometimes it’s getting lost in a Where’s Waldo book, sometimes it’s just zoning out listening to a story-time podcast. This was a hard one for me to learn because I wanted them to be constantly “doing” something so that I could feel like I was doing my job as a parent correctly, but that’s not always possible or healthy. While we’re not anti-TV, we do try to limit screen time to family movie nights as much as possible, but when Mom & Dad do need a break, we’ve found that episodes with slow storylines such as Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood or Little House on the Prairie (or “L-HOP” as we call it in our home) don’t amp their bodies up quite like a Marvel movie does.

Create and Stick to a Routine

This one is easier said than done, but if you can manage it, having some sort of daily routine will help everyone feel more grounded. Full-time travel can be unpredictable and that’s part of the beauty of it, but for young children (and let’s face it, adults too) some stability goes a long, LONG way.  We’re not rigid by any means and our routine definitely ebbs & flows with the tide, but there are some key things that we try to do every day: brush teeth, get dressed, exercise, make the bed, eat breakfast, read books, play outside. It sounds so simple (and it is) but if we can stick to most of those things, Mom and Dad (and by extension – the kids) experience much less stress. If I can recommend only one thing from that list it would be the exercise. Since committing to a lifestyle of daily exercise, the days that I go without it, are noticeably more stressful. Sometimes it’s taking advantage of local gyms, and sometimes it’s a quick game of pickleball with my wife.

Pro Tip: Let your Nose be Your Guide

The Limbic system is a complex set of structures in the brain that play a role in emotional responses. When you’re feeling stressed, the Limbic system can be activated, causing your heart rate to increase and cortisol levels to rise. This can be counterproductive when you’re trying to reduce stress. Luckily, there are some hacks you can perform to calm your mind and help your limbic system relax. In our house on wheels, we like to utilize essential oils. After a long travel day or a particularly stressful event, we’ll diffuse some lavender oil or make a batch of “Calm Down Clouds” (a combination of eucalyptus, peppermint, and lemon). If diffusing oils isn’t your thing – that’s ok! Just take a few deep breaths and focus on the scent. Not only will it help clear your mind, but the act of taking deep belly breaths has been shown to lower blood pressure and heart rate.

So there you have it! A few of our favorite tips for reducing stress while traveling full time with a family. What works for you? We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below! Safe travels!

About the Author

We are the Axness family; Nate, Christian, Ella, and Andersen. Five years ago, we sold everything, quit our nine-to-fives, started working for ourselves, and began traveling full-time in our RV. Our goal in sharing our story with you is to encourage you in your pursuit of long-term family travel.

We have been so positively impacted by nomadic life and believe that travel has not only brought us closer together as a family but also made us better citizens in our ever-changing community. We look forward to speaking life into your dreams of travel, helping you navigate the difficulties that travel can inevitably bring, and inspire you to embrace the RV lifestyle. Follow along with our adventures on Instagram @ProjectTrek.

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