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Kids, Friends, Travel on The Ultimate Family Adventure

February 25, 2011

 

  Kids, Friends, Travel on The Ultimate Family Adventure in Spain

GLOBAL FRIENDS ON THE TRAVEL ROAD

"What about my kids friends?" When planning the ultimate family adventure, family world trip, international vacation, long term travel  or travel lifestyle many parents seem to have concerns and questions about the issue of friendships, best friends and consistent relationships. Living the dream means your kids needs must be met too, but be willing to think outside of the box.

I wrote about it on Can Globe Trotting Location Independent Kids Have Friends which has been a very popular article. I've gotten so many more questions that I thought I'd give more details on how we prepare and plan our family travel so that it is advantageous for long term friendships, socialization and deep relationships as well as amazing educational and multi-cultural opportunities.

Two trilingual friends for 5 years on two continents hugging in London

TRAVELING THE WORLD AS A FAMILY WITH SCHOOL AGE KIDS

We started our "Location Independent",  "Lifestyle Design" or "Travel Lifestyle" in 2005 when we sold our home and most of our belongings beginning a trendsetting minimalist digital nomad lifestyle. Then we started our non-stop international family travel in 2006, and have been to 39 countries on 5 continents with a school age child ( over the last 5 years on just 23 dollars a day per person) , thus have more experience at this ultimate family adventure than anyone we have met or heard about online.

There is no one right way to do this, but relationships are important to us as well as giving our child a solid foundation in every way including pyschologically and socially, so we have been very conscious about providing emotional intimacy support and the "sure shelter" of long term dear friends...even as we travel the world.

"Traveling in the company of those we love is home in motion" - Hunt

I love this quote because it descibes our global lifestyle. Here are a few things that we have found worked best for us as far as keeping deep friendship connections while living a "home in motion" kind of life. With a single female child who loves people, we find this essential, although we also cherish all the many friends that we meet just once or twice along the way. One can find "roots" in a serial way by having more than one place as "home". The world is our home.

sweet old friends having fun at the beach at "home"


FIRST RULE -MAINTAIN FRIENDS AT HOME

We don't go "home" very often, and thus far in the last 5 years of world travel, we have only been home to Santa Cruz and the USA twice and each time for just two weeks, yet we have maintained our old friendships there. Today that is easier than ever via free webcam calls, email, Facebook etc and we do that with friends from all our different global "homes".

That said, kids tend to live in the now and we limit Mozart's online time because I don't think it is valuable to be online texting and talking constantly with friends at a distance. That can get in the way of connecting with friends deeply locally and being present in the "now", thus we are BIG fans of as much unplugged time as possible. Staying connected does not mean staying up with every tiny detail as if you are still living there. Friends are important, but ultimately parents are more important and one learns about relationship first from family.

We DO make it a priority to spend quality time with friends when we are home. One of the highlights for Mozart while staying at our beautiful beach home while visting Santa Cruz, was having a sleep over with one of her best friends there and hanging out at the beach and mall with her and various friends. We've always appreciated her special friends there and the families that they come from who have similar values that we have about loving and caring. Mozart has been friends with this beautiful child since she was four.

PICK A VILLAGE - IMMERSE IN LANGUAGE VIA A LOCAL SCHOOL FOR A BIT - RETURN REGULARLY

Spain village. After a summer away traveling, kids enjoy reconnecting & time to catch up

playing with Spanish friends at local school last day in May 2010

visiting friends in spain in fall 2010 before leaving for a tropical winter in Asia

One of our "homes" is a tiny white village in Andalusia, Spain near the sea and we picked it randomly off the internet before arriving in 2006.  From our first day of school in Spain until our last day of school we not only got amazing language benefits that allows our child to speak, read and write Spanish like a native, but a wonderful opportunity to immerse deeply in the culture and make many dear life long friends ( primarily all from this village, but also a few expats from many countries).

We are eclectic unschoolers, but are not above using schools to our advantage and I think language and cultural immersion happens best and easiest this way. We made up a system where we travel most of the year, but spend five months in the winter at a slower pace, immersing via a local school for language, resting, rejuvenating and  doing only short trips from a base during this time. We returned to this village and school for four winters consecutively  and now we return regularly to visit with our good friends there and allow Mozart time to play and reconnect.

