Meet my friends, The Princes…
Have you ever really thought about why you send your kids to school? No? Me neither.
We send our children to school because that’s the rule isn’t it? The government tell us that our children have to either be educated in a school or at home. So we follow their instructions and our school system dictates what they learn in school and how they are tested.
I’ve always accepted that this is the way life has to be but friends of mine have recently turned my thought process upside down.
This is their story…
Meet the Prince family.
They are doing something most of us with young children would never even dream of but then they are in a very unique position.
Two years ago, they made a drastic decision about how to raise their four children that most of us wouldn’t even contemplate. That’s not to say it wasn’t thoroughly researched and thought out.
Their story begins when Dan and Clair moved to Singapore for Dan’s job as a Foreign Exchange Broker back in the late 90’s. There, they lived a happy life for many years, immersing themselves in the ex-pat community, making lifelong friendships.
However, as their family grew, they started to question their set up. Dan was working ridiculously long hours; hardly seeing the kids, leaving Clair to run the household, looking after their two older children plus twins and without any family on hand to give support.
Dan was looking to change things for his family and that change came when he read a book. Who knew something so simple could have such a major impact on their life?
The book was ‘The Four Hour Work Week’ by Tim Ferris.
Ferris is a very successful man who has managed to achieve great success in the business world as an author, public speaker and advisor to Facebook and many more internet giants. The book resonated deeply with Dan and went some way in initiating a change in his outlook on life and what was really important. Sure they lived a good life, but Clair and Dan wanted more and between them, dreamed up plans to achieve it.
Since they are technically not permanent residents of any country, (the children have never lived for longer than a few weeks in the UK) there is no one telling them that the children need to be schooled in any particular place.
They decided to give their four children the education of a lifetime and set off travelling around the world. They didn’t make this decision lightly however. They spent a long time researching, planning and contemplating, making sure it was the right decision for them.
As part of their research, they stumbled upon a website lovehomeswap.com which was to be the key in enabling them to travel around the world. They were planning to fund their travels with their savings so obviously needed to put a great deal of thought into how best to travel. The website has helped the Princes to swap their home in Thailand with others around the world meaning that their accommodation is completely free.
Dan has even become an ambassador for the website since his family have become such regular users of the site.
The Princes say that there is a wealth of like-minded travellers in the sharing community and this way of travelling has enabled their family to live rent free in some amazing parts of the world. Not only does this mean that they don’t have a huge outlay for accommodation, but it means that they have the use of a kitchen so are not forced to eat out every day.
Now I’m sure many people are wondering about the children’s education. Clair and Dan are the first to admit that this was their number one concern when they first started thinking about travelling.
But they thought long and hard about it and decided that since they are in a unique situation in regards to their residency, they would use the opportunity to give their children an education like no other.
While other children may be stuck inside the classroom learning times tables (which, don’t get me wrong, are important in life), the Prince children are experiencing other cultures, learning about the history of other countries and mixing with children all over the world. They enjoy food from all over the world and Clair and Dan work hard to teach them about where their food comes from. They also make sure that the children keep up with their maths, reading and writing.
Their travels are documented on their fabulous blog princesoffthegrid.weebly.com and it’s clear that the children have gleaned a much deeper understanding of other cultures and countries than they ever would from looking at pictures. They are witnessing first hand some amazing parts of the world, talking to local people, living amongst other cultures.
I caught up with Clair and Dan when they came home to Essex for a visit recently. I was lucky enough to find out more about their controversial lifestyle.
Q: When you first had the idea of travelling the globe as a family of six, what were you hoping the experience would give you?
D: We wanted to really spend time with the kids while they were still young. So often we are told, ‘blink and you’ll miss it. Before you know it, they are 18.’ We wanted to fully throw ourselves together, experience the same things; challenges, highs and lows and learn together.
C:We wanted to create a better life for us all. One of my favourite quotes is ‘make a life that you don’t need a holiday from’ and that’s what we’re searching for.
Q: Have there been any scary moments that have made you doubt the travelling life?
C: No, luckily, nothing comes to mind.
D: Not really. People will ask about my appendix operation, or Samuel splitting his head open, but that can happen at any time, anywhere, it has nothing to do with the travelling life.
Q: How do the kids cope with different cuisines everywhere they go?
D:They seem to be okay with anything so long as it’s ‘not spicy’. As we home swap we have full kitchens to use, so we self cater everywhere we go, it’s cheaper of course and we can cook everything from fresh.
C: We love checking out the local markets and all the different ingredients that places have to offer – but mostly the basics are the same everywhere.
Q: Where in the world offers the best food in your opinion?
D: We love Thai food. It’s so delicious, but most of all cheap! It seems to be the hardest taste to replicate anywhere else we have travelled. A Thai restaurant in any other part of the world will never beat a Thai person’s cooking with one wok over one gas burner on the side of a beach in Thailand!
