Jessica Sueiro’s first experience living abroad with her family four years ago did not go well.
The toilet in their small, “semi-nasty” Paris apartment barely worked. She and her husband, Will, slept on the couch the entire summer. Their daughter got so sick with mono she had to be hospitalized.
And yet …
“With everything that happened, it was such an amazing experience,” said Sueiro, 45. “We watched our children grow, we grew closer as a family. Everything, even though it was awful in many ways, was so fantastic. We came back and said, ‘OK, we’re going to give ourselves 12 months to figure out how we can make this happen.'”
The Jay native and her family left for Costa Rica the next year, which also turned out to be both awful and amazing. From there, it was on to Ecuador and then back to France, where they’ve cruised around in an RV for the past five months.
Earlier this year, she and Will started WorldTowning, a service to help other travelers navigate long-term stays away from home.
Think logistics such as insurance, visas, home-schooling, learning a new currency and adapting to work on the road.
“We’re really honest with our clients: Don’t feel like you’ve failed if it’s really awful in the first couple months — that’s totally normal and totally typical,” Sueiro said in a phone interview from the south of France last week. “When we started traveling, no one had told us this.
“We talk with them about having a strong ‘why,’ why are they doing this?” she added. “For us, our big why is our kids. We wanted to spend more time with them as a family and we want to educate them through the world so they can understand different cultures and different ways of living … when they grow up, they can decide which way works for them and how they want to live.”
Sueiro grew up on an apple farm and graduated from Jay High School in 1990. After leaving for college in New York, she worked in Los Angeles, New York and Boston in graphic design. Will, a “recovering corporate accountant,” was working for a bank in Boston when they decided they wanted to start seeing the world with their kids, Avalon, now 13, and Largo, now 10.
“We always had the travel bug in us,” said Will. “We were always trying to get an overseas assignment.”
He worked remotely out of his company’s Paris office that first summer. After they sold 90 percent of their belongings and decided to head for Costa Rica in October 2014, he lined up other remote work.
Jessica Sueiro said each time they’ve moved, it’s to a place they’ve never visited before. They’ve figured if it’s too terrible, they’ll move again.
Before getting their RV, which they nicknamed Lemonade, they booked lodging through Airbnb, negotiating a cheaper, multi-month rate in advance.
Sueiro said they’ve had a few big, amazing adventures, including weeks in the Galapagos Islands and hiking Machu Picchu in Peru, but there’s also been a lot of fun in the small moments.
The family recently spent a week volunteering on an Italian horse farm, working four- to five-hour days in exchange for meals through a group called Workaway.
“It was the most amazing experience with an awesome family,” she said. “There was a volunteer from Switzerland, a volunteer from Spain. Every night we would cook this big Italian dinner together and we’d all talk, like 13 to 19 of us, at the dinner table. Those moments, that was my best experience in Europe so far, watching our kids relate to people in other cultures.”
They planned to spend Christmas in Barcelona and over the next three years, visit every RV-accessible country in Europe driving Lemonade.
The Sueiro family, in front of the Alps in France, includes Jessica, hanging over the railing, Largo, Avalon and Will. Jessica Sueiro is a Jay native who decided with her husband four years ago that they’d like their kids to see the world. They’ve lived and traveled abroad since October 2014. (Photo courtesy Jessica Sueiro)
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The Sueiro family takes a break in St. Raphael, France. The family has spent the past five months in a recreational vehicle driving around France as part of a several years’ adventure. The RV pictured was one rented for the weekend. Jessica Sueiro, a Jay native, jokes that their regular ride is a “less cute RV” they’ve nicknamed Lemonade. (Photo courtesy Jessica Sueiro)
Jessica Sueiro’s daughter, Avalon, cuddles with a farm cat in Arezzo, Italy, where the Sueiro family spent a week volunteering at a horse farm in exchange for meals and the experience of working next to others from around the world. (Photo courtesy Jessica Sueiro)
The Sueiro family walk inside the ice grotto at the Mer de Glace in Charmonix, France. (Photo courtesy Jessica Sueiro)
The Sueiros surprised their son, Largo, with a “Learn to be a Gondolier” class in Venice for his 10th birthday. (Photo courtesy Jessica Sueiro)