Can a 4-year-old learn a new language within a year? Do children travel well? Let’s examine those questions. 

Children are incredibly adaptable to new situations. They quickly learn physical skills, new words, and social behaviors. Take my daughter, for example. She’s grown up speaking English and a little bit of Spanish with me, but we spent this last year in Hong Kong where they speak a form of Chinese called Cantonese.

Accomplishments for my 4-year-old this year include becoming fluent in Chinese,  diving down into the pool, dribbling a basketball more than 10 times, but, sadly, she still can’t wipe her own butt very well.  

I hope this story inspires you to reconsider how you think about raising children. If you haven’t thought about raising children outside of the United States–or whatever country you’re from–I hope this story encourages you to give it a thought. 🙂

Basketball in Hong Kong

I’m pumped that she enjoys playing basketball with me. I challenge you to play against her in 10 years, she’s gonna be dangerous with her crossover!

Auburn and I after a day on the court

It’s been awesome to watch her become more interested in it the more we play. Seeing her grow and develop her skills each time is so much fun to witness! She really gets after it on defense! 

In the same way, she’s learned other physical skills this year.

Learning to Swim in Hong Kong

At the start of the school year, Auburn was still very hesitant about swimming. She’d had lessons a little over a year ago, but she did not enjoy them.

Since then, I’ve been trying my best to get her accustomed to swimming not just in the pool but also in the waves in the ocean.

best beaches for swimming in hong kong
One of her favorite places to swim in Hong Kong, Shek O Beach

As she’s been slowly exposed to it, she recently had a massive breakthrough! As she would tell you, “I’m not scared anymore,” then quickly dive under the water and come up laughing. 

I’m excited to teach her how to snorkel and surf in the future, but I shouldn’t get ahead of myself, we need to work our way up again. 

Is Chinese Hard to Learn?

I would say yes; my Chinese is quite awful even after a year here. I can’t get the tones right, I often forget the words, people look at me confusedly no matter what I say. 

However, if you ask my 4-year-old, she might tell you it’s not so hard to learn Chinese. 

“What are your thoughts on living abroad with children? Let me know in the comments below!”

In fact, she went from understanding zero Chinese last September, to being as fluent in it as she is in English. Furthermore, she’s also a skilled translator–to my advantage!

learn chinese in hong kong
Auburn loving Hong Kong because she actually understands what people are talking about, quite unlike her father! 😀

How did she learn Chinese here in Hong Kong? By attending a local school and spending time with her Chinese family!

A School Year in Hong Kong

So, I would highly encourage anyone who is considering moving abroad with their children to do it. I know that fear of not knowing the language may hold you back, but your kids will manage, I promise you! If you make it a point to get to know the locals, you’ll all learn–but, like me, your children will be better at it. 

It took Auburn about 6 months to really start grasping the new language, but once she took hold, it was leaps and bounds after that. The development has been incredible and I’m excited to see the multilingual person she will grow up to be!

Any Regrets?

When we first got to Hong Kong last year after spending the summer in Michigan, I was again overwhelmed by the noise, the population density, the air quality. 

In Hong Kong, I live in a building that has more people than the village I grew up in. True story. 

living in hong kong
Typical residential area in Hong Kong

While I was disenchanted at first, it grew into frustration over the first six months. Sometimes at being congested with people, sometimes at having to step over carelessly thrown garbage, other times having to listen to the pounding of pneumatic hammers and plate-sized buzz saws. 

Whatever it was, it’s what lead tome drinking way too much

Once I quit drinking, I started reading into something I was always superficially interested in: zen philosophy. I think my dive into the subject has helped me learn to deal with the stress and distraction of living in the city. 

So, for the past two months, it hasn’t really bothered me at all. I just let it be as a consequence of bringing my daughter to a place where she could learn her grandparent’s language. And she’s succeeded, so, mission accomplished. 

a school year in hong kong
Auburn, happy in Hong Kong

I hope you can learn from my experience and see that single parent travel is 100% possible and your whole family will grow and benefit. After talking with many of you on Facebook and Instagram and a little bit on YouTube these days, I realize that there is a lot of mistakes we’ve made, but also successes we’ve had, that you could learn from.

Hopefully, if you’re interested, you can make the jump to a nomadic life one day! You get to travel as a single parent (or with a partner!) and your children will be exposed to new languages and ways of thinking. It’s a win-win!


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Is chocolate better with peanut butter? Does pineapple belong on pizza? Is Donald Trump a good president? Should I visit Discovery Bay with my kids?

There are lots of questions you and I may disagree on. But there is one question that is undeniably, unequivocally, abso-freaking-lutely a ‘yes’ to: the last one.

