My niece and her husband recently brought their new baby boy home from the hospital. I look at that cute little guy and think about when my children were born.
- What would they look like when they grew up?
- Would they go to college?
- What hobbies and careers would they choose and;
- Where would they settle down?
Well, Jamie and Chris grew up before my eyes and were suddenly marching off to college, leaving my husband and me as empty nesters. In a blink of an eye, we were at college graduations and were so happy when they landed fantastic jobs.
It seemed I had all the answers to those questions I wondered when they were babies. Or, maybe not…
When Adult Children Move Away
About four years ago my daughter earned her Masters Degree, got married (I gained a son-in-law who I love as my own child), and moved about 2 1/2 hours away. That’s not too far, definitely a driveable distance. They have busy lives, as do we, so sometimes we don’t see them as often as I’d like, but it’s all part of what I expected in life.
Then there’s my son. About two years ago, our young professional lad announced he applied for and received a one-year work visa for New Zealand and had two months until his move.
So many emotions popped into this momma’s head!
Backing Up In Time
Overall, both my husband, Ray, and I grew up in typical suburbia following the paths of going to college, landing a good job, getting married, having children, saving for retirement, etc.
Ray is a stereotypical baby boomer (known for strong work ethics and being goal-centric) and I squeaked into the Generation X group (we’re going to save the world). We follow the unsaid rules of working hard, investing our money wisely, and aim for early retirement.
We raised our children and encouraged them to go to college. Get your degree and you’ll be setup for a good job, we said. While we didn’t specify the United States, it was our unspoken expectation.
Expectations are silent contracts or agreements we have made with others but they know nothing about. (Rhonda Britten)
A part of Ray and me may have been thinking “Look at us. We traveled the traditional path, and we turned out great!” Yet, Chris had a different idea about the path he would go down in this wonderful experience called life.
Why he wanted to live an expat life (aka vegabond)
For starters, let me acknowledge that nobody does this unless they have a certain level of confidence to break the mold and live adventurously.
Basically, he had planned to take a year off to travel immediately after college graduation. The safety director in me suggested he study abroad for a year because in my head he would be safer if under the umbrella of a university program.
But no, he didn’t want to miss out on the college experience. And then he was offered the perfect job after graduation.
He enjoyed his job but as time went on his desire to travel got stronger. He put some time into researching his options.
It’s also helpful that he seems to have the material needs of a happy hobo. He’s frugal and is just fine with living on a dime.
RELATED READS: Post #1 of the New Zealand Travel Series
Interestingly, as we began to share the news with our friends who are also in their midlife, the overwhelming response was, “I wish I would’ve done that when I was his age!” A close runner-up was, “He’s so brave! I don’t know if I could’ve done that.”
Benefits of Traveling Abroad
My personal travel has shown me there are many benefits to traveling. During our vacation in France this past summer, I enjoyed the whole process. Even the anticipation of going made me happy. Navigating a foreign country knowing very, VERY little of the language made me better learn to navigate and communicate in different ways. I was grateful for each day.
There are scientifically-backed mental, physical and emotional health benefits of traveling the world. An article from GreenHeartTravel.com sited 6 benefits of traveling abroad when you’re young:
- You’ll Get Out of Your Comfort Zone
- Traveling Builds Confidence
- You Will Develop Cultural Sensitivity
- You Can Adapt to Globalization
- Be Immersed in a Second (or Third) Language
- Infinite Opportunities to Network
So, that’s what the research says, but when it’s your kid, you want to know for sure — is it true? I went straight to the source; my son, Chris.
Interview With My Adult Child On Living & Traveling Abroad
What inspired you to live the expat lifestyle?
Nothing specific really. I applied for the New Zealand work visa when I was frustrated with the newly elected U.S. president. I then decided I had enough of working in an office and thought, “what the heck” and went ahead with my plans.
Going forward, do you prefer to visit or live in different countries?
I’d rather live in different countries but I don’t have the time nor the work visas. It’s pretty hard to get work visas in many countries.
What is the most exciting thing about landing in a new country?
Not knowing anyone. There’s no expectations on me. Nobody knows my back story and I can be like I want to be. It’s similar to when I first went to college.
What is the best thing about your travels so far?
