We’ve been reading on these topics for many years now, and below are the books we’ve found most useful. These are books we’ve found really helpful in examining, defining and refining how we spend our time and money, how we raise our children, and how we explore this big, beautiful world.
I hope they bring you equal inspiration. Cheers, and happy reading!
Table of Contents:
9 Steps to Transforming Your Relationship with Money and Achieving Financial Independence
by Vicki Robin and Joe Dominguez
I would count this as the book that’s had the biggest influence (Bible aside) on how we think about money, wealth and work. The book is written as a plan for achieving financial independence, and the text urges readers to follow every step of the plan in order to see its benefits. Personally, we saw so much benefit from going through the steps partially and for short periods of time, that we never bothered to stick to the full letter. It was the principles we were after for this stage of life. (Perhaps when the kids are older, we’ll have the time and energy to revisit the goal of financial independence, but for now, other goals are crowding that one out.) What we learned was how to maximize the value of our spending for optimal enjoyment and minimal waste. These are lessons we employ each and every day.
Read a summary of the book on the website of the same name.
Your Road Map to Financial Independence and a Rich, Free Life
by J.L. Collins
I’m reading this book right now, and it makes an excellent compliment to Your Money or Your Life. His core wisdom — spend less than you earn, invest the surplus, avoid debt — match that of YMYL. The promised “simple path” is simple as claimed (though not easy), and the author makes a cogent argument for why it’s also the best path to wealth (wealth essentially meaning financial independence, or put another way, retirement). I learned a ton about investing and financial planning from this book (and am feeling quite foolish right now for waiting so long to educate myself on these topics).
Money can buy many things, but nothing more valuable than your freedom.The Simple Path to Wealth by J.L. Collins
The other aspect of this book I love is his talk of what he calls “F-You Money,” a particular kind of savings. This money (for which I’d prefer to use different language — perhaps “Freedom Money”) is something my husband and I made use of when we left our American life to go back to school in a foreign country. It’s a concept we grasped intuitively but didn’t have a name or definition for until reading this book.
A Proven Plan for Financial Fitness
by Dave Ramsey
This is a classic financial book on improving money habits. Some of it likely won’t apply to nomadic families, like the chapter on paying off a mortgage, but there are principles in here that could prove useful to you. For our purposes, we skipped the book but looked up the basics on the author’s “debt snowball” method, employing that plan to pay off our debt in preparation for moving abroad.
by R.C. Sproul
This little book focuses primarily on stewardship, with some basic instruction in economics as well. I’d heartily recommend his book on prayer from this series, too. Both are free for Kindle.
How to Quit Your Job, Stop Selling Your Time and Start Making Passive Income While You Sleep … and Possibly Move to a Tropical Island
by Jonathan Green
This book is free for Kindle, so it’s one of those “why not?” reads. I was a bit turned off by the author in the beginning (and I’m still not sure I like him), but I think the book is worth reading. It offers another explanation of this concept of moving from employee to passive income beneficiary, a concept I think many digital nomads want to probe. There are actionable lessons in here that helped us refine our plan for launching a digital business, and the chapters covering various modes of online work contain nuggets of inspiration.
From Idea to Income in 27 Days
by Chris Guillebeau
If you want to further explore secondary income stream possibilities, consider this book. It’s a 27-day action plan by the man behind the Side Hustle School podcast and a quick read. It helped us work up some business ideas and evaluate which were most viable.
How to Work Anywhere and Travel Forever
by Michael Swigunski
This book is queued on my Kindle. It promises practical guidance on a variety of travel/career topics, not just the typical digital-nomad routine. I’m intrigued. How about you?
I think Americans, in particular, don’t always see traveling for years as something that’s attainable. We tend to see it as a gap in our real life … But it doesn’t have to be that way.Global Career by Michael Swigunski
Set Your Own Rules, Live the Life You Want, and Change the World
by Chris Guillebeau
This is a book that mysteriously appeared on my Kindle (through the magic of marriage, I suspect), and now that I’ve discovered it, I’m dying to read it. You’ll notice this book is by the same author as the above-mentioned Side Hustle. This one promises to arm you with the tools to live differently. “Discover how to live on your own terms by exploring creative self-employment, radical goal-setting, contrarian travel, and embracing life as a constant adventure.” I love the sound of that.
