This Single Mom Travels Full time with her son! Learn more about Single Parent Travel!
Get to Know the Nieset Family
Meet the Nieset family. Like many single parents, Mom Martha wanted more from life – she just didn’t know how to get started. While working with a life coach Martha had a breakthrough – she wanted to move to Nicaragua!
It was a plan that most would think was completely crazy, but deep in her heart Martha knew this was the right move for her and her young son. So they packed up and headed off for six months – excited to break away from day to day life and experience an incredible adventure together.
Fast forward a few years and after returning to the US Martha and her son both longed to travel more. They missed the excitement and the adventure, so eventually they sold everything and began a full time worldschooling lifestyle.
Today Martha runs a successful company that supports single mom’s that want to travel. She and her son have travelled through Asia, Australia, Fiji and Mexico, and the future is super bright for this adventurous single mom, who followed her dreams!
Let’s meet Martha now.
Hi, my name is Martha Nieset. I’m from Central Ohio in the US. I’m a single Mom of one child. My son Sam is just about to become a teenager. He’ll be 13 next month, and we’ve been Worldschooling for about five years. For us, it’s been a mixture of being at our home base and then traveling out for several months at a time coming back to a base for a while doing shorter trips. So we’ve done a lot of different things.
What is Worldschooling?
I see Worldschooling as using the world as part of our education, so learning from the world, in the ways that we travel, the people that we meet, and the cultures we come across. I think in all those ways that we come across the world and our travels. So making that an integral part of how we learn and what we learn about.
Why did you start Worldschooling?
We became Worldschoolers about five years ago, I didn’t know what Worldschoolers was. I hadn’t heard of the term or anything. It was purely my desire, as a middle-aged single mother wanting to travel more with my kid, and having traveled to Central America a few times when I was younger before I had him. I remember this longing I had to someday take my child to experience that place and the people, and I thought what an enriching experience that would be for my child. So that was always in the back of my head. But I was living this 9-5 as a single mom. I had the house, I had great medical insurance in the US, and retirement plans and just a secure life, but I was really unfulfilled in my work and just feeling like I needed a change and wanted to experience a new place.
I had been to Nicaragua years ago in Central America and done some volunteer work, and that was the place I thought I would like to take my kid to someday. That just stuck in my brain, I was working the daily grind, and I thought we’re going to go to Nicaragua, it just kept coming up for me.
How did you prepare to start Worldschooling?
I started researching a little bit, and I figured out we could go for about six months of the year, and then we did it. I left my full-time job, rented out our house, and I thought this is what we’re doing.
What were the first few months of travel like?
I connected with an old friend in the area. I found a school for my son to attend while we were there. I chose a bilingual school, so he could start to learn a little bit of Spanish. He was in second grade at that time, and then it gave me a little bit of freedom to study Spanish myself, something I wanted to master at a better level. So I studied Spanish at the same time with a private tutor.
It was a sabbatical year for me, I studied Spanish, he went to school, learned a little bit of Spanish started learning about the culture, we traveled around the area, made new friends. And it was just this incredible experience.
How did that trip evolve into full-time Worldschooling?
We went back to Ohio to our home, and then we were trying to figure out what’s next? And around that time was when somebody said, hey, do you know about Worldschoolers? I think that’s kind of like your people what they’re doing, you’re doing, and I came across this Facebook group, and I started seeing all these people. They were so inspiring. These families are traveling in different places in the world, and I would watch their posts and watched the community grow. I thought, wow! These are people doing what I would love to be doing, and so I started reading and watching and learning and hearing about new things I could do.
I didn’t want to get back in the career route, but I worked in universities back in Ohio, so I did a little bit of work part-time. I figured out I could rent out my house and then we could travel again. So we went back to Nicaragua two years later. I started a small business to take families there to experience the country themselves and learn about the culture, and we had built relationships there. That kind of started to grow as something, just these new possibilities came about because we took the step, and we went to Nicaragua.
It was just really amazing how these opportunities came up, and I learned about new possibilities and what other people were doing and how they figured it out.
