For the past eight months, Courtney and Justin Orgias have lived out of two (once three) checked suitcases, two carry-ons and a diaper bag as they traveled through Mexico. They are now in Medellín, Colombia.
It’s not just the couple traveling, but their 3-year-old son, Xavier, and 10-month-old daughter, Whitley.
The young Black family, who previously lived in Georgia, made the big decision to go fully nomadic last year. They were no strangers to frequent travel, going on trips several times a year — in 2021 alone, they took Xavier to five countries. Now they are excited to fully immerse themselves in different cultures.
The decisive factor for this move was the birth of their daughter. “We realized if we didn’t go now, it was going to get harder,” Courtney said.
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Working remotely, Justin said, also helped make it possible. Both work in technology. “We were traveling back and forth to Mexico. We love it here, we felt good here,” he said. “Why don’t you move over there?”
American tourists can stay in Mexico without a visa for up to 180 days.
What is a digital nomad?
A digital nomad is someone who can work from anywhere – as long as there’s Wi-Fi – and uses it for a lifestyle of traveling to new places.
Traditionally, most digital nomads were freelancers or those with online businesses, but the rise of remote work from the COVID-19 pandemic has opened the door for other people to try the nomad lifestyle. The movement is also growing, with 15.5 million Americans identifying as digital nomads in 2021, a 112% increase from 2019.
Orgias packed up their belongings, donated some of their belongings, and placed the rest in a storage unit. Then they sold everything else at an estate sale and said goodbye to their home.
The family left the country on June 19, 2022, which was “poetic” to them given the significance of the date, Courtney said.
While a big motivation for their trip is to expose their children to different cultures while they are young, the parents also want to be a resource for other black families who are curious about the nomadic lifestyle.
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A resource for black families
The Orgias Family documents their adventures as O Family Adventures on Instagram and on their blog, Orgias Family Adventures. They’ll share tips on visas, traveling with kids and their favorite things to do in a destination. They’ll also share what it’s like to travel to these places while Black, how they chose Guadalajara as their first stop in Mexico because of its “close-knit immigrant community of color.”
On Instagram, the couple wrote that Xavier goes to school with kids who look like him and the community has helped ease their transition.
“We want to show people, especially families, especially families of color, that the world is wide and life is short,” Courtney said. “(We like) just being able to show people that this is a possibility, this is something you can do.”
Common concerns for digital nomads
The couple said they constantly get direct messages from other black families asking how they can also live internationally or become digital nomads. More often than not, the question revolves around security.
“Everybody wants to know if it’s safe, but I find that black families, especially black families, have a different understanding when they do that; the question of safety will go directly to questions about the diversity of certain areas, if we felt comfortable if we experienced any racism and a lot of questions like that,” Courtney said. They also get questions about telecommuting, childcare and schooling.
“It was really hard to find people who looked like us.”
Orgies spend a lot of time vetting destinations before they go to make sure it’s safe for them, especially as a black family. Justin examines any conflict in that city or country.
“You don’t want to get anywhere and you’re thrown into the middle of chaos with two small children,” he said. Other factors include what the weather is like and whether the city is walkable.
More than 71% of Black Americans and Canadians prioritize safety as “extremely or very influential” in their decision about a destination.
They also rely on other influencers on YouTube, Instagram and TikTok to understand more about the country, such as if there are good places to take the kids and what other black families have experienced while visiting.
“If there is a better place where my children can be freer and safer, then why not try to look for it?” Courtney said.
More than an adventure
There are deeper reasons why the Origias wanted to raise their children on the streets. Courtney felt like she grew up in a “bubble” and wanted to give her children a different, more global perspective while they were young. When Xavier was younger, he lived a typical suburban life, Justin said. “He had a structured routine, but he got bored with it.” Now, he’s “enjoying doing something new every day.”
“I think Xavier likes adventure,” Courtney said. “He really likes being in different places and seeing different people.” He is learning Spanish and is always trying new types of food.
For Whitley, the trip will be “the only thing she knows,” Courtney said.
Courtney wanted her children to grow up not to think that American culture is “the default for them,” but to “understand different countries and cultures.” Traveling when a child is young, like under 5, can benefit their development in terms of language, sensitivity and open-mindedness later in life.
Last November, the family was in Mexico during Día de los Muertos, so the children witnessed a cultural event not widely celebrated in the United States. For Christmas, the family went to Morocco, where Xavier learned why some people wear the fez or hijab. They also went on camel rides and learned about the history of the indigenous Berbers.
Then there’s the issue of safety, which is important to all parents, especially since school shootings have rebounded in the wake of the pandemic. Black parents also often feel a particularly heavy burden. School policing has been found to disproportionately affect students of color. Exploring other places to live outside the U.S. would also require a place for her family to live “freer and safer,” Courtney said.
“Honestly, the US has a lot going on, especially when it comes to being able to safely raise children of color,” she said. She believes “the notion that there are other places out there where it’s easier and safer and better to send them to school or let them buy poop.”
Kathleen Wong is a travel reporter based in Hawaii. You can reach him at email@example.com
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