Discovering Contentment in a World of Consumption
by Jeff Manion
I can’t give this a resounding recommendation, but the topic is so important that it’s still worth mentioning. The author writes about cultivating contentment and gratitude, topics that are dear to my heart (even if I don’t always evince them). I’m slogging through the book anyway, but he offers so many restatements and hypothetical examples that it’s slow going. It’s set up for a group study, so perhaps in that kind of setting, all the scenarios could help to spark conversation.
Contentment is not achieved through getting everything we want but by training the heart to experience full joy and deep peace even when we don’t have what we want.Satisfied by Jeff Manion
Taking Back Your Faith from the American Dream
by David Platt
I read this book a few years ago, before we made travel a priority or dared to imagine ourselves living in a foreign country. It delivered on it’s subtitle, helping me to extricate in my mind my Biblical faith from my vision of the American Dream. I disagreed with the author on certain points — He seems to advocate that every Christian should go to a foreign country to evangelize, a rather inefficient and un(Biblically)substantiated model that overlooks the needs of our neighbors close to home (not the least of all, our own kids!), in my humble opinion — but there was still a lot of useful material here that helped me think critically about American life and ideals.
Ten Maps that Explain Everything About the World
by Tim Marshall
This book is fascinating. I learned so much about geography, history and politics, and how they influence and have influenced each other through the ages. It gave me knew ways of framing how I understand the various regions of the world, from the advantageously navigable river system of Europe to the un-advantageously un-navigable rivers of Africa and South America, to the prime real estate, as the author describes it, that is the site of the United States.
A Global Family Portrait
by Peter Menzel
This book is so cool. I have it slated for a future year of homeschool with our boys. But for child or adult alike, it gives a fascinating glimpse into the lifestyle and especially possessions of families in 30 countries around the world.
There’s a companion title called What the World Eats, by Peter Menzel and Faith D’Aluisio, that looks equally mesmerizing. On this topic, the new book Daily Bread: What Kids Eat Around the World by Gregg Segal looks stunning, too. And — please forgive me, I can’t help myself, I have a book-addiction — here’s one more we love in our house, this one for the kids, that’s a beautifully illustrated comparison of global cultures: This Is How We Do It: One Day in the Lives of Seven Kids from around the World.
Tips and Gear for Travelers Who Want to Worry Less and Experience More, Collected By a Long-Term Traveler
by Jason Lengstorff
This book makes me a little nostalgic. I reread it recently and was reminded of this post by the author, my first exposure to this strange new concept of location independence way back in 2015 or so. I love this author’s writing — I can’t exactly identify with him, since I’m not a bearded tech wizard, but I can definitely relate to his thoughts on life and travel. Well, I almost love his writing; he swears A LOT (in fact, in our house we refer to him as “the guy who swears a lot” because I can never for the life of me remember his name), so know that going in. His ideas are sound, though, and this book makes a useful introduction to long-term travel.
A few more how-to long-term travel books on my need-to-read list:
- Travel the World on $50 a Day
Travel Cheaper, Longer, Smarter
by Matt Kepnes, the blogger known as Nomadic Matt
An Uncommon Guide to the Art of Long-Term World Travel
by Rolf Potts
- Vagabonding with Kids (unrelated to title above)
The Uncensored, Awkward, and Raucous Pursuit of Family World Travel
by AK Turner
And a few more books to feed a love of geography and lengthen your dream-destinations list:
- Destinations of a Lifetime
225 of the World’s Most Amazing Places
by National Geographic
- The Travel Book
A Journey Through Every Country in the World
by Lonely Planet
There’s also a version for kids, part of a whole series of juvenile titles.
Surprising Lessons Parents Around the World Can Teach Us
by Christine Gross-Loh
This book opened my eyes to how un-universal are some of the parenting mores I’d taken as truth. That discovery has helped me to be more open-minded and probing when confronted with cultural standards of all kinds.
If you’re interested in comparisons of parenting across cultures, here are a few other books to check out:
- How Eskimos Keep Their Babies Warm
And Other Adventures in Parenting (from Argentina to Tanzania and everywhere in between)
by Mei-Ling Hopgood
- The Danish Way of Parenting
What the Happiest People in the World Know About Raising Confident, Capable Kids
by Jessica Joelle Alexander and Iben Sandahl
- The Happiest Kids in the World
How Dutch Parents Help Their Kids (and Themselves) by Doing Less
by Rina Mae Acosta and Michele Hutchison
Here’s a brief article on CNBC by one of the co-authors describing the “secrets” detailed in the book that reportedly make Dutch kids and parents the happiest.