So we went back to Nicaragua, a second time, spent another five months there and then after that we spent about a year back home because my son wanted to be back home to go to a regular school, so we did that. At the same time that I started to Worldschool, we decided to go to a conference for families that like to travel, so we did that in Mexico. We spent some time there, all while he was in school, back home. I discovered the place where we’re staying right now it’s called Anahata Worldschooling Community in the Yucatan in Mexico, so this is the community for actually worldschooling traveling families who just want a place to kind of stay put a little bit longer, and have a sense of community, other adults to connect with, who is kind of like-minded and using the world as their classroom. And then also kids, for my son to connect with, which is really key when we travel, is having friends that he really connects with. So last year, we came here for one month and spent a month in the Yucatan learning about Mayan culture and traveling to cenotes and pyramids and just having this amazing experience. And then we actually we got to a point we sold our house, back home in Ohio, and I continued with my small business, I was taking people not just to Nicaragua, but last year to Costa Rica. And I took a whole group of moms and kids to travel through Costa Rica for a week and experienced the culture and just have like an amazing shared adventure.
When did you start Worldschooling?
We basically took off last summer to start full-time Worldschooling, with the plan of traveling for between one and two years going to different places around the world. We spent about four months, between maybe eight different countries. We went to Fiji, to Australia, Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, and China, and then we went back home to Ohio. So that was just like a whirlwind for us, and a new experience in Worldschooling and a new way to Worldschool.
We connected with other Worldschool families along the way, and we had a lot of different types of Worldschool experiences, and now here we are, after going back home for the holidays, we came back to this place that we love, to have a bit more community and to slow down, so we’re spending about two or three months here Anahata Worldschooling Community in Mexico. So that’s been like our journey over the last four to five years.’
What questions and fears did you have about Worldschooling before you started?
I think a few of the big questions I had before I started Worldschoolingwere around retirement? What about health insurance? What about being on your own in a country where you’ve never been before, is that safe? Is it safe for single Moms to do that? And then, how do you sustain it? How do you live? How do you work? And how does your kid go to school? How do they learn? I think those are the biggest questions and fears that I’ve had over time, or heard from others over time.
I grew up pretty mainstream in Ohio. So I just kept learning and asking questions from other people and figuring out what I could do, and just trusting in myself when something came up. Like when I started the business to take families to Nicaragua, I had built some wonderful connections. I learned how to start that business online, how to do a little bit of marketing online, and how to connect with people, and then it grew. So just building those connections and making those relationships, then you’re not starting from where you were before that place where you didn’t know, you’re building on your knowledge, and growing throughout that. I think just asking those questions, continuing to learn, and trying things, taking that step, just being brave, even though you don’t have it all figured out, and moving to the next place.
How did friends and family react when you started Worldschooling?
I’ve been pretty fortunate in that. I have a family that has been supportive and friends that are supportive. I moved to another state when I was younger. Just picking up and taking off wasn’t out of the realm of what people are used to with me. So I think people, for the most part, think wow, you’re doing that! They could see doing that when you’re on your own, but with kids, that’s a whole other ballgame. A few comments were people just shocked and surprised, but also really enthusiastic and excited for us. Mostly what I’ve heard is like wow! what a great gift you’re giving your kid, to have so many adventures and learn in such away. I think that’s what I hear the most, and if people have doubts or other negative thoughts, they tend not to mention them.
What does a normal Worldschooling day look like for you?
As Worldschoolers, I don’t know if we have a normal day, just because it changes depending on what kind of Worldschooling we’re doing. If we’re living somewhere for four or five months, it’s just very much like at home, except going to the grocery store is different. If I’m in Nicaragua I’m going to take a taxi, with five other people! And then I’m going to hail the taxi to go back, with five other people in the car! If I’m back in Ohio, it looks like I’m just getting in my car and driving myself there.
Right now I’m in a community with other families, and so I don’t go to get groceries, except maybe to buy some extra fruit or something, because meals are part of a package while we’re staying in this community.
If we’re on the road, like when we were in Asia, we had a little kitchenette where we were living, and so if I’m in a brand new place, I think, okay, where’s the grocery store? How do I get there? And do I have the right currency? And how do I take a taxi or walk, or all of those things? Making sure that our family gets fed is different depending on where we are in the world.
We also spent two weeks on an island in Fiji, and meals were included in that, so there was no running to the grocery store. We just sat down with people to share the food that was prepared. So it’s just really different.
