You did what?
I always get a kick out of people’s reaction when they learn we used our savings to move to France with our three children while we were unemployed. “Are you crazy?”, “what about all your stuff and your life here?”, “You’re so lucky I wish I could do that!” or “You’re selfish parents for uprooting your kids and disrupting their routine.” And finally, people wonder if we are rich.
And the list goes on.
Travelling the world or living abroad for a year might seem like something only the rich or frivolous can do but you don’t have to be rich and it’s done more often than you think.
I don’t blame those negative naysayers for thinking what they do about us folks who choose to leave our conventional lives behind to travel and see the world. What else are they supposed to think?
Most of us are raised to believe that we are supposed to live our life a certain way and when we stray from that way of life that we are taking risks or being bad parents or whatever it is that naysayers say about folks like us.
Nowhere in the manual of life does it say take a family gap year to travel or live abroad. It just goes against the social grain. But just because it is not a common occurrence does not mean it’s the wrong thing to do. Great things in this world have happened because someone did something different, extraordinary or outside the bell curve.
But travelling the world for a year or taking a year off from life to live abroad is not really all that unique. Every year, thousands of people do it. I will admit that it is easier to do while you are younger with no attachments, no mortgage and before you get married and have kids.
I did it when I was 18- I lived in Japan and travelled throughout Asia for almost 4 years.
But Families do it too. It’s just harder to do as a family with kids. You have so many more obstacles to overcome. More of a financial burden. More lives to consider. Nevertheless, there are other families out there doing it. Here are a just a few Families who travel long term with their kids in tow. (Long term means that they are travelling the world indefinitely or until it no longer suits them.)
These people aren’t rich. They are people who got creative with how they earn a living so that they could lead a location independent life.
I’ve gotten my fair share of negativity from certain people I know and from complete strangers via email who say moving to France and using our savings to fund it was stupid, irresponsible or bad parenting. I don’t agree with them of course and they are all allowed their opinion.
In fact I agree with them to a certain degree. It is not right for certain people.It’s not right for them so they think it’s not right for me either I suppose. But my life is not their life. What makes them feel safe and happy does not make me feel that way and I want to raise my children differently.
Not everyone I come across are naysayers. Most are actually very positive.
Below are a few snippets from emails I have received from other readers.
- I admire your courage to live life to the fullest with your kids.
- Congratulations on your tenacity to live life unconventionally.
- We would love to do what you and your family are doing but we need a little advice….
We were even featured on the 500th episode of House Hunters international called Dreaming of Marseille.
However for every 100 positive emails, I receive a handful of emails from people who basically think we are either selfish fools or bad parents. Here is an example of one of the nastier ones I received.
“Just saw your house hunter program. I have never seen a more self-absorbed person in my life as you. You have given no consideration to parenting skills.
Two unemployed parents spending their savings on chasing a dream. You have not taken into consideration your children, especially your two eldest whose body language in the program showed two boys withdrawing from reality.
Your idea is something that should be pursued once your 3 responsibilities have been properly met and achieved their 18th birthday(s). In closing, I feel sorry for you, you are a very self-centred person, one who I hope fails at every turn of the screw.
Needless to say, I am not so thrilled to get these and sometimes they even **piss me off. Not because someone dares to have a different opinion than me, but because selfishness was the furthest thing from our minds when we decided to leave our life behind to live in France for a year. But how would they know that. Most of people negativity comes from their very narrow point of view and life. I grew up living in different countries in a multicultural house so to travel and give this experience to my kids is a gift I wanted to pass on to them.
6 responses to negative feedback you may receive if you want to travel or live abroad with your kids for a year or more
Here are some things you may here from family and friends or even be thinking yourself.
1) You are selfish to impose your dream to travel (to live in France) on your children
A handful of emails said that we were selfish to impose our dream to live in France with our children. My response is this. Yes my husband and I love to travel and yes it was OUR dream to live in France, but our decision to actually DO IT was not merely based on a selfish desire but a strong belief that spending a year or more abroad would also BENEFIT our children.
That’s right, WE BELIEVE that our children will benefit from living in another country: exposed to another culture, speaking another language and so much more. We could have sent our elder sons to France on a year abroad program, instead we decided to spend a year abroad TOGETHER AS A FAMILY. You don’t have to agree or want to enrich your children’s lives as we have chosen to do. You just have to respect that we have our beliefs on how best to do it and you have yours.
Besides, we didn’t just wake up one day and say ‘oh let’s move to France’. On no mon ami. We carefully weighed our options, listed out the pros and cons, poured over our finances, conducted countless hours of research and went back and forth on our decision for months until we finally decided to JUST DO IT.
2) You are selfish to use your savings to live abroad when you have children.
We are not buying a Porsche or some other luxury item that we can’t afford. We worked hard for years at the expense of valuable family time and now we are choosing to use some of that money for a couple of years of family bonding; experiences and memories abroad.
