When Is The Right Time To Travel Or Live Abroad With Kids

Despite all the hassle, you want to travel or live abroad with kids. Exciting! As the global economy reopens, more families are wanting to travel or live abroad. This post will give you some food for thought as I’ve been thinking about doing just that over the next 24 months. I loved growing up overseas and have always wanted to live abroad with kids once I became a dad.

Growing up abroad, it was always a treat to meet new people, eat new food, and learn about new cultures. My parents' careers enabled them to live abroad with kids. They worked for the US Foreign Service and lived all over.

During my childhood, they were stationed in Manila, Lusaka, Kobe, Taipei, and Kuala Lumpur. Our final stop was McLean, Virginia for my high school years. McLean is 20 minutes away from the US State Department in Washington D.C.

Because I attended international schools for 13 years, I felt like I had a much richer childhood compared to many of my high school peers. All they really knew was the Northern Virginia region.

Most of them spent their entire lives there for elementary school, middle school, and high school. On the other hand, every summer I'd go back to see my friends in Taipei and KL. It was an absolute blast.

Living abroad helped me understand and embrace different cultures. For example, roughly 61% of the Malaysian population is Muslim. Thus, I had several close Muslim friends who shared their traditions with me. I'm certain there would be much more love and harmony around the globe if more folks traveled.

Going On An Adventure

As a father now, I often think about ways in which I can provide the best childhood possible for my kids while also creating a life of adventure for all of us. Traveling or living abroad with my two young children could be a blast.

“Best childhood” is subjective. It can be described as one that is filled with happiness, friends, unforgettable memories, abundant life lessons, adventure, the learning of at least one other language, and continuity in the family. If you live abroad with kids, what an adventure it will be.

Because my wife and I run an internet-based business, we have the ability to provide for a unique childhood experience by living anywhere. If we don't travel or live abroad, it would feel like such a waste. This is especially true now that the San Francisco Bay Area is so crowded and economically homogenous.

Before our son was born, we always noticed a nice uptick in our happiness when we traveled abroad. We traveled aggressively for five years before our we had kids.

For example, spending three weeks on the Hapsburg Trail helped us love our online business even more. Prague, Vienna, and Budapest are truly wonderful places to visit. It was a dream to spend the final week in Paris to watch the French Open.

Financial Samurai In Budapest - When Is The Right Time To Travel Or Live Abroad With Kids
Overlooking the Danube River in Budapest.

The following year, we spent three weeks in Asia, finally visiting the great temples of Angor Wat. And we spent a week diving off the island of Pulau Redang, Malaysia. It is unbelievable to dive in 80+ degree crystal turquoise water.

Pulau Redang, Taaras Resort & Spa - When Is The Right Time To Travel Or Live Abroad With Kids
Taaras Resort at Pulau Redang, Malaysia was amazing

One Problem If You Live Abroad With Kids: Childhood Amnesia

Traveling is enriching. Unfortunately, few adults can remember life before age three. This is something to consider if you want to plan the best time to live abroad with kids.

Even though I had specific country anchors in place during my childhood, I only have two memories living abroad between the ages of one and two.

My first memory was sitting in an outdoor restaurant in Lusaka, Zambia while I tried Pepsi for the first time. It was delicious.

The second memory was when I had to go to the bathroom, but couldn't because it was occupied by my dad. I banged on the door hard, but he wouldn't open it. So my mom had to clean me up in the tub.

One other memory I have before three was in Arlington, Virginia. I remember playing with my sister and babysitter in a makeshift room made out of sheets.

They say that kids don't remember much of anything under three. Only at around age five do children form long-term memories. Therefore, the right time to travel or live abroad with kids is at age five or older.

Living Abroad With Kids Keeps Life Exciting

I can't remember much before three years old from several countries. Thus, I must imagine others who've lived their lives only in one place might have a difficult time recalling their past as well. Everything tends to blend together if you don't go anywhere.

Sigmund Freud coined the term “childhood amnesia” to describe the loss of memory from the infant years. According to a study done by Emory University, they found that a child's earliest memories begin to fade around the age of 7.

Therefore, a family traveling or going to live abroad with kids under the age of three is not doing so for the child, but for themselves. My wife and I purposefully traveled as much as possible before kids. We knew we likely weren't going anywhere for at least the first two years as parents.

If you want to pick the best time to live abroad with kids, definitely take their ages into consideration. To provide the richest cultural experience for a child, look to travel after their toddler and preschool years. I'd recommend waiting until your kids are at least three years old.

Three Childhood Experience Models To Live Abroad With Kids

Based on the logical conclusion to travel after the age of three, we've come up with three different childhood experience models to consider for our family. Two are a hybrid approach with international travel. And, the third is a committed plan to live abroad with kids.

1) Anchor in San Francisco, and travel all summer and winter.

The easiest solution is for us to live in a diverse city like San Francisco for the next 18 years until our kids go to college. Every summer break we'll spend three months living in one or two countries as a family.

Then, every winter, we'll spend the 2-4 week break in another country. By the time our oldest goes to college, he'll have lived abroad for a total of 52 months, or a little more than four years. Our kids will visit at least 20 countries, thereby expanding their cultural experience.

Related: A Digital Nomad Lifestyle Is Worth Living

2) Anchor in Honolulu, and travel all summer and winter.

San Francisco, unfortunately, has the lowest kid density for cities in America. As a result, SF is the least kid-friendly city. Instead of staying here, we would move to Honolulu, one of the highest kid density cities in America that is very focused on family (ohana) living.

The advantage of living in Honolulu is that we also get to be close to my parents (but not my wife’s parents), and we can send our son to a school that goes from K-12.

In San Francisco, you have to go to a different school for elementary school, middle school, and high school. Thus, it's inevitable your kid's friends will end up going to different schools. The disadvantage of living in Honolulu is losing our social and professional networks we've spent 17 years building in SF.

But actually, our kid just got into a Mandarin immersion private school that goes from Pre-K 4 through the 8th grade. Therefore, if he loves the school the he has a home for the next nine years. Here's how to get into preschool or a great private grade school.

3) Completely live abroad with kids and come back to America during summers and winters. 

I like the idea of living abroad in three international cities for four to six years each once our son is old enough to attend kindergarten (age 5). The idea is to be in one city for all of elementary school, another city for all of middle school, and a final city for all of high school.

We'll use the summers and winters to come back to America and visit other cities close by to where we are currently stationed. Some places we'd love to live in are Amsterdam, Barcelona, Shanghai, Rio de Janeiro, Kobe, Tokyo, and Rome.

Which Childhood Adventure Would You Choose?

Angkor Wat At Night
Angkor Wat At Night

A big part of me wants to go all out and live abroad with kids once our oldest turns five. I did it for 13 years of my life and traveled internationally for 25 years since. It would be a blast! We could rent a fully furnished house and rent out our home in SF.

My wife, however, isn't so keen on the idea because she has never lived abroad for an extended period of time. Only summers in Japan. She's more keen on option #1 or #2.

She reminded me about the pain of having to change our business address, file different types of taxes, and all that type of stuff she deals with as the CFO of our company. We'd also have to go through the arduous process of applying to expensive private schools with limited spots.

Life is so comfortable now, but I long for excitement. I'm the guy who has to get out of the house and do new things every day. Whereas my wife can comfortably stay home for weeks.

Best countries for expats - When Is The Right Time To Travel Or Live Abroad With Kids

Biggest Concern Of Living Abroad With Kids

My biggest fear about living abroad for our kids' entire grade school life is them not developing lifelong friends from childhood. I don't have any elementary school friends I keep in touch with because I don't know them well enough.

I do sort of keep in touch with my middle school friends from Malaysia. But, the relationships aren't tight since they are so far away. Because I started high school as a new kid, I wasn't able to develop deep relationships either. There are really only two people from HS I keep in touch with. But, they are both on the east coast, so I hardly ever see them.

That said, we now live in the time of the internet, social media, and video chat with our phones. It's much easier to keep in touch today than when I was growing up.

I'd love to get everybody's opinion on what you think we should do, and what you would do if you had these options. If there's a different childhood model to live abroad with kids that I'm missing that could also be amazing. I'd love to hear it.

Related: Traveling With Kids: A Guide For Parent's

The Benefits Of Traveling Abroad For You And Your Kids

  • Potentially easier to learn a new language
  • Forces your child to open up given he'll have to make new friends at a new school
  • Gives her firsthand experience of things other children might only see online or in textbooks
  • Might make him more unique when applying for colleges
  • Creates more empathy and understanding for other people and cultures
  • May let her appreciate living and working in America if that's where she ends up
  • Make international friends in addition to American friends

With the Omicron variant raging on, my family still won't be traveling abroad with our two kids under 5 any time soon. We will likely wait until our daughter turns 5 in 2024 before traveling abroad. This way, both kids can remember and better appreciate their travels.

Protect Your Kids With Life Insurance

If there's one thing the pandemic has taught us, it's that life is not guaranteed. We must do everything we can to protect our children while they are still dependents.

Whether you live at home, travel a lot, or plan to live abroad with kids, please get life insurance. Not only should you get enough life insurance to cover your liabilities, your life insurance term should last long enough to get them through college.

The best place to get life insurance is through PolicyGenius. PolicyGenius will help you find the best plan for the lowest price tailored to your needs. PolicyGenius provides free, no-obligation quotes from the nation's top insurance carriers so you can get the best rate. When they compete, you win.

Life insurance gets more expensive the older you get. If you get sick, depending on the severity of your sickness, you might not be able to qualify.

Even if you already have life insurance, I highly recommend checking PolicyGenius to try and get a better deal. Chances are high you're not getting the best terms. 

Utilize A Travel Rewards Credit Card

If you're going to travel a lot and/or live abroad with kids, take advantage of a travel rewards credit card. My personal favorite rewards credit card with no annual fee is the Chase Freedom Unlimited credit card. I've been a Chase cardholder for over 10 years and also do all my business banking with Chase.

