Considering taking an extended foreign trip with small children? Not sure if it’s right for your family? Look no further! I have compiled a list of the questions I’ve been asked the most since setting out on our adventure (and returning home). If you have a question I haven’t answered, feel free to get in touch or post a comment and I’ll get back to you.
- How did you decide to just go?
We have always travelled a lot, as singles and then together, as a couple. We met in Rwanda where I was living and my now husband was visiting his sister. It is pretty natural for us to want to adventure. We’d been discussing the idea of going for a while but the timing hadn’t felt right and we hadn’t found a place for which we both felt we could give up our jobs. When I suggested Mexico, everything seemed to fall in to place.
- But how did you choose Mexico?
We had our honeymoon in Mexico and had loved every second of it. We had realised that we had specific reasons (below) for wanting to go so the country we chose would have to answer all those needs. It had to be safe enough to not worry about our kids too much (no war, no awful, awful diseases). We wanted to go somewhere the kids could go to school without too much trouble, where they’d learn a new language, and experience a new culture. For us, Mexico answered those needs. Spanish is a useful language, it’s also pretty accessible. With only six months at our disposal we decided that we’d never learn enough Chinese to make a life-long difference to our lives so China was out of the running. Having spent a lot of time in Africa, we decided to save that wonderful continent until the kids are old enough to really appreciate it. Europe was just too expensive so we really felt that a Latin American country was a good fit for us and we’d both wanted to explore more of Mexico.
- What were your push factors?
As I said above, we’ve always travelled and we never planned/meant to settle in London. Early in 2016, the children and I witnessed a stabbing on our way home from school. This really impacted on my thinking and made us both wonder why we were still here (don’t get me wrong, I love London and I’m not trying to diss it, this us just explaining our thought process). We both find London quite money focused and we want our kids to know that there is so much more to life than amassing and spending money! We also want them to understand how lucky they are to have been born in to a rich, western culture. We want them to understand that not everyone has what they have. We are also super aware that our kids, having two English parents, are at a disadvantage, linguistically, so we wanted to introduce them to the possibility of speaking two languages.
And probably, most of all, we wanted to slow down. We wanted to spend more time together and enjoy each other.
- How did you explain it to the children?
We were very open and honest with them from the beginning. We didn’t ask their opinion or permission but we did include them in planning. We showed them maps of Mexico, and photos of places we were likely to see. We talked about the country and the language a lot. We hired a Spanish nanny one day a week so they would get used to the idea of the language even if they couldn’t yet speak it.
- Did you need to take medicines or other supplies with you?
No. We could buy everything we needed there. If you’re thinking of moving to a new location abroad, I’d get on facebook and join local ex-pat groups. Ask what you can and can’t get in the new location.
- How did the children cope with the upheaval?
Really well to be honest. They were hard work for the week or so before we left the UK and then took about a week to settle in to their new life. We tried to put them in school immediately that we arrived but found it wasn’t right for them. They were there a few weeks and our little one just couldn’t settle. Then, two months later we tried again (after a month of private Spanish classes and a holiday), and we had no tears or unhappiness at all. The kids loved their school, loved the change of pace and were really excited about everything. That said, we worked hard to be upbeat about Mexico and made sure they understood exactly what we were doing and why at every stage. We also resorted to bribery when we needed to do so!
- Are you happy to be home?
Yes and no. We love London and we love being close to friends and family. The kids are so happy in their schools here and as spring settles in, London is truly a magnificent place to be. That said, we miss Mexico every single day. We miss speaking Spanish, we miss the warmth, we miss living outside and being so close to the beach. And we miss how friendly and kind Mexicans are. Walking down the street and saying hello to everyone is a much nicer way to live than studiously ignoring everyone like people here practice.
- Was it worth it?
Yes, with every fibre of my being, yes. The kids have blossomed, they’re happy and confident. They speak another language and have seen so much. I know Mexico will always form a part of their personal narrative. We loved getting to spend proper quality time together and I’d do it again in a heartbeat!
I hope I answered some questions you may have before planning a similar trip. If you do want to ask anything, please do get in touch. If you do decide to jump in at the deep end, my articles about managing cultural differences for kids and long haul travel may come in handy.