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25 reasons why everyone should travel more or live abroad at least once in their lives

25 Reasons You Should Live Abroad At Least Once In Your Life (Or Travel More)

25 Excellent reasons why everyone should live abroad atleast once in their lives

If you want to travel more, live abroad or do a gap year overseas but you’re not sure  it’s the right move for you, here are 25 fabulous reasons why you should just do it.

25 ways which travelling and living abroad will affect you

I think everyone should try to live abroad at least once in their lives. If living abroad is not in the cards for you than travelling for an extended period of time beyond the two-week vacation is a really close second. Heard of slow travelling?

Our lives are defined by experiences. The greater the number of experiences, the better our lives become. Travel is one of many ways you can get the most variety in your life experiences and suck the marrow out of life.

I was fortunate enough to have been born into a multicultural family who also did a lot of travelling. I also left home at 18 to live in Japan for over 3 years where I taught English and did various jobs including modeling and hostesssing. Now as a wife and mother of 3, I’m living in France with my family.

Needless to say, I love travelling and recommend it for what ails you. I could probably think of hundreds of reasons why everyone should make travel a priority and try to live abroad at least once in their lives. But let’s first start with these 25 reasons which I think might resonate with you the most.

1- Slow travel and living abroad is less stressful than a vacation

Slow travel and living abroad is less stressful than a vacationI used to get so stressed out during our families 2 week annual vacation because it felt like a race to jam everything there was to do into those 2 weeks no matter what the cost. The kids were cranky, I was cranky and we fed on each others crankiness.

Living abroad or slow travelling can remove or reduce that stressful element of travel by allowing you take your time- if you have children than this will reduce a considerable amount of stress.

2-Living abroad is not as expensive as you think

Living abroad is not as expensive as you thinkLiving abroad is cheaper than you think and costs a whole hell of a lot less than your average annual vacation. When you travel for extended periods of time or live abroad, you get to rent a house ( cheaper than a hotel room), cook at home because you have a kitchen, do things during off-peak travel and do the lesser known non touristy things that are way cooler in my book and cost less.

See also: How much does it cost to live in France for one year

3-Travelling and living abroad encourages you to live your life to the fullest

Travelling and living abroad encourages you to live your life to the fullestYou know how you go on vacation and try to cram in as much as you can because you only have 7 days to do it all and you don’t know if you’ll ever be back? Living abroad is kind of like that but less manic and rushed.

Suddenly, because of time restraints and the newness of the place you are in, your eyes are open to all that life has to offer. You’re more inclined to take advantage of it all. Too bad most of us don’t feel so inclined when we return home.

Living abroad also means you can’t live on autopilot anymore simply because everything is so different, foreign and new. As a result, you need to make more conscious and deliberate choices about your life and your daily routine. It can be a bit stressfull to step out of your routine and comfort zone but shaking things up has it’s rewards. It gives you new experiences and can help you grow as a person. You might even learn something about yourself.

4- You’ll get to view your culture from another countries perspective

traveling has taught me that McDonalds is ruining the world and the American image

Living abroad gives you another cultures perspective about your home country. For instance, if you’re American, you may be surprised to learn that many people in France would love to live in America. You may also be surprised to learn how your home country is negatively viewed abroad. Did you know that most of the world thinks all Americans love McDonald’s and are obese?

See also: Do the French eat McDonalds: Fastfood in France.

5- You’ll get a different, broader view of the world

When you live abroad You'll get a different, broader view of the world

You already knew that other countries have different cultures but until you actually experience that other culture first hand, you will never truly understand what that means. Once you do, you may see the world in a whole new light.

6- Travelling is not the cure to your life’s problems. You can’t escape them

Travelling is not the cure to your life's problems. You can't escape them

If you want to move abroad or travel just to escape your problems, you’ll be extremely disappointed because unless you get to the root of your problems and try to solve them, they will follow you to the ends of the earth or be waiting for you once you return home.

7-Travelling makes you appreciate home

traveling makes you appreciate the comforts of home

It’s natural to take things for granted. When we’re at home, we dream of escaping off to some adventure however we often forget to notice the comforts and beauties of home all around us. It’s often not until we are actually away, seeing home from the other side that we begin to appreciate it. Travel can give you that distance you need. You may even begin to appreciate the routine of your life that you thought you wanted to get away from.

