Bonjour friends! Happy Thursday! In anticipation of the WorldTowning launch (we are almost there folks) I will be sharing oldies, but goodies from the past several years of blogging.
I can’t wait to share our new adventure with you. If you want to get a jump on the WorldTowning launch you can sign up for our newsletter at the bottom of this post. Early newsletter subscribers will get a special pre-launch goodie. Let’s just say that there will be a drawing (after launch) that will involve time in a country outside the US. And those of you who sign up pre-launch get your name entered three extra times.
Published March 8, 2016
Hola, friends. Hello, Tuesday. I’m ready! Are you? I don’t really know what I am ready for, but I feel ready. Over the last two days, I’ve had 4 hours per day of Spanish lessons and it feels good. I wish I could do four hours a day for five days a week, but I just don’t have that many hours to dedicate to it. I think it’s probably about time for me to do an update post on my Spanish. Maybe next week.
MONEY. SOCIALIZATION. SAFETY. MONEY. SOCIALIZATION. SAFETY.
MONEY. SOCIALIZATION. SAFETY. Yep, those are the questions we get asked over and over again as a traveling family. They are not always in this order, but socialization and money are always #1 and #2.
I have posted about the social aspect of travel in great detail. You can read one of those posts here. However, today’s post will be about a specific aspect of socialization on the road: making local friends.
If you are interested in…
- Why we feel this worldschooling socialization is more in line with our family goals than a traditional school setting is.
- Why we don’t feel pop culture is relevant to the kids socialization goals.
- Why we don’t worry about AvaLar functioning in an office environment one day.
…then this post is more for you.
I was recently asked the following question on a FB thread: Do our kids find it difficult to be moving around and changing friends frequently? Are their friends mostly locals or are they other expats?
Do our kids find it difficult to move around and change friends? The short answer is yes, we all do. Absolutely. The most difficult part about what we do is leaving friends and family behind. Whether they’re friends we have had for decades or brand new friends, it’s always hard. We leave a pieces of our hearts behind when we move. I consider this a normal part of life and believe it would happen if we were stationary as well. The key to making this travel life friends situation a success is how we handle it, rather than how difficult it is. It will always be difficult, whether we are travelers or not. Change happens, people move, whether we want them to or not.
How do we handle departures in regards to the kids and emotions? Most importantly, we never deny their emotions or our own. We are completely honest about how hard it is. Secondly, we talk a lot. It’s important that we have a very open means of communication or this lifestyle could never work.
In addition, we discuss and do the following.
- We encourage global friends. I don’t see this journey of making friends and then moving as “changing” friends, but more “gathering” friends. We make sure they know that they do not need to leave these friends behind and forget them. I see this as an amazing addition to their life. When they go to college and start adventuring on their own they will have friends from all over the world from different cultures.
- We use technology to maintain friendships. We suggest ways for our children to keep in touch with their friends in different countries through technology. Since we are a very low technology family in regards to young kids, it’s more difficult for Largo to keep in touch. However, I make the effort to communicate with the parents so that when Largo has more technology he can just pick up where I left off. Avalon has email and IM so it is easier for her.
- We lead by example. We keep in touch with our friends all over the globe through social media, Skype/FT, emails and meet ups when we are in the same location. We show them that it is possible to sustain a long distance friendship with all the resources we have at our fingertips. If you meet someone you really connect with then the distance should not be an issue.
- We slow travel: For us it is important to form community and we are only able to do this by spending longer periods of time in one location. I don’t know if we will continue on the this slow travel path (or speed it up as per the kids request), but for now it really works for us and our social/community family goals.
Are their friends mostly locals or other expats? If you read this post, you know that we are big on full immersion. As a result, we try as much as possible to make friends with locals. Now, that is not to say we shun expats at all, but we don’t land in a new city and immediately head to the expat FB groups to find friends.
Avalon and Largo socialize with:
- Local kids: Most of Largo’s friends are from school and his theatre group. Avalon has friends from Largo’s school, theatre, and her homeschooling group. The overwhelming majority of our friends here in Quito are locals. Playdates are not something that is done here, so we hang with the kids friends in social situations that the whole family is involved in. For example, birthday parties, field trips, holiday celebrations, etc.
- Expats: We only have one other expat family here that we are friends with, but they have since moved. We found them via our Worldschoolers Facebook group. They are an American family, not that it’s relevant, but our kids (as well as the adults) connected immediately. We have a lot in common since we are all digital nomads and travel with our kids.
- Travelers passing through: These types of friends are more frequent here in Ecuador than they were during our time in Costa Rica. I always make an effort to invite any travelers passing through to come over for dinner. This gives us all an opportunity to swap travel stories, take a peek into how other travelers live, learn about another culture, and make new global friends.
- Friends from the US: Of course we could never forget our friends living in the US. They have been with us through so much and there is such comfort in a friendship that has lived many lifetimes. We always make it a point to reconnect the kids in person with their friends from our previous life when we are in town. They also use technology to keep in touch with them. In addition, we have had many friends from our US life visit us in the Costa Rica and Ecuador.
- Each other: Avalon and Largo have each other. I have watched this brother and sister relationship blossom into one of great friendship since we started traveling.
We definitely take socializing and making friends very seriously in our house. ONE of the many reasons we chose to worldschool was because of the social advantages of being exposed to people from all over the world. Unfortunately, some of our goals for socializing and friends were not being fully met in a traditional setting. The distribution of our social goals was very heavy in certain areas and non-existent in others. As you can see from the aforementioned breakdown of their friend base, they socialize in a variety of situations.
- Socialize outside their gender
- Socialize outside their religion
- Socialize outside their race
- Socialize outside their grade
- Socialize with adults
- Socialize outside their comfort zone
- Socialize outside their language
The greatest growth in AvaLar has been in their ability to socialize outside of their comfort zone. For our children, this means meeting new people often and being able to chat without much hesitation. They don’t have a clique, but rather make friends from different social groups. Sometimes they have the opportunity to form a relationship over many months with in person contact and other times they have one day to make a connection. Either way they are learning social skills that branch beyond a traditional setting that will definitely influence their future relationships.
I think it would be great to interview AvaLar about this topic in a year or so and see how their views (and ours) have changed once we have been traveling for almost three years.
Tell me, are you a traveler? Who do your kids socialize with? Is it hard for them to move on? Do you have any secrets you want to share about how to make the transition easier?
p.s. Most of the pictures above are from Ecuador, but we loved our friends in Costa Rica as well and could not leave them out. We did not include our friends back in the States because this is a post about friends in our travel cities. However, friends from our stationary life are just as important and deserve a mention. We love you all!