The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.Eleanor Roosevelt
On our first day of Spanish class in Valencia, Laurie and I met another couple even crazier than us. Some people think we were nuts to sell our house and live a life on the road. Jon and Kari have done the same thing—but with three daughters aged 12, 10, and 8.
Five years ago the Salt Lake City pair were watching an episode of House Hunters International which featured a Denver couple who moved abroad with three young daughters—who happened to be the same age as Jon and Kari’s trio. Inspired by the idea, they started to plan their own overseas adventure.
They began to save money almost right away and in year two, the pair took a two week scouting trip to Europe to visit London and Barcelona. They settled on Spain and returned in 2017 with Halee, Lexee, and Berklee to scout schools and towns on the Spanish Mediterranean coast. Barcelona turned out to be too big, and would required both Spanish and Catalonian in classes. Eventually they settled on Valencia which is a big, interesting town, but has a small town feel in many respects.
Jon is part owner of a successful mortgage company and was highly involved in day-to-day operations. As part of their preparation he had to train people and delegate so that he could have a more part time role, executed from abroad. Most of the research and navigating the bureaucracy to secure Spanish visas fell to Kari. But last June—five years after watching that show—the house was sold, their goods in storage, and the five were on their way to sunny Valencia.
They settled into an apartment on the top floor of a building in a busy neighborhood. But until school started, that was only their base of operations for their European escapades. Over the summer they visited 37 countries on a series of trips. Everyone, including the youngest, carried their own gear in backpacks.
Their adventures included running with the bulls in Pamplona (Jon and Kari only—no need to contact child protective services), hiking in Iceland, swimming in Lake Bled in Slovenia, and using a pitcher to bathe in Italy when the hot water failed. All five had a personal journal that they wrote in daily. Jon and Kari found it interesting how each of them came away with a different perspective. For one it might be the amazing churches, for another, the tacos in a Mexican restaurant—in Finland.
Kari commented, “The girls have really enjoyed traveling. They really liked anyplace they could swim or just be kids and play.”
When we talked to the girls about their favorite memories Berklee, the youngest, mentioned playing Minecraft on the iPad. I guess castles and history can only hold your attention for so long. Lexee, the middle daughter thought it was cool that her parents ran with the bulls in Pamplona. Halee has an affection for Finnish food, and likes the beach in Valencia because, “It’s so long.” They’re all fans of Slovenia and Switzerland.
For now they’re adapting to the regular rigors of school, and at the same time learning Spanish and doing much of their homework in this language. They also deal with less free time because school days are longer here than back in Utah.
Kari and Jon are also spending time in school. One of their goals for this journey was to become conversational in Spanish. They signed up for three months worth of courses at a local language school. We met and got to know them during our three weeks of classes.
When we talked to them about what they’d learned from the experience so far, Jon said, “Drop your expectations. We thought we’d have so much free time but classes take so much time…Being more in the moment has been an adjustment being here in Valencia.”
Kari said, “The kids were way more overbooked at home than they are here because sports are so much more important in the states. We’ve been able to spend more time together as a family.”
Each Friday they let the girls choose a restaurant to eat out. A bit of a celebration for getting through a week together. We joined them for a dinner at Swagat, a local Indian restaurant in Valencia. It was fun watching the girls interact with the staff who have effectively adopted them. It’s something that might not happen in a US restaurant where turning tables is such a priority.
I think the thing we admire most about Jon, Kari, Halee, Lexee, and Berklee is that they have a shared dream and by working together they are part way through an amazing adventure. It would be easy to say, “The kids are too young, we can’t afford it, or…” But they’ve embarked on an experience that is drawing them closer as a family and broadening their horizons in very special ways.
We also appreciate that, we are no longer the craziest ones in the room.
Travel Update: We’ve left our intrepid friends behind in Valencia for Madrid—our final week abroad. We would have liked to find turkey paella for Thanksgiving yesterday but had to settle for suckling pig. On our way back to the USA this coming Wednesday after over three months abroad in England, Italy, and Spain.