8-You may realise you don’t need as much crap as you think you need to be happy

traveling has taught me that You Don’t Need As Much As You Think You Need To Be Happy

Travel inherently opposes materialism and consumerism. Afterall, you can only put so much in your luggage or backpacks.  It can be hard at first to be away from all the stuff you bought and own and you’ll definitely miss certain things from home but after a while you’ll get used to living with less until finally you realize, you don’t need as much crap as you thought you did to be happy. It is actually quite liberating.

9-You learn what is truly important in life and what really makes you happy

You learn what is truly important in life and what really makes you happyJust as living without things makes you realize you don’t need the things you thought you once needed, being away from your life can help you discover what is truly important to you. Maybe climbing that corporate career ladder is not what you wanted after all. Maybe being away from your friends and family makes you realize how important they are to you. Or maybe the time you spend abroad makes you learn something new about yourself that surprises you.

10- You learn to make do with what you have

Traveling and Living Abroad as a a family has taught me: to make Do With What I Have.

You can only pack so much and buy so much when you travel. Same is true if you spend a year abroad someplace.  Who wants to lug around extra stuff or pay expensive fees for shipping things back home. You end up learning to make do with what you have and buying only what your really, truly need.

11)- You’re kids will get to go to school in another country

You're kids will get to go to school in another countryMain streaming your kids in school while living in another country is probably one of the fastest ways for them to adjust to local life. It’s also a wonderful experience for them not to mention a great way for them to make new international friends.

See Also: Preschool in France- what’s it like?

12-You have the chance to learn a language really well or become bilingual

If you live abroad You have the chance to learn a language really well or become bilingual

See also: Will I be bilingual if I live abroad?

13- Travelling as a couple can make or break you- It can test you too

Travelling as a couple can make or break youTravelling long-term as a couple means spending almost everyday all day together.  You need to align your goals, your focus and connect on a daily basis with the other person. All this constant togetherness can lead to some head butting.  You want to see all the museums and the other person wants to lay at the beach all day. You may want to get up early to see the sights while the other person wants to party all night. You want to live abroad while the other person just wants to go back to their small hometown.

14- You’ll learn that you can accomplish more than you think

Living abroad will help you discover that you can accomplish more than you think

 Bodies in motion stay in motion. It’s just the nature of travel-to do and try new things you wouldn’t normally do at home. You might try escargo, train for a marathon or go spelunking in a cave for the first time. All these new experiences stretch and test your limits pushing you further beyond what you thought you could ever accomplish. It’s a snowball effect and you’ll never want to stop because it’s so satisfying.

See also: Spotted Dick: 10 traditional british foods you will either love or hate

15- Getting lost can get you places you didn’t think you would find

You'll get lost when you travel and land in the most wonderful placesWhen you’re in a new place and new surroundings, it’s only natural that you might get lost once in a while. Getting lost is not necessarily a bad thing. Sometimes it can land you somewhere unexpected and wonderful. Just make sure you have GPS to get back **wink wink**

16- Travel or living abroad can recharge your batteries and give you a new lease on life

Travel or living abroad can recharge your batteries and give you a new lease on life

Between your busy work schedule and hectic life, your daily routine can become all-consuming and automatic-a series of unconscious acts that just happen without even thinking. Each new day begins to look like the previous day. That’s a rut isn’t it? A year abroad can give you perspective. It can give you the time you need to recharge your batteries.

17- You learn to appreciate your family more (hopefully)

travelling has taught me more about my family
Two things can happen when you travel with your family. You’ll either learn to appreciate them or they’ll start to annoy you. One of the things I have noticed about living abroad is we tend to spend more time together which is great in many respects but at the same time, spending too much time together can be stressfull too. The important thing is to seek balance between together time and alone time.

18- You may learn it’s ok to question the culture you were brought up in

travelling teaches you that it's ok to question the culture you were brought up in

19- What you thought was an authentic recipe is not really authentic

What you thought was an authentic recipe is not really authenticThat local Chinese joint is probably not serving you up authentic Chinese food. That expensive French restaurant you like to eat at is not really how French people eat in France. Guess what, you’re getting localized versions of food from around the world which is fine. But if you want to try authentic anything, you almost need to go to that country or know someone from that country who can cook it for you.

