Meet the Family Who Has Been Sailing the World for 10 Years

Playing Seafaring Family of 5 Successfully Sails Around the Globe

Behan and Jamie Gifford have spent the last 10 years sailing around the world with their three children, and they have no plans of stopping. 

The couple and their children, ages 4, 6, and 9 at the time, first set sail on Aug. 21, 2008 from Puget Sound, Washington. 

Since then, the family has traveled to 48 countries, racking up 58,000 miles and spending about $300,000.

Behan Gifford said they lived the "perfect" life before taking on their journey.

“We had high-paying jobs, dual income,” she told SWNS. “It was so perfect and white picket fence it was almost painful. It makes your teeth hurt.”

Behan worked at a digital ad agency and Jamie sold medical equipment. 

Within two weeks in 2002, the couple gave birth to their second child and mourned the loss of Jamie’s mother.

“It was hard to see those milestones of life happening together,” Behan told SWNS.

Jamie’s mother had a desire to travel, but died within weeks, causing the Giffords to re-think their own plans.

“It forced us to think about our priorities and what we wanted, and when Jamie and I met this was something we were always going to do,” Behan said.

Behan said both her and Jamie quit their jobs and pulled their children from school.

Years later in 2008, the family took off in their boat, "Totem," and did not look back.

Their three children, Niall, now 19, Mairen, 16, and Siobhan, 14, have been "boat-schooled" since setting sail.

“The kids don’t have mobile phones so there’s no Snapchat or Instagram and they’re ‘not dialed in to popular culture,' but they spend time relaxing or exploring," Behan told SWNS.

Behan explained how daily tasks are different and take longer than they would if they were on land.

They do laundry without a washing machine and instead of buying a lot of groceries and loading the minivan, they buy what they can carry back from markets.

"It’s such a crazy, different way of life from the outside," Behan said. "On one hand, we have given up so much to do this but we have zero regrets."

The Giffords have been funding their trip with their savings, as well as money they have raised over the course of 18 months while living on their boat and working jobs in Australia, SWNS reported.

The couple also freelances and rents their home in Washington for extra money.

Overall, the family of five has saved more money traveling overseas as opposed to staying on land. Although they’ve spent about $300,000, SWNS reports the average cost of living with a family of five in Seattle, Washington, is $122,000 per year.

The Giffords are in the U.S. for the summer season, but will be back aboard the Totem by October, when they will sail to Mexico for a year and a half with Mairen and Siobhan. Niall, however, will be attending college in Portland, where he will study French and economics. 

The family keeps a blog, SailingTotem.com, to give a glimpse into their life at sea. They don't plan on stopping their voyage anytime soon.

"We barely saw each other before and now our family is very tight." Behan said. "We have had the most wonderful opportunity to experience the world with our kids."

The Giffords' Voyage, by the Numbers:

Year trip was planned: 2002

Year Giffords set sail: 2008

Years Traveled: 10

Countries: 48

Miles: About 58,000

Cost: About $300,000

Ages of Children in 2008: 9, 6, 4

Ages of Children now: 19, 16, 14

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