11 Ways Growing Up Abroad is Ruining My Daughter’s Life.

Via Crystal Blue
on Oct 17, 2014
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After living abroad for a year and a half now (in the Mexican Caribbean and the Marshall Islands) with my 7-year-old daughter, I have compiled a list of the many reasons this has ruined my daughter’s life forever.

I have ruined my daughter’s life because…

1. She gets confused as to which language to speak.

She thinks and operates in another language now, and has had to overcome the hurdle of not only knowing but learning the language, and figuring out how to rise above language barriers and find a humanitarian commonality from which to make friends.

This will for sure work to her disadvantage, as a child, when continuing to make diverse friends internationally, as a teenager when remembering that all humans are equal, and also later in life in graduate school or her professional job, which will most likely require bilingualism by then, if not trilingualism as a unique ability and necessary standard in the global workplace. She might even get paid more (eek!).

2. She doesn’t have a TV.

Instead of watching TV, she is snorkeling the open ocean, exploring turquoise cenotes, hiking ancient ruins, and trekking pacific islands. God, the nerve.

To be outside adventuring, exercising, discovering nature coming to life right before your very eyes, touching it, smelling it, hearing it. I mean, TV is so much better. I wish we had one.

3. None of her friends are American.

All of her friends are Mexican. Argentine. Italian. Spanish. Marshallese. What a bummer.

She has had to understand and accept what other cultures are like at such a young age. She has had to learn about global diversity and understanding and respect early or she wouldn’t have any friends. In our globalized world today, this will definitely work against her when she becomes the spokesperson for global compassion and equality because her roots of this conceptual understanding run so deep.

4. She doesn’t have a big house or new car anymore.

She has a room and a bike that she shares with her mom. I feel bad not providing her with this American dream anymore and replacing it with an international dream of experiences, rather than material items and luxurious comforts that make us comfortable but don’t challenge our soul.

I feel bad no longer having a big house and being tied down to life and pressures and responsibilities and stressors that affect my child as well.

I feel bad not having two living rooms and three bathrooms anymore so that half of the house goes to waste, yet takes up room on the block that homeless people could be living in, and ringing up utility bills that are more expensive than a plane ticket to another amazing paradise.

5. She doesn’t have a lot of plastic toys.

She doesn’t have that many toys here, because we need to fly, and because this is a society not as interested in hoarding plastic crap. She has a few Barbies, but not the Barbie convertible, salon, restaurant, dream house, jacuzzi tub and poodle club or whatever other Barbie accessories are available. We keep it simple.

Take the Barbie to the cenote, that’s her jacuzzi. Brush the Barbie’s hair, that’s the salon. Or better yet, play with sticks and shells and sand and palm leaves and coconuts and the ocean.

She has long forgotten about her entire playroom and bedroom and loft and den and living room and dining room full of dollies and horsies and blocks and brain teaser puzzles and purses and play kitchens and easels and play pianos and my little ponies and my little sparkles and whatever else I packed up in a million boxes and drove off to Goodwill last year.

She has never even mentioned any of it.

And now, when she is good, we go snorkeling. She now realizes that money doesn’t buy this happiness. She realizes that a new doll won’t bring her the same happiness that seeing her favorite rainbow fish will, and that comforts don’t either.

Life begins at the end of your comfort zone, which fosters detachment and repels greediness, cultivates simplicity, natural love, creativity, and outdoor adventure, all tragic things that will in no way ever work to her benefit, now or later down the road.

I hope she can someday forgive me for this.

6. She doesn’t know about stress.

Her mother has time for her. She is not running here and there and going to dinner parties and running in for dinner groceries and waiting for a Redbox and getting road rage in the rush hour traffic, and being on the cell phone the whole time during the madness.

Her mother has time for her, all day, all night, rarely stressed, no car, a basic phone for safety, together 24 hours a day adventuring and sharing and laughing and being unstressed and happy and free.

She knows flow and ease. I am not too busy for her anymore because I am making money to provide our big house that we don’t need and other things that bring conveniences and comforts of a different world, and provide external happiness and accomplishment to a culture that judges each other by the size and location of their houses instead of the character of their heart.

7. She is brave.

She is a strong, independent, intelligent adventurer who learns from mistakes and finds answers for herself. She busts into that new school of Mexicans not knowing a word of their language and makes 10 friends in two seconds. She free dives the Caribbean and remote Pacific, swims in big waves, hikes barefoot, eats foreign foods and is never ever scared or even blinks an eye. Talk about adaptation and zest for life! This will suck later when she travels alone, confidently goes off to college or scuba dives for the first time at age eight.

