Living the PT Life with Kids in Tow

Many articles that are written for or deal with PT's are aimed at a mature audience - people who have raised their families and are looking for a place to retire.

There is precious little information for those of us who have children and believe me, we need it.

It is very easy, in the modern world, for a single man or woman to log onto the Internet, book a flight to wherever in the world, book a motel room or backpackers hostel and then depart. You can easily add a partner as double rooms come standard in hotels and even most hostels have private rooms for couples. Even if you are caught out and have to go for bunk beds in a dorm room, it's no big deal for a night or a week.

Add one child, though, and the whole process becomes exponentially more difficult. A web page that shows thirty or forty vacancies for a double room will drop to one or two when you add that third person. I can only imagine how difficult it must be for folks with two or more children.

Using hostels as a fall back is off the table for security reasons. Mostly they are safe, but can you afford to take the risk of your children wanting to use a shared toilet in the middle of the night in a hostel filled with (frequently drunk) unknown backpackers?

Bunk beds, dorm rooms and suburbs or cities with any kind of crime problem are similarly no-go areas. I have run (really run) from trouble in a dark street in Mexico. That would be very difficult if my spouse was present, impossible with children.

Then you must consider schooling. First the logistics. You must find, in whichever country you decide to visit, a school in your child's language, with an appropriate curriculum, with an appropriate calendar (some schools start the academic year in September, some in January) with a vacancy, and that will not break the bank with tuition fees, application fees, book fees, building maintenance fees, lunch fees... (you get the picture). The city where I live has a good school for €5,500 all-inclusive and a not so good school for €17,000 plus extras of around €4,000. In this particular case, extensive research found that the cheaper school is also the better school academically. Lucky us.

Children also require doctors, dentists, etc. much more frequently than most adults. Fortunately, we also lucked out there as well. Our child's braces came in at about one third the cost that we were quoted back in Australia. After one year the results are amazing and we are thrilled that we got them done here. My wife and I both lined up for multiple treatments with the same dentist and we have collectively saved thousands of dollars.

After school activities and visits to playgrounds, parks, sporting grounds, while good for ones health, are not on the agenda when I travel alone or (very occasionally) with only my wife. The upside is that we see a whole lot more of the countries that we visit and I spend a lot less time in bars. That's got to be a good thing!

The difficulties are many and varied, but the upside of it all is the education and confidence that your children will gain from travelling while young. They will gain perspective on the world that most adults lack back home. In our house, there is no "Them and Us". We are all citizens of the world. Racial and National differences simply don't matter any more. There is a natural curiosity about what other cultures eat, how their language sounds, what they wear. Our child genuinely believes that we are all equal and that all people have value. It makes me very proud as a parent and I genuinely wish that everyone could see the world like that.

If the opportunity to take your children abroad is there, please do it. Yes, you will have to spend (minimum) twice as much time planning and your cost base will increase dramatically, but there is a value in travelling that cannot be realised by any other means.

A year of geography lessons will not impact your child as much as standing in front of the Coliseum, or climbing the Eiffel Tower.

A year of language lessons is great, but nothing compared to correcting your (clueless) Dad as he fumbles around for the basic words to order a meal or purchase tickets. Irrational fear of Moslems will disappear after a few days wandering around the markets in Istanbul. Even my wife was helped with this treatment. (Shopping cures all, hey?)

It's easy to forget, but every culture in the world has children, so your children will have new friends and new experiences wherever they go. There will be tears and loneliness, but no worse than back home when some useless toy or latest video game was withheld. The good experiences and life lessons will more than make up for that.

For more information about this topic, check out our special reports, Educating Children in Expatriate Environments and Personal & Family Security in Chaotic Times, by Bill Drake. Both reports are available to members of the IM Network. For more information, click here.

Tags: family, expat,