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How to Be a Family: The Year I Dragged My Kids Around the World to Find a New Way to Be Together

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In this "refreshingly relatable" (Outside) memoir, Slate editor Dan Kois sets out with his family on a journey around the world to change their lives together. What happens when one frustrated dad turns his kids' lives upside down in search of a new way to be a family? Dan Kois and his wife always did their best for their kids. Busy professionals living in the D.C. suburbs, In this "refreshingly relatable" (Outside) memoir, Slate editor Dan Kois sets out with his family on a journey around the world to change their lives together. What happens when one frustrated dad turns his kids' lives upside down in search of a new way to be a family? Dan Kois and his wife always did their best for their kids. Busy professionals living in the D.C. suburbs, they scheduled their children's time wisely, and when they weren't arguing over screen time, the Kois family-Dan, his wife Alia, and their two pre-teen daughters-could each be found searching for their own happiness. But aren't families supposed to achieve happiness together? In this eye-opening, heartwarming, and very funny family memoir, the fractious, loving Kois' go in search of other places on the map that might offer them the chance to live away from home-but closer together. Over a year the family lands in New Zealand, the Netherlands, Costa Rica, and small-town Kansas. The goal? To get out of their rut of busyness and distractedness and to see how other families live outside the East Coast parenting bubble. HOW TO BE A FAMILY brings readers along as the Kois girls-witty, solitary, extremely online Lyra and goofy, sensitive, social butterfly Harper-like through the Kiwi bush, ride bikes to a Dutch school in the pouring rain, battle iguanas in their Costa Rican kitchen, and learn to love a town where everyone knows your name. Meanwhile, Dan interviews neighbors, public officials, and scholars to learn why each of these places work the way they do. Will this trip change the Kois family's lives? Or do families take their problems and conflicts with them wherever we go? A journalistic memoir filled with heart, empathy, and lots of whining, HOW TO BE A FAMILY will make readers dream about the amazing adventures their own families might take.


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In this "refreshingly relatable" (Outside) memoir, Slate editor Dan Kois sets out with his family on a journey around the world to change their lives together. What happens when one frustrated dad turns his kids' lives upside down in search of a new way to be a family? Dan Kois and his wife always did their best for their kids. Busy professionals living in the D.C. suburbs, In this "refreshingly relatable" (Outside) memoir, Slate editor Dan Kois sets out with his family on a journey around the world to change their lives together. What happens when one frustrated dad turns his kids' lives upside down in search of a new way to be a family? Dan Kois and his wife always did their best for their kids. Busy professionals living in the D.C. suburbs, they scheduled their children's time wisely, and when they weren't arguing over screen time, the Kois family-Dan, his wife Alia, and their two pre-teen daughters-could each be found searching for their own happiness. But aren't families supposed to achieve happiness together? In this eye-opening, heartwarming, and very funny family memoir, the fractious, loving Kois' go in search of other places on the map that might offer them the chance to live away from home-but closer together. Over a year the family lands in New Zealand, the Netherlands, Costa Rica, and small-town Kansas. The goal? To get out of their rut of busyness and distractedness and to see how other families live outside the East Coast parenting bubble. HOW TO BE A FAMILY brings readers along as the Kois girls-witty, solitary, extremely online Lyra and goofy, sensitive, social butterfly Harper-like through the Kiwi bush, ride bikes to a Dutch school in the pouring rain, battle iguanas in their Costa Rican kitchen, and learn to love a town where everyone knows your name. Meanwhile, Dan interviews neighbors, public officials, and scholars to learn why each of these places work the way they do. Will this trip change the Kois family's lives? Or do families take their problems and conflicts with them wherever we go? A journalistic memoir filled with heart, empathy, and lots of whining, HOW TO BE A FAMILY will make readers dream about the amazing adventures their own families might take.

30 review for How to Be a Family: The Year I Dragged My Kids Around the World to Find a New Way to Be Together

  1. 5 out of 5

    Jeanette

    I probably should have quit this book 1/2 way through. But I didn't. I wanted to get to Kansas- that's why. Honestly I don't think I have ever read a memoir or travelogue of such wordiness verbosity smugness. And this man thinks he is "kind". LOL! It's beyond belief that they used the word "refreshing" to describe in the trailer. The places they lived for each 3 month period were more interesting than the writer. That's for sure. And his wife and girls? Well, there's too much arrogant, elitist I probably should have quit this book 1/2 way through. But I didn't. I wanted to get to Kansas- that's why. Honestly I don't think I have ever read a memoir or travelogue of such wordiness verbosity smugness. And this man thinks he is "kind". LOL! It's beyond belief that they used the word "refreshing" to describe in the trailer. The places they lived for each 3 month period were more interesting than the writer. That's for sure. And his wife and girls? Well, there's too much arrogant, elitist Dan think overview to really fully understand any of their deepest or varied opinions/ positions. And generally few insights or anything essential. Except perhaps occasionally minutia tidbits which occurred from general reflections of the topics he inquired (or choose for them like the God belief one)- for them to "answer". The next time I come across any non-fiction with the types of condescending commentary to or about fellow Americans that appeared in the first few chapters of this one, I won't continue. Because the read isn't worth it. He didn't learn much either for his "widening" year, because he was just as insufferable in his commentary about "other" at the end as he was at the beginning.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Katie