While we’re in a community, I love that we get to slow down, I have space to work during the day. We have meditation and yoga each day where we’re staying right now, I have a meal with other families, and time to talk. My son is off, doing some gaming with some other kids, or out running around playing in the yard. We might go out for an activity to learn from one of the Mayan families in the village, or going to a Cenote for the day, which is like a swimming hole here in the Yucatan, they are really unique to this area.
So a typical day, it just depends where we are, but we have our usual morning rituals and figuring out how to do those in the location where we are.
How do you create community while you’re traveling?
That’s huge, because I didn’t know about a Worldschooling community online when I first began, so we just moved to Nicaragua. Through my son’s school, we met some other ex-pat families, and we also met local families. So the local families were speaking Spanish with us, which I was okay with, my son not so much, at first. So it was really difficult for him to really build those friendships. He’s such a verbal kid, but he plays, so he was looking for kids that understood how he played and could speak the same language with him. Those were the relationships that we spent the most time with while we were there, but after that, he struggled, because there’s only a limited number of kids that he can build those relationships with. So we shifted how we Worldschooled after that because we went home for a while after Nicaragua, but then when we left to Worldschool full time, I was specifically looking for a community when we traveled.
When we took off for Asia, we started in Fiji with an online program that was advertised through some Worldschooling sites. We went and spent time with 10 other families that were integrated with the Fijian culture and were learning about the Fijian culture, but we did that in a community setting. Then we moved on to Australia, and I really used the Facebook group for Worldschooling connections. I put out a message and our picture, and just said who we were, and what we were looking for, that we were going to be in Sydney, Australia for these dates, and we would love to meet up with other Worldschoolers, this is my son, this is myself, this is what we’ve been doing, and I just got so many messages back, and people were really enthusiastic and said yeah, let’s connect up. We would chat on messenger, and we stayed with several families, and met up with them for hikes, and went to some parks while we were in Sydney, and just had this beautiful time, that was not anything scheduled, it just created itself by putting ourselves out there. So we had that amazing experience in Australia connecting with families.
We spent a month with another program that was put out, called the Stone Soup Family Pop Up, and that was organized by one family, and we had probably 30 families came to Bali to the same town, and it had some organization to it, with a weekly program, and everybody brought something to share and to teach, and so there were opportunities for the kids to connect and do games together or do outings together. Then after that, we had some friends from that event, that we went and traveled with for another month, to another part of Bali, and then we went on to Thailand with them, and we traveled with probably two or three other families. So it was nice for me to connect with friends, and for him to have friends that were traveling with us, so we’ve really shifted our focus from, just going to a brand new place that neither of us knows and where we don’t know too many people, to where can we go, where we can travel to a few specific places that we are interested in and that are brand new to us, but we’ll have stopovers, or go on a group trip with some other families, just to have that sense of community and belonging and friendships, to enjoy the experience more.
How do your kids learn?
We’ve done a mixture of homeschooling, traditional schooling, international schools. He’s definitely popped in and out of traditional US classrooms. How does it work? For us, we just register as homeschoolers back in Ohio for the time periods when we’re out Worldschooling and not in a traditional classroom. We might do some Khan Academy online, right now he just spent the last two years in a very traditional school and had a lot of one on one work with his reading, and things like that, so he’s just at a great place when launched to do full-time Unschooling/Worldschooling, and now he’s just found something that’s a passion for him. He’s loves gaming and teaching other kids how to play role-playing games with Dungeons and Dragons, and he absolutely loves it; it drives him. This is a kid I couldn’t get him to write a travel diary for more than one sentence, and all he would write is, we went to the store in a taxi. Now, he plays these games, and he writes his own stories as part of the game, so now he comes up with 10 or 12 different characters, and how they’re related, and what their backstory is and where they come from, and in such detail, it’s incredible. I want him to have that time right now. He’s got the basics, his math, his reading, his writing, and he uses all that in this Dungeons and Dragons game, but he has the space to be really creative, which is really innate in him. So he’s just building on those things and allowing his creativity to flow, with writing his own stories and teaching other kids, so he’s getting leadership skills right now. He’s the leader of these games that have five or six kids of varying ages, so there’s a lot of conflict resolution, and figuring out what it means to be a leader. If you’re teaching a class and somebody doesn’t want to participate, how do you deal with that? And maintain your game, and keep it going. How do you engage somebody in that story, and into the game, and he’s just learning these things that are next level. I think we need to use this next year to learn what really engages him as a person, and what he wants to learn about. It’s been really huge, and it’s really great. That’s been really supportive of being a Worldschooler and having other families who kinda get why that works and why that’s important for someone’s human development. So like I said, we’ve gone in and out of different school styles.
