The inspiring story of the Iyer family living their life out of 4 suitcases – A family that chose to have a nomadic lifestyle

By Adityobarna Mukherjee | 7 min read

Iyer Family

The lifestyle of the Iyer family is the dream life of many of us. So many of us are skeptical to take the first step of deciding to live this life. But the Iyer family gave up their home, job, school, and lived a nomadic life. It’s adventurous, isn’t it?

How they’re always learning through real-life experiences and knowing the world outside their textbooks while traveling. We, the people at Mad4India, believe that there’s so much to learn about outside our textbooks. For example, the difference in culture, way of living, language, everything can be learned about while we’re on our journey.

Aanchal Iyer and Santosh Iyer, the parents of Hridhaan and Khwahish work remotely to afford their expenses and their children are homeschooled. And to have better knowledge and understanding of the Iyer family’s lifestyle, challenges, and experiences, we interviewed Aanchal Iyer.

Question: When did you decide you wanted to live a nomadic life?

We decided this in early 2018. As we had already experimented with homeschooling for a year and wanted to give my kids, Hridhaan and Khwahish a lot of spare time, we stepped on this journey. My kids were learning about different places in India, the different cultures and wanted to explore them. We thought that we’re already homeschooling and if we cut down on our financial expenses and prioritize the betterment of our children so we started road schooling.

Question: How challenging was it for you to take this first step?

We knew it was going to be very challenging, and that is the reason we took one gap year from 2018 to 2019. And in that one year we started living in very basics because we didn’t want to suddenly wake our kids up one day and tell them we are nomads – said Aanchal Iyer.

We told our children about it. They researched, they studied, and we started living a basic life while living in a stable environment. We sold off our beds and started sleeping on the floor, gave up our gas connection and started cooking on the induction machine, and started walking instead of taking the car. And slowly we started selling off things and my kids adapted.

Iyer Family
Image Source – Aanchal Iyer

Question: How long did your children take to adapt to this lifestyle?

We did this entire practice sort of for a year before we realized we are ready to leave and soon after my son asked what are we waiting for now? We have practically nothing at home, so we might as well leave, let’s leave and that’s when it all started.

Things weren’t easy for the Iyer family when people came to know about it. The neighbors started keeping their children away from Hridhaan and Khwahish, but no matter what, the Iyer family stood by their decision and proved that they weren’t wrong.

Iyer Family
Image Source – Aanchal Iyer

Question: As we all know that traveling means a lot of planning and expenditure, so how do you go about with it?

We believe in one mantra that you can either increase your earning or decrease your expenditure to live a decent lifestyle. And we practically follow it and we do not have a lot of aspirations except that we want to live every day as it comes so we don’t plan a lot of things ahead.

And our basics are being taken care of by our business and freelancing work. Being the hardworking and balanced couple Santosh and Aanchal Iyer are, they balance the time they work and spend with their children efficiently.

Iyer Family
Image Source – Aanchal Iyer

Question: Many of us believe that learning from experience is the best form of learning. To what extent do you think that this is true?

It is the gist of life. For example, my son had a pottery lesson in his Moral Science book and it talked about how people create pottery. He read that lesson and at one place while walking he pointed out a pottery shop. I asked them politely, and they were gracious enough to allow my son to spend an entire day with them. Not only did he help them with pottery, but he also ate and stayed with them the entire day and understood pottery, like how much water needs to be mixed, the speed of the wheel, etc. Very simple yet very big lessons of life. This I wouldn’t have been able to do had I not been traveling.

Question: What are the positives and negatives of this nomadic life on your children?

Both my kids are more mature than I was at my age and they know the value of money, something I didn’t at my age. Even if they want a toy, they resist buying it because they know they’ll have to carry it so they only buy things they can carry. They are so compassionate that they always carry a pack of biscuits and give it to the ones who live on the streets starving from hunger. And that’s a regular practice that they do.

As everything has a positive and negative impact, Aanchal Iyer’s children also feel irritated about the fact that they have to hunt the house and the initial process of setting up the house is a bit tiring for them.

Iyer Family
Image Source – Aanchal Iyer

Question: As you said that they’ve become more adaptable and empathetic, so did traveling help them develop these qualities?

Absolutely. Nothing else did. My son never knew the pain he has to take to walk 6-7 kilometers a day. All these little things we did as a family, like cooking together, cleaning the house together, organizing things, gave my children a lot of maturities on how to keep stuff properly. They’re more organized now than they were before.

