Parenting whilst nomads

#1

My wife and I are both nomadic performers traveling the world full time for the last 10 years, we tend to stay in a place for around 3 months then move on. We are about to have our first kid, our main concern is how our kid is going to make friends and build relationships being nomadic, How do you deal with this and help your kids with this aspect of our lifestyle.

#2

Wow, nomadic for 10 years sounds great, I am jealous. We were on/off nomads for a number of years, even having our son while travelling to Brazil, but have been full time nomadic since last December. We have 3 kids, but they are older [13, 13, 8] and school remotely already. As for socializing, they make friends everywhere we go, playgrounds, pools, out and about, but I can understand it’s not a traditional friendship like I had while growing up in one location. Unfortunately I think the kids grow up quicker while travelling as they have less of the care free childhood that they’d have at home, stationary, and in their own comfort zone of a friendship group or clique. But that may just be my own perception of the differences. We still socialize them, sometimes too much as they are so comfortable around adults, they want to always be included in outings above their age group. We also still make them do things they don’t want to always do, like go outside to play when it’s hot out. Ha! I tell them that I used to be outside all summer long, and they can’t imagine it. Just a different time, different world then. As for having your first kid soon, congratulations, you’ll have plenty of time to figure all that out once they become more independent. You might not need to change much for the near term. You maybe have another 2 years before then. :wink: With all your travel experiences, I am sure you know the best places to visit for the social interactions and possibly slowing down a bit to give them the relationship building experiences, if not stopping to setup some roots.

#3

Thank you, and thanks for responding, I think our main concern is raising the nomadic equivalent of an army kid, always on the move and not being able to build those important friendships, my wife was quite distraught when reading about an army kid who, now in their 50’s, had kept a party favor from a birthday party they went to when they were 8 because it was the only thing they had to show they had a friend as a child. A heart-breaking story and 1 we would never want for our kid. how do you encourage your kids to maintain the friendships they make? do you try and help by creating play dates or trying to socialise with the other kids parents?

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#4

That is a sad story. :frowning:
We encourage the kids to keep in touch, but they don’t need much help from us. They have pen pals from all over, since they always exchange email addresses first thing it seems. They do video calls, hangouts, texts and such all the time with friends from all over the place. It’s amazing the bonds they make quickly and easily. We facilitate all play dates and outings. :slight_smile: Their happiness makes it easier for us to live in happiness too. :wink:

#5

We have kids but moved back home when the eldest was 4 but we’d been stationary but living abroad prior to that.

I couldn’t imagine how unoptimal (for want of a better word) it would be for a kid to grow up without the friendships that develop overtime, from being in one place.

I think it’s too much to sacrifice in exchange for your ‘freedom’ of being nomadic.

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#6

We are traveling with our 2-year-old daughter. We have talked to a lot of traveling families, done a fair amount of research and have had long discussions with several child psychologists (and psychoanalysts/psychotherapists etc) on this exact topic. I’m not a writer, otherwise, I could have written a book on this subject :wink:

There isn’t a silver bullet or a ‘right’ answer to your question.
It’s up to you and your family to discover that works for you guys.

Maintaining a meaningful and long-term friendship while traveling is just as challenging for kids as it is for their adults. For some it comes easy, for others, it remains a challenge.
It takes two to tango, so if both parties are willing to invest in maintaining the relationship the distance doesn’t matter, it does help to meet face-to-face every once in a while.

Question: After 10 years of traveling, how do you maintain long-term friendships yourself?

Kids have this magical ability to create friends instantly. They are also good in breaking up, and then 30 min later being best friends again. Depending on their (and your) character a Nomadic lifestyle might fit excellent, or you might need to consider a more permanent home base.

It’s excellent that you are already staying longer periods (3 months+) in one place, we personally prefer slow traveling with our family (as do most families).

There are a lot of different ways to travel, there are families that travel in groups (for example with a group of sailing boats). I read in your profile that you were circus performers, which sometimes also travel longer periods with the same group of people. This sure makes it easier to keep the same friends. Also returning to the same place several times helps in maintaining friendships. There are a lot of children of expats that struggle with their identity and calling a place ‘home’.

Question: What is home for you, and more importantly, what do you want ‘home’ to be for your children?

Another thing you might want to consider is stability. How do you provide a stable environment? For us having standard rituals, like a bedtime ritual helps a lot. The house, room, and bed might be different, but reading a bedtime story every night from the same books always comes after we brushed our teeth. Children need be loved and protected while having room to fail and explore. They also need to have structure and clarity to feel safe and secure.

Traveling and raising a family isn’t always easy. It can be quite demanding for everybody, not only for the parents.

That being said, we really love traveling with our family and have learned things we otherwise would have never learned. Not only about the world, other cultures and people, but also about ourselves. We are really grateful for al the wonderful people we met so far and hope we can continue our Nomadic lifestyle for a very long time.

I’d be more than happy to answer any other related questions you might have.

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#7

wow that was an awesome response thank you so much, i think right now all we needed was reassurance that we weren’t breaking our kid before we started, we are going into this with our eyes wide open and know that it’s going to be hard, but it’s going to be hard no matter what so why not have an adventure into the bargain. as it is settling down isn’t an option for us as money needs to be earned, we are lucky that our life and our work are both things that we love we just want to make sure our kid has the best possible childhood they can.

