Meet the McGuinness-Clapp Family, a Worldschooling family from New Zealand who said goodbye to their home in 2017 with a 1-way ticket and without much of a plan.
Completely burnt out from a failed business venture, mum Elly and Dad Colin were excited by the possibilities of more adventure and less stuff. They adopted a simpler online business model and haven’t looked back.
In January 2019, 3 became 4, when they returned to New Zealand to welcome baby Romy to the family. At the time they had spent close to 2 years in SE Asia, and after 4 months back in NZ for her birth, and to clear out their storage unit, the family continued on their adventure as an unschooling, slow traveling family.
After another year back in Asia they transitioned to the European leg of their journey in March 2020 and are excited for all of the adventures that await them.
My name is Elly, and along with my partner Colin and our two little girls, Ayla and Romy, they’re six and one, we slow travel full-time. We’re originally from New Zealand, and we left three years ago, on a one-way ticket without much of a plan, and we’ve been slow traveling around southeast Asia ever since then. We’re about to undergo a big change, and we’re moving on to the European leg of our journey next week.
Where are you at the moment?
We are currently on an island called Bohol, which is in the Philippines. We landed in Cebu a couple of months ago. We stayed there for about ten days, and we realized the city was too chaotic and full-on, and it just didn’t quite feel right for us. Originally, we weren’t sure about going to an island, I guess the Philippines is all islands, but I mean, outside of the main city. We tend to stick to cities because of our digital nomad needs, but we found this co-working space on Bohol, they promised us a certain download speed, and we thought, well, we’ll give that a go. So we’ve been here for about seven weeks, and we’re ready to move on to Europe next week.
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How would you define world schooling?
Worldschooling means different things for everyone; everyone’s on their own journey. I’m aware that there are people who don’t necessarily do a lot of travel but may consider themselves still Worldschoolers because they’re interested in the world. They may include some form of world learning or learning about other cultures right where they are at home. Some people have their full-time jobs, their home base, and then they travel when they can. For us, we slow travel full time. So that is our picture of Worldschooling. We really just see it as an amazing opportunity to learn from the world. And Colin and I consider ourselves life learners, and we have for a long time, we’ve been into personal development for a long time, and we believe that travel just offers the best of that. It sort of fits with our unschooling philosophy as well. Our older daughter, she just heads off, and she does her own thing, and yes, she learns different things in every country and every place that we go. Even when you’re at home, and you’re not traveling the world, there are opportunities to learn everywhere.
Worldschooling just takes that up a notch with all the new rich experiences that you’re constantly exposed to. All the challenges that it provides you with; all the learning opportunities.
When did you start world schooling?
We left New Zealand three years ago, a one-way ticket, so I guess you could say that was the start of our Worldschooling journey.
Why did you start world schooling?
A failed family business gave us the opportunity to open our minds and go, hang on; we don’t have loads of money, we’ve just taken this huge financial hit because our business has majorly failed, but we don’t regret any of it. We don’t consider it a mistake, but it’s a business fail. We had to sell our house and our cars and get rid of most of our things. We had to sell our rental later as well. So, it put us in a position that to the outside world might have seemed, well, you’re not in a good financial position. This is not a good time to consider traveling again, but yet for us in the way we think; this is the perfect opportunity to travel and to do things differently and think of things in a different way. We’d both loved to travel, in our younger days. This was the opportunity again, there are different ways of doing things, and I can say that our travel lifestyle at the moment costs us less than living in a developed, expensive country, like New Zealand.
How does your family world school?
So we slow travel in general, which is usually about three to six months in a place. With this lifestyle, it’s great because you have the flexibility to move on if something’s not working for you.
How did you prepare to start world schooling?
We packed up as much as we could mentally and physically at the time, which meant that we got rid of some big things, couches, and chairs and things. We packed boxes, and we had a storage unit, which we kept for two years until we went back home to have our second baby, and then we got rid of it all.
Did you have any fears or questions about Worldschooling before you got started?
I don’t remember any specific fears; we just saw it as an adventure, we were very open-minded, but we had only read a couple of families’ blogs. We had a couple of locations in mind that we were going to try, and we arrived to stay with my sister for a week or two in Singapore, and then we headed to Malaysia as our first destination.
How did friends and family react when you started Worldschooling?
My family is amazingly supportive, they’re very open-minded, and I know that that’s not the case for all Worldschooling families. My family are inquisitive, sometimes they ask questions, but they’ve never tried to stop me doing anything. They’re always letting me do my own thing, which has been amazing and my mum enjoys travel a lot. So she just sees it as an opportunity to come and visit. Honestly, New Zealand is quite hard to get around sometimes; it’s quite a long country. My family is sort of up at one end, and we were living down south.