- Bringing Up Bébé
One American Mother Discovers the Wisdom of French Parenting
by Pamela Druckerman
- French Kids Eat Anything
How Our Family Moved to France, Cured Picky Eating, Banned Snacking, and Discovered 10 Simple Rules for Raising Happy, Healthy Eaters
by Karen Le Billon
Using the Extraordinary Power of Less to Raise Calmer, Happier, and More Secure Kids
by Kim John Payne
I found this book thought-provoking, and it gave me new vocabulary for discussing these issues in my family. The book offers arguments and advice for simplifying various aspects of children’s lives — the physical home environment, the family’s schedule, access to media (especially with regard to mature subjects, including current events). One aspect of the book I valued most was that the author presented some theories I’d never heard before and that were relevant to my life, like maybe organized sports aren’t essential or even good for young children. I didn’t agree with everything in the book, but it was fruitful for thought. (I was totally with him when he urges parents to drastically reduce the number of toys, but he lost me when he talked about limiting books. As if!)
Helping the Next Generation Navigate Today’s World
by John Stonestreet and Brett Kunkle
This is a really interesting and actionable book, full of tidbits of wisdom, not only pertaining to the training of children. I found this thought fascinating: “In many ways, adolescence is now — and this must not be missed — the goal of our culture. Somewhere along the way, we ceased to be a culture where kids aspire to be adults, and we became a culture where adults aspire to be kids, or at least adolescents, forever.” Our children are learning how to interact with and take part in the cultural environment around them. The premise of this guide is that if we’re not teaching, well, someone will — and we might not like their message: “In the information age, plenty of voices are willing to talk with our kids if we aren’t.” I know I’ll be returning to this book many times as my kids get older.
by Douglas Wilson
This book, by one of my favorite writers on the family, is so good. It hits that sweet spot where theology and practical parenting instruction meet. My only complaint is that most of the chapters are too short! As a bit of a consolation, though, there’s an interesting Q&A at the end with the author and his wife.
Obtaining Our Lord’s Heart for Loving and Teaching Children
by Charles S. Spurgeon
This is on my soon-to-read list. It’s by the great Charles S. Spurgeon, and is free for Kindle.
Raising Globally Minded Kids One Book at a Time
by Jamie C. Martin
I’m so glad someone thought to write this — what a valuable resource it is! It’s a book about books, lists of children’s literature for each region of the world, further sorted by recommended age range. The author offers a brief description of each book, plus notes of advice and stories from her own homeschooling family.
Here are three more excellent books on children’s literature of a more general nature. They all feature deeper discussions on the how and why of reading to children than the previous book and have annotated book lists.
- The Read-Aloud Family
Making Meaningful and Lasting Connections with Your Kids
by Sarah Mackenzie
- Honey for a Child’s Heart
The Imaginative Use of Books in Family Life
by Gladys Hunt
- Read-Aloud Handbook
by Jim Trelease
(Link is to the new 2019 edition. Check out the previous seventh edition if you want to look at reviews.)
There seems to have been an explosion of books on homeschooling in the past few years — on every different method, temperament and mood. (And then of course you can continue reading endlessly on blogs, too.) I’ll just offer one recommendation for now, a book I’ve read a few times myself and have always found fortifying:
Building Your Homeschool on the Foundation of God’s Word
by Ruth Beechick
This book is a bit of an odd collection of wisdom, addressing aspects of homeschooling with varying depth. The result, though, is that I feel lighter, liberated even, after reading (or re-reading) this book. It boosts my confidence as a uniquely-qualified teacher for my children and reminds me not to get bogged down by either new trends or unprofitable traditions.
The Art of Living Intentionally in a Chaotic World
by Tsh Oxenreider
I found this book invigorating and revelatory. I read it while trying to unpack my thoughts on our first year of expat life, while we were also looking to the future and trying to decide our next steps. The author’s lists in the book inspired me to make my own, about what we loved of our life in Budapest and about the major categories of our family’s daily decisions. The latter was instrumental as we prioritized the pros and cons of the various options for next steps.
