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The book that changed our lives

Wondertime Girls at Cape Reinga

There are pivotal moments in a child’s life when a single hug is worth more than a dozen Hope Diamonds. Will you be there? Will you know? Will you be able to sense that moment and realize its importance? Will you have the wisdom to stop whatever mundane thing you are doing, embrace your child, and say, “I love you”?

—Gary “Cap’n Fatty” Goodlander, from the foreword to Voyaging With Kids


Voyaging With Kids Cover

Nearly a year has passed since we’ve returned to the U.S. from New Zealand.

It has been a busy and wonderful year. But it has not been an easy year.

We’ve manifested the idyllic home life we envisioned while afloat: cats and a dog and kids running around in the woods. Getting to spend time with our extended families again. A comfortable couch to put our feet up at the end of the day to watch Game of Thrones. All my books freed from their storage boxes and lined up neatly on shelves. Time to write, thanks to our local school district’s “school for homeschoolers.”

I have also spent most of the past year writing Voyaging With Kids with my two co-authors, Behan and Michael. Sometimes this was the most difficult thing of all, and for reasons completely unexpected. Sure there were the hours and hours of rewrites, sorting photos, interviewing other cruising families. The carpel tunnel in my right wrist flared up. My eyeballs bugged out, dry and gritty, from so many hours staring at my laptop screen. But this was not the difficult part: at the end of a long writing or editing day I’d fall asleep exhausted, but exhilarated, at what we were creating. It’s a really, really good book and anyone contemplating longer-term family travel–not just via boat–will find value in it.

No, the difficult part was writing about the time in our lives when we had…time. It seemed so simple, living and sailing aboard Wondertime. I know that many days were anything but that, and some days I wanted to jump overboard just to get a few moments to myself. But as our girls have grown, I see now that was due mostly to their ages. Now at 6 and 9 they entertain themselves for hours (they are doing just that right now as I type this). Which is what makes my heart hurt, the fact that they are growing up so, so fast and our time together just keeps speeding on. The weeks fly by with all our scheduled activities. Michael is at work 10 hours a day, what is required to pay for our new, idyllic life, and misses out on even more.

The difficult part was missing being a cruising family: slow meals together, hours to read aloud, playing games together, meandering down a warm, deserted beach, impromptu get-to-togethers with new friends. Watching our girls grow into fascinating, inquisitive people.

The difficult part is that the dreams won’t stop. Places we want to see, things we want to do… just keep coming. I felt like a fraud at times, writing about how amazing it is to travel as a family, how showing our girls the world and how other people live–and how much they are the same–was the best education we could possibly give them. How experiences are far more important than things. How time with people is more important than anything. All the while struggling to find these things in our new land life.

So a funny thing happened while writing a book that we hope will help many other families to let go of all that’s unimportant, take a chance, and go out and slowly explore the world.

It convinced me to do the same.

And then there’s something else. Another type of clock has been ticking, and as mid-June is approaching it’s been getting louder and louder. It’s the date our New Zealand residency will expire if we’re not back on NZ soil by then. When we flew back to the States last year we’d accepted that we were giving that up. Or so we thought.

Because, the truth be told, after all the soul-searching we’ve done the past year it’s become crystal clear: we’d rather live as paupers in a tiny RV in New Zealand, traveling around and getting some part-time work (or working part of the year) and having the rest to explore as a family. Time together again.

We left part of our hearts in that beautiful, friendly, socially-advanced country, but we thought we could let it go in favor of a “better” life. We didn’t get a better life, we got a different one. Some things are more difficult down there, some here. But one thing is for sure: we can’t let the dream, and the hope for the future, of our adoptive home of New Zealand go.

So we won’t. It’s time to let the wind blow us around again, for a little bit longer.

We spent our final week in NZ traveling in a small motorhome. The one will buy will not be even close to this luxurious. But no matter. We know what true luxury means: time together.

We spent our final week in NZ traveling in a small motorhome. The one we’ll buy when we’re back in early June will not be even close to this luxurious. But no matter. We know what true luxury means: time together.

Driving in New Zealand doesn't have all the drama of voyaging under sail...but it's close.

Driving in New Zealand doesn’t have all the drama of voyaging under sail…but it’s close.

Where else can you wake up to find miniature ponies outside your front door?

Where else can you wake up to find miniature ponies outside your front door?

There is so much cool shit to see.

There is so much cool shit to see.

"Mom, can we go back to Piha when we go back to New Zealand?" Yes, yes we can, Holly.

“Mom, can we go back to Piha when we go back to New Zealand?”