What are your tips and tricks for single parents?
I think the community part of it… I think I thought that I shifted our world schooling style towards more community because it was what my kid needed. But when I look back on it, I’m like, oh, it helps me too. We spent five months just living in a giant house in Nicaragua, going out and making playdates just like we did back home. But there was a lot of time when it was just us, which was still a bit isolating, and very much like how we felt isolated living back home in Ohio. So I think shifting from just my son and I living in one house somewhere, to looking more for a sense of community and doing things together. Living in a community with other families where we have more people and built-in support to take the pressure of cooking off. When we’re in a community living space, I don’t have to cook a meal for two months. I know I have support with the laundry and cleaning. As a single parent, all of those things are on me. So I think this makes our life a little smoother and more comfortable.
What does it cost to Worldschool?
I think it depends because everyone I meet is doing this differently. When we had a home, I used that as part of our income. I rented it out. You also have to consider what expenses you have back home. So last April we sold our home. And now I don’t, I don’t have a monthly mortgage. I don’t have all the utilities that go along with that. What else? We’ve let go of everything back home, and I think not having all those expenses is huge. Now we only pay for our accommodations and food as we travel around. So if you compare that to having a life back in that States where I had all those other expenses, we live on a lot less now that we’re traveling full time. So I think it’s the trade-off of how much do you keep back home and what expenses you have there versus what is your life like when you’re traveling.
How do you afford to Worldschool?
I worked a full-time job for a long time in higher education. I started my own business traveling and hosting families to travel to different places. I’ve rented property, fixed up, and sold the property. I’ve worked as a college advisor. I don’t know. That’s like a handful of different jobs just in the last five years. So I think it’s just like, asking the question, trying things out, continuing to learn.
What do you know now that you wish you knew when you first started?
I just see learning as a process, and I’m okay with that. I don’t feel like I wish I knew this five years ago, but I do wish I took a leap sooner and that I’d known that I could trust that. Those fears held me back for many years. So just knowing, having some basic things in place, and not letting the fears overwhelm you. And I really wish I’d started a little sooner.
What’s next in your Worldschooling adventures?
We are here for about another month in the Yucatan, and then we’ll go back home to Ohio. My son and I both want to spend some time with family. He wants to spend some time with his Dad. And so we’ll be there a couple weeks, and then we’ll head down to another Stone Soup community gathering, where around 20 or 30 families are meeting up in Antigua, Guatemala. We’ll spend a couple weeks there and then probably travel by bus with a few families down to Nicaragua, where we have lots of local friends and hopefully get to show some of our travel friends around Nicaragua. We’ll probably spend about another month and a half there. And then we have a trip coming up to Costa Rica, where we’ll host some single solo moms in northwest Costa Rica for about a week.
Where can we find you online?
My travel company is momandkidtravels.com is where you can find us. You can find our Facebook group, Nicaragua Immersion, Mom & Kid Travels online. I’d love to have you join us. Check us out if you’re a mom who is just kind of getting started with the world school lifestyle and wants to try out traveling internationally. It’s a wonderful way to 1) connect with other like-minded women who travel and want to experience a new place, and 2) get their kids exposed to new cultures and new sights and have an adventure together. We’d love to have you join us, so check us out, and if you have questions, reach out.
What would you say to someone considering Worldschooling?
I would say you’re not alone. And every single person I know who is doing this now has been exactly where you’re at, asking themselves that same question. Can I do this? Is it possible? So I think for most, it’s really about creating a plan to get yourself to where you want to be. Ask the right questions, strategize, and just move in that direction. Speak very positively about what you want to see happen in your world and say it out loud to people around you to get that support.
To find out more about Martha, her son and their adventures through Nicaragua and beyond, be sure to check out their website using the link in the description. If you enjoyed this video, be sure to subscribe and give us a thumbs up. You can click on the bell icon to be notified each time we release a new video and if you’re keen to get more information about worldschooling download our free worldschooling quickstart guide using the link below this video.
To find out more and connect with the Nieset family, check out the links to their websites below.
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