So to put it in perspective, it’s probably cheaper to fly across to the main centers in Australia than it is to fly from my hometown because it’s one of those little places without any cheap flights. My family wasn’t worried that we were moving away from them or anything like that. We’re fortunate on that side of things with my immediate family. We’re interested to know other people. Maybe that’s not for everybody because that’s not on their radar at all, or they just kind of don’t get it. You’re leaving, and you don’t know when you’re coming back or what you’re going to do or anything. That doesn’t register with me, so no further conversation needed. On the other side of the family, there were a few. There are different ways of thinking, but that’s how Colin and I function. We’re moving closer to Europe now. While we are moving to Europe, we plan to get to know the other side of the family.
What were your initial plans for educating the children?
Before Ayla was born, some of the friends that we had, their children were maybe two or three at the time, and I guess; the people that we connected with really, really closely and well, we noticed that their children were being homeschooled or unschooled, and we spent some more time with these families. We went away on some weekends away together, and we thought we want to be the people that spend most of the time with our children and have the biggest influence on them. We just thought, those primary school years, I couldn’t imagine a teacher spending more time with my children than we would. I’m a little bit of an organized person, and so is Colin to some degree, back then, I wanted to think about ticking the boxes, and making sure that she was going to learn everything that she needed to learn. Then I saw how amazing these unschool families were, and I said to myself, stay open-minded, stay open-minded, and then I thought she’s young. We adopted the Rudolf Steiner philosophy, where the first seven years is about play. Play was always, always, the focus, but I thought when she’s the older we’ll get a curriculum, you can get online curriculums, or whatever. Unschooling that’s always going to be a little bit scary. If you talk about fears, then I wondered am I giving her the best opportunities and possibilities for learning, it just evolve more.
Then when Romy came along a year ago, I have literally been so tied up with this baby. I’ve said Ayla; you’ve got to find something to do for two hours if you want us to go out today. Go and entertain yourself for two hours, and I feel horrible. But then I notice how self-directed she has become. We’ve had tensions and behavior spikes during this year as well, but at the same time, some amazing opportunities for growth, and she really does just get on, and she chooses what she wants to do when she wants to do it. So I guess over the course of this past year, we’ve been doing things, going to a Worldschooling summit and then meeting these unschoolers, who were twenty, who were the most amazing well-rounded people, and I thought, it’s going to be okay.
What does a typical world schooling day look like for your family?
We slow travel, and we allow ourselves a lot of time to chill if we need to. And we love adventuring, going to new places but a lot of this is based on my energy levels. And I have a one-year-old baby who still feeds all through the night, and then she’s teething, and I’m carrying her around all day. I guess with our lifestyle; we have complete flexibility to be able to wake up and decide, I got two hours sleep last night, we’re hanging around here today Or, I got two hours of sleep. So we’re going to get out of the house because I can’t stand being around the house today. So we don’t plan a lot, it’s day to day.
When you’re traveling, how do you create community?
Our daughter, Ayla, is very, very confident, she will go up to anyone in a playground, and she’s best friends instantly. Ayla and I, we started traveling when she just turned three, and so she’s naturally a social person. She finds friends literally anywhere. Colin and I are both friendly social people when we want to be. At the same time, we like our own company as well. I remember we met this amazing family who we have kept in touch with, just because they walked into a cafe and they had a baby. That was the same age as our baby and a girl who was the same age as Ayla, and we said to them, do you want to come and sit down and they said okay, sure. And they came and sat down, and we were friends. So it’s, taking those chances. Sometimes you meet people who give you a straight face, or they pretend they didn’t hear you or something, but that’s okay, maybe they’re shy, or perhaps they’re just not that open. So there are opportunities to meet people everywhere. Some places are it’s a lot easier than others, and we’re quite conscious about the need for community.
What’s it like being together 24/7?
We consciously did this because we want to spend as much time together as a family as possible. Even though we drive each other crazy sometimes, but not me and Colin, but more the kids drive us crazy. And sometimes, we need to see it through the challenging bits of being together all the time. I see it as learning and growing together. It’s me and Colin’s own personal development, I’ve done years of personal development, but nothing prepares you for being a parent and all the stuff that you don’t know that goes with that. I said to him the other day that I feel I’ve done zero personal development for the last six years being a parent, but you are learning. You are growing together, and I feel that being together for these younger years, that we’re going through the hard yards to learn to evolve together. To be together and to enjoy being together, to learn to meet each other’s needs. I see so many comments on Facebook when the holidays come around, like, oh, it’s school holidays! What do I do with the kids, or the kids are driving us mad. That’s because they’re not used to being together all the time whereas we are learning how to be together all the time, maybe not all the time, because it’s not completely healthy. And we have the hope that it’s going to pay off in the long term, put it that way that we’re going to have a strong relationship in the future.
What would you say are the biggest challenges of world schooling?