#8

Parenting in itself isn’t for everyone. As for every parent, learning to listen and communicate with your child is a whole journey in itself. Kids tend to protect their parents at their cost, sometimes hiding their true feelings. Learning to detect those signals won’t be easy. Since traveling can be stressful you might want to give extra attention to that.

When two become three, you need to consider what is best for all of you, including your child. Figuring out ‘what is best’ is a difficult challenge. Like beauty, it is in the eye of the beholder.

Our kids can only succeed if we allow ourselves to fail, that’s how they learn. Kids that grow up in a perfect protected world will need a lot of help standing on their on feet in their adult life. Same the other way around, too much exposure to trauma will do them more harm than good. As parents, it is up to us to provide that balance between protection and exposure.

Please keep in mind that if settling down isn’t an option right now, you might want to consider becoming agile enough so that, if it is really necessary, you ‘could’ settle down in the future.

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#9

Hey guys! It’s always exciting to hear of nomads continuing their journey when they decide to have kids. My wife and I have been expats since 2011 and in 2013 we decided to have our first child. This was in Luxembourg, but since then we’ve lived in South Africa, Thailand, Hungary, Croatia, and Mexico and have traveled to 9 other countries with him. We wouldn’t choose any other lifestyle.

The nomad family network is strong. We have facebook groups, world schooling events, and even our own platform is budding thanks to Gawin (nomadfamily.io). I would suggest picking up a copy of “Third Culture Kids” which covers some of the challenges that kids have to overcome being raised in a culture other than their own. I identify as a TCK and the benefits far outweigh the challenges. Building relationships is important, but there are ways to overcome this. In every location, our son attends a local preschool and plays with expat kids. We try to maintain these ties and have even met up with the same families in multiple locations. Families with older children tend to maintain relationships digitally as needed, whether that’s via Skype calls or video games. Granted, this isn’t as good as the real thing but these children are also experiencing the world in a way that few will in their lifetime.

3 Months in each location is my preference and our son seems to be fine with the pace. My wife was raised in a small town for most of her life and prefers staying in a place for 6mo-1yr. Last year we did nine countries, but stayed in four for 2-3 months each. This was a bit much to be honest. You may find that when the little one comes along, you’ll want to slow your roll a bit. One thing that really helps us is having a “landing list” - a checklist of things you need to settle in and revert to your work routine after each move. We have a blog post about this here: http://theluxpats.com/2016/08/nomad-landing-plan/

Hope this is helpful. If you have any other questions feel free to reach out to us. Happy to jump on a call or message privately with further details.

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#10

I love hearing the details of this, thank you for sharing.

figoshow, as long as you’re not staying exclusively in a culture-free xenophobe zone like the US, you should be fine. Especially during the first few years. The first few years (up to, I’d say, around 6 or 7) is a TREMENDOUS time to take a child across the world! Their brains soak up everything. Its a wondrous time.

But keep close observation of their development as a human being. If they are noticeably thriving out there in the world, then keep doing what you’re doing.

Evaluate your lifestyle once they reach the age where they start “remembering people”. You may need to stop traveling. Or travel with a group they can grow with. Have a peer group of some kind, with regular check-ins and outings, so there is some sense of continuity and camaraderie over time.

Our 12 year old has experienced profound regrets and sadness over the loss of kinship. He’s spend most of his life traveling. He displays many symptoms of severe depression over growing up isolated. Now he’s at the end of his childhood. He doesn’t have anything but a scattered handful of memories with children he played with once or twice, who have their own established local friends and probably don’t remember him. There are a few other homeschool/worldschool/traveling families we keep in touch with, but its occasional, its contrived, its bullshit, really. For a child, my observation is that the “internet experience” of a friend is a vapid hologram lacking multidimensional human expression compared to a real life friendship. Many of who he calls “friends” are shitheads on Playstation Network. I think he really would have benefitted from a slower pace.

I would have rather had him in a boarding school while mum & dad & fam were without address traveling for medical care etc. Its crushing to think about. But it is what it is. These are the hard decisions of parenting, and don’t trod into them lightly. Watch your kid. If they are thriving, if they are cradled in a cocoon of loving, healthy humans of all generations who know them, love them, and will treat them as their own, then that is a GOOD thing. But don’t bullshit yourself. Do what’s right for the kid.

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#12

I take base my four kids somewhere in the world for 2 years. Then return to the home town for years. Then go away again for two years. All the time I try to take one child every 4 to 6 months on a short busines journey so it is just them and I.

#13

thanks for sharing, that’s a terrific answer. I thought we would have to slow down once we hit the school age

#14

Thanks for all of this advice and for the links - We just had our first Son and want to also continue our Digital Nomad styles and take advantage of the unique state of the world right now where you really can live anywhere and still be productive as long as you have an internet connection. We are also planning on moving slow country to country - we have a lot to research still but we are ready to challenge the deeply held belief most have that kids = the end of your travelling. Our little guy is the most important thing though so we will monitor his development and adjust accordingly - that is the true benefit of having the ability to work anywhere - we can decide what is best for our family instead of a random employer. This is my first day on this site and I have already gotten a ton from just this message thread - good luck to all of you traveling parents out there!

#15

Well said. Kids need attachment, and deep friendships and consistency. I think having a base for 6 months a year at least and then taking cultural immersions is a healthy balance.