8. The world is her classroom, and nature is her playground.

She is learning the stars in the sky, the way ocean tides work, the different fish in the sea, that Mayans sleep in hammocks and palapas stay really dry, that tortillas are made over coals and the taxi ride from town to the beach is 50 pesos for locals.

She is learning how to make baskets out of coconut leaves and what fish are toxic to eat and what snakes are poisonous and when coconuts rot and the colors of the sky at sunset and when it’s about to rain and how to count to a million in sand granules and km and Celsius conversions and what lychees taste like.

She is so curious. She craves knowledge, adventure, happiness and more beautiful life.


9. She is thankful.

She is thankful for the little, free things in life. I mean big things, like sunshine and seahorses, like baby turtles and fresh drinking water, time with mommy, bare feet, health, understanding another language, colorful reef, universal friendships and rainbows.

Not stuff. She is not thankful for stuff. She is thankful for nature, and for things that we have that others do not, putting life in perspective. She is not thankful for a new boat we have that a classmate doesn’t, but for flip flops when our neighbors don’t have any, or thankful for a fan at night for sleeping or a shower with hot water instead of cold. She is thankful for free adventure and life exploration.

10. Humanity is her family.

There are no colors anymore. There are no languages. There are people. There are beautiful human beings waiting to share friendships and be loved, waiting to be understood and accepted. She realizes that we are all equal. No matter where in the world we live, what we do, or what we look like. Here, we are the different ones, and sometimes it takes a lesson like that to really understand.

11. And last, she is learning that dreams come true.

She is watching her mommy pave her way of happiness and bring amazing things to life. Things that were once ideas in the heart are now morning activities and life perspectives.

She is learning that anything we dream up and want in this life, we can make happen. Anything that we don’t like, we have the power to change. Anything that we believe in and love, we deserve to have. Anything that makes us happy, we can experience.

She is learning that nothing is impossible, beyond reach or silly to dream.

She is learning that we have one life, and we deserve to live that the way we believe.

And she is learning that dreams are not meant to be dreams, but inspiration and encouragement to live and achieve and believe, to hope and pray and lead and do.


Relephant Reads:

Another way to do it differently:

So You Dated a Girl Who Travels, Settled Down & Had Kids. Now What?

The Yoga of Traveling with Young Children + Five Tips to Help Improve Your Trip.


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Bonus: Go get lost and be humbled—tips for mindful travel.


Editor: Emily Bartran

Photos: Author’s Own

Mindful Travel Tips:

Waylon and his mother talk about growing up Buddhist:


About Crystal Blue

Crystal Blue: Writer, international educator, anthropologist, adventurer, mindful liver, bohemian world traveler, dream coach, blogger at Enlightened Globetrekker, and free spirit mama to River, age 7. She recently moved from Tulum, Mexico and now lives in the Marshall Islands, South Pacific where she eats coconuts, philosophizes the good life, and relaxes in hammocks remembering when she once worked in an office before she followed her dreams. Follow her international adventure at enlightened globetrekker or on Facebook at The Enlightened Globetrekker. Visit Crystal on twitter.


129 Responses to “11 Ways Growing Up Abroad is Ruining My Daughter’s Life.”

  1. Michael54372 says:

    Parents absolutely should do what they feel is best for their child, and this kid is clearly getting huge benefits that are unique and to be treasured.

