Today marks the third year anniversary of taking the road less traveled, when our family detoured from a comfortable, familiar path to a wild, crazy adventure. In these past 3 years, our lives have been anything but conventional, and it has been one heck of a journey full of surprises at every turn. We morphed from unschooling to homeschooling to worldschooling. Bridgette’s education went from a traditional classroom to planes, trains, museums, farms, beaches, cruise ships, and other atypical settings. Of the 3 years though, 2018 is probably the most memorable year for me. It was the year that my life got completely knocked off course. I traded my career for the role of a full time mom, something I once proclaimed I would never do, and traveled to 11 different countries to worldschool Bridgette. 😳
Many people have asked us what worldschooling is like, about Bridgette’s education, and how our family copes with the constant traveling, so I figured it’s time to share some updates on our blog! 🙂
To start, we’re constantly being asked, “What’s Bridgette learning right now?” Honestly, it’s a hard question to answer, because she’s learning such a wide variety of things at any given time, primarily based on her interests, our travels, and a number of other factors. When we were in Beijing, we learned a lot about the history of the Great Wall and Forbidden City, as expected. But, we also learned how villagers live in contrast to city dwellers, how and why China government has such power to ban websites like google and facebook, why it is perfectly normal to see people spit on the streets, and so much more. Then there are the life skills that she is learning wherever we go…reading maps and navigating complex transportation routes, finding solutions to really hard problems we come across, persevering through challenging environments, etc. We travel much more frugally for worldschooling than we would for family vacations, so it’s a lot of different (and sometimes difficult) environments that we have to adapt to. Bridgette is constantly expected to figure things out with me, and these experiences have helped both of us to grow wiser, stronger, and braver. In fact, Bridgette is a true champion when it comes to traveling now. We can be on a 21 hour journey with multiple transits, plane rides, bus rides, and A LOT of walking with heavy suitcases, and she can still emerge with a smile and positive attitude. We can be biking for hours in a foreign country, and she would persevere without complaint, even when her legs were aching. We could be staying at the St. Regis or a tiny hostel room with bugs and she’d be perfectly content either way. In our recent trip to Bern, Switzerland, we were lugging suitcases in the pouring rain with a broken umbrella and we ended up barging into a complete stranger’s unlocked home because I mistakenly thought it was our Airbnb. The owner was not happy and chased us out, scolding us in German, and while I felt severely defeated after a really difficult day, Bridgette still stepped up to help us check into our Airbnb when we eventually found it. Seeing her character shape to be such a kind, strong, and competent young lady really has made all the traveling woes worth it for me. I only wish I was 10 years younger so that I have more energy. I feel like I’m constantly in a state of jetlag these days, and simply cannot bounce around from one time zone to the next the same way Bridgette is able to.
It has been a year of transition for Alan as well. He left his job at Box at the end of March, and decided to start his own consultancy, which has been a long time goal of his. While this has gained him more flexibility in his schedule, equating to more travel time with Bridgette and I, it has also brought on much longer work hours as he builds his clientele. It has been both exciting and nerve wrecking to go through this transition for us. Giving up a stable income is never easy, but our whole family, as well as many friends and people from both our churches, helped to pray long and hard about this before Alan officially took the leap. Admittedly, his intensified work life was hard for me to adjust to in the beginning, but I kept reminding myself how he supported me so wholeheartedly when I was chasing my dreams as a Wedding Planner, and I knew I needed to do the same for him. Our whole lifestyle has changed so dramatically in just a few year’s time, and while we now have a much better rhythm than we did two years ago, we’re still learning how to choreograph this new lifestyle together, one where we’re apart a lot more than we would want. This has, however, made all of us cherish the times that we do get to be together, whether or home or abroad, and it has in fact actually brought us more closer than ever. Is there fear? Ofcourse! Both Alan and I grew up living a mainstream lifestyle, with a traditional education. Choosing to jump outside our comfort zone to live an unconventional lifestyle now can feel foreign at times. But, our faith has sustained us through intermittent times of self-doubt, and for now, we know this is the journey that makes our family thrive.