WHERE EVER YOU FIND ANGELS EMBRACE AND CHERISH THEM

cute trilingual girls having fun in London

3 girls playing in 2 countries

tea time in london with angels

  girlfriends having fun in london

CLOSE AS COUSINS SINCE 2006

Yes these three trilingual girls have been as close as cousins since 2006 when we met upon our arrival in Spain. Often life seems to send us blessings on our travels and one of our great gifts in Spain is this darling family that we called our "guardian angels". By chance, I met the dad online on a global piano forum in 2005 when I was trying to figure out how we would deal with kidlet's piano lessons as we travel the world. Lo and behold it turned out that this most helpful person happened to live a short distance away from the village in Spain that we picked. What are those odds, eh?

If you have been with us from the beginning, you might remember how they were our first guests,  he saved us from a snake and dealing with internet woes when we first arrived in 2006 and how they spoiled us with a marvelous home cooked meal in Malaga ( and she taught us about her native Mate as she is from Argentina, he from Spain and they had met in London). Or more spoiling at their venture into the best beach restaurant in Benalmadena Costa.

Their youngest was in diapers when we first met, but every winter we enjoyed spending time together and they saved our butts more than once. So helpful to have local friends who understand how everything works and have experience living in foreign countries where they did not speak the language. We could gab for hours while the kids played. We were sad to see them move to London before our last winter there, but it's fun for us to reconnect with them when we visit London like we did this fall and plan to do it again in June.  When they lived in Spain, Spanish was the girls dominant languge so it was funny to hear them with perfect British accents now.

BEST FRIENDS FOREVER BFF BARCELONA STYLE

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DON'T FORGET TO LEAVE PLENTY OF TIME FOR PLAY

These tri-lingual well-traveled best friends who connect through Spanish, demonstrate rock, scissors, paper in Barcelona. Kids can connect to a culture through games and play and time.

bring photo books of past and share

tree climbing explorations in barcelona resort

long stay means kids tent for private fun


touring barcelona with best friend


tween friends making nutella and fresh baked croissant breakfast

always lots of kids, but one best friend

GO SLOW - GET TO KNOW THE LOCALS - RETURN REGULARLY - GRAVITATE TO GOLDEN PEOPLE

Barcelona is another one of our "homes" and it is several days drive away from our home in Andalusia via our motorhome. In 2006, we fell in love with an amazing luxurious beach resort in Barcelona that is very cheap and great for families so we spend at least a month or two there every year. Usually in spring and fall on our way to and from southern Spain where we store our RV and Barcelona is a perfect "jumping off point" for Europe ( via boat ferry to Italy or drive to France or not far from a ferry to UK etc).

Here we were also blessed by meeting an amazing local family. Remember that delicious paella that they've made for us? One of our great delights in going back there is we get to spend time with them and we also keep up from time to time as we roam via webcam calls. They love traveling as a family  as much as we do and Mozart and their daughter are already planing their own round-the-world trip when they get into their twenties. We all cherish these angels and have lots of fun together.

This resort is a perfect place for tweens because they can have a lot of freedom in a safe way. They can explore, sleep-over, play in thier private kids tent playroom, swim in one of the 3 pools, go to the on-site  store or bakery, tour sometimes together, go to the kids disco at night, make meals, watch a little Spanish TV, ride bikes, watch movies outside, play with kids who speak many languages in the kids club, ( Mozart often translates between her only Spanish speaking and only English speaking friends), make things, catch butterflies at the zoo and more.

FIND A NEW PLACE - ADAPT- IMMERSE IN A NEW LANGUAGE AND CULTURE - MAKE NEW FRIENDS

 

playing marco polo in pool at our Penang resort


Introducing visiting grandma to her play posse at new home in asia

making good friends via a Mandarin school in Penang


taking time to swim and play every day in tropical asia

making good friends at our resort home in Asia

We came to Asia in November primarily to immerse our child in Mandarin through a local school here in Penang. So far it is working wonderfully on every level including friendships. The resort we happened to land in is perfect for families and our child already has a posse of wonderful friends here that she plays with daily. The variety is quite unusual and rich..a Hungarian, a Chinese-Canadian/ Australian , a Korean/Chinese Canadian, an Indian/Chinese/Malay, a Spanish speaking bilingual American from New Mexico and more. The kids go to many different various schools or homeschool.

The majority of kids in her school are Chinese Malaysias, but they are also from Thailand, Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Singapore,Japan, Laos, Indonesia mainland China and Pakistan. Her best friends in her class are from Indonesia ( 5 cousins) and two Korean boys, although she also enjoys the older Thailand girls who tell her daily that they love her. Mozart wants to bring her uniform back to show her friends in Spain but alas we pack too light, so we will store a few things here while gone & just have photos to show.

