by Johansson Macken

Have you ever felt like there was something in your life that was missing? You have everything that society says you should want – a good 9-5 career, a house with a mortgage that’s getting smaller (but no where near as fast as you’d like it to), healthy kids, a happy relationship, great friends, but something is still missing. There’s no passion in your life.

That was us two years ago.

We’re the Burns Family, a pretty average family of four who decided we weren’t happy with our lives in suburban Australia trying to juggle careers, maintain a house, pay the bills, have a social life on the weekends and most importantly, still finding time for to be with our children. We decided we needed to do something different with our lives. We considered career changes, selling the house and moving suburb or interstate to a smaller town with family nearby, or finding work overseas. But none of that seemed like the right answer.

Instead, in late 2009 we decided to act on a long-term fantasy and travel long term, perhaps endlessly, with our two young children.

Colin started speaking to other families who had done similar travel, or considered it, to see if we were insane. He discovered two facts:

  • Those who did travel long term with their children had no regrets.
  • Those that considered travelling with their children and for one reason or another didn’t, regretted not taking the journey.

We started researching how we could make it happen without lotto or a huge savings account before it finally dawned on us that after running a web programming company for several years there was no real reason we couldn’t work from anywhere in the world.

Despite a few initial setbacks we set out from Australia in January 2010 and have been travelling and living overseas ever since. In May 2011 we decided to set up a house in Penang Malaysia to use as a base to travel the world from. Our aim is to spend 6 months of the year in Malaysia and 6 months of the year travelling.

Now in order of age, we are:

Colin Burns :: @ccburns

By profession Colin is a web developer and entrepreneur. For 6 years he ran his own web development firm before selling it to another larger firm in 2008. After working for that company for 15 months he decided it was time to go out on his own again as a freelancer. Now days he has several large and loyal clients that he continues to work for remotely, while dreaming up business and travel ideas. Colin links to think large and outside the square, something we’re really hoping he’ll pass onto our children.

He has a few goals for this trip. Some small, some not so small.

Small Goals

  • Learn to surf
  • Learn to Scuba Dive
  • Learn to like the beach

Large Goals

  • Spend much more quality time with the kids
  • Spend some time on creating new income streams
  • Ensure that by the time we go home to Australia our children can speak another language (probably Spanish) fluently.

Tracy Burns ::@tracy_burns

Tracy has almost completed her teaching degree and was only a few subjects from completing it when she was yanked away to travel the world with us . These days she juggles blogging, writing, homeschooling and exploring the world with the kids solo on the days that Colin is working.

When we set out on this trip her goals were to learn to be a happier, more content Mum who yells less and enjoys spending time playing games with the kids, through having more free time to enjoy life and having less of daily tasks of cooking, cleaning and washing to do. It’s pretty hard to sit down and play with your kids when you feel guilty about all the other things you’re supposed to be doing! She’s been successful so far at most of these things except the yelling, which she’s still working on!

Noah Burns :: currently 6 (4.5 when we started the trip)

Noah is an incredibly loving and caring 6 year old who (as all boys) sometimes gets carried away and is very boisterous and vocal. In the last two years he’s learned how to make new friends anywhere anytime and become open to new experiences. He’s grown 19cm since we left, lost two teeth, climb a tree, learnt to ride a bike and how to dust himself off after a fall. He’s also progressing well with his reading, although he’d rather be learning maths or science.

Spending this time travelling with Noah has been a priceless experience. Seeing how his mind ticks as he encounters new cultures and people, as he learns new concepts and interprets the world in that fantastical way that only 6 year old boys can. It’s been amazing to have the time to appreciate how effortlessly he soaks up new knowledge regardless of whether it’s how to add and subtract, geography, obscure facts about dinosaur with hugely complicated names that only children and palaeontologists can pronounce (I’m sure I knew how to say them when I was 6 but I so can’t now) or the workings of a Buddhist temple.

Hayley Burns :: 4 years (2.5 when we started the trip)


Hayley is an independent four year old who loves pretty much everything other 4 year old girls do – pretty clothes, Dora, Princesses, swimming and her dolls. She’s pretty easy to entertain, provided she isn’t led into mischief by her older brother. We’re fairly certain she’s going to be hilarious as an adult as she already keeps us in stitches with her sharp sense of humour.

Since we left Australia she’s change from a shy toddler to a confidence, trusting, giving and determined girl. In the past two years Hayley has learned to hop and jump, read her first words, learn how to draw recognisable objects and people. She never fails to surprise us with her different perspectives on things that we encounter as we travel, even if they are fantastical stories involving unicorns, princesses and farts. She soaking up the many languages she hears around her every day – she’s only learnt a few words but she spends most of her time inventing languages and stories about the people that speak these words. She has developed an immense sense of home as wherever her family is, rather than it being a place.

Oh and have we mentioned that she is very very independent!