20- Time is precious: Make the most of your time

Don't wast time. use every moment to do something funWhen travelling or living abroad, every minute counts. You have a sense that your time is limited so naturally you try to make the most of it. Even when you are at a bus stop waiting for the next bus, you can do something together. Break out that hacky sack.

21- Travel can help you be more present and conscious of life as it happens: If you let it

 Travel can help you be more present and conscious of life as it happens: If you let itFor many of us, our routine and our habit is to be off in our heads somewhere- anywhere but where you actually are now. Seldom are we fully here, living in the moment. We’re struggling with something that happened in the past or fearful and anxious about the future. Travelling can inherently help you be more present, in the moment and enjoy life as it is happening if you let it but you still need to take conscious steps to truly enjoy life as it is happening. Learn to live with less, smile more and forgive past hurts,

See also: 10 steps to living in the moment

22- Sometimes you need to see it rather than read or hear about it

A Day at the Berlin Wall near Warschauer Strasse Station: Travel can be educational for you and your kids

(photo source: Catherine on Blake’s shoulders writing on the Berlin Wall :very concerned about the survivors of the Holocaust.)

Some things are worth experiencing first hand, rather than through photos or books. When we stayed in Berlin Germany, the kids saw the remnants of the Berlin wall, contemplated what it was like to live through the holocaust and stood on the same soil where people were shot.  They showed no previous interest in these things prior but being there touchd them in a way and expanded their minds in a way they could not comprehend.

23- You might adopt new customs that you didn’t know you would love

You might adopt new customs that you didn't know you would loveLiving abroad can introduce new ways of doing things which you might not have otherwise tried.  Some of the customs we as a family have adopted while living in France are: eating more like the French in terms of quantity and time schedule. Going more often to the market to get fresh produce because our refrigerator is smaller than the massive American one we had back home. Your experiences will be different of course depending on where you are, how  long you stay and who you travel with.

See also: Why travel with kids

24- You will love living like a local and not a tourist

You will love living like a local and not a tourist

Travelling as a tourist is great but living somewhere like a local is sooooooo sooo sooo much more satisfying. The longer you stay, the more friends you make. The more culturally authentic things you will try to experience beyond what tourists do. You’ll get a sense of the daily rhythms and more.

25- For the stories and the hell of it

travel so you can tell stories and for the hell of it

There are literally thousands of people out there (right now) who are backpacking around the world, living nomadic-ally, taking a family sabbatical abroad or zig zaging the continent in an RV: with and without kids.

They are ordinary people like you who decided to live a little unconventionally. To make it happen, some have saved for years. Others sold their house and their possessions while still others work while on the road or some other combination. You can read about some of them here.

Here are other lessons learned by the following travellers

Ramble Crunch-  15 lessons I’ve learned traveling the world.

Four Jandles  50 lessons learned from travelling the world.

Raising Miro 12 simple principles for a happy life on (or off) the road

Bohemian Travelers:  Travel Lessons: Can You Embrace the Unknown

Edventure Project – American Thanksgiving: 22 things we are thankful for

The Nomadic Family: I Know Nothing (and 99 Other Things The Road Has Taught Me)

Peace On Earth: 5 Life Lessons Learned from Traveling

Travel with Bender: So it’s been 6 Months – You won’t believe what we have learned!

Life Changing Year: Life Lessons From The Road – A Little Bit Of Planning Goes A Loooong Way!

Living Outside of the Box: 6 Life Lessons From the Road (why 6? I have no idea!)

A King’s Life: Two things I know for sure

Flashpacker Family: Lessons From the Road of Life

Family on Bikes: Complaining won’t change a gosh-darn thing

Family Travel Bucket List: 3 Things We’ve Learned While Living Outside of the USA

Grow in Grace Life: By Any Road..Lessons from the Journey

Our Travel Lifestyle: Travel: Teaching us about ourselves

Getting permission from your ex to travel and live abroad

How To Travel or Live Abroad With Kids When Your Ex Says NO!

Getting Permission to travel or live abroad long term with kids: Me with my three kids at some random airport waiting for our next flight (2012).