She is really enjoying her friends here and we plan to return for several more winters. We are very pleased that it is going very well and know that we are creating more friends for life. Part of what makes it work for us always is we pick child friendly areas and take the time and effort to connect with good people plus encourage and make time for her relationships.

Are there any questions that you have that I have missed?

 

 

 

 


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Brooke

Fabulous post, Jeanne....

Valerie

HI Jeanne,
Beautiful article and pictures- thank you! I'd like to know what has been the biggest challenge for Mozart whilst you've been traveling.

Violeta

Wow, you totally read my mind as one of my top 3 concerns when traveling long term is how to prevent a child from feeling rootless and making sure he/she has kids friends. Very helpful information. Another concern I have is how do I take care of the child educational needs on the road. A combination of home schooling and local schooling for language and cultural immersion seems to be the winning combination, but specifics about the former would be very helpful. There seems to be dozens of homeschooling books, sites, advice, etc. I know Mozart is very gifted, so perhaps the resources are very different, but any links or advice you can spare, it will be great. Also, if you have any suggestions for educational tools for toddlers and pre-schoolers, that would be very much appreciated. Many thanks again.

Jeanne a@soultravelers3

Thanks Brooke, so glad that you enjoyed it! How are things going with you these days?

Jeanne a@soultravelers3

Thanks Valerie! Good question and I probably should do a post about the challenges. The biggest challenge ..especially in Europe ...was books for my voracious reader. She was a child who has spent MUCH time from birth weekly and sometimes daily in book stores and libraries and our home was full of books. We have a low budget and limited space so e have had to find ways around that like free internet books and she loves finding bookstores and libraries with English books as much as candy. We indulge and we also sent tons of books to Spain before we left ( gave them to the school before we left this year).

Also music is a challenge and she would be more advance had we stayed home, but we do what we can.

Like anything in life, there are always some trade offs, but we tend to find ways to "work around". She may or may not get to play in an orchestra as she would have at home ( but she is learning much through her choir at school this year where she will sing a solo) and she can also learn about playing for people by busking and learning form musical buskers as we roam the world or see performances in many places.

It was also a bit hard to start fresh here ( as it was the first year in Spain). BUT we do our best to prepare her ( psychologically as well as other areas) before coming and how to use challenges to learn, grow and expand from.

Luckily she is a happy, flexible and brave kid who seems to adapt quickly.

Jeanne a@soultravelers3

Thanks Violeta, glad that it was helpful and I read your mind! ;)

Have you seen the information and links that I have left about education on our FAQ page?

http://www.soultravelers3.com/faqs.html

I must write more on this topic and homework and language series, so thanks for the reminder.

My best advice off hand for babies and toddlers is read, read, read and books books books and discuss discuss discuss and play play play and expose expose expose. ;)

We do most of our learning in the 5 years of life and if you raise a reader they can do much of their own learning. We stared reading to Mozart in the womb ( in 2 languages and exposed her to others as language learning begins in the womb at 3 months pregnant).

Also I think following the lead of a child is very important. Even as a tiny baby Mozart had interest in music so we followed that and exposed her to more.

She is very athletic and I wanted to encourage her in that, but she is less interested in that area and never wanted to do team sports, so I never forced her even though I think some exposure to that would have been good. She is a kid who prefers to do her own thing if possible so she does things like swim or tennis.

I do have lots of ideas about preschool and toddler and more links so will think about maybe doing more posts on it so everyone can benefit.

The bad news for me is I have more ideas and information than time to put them down. ;) This was suppose to be a short post and I ended up spending many hours on it as it takes time to get, gather the pictures, do the links, etc. I was up to 2 am just trying to finish it.

My husband suggests I do shorter posts without photos some and a series so perhaps I will see if that works better and do these longer ones just time to time.

Richard

Jeanne, thank you for creating great content here. I would really appreciate it too if you can do some articles about preschooling and toddlers.
Rich

Violeta

Ah, I am sure a series on this topic will be very well received and much appreciated by many parents. But I understand it takes an enormous amount of time and that is always a quantity in high demand.

Thanks for pointing out the links under FAQ, I will reread some of these posts, I read most of them a couple years ago when I came upon your site but I am sure now they will have a different relevance for me. I wasn't aware of this grouping under FAQ, A few weeks ago, I just looked under the "Education" category you have on the left of the screen- and I just noticed you also have an "education" category which I missed before, and even more articles there. I also devoured your links about books on this site, and most of them have made it on my 'wish list' at Amazon. Also, I looked and "liked" a lot of your Facebook likes.