  1. Nita Bell says:

    Great story. I am so happy for you and your little family. What an exciting adventure your life is.

  2. Joy says:

    A huge congratulations on finishing this project. I’ve been eagerly awaiting it’s release since the three of you started talking about it.

    Any chance this will be released as an ebook or something kindle compatible? We’re starting our own cruising adventure with two kids and are trying to limit paper copies.

    1. Sara says:

      Hi Joy! The book will definitely be available as an ebook, from Amazon.com and elsewhere, shortly after the paper version is released. I hear you–we also read 99% of our books on kindles!

      1. Joy says:

        I’m so glad to hear it, guess that means I need to hold off just a little more before reading it. Thanks!

  3. Karen Riley says:

    Dear Sara and Michael,
    Congratulations on completion of the book. The decision to head back to NZ may have been a difficult one filled with what if’s. Plans can change depending on the circumstances. You are well aware of that situation, after all the time you spent at sea and in new places.
    I am still living a life of freedom, having plenty of personal time with myself and my husband. We raised Falcon on the boat and he is still living the life of learning, gathering knowledge, skills and abilities. Something he learned while living on the boat.
    Enjoy your time with your lovely girls. Make plenty of memories for all. Life is worth living, even if you have to eat beans and rice!
    The life you found on Wondertime is still out there so go for it!!
    All the best
    Karen Riley

    1. Sara says:

      I appreciate your kind words so much Karen! The girls have been making their packing lists since we first talked about this trip a few weeks ago. They definitely have a true sense of adventure! And there could be a Wondertime 2.0 one day…who knows? I sure hope our paths cross again!

  4. Deb says:

    This post filled my heart with joy. No one who hasn’t sold everything and sailed off into the sea will get it, though I truly hope that more will try. The time I had with my grandsons on the boat was some of the most meaningful I’ve ever had. I can’t wait to hear about your adventures!

    SV Kintala

    1. Sara says:

      Thank you Deb!

  5. Leah says:

    Oh yes, I love this!! It inspires my little post-cruiser heart to read about others getting back out there, chasing new dreams and embarking on new adventures 🙂

    Maybe book #2 can be “surviving post-dream life without succumbing to minivans and the lure of a paycheque” 😉

    (and can’t wait for book #1 to come out!!)


    1. Sara says:

      Thanks Leah! 🙂 I can’t wait either. Thank you also for your wonderful essay– having two girls ourselves, it’s one of my favorites (we also pulled the “we’re going to Disneyland” trick when we left WA with them! 😉 )

  6. I’m so excited for you and your family. Will you paint ‘Wondertime’ on the side of the RV? I can’t wait to hear how the adventures continue to unfold!

    1. Sara says:

      Thanks Behan! Yes, our RV is definitely going to be named “Wondertime”!

  7. Leslie says:

    So glad you’re moving back to New Zealand!!!!!!! Maybe someday my family and I will too…it’s still in our hearts.

  8. Leslie says:

    By the way, will you be homeschooling in NZ?

    1. Sara says:

      Hi Leslie! We’ll probably stay put for six months or so at first (it’s going to be winter when we arrive!) and if so we plan to put the girls in school. We loved our Auckland school–was such a fantastic experience and we met so many people that way! We’ll homeschool again when we start exploring NZ by road next (down under) summer.

      1. Leslie says:

        That’s great, Sara, so happy for you all. I would love if you would keep us updated on how homeschooling in NZ goes, for example, the legalities of it and what you have to do or report in order to keep within NZ laws. I’m really interested in this and can’t seem to find much information about it, such as if they let you use your own curriculum, or if they require standardized testing, etc. Anyway, happy travels!

        1. Sara says:

          I will definitely update when we get into this process! The NZ Ministry of Education has a page on the requirements which is all I’ve got for now: http://www.minedu.govt.nz/Parents/AllAges/EducationInNZ/Homeschooling.aspx

          1. Leslie says:

            Thanks, Sara, I’ll definitely check out this website. So excited about your new travels!

  9. Stacey says:

    I LOVED following along on your sailing adventure, and can’t wait to do the same with your new roadtrip. Please keep blogging. Your kids are adorable, and I love reading stories about families adventuring!

  10. Woo hoo! Beautiful post. Eager to follow along on 2.0.

  11. Aimee Poole says:

    If you ever need a place to stop in the south island, please look us up 🙂 our house is tiny but we have a woodburner, sleepout and a lots of hot water!

    1. Sara says:

      Thanks Aimee! We will do that…can’t wait to meet you and your family! ~Sara