They’ve been on the road for eighteen months, traveled to nine countries and are now in Siem Reap, in no hurry to leave. The self-styled Nomadic Family are Israelis Gabi and Kobi Klaf and their three children.
Six years ago, project manager turned dog trainer Kobi and his wife Gabi, a family therapist, decided to hit the road. The couple had always dreamed of doing a road trip in the US when they retired.
“But then we realised, who knows what’s going to be when we reach 67,” says Kobi. “Are we going to be able financially to afford it? Are we going to be sick, healthy? So we said we should do something earlier.”
And just over four years later, after saving and planning, they started their odyssey.
The Klafs first headed to the US for two months, and then they continued their travels on a random basis.
Gabi explains, “If we’re on a bus or an airplane and we happen to meet the guy next to us and he says, ‘Hey I’ve got a friend who’s got a friend,’ we’re like, ‘Alright we’ll go there’. A lot of our most amazing experiences have been by randomly meeting people in the street.”
The family also prefers travel at a slow pace, staying in one place for between one and six months.
“We move really slowly,” says Gabi. “We’ll really live with the people, gain relationships, learn what it would be like to be a local there and then move on.”
In this way, the Klafs have enjoyed varied jobs and lifestyles in their mini residencies. In Costa Rica they worked as ranchers for two months, milking cows, making cheese and living off the land. Gabi taught the ranchers English, held her ‘clean your soul’ self-healing classes, and was paid in fruit and vegetables.
In Panama, they house-sat, and Kobi trained dogs while Gabi taught classes.
Living with locals rather than doing the ‘tourist thing’ also gives the family unique access to places other travelers might miss.
One of the highlights of their trip was living in an indigenous village in the Ecuadorian jungle for a month and a half where mod-cons were at a minimum.
Kobi recalls, “Most of the time we did not have running water, no communication whatsoever. No internet, no computer, no TV, nothing. We did laundry in the river, showered in the river, cooked in the shared kitchen, learnt how to cut a chicken to pieces and cook it.”
“Our kids attended the Quichwa school across the street. At Christmas time they did a show and my Jewish son was Jesus. We loved it. We had the river, it was perfect.”
Well almost. Unfortunately, the village was also the site of the trip’s nadir.
Kobi contracted dengue fever and spent several weeks in hospital. He says, “Physically that was the worst. I just wanted to go back home at one point, I wanted to just hug my mama! I was sitting in hospital at night crying.”
The intrepid explorers have also been to Colombia, Peru and Thailand, and have now been in Siem Reap for three months. They plan to stay for another two months before exploring the rest of Cambodia.
Of her time in Siem Reap, Gabi says, “I’m teaching my class, I’m learning a lot about Buddhism and meditation. I feel it’s a really good soul time for me.”
The Klaf kids, Dahnya,10, Orazi, 9, and Solai,7, are being home-schooled and of course getting a few life lessons along the way, not to mention some unique history classes.
Gabi says, “I could teach my kids about the history of the Mayans, but if I take them to the ruins and they’re there, then it becomes relevant.”
But does traveling as a family unit take its toll, and are there hair-tearing moments where they just can’t stand being around each other?
“Every day, every day,” Kobi laughs.
Gabi says the idea of being together 24/7 was really scary. “But what we’ve found is that we have more time to ourselves than we’ve ever had. We’ve kind of pushed our kids out of the nest to be independent.
We’ll do our studies and then we say, ‘go figure out what you want to do with yourself. Go, go find local kids, go play, go do something’.”
The nomads plan to be away for another year and a half, with India and Nepal next on the agenda. “But from here to there, everything’s open,” says Kobi.
You can follow the Klaf family’s adventures on their website.