This as-told-to essay is based on a conversation with Leslie Keeler Saglio, a TEDx speaker and master coach focusing on women’s empowerment.
As a young adult, I didn’t have much international experience. I was born in Los Angeles, California to parents of Filipino descent, and aside from a study abroad stint in Shanghai for business school, I didn’t have the opportunity to travel much. After l graduated, I got started in the entertainment industry. I landed a job at Warner Brothers Pictures; it was a very corporate environment, but it was exciting for me, living in LA and getting a behind-the-scenes look into how the industry works.
But a few years in, I realized I was working a lot of hours — 50-60 per week. I worked in the company’s international department and interacted with people from many different cultures. It made me think, Wouldn’t it be interesting to actually be able to travel to these places and experience life much differently than I was raised? Around the same time, one of my good friends, a real estate entrepreneur, asked me if I’d come on board with his business.
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I took a calculated risk and left my very comfortable position at Warner Brothers. I knew that surrounding myself with people who shared my entrepreneurial spirit and had the lifestyles I aspired to have would motivate me to take even more risks and do things outside of my comfort zone. During that time, in 2005, I met the man who would become my husband online; he lived more than 5,000 miles away in London, but after a nine-month long-distance relationship, he proposed, and I said “yes.”
“I realized I didn’t want to live a life of regrets. We wanted a better lifestyle.”
Because I was younger and earlier in my career and had always wanted the chance to work and live abroad, we decided it made sense for me to join him in London. I moved there in 2006, and our two children were born there: our daughter in 2008 and our son in 2010. But after about a decade of living in London, we were ready for another change — we were tired of the city’s wet, gray weather, and after going back and forth to California to visit my father during his battle with brain cancer, I realized I didn’t want to live a life of regrets.
We wanted a better lifestyle — less stress and more sun and Vitamin D. So we decided on Barcelona. My husband is French, and our children were attending the French school in London, so we looked at the French school in Barcelona, figuring it would take a year or so to find places, but it took just four or five weeks. Just a few months later, we made the move.
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It wasn’t long before we began to see the differences in lifestyle and parenting approaches. Those in the U.S. and London are relatively similar, but the further you go south, toward the Mediterranean, the more relaxed it gets. In Spain, the kids eat later; the days are longer — sometimes, my husband and I find it a bit too relaxed. We’re like, “Wait a minute here, we need our kids to have a little more structure.”
“Without the pressure to have a 5-10-year plan, they’re able to just have their adolescence.”
But it’s all about finding a balance. Here, there’s less pressure on schooling — that whole, “Where are you going to school, and what kind of job are you going to have?” We don’t want that pressure on ourselves or our kids. We had that to an extent growing up, and we didn’t want that for our children. So we do have structure, but we also appreciate that kids can be kids here. Without the pressure to have a 5-10-year plan, they can have their adolescence, which is important.
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Although our kids started in the French school here, we switched them to the American International School because we wanted to instill the individualistic outlook that’s common in the U.S. We want our kids to know that yes, you can be about the “we” and the collective, but you also have to think about your strengths and take accountability for yourself. Whenever I travel back to the U.S., I’m reminded of how American that approach is, and I think it’s beautiful.
“Our children speak several languages and are citizens of the world — the world is their oyster.”
We encourage our kids to pursue their interests. Our son is in competitive tennis; he’s very dedicated to the sport, and I think that’s great. Our daughter is in student government. It’s a beautiful part of American culture: Speak up, speak out and have a voice — which is why I’ve also tried to keep them very aware of what’s happening in the U.S. and the world.
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My husband and I are both entrepreneurs, and we’d be happy if our children pursued that path as well, though we do want them to finish school, too. Education is so important. Even though AI might make some jobs obsolete by the time they graduate, education is more than just where you study; it’s the people you meet and the experiences you have. Our children speak several languages and are citizens of the world — the world is their oyster, really.