Chase Freedom Unlimited

Here are the card's following features:

  • Earn unlimited 1.5% cash back on all purchases
  • No annual fee
  • 0% introductory APR on purchases for the first 15 months as well
  • Get a $200 bonus after you spend $500 in the first 3 months
  • Bonus cash back categories
    • 5% cash back on travel purchased in the Chase Ultimate Rewards® portal
    • 3% cash back dining at restaurants and eligible delivery/takeout 
    • 3% cash back on eligible drugstore purchases
  • Redeem cash back with no minimums
  • Rewards don’t expire as long as your account is open

When you can get 50% higher cash back on all purchase than the typical cash back card and not have to pay an annual fee, you are winning!

For further suggestions on saving money and growing wealth, check out my Top Financial Products page.

In addition, if you enjoyed this article and want to get more personal finance insights and tips, please sign up for the free Financial Samurai newsletter. You’ll get access to exclusive content only available to subscribers.

118 thoughts on “When Is The Right Time To Travel Or Live Abroad With Kids”

  1. Extremely time reading for me. I must decide by tomorrow whether to accept a new position in Singapore. We are family of four, kids ages 14 and 10, currently living in Arlington, Virginia. I grew up in Arlington and my parents are nearby so it feels like a place to call home. We moved to Korea in 2011 as I was offered a work opportunity there and my wife hails from Korea. At that time, our daughter was 5 and our son 1. We stayed there 4 years and then relocated to Singapore for 2 years, also for an expanded work opportunity. Perhaps we are one of those rare families, but I can’t say we were as fond of Singapore life as many expats reportedly are given Singapore consistently ranks of one of the best destinations for expats.
    In 2017, we relocated back to Arlington as I wanted to start my own business and felt USA was best place for this. Fast forward: starting a business was best choice of my career–I have since been working in Taiwan and Eastern Europe, which was a blast, while my family stayed based in Arlington. We wanted to give the kids continuity of education and community during this period.

    Ok so there’s the background. Our daughter, 14, is in an excellent school in Arlington-HB Woodlawn if you recall it, and would be there through high school if we stayed here. She is a rising freshman and really doing well at school. Our son is a rising 5th grader and also doing well at school and broader community. We recently purchased a house in Arlington with the intention of staying here at least through daughter’s high school years. And then I get an out of the blue offer to come to Singapore and work. The offer is a 2 year contract with no guarantee it could turn into 4 years though quite possibly could. The money is good but not stellar–we would be able to save money and of course we would have to shell out for international schools in Singapore, of which the education I suspect would be equal or perhaps only marginally better than kids are getting currently. I love a good adventure and want to say yes. My wife also enjoys a good adventure; however, the thought of moving again and having to establish new network of friends, new social groups, new calendar of activities for kids is exhausting for her even to consider. We, therefore, are likely to stay put in Arlington for the time being.

    International living and travelling is wonderful and invigorating for all the reasons many of you have mentioned. Still, transitions on the scale of a major move, especially in the formative teen years, pose unique challenges for us as opposed to moving when the kids were say in elementary school.

    1. It’s hard. I would have loved to have stayed in Kuala Lumpur for all my high school years instead of move in 8th grade. I could have made so many closer friends and so much more fun. But maybe I would have gotten in too much trouble.

  2. Jeff - Project Manager

    Hi Sam.

    I apologize for being late to the game, having just come across your article. I agree with all of your points regarding the benefits of international travel for children. It sounds like you and your wife are supportive parents based on some of your list of considerations. Given that, my 2-cents is to go with option 3 and travel as much as possible. (At least, that would be my choice.)

    My wife and I are considering taking it a step further by relocating overseas–perhaps Scandinavia or Australia/New Zealand. I work in a field that appears to be in demand so it seems like a real possibility. That said, there is so much to consider. Both of our children are in high school, which might make the transition difficult but they are both genuinely excited at the thought of moving overseas. It does seem overwhelming. Some of the pressing questions include, what would our kids do for college (in the States or overseas?) What if the career overseas does not go as expected? What should we consider regarding citizenship? So many questions. I would appreciate your insights regarding what it takes to make such a move work.

    Thank you in advance and my very best wishes on whatever decision you make.

  3. Hi Sam, we struggled with the same question. I recall reading on another blog post of yours that the shift in the market and the rising cost of living in the Bay Area was giving you pause and maybe having you consider creative ways to stretch your savings.
    I grew up in the SF Bay Area, and then lived in SF proper for more than 20 years. When our kids got old enough to go to Elementary school we tried to make it work for a few years but (as I’m sure you know) the lottery system is brutal and the HCOL weeds out really good teachers who just can’t afford to live there.
    We could have afforded to stay in SF but we chose not to. The bottom line was, we paid a lot of $$ for a mediocre school with mediocre teachers and no green space to stay in SF. I feel like it is a rite of passage for all San Franciscan parents to spend evenings fantasizing about moving out of the City and scrolling through real estate listings. And we finally gave in to that urge and moved out of SF to Seattle.
    I would encourage you to consider moving out of your HCOL home and life into somewhere more child-friendly in the US, but renting your SF place out and not selling it, if you can. We make enough from rent to pay our mortgage on both our house and our apartment back in SF.
    Now that we don’t pay insane property taxes, no state taxes, and our overall cost of living is about 2/3 what is was, we get to spend 3 months out of the year traveling with the kids. And when we are back in Seattle, we found a school with gifted, motivated and inspiring teachers and a school with acreage where our kids can run and play! I think it’s really important for kids to root somewhere and create long term friendships.
    I feel like we won the lottery. I don’t think we knew how bad SF was for families until we lived in a city that has the perfect balance of urban and kid-friendliness. If we could leave SF after nearly 40 years and not look back, you can too. Life sure is a lot easier when everyone around you isn’t killing themselves just to survive in a HCOL area.
    Move to a lower cost of living area, pocket the difference, and travel travel travel.

    1. Elizabeth Bello

      Sftosea, I love your advice! I am getting my son(4) and I ready to move to Central or South America. Probably Belize. I want us to have roots but travel much of the time. Living there, we can afford to travel all over the world.

      1. Elizabeth, have you been to Belize? What part are you looking to move to? I am a single mother and also am hoping for the same thing! May you prosper, where ever you go!

  4. We were living in Asia for 20+ years. My kids went to International School in HK last 5-12 years. With longer winter and summer breaks and much less expensive flight tickets, we did travel with kids for Thailand, Korea, Taiwan, etc.
    Now we have just moved back to SFO for almost a year and we have planned winter break to travel out again. (Yay!!!) And the kids themselves have stayed in Asia for their first summer already :)))
    I can’t agree more that children and we as adults have better global view and openness to different cultures.
    I m still missing the rich and different language environments in Asia

  5. I would go with option 3 if u want to really do it the right way but I am wondering how you would handle visas because u r not going there for work?

  6. Great post, Sam. It’s the topic I feel the most connected with, probably as a result of the global travel/living experience I gained over the last decade. Now, the family has grown and I have some of the concerns and share the same views on the virtues and drawbacks of global mobility in the context of your family.
    My story is a little different from you because I haven’t moved much during my childhood/teen years…my international travels started only after graduating from college.
    My wife and I are a binational couple (French/Argentinean) living in SoCal. Moved to OC from Europe for work when we were newly married in 2011. Fast forward to 2018, we have four kids aged 4, 2 and newborn twins who are just 3 months old. They are all American but are raised to be fluent in Spanish, French, and English.
    I was surprised by the lack of popularity of the option #3 (completely moving abroad) which may be the only way to immerse with a new culture, although I understand how challenging that could be when your wife is not fully on board with you. I lived in the Middle East for two years and feel that experience would not have added as much to my cultural sensitivity if it would have been otherwise.
    Our children, being born in the US, are raised in a third culture which is foreign to my wife and I. It also adds up to the geographical complexity of the logistics of having grandparents in different continents. We are probably going to move overseas again (I think it’d be good for them to get out of the only way of life they know here in North America) as I also long for the excitement of you new things you referred to. Also, don’t know much about the struggles of elementary-middle-high school transitions in the American system, although I am suffering the absurd cost of childcare here these days. It seems to be a good idea to live in Europe during their college years too because it’d be unaffordable in the US.
    Everyone seems to adapt differently to moving during childhood though. It’s a lot to ponder sometimes…what is that gives the best experiences and the least suffering.
    Thank you for writing this. I haven’t given you an answer but your post and the comments gave me a lot of viewpoints from so many other people too. Best of luck with your decision. Look forward to reading more stories on international family living.

    1. Hi, from the research I’ve done, it seems it is less psychologically taxing for children to live in various countries BEFORE the age of 8-10, when they begin to rely more on their peer group to handle the struggles of emerging adolescence. From what I understand, middle school-aged children fare the WORST with a major life change like moving abroad.

  7. Sam, I must admit that I’m anxious for you to move to Hawaii! I’d very much look forward to reading about the move, seeing pictures, reading about the process of buying a home there, learning more about Hawaii life – but I doubt you should uproot your family solely for the sake of producing satisfying Internet content for anonymous readers ;-) (Though maybe you could write it off on your taxes if you did!)

    It’s very interesting to read about this. For myself, I would like to spend a month to six weeks abroad in the summer, choosing different countries each time. This timeframe would give the kids some time back with their friends, while still giving them the benefit of exposure to cultural differences in a “slower” pace that more mimics the day-to-day lives of the residents there, not a “If It’s Friday It Must be France” pace: an opportunity to stay at an apartment, rather than a hotel, go grocery shopping alongside the native residents, build a little rapport, sink one’s teeth into the culture a little more than the tourist approach.

