A way of living where individuals choose to immerse themselves in cultures outside their hometowns to obtain a greater understanding of the world.
A cool human being!
I was petrified of the tween/teen years. I mean scared to death. Over the course of the last decade, I have been privy to conversations where parents have called their teens (particularly their daughters) little witches, difficult, heartless, self-absorbed and, often, much worse. If that is not enough to scare a mama who is cooing over her toddler, I don’t know what is. Will and I knew we wanted a different relationship with our children but, frankly, I wasn’t not sure how we would break what seemed to be an endless cycle of misunderstanding and conflict, where parents and teenagers were destined to remain at odds.
I must admit I am barely into this tween and teen thing, but, so far, I am loving it. Yes, our kids have opinions. Yes, they often differ from ours. Yes, we disagree at times. And, yes, it all makes me happy. The truth is that our goal never was to raise miniature versions of ourselves. As a result, we now have older children who have thoughts and opinions of their own. This is pretty darn cool! As WorldTowners, one of our goals has been to expose our kids to many ways of life across the globe, so they can decide which path they would like to take in life. Luckily, this lifestyle choice has given us the opportunity to create really neat relationships with our children. Contrary to what we had been told by others who preceded us down the path of the teen years, neither Will nor I think of our children as burdens or feel they are making our life miserable.
What exactly are the experiences of our WorldTowning teen and tween that help shape them into the confident, loving people they are today?
They have lived outside of their birth country.
In my opinion, this is the most important part of being a WorldTowning teen. There is a different perspective gained when you have lived outside of your birth country—one that cannot be gained from vacationing in a location or staying in your birth hometown.
They recognize and understand culture differences.
They recognize that how a person defines “normal” can vary from location to location. What is normal in India may not be normal in Morocco, and WorldTowning teens completely get this. They are able to understand from first-hand experience that each culture differs in the way they educate children, eat meals, run the government, share family life, conduct business and much more.
They have friends from all walks of life who differ in age, gender, religion, cultural upbringing and lifestyle choices.
This is one of my favorite parts of life with WorldTowning teens. They get to satisfy their thirst for learning through social situations with people different from themselves. This is magic. We are often asked if we worry about our kids’ social skills. Absolutely. One of the reasons we chose to become WorldTowners was that we felt our children were lacking in their social skills by associating mostly with people so similar to themselves. Now, on any given day, they are able to socialize beyond their peers and experience new friendships with people across the globe.
They are compassionate.
It is very easy for people to get caught up in the cares of this world, striving in their routines each and every day. But, when you don’t know what each day will bring, and every day brings new encounters with different people, it is hard for anything to be routine. It’s not always easy, but we don’t want it to be easy. Our kids have come to understand that, although we are not rich, we are comfortable. We can afford a roof over our heads, food, adventures, education and retirement. These are luxuries that many westerners take for granted, because often people have access to these things. However, in our travels we have seen people who are less fortunate on a regular basis, and, as a result, Avalon and Largo have developed a degree of compassion that may not have manifested in our previous life.
They understand that money does not buy happiness.
Our kids have been exposed to the uber rich and the poverty through WorldTowning. Each and every time they have met people on opposite ends of the economic spectrum, they have seen that the level of happiness among individuals is the same. They have learned that people can be happy whether they have a fancy roof overhead or one made out of straw.
They are resourceful and intense problem solvers.
We carry very little with us in the way of tools, supplies and resources. Our space is limited, and we move often. As a result, all of us have had to become very proactive in solving problems. Even when Will and I know in advance how to resolve a problem, we often challenge the kids to figure it out on their own. Practice, practice, practice is our philosophy when it comes to raising adults. The more they can do on their own, the better they feel about themselves and the more independent they become.
They develop their own sense of style based on the places they have lived.
Often teenagers are subjected to the pressure that they have to look and act a certain way. Have you ever heard someone say, “well, they are all wearing …?” This statement has always puzzled me. Who exactly is this mysterious “they” that we are all encouraged to dress like? WorldTowning teens develop their authentic style outside of the pressure from media and peers. Since they are exposed to the fabrics, colors and styles of varying countries they are often greatly influenced by what they encounter.
They gather traditions across the globe.
Worldtowning teens are often creative, insightful, daring and action-oriented. Avalon and Largo have been the instigators for many of the traditions we have added to our life as we travel across the globe.
They often speak multiple languages.
Teens like to be in the loop, and they have a thirst for knowledge. This can create in them a desire to learn a language in a new country, simply because they want to be able to communicate with those around them.
They are always up for adventure.
WorldTowning teens would much rather go on an adventure than spend their time shopping for stuff. They often live simply when it comes to material possessions and extravagantly when it comes to memory making experiences.
Their comfort zone is broad.
When you are a WorldTowner, you are continually taken out of your comfort zone—whether or not you want to be. Subsequently, the teens become a little more comfortable each time they step outside their comfort zones, which, over time, begins to ease what once may have been awkward.
They fight for what they believe in.
This one warms my heart. Our kids have seen injustice, discrimination, chauvinism, physical/mental abuse and more. It angers them and they find ways to fight for the causes they feel closest to.
They realize that they will not always fit into mainstream society and they are ok with that.
Frankly, Will and I are ok with this as well. We are not trying to mold our children into younger versions of ourselves, nor are we wanting to nurture individuals who feel a need to fit into mainstream society. Our philosophy is to let them grow up as their authentic selves with little outside peer and media pressures. If they are happy at the end of the day, then we are happy. Their happiness is more important to us then how others view them, their resumes or if they fit certain societal expectations.
We have been fortunate to have been exposed to many WorldTowning tweens and teens during the last several years of travel. They vary in ages, family income levels, travel styles and birth countries, but consistently they possess most of the qualities listed above. Of course, many of these qualities can be gained from a stationary life, but several cannot. Those are the key differentiators for the WorldTowning teen.
The teens and tweens are our future leaders, innovators and change-makers. Let’s get them WorldTowning. You don’t have to be traveling full-time to have a WorldTowning teen. How about a study abroad program in high school? Or, maybe a summer volunteering abroad? There are so many opportunities for these young adults to learn through travel, so let’s do what we can to help get them out there.
Do you have a WorldTowning tween or teen? What attributes describe him or her?