    I really enjoyed this book, and clearly am the exact right demographic to appreciate it--we're about 8 years behind Kois's family, but we too are an editor and an attorney who moved to the DC suburbs with a kid, few friends, and too little time. So I can definitely get where he's coming from. I loved the author's sense of humor and the glimpses of parenting styles abroad. I also appreciated the extent to which he resisted packaging everything into a neat arc, where he went on this journey and I really enjoyed this book, and clearly am the exact right demographic to appreciate it--we're about 8 years behind Kois's family, but we too are an editor and an attorney who moved to the DC suburbs with a kid, few friends, and too little time. So I can definitely get where he's coming from. I loved the author's sense of humor and the glimpses of parenting styles abroad. I also appreciated the extent to which he resisted packaging everything into a neat arc, where he went on this journey and learned things and was forever changed/improved by it. That's rarely how life works, and that's not how it works here. My biggest takeaway from the book is how much better and more fun parenting is when you have a community around you--something we're currently sorely lacking, as are lots of parents. In any case, an excellent read for parents and anyone else interested in the messy process of raising kids, here or anywhere.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Tish

    I like the premise..... But I see no way to truly integrate into communities and learn from their different parenting styles in 12 weeks. I guess I should be talking to my neighbors who moved to Scotland for a year so the husband could continue his education. Or my college friend who packed up her kids, quit her job, and is living in Germany for two years. Those people have had time to integrate and learn from the culture they're living in. This author and his family spent a college quarter in I like the premise..... But I see no way to truly integrate into communities and learn from their different parenting styles in 12 weeks. I guess I should be talking to my neighbors who moved to Scotland for a year so the husband could continue his education. Or my college friend who packed up her kids, quit her job, and is living in Germany for two years. Those people have had time to integrate and learn from the culture they're living in. This author and his family spent a college quarter in each place. That's hardly enough time to figure out where your sociology class is, much less figure out how this new culture can improve your parenting skills and revolutionize your family. I like the premise, but not the product.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Marissa St.Marseille

    BUYER BEWARE! The title is deceiving! I was only 11% into the book, when I realized this was more about the author's political agenda. It's just more Trump bashing and US shaming. If you don't get enough of that from the news media, then maybe you would enjoy the book. The end game for me was when the author writes about their move to New Zealand, and how his 11 year old daughter upon meeting new people, starts out every conversation with "Sorry about Trump." (Page 37). That was enough for me, I BUYER BEWARE! The title is deceiving! I was only 11% into the book, when I realized this was more about the author's political agenda. It's just more Trump bashing and US shaming. If you don't get enough of that from the news media, then maybe you would enjoy the book. The end game for me was when the author writes about their move to New Zealand, and how his 11 year old daughter upon meeting new people, starts out every conversation with "Sorry about Trump." (Page 37). That was enough for me, I hit the delete button.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Julie

    Fair warning: I'm a big fan of Dan's from the podcast, Mom and Dad Are Fighting. I find him immensely relatable, funny and frankly, I just want to have a beer with him and vent about parenting. This book is refreshingly honest and funny, a fascinating study in family and cultural dynamics. Highly recommend.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Katelyn

    Dan Kois and his wife Alia Smith realized their lives in Arlington, VA were overworked and over stressed. Both worked long hours, their kids attended a high achieving/high pressure school and they battled about screen time. They decided to take a year and live in different places to see how others lived. They spent a few months each in different countries--New Zealand, the Netherlands, Costa Rica--ending in an area of America very different from their home: rural Kansas. I enjoyed seeing what Dan Kois and his wife Alia Smith realized their lives in Arlington, VA were overworked and over stressed. Both worked long hours, their kids attended a high achieving/high pressure school and they battled about screen time. They decided to take a year and live in different places to see how others lived. They spent a few months each in different countries--New Zealand, the Netherlands, Costa Rica--ending in an area of America very different from their home: rural Kansas. I enjoyed seeing what aspects of each area they liked best (ex: the extremely bike friendly structure of the Netherlands). Kois's writing is enjoyable to read and I appreciated his honest style. There's no holier than thou parenting advice here. This is how his family truly is. I empathized with Lyra, his then 11 year old daughter, who instead of trekking around the world and seeking adventure and the outdoors, just wanted to be left alone to read. It was especially painful to read about her experience in the Dutch school, where they prize normality and couldn't abide by the idea that she would voice a dissenting opinion. As someone who lives in rural Minnesota, I'll admit I was rooting for them to settle down in Kansas. Kois talks about many of the benefits of this lifestyle: no traffic, cheap housing, free evenings (not overworked), friendly people, a sense of community and the ability to start programs etc where you see something lacking. I loved Kois' description of the Hays Public Library and the awesome librarians that work there. It reminded me of the public library where I work :D. In the end Kois avoids taking an even higher stress job in Silicon Valley. It was painful to read the salary he could have had ($750,000 dollars--I didn't even know this was a thing), but redeeming that his family realized their original complaints (stress, long hours, etc) would have only been exasperated with this lifestyle change. Recommended for parents who like to read memoirs or about travel or parenting.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Laura Dye

