As I gear up for my 9,682-mile flight to attend the Families in Global Transition annual conference, I decided to look back at pivotal moments that my own family “knew” being global nomads would be O.K. What better way to share that than with memories of their past.
When should we move abroad?
Every family asks, “When is the best time to go abroad with kids?” My response has always been when you feel you are ready or want to. Remember the first thing you need to do. That is to get everyone in the family frequent flier cards. We missed out on some essential flights by waiting until our oldest child was two years old before getting her the first Frequent Flyer card.
First get your kids an FF mile card – global family needs
Often traveling with children is not the best but we all power through and get to our final landing location. Here is Jackie’s first exposure to her Frequent Flyer card. We were in Perth, Australia and often traveled to Denver International Airport to see her Grandma and extended family members. She was not that impressed.
The second questions parents often ask is “How do you tell your family that they will be moving!” This is also one of those times when the sooner you do it, the better just like the FF card!
You need to set the stage!
You need to build the drama and then let them know what their new adventure will be. We were in an ideal situation, our company had moved us back to the head office, and we were lucky enough to have Grandpa and Grandma live in that city. It was fun because the kids were four-years-old and one-year -old so they got a lot of fun Grandparent time. Then we got the invitation to move to Jakarta. Now the kids were five and one-half years old and two and one-half years old so we had to make sure that the kids would be excited to move so far away and start a new adventure.
Get them excited by what interests them!
I decided to show them books about the Indonesia and the neat places we might see. But the biggest hit was the books about packing and the massive trucks!
As parents, you have the right to focus on what makes the most sense to your family at that point in time. To have long discussions about missing Grandparents didn’t make sense since time and distance were strange concepts at this age. We needed to focus on what was going on right then. That was boxes and trucks for our family!
Focus on what your family needs in the here and now – global family needs
After the initial focus of moving, the next biggest hurdle is the actual flight. For many people, this can be a 4-hour flight from one part of the country to another, but for many of us, it was often several flights and some over 13 hours long. We all call these our ultra long-haul non-stop flights. According to the airlines, these flights are commercially operated with no scheduled intermediate stop of any kind, and a route length is over 7,500 miles!
Many of us, often have several flights and some of these flights are over 13 hours long. Ultra long-haul non-stop flights can be enjoyable if your child can eat and go to bed and treat it like a regular night of sleep. If they can not – it is an awful situation for everyone. There is no place to go, no place to have a meltdown and no way to escape until you have landed.
Now the longest non-stop scheduled airline flight is from Dallas/Fort Worth, USA, to Sydney, Australia. This flight is almost 17 hours! That would have been great when our kids were small, but it still meant we would have had a flight from Denver to get to Dallas and then a flight from Sydney to get to Perth!
Recently I have been flying Toronto to Hong Kong and these 15 hours flights are no longer fun. Some people say traveling with kids is never fun, but as a mom, I have to say I liked flying with my kids. I must also admit that sometimes we might not have done the traditional things families do on planes.
Yes, that is my two-year-old with a paintbrush on a plane! These were “paint with water books.” I know that now these books are hard to find. Thank goodness there are some still on Amazon. Two-year-olds can sit for an hour or so paint these books, and the clean up is not that much. Like most things – they change. We had the one-time use ones and loved them. Now they make ones called “water WOW ones.” The WOW ones dry and then you can do them over and over and over again.
Time changes everything.
I love to see global families. I know they are building a ton of special memories for their children. If you happen to run across Grant or Jackie in some airport, please ask them what was more enjoyable traveling when they could easily curl up in the airplane seat or now as they are over 5ft 10+ tall?
If you see me looking out the window of 22A looking sad, just smile and walk on. You will not want me to share the “extended” version of how hard it is to travel alone when you are used to traveling with children. You won’t want to hear about Jackie wearing big girl panties on the plane when she was two or Grant heading off to business class alone since “Mr. Simens” got upgraded. He was seven year old – leaving Jackie and I in economy class. Sometimes the empty nest issues hits you in the strangest places.
I am flying to Washington DC from Lombok, Indonesia where I just spend a wonderful week of rest and relaxation! What a perfect way to start a long trip. As we sat on the beach, the local ice cream man arrived on his motorcycle. The song instantly transported us back to Jakarta where we raised our kids for five years. The music brings a tear to my eye as I remember Grant running to the front door of our home singing, “I’ll be good, I’ll be good as I eat the ice cream.” We still don’t know the real words to this jingle, but we are aware of our family’s version.