U.S. Families Create New Lives Abroad
When my family decided to leave our home in Colorado and live in Mexico for a year, we had no idea that there were so many other American families like us living abroad. We knew of a few. We have close friends who recently returned to the U.S. after traveling the western hemisphere for 2.5 years with their now 6-year-old son in a tricked out camper van. Another Colorado family we know with five kids is currently making its way around the world over the course of a year. We also know of several other American families living in Mexico – people we have either met while vacationing in Mexico in years past, or found on the Facebook group On the Road in Mexico when we were doing research for our trip.
Last June, our friends who were traveling with their young son started a Facebook group dedicated to international overlanding families (overlanding = traveling by motorized vehicle, usually off the beaten path). Within just a month of its creation, there were more than 50 families in the group. As of this post, there are 269 members. These families hail from countries all over the world – England, Germany, France, Canada, Australia, Ecuador, Guatemala and Israel – just to name a few. Some families have been traveling for years, others for more than a decade. Some have had children born on the road, others only have one child. Surprisingly, many are from the United States.
I find this surprising because Americans aren’t really known for taking long vacations or extended voyages to far flung places. Our workaholic culture doesn’t allow for it. Most corporate professionals get only two weeks of vacation a year. People working in professions like construction, manufacturing or in the service industry get even less time off, if any. You could say that the same is true for American kids these days. School and extracurricular activities have basically become a rat race they can’t escape. I know of many parents who spend nearly all of their non-working hours shuttling their kids back and forth to one activity or another. These kids are just as busy and stressed out as their working parents.
It’s no surprise that American families could use more time off just to be and be together. Recently, some American companies like Netflix and Facebook have wised up to this fact and are now offering longer paternity leaves for new fathers. But is it enough? If the five-fold increase in the number of members of International Overland Families is any indication, the answer seems to be a definitive “no.”
So, are more American families exiting the rat race and living abroad today than in years past? If yes, who are they, why are they doing it, how did they do it, and what can other families learn from their experiences?
Over the next several months, I plan to investigate these questions and publish blog posts about what I learn on SlobeFamilyAdventure.com along with my regular posts about our adventures in Mexico.
I welcome your comments and questions on this topic. And, if you know of American families living or taking extended (three months or more) trips abroad, please let me know! Gracias!