    Had no intention of reading, much less buying, this book until I heard the author read a chapter aloud on one of my favorite podcasts. (Mom and dad are fighting) The existential crisises he spoke about were so relatable that I immediately bought the book. Loved it. Smart and funny, shares the kids perspective, honest about the struggles and the joys. I very much relate to how he thinks about parenting, and I appreciate that.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Kat

    More like 4 stars, but giving an extra star to combat those leaving 1 star reviews because Kois dares to question whether or not America is the best place to raise a family.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Tatiana

    Dan is so much fun as a podcaster, but as a parenting writer - yawn.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Joe Oser

    ‘How To Be A Family’ is the story of a middle class professional (the author) and his wife Alia (less about her later) also a middle class professional, who tire of the white middle class professional rat race in suburban Washington D.C. so decide to travel for a year spending four months in Wellington, New Zealand, four months in the Amsterdam area in the Netherlands, four months in a small beach-tourist town in northwest Costa Rica, and four months in heartland U.S.A. - Hays, Kansas. The ‘How To Be A Family’ is the story of a middle class professional (the author) and his wife Alia (less about her later) also a middle class professional, who tire of the white middle class professional rat race in suburban Washington D.C. so decide to travel for a year spending four months in Wellington, New Zealand, four months in the Amsterdam area in the Netherlands, four months in a small beach-tourist town in northwest Costa Rica, and four months in heartland U.S.A. - Hays, Kansas. The children are Lyra, 12, and Harper, 10. The book is purportedly about family life and an attempt to improve the family’s interactions primarily by spending forced time together in unfamiliar places. The book spends an equal amount of time providing ‘insights’ about the four locales so you can also view it as an (unsuccessful) travelogue. Ten year old Harper is always making friends, enjoys and interacts with her surroundings, and is generally a delightful child. Twelve year old Lyra is proudly and determinedly none of these things. Harper is a real person and no doubt terrific. But her portrait by her father, the author, is one dimensional and hence not very interesting. Perhaps all happy children are the same and it is not worth exploring their psyche and how the different cultures impact them. Lyra is the squeaky wheel and gets all the author’s ink. But that’s okay because she is the most interesting member of the family. Lyra likes to read and write and spend time on the internet. She is oppositional to her father. Just like at home, the author’s efforts to get Lyra outside the house and interact with others is largely unsuccessful. (Perhaps her mother, Alia, has a different take but she is largely invisible in this book. We don’t know her thoughts about anything including how she and her husband get along on this year of discovery. Maybe she didn’t give the author permission to disclose her thoughts). Lyra’s schtick is to not like anything - especially whatever it is the rest of the family likes and wants to do. Lyra is clearly bright. Her snark is funny. Her arguments with her father are well reasoned. She is happy with her introversion. There are several excerpts of her writing in the book - brief reflections on herself and the trip. She is a talented writer. She appears to know herself way beyond her twelve years. I would have liked to hear more from her unfiltered by the author who mostly talks about their arguing. For instance, how did Lyra like going to school in the Netherlands where, not knowing the language, she mostly slept or read? Did she and her classmates share any growing-up insights and observations - most Dutch people apparently speak rudimentary to very good English? Instead, all we got was her father’s second-hand opinions. I mentioned as a travelogue the book comes up short. Why? Every place the family goes, the author interacts almost exclusively with other white middle-class folks like himself. In New Zealand the interactions are at least with local Kiwis - English is the first language of white middle class New Zelanders. Because he doesn’t speak the language, the author relies on the impressions of other expats to understand the Netherlands. These expats are, say it in unison, white middle class people just like the author. Same in Costa Rica. The author has almost no interaction with Ticos but a lot with the expat community. There is a hint that Alia might speak some Spanish so I’m hoping they could order food in local dives - in the unlikely event they went to any. Finally, the family alights in Hays, Kansas, a geographically isolated town of about 20,000. 89% white; 70% Trump supporters - the author perceives himself as being perceived as part of the ‘east coast elite’ and is stridently anti-Trump. There is no language barrier. Surely they get to know the locals in this immersive travel adventure. Well, no. The main fountain of progressive thought is apparently the faculty at Fort Hayes State University. The author interviews and relies upon many faculty members to get an impression of Hayes. To a person, they are white and middle class ‘expats’ - not from Hayes, culturally similar to the author and eager to get ‘the hell out of Dodge’ as soon as they can get a job elsewhere. (Confession: I have a relative and his wife who were for several years faculty members at FHSU but have since found jobs elsewhere. They are both briefly quoted in the book but did not really know the author. I was unaware of this connection when I started the book). ‘How To Be A Family’ is sometimes engaging. The author is sometimes funny. Usually in a self-deprecating or ‘family-deprecating’ way. The family does not do many interesting things while away. Their interactions appear to be similar to those they had while white suburban prisoners. Not a ton of warm family moments. The wife is largely unheard from and we are not privy to her thoughts. The effect on the children of their year away is not greatly discussed and certainly not directly from their mouths. The observations of other cultures is largely second hand, delivered (bizarrely?) from expats. It has to be an unreliable narrative when you rely on the thoughts of others who barely experience the local culture themselves. How would it affect a family to have these experiences? What are these places really like? That’s what I was looking for. I still don’t know