    I’ve been thinking much about developing friendships as I enter my 30s. I didn’t live abroad as a child (I did as a 20 something), but I moved around enough that I didn’t develop as many of the stable friendships that some have. I think it becomes more difficult to make friends as you get older, in some sense: everyone’s so busy, by and large, and also because your life is so specific to you that it can become tricky for anyone else outside your family, or maybe your coworkers, to fully understand your day-to-day. I do think it’s important to allow children some time in the same place to develop friendships. Friendships, when you’re young, are all about shared context, being at the same school, in the same class, on the same sports team. Proximity helps a great deal. After all, when you’re very young, you have very little shared life experience to draw on to develop a friendship, and you’re a long way from developing a values system that can also form a bedrock.

    Is the potential move to Hawaii a “we must decide by X date” (I would assume by the time your son starts kinder, if you have an ‘X date’) or is it more “if and when we feel comfortable, we’ll do it”?

    It also interests me that you have such a sharp memory of trying Pepsi for the first time. I have a very similar memory of my first time of trying Gatorade (lemon-lime, of course) when I was about four. Something about that sugar really sticks in the brain!

    As always, great blog.

    1. Great idea of writing off the entire move and living expense in Hawaii on the business! After all, how can I write about Hawaii living if I don’t make the move?

      The determination date will be either pre-school or kidnergarten. We’ve applied to all the pre-schools, and will see where he gets in. Then we’ll make a determination, and make another determination at kindergarten if we don’t move during pre-school.

      Good luck w/ your adventure!

      1. Remember the magic words “government per diem” for expensing business travel, especially to foreign countries or expensive areas. You can take a flat rate deduction based on total days without providing any receipts or other documentation.

        The GSA rate for New Zealand (lodging & meals) ranges from $214 – $431 per day depending on the specific area. That’s about $6,500 – $13,000 monthly which is *far* more than we’ll be spending during our three months. Translation: tax-free reimbursements from my business for anything beyond our actual expenses.

        It does help to have a business and actually *do* some real business during the trip. ;-)

        p.s. Hawaii per diem is in the same ballpark as New Zealand.

  8. We homeschooled our kids all the way k-12. We traveled quite a bit through the states and we went to Central America a couple of times and went to Europe for 6 weeks. I found traveling with small children 3-7 difficult. I felt traveling with middle school to be the easiest. High school was challenging as it became more expensive to accommodate “space and energy” needs. We tried three times to live for an extended period of time in a foreign country so that our children could learn another language, but it never worked out! One time Ebola scared us back to the states. So even though we didn’t accomplish that goal, we have a lot of great memories; the kids are now in college and are finding it easier to focus on college; the wanderlust feeling was satiated (they have “been there and done that.”) A VERY important word of advise: know your child(ren). Some kids find it very disorienting to move around quite a bit — and others thrive on it. Also be prepared for the unexpected! Good luck

    1. Thanks for the feedback. Do you feel homeschooling was the right choice? If so, why or why not?

      Which countries did you choose? Perhaps the choice of country has a lot to do with how much a family enjoys there? And the accommodations and school etc.

    2. Anthony Hermans

      Hi Geni,

      Your advice there are children thriving on moving around and other struggling caught my attention.

      We are a family with a 9 month daughter and 2 year son. My wife is from Nicaragua and I’m from Belgium.

      Knowing all the benefits for us and the children of living part-time in Belgium and part time in Nicaragua we’re concerned of the negative effects on our children’s development.

      We have two choices giving them full time schooling in one of the countries or move them around every 6 months.

      What would your experience and other’s recommend us?

      Warm regards,
      Anthony, Ivania, Marcel & Mia

  9. I had all the same questions you do before my kids were born. The reality is that what is important to you because you did or did not have something will mean nothing to your kids. If you give them a lifelong anchor, they will will thirst for travel and vice versa. We’ve travelled extensively with our kids, lived in three countries for long periods of time. My eldest (12) is already talking about wanting a large family with a dog, cat, fish and a snake and never travelling. We just got back from two weeks in China and if you are looking for somewhere to decamp it’s worth a second look, no tax on overseas income…Guangzhou is particularly nice.

  10. My dream world was option 1, however we wont be retired early enough so we are going for option 4. Live in one city in America, travel 1-2 year internationally until college but in about 4 years (ages 11-13ish) take a year off and travel the world while world schooling, come back and reassess.

    This is our daily conversation and a main focus of our blog.

    I traveled all over as a young athlete and lived in a few countries; I most definitely want to give my kids that and prepare ourselves for more and constant travel when we fire as they enter college. In fact we already took 2 years off to ‘reverse retire’ when they were little, moved to a lower COLA country and were able to both stay at home with them when they were young. Best of both world.

  11. I am currently spending the summer abroad with my teenage son. Three months here then he enters college. We’re staying in an apartment in the heart of an old town where there’s plenty to do and see within walking distance and even more within train or bus.

    I am working most every day, including remote video meetings three or more times a week. During that time he does his own thing. But we can still have an hour or two even on work days and full days on weekends, which end up being akin to long weekends for us due to the time difference. Though, I am frequently working on weekends also due to the nature of my project. For example, today is Sunday, I have to put in an intensive day to prep for an important meeting, but am doing so while gazing out at a courtyard with birds and the sounds of the vendors setting up shop, feeling relaxed after having taken yesterday tour the coast by slow train, though I still got quite a lot of work done thanks to a text-to-speech app called Voicedream and airpods.

    The trip is mostly for language and cultural immersion as well as to pass on travel tips and related accumulated wisdom that is best meted out as the situation arises. These lessons will be beneficial to him as he travels on his own later for work or personal enrichment and I’ll feel better about him not having to learn these things on his own as I had to for myself.

    The tween years can be a very good time to travel if you have participation to help out with household chores. If anyone is on a different sleep-wake schedule or is spending lengthy periods chatting with friends online best if each can have a separate space of their own. Teens are even more enjoyable travel partners, at least once you’ve navigated the attitude adjustments that come with that stage of maturity. I much prefer traveling with my sons than traveling with most adults.

    I’ve traveled with my sons all along the way. They’ve been to numerous national parks & domestic cities, several road trips, seven countries on three continents. But this trip is perhaps the best one yet. I’m passing along my travel wisdom to a (mostly) adult mind ready willing and able to receive it, while still having a (mostly) enjoyable travel partner. You can start to share observations about nuances, and they can also start to share their knowledge about history and culture they’ve learned in school or from video games. Don’t laugh — my son aced the AP history exam based purely on what he learned from historically accurate multiplayer video games.

    Each travel experience is unique and has its own value that is incomparable to any other, but this is probably the most satisfying one yet.

  12. I’ve never been to Hawaii, but I’ve been told by many people that the lifestyle there is very different – more laid back. The people in general are nicer and not always on the run – I don’t have any first hand experience with this.

    I’ve been to SF and while I enjoyed my visit, I just cannot imagine living there. I am not a big fan of the cold weather and I thought November was too cold for me :)

    Option 3 would be the most difficult. Having to deal with VISAs, language barrier, transportation. I thought it was a pain when I was just visiting. But I think out of all 3 options, I would pick to do option 3 first. I would do it for a few years and if it doesn’t work out, I would still have 1 and 2.

  13. Things have changed a lot since you and I were in school as kids. With Facebook and the internet, people can maintain connections and even strengthen them from thousands of miles away. I live in Europe but still keep in contact with several friends from middle school and beyond. Given the same technology, I’m sure today’s children will be able to keep in touch with elementary school friends indefinitely, if they want.

  14. Sam – you have many and great options, and funny thing is, probably your boy will turn out great irrespective of which option you choose.

    Writing to you as a South African who has been an expat for 8 years, living in Miami Florida, Sao Paulo Brazil, Mexico City Mexico and now Windsor United Kingdom. Moving for my work to these 4 interesting countries and 4 interesting cities. Our two children, 7 and 3 respectively were born during our expat lives and therefore been traveling since birth.

    You are right, probably they wont remember the early travel, but I do believe they get the language development benefits from being exposed to 3-4 languages from birth on. Grandparent relationships are maintained through Skype, daily WhatsApp and various social media’s forums, while complimented by various “local” grandparents we develop relationships with.

    Kids are still young so difficult to say whether relationships will last, but I am convinced the skills of being adaptable, culturally agile and socially outgoing will last.

    The important thing is to provide them with love, love and more love. We also try to break the bubbles – it is easier than you think to move around the world but never connect with whats real locally. The richness of it all lies in connection- and therefore I think the three month drop ins over summers might not be the same as living in various countries for 3-4 year stints.

    Besides whats best for your child, you might also consider what is best for your location independent business – different tax structures can save you substantial sums.

    Enjoy deciding! But whats more, enjoy living it!!

  15. Realistically, I think #1 or #2 is your best option. I can’t say it matters to everyone, but if you feel like it’s important to build roots then these would be your best choices. If you spend your childhood in one location, you do develop pride in that regardless of whether you still keep in touch with the people from the past. So on one hand you have HI, which is fantastic because of it’s Ohana vibe, or SF which is great for it’s diversity (even if it is gentrifying). Living aboard a few years here or there is more to satisfy the wanderlust of the parents, which I can relate to. But as your son would grow older, it would be difficult to say a place he spent 3-4 years in at a time feels like home, and especially if you don’t no longer own the same property you grew up in. But if you spend 10+ years in a city, that city becomes yours and the relationship with the city grows beyond the house you live in.

    1. The first two options are definitely easier for sure. But sometimes, staying in one city might become a disappointment because that city changes a lot over time.

      For example, I like San Francisco in 2002 better than I do today. It’s way too congested and pricey. A lot of long-term residents here no longer like it because our city lost a lot of its old world charm.

    2. I enjoyed reading your blog and learning that I’m not the only person who can’t keep still for a minute. My network don’t understand why I love to travel and move around so much especially after having a child.

      I would choose option 3 until the child turns 7 then opt for 1 or 2. They get the best of both worlds and have the opportunity to establish lifelong friends. I am doing that for my daughter. We lived in 2 international cities and traveled like crazy until she turned 6 then we moved back to New England and will stay put until she’s 18 but we continue to travel every summer.