    However, the tone of the post is so sarcastically defensive that it feels like it's labelling, negatively, parents and children who do not live this way. I grew up in a London suburb and did not find it an obstacle to achieving the same 'dreams' as listed above:
    1. Languages. Admittedly this is best done by living in a country whose language you want to learn, but I was taught German and French from a young age, then a bit of Spanish. It's not like living 'at home' condemns you to being unable to speak another language in future.
    2. Not having a TV. This is a parental choice more than a geographical one. Unless you can't afford one, but that can happen anywhere in the world. Nor does having a TV automatically mean a child won't exercise a lot or experience nature. And some TV programmes actually inspired me to go out and do sport, or work hard at school and take an interest (programs about space, science and history).
    3. Nationality of friends. The post basically implies that an American friend would almost certainly be narrow-minded and culturally inept, diluting the diverse blend. That undermines the worldly liberal overtones of the rest of the post. Incidentally, when I was 7, my friends were came from numerous countries. I was friends with them because they were nice people. The nationality was interesting and educating, but secondary to their personalities, not a badge of honour used by my mother to boast about how liberally-minded her child was.
    4. Big houses, big cars. It is possible to live 'at home' and not have a luxurious lifestyle that you feel the need to liberate yourself from.
    5. Plastic toys. Again, a parenting choice. I had some plastic toys but my life wasn't governed by them, and nor were they a housekeeping problem, because my mother simply put sensible limits on what was bought and when it was used. I was still able to feel natural objects like in the posted example.
    6. Stress. I was fairly relaxed at 7, not because I was living abroad but because my parents took care to make sure I wasn't on a treadmill of birthday parties, shopping trips or waiting for them to get off the phone. I was also aware, though, that food on the table and a roof over our heads didn't come without the need for some hard work on their part. So I learned patience and the value of hard work. Not a bad thing, in my view.
    7. Bravery. Again, free-diving the Caribbean is not possible in London's suburbs, but bravery and adventure can easily be developed in a wide range of contexts. From dealing with harrowing problems within the family and making difficult moral decisions at school to taking risks in new sports (outdoor as well as indoor), public speaking, whatever…a child that lives in one place does not have to be a timid shrinking violet, too afraid to ask questions or explore life.
    8. To really see the world as your classroom, that would include appreciating the beauty, value and potential of places that do not have oceans right outside the door, coconuts on the trees or lychees immediately to hand. I was able to be fascinated by archaeology, the birds, wildlife and plants that grew locally, and the idea that my suburban lifestyle meant that I didn't have conversations about climate, currency and science is well wide of the mark. I learned what wild mushrooms were toxic to eat, and weaved a basket or two myself at school. Coconut leaves aren't the only valid material to make them out of, and foreign countries aren't the only place where such skills are culturally interesting.
    9. Thankful. Spending my childhood in a suburb did not stop me from being extremely thankful for everything in life. I have always thought of myself as a very lucky person, despite having neither a lot of money nor a coconut-rich oceanic landscape on my doorstep. I am thankful for those that love me and for the landscape I live in, and for the possibilities of the future.
    10. Humanity being a family. Again, multi-culturalism is not based on geographical location alone. Yes, people are inherently more important than the language they speak, but if that is to really mean something, it has to mean valuing everyone's circumstances and not (inadvertently or otherwise) generalising about how other people's lifestyles are likely to leave their children socially weaker and less interesting than yours.
    11. Dreams coming true. To be honest, I think it's important that children learn that not all dreams come true. They should learn that sometimes life is about luck, and about others getting the opportunities you wanted, and about not always being able to get what you wish for. Misfortune happens, coming second or last happens; it doesn't always have to be a bad thing. What matters is aspiration. I aspire for things without expecting them to happen just because I've worked hard and hoped for them.
    Most of all, I am able to show the next generation that you can still be a curious, life-embracing, interesting, unprejudiced and terrific human being, whether you are growing up in a poky flat on the outskirts of a busy city, a mansion with a butler or in the Marshall Islands.

  2. smith says:

    Most of you who have written a comment aside from Rahshoe seem merely jealous when you should be envious. This women wrote a lovely article about her and her daughters life and what living aboard has brought them. Simplicity and appreciation!
    What we all seem to lack these days whether we admit it or not.
    Yes, we are all trying to do the best we can in today’s world raising our children. However, sometimes it is nice to see a different way to live and to love it on top of it all.
    I thought this article was well written and breath of fresh air.
    Thank you.

  3. lula says:

    Awful. Gross really. I have spent my whole life nomadic- traveled since i was born. Raising three kids now and traveling with them often though living mostly in one place – yes the dreadful America. My kids have no tv, blah blah and all that jazz but WHO CARES??? Even if they did, they wouldn't be ruined. Being both a product of what this woman is writing of and a mother – I can say that this writer is full of it. You can raise amazing kids anywhere and in any circumstances. You don't ever need to get on a plane to have a happy, centered, open minded child. MANY of the kids of my nomadic friends are really effed up from all the travel and the non existent routine. Many have not had a constant friend their whole life and mane are lost lost souls. They could care less about diversity and just crave routine. She is kidding herself and just tooting her horn if she thinks that her kid is better than the rest because she gets to be raised on an Island with no tv etc.. There are MANY cons to being raised that way. It can make real life tricky and make it hard to ever settle anywhere. It is all about the parents – not about the environment. This author is so misguided and for her kids' sake- I hope she realizes this isn't a reality show and there is no competition and she can come back to some humility. Sigh.

  4. Jessica a says:

    Congrats on your way of life and thank you for sharing. I think people are very quick to judge and “hate” on others. I don’t believe you were being smug or downing others for the way they raise their children, just sharing your experiences. Great job. Keep it up. Remember haters always gunna hate!

  5. Taylor says:

    Awesome read. Go RMI!

  6. Tammy says:

    3. None of her friends are American.

    So do think it's okay to say that children are better off if their friends aren't Mexican or Middle Eastern or whatever or is it just okay to say this about Americans?