  11. 4 out of 5

    David

    stressed-out Arlington VA dual-professional couple with 11 and 9-yo daughters pulls up stakes to spend 2017 three months at a time in New Zealand, Netherlands, Costa Rica, and small-town Kansas hoping to discover more relaxed, meaning-laden ways to live and to raise their kids. some interesting observations about places [Amsterdam bike culture, New Zealand's natural beauty, centrality of church in their Kansas town, sheer physical difficulty [bugs, rainy season, etc.] of living in Costa Rica] stressed-out Arlington VA dual-professional couple with 11 and 9-yo daughters pulls up stakes to spend 2017 three months at a time in New Zealand, Netherlands, Costa Rica, and small-town Kansas hoping to discover more relaxed, meaning-laden ways to live and to raise their kids. some interesting observations about places [Amsterdam bike culture, New Zealand's natural beauty, centrality of church in their Kansas town, sheer physical difficulty [bugs, rainy season, etc.] of living in Costa Rica] and the people they meet, but mainly memorable for the author's own very funny [to me] reflections and observations about his efforts as a Dad and his self-questioning about career aspirations, culminating in tough decision to turn down very lucrative Silicon Valley job that seemed likely to exacerbate the aspects of life in Arlington with which they were already dissatisfied. Guessing that his wife may have been a somewhat reluctant participant in the project, as there is not a lot from her p.o.v., and her profile is somewhat incredibly positive. The daughters come in for blunter feedback -- in a nutshell, the younger one is charming, spirited, up for whatever, sociable, though at times exasperatingly clingy/present with parents, "craftswoman of artisanal nonsense" (p. 38). The older one seems to struggle the most with the year away, being a quiet reader who mostly wants to get on the internet for hours at a time and be left alone rather than get roped into what my own Dad used to call "compulsory fun" outings/projects. To be fair, he lets her have her own say in a few sidebars, and she's quite a good writer [like her Dad] and arguer [presumably like her Mom, a lawyer]. I can see how the Dutch teachers who apparently brook no backtalk got worn out by her. Author and his wife had [prior to trip] a catchphrase for efficient commentary on people doing dumb stuff: "Esbu" [for "everyone sucks but us"] (p. 10). This made me laugh in itself, but also captured what I loved about this book, which is that the author emphatically does NOT approach the communities in which they landed for a while with an "esbu" attitude. He came across as genuinely open-minded, knowing they wanted to shake things up and being receptive to, though not uncritical about, what each place had to teach. He ends up sounding a little disappointed that they did not have some all-purpose epiphany about life and parenting [made some modest changes such as increasing volunteering and churchgoing, but mostly came back and fell into old patterns I guess], but I'm sure it will be a memorable, meaningful experience for his daughters and therefore the whole family. Glad he chose to write it up.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Agnes

    With writing that is sharp and funny, this memoir was a pleasure to read. I deeply felt at one with Dan Kois’s feelings of failure as a parent in the honest vignettes he details in the book and enjoyed the conclusions that he drew from his family’s round-the-world year: the trip didn’t change their life - the trip was their life and it remains their life forevermore. The fact that they were all in it together the entire year was what made the difference, not the actual places or different With writing that is sharp and funny, this memoir was a pleasure to read. I deeply felt at one with Dan Kois’s feelings of failure as a parent in the honest vignettes he details in the book and enjoyed the conclusions that he drew from his family’s round-the-world year: the trip didn’t change their life - the trip was their life and it remains their life forevermore. The fact that they were all in it together the entire year was what made the difference, not the actual places or different parenting philosophies they tried on for size. That being said, the varying approaches to raising kids and interpersonal relationships in general in the four places they lived was really interesting.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Michelle

    This was fascinating. Typical upper middle class two-professional family decides to try to become closer as a family and find new life balance. So they lived for three months each in New Zealand, the Netherlands, Costa Rica, and Hays, Kansas. (Yay Hays, my grandparents lived there for a while!) I loved the honesty and the experiences of this family. They eventually returned home, and went back to their usual lives more or less, but made a few priority shifts that they had learned about elsewhere. This was fascinating. Typical upper middle class two-professional family decides to try to become closer as a family and find new life balance. So they lived for three months each in New Zealand, the Netherlands, Costa Rica, and Hays, Kansas. (Yay Hays, my grandparents lived there for a while!) I loved the honesty and the experiences of this family. They eventually returned home, and went back to their usual lives more or less, but made a few priority shifts that they had learned about elsewhere. I especially liked that the didn't spent just days or a week or two in each place, but a few months. Very well done.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Abby

    Really loved spending time with this family. I’m a long time listener of the mom and dad are fighting podcast and always appreciate Dan’s honest take on all things parental. This book left me not inspired to uproot our lives for a year but to pay better attention to the lives we are living now, thanks for that. And Lyra - can’t wait to read your first book.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Amy

    I love a good travel memoir-especially about families traveling around the world! This one was super interesting-and the author didn't sugar coat the trip. It was rocky and not fun as a parent sometimes. I was especially intrigued by the schools around the world their daughters encountered and the different parenting styles. I think my favorite place was New Zealand!

  16. 4 out of 5

    Jessica Larsen

    Reminiscent of "Eat, Pray, Love" except what happens when you travel abroad for a year with a spouse and kids. Great topic filled with snark, sarcasm, and self-deprecation throughout. I loved it.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Amy Newton

    How fun to read a book by a guy who grew up in the same sphere I did. This was a fantastic - and honest - telling of a family adventure. Great work Dan.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Kathleen Kirchner

    I really wanted to like this but the author came off as obnoxious a lot.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Michael

    This is marketed as a parenting book (I think I have that right) but I read it more interested in the observations about living in the different locations - New Zealand, the Netherlands, Costa Rica, and Kansas (USA). For me Dan Kois is a local author, although I live in distant south Arlington, far from the rarefied north Arlington (VA) that he calls home. (That is meant humorously, I guess.) He and his wife and two daughters spend about three months living in three different countries, ending This is marketed as a parenting book (I think I have that right) but I read it more interested in the observations about living in the different locations - New Zealand, the Netherlands, Costa Rica, and Kansas (USA). For me Dan Kois is a local author, although I live in distant south Arlington, far from the rarefied north Arlington (VA) that he calls home. (That is meant humorously, I guess.) He and his wife and two daughters spend about three months living in three different countries, ending up in a small town in Kansas for the three months during 2017. Since my children are adults, I found the parenting advice embedded in the narrative thought provoking at times but not actionable. I was more interested in the more general observations about living overseas in this way. It struck me that three months per location is really quite a short period of time to feel like you have acclimated to and understand a particular place, but that doesn't seem to have been a problem for them. My family lived in Yekaterinburg Russia in the late 1990s for eight months and at the time that seemed to me not to be enough! The author and family were able to integrate with their local communities (get to know people) far more successfully and deeply in New Zealand and Kansas than in the Netherlands and Costa Rico, so the nature of the observations vary by place as a result. I am a committed urban cyclist (I suppose you could call it that) so the inclusion of a short chapter on cycling in the Netherlands was particularly interesting. The short stay and timing of three months in the Netherlands made it difficult for their older daughter to acclimate will to the school she was in, which seems to be the author's main regret - that they didn't deal with these school problems she had more successfully. It was a remarkably open "this didn't work so well" discussion of what happened. The author doesn't attempt to present overarching conclusions about the nature of the different societies, the approach is more about what they as a family and as parents they could take from the differences, and then how that worked out for them. Some of this I found thought provoking (in a good way). As is often the case lately with books with long sub-titles ("The Year I Dragged My Kids Around the World to Find a New Way to Be Together") I don't think the overlong result is particularly accurate despite its length. The year gave them new perspectives on what being a family could mean, how it could be accomplished with a more satisfying result.jj The author includes a few sidebar pages contributed by his wife and two daughters. His oldest daughter has a "closing statement" in response to the book's portrayal of her that made me laugh - basically that the book adheres to a family stereotype of who she rather than an accurate description. This reminds me of discussions I have had with my wife about family. Well worth the time to read.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Jessica