Good thing my single dad, parenting blog is here to bring you all the answers! 😛

Should I visit Discovery Bay with my kids?

Discovery Bay Hong Kong

Yes. Like I said: yes, again.

The beach is massive and has heaps of space available. Bring your own shade, however, because the massive beach has little of it.

The water is warm and pleasant with a sandy and clean bottom.

There are heaps of restaurants along the piernext to the beach and plenty of other establishments to explore including nearby grocery stores if you’re keen to bring some food and drinks to the beach.

What’s in it for the kids at Discovery Bay?

Well, the beach, for one.

But don’t miss the awesome zip line for kids!

You can watch this video of mine and Auburn’s day there where she took a ride on it. Needless to say, she loved it!

There is also a great playground right on the beach that the kids flock to.

What’s in it for the adults at Discovery Bay?

As I said before, food, drinks, and businesses are readily available in Discovery Bay.

The biggest draw for me is the ease of access. How to get to Discovery Bay?

If you make it to Central, head to Pier 3 where you’ll find a quick boat to Discovery Bay. After you get off the boat, you’re a 3-5 minute walk along the pier until you’re at the beach. It’s super easy to get there.

With mountains in the background and islands out to sea, it’s a wonderful place to relax.

So, if you’re asking yourself: should I visit Discovery Bay with my kids?

The answer is yes, you should.


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learn cantonese in hong kong

“Do you know, Daddy?” She blinks.

“No, sweetheart. I don’t know what that means.”

“Ugh!” She stomps her foot.

“Honey, I don’t speak Chinese.”

“Oh, right.”

This was a snippet of a conversation I had with my 4-year-old today.

Why? Because she was trying to tell me something in Chinese.

language immersion in hong kong
Auburn and her Chinese grandma at the park. She’s so loved!

I recently took a solo 12-day trip to Cambodia. It was my first time spending time away from my daughter in over three years. During these 12 days, she stayed at her Chinese Grandma’s home.

Before I left for Cambodia, Auburn’s Chinese language skills were relatively basic. Her speaking was minimal, though her listening skills seemed well-developed (she’s been learning for roughly six months). I really want her to learn Cantonese in Hong Kong, but overall it’s been difficult.

However, since I’ve returned to Hong Kong to reunite with my daughter, she’s been speaking and communicating in Chinese in full sentences, constantly.

And I’m not at all surprised.

learn cantonese in hong kong
Here’s her surprised face. 😛

How I Predicted My Daughter’s Rapid Advancement in the Chinese Language and What That Tells Us About Language Learning

Before I left for Cambodia, her  Chinese skills reminded me of myself a few years ago before I traveled solo to Mexico.

I was speaking a little bit of Spanish at the time, I could understand much more than I could speak. I didn’t at all feel fluent or confident in my skills. I could ask for directions to the bathroom, but I couldn’t always understand them.

However, I spent two weeks in Mexico. The majority of my time was in Morelia, but I saw some other, beautiful places as well, such as San Miguel de Allende.

I knew I was immersing myself in the Spanish language–that was my goal. What I didn’t realize while I was there: I was rapidly developing my ability to speak Spanish.

language learning in hong kong
I lost my phone in Latin America and all the pictures I had, so here’s Hong Kong Harbor

How? I was hearing it in the grocery store. Listening to it on the bus. But most importantly, I was speaking it every day because I had to. I was finally working a muscle that hadn’t been effectively exercised. And it quickly strengthened.

Before my two weeks in Mexico, I understood enough of what people said, so the words were already in my head. Much like my daughter’s comprehension of Chinese before I left for Cambodia.

How to Learn Cantonese in Hong Kong

In her 12 days of staying with her Chinese family, I knew she was going to do what I did with Spanish. She finally made the jump from understanding and knowing, to speaking.

learn cantonese in hong kong
Auburn and her older cousin. Great to see them getting so close while Auburn learns her language!

Only she did in

I did it in my late 20’s. My daughter did it before she was 5. Anyone can do it.

Anyone Can Rapidly Speak a New Language

But only if they’re willing to put in the work of learning the words and recognizing the sounds. This I think is the most tedious part of learning a new language. It’s a rough adjustment phase, it takes time, and the process feels slow (and sometimes frustrating).

Once it’s passed, however, speaking skills rapidly improve.

And it’s totally worth it. For Auburn, it was imperative that she learn Cantonese in Hong Kong. it means the chance to communicate with family, and it makes my eyes get a bunch of dust in them. Stupid dust.


Learning a new language is possible for anyone–now it’s your turn to commit. Please subscribe below to my email list if you liked this article and want me to continue writing! Your subscription is my favorite form of encouragement!