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Anne & Eric Isom Family of 6 living in Nanjing China

Would You Move To China For Your Children? The Isom Family Did!(Series #9)

Most parents would do almost anything for their children. I know I would.  But to what extent would you go? Anne and Eric Isom, decided they wanted to say goodbye to their American life and move to China for the sake of their children. There’s just one thing. Anne and Eric are not Chinese. Find out why and how they made the move to China a reality.
nanjing china Isom Family

Isoms Lived in Mongolia for 6 months + Now Live in Nanjing China

Isom Family Snap Shot

  • Number Of Kids: 4 beautiful girls (16, 12, 9 and 7)
  • Educating Kids: Homeschool ( +Language Studies)
  • Type Of Travel: Living Abroad, Long Term,  International
  • Length Of Travel: Since 2011, 1 + Years
  • Where Travelled: :—> Mongolia, Nanjing China ( Anne + Eric Both grew up globe trotting)
  • Challenges: Money: unexpected expenses.
  • Finances: Money from selling stuff + House +saving for several years.
  • Budget: $66  day or $12 per person per day or $2,000 / month
  • Where To Find Them Online: Main Website www.islandschoolhouse.com, facebook: www.facebook.com/islandschoolhouseblog, Twitter: @islandschhouse; buy some of Anne’s photos at www.society6.com/IslandSchoolHouse

WHO ARE THEY?

islandschoolhouse.com-Isom2

Eric and Anne Isom have 4 beautiful girls who range in age from 7 to 16 ( as of 2012).

Eric (dad) has short blond hair and looks like the kind of dad you see on T.V.  Anne (mom) has dirty blond hair, fair skin and the most trusting smile I have ever seen. Their eldest daughter is 16 and is the perfect blend of mom and dad.

Then there are the three younger girls who have their moms contagious smile but share no other physical traits of their parents. Unlike their older sister, all three younger girls have straight jet black hair, olive skin and dark eyes.

If you haven’t guessed yet, Eric and Anne’s 3 younger daughters are adopted and were all born in China.

WHY DID THEY MOVE TO CHINA FOR THEIR CHILDREN?

islandschoolhouse.com-IsomGirls

The main reason Eric and Anne went to China is because they believe it is important to teach their adopted girls about their Chinese heritage.  They also believe it’s important that all members of their family learn about China and the Chinese culture.

But how does one go about teaching your adopted children from China about their Chinese culture when you have little to no first hand experience in that culture?

METHODS: How To Teach Kids About Their Chinese Heritage

Conventional Method

Eric and Anne could have joined one of the many organized subcultures that have developed around the growing number of Chinese children adopted by American families since 1991.

Do a quick internet search and you’ll find play groups, Chinese dance lessons, private Chinese lessons, tours of China and online support groups dedicated to supporting Chinese children adopted by American families.

Anne and Erics Method

But Eric and Anne didn’t just want their girls to learn about China through pictures , text books, Chinese dance classes and their limited knowledge of China. They wanted their girls to feel at home in their birth country.  They wanted all their girls, even their biological daughter to live and breath Chinese culture and they wanted to do it together as a family.

[alert style=”1″]According to the NYtimes, there are over 55,000 Chinese children ( mostly girls) who have been adopted by American families since 1991. (That’s when China loosened its adoption laws to address the growing number of children abandoned because of the one-child policy.) Most of the children are younger than 10.[/alert]

How Their Adventure Began..

For years Eric and Anne hoped Eric could get a job in China.  Unfortunately, even though Eric was highly skilled in his field and a manager at a global 500 company, he was never able to find a job in China due to his inability to speak Chinese.

THE MONGOLIAN JOB: Not What They Expected

Then in 2011, Eric’s company sent him and his family to Mongolia for a six month contract.  It wasn’t China but it was something.

After a few months, it became apparent that Mongolia was not what they wanted. Although living in Mongolia gave the Isom’s the international experience they were looking for, it wasn’t fulfilling their main goal which was to live and breath Chinese culture and to connect their adopted daughters to their Chinese heritage.

China Or Bust

At the end of Erics six month contract, the Isom family decided that in order to make their dream of living in China a reality, they needed to move to China NOW, on their own without corporate sponsorship.

Another driving force to move to China sooner rather than later was the fact that their eldest daughter was already 15. Soon she would be out in the world on her own and the Isoms wanted to make sure she didn’t miss this fantastic opportunity to learn about Chinese culture.

Logistically it made sense too. They had no mortgage, everything they owned was in their suitcases and China was the next country over. So Why not move? 