Reflections on Belonging While Wandering the Globe
by Tsh Oxenreider
I had hoped this would be much more thought-provoking than it turned out to be, as I was seeking enlightenment on this very question of balancing the tension of homebody and adventurer. The book is half travel-logue, chronicling the author’s one-year round-the-world trip with her family, and half philosophical quest. In trying to do both, it doesn’t quite satisfy on either front. Even so, it’s pleasant reading. It just didn’t spark the kind of revelations or discussions I sought.
You can’t go wrong with this guy. He’s a terrific writer on any subject, and fortunately for us, he’s written a lot about travel. (Also fortunately, if you just so happen to be a grammar geek like me, he’s written a Dictionary of Troublesome Words, which is oh, so delicious.) I love how the description for In a Sunburned Country puts it: “Every time Bill Bryson walks out the door, memorable travel literature threatens to break out.”
A Year of Food Life
by Barbara Kingsolver
This isn’t a travel book, and it largely describes the kind of approach to home that precludes long-term travel, but hear me out. It’s an interesting read and well-written, by the novelist Barbara Kingsolver. It will help you to consider the choices you make when feeding your family — local, imported, processed, genetically-modified, heirloom, homegrown. These are thoughts that have stuck with me as we’ve enjoyed fresh bread in Hungary and Italy (you remember, the kind that’s capable of growing mold) and local sun-ripened fruit in Mexico or Jamaica.
At Home in Italy
by Frances Mayes
If you can do nothing more for the moment than read and dream of travelling, maybe you’d enjoy a book like this. Or just watch the movie — it’s a lot shorter and more fun.
For travelers, an e-reader makes sense (unfortunately)
I know — believe me, I know — an e-book is not as lovely as the real dog-eared thing. And why the user interface on a Kindle has a stubbornly archaic feel to it, I can’t conceive. E-books are difficult to navigate, their highlighting and note-taking possibilities are less flexible than with pen on paper, and at the end of the day they’re just not very … bookish.
But while all that is true, an e-reader does provide a solution for travelers — even if it’s a rather imperfect or incomplete solution.
We have one Kindle in our family. For now, it’s almost exclusively reserved for grown-up use. (Side note: Be sure to password-protect that baby or you just might end up with unexpected additions to your library. Ask me how I know …) While it gives me tons of parenting warm-fuzzies to see my sons greedily toting a stack of books to their favorite corner, letting them sneak a screen into bed — where they’ll most likely to sit fiddling with the controls and skipping from title to title rather than actually reading anything — no sir.
I’m willing to sacrifice my own book-reading experience for the sake of portability, but I’m loathe to deprive my kids of real paper and paste. On our family’s most recent move, by air U.S. to Mexico, fully half our luggage was kids books (we homeschool). When our kids are older, I think this distinction will be less meaningful, and they too might benefit from the portability of an e-book collection and the ability to add titles instantaneously. And then it will just be a matter of weighing priorities. For our family, travel is something we are willing to make sacrifices for, even when sometimes those sacrifices are, unfortunately, paper books.
When e-book subscriptions make a lot of sense
A couple more thoughts have been kicking around my head — possible scenarios in which e-book and audio book subscription services might be particularly useful for a traveling family:
- A backpacking trip, or any period of fast travel, might be a great time to make use of an e-book subscription service like Kindle Unlimited. Especially if you haven’t used your free trial month yet.
The whole family will have lots of time for reading in airports and on a trains, but you won’t want to fill your precious luggage space with books. An e-book subscription makes a pretty good solution. (Though you can’t share a Kindle Unlimited subscription between Amazon accounts, according to this site, you can use access your 10 borrowed titles on multiple devices at the same time, making it useful for the whole family. And you don’t have to have Kindles for everyone to read — just the free Kindle app on your phones, laptops or tablets.)
- An audio book subscription could be an entertaining and educational addition to a road trip. I like how listening to audio books keeps everyone’s eyes on the environment instead of on screens, so no one misses the world outside their windows. And it becomes a communal activity when the whole family can hear a story together. Audible also offers free trial perks.
Not every title for sale is included in Amazon’s book subscription services. But with over 1 million titles available through Amazon Unlimited, for example, there are plenty of choices. And don’t miss this: They have a deep collection of books geared toward kids, so there’s bound to be something for everyone.