When the pandemic arrived in Colorado, the Lockwood family decided they would “lockdown” near the beaches of sunny Coronado Island, California, rather than stay confined to their home in Central Park. Phil’s virtual office, the kids’ remote schooling, and an existing vacation home in Coronado made the move fairly seamless. It also inspired what the family now calls their “semi-nomadic” lifestyle. Though travel restrictions limited their adventures to North America, they began traveling consistently while staying in private homes. “We would take an empty flight, go through an empty airport, and get a home we would stay in by ourselves for a week,” says Phil. What began as a bimonthly excursion is now a lifestyle that has them on the road about every other week with travels that Erin chronicles with beautifully produced videos on the family’s YouTube channel.
As pandemic restrictions eased, the Lockwoods traveled further afield and more frequently. They have traveled to many continents—including Europe and Asia—while seeking to connect to global cultures and offer their three children (Reagan, 16; Brooklyn, 11; Colt, 10) a different kind of education than that found in books and television. They keep their trips to three weeks to ensure they can return to their Central Park home, maintain their connections with friends and family, love on their geckos Dexter and Lila, and reflect on their most recent travels and adventures. They decide as a family where to go, refueling in Denver and then repacking for the next trip.
Travel as Teacher
For the Lockwoods, travel is not just about the destination. The journey itself is valuable. As with all travel, flights get abruptly canceled and travelers get food poisoning. These setbacks engender resilience and prompt reflection. Recalling a missed flight in the Philippines, Colt says “If something goes wrong, it’s not all over. It’s a new path.” The more they travel, the more adventurous their housing has become, expanding from mansions to a houseboat in the Philippines and a robot hotel for their upcoming trip in Japan.
As far as learning, Erin says her awareness of consumerism and the environmental impact of plastics has really grown through the family’s travels. She notes that the family “doesn’t check off a box” after visiting a country. In fact, the opposite is true, as each trip opens new doors to enter and suggests new possibilities to explore: “The more you travel the bigger the world is.” Excursions may include visiting marketplaces to sample local gastronomy or traipsing through churches to better understand a culture. The family also prioritizes natural wonders, swimming in cenotes in Mexico, and freediving with sharks in Hawaii.
Food seems to be a special passion. Sometimes the homes they rent include a private chef, but on most occasions the family peruses street vendors’ stalls and open-air markets to find lunch. In Mexico, cricket tacos are on the menu, and in the Philippines “balut,” or fertilized duck eggs, offer a new experience and are “much better with vinegar,” says Colt. Tamer tourist fare like poke and Leonard’s malasadas in Honolulu make their menu, and pastries often take center stage for the family.
The Lockwoods eat, walk, snorkel, paddleboard, kayak, and otherwise wind their way through the places they visit, exploring a range of cultural sites along the way. While Reagan is a student of Spanish, the rest of the family is essentially monolingual and relies on local guides to take them to diverse sites in the region and introduce them to unique flavors in the culture. The language of food also seems to connect them in many cases. In India, they dined with a family that had invited them to share a meal in their home; “it was like a language of love,” says Erin, reflecting on breaking bread together.
Challenges on the Road
Phil says the family has “tried to evolve our strategy to make it less stressful.” Longer stays in a country with less frequent moves between cities seem to agree with the kids more than the trips where they had to unpack and repack every three days to switch towns. They also acknowledge the importance of engaging the kids in the destinations before they leave Denver, such as watching a cooking show that discusses a country’s particular specialties.
Reagan traveled extensively with her family during Covid, but admits that it was challenging to participate in synchronous online school. She is a student at Northfield High School and lives with her mother (from Phil’s previous relationship) when the rest of the family travels. Currently, Reagan is lobbying to add Greece to the family’s itinerary during her school break. In contrast, Colt and Brooklyn have not attended a brick-and-mortar school in years. They are enrolled in an asynchronous online school, Ignite Learning Academy. They can work ahead in the curriculum and meet academic goals prior to a trip and then spend their travel days fully engaged with activities at their destination.
Though the Lockwoods plan some of their trips a year in advance, their faces light up when asked about returning home. For the kids, this means connecting with neighborhood friends. For Phil and Erin luxuries like showers and a home office beckon. Phil cites television host and world traveler Josh Gates’ words as he reflects on the semi-nomadic lifestyle and its relationship to home: “Travel does not exist without home…If we never return to the place we started, we would just be wandering, lost. Home is a reflecting surface, a place to measure our growth and enrich us after being infused with the outside world.”
Erin recommends this type of travel for families where the primary wage-earner can work remotely. The family will not visit conflict zones, but that appears to be the only limit to where this semi-nomadic lifestyle will take them. In the coming months, they will visit Japan, Maui, Bali, and South Africa.
Travel photos courtesy of the Lockwoods