This family of 5 left their suburban life behind to travel around the world in a sailboat — and after 9 years and 30 countries, they’re still going

The Gifford family (minus Behan) aboard their boat, Totem, their home for nearly 10 years and counting.

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The Gifford family (minus Behan) aboard their boat, Totem, their home for nearly 10 years and counting.
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Gifford family/Facebook

In 2008, Jamie and Behan Gifford left their home in Washington and embarked on a boat trip around the world with their three children.

Nearly 10 years later, they still haven’t stopped.

Since starting their life on the sea, the Giffords have explored countless new places, learned to live with relatively few possessions, grown closer as a family. In the summer of 2016, Business Insider video producer Justin Gmoser visited the Gifford family on their boat, Totem, off the coast of Connecticut to see what it’s really like for a family of five to travel the world by sea.

Read on to learn about the Giffords and their trip of a lifetime:


The Giffords used to live in Washington state. “We were a suburban family. We had three kids, and a nice house, and a minivan,” Jamie told Business Insider.

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But the couple couldn’t shake the feeling that life was passing them by. “My husband and I had been busier and busier with our jobs, and our kids were growing up faster and faster,” Behan said.

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Gifford family/Facebook

“And at some point, it just felt life was going by too quickly,” Behan said. So in August 2008, the couple and their children, aged 4, 6, and 9, left suburbia to live on a boat.

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The family’s adventures have taken them all over the world, from the Caribbean to southern Africa and Southeast Asia.

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“We’ve had this incredible opportunity to make every day feel like a field trip,” Behan said.

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Giffords family

For Mairen, the middle child, it’s hard to remember any other life. “I only have little bits and pieces of memories before we started cruising,” she said.

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Gifford family

The Giffords’ boat is “the floating equivalent of a tiny house,” Behan said. “Every tiny bit of space has to be useful.”

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Three solar panels and a wind turbine help the Giffords supply their own energy.

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Business Insider

Their “washing machine” is a five-gallon bucket.

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Giffords family

The parents homeschool their children — or “boatschool,” as they say.

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Giffords family

Jamie and Behan fund their trip with money from Jamie’s sailmaking business and Behan’s book “Voyaging with Kids,” which she wrote with two other “cruising parents.”

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Learn more about Jamie Gifford’s sailmaking »

Learn more about “Voyaging With Kids” »


But the family doesn’t need much money to stay afloat. Behan said they only spend about $25,000 a year.

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There’s no “typical” day as a cruiser, Behan said. The family loves exploring its surroundings and meeting locals wherever they go.

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Gifford family

But the family has plenty of down time aboard the boat, as well.

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Giffords family

The kids have grown up a lot in the nearly 10 years they’ve been at sea.

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Giffords family

And they’ll keep their incredible journey going “as long as everybody is on board,” Behan said. “It’s got to be something that we’re doing as a family.”

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Gifford family/Facebook

Check out a video about the Giffords’ adventure below: