"Travel, particularly international travel, exposes families to different lifestyles that, intrinsically bring families together" Dr. Nicholas Levy M.D.
Being a global nomad family DOES take a different perspective about life than the typical status quo, but if you are a natural non-conformist, you will embrace it all and see the many advantages for your kids. It is really about choosing freedom and understanding time is wealth. I love this old quote by Paul Terhorst, author of Cashing Out on the American Dream, who has been a permanent traveler for over twenty five years.
In summary: if you distrust government and other institutions, can live without lots of stuff, and like the freedom of E-mail and the internet, you may well be a candidate for PT ( Perpetual Travel).
Today's world is very different than the so called "third culture kid's" that was coined by a woman who raised kids in India in the fifties. Technology makes things very different today when even very young kids can webcam-call relatives and friends around the world for free from their laptops or smart phone and ubiquitous worldwide pop culture permeates even remote areas of the globe. Many global nomad travelers and expats today are not just military, wealthy business people, or missionaries (who usually stayed quite separate from the cultures they lived in), but a whole new breed who are finding new ways to live abroad!
Some people commenting on the New York Times ' Frugal Traveler's article about us wondered if Mozart had any friends and some parents think you can't do extended travel unless you go to an expensive international schools, spend a fortune and basically try to recreate the exact same life that you had at home.
Really? If I wanted to create the exact same life that I had at home, why would I travel abroad? It's funny because I see a "normal life" as a much bigger threat to my child in today's world. There are just so many different ways to view life and what is best.
Do you think after waiting nine long years to have a miraculous child and choosing this lifestyle primarily for her benefit, that we would continue this lifestyle if it wasn't amazing for all of us? Why? We can live anywhere and being together, as well as her education are the primary reasons why we do this. For us, it's co-creating heaven on earth together. We are thrilled that we can also live large on just 23 dollars a day while we do this and add to our nest egg as we roam. We're thrilled that it has been even better at educating her than we expected and awesome for her social life. I liked Amy's wise comment:
"I expect she's got playmates and penpals all over the world.I really can't say I see any terrific advantage to what my daughter's got, which is the oppressive Hannah-Montana-flavored pecking-order of a midwestern elementary school, with all the popularity contests and the drama of suburban kids who are your friends one day and mean the next. They don't teach her to behave brilliantly, either. Frankly, I think my daughter might well prefer the serial friendships of new playmates. I can't think of anyone from childhood I'm still tight with either."
She Skyped Grandma in California to send Best Friends Forever bracelets to Spain and together they created a special ceremony at a sleep over in Spain with UK friend who has also lived in South Africa.
Deciding to make their hair like twins to fool people into thinking that they are sisters
Walking home from school in Spain, you never know what you will see.
"In today’s busy world, days can go by without the entire family sitting down together. Mom and Dad are working, there’s play rehearsal, soccer practice, doctor appointments—and we lose touch. Traveling together gives everyone a chance to get reacquainted." Cynthia Harriman
"The future belongs to a very different kind of mind--creators and empathizers, pattern recognizers, and meaning makers. These people--artists, inventors, designers, storytellers, caregivers, consolers, big picture thinkers--will now reap societies richest rewards and share it's greatest joys."Daniel Pink
Interestingly, as I was writing this, my Facebook friend Abby sent me a video link and said, "This movie trailer makes me wish every child could have a Mozart-style education." This is an important video "Race to No Where" made by many experts on education and this is exactly what I do NOT want for my child and one of the reasons we left and purposely choose to do things differently.
Celebrating and participating in festivals with school mates in Spain is multi-cultural lessons at it's best!
Teaching her English best friend about American girl dolls at one of many sleep overs in Spain.
Making art for their Best Friends Forever ceremony. Yes, that is a world map on our unwatched TV.
Can a child who lives a travellifestyle still have friends and a stable life?? Of course!
It is truly a false fear and totally absurd to think there is only one way to raise a child or that you must live in one place forever. Some people do that and enjoy it which is perfectly fine too, but not everyone thrives on the Hannah-Montana-Little-League-soccer-mom-mini-van-fast-food-iphone existence. We wanted to escape the downsides of such a life and to choose freedom and more time to experience the joys of life together while exploring the world.
You don't have to do global travel to move around, many American's do that and still have friends and a stable life. I moved around when I was growing up, often after just six months or a year in one place and I really thrived on it and enjoyed that. All four of us kids really liked the moving and feel it was a positive influence in our lives and made us all more independent, adventurous and contrarian thinkers. Hard to tell what is nurture and what is nature, but my lifestyle growing up helped me be a bigger risk taker and adaptable which have served me well in life.
On the other hand DaVinci grew up in one place his whole life and went to school with the same kids from first grade through senior year at a parochial school. He was very active in sports from five on ( lettered as a freshman and has gobs of medals and trophies), in his community and with his big extended family. Nevertheless, he could not wait to get out and dreamed about it since early childhood, then left as soon as he finished high school, never to return, except for family visits. He has dear friends that go back to early childhood, but they have played no significant role in his life in the twenty years that I have known him.
I think it can become a harder choice for some as children get older and more addicted to the peer-oriented school & always busy life ( that Dr. Neufeld talked about in the book Hold Onto Your Kids) but we are attachment & unschool parents, so don't think it will challenge us in the future. I moved out of state myself in October of my senior year of high school after living four years in one place.That was devastating at first, but turned out to be the best possible opportunity that greatly strengthened me and added to my life. Challenges do not necessarily have to be a bad thing. I had been very popular in high school, but felt my early jolt into reality through the move, freed me in ways from my limited high school thinking, and pushed me ahead of peers into life which was a great advantage.
When we began, I thought we might settle down in one place when Mozart hits her teen years, but now I'm not so sure as I think the whole middle school and high school years are the biggest waste for most and socially dangerous. To me, most schools looks like the worst possible choice for a bright 21st century global citizen. There are tons of expensive programs that parents pay a fortune for to give travel education to their teens or tweens and we can have all those advantages without the costs or separation.
"Interestingly, home-schoolers are now the favored applicants of some big-name universities. According to Jon Reider, admissions official at Stanford University in California, they are desirable applicants because "home-schoolers bring certain skills - motivation, curiosity, the capacity to be responsible for their education - that high school don't induce very well." Dr. Gordon Neurfeld
Maya Frost traveled and moved abroad with four teenage daughters and despite having some challenges, it turned out to have had spectacular results for each child and the whole family that led her to write the fabulous book, " The New Global Student- Skip the SAT, Save Thousands on Tuition, and Get a Truly International Education". I also really like Blake Boles ideas and experiences in "College without High School"and think Mozart will do well designing her own educational journey. Friendships never seemed to be a problem with all of the out-of-the-box teens that I have known or studied. I think Mozart learns MORE about friendships and relationships in our travel lifestyle than she would have if we stayed home and she also gets to do it in several languages!
"Reasonable people adapt themselves to the world. Unreasonable people attempt to adapt the world to themselves. All progress, therefore, depends on unreasonable people." George Bernard Shaw
Nail painting time and giggles!
Two best friends forever who both play the violin!
Playing at the Koi pond fountain on the playful walk home from school, the highlight of my day!
Playing a duet for fun!
"The greatest danger in times of turbulence is not the turbulence; it is to act with yesterday's logic" Drucker
We had no idea how all of this would play out when we left in 2006, but I did lots of research and tried to make a plan that would best serve Mozart's ( and all of ours) needs in every way. We did consider friendships and consistency and that's why we chose to have a "base" for part of the year that we would return to for several years. It's worked great in our little village in Spain, better than we ever imagined. I also had the advantage that I had lived in Europe before for a year in my twenties ( when I modeled for Ford Models while living in Italy) so had personal experience of the pros and cons like the cold, rainy winters in northern Europe that I wanted to avoid this time.
The school hours are short, the community is welcoming and small and there are a few other expats in the school which turns out to be a good thing because they share a common bond of being from somewhere else ( England, Scotland, Italy, Morocco, Denmark, Netherlands). It would have worked fine with out any expats, but this way she gets to see kids who come to school knowing none of the language and witnessing their progress seems quite normal to her now.
There is just one expat in her grade who happens to be a boy, but at first I did not like the idea of ANY expats, yet now I see it has been a positive. She has bonded deeply with the Spanish kids as well as the few expat families. It has been good for her to know other multi-lingual kids and she has learned about other cultures through them along with the Spanish culture.
I've heard of some families doing one year around-the-world trips who almost never ran into other kids, which always seems so odd to me. Since we mostly use our RV for travel, we always meet LOTS of kids where ever we go and Mozart really enjoys those friendships too. This experience has taught her really great skills of going up to strangers to connect, even with no language in common and letting go easily when it is time to go, whether that is after an hour, a day or weeks or months. Playing with kids from many different countries that speak many different languages in many diverse locations over the last four years has enriched her life and global understanding immensely. Her connections also help us meet others, as families tend to connect through their kids.
They happily made "twin" pony tail hair do all by themselves.
"The most beautiful discovery true friends make is that they can grow separately without growing apart." Elisabeth Foley
Sadly, her two best friends moved away, which is the way of the world no matter where you live, although other kids come and go and I can't always keep up with the latest best friend or mean kid. She has had both Spanish best friends and expat best friends from several countries. She does a ton of sleep overs and birthday parties in Spain and on the road. She has enjoyed some after school classes like flamenco, horseback riding and ceramics with other kids, but I think family time and time for her to play on her own should be a priority, so gear our life in that way.We prefer an un-busy balanced life and also teach her skills like meditating, mindfulness and the value of NOT following the pack, but listening closely to one's own inner wisdom.
A few years ago, Mozart met a special friend in the park before she moved here and she has been her best friend ever sense and they do really enjoy each other's company.They even made a little ceremony to celebrate and cement their Best Friends Forever status.They both have other friends, but really enjoy their special bond. She lives on the other side of this village, so already they do some of their communication online or on the phone via Skype.
Just as we have nurtured her best relationships back in California, we hope to continue to nurture this relationship via webcam calls, emails and yearly visits. Will they be Best Friends Forever? We'll see. She might even come visit us in Malaysia.
Mozart is excited about going to Malaysia and starting a new school in a new language. I wonder if it will be harder this time because she is older. We will just have to see how that unfolds. If the school doesn't work out, we will just get a private Chinese tutor and connect with the homeshool group and after-school things for other kids to play with. When there are less kids around, we play with her more, so that is always nice as well. We're all pretty flexible and this lifestyle as made us even more so.
Four years into this global nomad lifestyle and my verdict for my child is super positive, as far as friendships and the lessons she has learned about them and relationships in our travels. They are FAR superior to what I think she would have had if we stayed at home. It is a different life, but in many ways, not so different in basic ways because we travel as a family and families take a certain grounding and routine. Sometimes I wish that I had never put her in any schools, but they have also given us some benefits, especially with the language immersion and an easy way to connect deeply to a community.
My hope is that she retains all the best things of a life in one place, few of the less good things and is enriched tremendously forever by this worldly lifestyle. So far so good ( and we do work at this goal every day) but who knows what the future brings. I believe strongly in "if there is a will,there is a way", so I think we will find a way.
What are your thoughts or experiences?
Enjoying a friends Karoke birthday party
Participating in this year's Carnival in our village where a whole group of school mates dressed as Indians.
Last year's going away/early birthday/pool party for Mozart with two best friends