When the Teens want to go Home
This question comes up really often. Families spend months, often years, planning for their new life living abroad. Sometimes, after a short time (maybe even a long time), the children start to say they'd like to go home.
We've had this experience, although not quite the same to others. I've got some strong opinions on this, so bear with me as I share my perspective.
I spent many years bringing together my dream of world travel. The dream began for me as a solo mama in New Zealand, back in August, 2010.
Back then, I had no idea how I'd make it happen. I could barely afford the groceries let alone a trip around the world.
Fast forward a few years and I'd moved to Bondi, Australia with the two (now) big children to live with my partner. Only a couple of years after that, I was able to go on a five week trip to UAE, Italy, France, Spain and Greece. At the time, I thought it was a once in a lifetime experience. But I realised on the way home that I wanted those experiences for my children.
After marrying in the Cook Islands in 2014, I was looking for a goal, something to work towards, and I asked my husband if he would live in Spain for a year or two. He surprised me and said yes.
However it still took a lot of setbacks before we finally sold everything to travel the world.
We began our travel in February 2020, then got stuck in Vietnam in March and remained there until August 2021. We all fell in love with that country that had become our home away from the other homes we had.
These days, my teens want to go back to Vietnam. This one is tricky because since the end of 2020, only one month visas are available. It's not a place you can easily pack up and move to anymore.
Our Experience - Pausing in Spain
Now, we are in Spain, semi-settled, but still moving a lot. My older children want to settle. My daughter has anxiety (not from the traveling) and wants to stay in one place. We stayed in one place from December 2021 until July 2022 and she still barely left the house. This makes me think that even if we returned 'home' to Australia or New Zealand, things wouldn't be much different. Plus, she's told me she doesn't really want to live back in Australia or New Zealand.
Since being in Spain, we welcomed our fourth child into the world. I need to write a post about that, as it was a magical experience. Since Manaia was born, we've had to stay in Spain because we don't have a birth certificate yet, and therefore, no passport. I'm still dreaming of bouncing around every few months but thankfully our baby has kept us in one place (for now).
As some kind of middle ground, we are considering buying our first home ever, in a foreign country to have as a base 3-5 months of the year. Somewhere super cheap compared to our 'home' country where we can live free of a mortgage or have a very small loan.
We think it will be someplace that allows us to travel and see other nearby countries. We are originally from NZ and which is sooo far from everywhere and I haven't lived there over 10 years... Our adopted home (Australia) we still love but we don't think we would move back there either.
Happiness and Feeling Alive is Important
The key for me is I feel alive traveling. I didn't feel so alive when we were doing the live in a house with hubby working and me homeschooling. It was great. I was happy. However, there was a constant restless feeling. The conversations I had in settled life weren't exciting. People didn't seem to have huge goals. Many people I met were either stuck in the habits of life, or striving to create a six figure business so they could live their dream life.
Once I began travelling (literally in the check-in line at Sydney airport), the conversations changed. I started to talk to people about their lives, their dreams and how they were making their dreams happen. We've met artists and authors and travel guides and people who set up their businesses in different parts of the world.
I can't even imagine going back to the old way of life.
Even if my kids really thought that going 'home' was best for them I don't think I'd truly believe that it would be.
Hubby and I are from a small town where gossip runs like wildfire and people frequently visit the paths of drugs or gangs. Don't get me wrong, I know a few successful families too, but I was always terrified of the thought of my kids becoming besties with the local dealers kids. Also, the knowledge of the prevalence and ease to acquire drugs and alcohol and a messed up life... These things were in the back of my mind, I know I don't want my kids growing up around 'normal' life.
In our temporary 'base' town, the teens are great together, they play sport and have good convos and sleep over. We can't get long term visas here though (Spain). We are investigating places like Croatia, with the Digital Nomad visa, and Portugal with their D7 visas as potential options going forward. We really don't know where we'll go or end up. For me, this is kind of fun.
We hope that creating a base that we can return to for a season each year will make it a little easier for our kids. Hopefully that familiarity will be enough for them. And hopefully it is a nice balance so we can still experience this side of the world for a bit longer.
You've really got to feel into what your instinct knows is right. Does your child really NEED to go back to how it was before? Maybe you can find a community where they can settle in a bit? Perhaps find a location where there are other traveling families and you can still live your dreams.
I am really passionate about us as parents living our dreams to show kids the importance of setting the dream and making it happen! I don't think as parents we are expected to give up our dreams (and I don't know why some messaging in society teaches us this)... Living your dreams is a powerful example to set.
Also. Kids. Teens. There will always be a struggle someway, some how. Obviously as parents, we don't want to add to the struggle. But no one gets a perfect life. And most teens will grow up. If they complain about their privileged life of travel being a source of misery, then they will really need to start on some inner work.
To me, seeking gratitude for everything (good and bad), has been one of the greatest strengths I've built. It's something I would love for my children to learn and understand. Gratitude for the hard times, because those are the times that shape you into the strong, courageous human that you deserve to be.
I instill so much of this work, my learning, in my kids. I'm always planting seeds on how to deal with tough situations and how to rise up to become stronger.
I think we are all doing the best we can as parents. And this is all we can do. I don't think it comes down to only considering the child's needs without considering the parents too. It's also really important to keep communicating. Keep talking. That's going to be what keeps everything going.
If going 'home' will make you miserable, don't do it. I think it's far worse to be a miserable parent than to be living each day in love with life (my parents seemed quite unhappy to me growing up - and depression was something I had to deal with / overcome - it impacted all of my siblings very negatively). I know for me personally, I would prefer that my kids see me lit up, excited about life and on a mission to achieve my wildest dreams. I hope that someday, my attitude towards life will inspire them to go forward and achieve their dreams too.
If you're struggling with this, I say, rather, be the happy bubbly free spirit you are here on the planet to be, than dim your lights. You'll figure it out somehow. And you never know what will happen to make it work out.. Feel free to connect if you want to chat more on this. I love to talk about these aspects of family travel life.