This week, I’m happy to be featuring Allison from Renovating Life! Allison will be sharing a bit about herself and her family, travel tips, how they make a life of travel possible, and what the process of moving abroad has been like.
Let’s Get Started!
Tell us a bit about you and your family
Hi! We’re the Baxleys. A family of four, currently living in Brooklyn, NY and in the process of moving to Portugal.
My name is Allison. I come from an advertising and design background and am currently working full time on my blog www.RenovatingLife.com. The blog details anything and everything about our move to Portugal, how you can do it yourself, and offers tons of useful tips and insights about moving to and living in Portugal. When I’m not working on the blog, and when we’re not in the middle of a pandemic, I love to play competitive volleyball, read, watch TV and movies, and I’m currently learning Portuguese.
My husband’s name is Dustin, and he is a film/TV production accountant working on an Apple show at the moment. He’s previously worked on projects with Warner Bros, Sony, Paramount, HBO, CBS, Amazon, and more studios. He also enjoys reading, watching TV and movies, and spending time with friends and family.
Our daughter Mia is 5.5 years old and finishing up her Kindergarten year. She loves swimming, doing gymnastics, drawing, and playing with her friends. She has a sweet soul and an inextinguishable love for her family. Our son Jax is 2 years old and is a fireball of energy and personality. A clown at heart, there’s little he won’t do to get a laugh out of us.
My husband and I are high school sweethearts and have grown up together over the last 24 years. We grew up in small town Texas, moved to Chicago after attending college together, lived in Austin for a few years and now live in New York. Along the way we’ve lived for short periods in London, Berlin, and Iceland for school and/or work. After living in NYC for 11 years, we’re excited for the next chapter in our life book—living in Portugal!
You are in the process of moving to Portugal, what was your inspiration behind that?
Before having kids, we’d had the unique opportunity to live abroad several times while Dustin worked on movies like Noah and Monuments men. We knew we wanted to continue that pattern after having kids, but as so many people know, life has a way of getting in its own way.
Right before COVID hit, we were prepping for a 1-year move to Budapest for his next project. Unfortunately, our move was suspended indefinitely, and suddenly, our lives had been turned upside down. While we figured out how to live through a pandemic, we had a change of heart. Rather than wait for the next international opportunity to come to us, we would create it ourselves.
After some soul searching and research, we knew Portugal was where we wanted to be. A lot more research and talking things through, and after the new year, we took the first steps to planning our international move.
What does traveling mean for you? What has travel brought into your lives?
I grew up without a lot of money. My exposure to travel was visiting family every summer in Florida. And no, we never went to Disney World. The summer after my junior year in high school, I signed up as a Student Ambassador to Australia with People to People. I think that trip changed my life and instilled in me a travel bug that I have yet to get rid of.
In college, Dustin and I studied abroad together in London and fell in love with the city. It’s still one of our favorite places to visit to this day. We’ve also been fortunate to live abroad several times for school and/or work. Seeing the world from others’ perspectives is addicting. I love immersing myself in another culture, living like the locals, and learning new languages. Dustin also has a zest for seeing new places and experiencing things our parents never would have dreamed of.
Travel breaks down barriers between people. It opens your mind and your heart in a way that staying put in one place could never do. And we want that for our children as well.
What are some of the travel destinations that you have visited with your kids?
Unfortunately, Jax hasn’t been able to travel abroad yet, due to the pandemic. Wow, is he in for a whirlwind. When Mia was a little over one year old, we took her on her first European adventure to London, Paris, Barcelona, and Madrid. A year later we went on another family trip and visited Dublin, Edinburgh, the Canary Islands, and Lisbon. And when I was pregnant with Jax, we took a family babymoon to Greece. Mia barely remembers any of these trips, but we will always have the memories (and photos) of her crawling around our Barcelona apartment, eating churros and chocolate in Madrid, swimming in our private dip pool in Santorini, and more.
What has been the biggest benefit that traveling has had on your children?
So far, I think the biggest benefit is our family’s outlook on the world, how we treat people who may be different than we are, and how we approach challenges we face. As the kids get older, we hope these cross-cultural values will be instilled in them as well. We hope to expose them to all kinds of experiences we were not privy to as children, so that they don’t have to learn these things as adults.
As a traveling mom, what’s something you can’t travel without?
Is kiddie melatonin frowned upon??? In all seriousness, bringing a few familiar items from home goes a long way in making a child feel safe and secure in unfamiliar surroundings.
For us, the ability to laugh through challenging moments is invaluable when traveling. Nothing ever goes exactly the way you plan, so you have to be able to embrace the chaos and not let it ruin the experience.
What are your favorite things to do when traveling with kids?
We love finding the local aquarium. The amazing Oceanário de Lisboa is where Mia saw “baby shark” for the first time. 😂 Kids have a fascination with water, so watching the fish swim by is a perfect low-key activity that everyone can enjoy.
We also try to find a local playground or park. As much as we want to see the sights and enjoy a nice meal and a cocktail, the kids need to have something on the day’s to-do list that is for them! We walked around for an hour once in Athens looking for a playground, but once we found it, Mia was in love.
What are some of the best foods you have had on your travels?
We loved traveling with Mia when she was little and before she was so picky about food. I remember when she ate fried whitebait in an Anthony Bourdain recommended pub in London, getting churros and chocolate in Madrid, and all the tapas in Barcelona! Eating kidneys and bone marrow in London, steak tartar and steak frites in Paris, haggis in Scotland, and all the bakery treats in Lisbon. The seafood in Portugal is to die for.
A lot of parents wish they could travel more, but aren’t sure how to make it possible with their budget? How have you made a life of travel with your kids possible? Do you have any saving or budgeting tips to help others to reach their travel goals?
We’re the worst with this! We go into full vacation mode and the budget goes out the window. We’ll definitely have to be careful about budgeting when we move to Portugal. But, one of the best tips I can give is to try to live like the locals when you are on vacation. Avoid tourist traps and markups. Eat what and where the locals do, and your wallet and palate will thank you.
What is your plan for the future? Do you see yourself traveling for the long term?
Right now, we are focused on getting settled in Portugal. But part of the reason for this move is to make Europe and other parts of the world more accessible. So, after we’ve adjusted to living in another country, we plan to make the most of our location and use it as a springboard to visit as many places as we can. People ask which places are on our bucket list, and I honestly just answer, “Everywhere!”