    When Dan Kois, a host of Slate's Mom and Dad are Fighting, announced he was leaving the show to travel the world with his family for a year and write a book about the experience - a book that wouldn't be in my hands for three whole years - I was sad. THREE YEARS! Three years of waiting for a book I wanted rightnow. Well, three years is up, and I'm so thrilled with this book baby it's like I wrote it myself. If you loved Tsh Oxenrider's At Home in the World, consider this it's a little bit When Dan Kois, a host of Slate's Mom and Dad are Fighting, announced he was leaving the show to travel the world with his family for a year and write a book about the experience - a book that wouldn't be in my hands for three whole years - I was sad. THREE YEARS! Three years of waiting for a book I wanted rightnow. Well, three years is up, and I'm so thrilled with this book baby it's like I wrote it myself. If you loved Tsh Oxenrider's At Home in the World, consider this it's a little bit coarser*, more politically liberal**, slightly more negative cousin. I adored Tsh's book and recommend it to everyone I know. It was aspirational. *I* want to take my kids on a trip like that, it made you think. She mentioned hard times, of course, but, you thought, if I were Tsh I could handle them. Dan's book is more "but for the grace of God, go I." Moving his kids around the world went exactly how you'd think it would go. Aka...difficultly. An amazing experience, one you kind of wish you'd had, but also one you're not entirely sad to have missed. It's not all downer. The Smith-Koises are glad they went! They learned a lot and will never forget it. I'm quite excited to be reading about it instead of participating, though. And bonus - there's a whole podcast episode of Dan reading the beginning on the audiobook, then a Q & A, that you can listen to for free before buying. *Swearing not redacted! **By politically liberal, I don't just mean "vaguely crunchy and the kind of people you'd expect to move with their kids abroad." It's more "the kind of people who introduce themselves as Americans with a 'sorry about Trump!' and refer to themselves, sort of tongue in cheek but also honestly, as liberal coastal elites. Most of the book isn't about that, but it's just pervasive enough you might want to skip it if it's going to frustrate you.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Katie Stein

    3.5 stars. This book presents a reality that I have dreamed of. A year living in different countries, getting a taste for life in another part of the world. The destinations chosen by the family were interesting - New Zealand, the Netherlands, Costa Rica, and Kansas. In all, I enjoyed the narrative and hearing the author's experiences and thoughts, particularly the Kansas and NZ sections. The Costa Rica section was by far the low point for me, both on story and on introspection, but I suspect it 3.5 stars. This book presents a reality that I have dreamed of. A year living in different countries, getting a taste for life in another part of the world. The destinations chosen by the family were interesting - New Zealand, the Netherlands, Costa Rica, and Kansas. In all, I enjoyed the narrative and hearing the author's experiences and thoughts, particularly the Kansas and NZ sections. The Costa Rica section was by far the low point for me, both on story and on introspection, but I suspect it was the low part of the year for the family, too. My favorite aspect was the emphasis on how, in the end, friends and community were the most important elements to a happy family life. I definitely would have liked to read more about how the experience changed the way the author thought and the family worked, and most importantly how it impacted their life after the trip. Maybe I was reading too quickly by the end of the book, and the author did highlight some individual actions he was taking, but I didn't get a sense that his family was really operating that differently from the high-octane life in Northern VA that he describes in the first chapter before they leave on their trip. Last, my biggest pet peeve was that there was just too much focus on the older daughter's incessant desire for screen time with little effort or experimenting or discussion about how the family was trying to cope with or address that behavior. I'm sure that was their reality but it didn't make me sympathetic to the author or the daughter.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Clare

    I first discovered Dan Kois as co-host of the Mom and Dad Are Fighting podcast when my son was first born and I needed something to keep me entertained during the endless hours of nursing and pumping. When Dan announced that he was leaving the show to travel around the world with his family for a year, my first thought was, "I'm probably not going to listen to this podcast anymore," followed by, "I hope he writes a book about it." Imagine my delight when I recently got back into podcasts and I first discovered Dan Kois as co-host of the Mom and Dad Are Fighting podcast when my son was first born and I needed something to keep me entertained during the endless hours of nursing and pumping. When Dan announced that he was leaving the show to travel around the world with his family for a year, my first thought was, "I'm probably not going to listen to this podcast anymore," followed by, "I hope he writes a book about it." Imagine my delight when I recently got back into podcasts and discovered that Dan had not only returned to Mom and Dad Are Fighting, but that his book about traveling the world with his family (including a stop in New Zealand, a subject near and dear to my heart) had just been published. I immediately requested it from the library and was not disappointed. The thing I love most about Dan on Mom and Dad Are Fighting is that he doesn't sugarcoat or gloss over the tough parts of parenting. That approach is especially refreshing in a book like this, where it would be tempting to present just the highs and leave out the many lows (something I'm certainly guilty of on my own blog/Instagram about such an experience). I also appreciated that he was honest about the aftermath of the trip and how it wasn't quite as life-changing as he'd imagined it would be. And of course, I was riveted by the New Zealand chapters and found myself agreeing with all of his observations about living here. If you've ever dreamed about doing a trip like this, this is worth a read.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Mary Andonian