      Bear in mind that once your child becomes a teenager they might want to land a summer job in their hometown which adds a little challenge to your plans. I get a strong feeling you will want to continue traveling after your kids graduate so it might be best to do option 2 so they have extended family members for emotional support while you are moving during their adult years.

  16. I voted for Other b/c all the variations are good depending on your values. There are so many variables including career aspirations (and how portable these are), extended family obligations, financial means, health issues, etc. In our case, my husband and I did some international vacations with our kids, and we encouraged them to do study abroad or other structured programs where they didn’t have to be with us. But we are reserving most of our travel for when we’re empty-nesters.

  17. Aaron Meredith

    My family of four (kids now 6 and 9) just repatriated back to the USA after 3 and a half years in Switzerland. Wonderful experience! We did, however, have my wife’s mother and brother next door in Germany, which was fantastic to connect closer to them while we were there.

    Couple of observations:

    Absolutely fantastic for the kids to experience a new culture. They also developed a strong sense of independence and confidence I don’t believe they would not have developed here. For example, my son’s daycare let kids cut wood with a saw at age 4 and walk home by themselves at age 5! My daughter was riding the bus by herself at age 6. Can’t get that here. It was awesome for the kids. Both are bilingual (tri-lingual if you count Swiss German). And, they pretty much rolled right into life here without much fuss.

    Having my wife’s family nearby made the experience that much better. Nothing like your mother in law looking after the kids for a few days while my wife and I got away for a long weekend in Barcelona! I think it would have been a bit tougher NOT having family nearby.

    One word of caution. Managing personal finances and investing while living overseas was hard when we got to Europe and got HARDER before we left. You must maintain a USA address to have a prayer of USA-based banks not freezing accounts, not allowing you to open accounts, etc. Several websites have completely shutdown access from outside the USA due to the new European privacy laws. I often felt like I had to be sneaky just to conduct business as usual and avoid problems although everything I was doing was on the up and up. Perfect example of managing to the lowest common denominator: Putting rules and regs in place to prevent the bad deeds of a few and everyone else pays for it. All of this is not a show stopper, but it was a significant impediment that needs to be thought through and managed carefully. I’ve enjoyed the past few weeks of unblocked websites … whahoo!!

    1. Interesting insight on managing personal finances! Hmmm. I know Personal Capital’s app, for one, doesn’t work outside the United States.

      One reason I bank w/ Citibank is because they were everywhere when I traveled abroad. I’m hopeful they will be in the countries where we will go.

      At what age do you think it’s best to introduce a second language to a child?

      1. Earlier the better regarding second language. Not possible to be too early. I’d even recommend hiring a bilingual babysitter from time to time to speak a different language to the little one. Amazing how fast they pick it up.

  18. I my earliest childhood memory was when I was 3 and have no recollection of any memories before that. Really nice that you had a couple childhood memories that young at age 1. We have a two year old son and taking him on his first trip soon. We know that he may not remember this trip but with easy accessibility to take many photos and videos, we can show him the places we went and how much fun he had. I think as he becomes older, he would be curious of how he was like when he was 1 or 2 and providing pictures and videos will really help.
    Option #1 or #2 would be best in my opinion. Although your son will have to go to different schools in SF at three times before college, their may be a chance that a few of his classmates will go to the same schools as him. Going through the school system here in SF, I had a couple of friends that went to the same elementary, middle and high school as me. The Honolulu option would be smoother for him in that regard where he goes to the same school throughout that whole time.
    And you have the summer to travel abroad and settle for a month or two so he can experience the culture of that country.

  19. “I’m certain there would be much more love and harmony around the globe if more folks traveled.”

    Reminds me of the following quote, which I have always found to be quite accurate:

    “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.”

    ― Mark Twain, The Innocents Abroad / Roughing It

  20. Excellent post. As a Brazilian living at Rio de Janeiro I’m very curious to understand why you consider Rio a good place to live.

  21. Once you kid reaches school do not move anywhere permanently that would affect their schooling. Plonk down and wait it out until after you finish school. You dont realise how socially destructive it is for a young person to be moved around alot and always be “the new kid in school”.

    I myself was moved around a lot and looking back can absolutely confirm it affected me in multiple ways, from keeping friendships, relationship bonding and more.

    Provide the most stable possible life you can for your children and hen do what you like once they are old enough to fend on their own.

    If you travel profusely with children and living all over the place they will never have a real home. I would almost go so far to say it is a selfish thing to do (and this is coming from a top 1% traveler!)

    1. May be traveling is a different experience for everyone? I’m not sure if I made it clear in my introduction that I traveled all around the first 13 years of my life and found it to be an incredible experience. But I do wish I stayed put for high school after middle school.

      It’s worth having an open dialogue and see how things play out.

      What are some specifics about traveling that messed you up?

      1. Haha I wouldnt go so far to say I am messed up!

        Growing up is hard enough without throwing in other variables. For me personally it was difficult to identify who i really was. You maybe right in terms of middle school, I went to 3 high schools and I think things become a lot more cut throat there.

        I had to start at the bottom of the social ladder every time and claw my way up, then move again and have to start over. It can be stressful.

        Nowadays I am quite nomadic but I dont really feel like I have a real home that I would have with a wider family and friends circle that would be there if we just stayed put in the country i was born in.

        When I have kids I am locking myself down and not moving once they start school.

        1. Yeah, I can imagine that three different high schools would be really, really tough. High school is already tough enough staying at one.

          We definitely do not have plans to move around during high school or middle school. The more I think about this, the more I like having him go to one school between kindergarten through 12th grade if he gets accepted in Honolulu.

          Why did your parents move around so much?

            1. I have lived abroad and would love to with my kids. However, every child is different and I think you need to look to your child’s developing personality to decide what is best. I have one child that would flourish and another that needs routine and community.

  22. German/Argentine couple here with two kids (7 and 9).

    As a megacorp expat family we spent the last 5 years in (your high school place) McLean (VA) before moving back to Germany a few months ago.

    For our kids this experience was and will be forever life enhancing. They went from speaking German and Spanish only with their parents to be also (like) native in American English.
    English ist their “kids language” now that they communicate with each other.
    Then they turn around and speak German with me and Spanisch with my wife.

    This is absolutely mind blowing for me as I was growing up in a rural German villeage without second language / much traveling before high school.

    Compared to other German kids in their age I observe that they have a much broadened view on life and they are in general more accepting and understanding towards other people.

    This alone was worth the hassle of making the move and relocate the family.

    +1 on loving your blog!
    Keep writing and Im eager to read about your next steps.

  23. Just because early memories fade away does not mean that the ephemeral experience does not affect these most formative of years.

  24. I thought about doing this about ten years ago. Unfortunately, my son’s health prevented us from doing so. Our biggest concern was insurance coverage. Will health insurance cover treatments outside of the US, particularly Asia?

    1. Probably not, but some single payer countries provide medical services for visitors and you can also purchase supplemental international health insurance.

  25. Ms. Conviviality

    My husband immigrated to the U.S. when he was 9 years old and never left the town he initially settled in. He even attended college in the same town. What I found attractive about my husband was that he is the kind of person that places importance on maintaining his friendships and it’s mutual for his friends too. He keeps in touch with 2 middle school friends and 5 college friends. We spend time regularly with these friends just hanging out, going on vacations, and doing business. These friends moved a few hours away but that hasn’t affected the friendships. A nice perk is I get to hear about all their past shenanigans and learn about a different part of my husband’s life and ultimately who he truly is as a person. My husband chose one of his college buddies as best man at our wedding and every year, on our anniversary, his friend would send a congratulatory message via text, phone call, or greeting card. During the most recent anniversary his friend sent us a gift card for a nice restaurant. I hear about couples that sometimes forget anniversaries but not our best man! Actually, now that I think about it, my maid of honor sends us nice wishes on our anniversaries as well. Although I didn’t have as long a history with my maid of honor since I met her as an adult through work we are like sisters after our 12 years of friendship. All of this is to say that our friendships provide so much joy in our lives and we never turn down an opportunity to spend time together if we can help it. It may be the case that it takes two to maintain friendships and lifelong friends aren’t a guarantee but I agree that providing for circumstances that would make it possible to have long-term friends is definitely worth it. I voted for option 1 because SF has so much to offer culturally, innovatively, and gastronomically but I could have easily voted for option 2 since growing up in paradise seems full of adventure and also provides quality time with the grandparents.

  26. Excellent post Sam. I feel like we have a lot in common. I am the same age as you, have a finance background, lived on 4 continents and travelled to many places during my childhood and college. As an adult, I have since travelled to many many more places with my wife and my 2 little kids. What we don’t have in common is that I haven’t quit my day job yet, as I enjoy what I do, it’s low stress, high pay, flexible hours, plenty of family time and vacation and I am not sure if my nest egg is big enough.

    I agree wholeheartedly that growing up around the world gives you a unique perspective on life, and I really wish I could give this gift to my children in some form. Seeing different places and how people live is the best way to learn about our planet and our species. Traveling somewhere out of your comfort zone for 2-3 weeks vacation is nice, but very different than longer slow travel or living in a place.

    I have been pondering very similar options to you, specially since my first child is about to start K and I live in NYC. To me the least attractive option is obviously to not travel at all and stay in the US. I would go mad. We thought we would slow down traveling once we had kids, but it never stopped! We take the kids wherever we go. The trips are now different, more painful, more tiring and intense as we don’t slow down, but also much more fun, specially seeing the world through our little kids eyes.

    We are entirely aware that any trip before 5 (maybe even 6 or 7) won’t form a concrete memory for our kids, but the travel is about us and we just bring them along for the ride. They might be more accustomed to travel going forward also. Kids love some structure and routine, so we do let them do their thing for several hours every day during trips. Like you, some of my most distinct memories before 5 were in strange places eating strange things or experiencing things unfathomable to most Americans.