    And your statement about how you're a better mother only contributes more to the "Mommy Wars." Isn't everyone finished with acting like their way is the best and only way. Mothers everywhere are trying their best.

  7. crimsonowl says:

    I think it's wonderful that your daughter gets to experience all these things, but as a parent, you have got to be concerned about her future. First of all, she IS an American, even though you seem to imply that is a negative thing. You are happy that she does not have American friends or has any connection to an American lifestyle or childhood. What are her/your plans for her future? Surely you expect her to have a better education than learning the colors of the ocean and the taste of the coconuts, don't you? You talk about all the things that she CAN become because she has the ability to be versatile, open-minded, and bi or tri lingual. However, those qualities will not be much use to her without an education. She's not going to work for the state department, or the United Nations or manage an international organization simply because she grew up barefoot on the beach playing with sand crabs. There are about a million kids worldwide who grow up like this every day, in Mexico, Asia, India, Africa, South America, many island nations, and yes, they can and do speak multiple languages and are also brave and smart and care about others, and their families do not have big homes, cars, and a TV. And yet, what value do we place on these children when they are adults? Does society feel that these young adults have an "advantage" in the world, or in particular, here in the U.S. in our competitive job market? Not unless they have a good education, and even then, that is no guarantee that they will successfully be able to support themselves. How many PhD's, scientists, and surgeons are driving cabs or working in a deli because their education is not "recognized" here? That is the concern I have for your daughter, especially when you seem to be instilling in her that American values are something to shun. Her family is not "humanity", her family is YOU. As an American, she will learn, especially if she continues to hop around the globe, that not all of humanity is happy to welcome a blue-eyed American with open arms. There will be few Americans who will bond with her, in an American college, for example, if she has the attitude that her American counterpoints are doing it all wrong. I think each one of us has a friend who went to Europe for a semester only to come home and tell the rest of us how great (insert country name here) compared to how crappy the U.S. is. If there is a crisis, for good or bad, she will STILL be an American, and you must prepare her for that. That is one of the realities of living in a "global" world as an adult. What you are doing with her now is an extended summer vacation, unless your plan is to remain in Mexico your entire life.

  8. Chris says:

    The level of smugness in this article is unreal. You need to work on your tone, as you probably didn’t mean to come across this way (I hope)

  9. Kim Life says:

    I loved reading this. I am a former Professional Expat and a Third-Culture Kid (Sub-Saharan Africa and Southeast Asia). I left America when I was three and returned when I was 18 (with occasional one-month summer jaunts to my grandparents' place in California). I then lived in southern Africa for three years as an adult. I had the coolest up-bringing ever. Ever! My mother refused to be the typical expat, sitting at dinner parties bitching about how hard it is to find good help. She took me out and about with her, and I wouldn't change the way I was raised for all the money in the world. You, and your daughter, are both very fortunate.

    I will say that my one bout with serious culture shock was my re-entry to my passport country–the U.S. This was very, very difficult and I would counsel prep for that. Otherwise: good on you! Kim Westlake-Life, http://www.go-aheads.com

  10. Anna says:

    It would be nice to have the money to quit my job and travel the world with my daughter. I think your daughter is having a great experience. But it’s not one most people can afford. They don’t avoid travel by preference, but by necessity.

  11. Tricia says:

    I wondered the same thing? How do you stay on a permanent vacation without any income? Perhaps all those dreadful, long hours spent working in America provided her with the money necessary to live the life she currently does! Give me enough money to live abroad with my kids and to not have to work and my life will be just as dreamy!

  12. miuller says:

    It's sad how foreigners get to experience the best side of other countries. I wish all the locals can say the same.

  13. billybob says:

    i agree with you jan. I agree with all the folks saying how smug this article is… i found this posted on facebook , just so ridiculous

  14. shineshineshine says:

    Such a lovely way to grow up, such a shame written with such ego.

  15. Icy Dice says:

    Same here i move every 3 years and went to like 6 different schools. But my motto was always "home is where the heart is"

  16. J_Boricua says:

    one does not have to stop working in order to be able to do something like what she is doing. You can become an expat, which means you work overseas and live in a place for minimum of 2 to 3 years and then you either go back home or do another one in another country. This is way to be able to travel a region without the expensive price tag attached to it

  17. Kris says:

    Oh my god, you're right. How will she ever cope in the 'real world' when she hasn't been conditioned to fit in, do as she's told, struggle through boring school so she can get a job she isn't passionate about, and understand that she needs to keep her dreams small because they're unlikely to come true – like most do in the 'real' world (assuming you're talking about typical uninspiring unfulfilling Western society.)??
    What a terrible mother she has. Oh wait…

    Her world is just as 'real' as yours Mike.