Their Apartment In Nanjing China

Anne Isom Family Flat in Nainjing China

The Isoms Sparsely furnished Flat before a few trips to Ikea

On the 5th of January, 2012, after some preparation, visa research and house hunting, they moved to Nanjing China where they now live in a 3 bedroom flat on the 17th floor of a high rise. The high rise is on a quiet street, where the kids can ride bikes, visit parks and even roller skate.

Language and Educational Goals

Eric is attending a 2 year intensive Chinese language program at Nanjing University so he can break the language barrier, become fluent in Chinese and find similar work to what he did before. (i.e. Consulting, Project Management, etc.)

Nanjing University Campus China

Nanjing University Campus in China

What’s really great is that the Isoms eldest and biological daughter is also attending the same intensive language program as her father and apparently is quite the linguist. She started attending when she was just 15 years old.

The Isom’s three adopted girls have a private Chinese tutor who comes to their home 4 days a week for three whole hours each day.

THE GIRLS EDUCATION: 

In addition to their language courses, Anne is homeschooling all the girls.  Anne used to home-school back in the US so it was a no brainer to continue homeschooling them while in China.

How Do They Pay For It All?

With the exception of some books and art pieces which are in a storage unit back in the US, the Isom’s sold everything they own including their home to fund their two year trip to China.  They also saved like crazy several years in advance.

Plus, it costs much less to live in China especially since they don’t have a mortgage, car payments and all the trappings of their old life.

Money Money Money

So how much does it actually cost for a family of 6 to live in China. 

The Isom’s spend less than 24K a year for everything including the university tuition for two people. That means, rent, utilities, transportation, travel insurance, visas, food, clothing, tutors, entertainment…. Everything.

That breaks down to  $66 per day or $13 bucks per person.

[alert style=”3″]For anyone planning a long term travel agenda, Anne suggests making a well planned budget and then add 20%. There are always unexpected expenses that you just can’t plan for.[/alert]

Camelback back pack ruck sack

LUGGAGE

Luggage wise, the Isoms brought two 50 lbs. suitcases each plus they each have a carry on bag and a camelback backpack each( the one with a water bladder inside of them). This is more than a lot of our other families who have to limit their possessions to a backpack because they are moving more often.

When Will The Isom Family Return To The US?

The Isoms intend to stay in China indefinitely. They are banking on the fact that Eric will be able to land a job once he masters the Chinese language.

Anne is proud of the fact that they are not living in the “expat bubble” as she liked to call it and says for the moment, they are enjoying their life in China but at some point, they plan on returning to their globe trotting ways and introduce their children to other countries and cultures several times a year.

Final Thoughts

The Isom’s story is a good reminder for all you wanderlusts spirits that just because you have children doesn’t mean that you must raise them a certain way.

You have to choose the path that best suits your values and goals.

[alert style=”3″]“We are actively creating our own future, not waiting any longer for employers or “chance” to provide us with the opportunities we desire “                                                              Annie Isom[/alert]

Would You Like To Live Abroad Someplace Like China Too?

If you are or would like to plan your own family adventure abroad, Anne has her top three bits of advice for you.

[alert style=”3″]

Anne and Eric Isom Advice

  1.  Get out of debt. 100% out of debt! You don’t want debt nagging at you in the back of your mind!
  2. If you are going “for the experience,” really experience it. Live, shop, eat, and study where the locals live, eat, shop and study.  Choose places to stay where you are not surrounded by expats and avoid having the “local expats” help you get settled. They will steer you to locations close to them, encourage you to shop at the import stores and will influence you to make choices you otherwise would not.
  3. Start teaching your children now that they must try every food at least once, and set an example for them!
  4. BONUS: Anne says that one of their biggest challenge has been unexpected expenses.  So before you trip, make a detailed budget and add 20% to it.
[/alert]

 So what do you think?

Leave your comments below…


The Isom family are are the 9th family to be featured in an ongoing series showcasing and featuring families and couples who are travelling full time or for extended periods of time.

Some people travel for just a year while others have been travelling for more than 5. These are not lottery winners or rich people. They are just ordinary people like you and me who made travel their goal and decided to work at that goal to make it happen. I hope it inspires you to do the same no matter what your goals are.

Want to get featured on this site like this family? Do you know of someone whom I should feature?  Please fill out this form and I’ll post the story here..

susan-michael whitehead family sabbatical mexico

Want To Live In Mexico? Find Out how An Adventurous Family Of 7 Did It.(Series #7)

Susan and Michael WhiteHead family sabbatical in Mexico

Have you ever dreamed of leaving it all behind to live in Mexico or Costa Rica?  Think you have to be rich or save a bunch of money to support that new life?  Think you need to spend years planning it? Think Again. The WhiteHeads are an ex military family of 7 who decided to take action on their dream of travel. Kids and all. Find out how they did it.

Lured by the warm weather and beautiful beaches, every year thousands of people from around the world travel to Costa Rico and Mexico for a vacation.

Many of those same people dream about what it would be like to trade in their lives for a new life in Mexico.

Very few actually take action because of all those pesky hurdles you have to jump over to make it happen. Things like how would you support yourself? How would you keep up with the kids education? Where would you live? Not to mention the fact that you would have to learn a whole new language (Spanish).m

I found a couple who jumped  over all the hurdles and through a few hoops. And they did it with 5 kids between the ages of 3 and 14.  They aren’t rich. They didn’t sell off a bunch of Google stocks to make it happen and they didn’t plan the move over several years either.  They hustled and were persistent.

Snap Shot

The WhiteHeads of www.familytravelbucketlist.com

  • Number Of Kids: 5 kids  (14, 11, 9, 6, 3)
  • Educating Kids: Homeschool and Spanish language tutor
  • Type Of Travel: Long Term, Slow Travel, International
  • Length Of Travel: Since 2011, 1 Year +
  • Where Travelled: Costa Rica, Mexico:—> Atenas, San Jose,  Chapala, Mexico.
  • Challenges: Initially adjusting  to a new location and learning to cook without all the convenience foods found in the US
  • Finances: internet marketing clients, sale of previous business, digital products, kindle books, new travel magazine, teaching English online.
  • Where To Find Them Online: Facebook: www.facebook.com/familytravelbucketlist, Online Travel Mag: www.realfamilytravel.com

 

FamilyTravel Bucketlist

Since 2011, Susan and Michael Whitehead and their 5 kids have been slow travelling in and around Mexico and Central America. So far they have lived in Costa Rica, Atenas, San Jose and now Chapala, Mexico.  

Their goal is to travel indefinitely and knock as many things off of their family bucket list as possible before the kids leave to conquer the world on their own.

Living in 4 places might seem like a lot in such a short amount of time, ~12 Month Period. But thanks to the U.S. military, the WhiteHeads are no strangers to moving around. This adventurous family of 7 has had the pleasure of living all over the U.S. starting in Wichita Kansas, then to Milton Florida, Arkansas, Texas, Georgia and then back to Texas again.

A Chance To Settle Down

It wasn’t until they broke ties with the military that they decided to plant some roots in one place.

That place was Eastern North Carolina. There they set up their version of “THE DREAM LIFE” which included a 9.56 acre rural farm, chicken coops, plenty of land for the kids to play on, fresh blueberries, apples, pears  and more. You get the picture right? Susan and Michael also home-schooled their kids. Life was pretty good.

You would think that they would welcome the routine and comfort of one permanent place after bouncing around to so many different locations.  So what happened? How did they end up living in Mexico?

The Travel Bug

Wanderlust happened.

It’s true, once the infectious travel bug bites, the uncontrollable urge to see and explore more of the world takes over. No matter how much you try to fight it, no matter how much you try to push it aside, it is always there. If you deny this urge, horrible things can happen like regret and wondering “what if… ”

At least that has been my experience and that is apparently how the Whiteheads feel too because  after 3 years of living their idea rural life, they felt that inevitable pull of their wanderlust spirit too.  They longed for somewhere new to explore AGAIN!

Time To Make A Dream Come True

At the time, the economy and the country seemed to be taking a turn and they no longer viewed the U.S. as the BEST place to raise their children. That is when they started to take action on a new dream which was actually an old dream that they had put off for a long time. Susan and Michael always dreamed of travelling and showing their children the world.

First Steps

So Susan and Michael began to actively take steps to reduce their possessions and the anchoring effect of having a lot of stuff has on a family. 

They also started to grow their online businesses that they hoped would eventually help support their lifestyle and life of travel.

Lightening Their Load

They sold most of their things, gave away the rest and stored some of their keepsake items like photos at Susan’s parents home.

They now own 99% less than what they used to own which makes it easier to travel the world as a family unhindered by “THINGS”.   They each have 1 backpack plus they carry an additional 3 suitcases for other miscellaneous items totaling a whopping 10 bags for 7 people. That’s pretty lean.

What About The Kids?

costa rica with kidsThe kids were already being homeschooled so education was not really an issue. Susan and Michael decided to get the kids a language tutor which has worked out pretty well.

Money Money Money

The biggest surprise Susan revealed to me is that when they embarked on their travels, they didn’t have a ton of savings and have had to really hustle to finance their lives.

Now they have more income streams than ever and plan to add more and more as time goes on which include internet marketing clients, sale of a previous business, digital products, kindle books, Travel Magazine and teaching English online.

The cost of living in Mexico is a lot less then the U.S. and they are able to live quite well for under $2,000 per month. That’s for everything; food, rent, medical, clothes, tutors, sight seeing… EVERYTHING.

Not too bad if you ask me.

Want To Live In Mexico Too?

I asked Susan to give me her top tips to families out there who wanted to travel like they are and here is what she said.

  1. Find some way of making money remotely before you go.
  2. sell your stuff and take a leap without letting dream stealers convince you that it can’t be done

So what do you think about the Whiteheads?  Do you think you could do what they are doing with 7 kids in tow to live in Mexico?  Leave your comments below. Ask Susan and Michael questions by leaving comments below as well.


The Whiteheads are one of many families featured on this site. See also other amazing Families & Couples Who Are Making Their Dream of Long Term Travel A Reality. 

Want to get featured on this site like the WhiteHeads? Do you know of someone whom I should feature?  Please fill out this form and I’ll post the story here..

Could You Slow Travel The World For 8 Years As A single parent? Lainie Can:Interview: (Series #6)

Lainie & Miro slow travel the world
Meet Lainie, a beautiful single mom and her son Miro who set out on a mission to slow travel the world letting inspiration be their compass. They started their travels in 2009 when Miro was just 10 years old and they intend to keep on travelling for a total of 8 years.

Lainie and Miro are my 6th family to be featured in an ongoing series showcasing and featuring families and couples who are travelling full time or for extended periods of time. Lainie, was nice enough to take time away from her busy travel schedule to answer a few probing questions I had for her.

Snap Shot of Lainie and Miro

You can follow along with their travels on their site www.RaisingMiro.com where they share their adventures from the road of life.

  • Number of kids: 1
  • Educating Kids: Un-schooling and world schooling
  • Type of travel: Slow Travel
  • Where: To date; Central and South America with inspiration as their compass.
  • Length of travel: Travelling since 2009 with the goal of travelling for a total of 8 years until Miro (son is 18 ish).
  • Challenges: letting go of the consumerist lifestyle, money.
  • Finances or how they fund their life: Started out with a couple of years of funds from savings and selling their stuff but now rely on donations and advertising from their site. Lainie also founded Project worldschool– a temporary learning community where you can send your teen to gain the benefits of a group educational experience. It mainly attracts un-schoolers and world schoolers but all children are welcome.

raisingMiro.com: slow travel the world

How long have you been travelling?

We have been slow travelling through Central and South America. To date, we have explored all of Central America and have visited Colombia, Ecuador and Peru. Our three year anniversary will be on July 1st, 2012. Want to celebrate with us?

How long do you anticipate travelling for.

Wow, that’s like asking me to plan for the future and that’s something I really don’t like doing. We have said we will travel until Miro turns 18 (and I subsequently will turn 50) but that’s just because the mind wants to have some criteria of gauging things. But in actuality, it’s an open ended trip and we travel as long as we are inspired to do so. Miro may not want to travel with me after 18 or he will and neither of us have no way of predicting the future. But I can say with confidence, this is our lifestyle of choice and it works for us.

How Did Your 8 Year Travel Adventure Begin?

I am a former California business owner who had worked in the advertising, marketing and branding industry for 20 years in total. In 2000, I started my own agency focusing on brand strategy, graphic design and messaging exclusively for green-eco companies, non profits and conscious business.

One of the reasons I started my own agency was to remove myself from the destructive consumerist advertising world and do work for ‘good’.
In 2008, the economy sank in California, so instead of choosing to struggle, I decided to opt for a change for both me and my son. I closed my agency, gave away (or sold in some cases)  all of our possessions and set out to travel the world with my son. That was the opportunity we needed to live the life we were dreaming about, talking about and advocating for others. The real opportunity to make personal change. Today, 3 years in, we continue to choose travelling with no plans, no agenda, and inspiration as our only guide.

Why did you decide to live this way?

We sort of fell into the long term traveller’s lifestyle. Initially, we planned on travelling for one year, but as that year anniversary mark came closer and closer, we both decided to continue our travel lifestyle as long as we were inspired to do so.

Before we set out, our perception of travelling was very different.

Before we set out, we were in a ‘defining’ mind-set and it seemed very important for us to have a plan.

Before we set out, it seemed scary and unknown.

Before we set out we defined our travels ‘doing’, instead of ‘being’.

But being on the road, our perception of life actually shifted and we have learned to live in the moment without the need for plans, that life and traveling were not scary at all, and it was ok to live at a slower pace guided by inspiration and doing the thing that bring us joy.

What were or are your biggest challenges to living the way you do.

I am not sure how to answer this. I suppose the challenges have changed as we’ve changed. In the beginning it was letting go of the consumerist lifestyle we were once accustomed to. We no longer measure our value through what we have, now we are more interested in having experiences together. We are always challenged with money as it relates to freedom, but at the end of the day, we always have enough. Other than that, living a life based on inspiration, no plans, no schedule and no stress does not really allow for many challenges.

How do you deal with your day to day challenges?

As all things, we deal with things as they come. Miro and I have learned to be really open and communicative about our feelings, wants and desires. We are experiencing the world together and we rely on each other. We also make all decisions about what we are doing and where we are going together.

How would you describe the way you travel.. Slow travel, RTW travel, Nomadic or multiple ways?

We do slow travel. Sure, you can call it RTW travel or nomadic as well. I don’t mind. But we like to call our style of traveling as visiting locals. We are visiting, but we are living in local housing versus staying in tourist accommodations. We eat local and play local and have a full immersion experience. We stay as long are we are inspired to stay, and pack up and go, when we are inspired to go.

Single mom lainie and son miro slow travel the world

Can you tell me more about being a ‘global citizen’ (something you talk about a lot on your web site).

I truly believe borders and boundaries are a thing of the past. There is only one citizenship that holds value, and that is “global citizenship”.

I come from a background of activism, which I no longer subscribe to. In the past, I strived to change the world, make a dent is issues that mattered to me, usually surround civil rights, peace and the earth’s health. This activism was a huge part of my education in compassion. However activism strives to change the world from the outside. Through traveling with my son, I have discovered that all change happens from the inside out. In other words ‘being’ the compassion can effect the world just by virtue of being in the world. By being compassion and interacting and through interacting with the adults and children we encounter, we cannot help but to effect our collective future.

Whether someone chooses to extend that further and volunteer, that’s fine. But it’s definitely not necessary. For us, we both have a lot of passion for animals and my passion for nurturing children has rubbed off on Miro through our latest volunteering experience, where we actually spent two months reading to children, getting them excited about stories and imagination and learned that Miro is a very good teacher. All of our experiences have been in one form or another of serving as we try to immerse ourselves within the communities we settle in.

We live like visiting locals but no matter how hard we try we will never be mistaken as a local. So we embrace our differences and live each day with respect and gratitude for the communities we live in.

Another way we immerse our selves is through learning as much as we can about the history and culture and local rituals, sometimes in the form of cooking, or learning about the local crafts and other times through volunteering. Most of the time though, the best strategy for immersion has been to participate within a given community by being present and connecting through smiles.

How are you educating your son while you travel?

As we started our trip, I had no idea such a thing called Unschooling existed. However I noticed Miro was talking about geography, sociology, history, economics, mythology, language and second language, literature, math, science. I sat back one night and realized how brilliant the idea of having the world teach my son was! Engage in life and children (and adults) learn!

Soon thereafter, I discovered the formal name for what we were doing as ‘unschooling’. In some circles it’s called ‘Radically Unschooling’, ‘World schooling’ and Road schooling. There are similar principals to each of those ‘disciplines’ which is based on child-led learning. This is a radical departure form homeschooling circles that teach a formal curriculum only in the home environment.

The philosophy behind unschooling is that children will learn what they need to know when they are ready and want to learn it and this flows through every other aspect of life. The whole essence of unschooling is that children, when empowered, will learn based on their individual interests.

I’ve seen games spark Miro’s interest in mythology, quantum physics, history and culture. We’ve had an open platform to discuss humanity, violence, and choices because of video games. I’ve also seen Miro’s research skills improve as the internet and Google are second nature to him. I didn’t like going to the library to research when I was his age because it was so overwhelming for me. To have the library at your fingertips is a drastic change for this generation.

I have discovered first hand that by virtue of being in this world, we can’t help but to learn. Children learn naturally and retain so much more when they are engaged and leading the process themselves. I realized this just by observing an empowered Miro blossom daily. As a result of my unschooling education, I am growing as Miro teaches me how to be a better and more effective parent in the process.

I have written about unschooling extensively on our site, and I invite you and your readers to read more here.


Lainie and Miro are my 6th family to be featured in an ongoing series showcasing and featuring families and couples who are travelling full time or for extended periods of time.

An ongoing series showcasing and featuring families and couples who are travelling full time or for extended periods of time. Some travel just for a year while others have been travelling for more than 5. These are not lottery winners or rich people. They are just ordinary people like you and me who made travel their goal and decided to work at that goal to make it happen. I hope it inspires you to do the same no matter what your goals are.

What do you think of Lainie and Miro’s story?  Leave your comments below.

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