    It is also true that kids below 5 don’t need anything too fancy beyond a playground, some sand, water, crayons, toys, etc. But that doesn’t mean they can’t or shouldn’t travel with you. They are highly adaptable and their brains are like sponges.

    Enough rambling, my thoughts for my family are that we will setup a home base in a few years in CA (not the Bay Area aka mega rat race like NYC) or maybe even HI, I would ‘retire’, we travel parts of the world during the summers for 2-3 months. We would perhaps live in another country for 2-3 years as well. This would be plan A. This way we can have some stability, and we can also see a lot of the world together traveling slowly instead of a 2 week vacation. The most ideal scenario (plan X) would be to live in 3 different parts of the world (for example one in Asia, another in Africa or South America, and third in Europe) for elementary/middle/high allowing lots of local and nearby travel. If that plan never works out, I will keep working, but at the very least travel for 1-2 months per year with the kids (plan B). Anything less is not an option for me, as I owe my kids the world education I cherish.

    I wish you luck with your decision and will be following closely. It’s great that your wife is on board, and your son is too little to have any say!

  27. We’ve shuffled all over the world but we have, I think, stopped now that our oldest is in kindergarten. I think he has a right to stay fairly still in a stable environment through his school years and adolescence so he can figure out the world with a sort of coherent frame of reference.

    It’s not just a friendship thing, or just a roots thing – I think being based in one place through those formative school years will help our kids know who they are, by knowing where they came from.

    That having been said a) we chose a place to settle based on the great facilties for kids a la Honolulu and b) we travel a LOT during the holidays.

  28. Hi Sam,

    I have been following option 1 for about 7 years now. Started while working full time, increased when half time, new options now not working 9 to 5.

    We have 3 kids, currently ages 18, 15, and 12. For us was trying to find a balance between not waiting so long that the older one misses out, but not going so soon that the younger one can’t keep up. The magic age for us was when the younger one was 5. We did a ‘test trip’ of a week in London followed by a week in Paris. All they had to do was get up, packed and to the Chunnel train on time – one time for the whole trip. We reasoned that if they could do it, they were ready for more extensive travel. They passed with flying colors and the next year we took them for 17 days to Italy.

    Since then, we’ve been to Spain, US/Canada National Parks, Iceland, India, and Greece. Each time, we increase the vacation duration a bit. We are now at 3-4 week vacations. The teenagers do have friends now and going much longer than 4 weeks is challenging. We have limited ourselves to summer travel, but are looking to add in a Winter Break trip this year to double our experiences (i.e. two trips per year).

    Living overseas sounds great, particularly if you live in a place that could be a springboard to more extensive travel: Singapore as a springboard to Australia and SE Asia sounds great, as does Switzerland or Netherlands as a springboard to Europe. I’d factor in which cities have frequent, low cost regional flights or rail transportation when making your selection.

    I caution you on moving your children right before high school. We did: from Alaska to SF Bay Area. It was very hard on the older ones to be strangers in a totally new school, town, and state, (let alone country) at that age. Your children may be different, but ours were very lonely and withdrawn for first 18 months or so. If you live overseas, I’d concentrate it in the earlier, elementary school years, then revert to option 1 in middle school and high school.

    So maybe 3-5 years in Singapore, 3-5 in Europe, then back to the States for middle school and high school.

    Love the blog.

    1. Good to hear. I agree with uprooting the kids after middle school. That’s what happened to me after Kuala Lumpur, and it was a downer to come to the United States for high school. A lot of the kids knew each other since elementary school, and McLean was so boring compared to Kuala Lumpur.

      I would’ve had the time of my life at the international school of KL in high school. But maybe I would have gotten into too much trouble. Who knows!

  29. My wife and I have a child and we have moved from CA to NV to CO. We have also traveled internationally to expose our daughter to different cultures and ways of living.

    I think the most important question is what do you and your wife 100% agree on. If your wife is not going to be 100% happy with the decision this will have much more impact on your personal happiness, your relationship and how your son views what a healthy marriage looks like.

    It took me a few years but realizing to put my wife’s needs and feelings before our child’s has made all the difference in the world.

  30. RoadToFire77

    We are in process of executing similar plan. We (family of 4: couple & 2 kids) are moving to Austin from Bay area. This is to avoid Million $ mortgage, so I can take summer off and we can do slow travel all over the world.

    1. Austinite here. Walkability, public transit, and even bikability sucks compared to the Bay Area outside of a few very small pockets. Still, cost of living is a lot lower and people are relatively friendly. One thing I dislike about Austin is that many streets have only one sidewalk, or often even no sidewalk at all. There are cheaper places to live in Texas though, e.g. I think Dallas and Houston areas are both cheaper (not to mention San Antonio or El Paso).

  31. All of your options are so attractive. I think if I were in your shoes, I would try completely living abroad and visiting the US in summer (when the tourists flood all of the cool places anyway) and the winter (where Hawaii and SF are mild in temperature, but not so much in many other parts of the world).

    My reasoning is that your son and wife will like be more flexible and open to it now rather than later. And if it doesn’t work out, or if you son doesn’t like it, you can always return back to the United States and anchor in SF or Hawaii. I think it’s hard to do it vice versa.

    If were even thinking about living completely abroad, I say do it now while you and your wife are still young and your son is young enough not to care so much.

    My wife and I would love to live in Amsterdam, Barcelona, or South France!

    1. You’re probably right about making a bigger leap while young, than when older. I’ve already felt my risk taking adventure ossifying a little bit.

      I think we’re going to do baby steps though by going to Honolulu, then perhaps abroad.

  32. Hi Sam,

    First time commenting and new (avid!) reader.

    I grew up in East Malaysia, went to to boarding college at Selangor, did my university in London and have stayed in the UK since. Never travelled during my childhood as money was tight. But travelled a lot when I had extra allowances from my scholarship during university years – HK, Portugal, Taiwan, Singapore, Poland, Norway, Austria, Switzerland, Spain, France, Monaco, Turkey, Iceland, Holland…. trying to find the time to do China and the US.

    Your comments and reflections on KL bring back memories and I can’t wait to go home to savour all the cuisine soon! Another lucky thing about growing up in Malaysia is the ability to speak 3 languages – English, Malay, and Mandarin – and I can just about converse in Cantonese by picking it up from the TVB dramas on TV! It was only after coming to the UK – where most of my friends here are only able to speak just English – that I realised how privileged it is to be multilingual. The benefits are many! (http://www.bbc.com/future/story/20160811-the-amazing-benefits-of-being-bilingual)

    Throwing in my 2 pence… As long as your kid gets to do some travelling of some sort throughout his younger years, he is already one lucky kid in my opinion. Direct and perhaps extended exposure to different cultures and people really does cultivate acceptance, tolerance, and open-mindedness in a way that no books or classroom can. Just make sure its travelling that he is doing, and not the regular tourist thingi!

    There is one thing that people don’t consider as much these days – and I think we should – which is letting a kid grow up in a community. I’m saying this from personal experience and being able to observe many patients/families over time as a family doctor. From what I can see in the UK, growing up in a nucleus family is the norm; I hardly see any close knitted Ohana/extended family model in the UK these days. I personally think it’s partially contributing to the mental health crisis in the young here. Drawing from my own experience even though our family struggled, I led a rich childhood because the large church community gave so much to us and took us children under their wings. If my parents were anxious or high strung, I had enough time away from my immediate family to not develop similar temperament. And I get exposed to other families enough to be aware that any form of abuse in the family is neither normal or healthy. An extreme example perhaps but it’s no coincidence that if you dig into it it’s quite likely that the young teenager with depression or anxiety also has a parent (or parents) or siblings with similar mental health issue. So as I grow older and hopefully wiser, I’ve come to realise that travelling is great, but so is Ohana.

    1. May I ask where specifically in East Malaysia? I was born and grew up in Sandakan. I have been living in CA for almost 20 years now.

    2. For sure. Unfortunately for us, our family is scattered in Hawaii and New York and in Virginia while we are in San Francisco, and the only visited once or twice a year. Therefore, maintaining that cadence is easy even if we live abroad.

      being bilingual or trilingual is huge, and I don’t want to miss this opportunity for my son. I could’ve sure used another four years living in Taiwan to improve my Mandarin skills for example. Although I mentoring skills are OK, they aren’t great anymore. You really need to be immersed in the country.

      I truly value being bilingual. The world is so much more enriching. I love watching Mandarin movies and TV shows and getting immersed in Chinese culture.

      I really wish there was incredible Malaysian food here in San Francisco! It is the best.


  33. Hugh Hunkeler

    We left for an overseas assignment when our first child was five months old. We had a second child while we lived in Europe. Having very young children had the obvious difficulties, but we could travel when we chose to–not on a school schedule.

    Some things that aren’t touched on in the “best age” article are:
    -Many will be constrained to an overseas assignment when the opportunity presents itself. That is, those chances aren’t necessarily available for the choosing at your convenience.
    -How much do you want to live overseas? How eager are you to experience another culture? How about your spouse? (!!!) If one or both is less than thrilled by living in another country, doing it anyway “for the children” will have some non-obvious drawbacks and maybe even put a huge stress on your marriage (which isn’t great for the children).
    -Assess the downside of the change to the child’s/children’s relationship with nearby relatives. In the pre-internet era, taking away four grandparents’ first grandchild nearly made me a pariah.

    1. For sure. We won’t really know until we try. And we’re down to try anything and everything. That’s the fun of it. Travel truly is a way to crystallize the value of our location Independent business. I think it’ll be a fun adventure to share with readers over the years as well.

  34. Just wanted to add the medical component to moving around a lot. Adults and kids get sick and it’s akways nice to have a pediatrician who you know and your child feels comfortable with. Moving around a lot is tough from a medical standpoint.