C: And Italian food is always good!
Q: What has been your biggest surprise along the way in terms of what you’ve seen or learnt?
D: Siem Reap blew our minds. The temples were so amazing and dated back to 600 AD. The fact they had been completely lost to the jungle and then rediscovered was unreal. Paris and Rome amaze you with history and architecture, London holds a special place in our hearts of it’s rich history too.
Q: Has travelling the world with your kids taught you anything about people and on a larger scale, humanity?
C: It has been one of the best surprises for me as it has really restored my faith in human nature. People have been so kind and helped us in so many ways – even people that are so poor and you’d think have nothing to give – but also in the modern western world too.
D: Yes.People are friendly, open and willing to help. You just have to stop someone and ask for assistance to realise this. Somehow most of us have lost the art of asking strangers for help.
We have found also that when people see us get on public transport they are so eager to help us sit the kids down that they fall over themselves. In Rome we got on a bus and one woman decided not to move for Samuel to sit down, but insisted he sit on her lap instead. They sat there so happy together, smiling the whole way home conversing in English and Italian, it was so nice to see.
Q: Do you ever get tired of living out of a suitcase and how do you manage to travel so light as a family of 6?
D:Tired? Exhausted, actually, completely over it! But hey, it’s better than sitting behind a desk for 11 hours a day or running kids to and from school to 3 different places, then swimming, ballet, parties etc etc. So, as much as it bugs us, it was totally our choice and if that’s our only bug bear in life, then hey, don’t feel too bad for us!
Q: Where has been the kids favourite place to visit?
Kaitlyn – Switzerland (first time she saw snow).
Sophia – Croatia (we travelled there on her birthday and she loved the country so much she cried as we waited for the bus to leave).
Lauren – Singapore, she has fond memories of Singapore and loves it each time we go back there.
Samuel – Queensland, he remembers the theme park there from his birthday.
Q: How do you manage home schooling on the road?
D:We travel with Kumon books, we think they are great for maths. We also use some online resources such as Khan Academy, which is amazing, you can find Sal Khan’s TED talk on our website.
C: They get so much from the travel experiences, so we try not to beat ourselves up if we don’t open the books everyday.
Q: How do you think the experiences the kids have had will impact on the type of people they grow up to be?
D: We think they will be sociable, confident children with a lust for travel and learning, at least we hope!
C: They are very positive people with very open minds.
Q: Where do you think you may settle when the time comes?
D:The million dollar question, watch this space Janine!
Q: What do you think the kids have got out of this adventure?
D: Wow, where do we start? They have had their eyes opened to so much history, geography, cultures, cuisines, religions, races, technology, industry, professions, people, the list goes on. We find they are comfortable in any situation and can roll with whatever the travelling life throws at them, we also love the way they can confidently converse with adults and segway into new groups of friends in an instant.
C: They are so accepting of different cultures, races or religions and it is not anything different for them. They often play with children that can’t speak their language and are from completely different backgrounds – religious and social economic.
Q: Can you explain how the sharing econonmy has helped you to achieve your dream?
D: Without the sharing economy we would not have been able to have travelled for this long, no way. We have home swapped our way around the globe and have stayed in some amazing properties along the way. If we had had to have paid for accommodation, even hostels, we would soon have run out of money!
C: Not only that, but with out the kitchens, we would have to pay to eat out and with 4 kids, I need the accommodation to have a washing machine 🙂
Q: What are the negatives of travelling with the kids?
D: HA, the same things as everybody would say, but we have been doing it so long now that we are used to each child’s personality and each one of them has their own unique routine on plane journeys which is quite funny.
C: We never have a break from them, not even for 5 minutes. Which is mostly a positive but there are certainly days…..
Q: What advice would you give to other families thinking of following in your footsteps?
D: Go for it, if you are considering it, then you just have to rip off the band aid and take the leap. The regret you will have 10 years later if you don’t do it will be unbearable.
Whilst spending 24 hours a day with my kids and husband would be a dream come true, (*shudder*) not everyone feels the same, I’m sure.
But the Princes seem to be showing no signs of putting down roots just yet. They are planning on a longer trip to Spain, to allow time for the children to pick up a new language and then they plan to house swap in the UK to give the kids a more realistic picture of life in England other than the few summers they have spent here with family.
The kids will only be young for such a short time and I’m sure they would adapt well to traditional schooling if that’s what Dan and Clair decide in the end. But one thing’s for sure, they will have plenty of stories to tell their friends on the playground and some amazing memories.
So far the Prince family have explored over 13 countries! I’m not sure I could deal with all the packing and unpacking but I’m always fascinated by people that live different lives to me and enjoy learning about what drives them. I hope you have enjoyed learning about them too.
So, where will they decide to put down roots when the time comes? With friends and family scattered across the globe, it’s a tough choice. I guess we’ll have to watch this space!
Would you ever consider travelling the globe with your children?
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