An outdoor mama’s guide to moving abroad with kids
I’m far from an expert on moving abroad, however, I’ve learned a few tips our recent move to England. When school let out in March and didn’t start in fall, our family decided to move-in with my in-laws in England so my girls could attend in-person schooling. We traded 300 plus days of sunshine and ski season for a more stable school year.
Upon leaving home, I was determined to keep up our active outdoor lifestyle despite the cold, wet and dark days of the English winter. Now a few months into our adventure, I don’t fret when the sun sets on the way home from school pick up because it turns out my kids love playing in the dark. A headlamp and a rain jacket go a long way.
If possible, scout the area you want to move first. We made two month long trips to visit family so I knew there were places to get outside and into nature.
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Moving Abroad with Kids: Start slow, keep expectations low
When we first arrived in England, we had to quarantine for 2 weeks. The first day out we explored the church across the street from our house. What we lack in wilderness, we make up in cultural enrichment.
Our simple walks around the village kept me sane those first few weeks. Teaching the kids to look the opposite direction when crossing the street was the first part of adapting to our new environment.
Already knowing the local language helps tremendously but if you’re struggling like Babble or Rosetta Stone that can offer assistance. English speaking outdoor groups on social media can help connect you to others learning a new country. Making expat friends can help kids transition and talk about their experiences.
Plan ahead, pack plenty of snacks, go with the flow.
You’re going to make mistakes when you move abroad with kids. I moved my children to England without proper rain gear. They had rain jackets but they we useless in English rain. I let them play in puddles because saying no was against my core but I ended washing a lot of shoes and clothes while I bought and retuned several sets of gear.
We still don’t have our rain gear game dialed but I keep trying. We will find our rhythm eventually.
I’m coveting both the Weedo rain gear (currently sold out) and Reima rain gear which we’ve recently reviewed here at TMM. Both suits held up very well in harsh conditions and come in fun prints and characters.
Team member, Kristen from Alaska, has a similar climate to where we’ve moved. I’ve been reading her posts and watching how she dresses her kids for playing in the cold and rain.
Amelia has also written a great article on rain gear and keeping kids dry.
Find your people when moving abroad with kids
After a month long wait to join our local cycling club, we finally felt at home when we arrived to our Monday night cycle-cross practice. Joining clubs and teams is a great way to find friends to meet out of the trails/crag/ocean. That said, I had to push myself out the door after dark to cyclocross practice 30 minuets away.
I encouraged my kids we were on an adventure as we drove down pitch dark single lane country roads. My eldest retorted, “mom, it can’t be an adventure if Google Maps is on.” Touché kid, touché.
Be gentle with yourself. The truth is we haven’t gotten out nearly as much as I hoped in the last three months. We were hitting a new trail each week before we moved. We’ve only hit a few since we’ve moved abroad.
Buying a car, rack and bikes takes time, money and patience. If you’re newer to biking, I highly recommend Beginner’s Guide to Family Biking. We have found only 3 bike trails that work for our family but that’s more than enough for my girls to practice their skills and enjoy the fresh air.
My kids aren’t great hikers but we’ve been able to hit our backyard trail at least once a week and they are learning to enjoy hiking in the rain. I’ve found this Hiking Hacks article helpful, especially the part about finding a stick. Why do kids always hike better with a stick?
As England enters a second wave of a month long lockdown, I’m grateful for the few trails we have found that are close to home. Checking in with local governments and restrictions is key to being a respectful visitor.
Read signs carefully, I’ve bought local maps (which pay for trail macitence) that help explain trails system here in England. I’m learning a whole new set of color and shape codes which explain whether the trail is walking only or for bikes, horses or E-bikes.
Do what the locals do
My girls were ecstatic to join the local pony club and attend horseback riding lessons. This is most definitely an outdoor activity that our area is well-known for. I still think biking is better since the horse does all the work but my girls are in love and have yet to complain about the dumping rain or freezing wind on hard weather days.
They will ride in any weather and I plan on building on this stamina for other sports.
Let go of looking for home
When we moved to Israel I was child free and exploring was easy. However, I kept looking for my favorite activities from home. I found a climbing wall in the middle of a city park which satisfied me to some extent but I couldn’t figure out how to ride on the road safely.
We lived right on the beach in Tel Aviv and thus adapted to riding along the board walk. Looking back, my fondest memories are walking along the beach and city neighborhoods for hours on end.
Find what makes your new location special, watch the locals and do what they do. That might mean trying a new activity. What a better way to teach kids bravery and stamina then learn a new sport with them.
Keep an eye out for rental programs, no need to go out and buy all the gear for a new sport. Check out second hand shops. This way if the sport isn’t for you, you don’t feel guilty about having wasted money. Many local clubs offer a library or rental program as well as discounts to sponsored brands.
Think about dressing for a new climate
I know how to dress for schizophrenic weather, Colorado is known for a 90 degree weather for breakfast and a snowstorm come nightfall. I know how to layer and plan ahead but I was not prepared for a dumping rainstorm when my weather app clearly showed sunshine.
We’ve had to learn the hard way to keep raincoats stashed in both the car and our hiking packs at all times (no exceptions). I’ve also gotten a crash course on the level system for waterproofing. There’s rain and then there’s torrential rain.
In Israel, I had to up my hydration game and sun-protection. I got a few nasty burns before I realized less is more. The less skin showing, the less chance I had of burning.
Moving to a warm climate? Check out our Best Tips For Hot Weather Hiking. In England, layers are key and either waterproof hikers or full on Wellingtons are a must. Staying dry is a full time job here.
Get to know local brands. Don’t be afraid to try new companies, just be sure to check refund policies. I’ve found many of the English brands the locals are wearing are comparable, if not better than the American brands I’m familiar with.
Local brands can offer better pricing and support the local economy.
Volunteer abroad or find ways to be of service
My saving grace comes Wednesday mornings when I pitch in at the local charity bike shop. Moving is hard and humbling, service work clears the mind and quiets the heart. It also puts me in the know with regards to all things bike.
I hear about kids programs, good places to ride and receive the opportunity to get my hands dirty doing something genuinely useful. Settling into a big move is a waiting game. It just takes time to gain confidence and build new routines.
Volunteering gives my heart something to look forward outside my family and gives me some perspective as the money made from the bikes goes to kids with cancer.
Moving abroad is a huge change, give yourself some space and grace. Solo adventures and extra self-care rituals are essential. Whether it’s a bath or a yoga session, find time to refill your cup and good luck!
- Reima rain gear review (and discount code)
- Best rain gear for kids
- Best tips for hot weather hiking with kids
- Beginner’s guide to family biking
An outdoor mama’s guide to moving abroad with kids
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