Our Fifth KAUSTiversary: The Value of a Long-term Mindset

By | August 24, 2016

We travel often, but we don’t travel light anymore! Parenting protip: there are no awards to be won by packing light with kids!

Five years ago this summer we moved to Saudi. It’s been a wild ride and we feel so fortunate to have the opportunity to live in our little KAUST bubble. The community has more than doubled in population in the time we’ve been here (from 3000 to more than 7000 people), and we’ve seen the community mature from a small group of founders to a fully functioning town. It’s been both remarkable and inspiring.

When we first moved here, as I noted in the past, we found that many of our KAUST peers had goals of staying for either three years or five years. We always felt that our goal was to stay at KAUST as long as life continued to be good. We theorized that if we had a long-term vision for our life at KAUST, that mindset would translate into long-term visions for our professional efforts (thus making KAUST more likely to be successful overall and for us both personally and professionally). Now that we have reached that five-year threshold, I’ve found myself evaluating this theory.

How did that work out?

This summer the kids and I traveled out of the country for nearly 3 months. Before leaving, part of me wondered if we’d love being back in our own culture(s) and if we’d start to long for life in the West. On our journey, we visited 3 countries and 7 cities and it was a whirlwind of fun. But it was also hard. In particular, we saw life in America and England (our home countries) to be much harder than the life we live at KAUST. Sure, we had more diversity in our enrichment activities, nice cool summer weather, delivery groceries and amazon.com. But we also had to worry about traffic and crime and keeping-up-with-the-joneses. We missed our inexpensive childcare options, our easy access to work, doctors, and the beach, and we missed our uniquely multi-cultural bubble which exists nowhere else on the planet.

After our long summer away, what sticks with me is that we are beyond lucky to have our long summers away (a benefit which simply would not be an option if we lived in America or England). And it is precisely the long summer away which inspired in us a desire to reinvest our efforts in KAUST, to continue to build it and shape it into a place where we’ll enjoy living for 20 more years to come.

Will that vision become a reality? I have no idea. But it’s certainly worth a try.


Our itinerary for our long summer away included stops in Lanzarote, Madrid, Philadelphia, DC, Baltimore, Boulder, and Cambridge, UK. Many families at KAUST travel like this over the summer.