As for me….well, it’s been both a really significant year of self-reflection and a challenging year of learnings as soon as I stepped into this role. As a long time planner in both my personal and professional life, it has been incredibly hard to relinquish that part of me in this new journey. Allowing Bridgette to be an active part in the planning of our travels is a really important aspect of her worldschooling, and to do that, I also have to leave a lot of room for her to make mistakes so that she can learn from them. What does this look like? Well, I’ve had to knowingly allow us to get on the wrong train in Europe when Bridgette was helping us to navigate the way, even with all our luggages with us! I’ve had to refrain from jumping in when she mistakenly used her francs instead of pounds while making a purchase in the UK. I’ve had to stand firm on eating cold sandwiches in our Airbnb room for dinner when she went over our daily budget by mid-afternoon. Each time, I would have the urge to just jump in to resolve the problem with my knowledge, my money, and my ways, but that certainly wouldn’t teach Bridgette the same lessons, so I’ve had to keep my seat on the back bench and just pray for patience! I really think this is God’s way of teaching me to let go of control!
Despite all the hardships of this journey, it has truly been remarkable and eye opening for me to not just watch how Bridgette flourishes in so many ways, but for me to also learn alongside her. While we don’t have the tests or grades to measure her learning, I’m pretty much tethered to her day in and day out, so I get to observe the many different ways that she learns on a daily basis. She’s learning when we figure out how to buy train tickets. She’s learning when she’s chatting it up with the stranger seated next to her on the plane. She’s learning when she’s trying to exchange her money into a different currency. She’s learning when she helps to budget for our trips. She’s learning when she researches for each destination we travel to. She’s learning when she puts together her Youtube travel videos. As a worldschooler, the world is literally her classroom, and so far, this new lifestyle really seems to suit her kinesthetic learning style. She has grown so much this year (literally and figuratively!) and it’s been a real blessing to be able to witness it first hand. While sometimes it still feels too hard for me, the pros far outweigh the cons, and if there’s one thing I know I will never regret, it is this abundance of quality time that I am getting with Bridgette before she goes off into the world as an adult.
With that…..here’s our recap in pics of all our adventures this year!
January 2018–Started the year off with lots of quality time with friends and family. Skied in Lake Tahoe over MLK weekend with the Lee family, and spent a week in Toronto visiting the Chung, Mo, and Tam families! Celebrated Bridgette’s 11th birthday a little early with cheese fondue and a sleepover party with her close friends.
February 2018–Flew to Hong Kong and celebrated my birthday, Bridgette’s birthday, and Chinese New Year with our family and friends there, then flew to Hoi An, Vietnam and visited the Kemp family! Bridgette and her worldschooling bestie, Ruby, attended a local farm school in Hoi An and were also very involved with Tet, the Vietnamese New Year.
March 2018–We returned home to the Bay Area just in time to celebrate Alan’s birthday, and spent the rest of the month catching up with friends and family. Bridgette attended a winter camp at Mount Hermon with one of her buddies Anita, and journaled a ton about her travels.
April 2018–The first week of April included time with my uncles who visited from Puerto Rico, my cousin Joanne’s birthday celebration, and EASTER! Our whole family volunteered at our church’s big Easter celebration this year, and the highlight was seeing Alan dressed up as David the Shepherd in the petting zoo! 🙂 The rest of April was spent in Australia, where we traveled to Brisbane, Sydney, Whitsunday Islands, Great Barrier Reef, and the Gold Coast. We especially loved getting to visit our extended family in Sydney, where Bridgette got to bond with her younger cousins there.
May 2018–Mostly stayed in the Bay Area to enjoy California’s spring sunshine, but also took a couple of short trips, one to Napa Valley for a night, and another to San Diego for 2 nights with my mom. We really cherish the quality time with our friends and family whenever we are back home! A consistent community is something we lack and miss dearly while worldschooling, even though we have had the good fortune of meeting new friends and reconnecting with old ones during our travels.
June 2018–Mimi, Brianne, and Brady arrived after the first week of June for their annual summer trip here, and it’s what we look forward to all year! Brianne and Bridgette had a week of film making camp at Stanford (total disappointment which you can read about here), we spent 2 glorious nights at Autocamp, and celebrated Brady’s 2 year old birthday!
July 2018–We packed our bags once again and flew to Texas with the fam bam to spend 10 days with our extended family from Puerto Rico, Atlanta, Boston, and Colombia. We daringly took a road trip in the scorching Texas heat with Brady in tow, and it turned out to be super fun. The rest of July was spent back in the Bay Area, with Brianne and Bridgette away for a week at Mount Hermon’s Timberline Camp in Kidder Creek with their cousins Jovi and Sherwin. Before the Chuangs were due to leave at the end of the month, we enjoyed more outings in the California sunshine, including our favorite farmer’s markets, theme parks, and picnic spots. 2 major highlights of this month: Brady participated in a child dedication at our church, and Bridgette got baptized!!!