I'll do my best to raise a polyglot and a book/readcohalic. Even if she is only 4 months old, my daughter has already been exposed to books and several foreign languages (verbally as we speak several languages and also using the Little Pim software - which by the way I love, I think it is a great learning tool). I sometimes worry it is too much, but then I look at her cousins who have been trilingual since they their toddlers age and seem to have no confusion problems. I have seen them switch between perfectly spoken German, Italian and Romanian within the course of the same conversation depending on whom they are addressing - it is jaw dropping to see a 4 year old switching between languages with such an ease.

I agree that most of the learning occurs very early on in a child's life and I've read that their entire personality, class (as in state of mind), etc is formed within the first four years. Hence, I am preoccupied with learning as much about the right education tools now (and pestering you!). Providing her with the right environment to flourish and encourage her to make her own (gentile guided) choices are my top priorities. I've waited a long time to feel ready to have a child, I better give me my best shot at raising her well ...

Thanks again for sharing your experience and wisdom.

Melanie Toast

I just stumbled upon this website and know I will be spending hours here this weekend! We have just begun our fulltime RV adventure with our four kids (ages 9, 8, 6, 2). We have toured the U.S. via RV, and now plan to drive through Central America. This article about friendships for the traveling child really hit home with me. I have pondered how they should cultivate friendships while move around so much. Thank you for thoroughly exploring this topic and for giving me much-needed direction!

soultravelers3

Thanks Richard, I appreciate that feedback! What specifically would you like to see about preschoolers and toddlers?

soultravelers3

Violeta - Thanks! One of the bad things about blogging as long as we have is that it's hard to find all the content. It is tricky to find the time to organize it so people can find it and even I sometimes have trouble finding some things. ;)

We used an opera tape ( good for language and music) that we played when she was a baby and toddler and also a set of tapes that had all the language sounds made just for babies before 6 months old.

I can't find it online and not sure it worked, but worth a try I thought because babies need to hear all sounds of languages in the first 6 months before they become "specialist" in the language or languages they are learning from birth.

Babies learn language and the brain is geared for it..so just as easy to learn to learn 2,3 or 4 than it is to learn one. That said, it is hard work for the parents and must be kept up for many years. I know MANY bilingual and trilingual native speakers who attempted to raise their kids as such and failed, so be prepared for a long time commitment.

All of the parents in our first baby/preschool bilingual Spanish group were native speakers whose intent was to raise bilingual kids and many failed, despite intent and effort.

My brother married a Dutch woman and they attempted to raise their child as a bilingual, but even though they spent much time in Holland, her parents do not speak English, they found it harder to do than they expected and did not succeed. She is some what receptive ( understands some) but all exposure is good and she is learning German as an adult ( similarities to Dutch).

Read the books that I have listed on how to raise a bilingual ( same principals but harder with more languages).

It is fun and fascinating to see a 4 year old switch to many languages, but there are many levels of fluency and it is extremely rare for any one to be equally fluent in all the languages that they speak.

Sadly, kids can lose languages as easily as they pick them up ( I've known 12 year old's that have lost their native tongues!) so it's definitely a long commitment for parents and gets harder as the kids get bigger.

I can so relate to "waited a long time" for a child and wanting to give your best shot.

I have no doubt that you will! ;)

soultravelers3

Thanks Melanie, so glad that you found us! Really happy to hear that this was useful for you. Sounds like you are off to a great adventure! The great news with more than one child is that they have each other and bonding time just as a family is so enriching and important, but you may have to encourage them more sometimes with local friends as a single is more motivated in that area. Modeling taking risks of reaching out to strangers and discussing it lots is helpful. My daughter has gained a LOT by our travels as she has had to stretch out many times and I always remind her of the value when she does go past the fear of reaching out to a stranger. In the beginning I helped her spot potential friends and encouraged her taking the risk and gave her ideas on how to do it. ..ie set up some legos and invite them over or take a ball or bike over etc. etc

Melanie Toast

Great points. Because they have each other, I do have to nudge them a little to reach out to new friends. My oldest was painfully shy, so I am practiced at coaching her on approaching new friends. (Like setting up some enticing Legos ;)

I agree that kids do become more stranger-savvy... as they are exposed to more strangers and put in situations where they need to quickly assess danger. Ultimately, these are great life skills. (Methinks.)

Heidi

"Friends are important, but ultimately parents are more important and one learns about relationship first from family." Beautifully said!!!! And gives me more confidence in our recent plans. Thank you so much I know how much time these articles take.

I also would love to hear more about schooling and yes break it up in parts. We don't want to take you away from your family too much:)

Thanks again! I love reading all your posts. And I think you've inspired us to spend some time in Malaysia.