Question: Most people say that jobs are found in cities only and other places do not have such opportunities. So do you think it’ll be hard for your children to build their careers living this lifestyle?

I don’t see how a career is affected by traveling. It’s about education, learning, and skills. If my kids are good enough and show their capability to the job they’re applying for, they’ll surely secure it. I’m traveling and earning, so I feel it’s just an excuse.

Iyer Family
Image Source – Aanchal Iyer

Question: There was a video on your Instagram page of all of you making a natural refrigerator. We would love to know about it.

As we did not have the refrigerator at one place we were staying at and we didn’t want to buy one, my son asked what people did before the invention of refrigerators. For water we had “surahi” but we didn’t have a place to store curd or food. So they thought of making one and it worked to a decent extent. It was enough to keep the food normal and good. It was lower than the normal temperatures of the refrigerator and kept us occupied for 2 days.

Iyer Family
Image Source – Aanchal Iyer

Question: How do you normally spend your days? Does it vary from one place to another?

It does, but no matter where we are, my kids have to follow a basic discipline like they have to study in the morning till 12 and after that, they’re free to do their other activities. By that time my husband is also free to help them with the activities and I get to work. So in the morning, I spend more time with the kids and my husband spends time with them while I work.

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Question: What is their most favorite thing of this adventurous lifestyle?

They love walking. Hridhaan and Khwahish’s most favorite part of this lifestyle is walking for 7kms and only after that do they take a cab if needed. It’s almost like a daily routine to walk 7kms. For example, if we have to go somewhere to see a good spot, we first walk for around 6-7kms and if it’s farther than that, we take a cab but most of the time it’s not farther than that. Walking helps them to see the things we actually miss out on while traveling in cars.

Question: During this pandemic, where are you currently living? Did you find it difficult to stay in one place?

In 2020, I was in Ooty and spent the maximum part of the pandemic there, in a village called Kheti. And this year half the time I was with my in-laws and then I was in Rajasthan. Now I’m living in Allahabad, my father recently passed so came to meet my mother.

Initially, staying in one place was a bit suffocating for my kids. The reason we went to Rajasthan in November last year was that my son said that he was wearing a mask everywhere and he would do so wherever I asked him to but he needs to travel. We’re still adjusting and they keep asking me to take them to the mountains.

Question: Very basic yet very interesting question, What do you pack in those 4 suitcases?

One suitcase has my children’s books, coloring boxes, notebooks. Another bag for clothing with 7 sets for each, and a little extra for my daughter. One bag has the basic kitchen utensils and the final one for miscellaneous items, including my son’s PS4 which was a condition placed by my son. He’s a PS4 fanatic. The father-son duo spends at least 1 hour every day playing on his PS4.

Question: Is it difficult to live out of those 4 suitcases?

No. It never occurred to us. We have been practicing it for a year before taking the plunge. It was just a different destination. But yes, when I was trying to adapt initially to that lifestyle in Pune, then that was difficult. But that I wanted to travel did not put up these issues as a big challenge.

The minimalistic lifestyle has helped us feel more liberated. At times, when I ask someone how much stuff they live with, I feel people get hurt as well. They be like, “You live out of 4 suitcases, we don’t”, said Aanchal Iyer laughing.

Question: Do you feel that your children are missing out on lasting relationships with people other than family, school life memories, etc.?

Not at all. In this age and era of gadgets and video calls, you can have lasting relationships with anyone as long as you want to. You can meet after 20 years and still share the same bond. It depends upon individuals and not the lifestyle.

The second thing is that every lifestyle has its pros and cons. If you are on a regular lifestyle, you have school memories and not travel memories, and vice versa. That’s a choice.

The problem here is that people compare. It’s our way of living. We’re not on a vacation, I’m living it. My husband and I work hard, my children study a lot, we mostly cook at home only. We eat out only once in 15 days or if we’re late. It’s just that we don’t have a permanent house. The world is our home, Aanchal Iyer adds.

After everything settles, they plan to go to Uttarakhand. And to the people who are skeptical of making their decision to travel more often, Aanchal said, “Leap. Challenges are a part of life, no matter where you go.”

Iyer Family
Image Source – Aanchal Iyer

To know more about the Iyer family, please check – Instagram

If you liked this story, read the story of these 3 friends who travelled from Mumbai to Kanyakumari without skipping office.

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