We’re raising a very strong, very assertive girl. Who knows what she wants, and we are trying to find that balance between having boundaries, but allowing her to be free and to grow, and to not squash her spirit. And to be appropriate, whatever that means. That’s very challenging, and at the same time exciting.
How do Colin and I get our time together with very young children, that’s something that is always a question, Romy is only one, and the cliché is that they are only small for a short amount of time. We get a babysitter from time to time in various places when it’s appropriate to do so. She may not want to go off with the babysitter at that moment. So we just get what we can at the moment. We know that it’s not going to be that way forever.
What does it cost your family to Worldschool?
We predicted what it would cost, and we’ve been pretty much spot on; I think I mentioned earlier that we would like to increase our budget in the future. We have a budget of about $500 US per month for accommodation, and in some places, we’ve found great quality accommodation for that price. In other places, we’ve been very below the living standard that we want. And it’s not always the place that you’d expect, for example, we think that Malaysia has one of the most affordable standards of living we’ve found in Southeast Asia. I’ve heard a lot of people say that Malaysia is expensive. Well, in terms of the accommodation, the standard and the price that we’ve paid, it’s much higher, and then you’ve got all your options to have very local, very cheap food, it’s just that you have Western options too, which is why we love Malaysia because you can find that right balance for you. Still, we think if you’re going to opt to eat local food a lot of the time that you can live well and really affordably there. It’s just that those bright, glitzy malls are there in front of you. So if you’re going to be tempted by them and want to go and buy your clothes at a western shop then shaw you’re going to spend more. And so we predicted that our lifestyle would cost us about $40,000 New Zealand dollars, which I think is about $25,000 USD per year. And that’s pretty spot on to what we spend. Now we do spend a bit on business tools; maybe that’s $500 a month. We have barely bought anything in the way of clothes, all we’ve done is get less, over our three years we traveled with three checked bags, we now have two, and we’ve just been wearing our clothes out. I’ve never been a clothes sort of person, but once you leave and go traveling, I might have had ten t-shirts in total to start with. And now I have three or four, that’s actually all I need. And the other ones have been worn out, so they’ve been thrown away. We’re going to France soon, and we’re going to freeze our butts off. So I went to the market the other day and got some brand new looking secondhand clothes for literally 50 cents. So I was blown away. Well, this is better than being majorly jet-lagged and going to a Paris op shop where I might spend $20 per item rather than 50 cents or $1 for an item.
I said we’d like to increase our budget in the future, but it would be used for more experiences and probably a higher standard of accommodation in some places. Everyone has different needs, and we’ve learned that I have a lower tolerance for poor quality food, and Colin has a much, much lower tolerance for low-quality accommodation. So he needs hot water, and he needs a proper shower, that’s not a dribble, whereas I’ve got my healthy organic food. And I found this organic health shop, and I just spent $200. And don’t tell Colin, and I don’t mind if I have a dribble out of the shower. I’d say we spend about $25,000 USD per year at the moment. And that includes our business expenses. So maybe it would be $20,000 USD if we didn’t have online businesses, some people are funding their travel other ways. But we want to continue to invest in our businesses. I guess the good thing about online businesses is that the tools and things that you need, the great ones, have comparatively much lower prices than if you’ve had a brick and mortar business.
How do you fund your travels?
We’ve been working that out over the past three years. As I said, we left on a one-way ticket. And we were starting from scratch again with this failed family business, which told us one thing, and that was that we wanted to do online work. Yes, the previous business was an online model, but it involved an organic fruit and veggie delivery business. There were so many layers to it. Dealing with fresh produce was hard, so even though it was completely online, it was very complex. And so it told us we want to do that online model. And we want to continue with that. We just didn’t know exactly what we were going to do.
Now we’re in the position where we kind of were forced to sell our house. Okay, so we got a little bit of money from the sale, not a huge amount, as a buffer to let us kind of recover and to start again. And to figure out how we were going to make money online, we knew that we wanted to make money online. We knew that we wanted it to be a lot simpler than an organic fruit and veggie delivery business. But we were lucky that we had that money from the house. And then we needed to sell our rental as well. So we had that buffer, I guess what you could call savings. It was savings to work with.
And yes, I’ve been in health and fitness for the last 20 years, and I know that I wanted to keep doing that, and it was just figuring out how to take that more online. I’ve done pretty much every role in the health and fitness industry. Fitness management and personal training, group fitness instructor course, tutoring, presenting, all of that. All things that require me to be in a place and trade time for money, and spend a lot of time planning and preparing, and following up and supporting people. I thought I’m going to evolve to become an online coach, from being a personal trainer. And yeah, that’s been a lot harder to sell than I could have envisioned. I found it very easy when it was a face to face interaction. So we have a lot of ways to earn income as a backup, things that we’ve been working on.