My girlfriend that I met while working in New Zealand.
In addition, I’ve made friends that live throughout the world. When I traveled around Europe this summer, I met up with four friends who I met while living in New Zealand last year.
How do you afford to live this lifestyle?
Living as cheaply as possible. I work and save as much as possible, and then travel. Rinse and repeat.
I’ve learned that working seasonal jobs that are in line with hobby interests is a lot more fun than picking kiwi (my least favorite seasonal job). For example, working at a ski resort has the benefit of free snowboarding on my off-time, so that lets me have fun without spending money.
I also travel as cheaply as possible. That includes many buses, layovers, and no straight flights.
How have you handled language barriers?
In New Zealand, I had friends from many different countries. My German high school and college classes came in handy. Most people from other countries knew some English and liked to practice their speaking English with me.
Do you have a plan for how many years you intend to continue living in other countries?
I don’t have a plan past my upcoming year I will soon start living and working in Canada. (Mom’s note: Let’s just say he’s not a big planner.)
Tips for Parents When Your Adult Child Moves Away
Whether your adult child is heading off to college, settling down in another city, or somewhat of a vegabond, these tips will help you feel more connected. Heck, sometimes life is busy and you might enjoy connecting with your grown child who lives across town!
Thankfully, today’s technology really helped us with becoming more comfortable with the distance.
1 – There’s an app for that.
My top tip is to agree on an app or two for communication. We have two apps that have worked particularly well for us.
- WhatsApp: We mostly use WhatsApp because it works with any type of cellphone. With WhatsApp, you can:
- Text: short messages to just say hello or conversations. Go with whatever your child is most comfortable.
- Share photos: always fun to receive, but don’t forget to send them, too!
- Video chat: seeing their face while you talk is a game changer. It really helps me feel connected to both my children since neither live close to me.
- SnapChat: I love SnapChat because I receive more quick, random pics showing what they’re doing or where they went. This assumes that your child uses SnapChat.I don’t have many connections on SnapChat, pretty much my kids, niece and nephew. You know that cute little newborn I showed off above? I get at least one “snap” every day. I really enjoy virtually watching him grow even though they live 3 1/2 hours away from me.
2 – Enjoy your new chapter of life.
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If your children have grown from dependent children, to capable, responsible adults, you should rejoice!
Enjoy the adventures your children go through, and create adventures of your own. You don’t have daily responsibilities for young children, so it’s the perfect time for you to focus on yourself!
Your children still need you, just in a different way. For a few years you may feel unneeded. I always say… just wait til you have a baby, then I’ll be back in demand!
This past summer Chris traveled throughout parts of Europe. Since we are empty nesters, we were able to join him for a few weeks. It was a vacation of a lifetime; not only visiting a foreign country but also spending time with my 26 year-old son!
Let Go of Expectations, and Embrace Your Adult Child’s Life Choices
Think about it, the goal of parenthood is to prepare your child to go out into life and be independent and happy. When your child becomes an adult, it’s time to see your child as an adult, not as a child who doesn’t know the best way to do things.
If you raise your children to feel that they can accomplish any goal or task they decide upon, you will have succeeded as a parent and you will have given your children the greatest of all blessings.
~ Brian Tracy
Did you live your life according to what your parents thought you should do? If so, I imagine you have some regrets… coulda, woulda, shoulda.
If your adult child is brave enough to take on any type of new adventure on his or her own, you should be proud as a parent. Even if it’s not what you choose, it’s their decision and their life. They weren’t put on this earth to please you, they need to blaze their own trail.
I’m not saying it’s easy to say goodbye. I shed many tears when I say goodbye for what I know will be a long time. In fact, when I hugged him goodbye as he left for New Zealand for a year, through my down-right crying I had to ask him to look beyond my tears because I was proud of him and excited for his adventure.
It’s exciting to watch him explore the world one country at a time, meeting new people and experiencing life to its fullest. I love to travel virtually so I too learn as he travels.
So I encourage you to try to embrace whatever your adult child decides is the right path for him/her. Although you might still plant seeds, the days of being an authority on their decisions are gone. Enjoy watching them take their own journey through life. Please drop me a comment with your thoughts or experiences.
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