    1. Definitely a good point about medical, and the comfort of having familiarity with the medical provider. I think this is something we take for granted that our current age because we never go to the doctor for anything. I’m sure that frequency will change as we get older, therefore, another vote to travel younger while we are still healthier.

      But it seems like the universal healthcare systems around the World all work better and are much more in expensive than here in the United States.

  35. We started traveling with my daughter once she turned 3 years old which we felt was the perfect age to begin.

    For the past 2 years, we’ve been doing option 1 every summer, and plan to continue doing so until she’s done with school. We spent all summer in Barcelona the first year, and spent this summer in Southeast Asia. Both experiences were incredible.

    Like you, I was concerned about her making life long friends, which is a luxury I missed out on growing up, since we moved a few times during my childhood. This is why we chose to Anchor close to family, while still exposing her to different cultures about 3 months each year.

    I voted for anchoring in Honolulu, since I agree that SF is not a kid friendly city (my brother lives there).

  36. I pretty much had one home base growing up. My parents were pretty good at using school holidays to take us to new places within 2-5 hours driving distance from our house and then about every other year we’d go abroad during the summer for about 3-4 weeks. It was nice to see new places and have our home base to come home to. I was really shy growing up so if we moved every few years I imagine I would have dreaded to be in a new school and to try and meet new friends. But who knows. The fact that you’re so analytical in your thought process and are thinking about different options so in-depth shows how much you care about your family and that you’ll be really in tune with your son’s needs and interests.

    1. You would have dreaded being the new kid in school, but with each new experience, you would have also gained more confidence and grown by leaps and bounds imo! I was also nervous before the first day of school. But international schools always had a cycle of new kids coming in so many felt the same way. It became fun, especially when you saw a new girl (or guy) you fancied. That was always exciting as a kid.

  37. Another model is to take a few ‘sabbatical’ years. Anchor somewhere and travel the summers, but then spend the entirety of one year living abroad in a different country. Do this in say 3rd, 7th, and 10th grades or something like that. You all get a deeper dive into a country, you still have long-term roots in SF or Hawaii, and your child (probably) won’t loose all of his friends.

  38. “I’m certain there would be much more love and harmony around the globe if more folks traveled.”

    Maybe a bit more but keep in mind that a surprisingly high number of infamous terrorists and complete despots received their educations in the western world.

    My parents toured Syria extensively just before things went to hell. They marveled continuously at how extremely happy and friendly all the people were, even though it was obvious to everyone that they were Americans (apparently, it was mostly just the supreme leader and his junta that were/are the soulless deviants). I think a lot of the perceived lack of sufficient love and harmony in the world is due to a relatively small number of people determined to seek personal aggrandizement, even at the cost of everyone else in their country, or even the world.

    As for your vote? Children thrive on routine. Find a good place for them to put down roots and keep them there from first grade to twelfth but, by all means, take them on spectacular vacations and such. I went to nine different schools during K-12, all of varying quality. Had I stayed in one place I would have done a lot better in the long run. Being whipsawed from a school geared mostly to the children of migrant workers in Arizona, to a very demanding private school in Thailand, and then to a suburban public school in Georgia, does a kid no favors. Not even if they have everything going for them (other than filthy rich parents). I was able to keep my own daughter in one place from 5th to high school graduation and she tore it all up; senior awards night they would hardly let her sit down. And yet she’s been all over the world and lived in other countries and she’s not even 30 yet.

    As far as travel? Our dog died about six years back and we keep holding off on getting another because, with the kids all grown, we are enjoying travel too much. Stop our mail with a phone call, set the thermostat with a smart phone, lock the door, and take off for anywhere.

  39. I voted for option 2. Live somewhere you love to be, and travel when you can. I didn’t leave the country until college, and then I went crazy and spent most of college abroad, participating in 3 study abroad programs, plus I worked internationally after graduation. Having a sheltered childhood where my worldview was limited by religion, community, culture and my family was not necessarily a bad thing, as I discovered the world was big when I left home, and while I look back fondly on my childhood, I’m also glad for the sense of adventure that I’ve cultivated as an adult. I thought I would want to raise my children abroad because I had such great experiences, but we’ve found a cool community with great schools (which include dual language immersion), outdoor recreation that is unique to our location, sports, music, etc., and I’m not sure I could replicate it anywhere else in the world, so we’ll most likely stay put, and hopefully do more long, slow travel in the future. The challenge, however, is that the summer and winter holidays are the best times to be home. We’d love to leave for a month at a time in the spring or late fall, but that conflicts with school schedules.

    1. You’re right about the summers and winters being the best time to stay at home, but only if you don’t live in a city that attracts a lot of tourists. You’re in San Francisco, Man there are a lot of tourists during the summer and winter’s. Our favorite California Academy of sciences museum is so packed during the summers. We can’t wait for the kids to go back to school so we can have more peace and quiet.

      Hopefully there aren’t as many tourists in Hawaii during the summer because it’s already so hot. I’ll have to do some research.

  40. Before the age of about 5, the kids don’t know or care where they are. All my daughter needed was a swing set, and it did not matter if that was in Toronto, Paris or Hanoi.

    We spent one full school year in France when the kids were 10 and 11. That worked well. They knew French from French immersion at school, so were pretty comfortable in the local school from the outset. They made friends normally – though have not really kept in touch since (this was over 15 years ago.)

    French public education has lots of holidays, so we got to spend two weeks in various parts of France and Italy, as well as Christmas in Morocco.

    i think the comments about getting to know the grandparents is important.

    You need to figure out what you two adults are doing, too – though your business is mobile. How important is your local routine, your friends etc where you now live? My wife found it disorienting after a while, being in France for so long, though we are both fluent in French. We could have got used to it, though one wonders how seriously one should take local affairs when one is not engaged.

    Legal residence may not matter so much for Americans’ tax status. For Canadians, it matters where one is resident, so various connecting factors and intentions have to be considered. I liked our way of staying resident in Canada all the time – and our kids liked knowing that they had a home to go back to.

    So I voted ‘other’ – spend a full year in some foreign place from time to time, rather than making a lifetime choice (obviously variable if you want) to be always away in the summer or always away except for summer (or vacations, or whatever).

    I agree entirely that kids, and adults, benefit from serious contact with foreign places and people.

    It may be more difficult to pull a teenager out from his/her intense social life at the high school stage. Our kids were about the perfect age for a year’s absence. It made it a bit easier, too, that their best friends at the time, a brother and a sister, had just been away for 6 months and had liked it.

    Good luck. You have all your options open – which is of course what this blog is about. Well done!

    1. Being Canadian I also would remain resident in Canada for tax and free health care reasons. I travel extensively, and have a base in Canada. It is also a hassle to get the visa for a long-stay in many countries, especially Europe. Doable but still has to be done. Any time I choose, I can stay in one place for awhile, absorb the local culture, but unless you actually live there, know the language, work there, or have relatives there, there is a limit to how much you really experience or get involved in local life. And there are so many new places to see. I try to read as much as possible and really understand the places I visit, and often I feel I know more about a country and its people than many ex-pats who live there for years. People try to live like they do at home, and adapt to the local foods and manners and customs.

    2. Thanks. Will probably start small, and first check out different parts of the United States. Then we might relocate to Honolulu and then travel internationally. If we find a place we just absolutely love, will definitely try to stay there for several months. And if you love it even more, and find the healthcare and education system compatible, then we’ll go from there.

      Thanks. Will probably start small, and first check out different parts of the United States. Then we might relocate to Honolulu and then travel internationally. If we find a place we just absolutely love, will definitely try to stay there for several months. And if you love it even more, and find the healthcare and education system compatible, then we’ll go from there.

      I know on my deathbed, I’ll regret not going on this adventure. I really don’t know anybody who has regretted experiencing the world in depth.

      Enjoy Morocco! That sounds exciting.

  41. Great post Sam. So often you write a post about something I am experiencing it is uncanny.

    My husband and I would like to go on a gap year with our sons ages 13 and 10. This summer we spent 3 weeks in France (was there for World Cup!!!) and 1 week in San Sebastian. Our sons were fascinated and as of now are all in for an extended stay. As a couple we put off foreign travel when we had children due to work schedules, always visiting grandparents who live in different states and in that time we built 3 houses (sold 2) to get ourselves financially ahead.

    We plan on working with the boy”s schools to develop an online schedule for the year we are abroad which works out to be about 3 1/2 hours a day. We will then fill that in with language courses, something physical like tennis or dance and then possibly something fun like a gaming club where they can meet other kids.

    We truly loved San Sebastian and found we could rent a furnished home there for less than half of renting our home here in Hermosa Beach. I like that it is a large enough international city with lots of festivals, outrageous restaurants and plenty of outdoor activities. I also like that it is so close to the French border and there is so much to explore both in Europe to the North and Spain/Portugal/Morocco to the south and even train up to the chunnel for U.K.

    You can ship your car to Europe for around $500 and then around $400 for the port fees. Our pets can travel without quarantine with a micro chip and paperwork from the vet for about $250.

    We plan on going for a year in 2 years – my oldest is goin into his last year of middle school and I think we would like for him to start his first year in High School and make that transition with his friends before we depart. My youngest would be in 7th grade so he would be able to spend his last year in middle school with his friends on our return.

    With being ages 53/54, my husband and I feel we are in the 3rd quarter of our lives (if we stay blessed) and really want this experience as a family before our kids are off on their own and/or we slow down due to health. If all goes well we may repeat another year after our oldest starts college. (New Zealand is on our list!)

    I agree with you whole heartedly about opening up your child to life around the planet, especially when you can be there to enjoy it with him. We only get one go around.

    Good luck with your decision!

    1. Sounds like a wonderful and blessed adventure! That would be cool if you could develop an online course program so they don’t have to miss any school with their school.

      It’s truly amazing how many incredible places there are to live. Too bad we only have one life to live and can’t live everywhere at the same time. I think it’s because I’ve moved so much that I get restless now.