    I really liked the book, and learning about the different places that Dan and his family visited. I wish I learned more about how his relationship with his wife changed as a result of the trip. I felt Dan was censoring this part of his life...and that's okay. I also felt a little co-dependent for his girls, because it seemed like he was more charitable with his youngest and a little more critical with his oldest. I get that...I have two daughters, too, and sometimes we're blind to such things, I really liked the book, and learning about the different places that Dan and his family visited. I wish I learned more about how his relationship with his wife changed as a result of the trip. I felt Dan was censoring this part of his life...and that's okay. I also felt a little co-dependent for his girls, because it seemed like he was more charitable with his youngest and a little more critical with his oldest. I get that...I have two daughters, too, and sometimes we're blind to such things, especially when they're on opposite ends of the personality spectrum. (Or, in my case, a 3 and a 6 on the Enneagram, respectively.) Still, I know Dan loves his family more than anything; otherwise, he wouldn't have embarked on such an ambitious journey in the first place. I had to knock a star off for the excessive use of the word INDEED. It shows up everywhere. And by the third time, I started to really get annoyed. I'd say at least 10 INDEEDs should've been struck dead with a red pen. Sorry, Dan. It didn't serve the read - instead, it pulled me out of the narrative. Overall, very happy I was able to live vicariously through this family's 12-month lens, and am looking forward to reading more from Dan (and especially Lyra) in the years to come.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Kelli

    The Story: East Coast parents realize the whole family is losing grip on the privledges of their reality, and wonders if a year spent living in different cultures will cure the ills of this American upbringing. The Destinations: Author/father Dan Kois and his wife purposely chose four very different locations to inhabit in 3-month segments: New Zealand, The Netherlands, Costa Rica, and Kansas, USA. The Review: Do you have to be a parent to appreciate this ravel memoir? Not at all. Anyone who's The Story: East Coast parents realize the whole family is losing grip on the privledges of their reality, and wonders if a year spent living in different cultures will cure the ills of this American upbringing. The Destinations: Author/father Dan Kois and his wife purposely chose four very different locations to inhabit in 3-month segments: New Zealand, The Netherlands, Costa Rica, and Kansas, USA. The Review: Do you have to be a parent to appreciate this ravel memoir? Not at all. Anyone who's ever suffered through a family road trip, or wished their parents could afford international holidays, will relate to the challenges of traveling with relatives. Kois doesn't beat around the bush - he highlights what worked and analyzes what fails. Better yet, he pokes fun at all the ways this trip didn't change his family as expected. Which leads to more than one laugh-out line in the book, as well as a sense that maybe every trip - and family - is bound to get things wrong from time to time. **I especially enjoyed the 3 months spent in Kansas, where the Kois' adjust to Midwest America and discover that people really can, just, be that nice.**

  25. 5 out of 5

    Olga Mecking

    Usually, books about parenting abroad start with the writer moving to a new country (be it for their spouse's job, or just to get a better work-life-balance), noticing how locals did it better, and then decided to share that wisdom with the world. This book is not like that. Not only did it include four countries instead of one, but it also acknowledged that not all parenting philosophies can be implanted someplace else. Moreover, it also admitted that locals might seem to have it all figured Usually, books about parenting abroad start with the writer moving to a new country (be it for their spouse's job, or just to get a better work-life-balance), noticing how locals did it better, and then decided to share that wisdom with the world. This book is not like that. Not only did it include four countries instead of one, but it also acknowledged that not all parenting philosophies can be implanted someplace else. Moreover, it also admitted that locals might seem to have it all figured out not because they're superior parents by nature but simply because of the way society is structured and supports parents. I really felt this honesty was refreshing and real. "Well, we went there, we liked some parts of it but not everything," it seemed to say. Oh and the treatise on whining should be required reading for every parent. No, actually, make it required reading for everyone.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Sarah

    The author and his wife decided that they were tired of parenting their two daughters with dual careers in the suburbs of D.C. and planned a year-long trip to "re-set" their family life. They split the year between New Zealand, Holland, Costa Rica, and Kansas. It was interested to read about the different philosophies between the four locales. New Zealand parents were more free-range, and didn't expect greatness of their children. Dutch parents incorporated their children into making family The author and his wife decided that they were tired of parenting their two daughters with dual careers in the suburbs of D.C. and planned a year-long trip to "re-set" their family life. They split the year between New Zealand, Holland, Costa Rica, and Kansas. It was interested to read about the different philosophies between the four locales. New Zealand parents were more free-range, and didn't expect greatness of their children. Dutch parents incorporated their children into making family decisions, and seemed to want them to be average and good citizens. It seemed like the author was too much of a tourist to make a real judgment about Costa Rican parenting, other than there was more insecurity regarding the safety of the environment. In Kansas their was a focus on community. I appreciated the author's candor in acknowledging that this experiment didn't make too much of a difference on their life after the trip.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Jane

