I had a long conversation with Claire over the weekend. Time zones are tricky and internet isn’t all that great these days for some reason (ours). So I was so grateful for some uninterrupted time to really talk. To delve into things she is learning. To think about the seeds of goodness being planted in her heart through the experiences she is having.

That girl is growing by leaps and bounds I tell you!

I wrote a lot about how this experience came to be back HERE, but here’s a little update as requested:)

A Month in The Netherlands

Claire is staying with the Karren family in a town called Maastricht, in the Netherlands:

©pbardocz/Fotolia (Britannica)

Let’s zoom in a little on that map to see where Maastricht is…see it there at the bottom?

THAT is where Claire is living.

There’s a whole video about that city in that last post I linked above if you’re curious.

See how close it is to Belgium (I think 20 minutes by car), and Germany (30 minutes)? Pretty incredible, right?

So she has had the opportunity to travel with the Karren family to Amsterdam (the capital), Germany, Belgium and Luxembourg (just south of The Netherlands…see below):

Just a little geography for us today. Ha!


Together with her host family they have been working to promote the underlying goal of their family-run business: FLY-BY-NIGHT PRESS, which is “To create and promote European-inspired ‘cultural fiction’ that educates while it entertains. We want to create mind broadening experiences that will increase a reader’s exposure to cultures they might not otherwise encounter on a deep level. We believe that the more exposure a person has to differing cultures, the better one understands her own, as well as the world at large. That understanding can create bridges and ultimately leads to more peaceful relationships across cultures. We like to call it ‘Peace through Proximity.'”

They want to help readers to “Travel Europe Through Books’ for purposes of Entertainment, Exposure, and Education.

Isn’t that such a cool vision? I love it.

And I LOVE that Claire gets to experience it and learn so much in the process. Together with Christine Karren, Claire has had the opportunity to help produce some pretty awesome videos.

Check them out here:

She has learned so much about history and writing and narrating and even a little Dutch!

(And I learned so much from watching those videos!)

She is writing a whole run-down of her experience over there that I will include here on the blog as a wrap-up of her adventure, but until then, I want to keep all the information about this experience here on the blog, so I want to include a little more background about this family she is staying with and what they’re all about.

In 2017 Val Karren wrote his first book, The Deceit of Riches, which is a fictional novel based on his own true experiences living in Russia as a young man. With Christine (his wife)’s background in graphic design and blogging, and Val’s background in business, they decided that it was best to set up their own small publishing company in the Netherlands called Fly-By-Night Press to publish and promote Val’s books.

Since that time Val has produced 5 more books in two series, The Deceit of Riches Series and the Armchair Travel Series, with another book of the first series to be released in October. They’ve sold all their books internationally, held in-person book events on two continents, set up online literary travel communities, created a library of travel videos, and gained recognition through awards.

Really, there isn’t much better than a book that will take you on your own little adventure, don’t you think? To see the world in a different way, to get a glimpse into other cultures, ideas, thoughts, backgrounds…that is a beautiful thing.

These three books are more like short stories, so easy to read and filled up with some great characters and details to really bring you right to Portugal, the Dutch seaside and France:

Claire and I speed-read through most of Fate & Longing in Lisbon before she left so she could familiarize herself with how these stories go, and it definitely pulled us right in. As it says in in the Amazon review, this book “will carry you away to the charming streets and taverns of Lisbon, letting you smell the sea and taste the cinnamon that hangs in the air there

The Witch of Drontenburg will take you on an adventure “told from the perspective and logic of a twelve-year old boy, has a touch of mystery, humor, history, and adventure all rolled into one.”

And The Plucked Hen “immerses the armchair traveler in a provincial French town, where succulent foods, tradition and relationships are mixed in equal measure to recreate the ‘joie de vivre’ that France is world famous for. This story will leave you asking for seconds.”

I am excited to read all three with Lucy when things slow down a little around here. As her eyesight dwindles there’s nothing like a good book to take you on an adventure!

Excited for these three as well:

Especially From the Rooftops since I know some of it is set in Romania, and man alive, I miss that place!

Claire will be home a week from today.

Until then, I LOVE seeing these kinds of pictures pop up in my email in-box:

..and on her Instagram account:

Oh sure, there’s been a little bit of homesickness involved which is actually so healthy and good in my opinion. But I’m quite surprised there hasn’t been more. It must be that wonderful Karren family just making that girl of mine feel so comfortable and safe.

Thanks and deep gratitude going on forever and ever to that incredible family for all they are doing for our girl!

For more about traveling through Europe from your own armchair (immersing yourself in a book to get there), check out these links:


Their Facebook page is here:


Instagram is here:


BookBub information:


Goodreads reviews:


YouTube Channel:


(those videos I posted with Claire are in that channel)

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  1. How fun! I am curious if you can share how you work out these work/travel/study abroad trips with your kids. I know you’ve said in the past that things change by kid and by situation, as well as how your family changes over time. I’d love to hear about how they choose these trips, and if they are required to do these, as well as how you share the financial responsibility for them. I know each situation is unique, but I always love hearing how your family has grown and changed over time with how you handle these things.

    Thank you!

    1. Good questions, Jamie. Each kid has had such a different experience. Yes they are required to do these, they have just become part of our family culture, although I think things will be different with Lucy. Not sure how that one will work but we will work out something I’m sure! I have been so grateful for blog readers to make these trips possible for Elle and Claire. In these instances we worked out the financial part with the families involved. In this case, Claire worked for the family in exchange for room and board, and chipped in however and whenever she had the opportunity. Hope that helps to clarify a little!

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