Education And Friends On The Road: My Thoughts

As travelers, my family and I are always open to questions from others who are moving towards traveling themselves.

As a traveling family of six, we get questions concerning our lifestyle and how to “make it work” all the time. Today, my Mom received this comment on an interview she recently did with WirelessIdeology.

I have a question for Jennifer: I guess you have been homeschooling your kids? How is that working out as they are getting older? I would think that some form of real schooling would be beneficial for a high school age kid, as well as a chance to make “real” friendships that last more than a few months. 


This is a valid question, and one we’ve been asked multiple times. Mom came to me asking me to write back and answer it as the teen the comment refers to. Please understand that all opinions stated here are my own.

First of all, how do you define “real” schooling?

For me, homeschooling has been extremely beneficial, and it’s definitely a “real” form of schooling. Not only does it allow me to learn at my own pace, it gives me more time to follow my own interests than I would have if I attended a “real” school. It has taught me time management skills in the best way possible. Mom gives us a certain amount of school per year, divides it into weekly segments, and allows me as a teen to do it on my own time. If I wait to do school until the end of the week, I’m swamped. But if I manage my time carefully, I’m never behind, and have time to blog, play my instruments, read, draw, and use the rest of my day for my favorite forms of play. Even my play can be construed as education.

On a normal day, I can finish school in four to five hours. If I was in a public school, the same amount of work would take me the better part of the day. Does that seem right? At fifteen, homeschooling has allowed me to finish my high school work early, get multiple writing jobs online, and begin moving on towards being able to provide for myself. This coming semester I will start taking online classes at Oregon State University.

Where friends are concerned, (once again) how do you define a “real” friendship?

From my point of view, traveling allows you to make new friends all over the world. It also separates the friends that will hang out with you, but don’t really care about you that much, from the friends that will stick with you through thick and thin. How so? Think about it. Only the friends who truly care about you will make the effort to keep in contact with you over the years apart.

Also, I find that the social environment provided in schools does not prepare teens for the “real world.” Where else in the world are you thrown into a room filled entirely with people of your same age and culture? In my opinion, travel has prepared me far better for the world I will be faced with when I’m on my own. It has taught me how to deal with other cultures and traditions. Most importantly, it has allowed me to make real friends with people outside my age group and culture. I have friends who are German, Canadian, Guatemalan, Belizian and Italian, as well as many American friends.

I have friends who are my age, but I also have friends who are five, eighteen, twenty! I even have one friend I’ve made independently of my parents who is in her early fifties. I count her as one of my favorite people in the world! All of these friendships have lasted much longer than a few months, many reaching into five years or more of my life. So I don’t think it’s necessary to be enrolled in school in a fixed location to have real friends. 

The underlying assumption here is that travel is detrimental to my social standing and education.

I hope I have enlightened you. While it may be true that I will never “fit in” to the average teenage crowd, the truth is that I don’t want to. The average teen culture that I’ve experienced at home is not something I would be proud to be a part of. I would rather be considered a citizen of the world, a part of a culture that includes all age groups, instead of being pushed off into the teen culture for some of the most important years of my life. Not only does that close a world of opportunities for me, it’s a culture that I can’t be part of for more than a few short years. The kids that are prime examples of this culture do not represent the person I want to become, nor do I have many friends among them. The people I’ve met both at home and around the world have stayed my true friends. The benefit of finding friends on the road is that we share the same interests. Travel has given me wonderful friends and experiences, and provided me with the best form of education possible.

Home is always nice to come back to, but there’s no place I’d rather be than on the road.

35 Replies to “Education And Friends On The Road: My Thoughts”

  1. Hi Hannah,

    Wow – what an excellent response to that question. My family have been on the road for 2.5 years now but for the last 8 months or so we have been agonising over how to proceed with the kids and their education.

    Both kids are really young still (7 & 5) but it feels like all they are doing is fighting with each other which I kind of think might just be the fact that they are in each others pockets for so many hours of everyday for the past 2.5 years.

    At the moment we are in New Zealand for 6 months so we have put the kids into an absolutely fantastic public school here and they are both loving it. Eventually though, we will be back to home schooling :) and on the road again.