So you want to travel or live abroad with your kids and expose them to other cultures but your ex is saying “NO WAY”.  What do you do? Here is my personal story of how I was able to get permission to travel and then to live abroad with my kids despite my ex-husband (the father of my 2 sons) FIGHTING ME TOOTH AND NAIL. It wasn’t easy but it can be done.

“Yes Officer, I DO have permission to travel with my children”.

Travelling When One Parent Is Not Present

If you have kids and want to travel internationally without the other parent, you are supposed to have written permission from the other parent.  Without written permission, you run the risk of getting denied entry into that other country.

But what happens when the other parent refuses to write you a letter giving you permission? Even between the US and Canada.

Our Routine Flight To Montreal

In 2010, I flew into Montreal like I’ve done so many times before with two minor differences.

I only had 2 of my 3 children with me and my husband Blake was not with me. Blake and my eldest son were driving a moving truck across the country towards some tiny storage unit in Massachusetts.

I exited the plane with my son and daughter and promptly walked to the immigration and customs area to wait in line to get our passports stamped.  When it was our turn, I handed the customs agent our passports.

He immediately took them and furrowed his eyebrows as if he were straining to read our names.

He looked up at us, then back at our passports and back at us and did this a few more times

No Big deal, I expected this scrutiny since I was ONE ADULT flying with kids and no father in sight.

Travelling is more complicated for us

To make matters worse, in addition to me flying alone with my children, it’s not immediately apparent that I am the children’s mother because we have three different last names.  If you haven’t guessed yet, I have a blended family and we have 3 different last names.

FIRST NAME: My name is Annie Andre. Andre is my maiden name that I’ve kept on all my documents.

SECOND NAME: I’ve remarried and my daughter and my husband have the same last name.

THIRD NAME: My two sons are from a previous marriage over a decade ago and they have my ex-husbands last name. It doesn’t help that one of my son’s first name is my last name or that my other son has my last name as his middle name. ( “ANDRE”). I digress!

 Papers Please!

I’m used to carrying documents showing that I have permission to travel with my sons.

95% of the time, I am never asked for proof that I have permission to take my boys out of the country but today was one of those rare occasions. However the passport agent only asked  me to show my “permission slip” to travel with my daughter and NOT my son.  Okaaaaay?

I smiled and pulled out my proof:

  1. Handwritten note from my husband Blake which gave me permission to travel with Catherine. (It’s recommended you get this notarized but mine is not)
  2. My daughters birth certificate which showed Blake and I were her parents.
  3. A photocopy of Blake’s Passport for good measure. 

Hypothetically speaking, had the passport agent asked me for proof that I had permission to travel with my son,  I would have handed him a COURT ORDER  which allows me to travel freely with my two boys.

You’ll notice, I did not have a written letter of consent from my ex husband.  I had a court order. I’ll explain why and how I got this court order in a moment.

“Welcome Back to Canada” said the smiling customs agent.

Then the border police stamped our passport and off we went to my family’s house in Montreal.

How I Got Permission To Travel Abroad: Travel NOT LIVE

A few years ago, Blake and I decided to elope to Europe and take our daughter and my two sons with. It was just a month-long trip.

I really thought my EX would agree to let me to take the boys with us to Europe. After all, it was only a month and it was for my wedding.  I really wanted it to be a family thing with us and the kids.

No amount of pleading, begging or bribing could persuade my ex into writing a letter to give me permission to travel with the boys.

I really wanted the boys to be part of the ceremony, so rather than just rolling over and leaving the boys behind, I took my ex to court and big surprise “I won”.

It was rather silly.I suppose the judge could see that my ex was trying to be difficult because he ordered him to sign all the documents so that I could apply for passports to travel abroad with the kids until the boys turned 18.

The judge also gave me permission to travel anywhere in the US and Canada and internationally without written permission from my ex  as long as I tell him our itinerary.

It was this COURT ORDER I used on the day I went to Montreal with my kids and it’s what I carry with me when I travel anywhere for short visits like vacations.

But what if I want to spend more time abroad? What if I want to live abroad or spend up to a year abroad travelling with my kids? 

Eloped: Intermission

In case you were wondering, we spent 3 1/2 weeks in Paris and then flew to Edinburgh Scotland to have a small civil ceremony on July 14th which happens to be Bastille day (French independence day).

