By Sherida Mock
At age 15, Austin native Tsh Oxenreider caught the travel bug on a trip to Latvia with her church. That experience set the tone for an adventurous lifestyle. She met her husband Kyle while they were both working in Kosovo. She gave birth to one of her three children in Turkey, where the family was living at the time. Her most recent expedition was a nine-month, globe-trotting journey through Asia, Australia, Africa and Europe with her family. Oxenreider recently sat down with us near her home in Georgetown to talk about that trip and the resulting book, At Home in the World.
AF: What lessons did you learn on the trip?
Oxenreider: It was a great reminder that kids are resilient and adaptable and flexible. They just need to be given the opportunity. Our kids are all three very different, and yet they all did so well. They taught Kyle and me lessons on being patient when the bus schedule is really unpredictable or when you’re in a tight, crowded space or it smells funny or whatever.
They also open a lot of doors in other cultures, because compared to the US, so many other cultures are kid-friendly. They let kids be kids. They’re fine with kids being a little loud or unpredictable or messy.
We learned a lot about us personally. You know, there are families that do this full time. They’re location-independent. We learned that’s not for us. We realized how much we needed our own home base. Travel is great when it’s interspersed with down time and home, at least for us.
AF: Any things you’d change if you could?
Oxenreider: Our kids ended up loving the times when we parked for a while. We intentionally slowed down every couple of months. We’d catch up on school and work, but also just to enjoy the place. So we’d rather do fewer countries but stay in each one longer. It was fun to see so many places, but very tiring. It’s the moving from place to place, the packing again and again and again.
We were in southern France in the same guest house for a little more than a month, and that was extremely relaxing. I’m a big believer in not going to a place assuming you’re going to check off this big list. You could, but to me that’s not as much fun as just enjoying being there and getting a feel for how people live, the food, the lifestyle.
AF: Is travel like this expensive?
Oxenreider: It’s cheaper to keep travelling once you’re out there. A lot of times people say, “We could never afford it.” But really, the biggest expense is the long-haul flights. Once you’re already in, let’s say Amsterdam, it’s really cheap to get to Paris. Part of that is why we encourage families to consider a bigger trip.
We like to remind people that it wasn’t a vacation. We worked the whole time. The only things we saved up for were the things that weren’t in our budget back home: long-haul flights and visas. Everything else could translate. You know, we still needed to eat. Instead of karate lessons, we did museums. Instead of paying for auto insurance and gas, we were paying for taxis and metros.
AF: How did you manage to work remotely?
Oxenreider: I’ve always been an entrepreneur and writer. I can take my work anywhere. We had moved to Oregon from Austin for Kyle’s job. He had given them a three-year commitment and when those three years were up, he shifted positions. He still did work, and he caught up when we did “low and slow” times when we kind of parked for a while.
AF: What were your kids’ favorite moments?
Oxenreider: My middle son will usually mention Australia. He’s a late-December birthday, and it was the summer there. That was fun for him to have a summer birthday. We went to the beach. He thought that was really cool.
My daughter loved southern France. She had a lot more freedom. We lived in a village of 4,000 people, and they let kids go to the stores by themselves and walk around. She loved that part of Europe.
And our youngest will tell you Italy, because of the gelato. [laughs] We ate gelato a lot. It’s what you do in Italy. Sometimes we’d eat it twice a day. I’d be curious if we take the trip again when they’re teenagers how their answers might be different for different reasons.
AF: Any tips for families who want to try to travel?
Oxenreider: Don’t just wake up one day and take a huge trip. Start traveling locally. Be a tourist in your own hometown. Go away for the weekend and see some of the great small towns in Central Texas. Go into downtown Austin and spend a day just using public transportation. See how you enjoy it. You end up learning a lot about how you function as a family when you don’t have a car.
But the book is just as much about the love of home as it is the love of travel. I wrote it for armchair travelers, not for people looking for travel hacks. And that’s because I love being at home, too. Relocating back to Central Texas was a big part of that. It’s hard to beat the mountains and the trees and rivers in the Pacific Northwest. But here feels like home, and it’s because of the people. That’s a life lesson for all of us, including me.