    Can I ask you, I am sure that you guys must have inter-sibling squabbles sometimes. Do they happen more when you spend so much time together? Or is our situation more a case of specific children or specific age groups… I hope that question makes sense…


    1. Hi Colin!

      I’ve always wanted to go to New Zealand! To answer your question, of course we fight sometimes. It’s gotten a little less common as we’ve gotten older though. Obviously it’s harder to fight with your sibling if you are away from them for multiple hours each day. Being gone wouldn’t solve the problem. For me, the trick has been learning to treat each of my brothers with respect even if I’m around them all the time. It’s a lifelong process, and something I’m working on every day. Learning to agree to disagree wasn’t easy for me. It’s also good to have some time alone each day. My siblings and I tell eachother when we need some time to ourselves, and we’ve learned to respect that. It’s a fine balance between spending every moment together and being secluded from the others. I’m not a parent, so I don’t have that perspective yet, but this is what’s worked for us from a kids perspective. Hope that helps! :)

  2. Well said, Hannah! It was great to meet you last fall here in Oregon. You and your family continue to inspire us.

  3. Nathan Smith says: Reply

    Good words. As a teacher (and also a current graduate student), I can absolutely agree with the notion that the best learning in life happens when you are interacting with people from different walks of life and gaining rich “out of the box” experiences. I love what you said about not wanting to fit in the typical teenage crowd. Keep spreading the good word!

  4. Hi Hannah, this post just about brought me to tears! In a good way. You are obviously thriving in your environment however diverse it may be! I have a 4 yo & a 7 yo & am trying to decide which direction to take (home/world/un-schooling vs. waldorf edu). I guess I need to get in touch with your mom & see how she started things out for you guys, because as far as I can see you’re definitely thriving & have answered the questions I’ve had (nagging me) about which way to go. We are a bit slower travelers (few yrs at a time in US, Bulgaria, now Spain) but its still similar…thanks for such a clear, concise, respectful response to those questions.

  5. Excellent post, Hannah!

  6. Gayle Smith says: Reply

    Loved it Hannah! You captured your eclectic life, perfectly! I love you for NOT being a product of the teen culture and I can’t wait to follow the adventures of your life! Love always from the Smiths and a little blonde headed boy who calls you “my Hannah”

  7. What a great post!

  8. What a mature response to those questions, Hannah. You clearly show that home-schooling has in no way been detrimental to your education. When I am not travelling I am a High School teacher and I can honestly say that I don’t know of many students who understand friendship or what it means to be a global citizen as well as you do, and this is a major failing in institutional education. I am pleased that you do not wish to be part of an average teenage crowd, and the jealousy, gossiping and selfishness that comes with it.

    I have often thought that schools foster a warped sense of the real world because, as you say, in later life you are not required to only work/socialise with people who are the same age as you or from the same place.

    Keep travelling and learning!

  9. Great response Hannah. The only thing I would add is that most public school kids have their ENTIRE day and late into the night (not just part of it) wrapped up in school. We have friends with children in Elementary school that have 2-3 hours of “homework” every night! And it just gets progressively worse as they get older.

    I’m so thankful that our kids are getting the same opportunities you and your siblings are…learning how to get along with people who are very different than you (either because of age, language, etc). This will be SO much more valuable than hanging out with other people who all live in the same town, like the same things and think the same way.

    I have NO doubt that it will be traveling kids that will change the world.

  10. Fantastic post! I love your take on it all. Keep it up :)

  11. Miro and i just read your article response together. All we can say is “Wow!” Great response. Seriously, we have nothing to add that you didn’t already cover. Keep writing!

  12. Linda Sutherland says: Reply

    Great response, Hannah! I miss you, but I’m glad you’re not stuck in one little corner of your mind or of the world……… Love you!

  13. What a wonderful response! I think this is a message that needs to be heard. I have a habit of of hiding that I homeschool because I do not like the comments that follow. You have encouraged me to speak up for what I believe to be the best choice for our kids! Thanks!

  14. Incredibly well written and articulate response, Hannah. Many people have similar questions to the one asked that prompted your response. We all now have your post to link to whenever someone asks us about this. I appreciate your take on schooling, friends, and also how much you enjoy just playing around. You seem to have such a healthy balance and a great perspective on life. And you’re right about friends, because I consider your mother a friend, and someone I’d move mountains for, yet I’ve never met her in person. The world is (and has been for a long time) changing in how we make friends, do business, etc. I’m happy to see you’re positioning yourself to do well in the actual world we’re living in rather than an old, outdated model.

  15. Hannah,

    Just read this to my family – we absolutely love it!! So well written, and it expresses perfectly the ideas that we hold (and hope our children adopt as they get older). If our kids get as much out of travel as you have, then our work will be a success. Thanks, I’ll be sharing this!!


  16. bohemiantravelers1 says: Reply

    Well Hannah I absolutely adore you. What an intelligent and thoughtful response. And the best part about it is that the manner in which you have written this is i fcat the best answer you could give. I don’t think anyone could read that and think anything negative about your life experiences at all.

    Great job! You should be very proud!