      Maybe you can do a guest post one day about your travels.

      1. It is actually quite common to do online grade school/high school educating as many home schooled families can attest to. We have had a niece that had a terrible skiing accident and is taking online courses as well as a niece that had bullying issues and her mom decided to let her take an online school year as well.

        Our sons have had friends that have left for a school year and returned and they keep in touch with social media almost daily!

        My husband and I are both down to part-time and the money/schedule has been advantageous but our company is in the process of being bought out so the time may be approaching for the next adventure. I feel like we have been in the “just one more day/year” mode for the last few years and this will kick us out of our comfort/inertia zone.

        I have been reading the posts here about not uprooting middle/high school aged kids so am keeping an open ear to our kids and think we will be able to determine as it get’s closer.

        Maybe a guest post one day on the lead-up to the gap year!

    2. Best of luck with your adventure!!! Our family is about 3-4 years younger than yours (close to the same relative ages) and we’re heading off to New Zealand for three months in mid-October. San Sebastian sounds wonderful and quite a bit more reasonable for travel from the US, particularly with regards to the car and dog expenses. Next up for us is likely Scandinavia and Puerto Rico.

      We’ve been doing P/T homeschooling for the last three years which will expand to F/T during the trip. Who knows what happens after that, but we’ve spent the last several years building an online business that allows flexible travel anywhere and don’t want to be handcuffed by the school year.

      Although some people find lifelong friends through school, I completely agree with an earlier comment about mutual interests being the real glue that holds people together for a long time. Sports, music, art, robots, real estate, shooting, cooking, sailing, whatever it is for you – those are the friends you always make regardless of where you end up living. I’ve barely stayed in touch with anyone from high school or earlier because almost none of the things I enjoyed doing back then have carried through to today. Our shared experience was living in the same town and attending the same school and far less about being interested in the same things as adults.

      Even staying in the same area for a lifetime doesn’t mean keeping the same friends. Places change, people move. I’d never move back to my childhood state, much less the same town. We’ve both changed too much and it was never a place I chose to live in the first place.

  42. My wife and I are actually about to make this same thing happen, Sam. We’re moving to Panama next summer with our daughter. She’ll have just turned 9 when this happens, so she is a little bit older.

    This was really all my idea, but I actually struggled with it a year or so ago because I questioned whether this was selfish. I was concerned as you are that my daughter would be leaving all her friends here.

    However, my wife really put it into perspective when she said that it’s actually the opposite of being selfish – it’s really a great opportunity for her. A lot of kids will never leave the country much less be able to live and learn in another part of the world.

    She’s right.

    I’m now super excited as is my daughter. And our thoughts are that we’re going to live there permanently, but if we don’t like it, we come back. It’s not the end of the world. We’ll give it a shot for at least a year and see what happens.

    So personally, I’d say go for option 3. I think this is something great for you guys to do for your son that will leave him with a ton of great memories later in life.

    — Jim

    1. I’m looking forward to reading about your journey to Panama Jim. Please keep us posted! I’m glad your daughter is excited to move. I’ll definitely have a conversation with my son before making any drastic changes. When I was growing up, I had no choice. We left when my parents needed to leave for a new position.

  43. We moved around a lot when I was young and I don’t have any close friends from school days. I see some of my college friends pretty often, though.
    I didn’t like moving around a lot because it was tough to make friends. That’s why we’re planning to stay put until our kid is done with high school. We’ll travel in the summer and give him a stable environment. My wife had a stable school life and she enjoyed it and still have friends from those days.
    SF and Honolulu are both good options.

  44. Judith Wilson

    Hi Sam,

    You know, every one of the options you outline are great, so I would say that it doesn’t really matter – each one will provide a great childhood experience.

    I think however you should think about what will make you happy – because that will affect your child more than anything. By you I also mean both of you.

    Given that you both had different experiences growing up and different views on these approaches maybe a compromise is best. If you’ve got from 5 to 12, then maybe 4 years living abroad and 3 years based somewhere with travelling breaks?

    We were based in one place for much of my children’s childhood. Except that place was London and people shifted in and out of there all the time. My daughter had to make a new best friend every year due to this. She became awesome at creating friendships, which is an amazing thing to witness even now, she slots in with new people so easily, even though she’s not the most outgoing person; she just really knows how to connect. However,I think maybe she has yet to learn the value of a very long term friend.

    In complete contrast my son, who is younger, went into the exact same school and immediately built this incredibly close bond with another boy in his class. It was just incredibly good luck he found a soulmate in his class. This boy went back to America after two years, but we have seen him a couple of times since (my son is now 14). Every time they see each other, no matter what the time gap, they slot back in together like they saw each other yesterday. It is a joy to witness.

    These experiences were completely random! So maybe the other important thing is to make the decision but adapt it as you work out what your children need.


    1. Hi Judy – You make a great point about not forgetting what will make my wife and I happy. I cannot make a unilateral decision on such a big move, which is why we’re really excited to put it out there and hear feedback from you and other readers. We won’t choose an option until both of us are on board.

      It would bring us IMENSE joy of our son could find a best friend / soul mate. We will be flexible in moving if he does. At the same time, we understand that relationships don’t last forever. Being able to keep in touch easier now due to technology is wonderful. I keep forgetting about Facetime on our phones whenever I hesitate to go anywhere.

      I’m there will be even more random experiences with more travel adventure. Unlike my parents, who had to be reassigned every 2-4 years, we have the luxury to stay or go as we please. Will will be max flexible. If things aren’t working out, we will adapt.

      I’d love to know what your kids think about their experiences.


  45. For those who do not want to go the international route, living in different parts of the USA is also beneficial. This can include moving between city, suburb, and rural areas in just one general location. The different perspectives on living can be an awakening.

    Moving around the USA can also be logistically messy, but the language, currency, etc. do not get in the way which makes the idea more accessible to some. I do encourage international travel and living, but I know the thought can overwhelm many people.

    For those considering moving around the USA, really move to different parts. If you are on the coast, move to a fly over state. If you are in a fly over state, move to the coast. Trade coasts. Trade fly over locations. Grew up in the North? Move to the South. Don’t want to leave the midwest? Ohio is not Minnesota. Move.

    That being said, we do not have children. I cannot speak to the logistics of moving schools, etc. As a person who moved a fair amount as a child, I can say I do not look forward to the process of moving (currently moving from Minnesota to North Carolina), but I am not afraid of going to new areas and learning new ways to live.

    Moving, and traveling, has taught me that there is more than one way to live, and this is a great gift.

  46. Ah, I don’t know many people who still chill and hang out with people from elementary school so it’s ok on that front. I like the option of #1 & #2 better. Your wife is right that traveling abroad full time is going to be a big hassle. I would like a home base that is diverse like Seattle then sprinkle in the rest.

    “The first memory was sitting in an outdoor restaurant in Lusaka, Zambia while I tried Pepsi for the first time. It was delicious.”

    Such a cute memory blurb!!! :)

  47. I grew up in the Caribbean and was able to travel quite a bit at a young age. I visited other island, the US and South America. Fast forward 20+ years and I definitely feel the experience helped positively shape me as an adult.

    It’s good for children to experience other cultures. If anything it makes them realize how good they have it in the US. It also helps them to think for themselves. When they hear some crazy news story about a part of the world they’ve actually visited, they’ll have the ability to easily separate fact from fiction. :-)

  48. Recovering Engineer

    I chose other just because I’m not sure living abroad from 5 to 18 would be my choice. I moved internationally when I was 5 and we moved back to the US for me to start high school. I think that was a perfect age, I don’t have a huge number of memories from ~5-7 years old but some have definitely stuck around. Coming back to the US for high school was challenging but helped get adjusted back to the US and I think made the transition to college easier. Still got the benefits of living abroad but also the benefits of a more traditional high school/college experience as well. I also know the cost of going abroad can be challenging depending on where you go. There is no way my parents could have afforded to send us to the amazing international schools we went to if the company hadn’t picked up the bill.

    1. One of my relative disappointments was moving back to the US for high school. I would have much rather stayed in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia for HS after having a pretty good middle school there. I made so many good friends, that to leave them, and come back to boring McLean, Virginia was a letdown.

      Hence, I like schools that have K-12 programs due to the continuity. If friends are being made, I want my son to stay in that system.

      Maybe I would have gotten in a lot of trouble in KL in HS. But I got in a lot of trouble in HS in the US, and I missed KL so much.

      It’s interesting to relive the past and figure out how it could have been better for my son. I’m sure not everything will go as planned. But it’s easier to optimize if we plan ahead.

      1. Don’t most US schools still work in track systems, so that a few elementary schools track to the same middle school, and a few middle schools track to the same high school? That’s the way things work here in the Austin area, as well as my cousins’ areas in MN and CA. I think you’ve written that City of SF has quite a different system though?

        With IB and other magnet programs, I think the tracking system is getting weaker, but overall is still generally intact most places.

        1. I certainly was tracked into the same middle and high school, but my friends changed yearly. Every year we would switch “teams.” New year with new classmates = new friends in middle school. In high school friends came from orchestra or sports. My friends that have life long friends went to small private schools K-12 scenario he is talking about. College friends are who I keep in contact with.

  49. Charleston.C

    Lifelong friends from childhood sounds nice in theory but I would caution against making a decision based on that. I’d be very curious what the poll result would be, if you have the following options:

    1) Lived in same town most of childhood, still friends with people from elementary school
    2) Lived in same town most of childhood, close friends are from college or beyond
    3) Did not live in same town most of childhood, close friends are from college or beyond
    4) Does not have friends.

    My feeling is that most people grow apart due to difference in life path regardless of where they grew up as a child.

    1. You’re right. I’ve idealized a TV show scenario like Leave It To Beaver where you grow up with an amazing friend all your life, and stay friends for the rest of your life.

      Nobody would choose your Option #4 obviously.

