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Where Are You From?

The question, “Where Are You From?” is a difficult one for me to answer as someone who lived a third culture childhood. Today I’m trying to give a complete answer.


I was born in a small farming town in Utah, and spent much of my childhood like the photo above. I didn’t go to school, and was basically unschooled before the term existed – although I did practice violin two hours a day. It was a magical early childhood, and memories from that time play a large role in the importance I place on children having free time.


When I was six years old, my dad changed careers, and we lived briefly in Virginia. I went to school for a few weeks there – my only experience going to school in the US (until college). From there we moved to Guatemala City, Guatemala – one of the most beautiful places in the world, which was also, at the time, still dealing with the a long civil war. My experiences living in that environment played a large role in my choice of study when I went to graduate school.


From Guatemala, we moved to France, where I went to a public school that held classes in the chateau above. France has a lot of castles. Going to French public schools made it easy to fully integrate into French culture, and I developed a deep appreciation for the French version of marbles.


My next home was La Paz, Bolivia. Our home was well above the tree line. I missed the trees, but was mesmerized by the sunsets and sunrises, as well as incredible waterfalls and shockingly strong bridges constructed using logs and mud. While in Bolivia, I hiked part of the Inca Trail – an unforgettable experience. I had a lot of free time in Bolivia, and I enjoyed capturing local life in Sculpey clay, practicing piano, and teaching myself how to sew (by destroying yards of material and breaking sewing machine needles). I also learned how to play charango, which helped me teach myself to play guitar later on.


Vienna, Austria was my final childhood home. Old world elegance at its finest. I went to concerts thanks to $2-3 standing room tickets, and fell in love with their Christmas Markets. Vienna’s safe public transportation system gave me a lot of freedom, and I spent much of my free time exploring the city. I was able to take my three oldest children back to Vienna to visit when my parents moved back there (temporarily – they are now in Florida – and they had lived in Nicaragua, Virginia, Ukraine, and Sweden in between).

While in Vienna, I sent a similar photo to the first one from this post – me as a toddler playing in mud – as part of an application to study at Stanford University. I was accepted, with a full-tuition (need-based – I still worked to pay for room and board) scholarship, and met Mike our first day of freshman orientation. Now that we are back in California, our kids are gradually learning about this part of our lives!


Mike spent most of his childhood in California, but after we got married we went to Edinburgh, Scotland, where our daughter Emma was born. Emma also spent a few months living in Cambridge, England:


While in the UK, I spent time doing research in Bosnia and Hercegovina – a beautiful part of the world:


That was working hard (is still working hard) to recover from devastation.


My time in Bosnia and Hercegovina taught me about resilience.


Johnny, Lily, and Anna, were born in Massachusetts, where I fell in love with our rural neighborhood…


…and my beloved Japanese Maple Tree.


We made wonderful friends, who we miss every day. Luckily we are going to see many of them next month – we’re going back to visit!

Now, back in California, the kids and I are learning to love Mike’s childhood home – especially the sunshine.


Where are you from?

MaryAnne is a craft loving educator, musician, photographer, and writer who lives in Silicon Valley with her husband Mike and their four children.

33 thoughts on “Where Are You From?”

  1. Fabulous description of your global childhood. I’m so happy I discovered you site! By the way, I’m fully immersed in teaching little global citizens as well as nurturing my own global family. I’m from many wonderful places from my past and my present. It’s so important to be able for kids to articulate “home” in a way that makes them feel happy and secure.

  2. This is the neatest post! I have so much to say!!! What an amazing childhood full of so many beautiful sights and experiences. I find it so neat that you and your husband have taken your life full circle in a way. And the resemblance between Emma and Anna as babies is remarkable! Can’t say enough how much I love this post!!

  3. Thank you MaryAnne – It was so nice to read this and get a sort of timeline on the wheres and whens – I love how you included bits about what you took away from each place and thank you for sharing these photos. What an incredible life you have led!

  4. Holy moly MaryAnne! Talk about an interesting childhood! There’s a part of me that’s super jealous, if only because even until now I don’t travel extensively. If anything, I would love to travel the way you did, where you’re actually immersed in that culture and not just going for a three-day weekend or a long week even.

    I know though that with kids it’s harder, and that they actually benefit a lot from consistency. Plus I’m not exactly a pick up and go type; I’d be freaking out too much lol.

    Still, I hope one day to take my kids around the world, also because neither my husband nor myself ever really did. I even once made a list of all the places I’d love to go based on favorite books I’ve read.