  17. Hannah I am so, SO proud of you. I am in awe of this article, although I shouldn’t be….no one should be surprised at not only how well you articulate your thoughts, but at how mature and balanced your point of view is, at the age of fifteen. When I was your age I was thinking about boys and weight loss, not culture and character. You are an inspiration to me and I love you to pieces. I will always be proud of you. <3

  18. Wow, thanks guys! I can’t believe the amount of feedback I’m getting from everybody! It seems like I should have written an article like this ages ago. Thanks for all the support!

  19. Hannah, thank you for your post. I had a rather heated discussion with family members regarding homeschooling and traveling with kids. Our son is only 3 1/2 but our plan is to travel and have our son become a world citizen. You answered several of their biggest concerns, “real” friendships, “real school”.

    Thank you for your insight.


  20. brava, hannah! you not only succinctly explain why so many people choose to homeschool, but you do it with such excellent examples. i’ll keep referring people to your article. LOVE IT!

  21. Hannah,

    Although I am so proud of you and the article as a whole you absolutely nailed it right here;

    “While it may be true that I will never “fit in” to the average teenage crowd, the truth is that I don’t want to. The average teen culture that I’ve experienced at home is not something I would be proud to be a part of. I would rather be considered a citizen of the world, a part of a culture that includes all age groups, instead of being pushed off into the teen culture for some of the most important years of my life. Not only does that close a world of opportunities for me, it’s a culture that I can’t be part of for more than a few short years. The kids that are prime examples of this culture do not represent the person I want to become, nor do I have many friends among them.”

    It shouldn’t take anyone very long to recognize that there is something wrong with our teen culture as a whole and that we all ought to do something very different if we want different results with our own children.

    Very nicely done!
    Mr. Wood

  22. Jennifer O'Connor says: Reply

    Thank you, Hannah. You are quite the writer! Your statement about “being a citizen of the world” is the exact reason I plan to travel with my children as a main component of their education. Your experiences and travels have obviously helped make you a mature and insightful person. Good luck with your current and future endeavors!

  23. I hate this article. But only cause it made me miss you even more!!!!! Great job, Hannah. So well stated and so “right on”. Love you!!

  24. I can only hope my kids will be as eloquent and confident as you are at this young age. Keep on writing and sharing your experiences … it could change the world.

  25. Yeah I know you already have tons of comments but I really couldnt resist
    Putting one on here:). I am happy we are still best freinds even though we have not seen face to face for more than three weeks total (but we have had three years of email)
    I love reading your posts!keep up the great work!

  26. Fantastic article, Hannah! Your parents have nurtured the skills you need to navigate this life, no matter where your path leads. I am incredibly thankful to know you & your family–and that my kids count you as one of their very best friends!

  27. As a new grandmother aged friend of Hannah and her family, half way round the world from their “home base” , I’d like to say that they are a warm, caring and well educated lot, very adept at learning odd little cultural differences ; I don’t think there were that many big ones to come to grips with? We’ve had a lovely time becoming new friends with them. As an ex home schooler and ex teacher, one of the first things we noticed about our children as they moved out of state school and into homeschool were greatly improved relationships with each other. God bless and enjoy the rest of Australia !

  28. Thank you Hannah. This article allowed my son (16) to realize he is not alone.

    1. Hi Jill,
      Nope, there’s actually a lot of kids like me! There’s this fantastic online writing/blogging class with WanderingEducators that’s allowed me to meet 20+ other kids who travel the world. Many of them have become my close friends. If you’d like to learn more about the class, follow this link:

  29. Jess McDonald says: Reply

    Hi Hannah, I loved reading your story! I am Mamma to 2 little people & stepmum to a teen & preteen. We live in Ocean Grove on the Bellaarine Peninsula in Victoria. We plan on undertaking some serious travel in the years to come& I have soooo many questions for you & your family. From pointers on home ed resources, setting work etc to financing travel adventures, finding accommodation, choosing destinations etc. My email is if you (or your folks) are interested in exchanging emails.

  30. […] second, I read aloud to the children and allow them to respond. Having been a child raised free-range before it was cool, given as much adult responsibility as I […]

  31. […] comebacks start to slip out. Seriously. I did try to play nice for a while. I wrote a post called Education and Friends on The Road: My Thoughts in response to one such comment, and another called What About School?  just for those interested […]

  32. Hi Hannah,

    What an inspiring read! I loved your insights into high school / teen culture.

    I was wondering if you might be willing to explain more about the schoolwork you did for 4-5 hours each day, and how your mom was able to plan a year’s worth of work in advance? Was there a program that you used? My kids are now reaching the teen years and we don’t want to stop homeschooling or learning-as-we-go, but I don’t feel qualified to teach most high school level material, and am a little worried about missing some of the usual college-entry tests and qualifications (SAT’s, IGCSE’s, A-levels, IB, etc) that most kids get through regular school.

    Thank you so much!

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