We homeschool (worldschool) our daughter while we travel the world.
As a digital nomad family, we are continuing our daughter’s education by homeschooling (including plenty of worldschooling). Music lessons are now part of the curriculum. Ukulele, anyone?
You’d think it might be difficult to world travel as a digital nomad family, while taking music lessons, packing an instrument, and maintaining minimalism.
In other words, we travel the world with backpacks and only one checked suitcase in an effort to decrease travel drag. How can we travel with a musical instrument?
And, you’d mostly be right. With so little room and so few belongings, how do we include music lessons in our homeschool curriculum?
However, music is important to us.
I was determined to find a way. Both Greg and I grew up playing the piano. I didn’t always love it as a kid (though I liked it mostly). I was grateful as an adult that I could read music and play.
Learning and playing music is great for the brain, and we loved the idea of Kamea taking some sort of music lessons.
But what could she do and how?
We’re digital nomads and we don’t have a centimeter or kilogram of space or weight to spare.
We pondered it on occasion, but never made any decisions.
That is, until we came to Porto.
Walking down the street one day, we passed a music store with a bunch of ukuleles in the window. My mind went wild.
At first I thought it was strange to see a musical instrument store with so many ukulele instruments in the window. I shouldn’t have been though, because the ukulele originated in Portugal!
Ukulele History (from Huimusic.com)
In 1879, the ‘ukulele, which was called a Braguinha (a 5-string instrument, with tuning similar to our modern ‘ukulele) came from Braga, Portugal, and made the long voyage to Honolulu, Hawaii.
It’s small, easy to carry and hold, and easy for travel. Its greatest popularity today is throughout Polynesia, and especially in the Hawaiian Islands. However, the ‘ukulele is making its comeback everywhere, throughout the continental United States to Japan and Europe.
It can be used as a solo instrument, or accompaniment to most any music, from classical to jazz, and now country, reggae, and rock.
Ukulele: indeed, a perfect travel instrument.
My mind immediately began swirling with possibilities of whether this could be the answer we needed. Ukuleles can be cheap, easy to learn, and especially great for kids. This is PERFECT!
The first question became whether Kamea would be interested in it. The second question was whether we’d have the space to carry one. Rather, how we would make space, because we had, like, less than zero.
Plus? Christmas while traveling
Christmas is coming! I’d spent time thinking of possible gifts for Kamea, and I was at a loss on what to get her. Again, we don’t have room for anything. I imagined myself getting her iTunes gift cards, which while cool, I wasn’t loving.
I thought about “experiences” as gifts… like taking online dance classes (yeah, that’s a thing!) or doing an activity locally.
That’s still a great idea, but when the ukulele came on the scene I realized we might be able to kill two birds with one stone. Christmas gift plus homeschool worthy. (As a mom I love that! Shhh don’t tell Kamea!)
If we had not been traveling, I still would’ve bought one for her at Christmas. It’s a smart gift for a kid of any age – including college. So, consider getting one for any kids (or adults!) in your life. Heck, I want one (it’s good for a brain at any age to learn a musical instrument!).
Where there’s a will there’s a way.
I asked Kamea if she was interested in the idea.
She immediately jumped on it. Yesssssss! She was super stoked about it!
The next thing to tackle was how to travel with a ukulele.
Currently, we travel with 3 backpacks (adult-sized). They fit under the seats in front of us on airplanes.
This is important, because, for discount airlines like RyanAir, if you don’t pre-pay for space in a cabin overhead for carry-on, they can get filled. That means your carry-on goes under the plane! In order to guarantee all our carry-ons stay with us, we either pay extra (by pre-paying) or we make sure they fit under the seat in front of us so they can always be with us.
Since we buy three airplane tickets, we take advantage of that and stick one of them under Kamea’s seat in front of her.
The goal is having as much as possible as carry-on, which makes life cheaper (and easier). In the event luggage gets lost, it’s not as big of a deal if your carry-on is loaded with most of your stuff.
Then, I have a personal item (a purse), and Kamea has a small bag for a personal item.
Essentially we’re maxed out with our carry-on items. Greg doesn’t have a personal item, but the ukulele is too big to be considered a personal item so that’s not an option.
Furthermore, I wasn’t looking to increase our costs by paying to bring another carry-on or checking the ukulele.
Here’s how we look on travel days
On travel days, I wear a backpack and my purse. Greg wears a backpack on his back, plus a backpack on his chest. Greg rolls the suitcase, too.
Kamea wears her little (personal item) bag, which has her iPad, iPod, kindle, book, notepad for drawing, pens, tiny toys, etc.
We thought about trying to get the ukulele in the suitcase that we check, but there is no room… (at least there wasn’t at the time of thinking this all through).
Here’s how we packed a ukulele and travel the world – minimalism style.
We decided to get rid of the backpack carry-on that goes under the seat in front of Kamea. Instead, we bought a carry-on rolling suitcase in place of it this week. This means it won’t go under the seat anymore, and we will have to pay extra to ensure this carry-on stays with us on the plane or cross our fingers that there’s room once we board the plane. Worst case scenario, it gets put under the plane once in a while if all cabin space is used already on the plane.
With this carry-on rolling suitcase, we will transfer stuff from the backpack to it… and it will still have room because it’s a bit bigger than the backpack! This will be helpful… because we’ll take stuff from the big suitcase and add it to the small wheeling carry-on suitcase. This now makes room in the big suitcase! We’ll put the ukulele in the big suitcase, and check it as usual.
In other words, we increased the size of our carry-on to rearrange items and make room for the ukulele in the big suitase.
Next up: getting ukulele lessons online.
We use Outschool.com for a lot of homeschool classes, and we’ve been happy. I searched for ukulele lessons and found kid-beginning lessons! Only $20 for three lessons to get her started.
Cool! I’m happy.
Cool! Kamea’s happy.
Kamea can learn a musical instrument while traveling the world (I can learn it, too!). Learning and playing the ukulele gives her something to do other than using the iPad all the time. It’s good for her brain development. I can use it as part of her homeschooling curriculum. It’s a winning thing all around.
Nothing stops us!
We had something important we wanted to experience while traveling the world (music playing/learning/lessons), and even more important that Kamea is doing it. As digital nomads embracing minimalism it made it harder to accomplish. But, where there’s a will there’s a way, and we found a way.
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