  5. Wow!! I cannot imagine moving so many places as a child… but your perspective and learning is so amazing! I LOVE this post and that pic of you 2 with Emma; Oh my! Anna looks so much like Emma… just stunning!

  6. I love that you lived so many different places growing up! And Anna looks just like Emma in that photo! I’m a Texas girl. Those will always be my roots. :)

    1. I haven’t played either much since we moved to California, and rarely play my violin, but I have one still, and enjoy playing both when I make the time for it.

  7. Elisa | blissfulE

    Where and how we live has so much to do with how we perceive the world. Yours is a beautiful journey and the empathy you have derived from it shines forth so clearly in the way you parent and write.

    I always tell people “I grew up in Dallas, Texas.” Thankfully everyone I’ve met at least has a vague idea where that is, which means I don’t have to go into a lot of detail. (My husband comes from St Louis, Missouri, which he often has to follow up with the fact that “it’s in the middle of the country,” though a few people know where it is. Actually, I didn’t know where it was, before I went to university in Missouri!) I was born in a small town in Oklahoma, which I rarely mention because I can’t remember it at all. We bounced back and forth between Dallas and Houston and even a short stint in Salt Lake City growing up. Since university in Missouri, I have lived in Houston, Cambridge, London, Cairo, and now Perth, Western Australia. We hope to stay here for the rest of our lives… but you never know!

    1. I love the idea of staying somewhere forever – there’s a decent chance that will happen where we are now, but you never know. I love the diversity of the places you have lived.

  8. Natalie PlanetSmartyPants

    I often wondered what your father did. I thought for some reason that he was a missionary :) You had an incredible childhood and youth. Do you think it will be a little “boring” to get settled in one place?

    1. I imagine there are more career missionaries than career diplomats with ten children – although I do know of at least one other family, who are, incidentally, cousins of some cousins of mine!

      I was a little surprised at how happy I was to be settled in Massachusetts, but I remember being very ready to leave California after five years. So we’ll see how it goes. I’m hoping we get to do some sabbatical travel with Mike’s job, at least, in a few years.

  9. Wow, having lived so many places must give you such an incredible perspective!
    Love all the pictures, Anna looks so much like Emma as a baby!
    I was born in NYC and moved to Cape Cod when I was 6, I went to college in RI, then lived in Boston/Metro West for 15 years before returning to Cape Cod.

    1. You live in a beautiful part of the world! We are super excited to be going back to Massachusetts for a visit this summer!

  10. Beautiful pictures, MA :) B got a chuckle out of the cute pic of you guys in Edinburgh — it’s striking how alike the baby pictures of Emma and Anna are. Adorable.

    A couple of places in Japan, then all over the pacific rim (AK, HI, CA), two places in PA, and now in the corner of TN. I think CA is home for me, and Japan is home-home. I do have many fond memories of PA, though, not the least of which is where B and I met and married. ;)

    1. We look so young in that picture! And yes, Anna is a bit of an Emma clone so far, although with her own personality for sure!

      I didn’t realize you had lived in Alaska – my mom grew up there, and I’d love to see the state someday. I have very fond memories of your PA wedding :)

  11. I once asked your brother where he was from, and he laughed.

    I was born and raised in Las Vegas. I lived in the same bedroom for 18 years. I spent 4 years in Portland, OR getting a BS before coming to the Bay Area for grad school. We’ve been here 9 years now…Wow I just realized that’s half of the time I lived in Vegas.

    1. I’ve responded that way as well. It’s a bit of an impossible question for us!

      Do you see yourself staying in the Bay Area long-term? Would you move to Vegas, given the opportunity?

      1. John doesn’t like Vegas, so probably not. We were only supposed to be here for 18 mo. We’d go for Portland if we were to move. Closer to family will be nice. It’s hard to be away.

        1. One of my sisters lives in Portland and loves it. I agree that it’s hard to be far from family. We’re lucky that B moved up here right before we did.

  12. mel@thedizzymom

    I love seeing people’s history and living. What an exciting and interesting life you have!

  13. I’m trying to remember if you’ve ever said what your Dad did that he moved all over like that.

    I have lived in Hong Kong, Singapore, California, and Texas. The first two for about 1.5 years, the second for 8 or so, and Texas for the rest of my life which is rapidly becoming an impressive number.

  14. As someone who lives in the same town in which she was born, sent her children to the same grade school she (and her husband) attended, walks a mile to visit her elderly parents who still live in her childhood home, and now lives with her husband in the home he grew up in, yours is a very interesting story!

    1. There is a lot of beauty to the way you live, Adrian. I think being away from family and not having roots are two things that make my type of childhood challenging, although it comes with many opportunities.

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