Rowena Hennigan says she left Ireland because the weather affected her daughter’s chronic illness.
She says her family takes every opportunity to experience activities and education as they travel.
Here’s Hennigan’s story, as told to Kimanzi Constable.
This as-told-to essay is based on a conversation with Rowena Hennigan. It has been edited for length and clarity.
The doctors suggested that getting her to a dry climate would help, as the weather in Dublin was making her sicker.
We have European passports, so we could go to many European countries, but we looked for a dry climate; we looked at Italy, Germany, and Spain. My husband is a software engineer, and his company had a remote office in Zaragoza, Spain, so we decided to settle there in 2016.
We had 2 years’ worth of savings to make the move, and we sold items for extra cash
We sold all our furniture on secondhand sites, and we sold the things we knew we couldn’t ship. We made about $4,000 selling our material possessions in Dublin.
We found an Airbnb in Zaragoza that we booked for one year — they gave us a long-term rate. While in Spain, our daughter improved, and we had access to better healthcare.
In Ireland, we were paying 300 euros for a one-hour consultation, and we had to wait months for an appointment with a specialist in child respiratory health on the east coast. Within six weeks of living in Spain, we had access to a consultant in the public-health system, and it was free.
In 2018 we committed to never buying a place anywhere
We don’t want a mortgage, because we love to travel.
After the Airbnb we initially booked, we found a cheaper apartment in Zaragoza.
We took our first family trip to Indonesia for six weeks in 2019. We traveled to Vietnam, Singapore, and Malaysia that year.
During COVID, there was a window when travel within Spain was open. We spent the summer at the beach in a city southwest of Barcelona — a beautiful area called Tarragona.
Our daughter goes to school in Spain, but we top up her education
We’re happy that our daughter is becoming bilingual. Since there’s a four-month holiday in the Spanish school system, we add activities and learning when we travel. She’s gotten to experience different cultures and learn lessons only travel can teach.
What’s nice is that we’ve built an international network of friends. We use Facebook groups and local meetups to meet other traveling families. We do different activities with them and found out about various childcare options through them.
We spent seven weeks in Portugal for our daughter to attend a fantastic English education program called Boundless Life for nomad families. It has three locations in Europe.
We worked on her English reading and linguistic skills because she’s schooled in Spanish.
Traveling so often has helped my daughter become independent. We have some rituals we do as a family that help her adapt to new places, but she loves traveling, and she’s open to change.
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