You can read about why we decided to elope to to Scotland as a family rather than get married locally.

You can also get the inside scoop on we to  we eloped to Scotland too. 

CHEEEEEEEEEEEZE. I’m so glad we took the boys with us. It just would not have been the same without them.

2008_07_15-190

This is us moments before the deed is done

Blake and I minutes after we were married in Scotland
Blake and I after the civil ceremony in Edinburgh. One of my sons is the photographer.

The kids hanging out at the Edinburgh castle after Blake and I got married

The kids hanging out at Edinburgh Castle.

The boys horsing around in Scotland
The boys re-enacting the battle of Langside where Mary Queen of Scotts was defeated.

Permission to TRAVEL LONG TERM and LIVE ABROAD

I had permission to travel and visit other countries with the boys but not permission to LIVE abroad.  

Right now, as I write these words, I am living in France with my husband Blake and 3 children.

The COURT ORDER that I obtained for travelling with my boys ( which I mentioned above) was not valid for “LIVING” in another country.  I could stay in Europe as a tourist with my family for 90 days but I wanted to live there for a year legally and immerse the kids in French culture which meant sending them to School.

For that I needed a special visa called the “LONG STAY VISA” which gave us the right to send our kids to school and stay legally in the country for one year not 90 days. 

Travel and Live are two different concepts and the French Embassy required that I either get written permission from my ex that clearly stated I could “LIVE” in France with my two sons or a court order showing that I can “LIVE” in France.

I called up my ex and explained to him what I wanted to do.

Parents send their kids abroad for a year of study all the time. I wanted my children to experience a year abroad but I wanted to be there with them. I hoped that my ex would be okay with the kids spending a year abroad. He was but not with the idea of me being there with them.

Okaaaay!

Again, no amount of pleading, begging, no agreement I came up with was good enough for him and he would not write me a letter giving me and the boys permission to live abroad.

So again I petitioned the court to intervene and decide.

SIDEBARNow before you jump on my back about taking the boys away from their birth father let me first say that  my situation may be very different from yours.

Obviously since I am writing this while living in France, the judge granted me permission to LIVE in France with my boys.

You Are Not Guaranteed Court Approval

Just because you take your ex to court does not guarantee you will win. In my case my ex did not have a very good track record as a parent.

There were a lot of variables that worked in our favour. The bad economy and the fact that my husband and I could not find jobs in our field. The educational opportunity for the boys and the fact that we would and could be home for the kids after school.

But there was one big variable which may shock many of my friends who knew me and my ex because I have not told anyone but family and close friends about because of fear of retaliation from my EX.

In my opinion, my ex’s LACK of involvement and lack of assistance weighed heavily on the judge’s ruling to allow us to travel.

  • Rarely Saw the boys: My ex rarely saw the boys. On two separate occasions I had to pay him and his sister to baby-sit for me. ( I finally found a sitter so I could have a break once a month).
  • Endangerment: On one occasion my ex was supposed to take one of my sons for 30 days in the summer but I was called by his then girlfriend  after 15 days to come and pick my son up because my ex was too drunk to take care of him.
  • Lack of Support:My ex went 8 years without paying me a dime of child support while receiving wages from working under the table before the courts finally took action and required proof that he was looking for a job. A real job. Now his pay-checks are automatically deducted and I get child support but he will be in his sixties before he ever catches up on all of his back child support that is owed to me and the boys. The boys will be close to 30 at that time.

I could go on, but you get the picture right? 

I am sharing all of this with you because I actually don’t think it is always a good idea to move out of the country with your children if the other parent does not want them to. For instance, had my ex been involved in my boys lives then I would not have attempted to take them out of the country. But since he was barely there for them there was really no loss in my eyes. And the judge thought so too.

The Court Process:

I’ll briefly explain the court process that I went through.

At the time, I was living in Montreal and my ex was in California. I called up the lawyer I used before and asked her to file a new petition to allow me to take the kids abroad.

I did not even have to fly to California. I was on the phone for the entire court proceeding. I could hear my ex presenting his case. My lawyer was present in California on my behalf. It lasted 20 minutes at most and then the judge made his ruling and I was allowed to LIVE in France for not one but TWO years with the boys.