  18. Heather Pilar says:

    Absolute best, most mindful & considered response yet. Completely agree & I’m luckily to be raising my kids in beautiful Colorado.

  19. Rhiannon says:

    Thank you for this article. I totally get it! Three years ago, I moved abroad as a divorcée with five kids. We haven't hopped from country to country, but have settled into a new home on another continent. While my children are definitely TCKs, I don't think they feel as rootless as some commenters have said they felt because we haven't hopped from country to country to country. Living abroad is a deeply enriching experience for those who can do so successfully. I think the author's daughter is having a very experience-rich childhood!

  20. Rhiannon says:

    Well said, Stunning Steve. But despite the problems you list, Canadians had the good sense to kick Justin Beiber out! Unfortunately, you only punted him south a short distance. 🙁

    LOL 😉

  21. Jo Johnson says:

    Not everyone who is stuck at home is "getting fat". A child's experiences are limited only by it's parents imagination. What a pretentious and arrogant article this is, to boast about your child "not having any American friends", I am not American but I am offended by that comment and the whole tone of this condescending writer.

  22. Amelie says:

    Lovely lifestyle, but the too- perfect presentation reads a lot like those humble-braggy Facebook posts. The “ruining her life” because you don’t live in America is a straw man that nobody really believes. Feels like a veiled plug for the author’s dream coaching business.

  23. Oliver Hernandez-Bordeaux says:

    I grew up in the US military and am very critical of US foreign policy and aspects of a “shared US culture,” but even I found this article to be ridiculously pretentious.

    You would think an “international educator” would not only have a degree of humility, but would realize that the overwhelming majority of the people in the countries where her daughter is living the dream will never go off to college or realize their dreams. The irony here is that as Ms Blue waxes lyrical about he non-US-American lifestyle, her claim that her and her daughter – as individuals – can “make happen” anything that they “dream up and want in this life” smacks of the “American Dream” and is the very essence of individualism – that which she claims to have left behind. Furthermore, in doing so, she shows a complete lack of empathy for the socioeconomic situations and restricted aspirations of large swathes of people in the countries and regions she has lived; after all, her daughter is going to go to grad school or have a professional job – not like the poor simple folk they mingle with. Ultimately, Ms Blue reduces those native peoples to nothing more than the brown-skinned backdrop to her adventure. It’s actually quite sickening to read.

    One last thing. Everything she sees in her daughter has little to do with her being raised abroad. Children are naturally inquisitive, open minded, and eager to explore their surroundings be they nature or man made. If her daughter wasn’t showing any of those qualities, it is probably down to her own shortcomings (lack of interest, time, effort, etc.) as a parent.

    Let’s hope that Ms Blue’s daughter also learns about humility and sincerity during her time abroad, because she isn’t going to learn it from her mother.

  24. Mary says:

    We too live abroad and travel on our sailboat with our 3 children. It is not expensive by any means…you just have to be able to adjust to frugality and be less materialistic. We sold our car which bought our boat. I write articles for side cash and my husband picks up odd jobs at marinas along our journey. There is always a way to live the way you wish to. Sometimes you just have to have no fear and go for it!

  25. YouGoGirl says:

    Great article! Like the way it was written too. For all the “haters” GROW UP!…. everyone doesn’t have to think in a box like you! It’s her article, ( like it or not) she will continue to live and enjoy her life on her terms…

    I Salute you Crystal Blue

  26. james says:

    where can I send donations?

  27. ekatmata says:

    Beautiful piece of writing. This is the way every parent should raise their child. Sensitive to nature and life. Its a draft that I am saving for when I have kids, I will try to follow this as much as possible. Thanks for enlightening us 🙂

  28. Gael says:

    There's not one perfect way to live and raise kids. They don't have to be TVless globetrotters to be thankful, but that's not a bad choice either. It's just not superior to putting down roots. Living in suburbia doesn't equal over scheduled kids and stress. You can have balance no matter what lifestyle you choose. Good for you that you're happy with your choice which isn't financially in the realm of possibility for most people. It's a nice way to raise your kids, but it's not superior to the rest of us. Top bad this sounds so much like the author is said their way is the best way.

  29. Jackie says:

    There are too many comments here where people have missed the point or decided to let this become a bitter contention. Let it go, that’s sorta the whole point on this site.

    It’s amazing that she has the capability of raising her daughter this way and living their live. I envy that and hope that even as an adult I can someday live a life as full as this.

    The rest of you, let go of the jealousy, bitterness and judgement, It’s a pretty ugly color on you all. Shame on you.