I knew that I loved writing, and for me, I could just write, and that would be my most enjoyable thing to do. It allows me to be a little bit introverted and to sit on a tropical island too because you don’t need a really good internet connection. I worked on my personal website platform, and I have a blog, and it’s now monetized. We see that as long term because we’ve had to undergo a lot of learning along the way to get it to the point where it’s able to make money as well. So in the meantime, I put myself out there as a freelance writer, and I’m not a trained writer, but I have earnt money that we’ve needed for day to day expenses, not all the time, especially not in the past year because I’ve been focused on the baby thing. My credibility in the industry has allowed me to be a freelance writer, and I only write about health and fitness. So you don’t have to be a trained writer; it’s having a bit of credibility, and you’ve got Grammarly too, that can help you, if writing is not your main strength.
Colin, he’s started all his skills from scratch, and he’s got an IT background. He’s very systems minded. So when we had that previous business, he automated the business completely. Sales are not his strong point, we couldn’t get the sales that we needed, but systems are his strength. He’s decided to specialize in SEO. So we decided that Google and making friends with Google was going to be our main strategy. Social media is very, very secondary for us; it’s definitely not our main thing. Colin says that he’s done his apprenticeship now, only just at the point of finishing his apprenticeship, and he’s going to continue learning because you have to continue learning to stay up with the play on all of this. He’s refined his SEO Services only recently, so now, because SEO is a big thing as well, he has three very specific services that he offers, and that’s based on what he’s learned. He’s experimented on my health and fitness site a lot. So we’ve shown that we can get paid posts to page one of Google. We focused on making my post rank before thinking about how to monetize our site. I had the post on page one of Google that I still don’t know how to monetize at all. So we didn’t necessarily think about that strategically from the start, it was more like how do we learn SEO and how do we learn to get more traffic, and people visiting these posts?
So it’s, ever-evolving and Colin is gradually niching down more, and I’m getting clearer about what posts I want on my website and which ones don’t fit in ongoing but mainly on our site. The long term strategy is through affiliate marketing, so selling other people’s products and services, because that’s a whole lot easier and faster to do then creating our own. We have created so many things in the past that people didn’t necessarily want to buy, and you think you’ve done your homework, and your research, and then nothing. It’s much easier to experiment with other people’s products, and we only choose things that we use ourselves, or we fully believe in. We’re very open and transparent with all of that, and I would only recommend fitness things that I’ve used myself, or that I know my clients will get a lot of value from.
Where can we find you online?
You can find us at parentingpassportsandprofits.com. That’s the best place to start because that is our family site, which has just recently been overhauled and updated. So you should be able to tell what we’re about by only looking at the homepage, and that’s where you will find the link to Colin’s site and my site, EllyMcguiness.com. It’s all about holistic health and fitness. So I can help Worldschoolers with staying fit and healthy on the road. And Colin’s site is, onlinemarketingdone4you.com, and that’s where you will find his very specific SEO Services, which are site speed fixes, website audits, and upgrading old content. Those essential services that he offers now, so you go to parentingpassportsandprofits.com, and you will be able to find the links to work with Elly or work with Colin.
What would you say to someone who’s thinking about getting started?
Reach out, ask any questions that you have, don’t overthink it, and give it a go. The longer you do it for, the less, you’ll probably feel like you have to plan, and you will realize that there’s not as much to worry about as what you think there is. Just be open-minded about what can happen because if you can have that sort of flexibility and open-mindedness, then that’s where the magic is going to happen. You’re going to have amazing things happen that you didn’t expect.
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Worldschooling Central is the creation of Karen King. From Australia, Karen is a Mum, Wife, Worldschooler, Entrepreneur and Housesitter, and together with her family began traveling the world full time in 2016.
In 2014, both Karen and her husband Cameron were living a “traditional” Australian life. Cam had a well paying job, Karen was running her own very successful small business, 2 cars, a beautiful house and kids in school and kindergarten. BUT… they weren’t happy. They were working too much and not enjoying life!
Both of them knew there had to be more to life than just existing – working hard all week and being too exhausted on the weekend to enjoy themselves.
So in 2014, the family took a well deserved 7 week vacation. During this time they discovered the idea of “Location Independence”. Soon after they discovered the term “Worldschooling”. Both were the answers they’d been looking for!
So in 2015, the family sold everything, and in January 2016, they departed Australia and have been on the road full time ever since!
Watch our full Worldschooling Spotlight interview HERE
Karen (51) is the Creator of Worldschooling Central. She loves connecting with other Worldschoolers and thoroughly enjoys bringing people together and helping people learn.
Cam (98) is a keen traveler and loves connecting with like-minded families. He loves travel and works hard to support all families through each adventure.
Brody (19) loves to travel and connecting with other kids! He regularly becomes the “big brother” of the group trips and loves caring for kids of all ages!
Sienna (13) is a tour guide in the making! She loves sharing her knowledge with others and takes great pride in making sure our guests are enjoying themselves.
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