August 2018–After the Chuangs went back to Hong Kong, we hosted Yumi, a foreign student from Japan, in our home, which was a wonderful experience all around (other than the language barrier!) After Yumi’s departure, Bridgette enjoyed another week-long overnight camp at Mount Hermon with her friend Anita, and then we welcomed my dear cousin Celine into our home for the week, who came to visit from Boston! Right after Celine left, Bridgette and I packed our bags again and flew off to Paris to start our month-long journey in Europe!
September 2018–After our first week in Paris, Bridge and I flew to Bath, UK to spend a week with her worldschooling bestie, then to London for a few days to visit the Tam family, then to Rome! We enjoyed a few days of awesome learning in Rome before my parents and sis joined us from Hong Kong, and my aunt and uncle joined us from Puerto Rico! We celebrated my dad’s 80th birthday with a Mediterranean Cruise, which brought us to Barcelona, Palma de Majorca, Cinque Terre, Cannes, Nice, Monte Carlo, Pisa, Florence, and the Amalfi Coast. Bridge and I spent the last two weeks of the month catching our breath back at home, and I finished my very last wedding in Napa!
October 2018–We spent nearly the entire October in Asia, beginning with Hong Kong. After about a week in Hong Kong, Alan, Bridge, and I flew to Tokyo for 10 days. We finally got to visit Disney Sea, taste the IG famous ginormous cotton candy in Harajuku, and allow Bridgette to practice her Japanese with the locals. Bridgette’s cousin, Sherwin, joined us with his mom for the latter part of the trip, and we ate our way around Tokyo for the last 4 days! After Tokyo, Alan flew home to the Bay Area while Bridge and I headed to Beijing for our annual girls’ trip with Mimi and Brianne. This was probably my favorite trip of the entire year! We walked the Great Wall of China, ate in a local villager’s home, biked around different villages, learned about the Forbidden City while IN the Forbidden City, and bought enough washi tapes to last a lifetime. We made it back home in the nick of time for Bridgette’s favorite day of the year–HALLOWEEN!
November 2018–We were thrilled to be home for 3 whole weeks for this month. When you travel and live on the road, you’ll really learn to appreciate the luxuries you have at home…such as a washer/dryer, a car to get around, and enough hangers for all your clothes! We spent much of November resting, seeing family/friends, and participating in our church’s annual BE RICH program to help our community’s schools. Bridgette’s learning does not stop when we are home, though “homeschooling” would include more workbooks and special projects, such as learning all about the midterm elections and the importance to VOTE! For Thanksgiving this year, we took a road trip with two other families (Bridgette’s childhood besties) to San Diego and LA! After that trip, we unpacked, and then quickly repacked for our very last international trip of the year…to Switzerland!
December 2018– We spent the first two weeks in Switzerland, and checked off “skiing/snowboarding on the Swiss Alps” from Alan’s bucket list. We spent 4 days in the storybook village of Zermatt, 2 days in Zurich, and then while Alan went back to work, Bridgette and I continued exploring Lucerne and Bern before we headed home. We got home the week before Christmas, and somehow still had the energy to buy and set up a Christmas tree at home this year! We hosted our extended family from Atlanta, Boston and Puerto Rico, segway-ing and eating together through San Francisco before driving north to Lake Tahoe for some time on the slopes. We ended the year with a 4 night sleepover for Bridgette and one of her childhood besties, Chloe, and went photo crazy at the Museum of Ice Cream’s PINKMAS exhibits.
In hindsight, I was probably a bit overly ambitious in our worldschooling plans in 2018. We took a total of 14 trips in 12 months, and by our last international trip to Switzerland in December, we (well, mostly I) were exhausted to our cores. As with every new journey in life, there’s a big learning curve with worldschooling and I’m definitely hoping that 2019 will be a little easier.
We’re also asked often how long we will continue worldschooling Bridgette, and the answer is, we have no idea! We’re taking it year by year, and reassessing as a family towards the end of each year if we want to continue. For 2019, we will continue traveling and worldschooling, starting with our trip to Shanghai tomorrow! This is more a family trip than a worldschooling trip since my parents and my sister’s family will join us in Shanghai, but that’s the best thing about worldschooling….we can mesh the two because there will always be opportunities for Bridgette to learn, no matter where we are and whom we’re with!
Wishing all of you a tremendous year of joy and adventures in 2019. No matter what path you’re headed, remember to enjoy the journey!