      I’m thinking it might be more enriching to have close friends from HS or college because we change so much since elementary school. We’re closer to who we were in college than who we were in elementary school. What do you think?

      1. Charleston.C

        From my perspective, I’ve found that common hobbies or passions lead to lasting friendships (among other contributing factors). Someone who likes fishing will tend to be friends with someone else who likes fishing. In my case, my hobbies are cars and motorcycles, both of which were not attainable to me in elementary school so that really skewed my situation.

        But I do think where one physically lives matter less in this day and age as compared to years past.

      2. Todd Whitley

        2 is the closest to my story, but lived in other places in early post-college adulthood. Still have friends from childhood, high-school, college, and professional life. Nice mix, I guess, but wish I could see them all more often.

    2. I grew up in a small town and still know a lot of people from my town, especially since family still live there. However, we are not really friends in the sense we rarely see each other. Even ones who live in my city, we don’t see each other a lot, just keep in touch. When I was married we had a large circle of friends from his school chums, and my workmates. All gone shortly after we divorced but I have kept in touch with a few of my work mates from those days. Then as a single, I made friends through work mostly over the years, mostly other singles as couples with kids have a different lifestyle and priorities. I do count couples in my very dear friends as well, some of them neighbours when I lived in city condo. As my friends age off and decline in health, and I am travelling, I now find new friends mostly in travel and cultural related activities. I have only missed out on the university friends as I went at night and worked all day, so no time for social life.

      Once you move away from where you grew up, life is never the same and you never go back. You can’t really have it all. People change and you generally hang with people you have something in common with. I tend to do things with people who like travel and cultural activities and have the money to enjoy them and live close to the centre.

      The idea of roots is compelling but hardly anybody I know actually knows anybody from where they grew up or ever goes back. I am a rare in that regard. Growing up in a big city and going to university is probably what I would choose as you would make life-long friends and contacts.

  50. Simple Money Man

    I think your idea is fine; up until he is the age of 5. I’ve found that kids just care about being around other kids and playing with them. They don’t care about new experiences and such like adults may. If they’re around a bunch of kids acting crazy, they are happy :-)

  51. It is definitely true about childhood amnesia. That coupled with the difficulty of traveling with an infant makes international travel less enjoyable and less bang for your buck in terms of enriching your child.

    My mother is from Malaysia (Penang) and I remember going there when I was about 10 and it was incredible. I loved the food especially and the exotic drinks they would place in a clear bag and pop a straw through it.

    I am going to murder the spelling of it because trying to do it phonetically but my favorite drink was this dark brown liquid with greenish worn like tapioca pieces in it (want to call it chandoy). Also remember a pretty amazing drink with a quails egg in it and I think lotus leaves.

    That plus people would actually drive by with amazing cooked food much like ice cream trucks. Miss the food there and now I feel like I need to go back (haven’t been since my dad died and we put his ashes in a holy river there (1986).

    Your child is going to be so lucky Sam. Your online business really does allow you to travel anywhere plus you have the means to do so. Exposure to world culture especially when studying about it in school will really make an impact rather than just reading about it from a book.

    1. Penang has the best food. Truly, amazing. I’ve thought of moving back to KL since the food is great, the food is cheap, the diving is amazing, and I spent 4 years there.

      It’s just missing the Mandarin language component which would be an incredible gift. I wish I had 4 more years of living in a Mandarin speaking country. I sometimes dream in Mandarin and to be able to have another language roll off your tongue, forever, would be wonderful.

      Your world opens up to so many more people with a new language spoken well.

  52. Really have enjoyed your blog.. have followed closely past year.. my opinion: abroad is way to go.. i grew up army brat spent 5yrs germany 2 in PR and moved around a lot. I believe the moving broadened my horizons. Keep up the great work

  53. I spent most of my childhood overseas in France and Africa, and I’ve been debating the value of taking my kids overseas for a couple of years too. I’ve voted option #1 for my family for a couple of reasons.

    1. Given the relatively nomadic upbringing, it’s been very difficult to build roots somewhere. It’s taken me until my mid 30’s to feel like I have some sort of a community, and that is primarily due to my wife who didn’t grow up overseas.

    2. We live in the age of cheap airfare, AirBnb, laptops and the internet. I think that I can give my kids 80% of the value of living overseas by doing various month long trips. I feel like that will open up their worlds without any of the downsides.

    3. There are so many places in the world to see. I don’t like the idea of restricting ourselves to just a few places. Plus, there are plenty of places in the US that are worth spending 3-6 weeks. Taking my girls camping for a month in Colorado can provide life lessons that are every bit as valuable as a month in Costa Rica or Norway.

    1. You’re right about planting roots. I was always searching to find a place called home. Even Honolulu, where I’d go back almost every summer or winter, didn’t feel like home home because I only visited for maybe a month at a time, not long enough to make good friends.

      After 17 years, I guess I have some roots in SF. But I sold one house we spent 9.5 years of our lives in, so it feels like our roots got cut, since we live in a new neighborhood.

      Maybe it’ll be good enough to just have a home in SF to feel connected, and then just live abroad. Coming home to familiarity is huge.. like your sock and underwear drawer and pillow.

  54. First off I suspect if you do a poll very few of us have childhood friends from elementary school , even those of us who didn’t travel. You eventually lose touch.

    I also disagree with waiting until three to start. Will kids remember pre three, no. But frankly traveling younger then three still teaches them how to travel and how to adapt to others. These are life long skills that will help them as they continue to travel beyond three. Our two boys have traveled abroad 2-3 weeks a year since birth. Not living abroad mind you, but that’s more a factor of my job doesn’t support that. Someday soon we’ll try more then that. (I’m putting the groundwork in place now)

    Honestly the only downside of ext need travel with kids I see is distance from relatives, as others mentioned. Grand parents that might not be here in a decade and even cousins that will drift further away over time.

    1. I’m not sure how much travel skills one develops before the age of three. It’s more like the parents doing all the packing and stuff for them. We personally don’t need to travel at this age because we already traveled so much already. We are primarily focusing On his benefit as it relates to remembering his adventure as he gets older.

      1. Wild&FinancallyFree

        I respectfully disagree. We traveled quite a bit with both our boys before they turned 3 and by 3 they were able to pack and carry their own carry-on bags, exceptionally comfortable moving through airport security, patiently waiting in long lines and inevitable delays. Knowing they are now good little travelers has made traveling as a family not just fun, but relatively stress free. I look forward to many more years of travel with and firmly believe that those early years have them off to a great start!

  55. Another SAM

    We love living abroad and raising our kids in different cultures. But it’s definitely not for everyone and it can actually be very isolating at times. If your wife has reservations, consider the Hawaii option. There’s so much value in being close to family.

    For us the biggest concern about living abroad is how far away from their grandparents our kids are. They visit frequently, but it’s not the same as being able to spend a weekend at grandma and grandpa’s whenever. We do intend to return to the US for high school, as your family did, but by then most kids no longer prioritize developing relationships with their grandparents.

    Whatever you choose, I’m sure your son will grow up to value different cultures and peoples, as you do. You will set a fantastic example for him to emulate.

    1. One suggestion I have is to not come back to the United States for high school. It was a real bummer to do so for me as I left my middle school friends behind in Kuala Lumpur. Middle school was a great time for growth and experimentation. United States seemed so dull in comparison. I think an American coming from overseas to attend an American university might be more attractive as well. At least there is a more unique story to tell.

      1. Sam, disabuse yourself of that view. As someone who has two children who graduated from top international high schools and went to college in the US, it is no longer such a big deal for admissions. Top schools get tons of applications from overseas, including top international schools, and admissions are still super competitive. Pretty sure both my kids would have gotten into the same schools had they had the same academic record at an equivalent US high school. Don’t get me wrong, it was still a great experience for all the other reasons mentioned, but don’t do it just because you think your kid(s) will get a leg up in getting into a great college. As far as the other stuff, clearly there are pro’s and cons. Being far away from family should not be underestimated..

        1. I still think a student with an international experience will stand out more than kids who don’t, especially now that international friction is high.

          What colleges did your kids go to having going to top international high schools? Is your negative view on international school perhaps due to the fact that the college isn’t as top notch as the school?

          This is a dilemma I wonder all the time as a HS coach. Lots of kids paying $48K/year, but end up going to a college anybody could have gotten into.

          Would You Accept $1,000,000 For The Indignity Of Going To Public School?

          1. They attend top 25 national universities per USNews & World Report. So they are going to a good school, but my point is if you expect that will give you the edge to get into Stanford or an Ivy, in my experience it won’t. And just like your private school, those international schools cost $40 – $50k per year. And also, are attended by the wealthiest iof the wealthiest. I am talking multiple billionaire families. So if you were looking to get some socioeconomic diversity for your kid, try again..

            1. Ah, I didn’t realize I was talking about the elite schools and socioeconomic diversity when it comes to one potentially positive benefit of Travel. Thanks for clarifying. I always thought Travel was good for learning different perspectives.

              Top 10 or bust!

      2. I’m not sure how your re-integration experience was, but it can be much more difficult to re-integrate than it is to leave initially. We were expats for elementary school, but when my daughter came back to the US for middle school, she definitely had a hard time re-integrating. I think she would have done better to stay international, although it was not possible for us at the time.

  56. Options 1 2 or 3 are all great!

    Great statement about love and harmony if more people travel.

    Last winter we went to Istanbul Turkey, Indonesia and Malaysia – we met so many wonderful people.

    .I think the more I travel the more I realize that people are much more the same than different every where in the world.

  57. To me your decision dilemma would depend on how important it is for your son to be close to his grandparents in Honolulu. Or vice versa, how important it is for your parents to have more access to your son as he’s growing up. That would be kind of a big deal, considering in some families the grandparent relationship is just as important as that of the parents. Also consider that geographically Honolulu gives you good access to Asia etc for shorter excursions, although it tends to make European travel more expensive.

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