FYI: We use a combination rental income, freelance work and savings to pay for our family year abroad.
If we really thought we were putting our future at risk, we would never have taken the leap to live abroad and take a family gap year in France. Only you can decide if it is financially viable for you to spend a year or more abroad with your family.
Not Familiar with our story? Desperate Times Call For Desperate Measures
We lived a pretty conventional middle class family life in the San Francisco bay area right up until the point where we were laid off from our high-tech jobs, the economy took a dive and jobs became scarce. Rather than sit around and wait for the economy to improve, we decided leave the bay area and take the road less travelled. We packed our suitcases, rounded up our three kids, ages 4, 13, 14 at the time of our move and moved to France temporarily (for what was supposed to be one year but has since been extended).
3) You are selfish to move the kids to another country far away from relatives and or friends!
First, this is your life and you have to do what makes you happy and what you think is best for your kids. You are not responsible for anyone else’s happiness.
Second, yes your kids will miss their friends and family but with technology being so readily available, there is no reason why you can’t stay in touch with family and friends back home via video calls like we do. In some ways, we stay more in contact now than we ever did before.
Third, you have to do what is best for your family.
Lastly, It’s only temporary. A year or two abroad is not going to kill anyone. If your move abroad is longer or more permanent, I want you to think about this. The US and Canada are filled with people who left their homeland and their families behind to start a new life they thought would be better so why can’t you?
4) Your kids are too young. They won’t remember or benefit from your time abroad.
I have heard this argument so many times and frankly it’s R-I-D-I-C-U-L-O-U-S.
If we follow the logic that we should not do something with our kids just because they won’t remember then we also shouldn’t read to our babies or hold them or even speak to them simply because they won’t remember. Sounds silly doesn’t it?
Some developmental specialists even believe that much of a person’s brain development happens within the first few years of life. In other words, a child’s experiences during the first few years of their life will become the hardwired connections responsible for better cognitive and emotional functioning, including vision, movements and language.
Want to learn some of the ways my kids have benefited from travelling? Read this article I wrote called 10 Reasons Why You should Travel With Your Kids Even If They Won’t Remember.
5) You should wait until your children are 18 to pursue your family gap year to travel abroad.
Seriously? Our time with our children is very precious and relatively short. Whey wait to experience the trip of a lifetime until after the kids have left the nest? It just does not make sense to me. Yes it’s true there are going to be risks and challenges but I think the pros outweigh the cons by a long shot.
- We get more time with the kids: Our kids get us full-time before and after school where previously they went to school and then straight to daycare because we worked mad crazy hours and commuted almost 2 hours everyday to work.
- We are working on creating a portable income through writing and freelancing. We have chosen to use the time that the kids are in school to work on our freelance careers and some writing projects. Maybe when we return to north America we will have grown our freelance careers to the point where we can make our own hours and continue to be home for the kids.
- The kids have a chance to be bilingual.
- Family bonding time: All this time together exploring another country creates the perfect environment to spend more time together..
6) Your kids look withdrawn: They must Hate Living abroad in France.
In one of the emails I received, someone wrote that the body language of my two teenage boys on the episode of House Hunters showed two boys withdrawing from reality. First of all, I find it strange that someone would draw this conclusion about the state of mind of my children from less than a few minutes of footage.
Second, clearly the person who wrote these words does NOT understand what it’s like to have teenagers. My teenage boys can be moody as hell. Add in the fact that they had the stomach flu on the day we were filming and that they were embarrassed to be filmed in public on the streets of France and voila.
Are my boys always happy in France? No they are not but that is true wherever they are not just because they were living in France.
Will your kids hate living abroad? Maybe, maybe not. It just depends on your kids and the extent they are able to handle change.
As parents, don’t we make a lot of decisions for our kids that benefit them whether they like it or not? If your kids hate eating broccoli, or doing their math homework or practising the piano or some other thing that you MAKE them do for their own benefit would you stop? Probably not.
Conclusion: Don’t let other people’s judgmental attitude, limiting beliefs or fears stop you from doing what you think is best
Some parents move to a better, more expensive area because the schools are better. Others parent keep their kids constantly busy with violin lessons, sport camps or private tutors. Some parents home school.
I grew up experiencing the world and I thank my parents everyday for giving me that gift and now I want to give it to my children. You may not agree with our choices but that’s ok. I get it, travelling and spending a year abroad with your family may not be your cup of tea. Just don’t judge us lesser parents or bad parents just because we believe in providing and enriching our children in a different way than you do.
If you are reading this and still shaking your head that’s OK. Go away and live your life and never come back here again. If you are contemplating spending a year abroad, here are my final thoughts.
It is your life.
You have your own unique set of circumstances and obstacles.
Ultimately only you can decide if a family gap year in France is right for you.
Just promise me you wont let the fear of what others think or social norms stop you from doing it