Sonja

I'm a little behind this week catching up on last week's Photo Friday picks, but glad I stopped by! Nice post!

Gabrielle

Great post Jeanne!

And thanks because I know how long it takes to put these kind of posts together... I think Da Vinci's suggestion is a good one ;-) What about your e-book? Are you still writing it?

I promised to keep you updated on how our plan to use house exchange to family travel is going so : we are currently finishing our first house exchange in the beautiful Vosges (France). We wanted our kids to begin to learn to ski and thought it would be a good trial run in the house exchange department. It has all gone superbly and I am currently organizing house exchanges for this summer in Denmark, and hopefully maybe Norway and/or Sweden for 1,5 month. We are also looking into doing a longer exchange next year, 3 to 4 months in an english speaking country. From what we've seen so far, it seems a really good way to slow travel and get to experience real local life and not just the tourist bits. Sorry for the long comment, but I just wanted to let you and your blog readers know about yet this over opportunity/way to do extended family travel.

One last quick question, drawing on your expertise with raising a tri-lingual child and all the research I know you've done in this department : I'm now regretting not speaking english with my kids from birth (long story). Do you think I could switch just like that and suddenly start speaking only english with them while my husband carries on speaking french? I don't want to traumatize them! lol and also it may not be practical for every day life... they do understand and talk a bit, but not much :-( For info, they are 6, 4 and 18 months.

Jeanne @soultravelers3

Thanks Gabrielle! Still working on the books & ebooks, but far behind as it's been a very hectic year with 2 father's deaths this year and all that that entails, plus travel, new school, new location, keeping up with blog/social media..only so much time in a day.

If I want the freedom that is most important to me, I need to go at my own pace...which is slow with this lifestyle. I don't want to work full time.

Sounds like your plans are coming along nicely. I've written about home exchange before..like in my how to do extended travel post...but we have never personally done it. Most seem to like it.

Yes, it is a too bad that you did not do it from birth as there are many advantages for the brain to be bilingual ( etc) from birth.

If I were you, I would do it even now. It is not easy and will take adjustment for you and the kids. But kids are adaptable and will adjust quickly...just as they can adapt quickly to a new home or new country.

Don't just speak to them in English, but start asking them to respond back to you in English. Help them when they do not know how, and repeat over.

It can be tedious and will not come naturally, but after a while one gets use to it. And it is so good for their brains. The younger we learn languages the better ...and easier.

Yours are young enough to still get good advantage. Surprisingly it will also help them with their mother tongue, reading and math!

I plan to write more soon on language and young ones..as I can find time to fit that in.

Ways that we helped our child even as monolinguals in a dominant English environment. It can be done..but work.

You may feel funny doing it everywhere in France..but after a while it becomes a habit and a great gift for the kids!

Good luck!

Chaya Shepard

Thanks for writing this post. How to help maintain friendships is something we are beginning to think about now that Petra is a toddler. She still talks about her first best friend she made in San Cristobal, Mexico. We are visiting family in the US right now, and even in this short time have gotten a taste in the challenge of maintaining Petra's Spanish.

soultravelers3

Glad it was a help Chaya! She is young so I don't think you have to worry about too much until she gets a bit older.

We happened to choose not to do international travel with our child until she was 5 and we lived in the same home until then. We did do lots of traveling in short trips starting when she was 2 weeks old.

Who knows the final outcome, but we wanted her to have a strong foundation of "home" which she does seem to have at 10 from all her memories of her first 5 years and friends there.

Travel definitely impacts and our child is certainly different today than she would have been had we never moved. That's a hard decision for a parent.

There are ALWAYS pros and cons no matter what one chooses, but we have found this choice mostly pro & enriching. At 5 before leaving we worried about our choice, but now that she is 10 1/2, we know we made the right choice and have given her incredible gifts that will nurture her for life.

Yes,with kids and languages..they can lose them as quickly as they gain them and that definitely takes a BIG long term commitment from the parents. Help her immerse and keep her languages no matter where she is.

Look for Spanish speaking immigrants where ever you are. We found LOTS of resources in the USA for kidlets first 5 years. From babyhood on we consciously found Spanish resources and friends that we met with daily/weekly to help keep up the Spanish.

We don't watch much TV, but only allowed kidlet to watch Spanish or Mandarin dvds.

We did a sunday school in Spanish...just for the Spanish. ( Found through an immigrant).

Use your creativity to find Spanish resources in the US..should be plenty if you look. Easier to find there than the Mandarin because there are so many native speakers.

Good luck!

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