So How Do You Get YOUR Court Order?

Before you go and try to get a court order to travel with your kids, I strongly advise you to speak with your ex first and try to draw up an agreement. It’s not only the best way to do it, it will also cost you less money leaving you with more money for your family.

But if your ex does not want to give you permission and you have your heart set on travelling or spending a year abroad like us then you’ll have to go to court.

DO IT YOURSELF OR HIRE A LAWYER?

I hired a family law lawyer. Each time I used my lawyer it cost between 1,500 and 2,000 dollars.

The lawyer I used was in the Santa Clara County of California since that is where I lived with my kids and that is where our custody agreement is. I did nothing else but search on the Internet for a family law lawyer who handled child custody and modification agreements. Then i just called them and found the one I liked. ( I called 3).

You don’t need to hire a lawyer. You could file your own documents:

I talked with several parents who did NOT hire a lawyer. They filled out and filed their own documents and you can do this too.

Go to your local family court-house and ask if they have free legal advice service or people on hand who can help you choose the correct documents and help you fill out the paperwork.

Once your documents are filled out, you file them and wait for your court date. In addition to filing my court docs,  I wrote a very wordy document about why I wanted to take the boys and why it benefited them. I wrote a bit about how much or little my ex was involved in my boy’s life. There is no format for this.  I just winged it and wrote from the heart.

That’s It. 

WHAT DOCUMENTS DO YOU NEED TO TRAVEL OR LIVE ABROAD WITH KIDS?

Just to summarize here are the documents you should travel with.

I spoke with several parents who travel internationally or live abroad with kids (alone). Some people I spoke with don’t even get permission from their ex. They just chance it. Others didn’t even know that they were supposed to have written permission.  So technically you could always chance it and go without written permission.

Personally, I wouldn’t chance it..

You never know when you will be asked to produce documentation. So here is what I recommend you travel with..

  • Always travel with a letter from the other parent. It should give you permission to travel with the kids and it should be dated and signed. Many government sites say that the letter should be notarized but so far I have only used NON notarized documents.
  • I  Also bring a copy of my child’s birth certificate which shows who the parents are. I have a friend (Talon, a single dad )who adopted his son and on the birth certificate it only shows him as the father the mother area is left blank so he doesn’t need to show any other documentation. Although he did say that he travels with the adoption papers just in case but that no one has even asked him to show any proof of the mothers permission.
  • A copy of your spouse or the other parents ID. Preferably a passport if you can manage. I have a copy of my husbands but not my ex.

Here is a link to the Canadian site with a link to a blank letter for you to fill out. Here is the link to the U.S. site stating the requirements.

If you can’t get a letter of approval than you will have to get a court order like i did. Be very careful of the wording you use in the court order.

Will you travel with the kids on vacations? Will you live abroad for a year? What countries? Will you travel nomadically during a period of time? For how long? What about the kids education? Health Insurance? How will they communicate with the other parent while abroad?

These are all things I had to consider and answer and you may need to do the same for your court order.

Reading Books In Berlin: Prenzlauer_Berg

The Kids Do A Lot Of Reading and Learning On The Road

ps: I wanted to add one thing. 

Not many people know this story including my friends. I think a lot of them will be very shocked to find out about this private matter.

I was going to keep it private but I think and I hope in the least that my transparency and my struggles will inspire and empower other single parents and blended families not to fear un-cooperative ex spouses.  I always advocate amicable relationships with ex’s but that’s just not always possible is it? You have to do what is best for the kids and that is what I did.

FINAL THOUGHTS: You Don’t Have To Agree With Me

I realize there may be some of you who disagree with the idea of travelling and living abroad with kids. You are entitled to that opinion.

I lived abroad and travelled a lot as a child and I am so grateful my parents gave me that opportunity. So much so that I want to give my kids the same gift that I received.

My kids are experiencing other cultures and seeing the way other people live first hand not to mention the fact that they are fluent in French now.

These are all things they would normally do and see in a classroom or some textbook but are getting to experience first hand. Plus they are learning to be more  creative which makes for better problem solvers who can adapt better to change in this world.

It took a lot of sacrifice on my part and my husband’s part to take the kids abroad but it’s totally worth it.

I would love to know your thoughts? Leave your comments below.

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