How Aussie family-of-four sold everything to move to southeast Asia to escape the cost of living crisis

Clocking 15-hour days at work, father-of-two Jimmy Mitchell recalls the rare occasions when he saw his kids awake.

He worked long hours to keep food on the table, pay rent and bills. But as the cost of living increased, the dad hit boiling point.

So he sold everything, packed up and left Australia – indefinitely.

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Along with his wife Pauline and their children Liam, 9, and Riley, 7, the West Australian family now lives out of a handful of suitcases.

For the past six months, the family has been country-hopping with Jimmy claiming their nomadic lifestyle is cheaper than setting roots in Australia.

“I was working more and more just to keep the lights on,” Jimmy tells 7Life of how his family struggled with the rising cost of living.

“I was forever chasing the Australian dream but I realised one day that it would never be possible.”

The family spent the last few months of 2023 travelling around southeast Asia and has big plans to tackle Hawaii and even Japan next year.

Sharing a travel diary online, Jimmy and Pauline say their lifestyle is becoming increasingly popular, and they have met a number of families also using travel to escape the growing cost of living Down Under.

Before setting off, the family’s combined annual income was about $100,000 — below the median level for a typical Australian household.

Jimmy, Pauline, Liam and Riley packed up their home in WA to travel around the world. Credit: Instagram/themothfamily

“We were middle class, we rented in a middle-class suburb, we had middle class problems,” Jimmy says.

“But I was working so hard, not seeing my kids and it just was not what I pictured parenting to be like at all.

“This Australian dream was getting further and further out of reach and we realised, ‘Why are we trying to live in a country that we simply can’t afford anymore?’”

Jimmy and Pauline sat down and compared their income against bills and spending.

While they had expenses like the occasional takeaway meal or camping site fees for a school holiday getaway, they say they were relatively frugal with general spending.

With rent crawling towards $500 a week, they discussed moving interstate or to a rural area to save money.

“I spent time shopping at our local green grocery and Aldi, Woolworths, Coles to make sure we were getting the best prices,” Pauline says.

Despite bargain hunting, the family’s food bill totalled $200 a week.

After months of trying to tighten their belts, Pauline and Jimmy realised their dream of owning a family home was not realistic.

So they decided to pack up and go.

Bye Australia

Running a digital marketing company, Jimmy started to downsize — allowing him to keep earning while the family travelled but working significantly less hours.

The couple also began the process of selling and donating everything they could.

Liam and Riley have spent the past six months travelling around South East Asia. Credit: Instagram/themothfamily

They bought a few quality suitcases and backpacks, filling them with just seven days of clothes, some compact toys and books for the kids.

They also notified the boys’ school and received a curriculum they would be able to follow while they were jet-setting.

Their first stop was southeast Asia.

With the cost of living half the price of that in Australia, the Mitchells said it was the obvious destination.

They looked at the cheapest flights and booked Airbnb or apartment-style accommodation that allowed them to set up roots for at least two weeks at a time.

They headed to Malaysa first and spent four months exploring the peninsula before jumping on a cheap flight to the Philippines.

They spent months island-hopping around the crystal-blue waters before heading to the capital Manila and across to Vietnam.

The family claim to have saved thousands after making the move internationally. Credit: Instagram/themothfamily

Next, they spent nearly two months in Thailand before heading back to WA to spend Christmas with family.

“We booked accommodation that was around $50 a night,” Pauline says. “One with multiple bedrooms and a kitchen or shared kitchen.”

With no travel plans formally set, they frequently visited airline websites and booked the best deals to decide where they were off to next.

Living abroad

While living abroad, the Mitchells say they don’t need to be as focused on keeping costs down.

“We still go to theme parks and eat out almost every day,” Pauline says. “But the difference is it costs $150 for the whole family to go to a theme park where in Australia it is per person.”

The Mitchells have travelled to four countries in six months. Credit: Instagram/themothfamily

They dedicate each morning to teaching writing and maths to Liam and Riley, using the rest of the day to explore the local sights.

Jimmy said parenting should be about spending as much time together as a family as possible.

“I used to think that if I was to die what would be kids say about me? That I was a hard worker,” he added. “Now, I hope their memories would be of us and be full of life.”

When it comes to shopping, the Mitchells essentially don’t. If their boys want a new book or toy, they find a local orphanage to donate their second-hand one and only purchase small items that fits snuggly in their bags.

“The resilience the kids have built is amazing,” Jimmy says. “They understand people a lot better and see how others live.

“They used to beg for a Nintendo Switch and now they can walk around a toy shop and not even ask for anything.”

Cost of living

Jimmy says the family’s food budget hasn’t drastically dropped since moving overseas.

While they used to spend $200 a week on groceries and homemade dinners, the family now fork out about the same — but mainly eat out.

However, Pauline adds that if they did cook at home, it would be a third of the price.

Pauline spends each morning homeschooling the kids before setting out for the day. Credit: Instagram/themothfamily

Adding up flights, accommodation, food, transport and other miscellaneous costs, the Mitchells say they have spent $27,435 over the past six months.

Jimmy said it was considerably less than what six months of living cost the family back in Australia.

“We are living the best lifestyle, having adventures, seeing all of these things,” Jimmy says. “Our quality of life is way better in Asia.”

After spending the festive season cramped into Pauline’s parent’s spare bedroom, the family is ready to hit the road again.

Having booked a bargain cruise and flights in between, the family has travel plans up until next April.

After that, they don’t know where they will end up.

“We plan on doing this for the next few years,” Jimmy says. “We are just riding out the cost-of-living crisis.”

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