    Really enjoyed this book. I've been reading travel writing by one friend and a travel podcast by a former student, and I think they'd both love and benefit from this book. The author and his wife traveled with their two girls to New Zealand, the Netherlands, Costa Rica, and ended in the middle of America in Hayes, Kansas. The book is a meditation on culture, geography, weather, friendship, equality (or lack of), privilege, school, parenting, religion, libraries, expectations...I could go on. Dan Really enjoyed this book. I've been reading travel writing by one friend and a travel podcast by a former student, and I think they'd both love and benefit from this book. The author and his wife traveled with their two girls to New Zealand, the Netherlands, Costa Rica, and ended in the middle of America in Hayes, Kansas. The book is a meditation on culture, geography, weather, friendship, equality (or lack of), privilege, school, parenting, religion, libraries, expectations...I could go on. Dan Kois doesn't spend much time focusing on sight seeing. He and his family were attempting to LIVE in the places they stayed (each time for three months. It isn't all sunshine. There are glitches and rethinking of prejudices...I loved how he dealt with assumptions about race, religion, friendliness and family while living in Kansas. It's a provocative, not simply an entertaining one. I am so glad I read it. 148m, 152all, 156t, 159 mb, 219t, 225b, 262b, 263t, 264 Kathleen Norris, 296t, 319b

  28. 5 out of 5

    Rhonda

    Long time listener, first time reader. MADAF is one of my favorite podcasts so I was very excited to read about Dan was up while away. I read this book in 2 parts due to slow reading & fear of library fines. But happy to report I actually bought it because I wanted to finish it so badly & couldn’t wait for my turn again at the library. I really enjoyed everything about this book. It was well written, funny, interesting and thought provoking. I think Dan captured the dilemma many Long time listener, first time reader. MADAF is one of my favorite podcasts so I was very excited to read about Dan was up while away. I read this book in 2 parts due to slow reading & fear of library fines. But happy to report I actually bought it because I wanted to finish it so badly & couldn’t wait for my turn again at the library. I really enjoyed everything about this book. It was well written, funny, interesting and thought provoking. I think Dan captured the dilemma many people/parents face. Is this a choice I’m making on how I live my life or is it just happening to me? He recognizes that this opportunity for his family was very much a privilege but manages to make it approachable and even if you could never take a trip/hiatus/sabbatical like this, it still makes you contemplate what family and community means to you.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Peter Knox

    What if we up and moved somewhere else? Dan and his family do just that, breaking up a year into quarters spent in very different places to live and raise kids. In each, Dan is honest about the challenges, critiques, and culture in which they live for awhile - attempting to adopt and assimilate as much as is reasonable. I ended up learning lots about New Zealand, Netherlands, Costa Rica, and even Kansas, as well as how there’s no real right way to parent or be a family. And that travel reveals What if we up and moved somewhere else? Dan and his family do just that, breaking up a year into quarters spent in very different places to live and raise kids. In each, Dan is honest about the challenges, critiques, and culture in which they live for awhile - attempting to adopt and assimilate as much as is reasonable. I ended up learning lots about New Zealand, Netherlands, Costa Rica, and even Kansas, as well as how there’s no real right way to parent or be a family. And that travel reveals more of yourself, but doesn’t change anything in the end. Dan is transparent, honest, open, and often funny about how his family pulled it off. He doesn’t have answers, just a willingness to share learned experiences. And if you want travel stories, family stories, cultural learnings, this book has it all. You just have to pay attention.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Todd Smith

    The author is a dad of two young girls and he takes his family on a whirlwind tour to New Zealand, the Netherlands, Costa Rica and lastly Kansas. He analyzes each of these communities and how they are different from each other and his family’s life back in northern Virginia. I think what I enjoyed the most was his details on what his family faced in living in each of these places. This would be from mosquitoes in Costa Rica to bicycling in traffic in the Netherlands it was quite an adventure. He The author is a dad of two young girls and he takes his family on a whirlwind tour to New Zealand, the Netherlands, Costa Rica and lastly Kansas. He analyzes each of these communities and how they are different from each other and his family’s life back in northern Virginia. I think what I enjoyed the most was his details on what his family faced in living in each of these places. This would be from mosquitoes in Costa Rica to bicycling in traffic in the Netherlands it was quite an adventure. He shared the struggles they faced along with the fun and exciting times, too. He was hoping to change how his kids viewed the world and maybe try to figure out what makes a great place to live. I am not sure if he found that, but I felt the family learned a lot about others and most of all about themselves.

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