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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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