how to be a location independent family, part 2

A while ago I was reading Location Independent Living, and I came up with three questions that I had about actually implementing it with a family. Most of these questions probably would arise reading the now-famous Four Hour Work Week, too, but I have yet to read it.  In my last post, I asked the question “what does that really mean”?  Now I’m going to answer my second question:  could you live a location-independent life with children?


Creative Commons License photo credit: Sukanto Debnath keeping busy 🙁

I have a toddler son and a newborn baby girl. My son is already speaking in both English and Russian.  He’s not toilet trained – mainly since we haven’t encouraged it too much – but he’s largely able to eat adult foods, sleep reasonable hours and so forth.  Traveling with him is primarily a question of keeping him entertained.  Going on a plane is tough because he gets bored, but we’ve already made four round-trip flights with him and one one-way – all before he was two!  So I know he could handle travel.

An infant is another question entirely. I’m not saying it wouldn’t be possible, but I would be significantly more nervous about moving from location to location with an infant.  You’d have to find pediatricians, carry a fairly comprehensive bunch of medicines/foods/etc. if you were going to a more remote location, and frankly be able to put up with a fairly nervous infant.  The biggest upside to traveling with an infant is that they seem to sleep on plane flights!

So travel would be possible, although maybe difficult. That’s just the travel aspect.  What about on arrival at your location?  I think the age of your children then becomes fairly significant.

Until recently Little Buddy attended day care for a couple of hours per day, mainly for socializing. Formal education is still a long way away.  I’ve talked about education and I have a growing sense that at least for some portion of their lives my children will be homeschooled, for a variety of reasons.  I am not a fan of the ridiculous test-based/homework-based education system we have in America.  I think the emphasis on facilities and sports and equipment (think: computers) over personnel such as teachers make American schools weaker every year.  American education has become largely geared towards producing minimally educated graduates suited for cubicle attendance.  Finance, classical languages, and the arts are neglected subjects while rote reading, non-practical mathematics and sciences are encouraged (I will have more to say on these subjects in the future).  Suffice it to say that as the children got older, I would not mind at all doing a year or two of home-schooling.  Resources are available and I am willing to do it.

Probably the larger question would be socialization. Would a child home-schooled in St. Petersburg or Singapore or Dubai have a social life?  Would a child home-schooled in New York have a social life?  I think where you live matters less than Where you live, if that makes sense.  What does that mean?  I mean that even in New York if you live in an apartment building and never go out, you won’t have any meaningful socialization for yourself or your child.  If you throw yourself into the local community there will always be activities and opportunities for your child to learn and grow.  People are people.  It may be harder to form connections in deeply different cultures, but because of that it can be all the more rewarding.

I think being a location-independent professional with children would be exciting. I am sure there are risks – my young (slightly older than Little Buddy) niece recently suffered through a very dangerous and frightening illness while in Southeast Asia.  Yet illnesses occur at home, and if you allow fear of “maybes” to keep you from chasing your goals, you won’t be happy and that unhappiness will be passed down to another generation.    So what would be the main tips for living as a location-independent family with children?

  • Be prepared to homeschool.
  • Always make sure you are stocked with basic infant medicines.
  • Make identifying health care facilities and practitioners one of the very first thing you do on arrival in a new location.
  • Keep your children’s emotional and developmental needs in mind.  Moving once every four months might not be too traumatic, but children need some sense of stability.
  • Make sure you’re happy traveling with your family.  If you feel tense or unhappy or nervous, no-one is going to enjoy the travels.

I think it could be done. I’m not sure you could do it easily, but I have known at least one guy whose parents raised him that way, traveling around the world – and he seemed to end up more or less OK.  The biggest question you have to ask is whether your whole family is on board with the idea – because if anyone’s not happy, the whole experiment will be shot.

7 comments

  • Hmmm. Classical languages are okay, but impractical math and science isn’t. Your biases may be showing, Steve.

    Regarding socialization, I have a friend who largely home-schooled four children. He scoffs at the notion of schools encouraging socialization, pointing out that mostly you get cliques and bullying. He’s observed (with a parent’s eye, mind you) that his children appear more comfortable and mature in social situations than others who have attended school. While you may argue with his point of view, his opinion is valid in at least a general sense.

  • I’m another person who’s in favour of abstract science and mathematics, but I think that what’s going to be put forward is the idea of learning about science and maths in a predominantly practical way – by observation and experimentation. Whilst rote learning of your times tables has its place, I’m not sure it’s the best way of inspiring a love of maths.

    Regarding the actual point about raising a family in a location independent way, I actually think that one of the issues is whether you, the parents, care that your children won’t have a home location. I don’t think it matters that much to the kids, but how upset will you be if they don’t exactly feel like they’re from America/New York/anywhere.

  • In general, children are very adaptable. I wonder what happens when children get older and they make friends at one location, then have to move to another, and another, etc. At some point they are going to start hating this whole traveling idea that their parents like so much.

  • Bubelah, my aunt and her husband have lived a fairly peripatetic lifestyle (they own a small consulting biz and go where their next client is), and have lived all over Canada in the last 20 years, all the big and small cities, some interesting towns and rural places. They love this lifestyle. But when their sons were teens the boys put their feet down and said “no more”, although their parents still move around. For exactly that reason – friends, clubs, school. Unfortunately the boys chose to stay in the city my aunt and uncle disliked the most in all their travels, and now they have to return regularly.

  • I think it can be really hard to tell, sometimes. Kids change a lot in those first few years, and they don’t always turn out like their parents. I took my first transcontinental flight at age 6 months, and did it again and again for the next 3 years. Before I was 4, I lived in 4 countries on 3 continents, and spoke 3 languages.
    And for the past 10 years, I’ve been in the same place, being slowly stifled, and losing all the language skills I’ve gained in life (add an additional 3 to the ones from my childhood).

    Kids definitely bounce back, and better at earlier ages. I think once you hit middle school, though, you do want a place you can call home. But what that translates into can be very different – the place we eventually settled from ages 5-17 never really felt like “my place” to me. I just never really felt like I fit in.

  • I think the key is being dedicated to socialization. There are a lot of vibrant homeschooling communities…but not being a conservative Christian may limit how at-home you feel in them. Still, I know people who pulled it off (really depends on where you are).

    We were fortunate enough to live in a real hub, encouraged greatly by Micah’s mom, who helped foster choir, debate club, student government, a teen club, as well as numerous one-day-per-week co-op classes for specialized subjects or things that were done better in groups (like languages). Despite being in all of these, I only met Micah later on because he was already at college when I joined.

    Most areas have plenty that kids can get involved in, so as long as you’re dedicated to getting them out there you shouldn’t have a problem.

  • I have always thought that the main reason why kids go to kindergarten/school is for them to gain some “people” skills. Math, science and all the other stuff kids are taught could be learned anywhere; but teamwork has to be experienced.