“The journey itself is my home.”
Last week while we were camping in cappadocia we ran into a French family (with children aged 4, 7, and 9) traveling through Europe in their campervan for the year. They invited us for dinner in their cozy abode one night, and while we ate delicious fish, rice, and ratatouille, I interview them about why they have chosen to take a year off, and how it works.
Why They Did It
When I asked why they had chosen to travel for a year with their children “Dad ” immediately answered that it was because they wanted to spend a year together as a family before the children become teenagers and enjoy hanging out with their parents less. He said that, in a way, traveling is simply an excuse to be together, though they both mentioned that they are leaning a lot more about their own region – Europe – than they had expected, and are happy to be exploring these countries as well. Ironically enough (and the same for Kevin and I) the best part about this trip – being all together – is obviously the hardest, especially these days since the days are so short so the five of them spend a lot of time cramped into the van all together.
“Mom” is a weather technician, while “Dad” is an electrical engineer, and because they live in France (and not the United States!) they were able to take a year off but still have their jobs when they come home. The Dad had set aside a separate “vacation” account a dozen years ago which is sort of like a retirement fund: every month he received a bit less money since that money went into this special account, but now that they are traveling, he is still earning an income as if he was working. Pretty cool huh? For school, the children are enrolled in a “distance school” which has given them everything they need, from eight workbooks each (to cover each subject) to computer programs that they can use when they have wifi. In order to receive credit, they have to send in six assignments in each subject throughout the year in order to “pass.” The parents said that they are happy to have the curriculum laid out like this because if not, they wouldn’t know what to teach them, though they also said that even so the schooling part of the day does take quite a bit of energy.
Everything has gone pretty smoothly for them so far, though if they were to change something, they said they would take a smaller van because it is sometimes hard to go up smaller roads, and because it is not exactly inconspicuous. They also said that though it is comfortable and somewhat necessary (especially because of their schooling) it also isolates them since it’s as if they were in their home. The walls, they explained, have created an unfortunate boundary between them and the culture outside, and they have to remind themselves to step out of the comfort of their moving home.
This is probably the part I found most interesting because someday I too would like to road-school children (anyone have any out there I can borrow for a few months!?). The children do their schooling everyday for about two hours right away in the morning. Each parent helps them, so they got quite a lot of one on one attention which means that they can complete a whole days lesson in a very short period of time.
When I asked the younger boy (7) what he liked about this type of schooling, he told me it’s nice not having to wait for other kids or having other children distract him, and that he really loves that school only takes up two hours of the day since if leaves him more time to do other things. He said the hardest part is that they do sometimes get mad, either mad at his parents or at his brother, during their school hours which can be rough because with everyone in the same van there is no where to hide. The older boy (9) said he liked “real school” better because he really misses his friends and rugby, but he feels he is learning more during his “road schooling.” The little one, an adorable four year old girl isn’t really doing “school” yet, though she is always asking her parents to give her work since she wants to be just like her two older brothers.
Like I mentioned before, the parents are happy with the curriculum laid out by France, and obviously add to it during the day while they visit castles, rock formations or ancient sites. The oldest is really interested in history and has benefited greatly from this trip in that sense, so they do feel like their children are learning a lot in a hands on sort of way. The parents also mentioned how school makes a huge difference for how they day will go. For instance if everyone was cranky in the morning and school didn’t go so smoothly obviously that will carry on to be a sort of cranky day, whereas if they completed their work easily and happily, the day normally went by quickly as well.
The Children’s Travels
I interviewed the children with a few questions about the trip, so here are their answers.
What do you like most about living this way?
-(9) That I get to discover so much, and spend time with our parents.
-(7) That I get to see so many things.
-(4) That I get to be with mommy and daddy.
What do you guys miss most about being away from home?
-(9) Playing rugby, seeing my friends, and our house.
-(7) Family, especially grandparents.
What has been your favorite country and why?
-(9) Germany: because we were there for the World Cup and Germany won!
Also because we got to learn a lot about history and see some neat castles.
Slovenia: because we got to visit a very large water park, and because we did some fun hikes.
Greece: because they have really good food.
Macedonia : because we got to rock climb with pros. (The family is very into rock climbing and was able to meet up with pros on the “petzel road trip” as they touring through Eastern Europe this summer).
-(7) Germany: also for the World Cup (the parents told us this had definitely been one of the big gets highlights for them since they talk about it constantly).
Croatia: because we got to visit an amazing castle and see the huge walls and where they use to shoot from.
-(4) Slovenia: for the cows (we later saw picture, they are like extremely furry buffalo/cow things!) and for the nice walks we did which were pretty.
Coolest thing you have seen or learned?
-(9) The history about Germany, the temples in Greece, and all of the hikes we have done.
-(7) The huge turtle and octopus we saw in Greece, and all of the cool castles everywhere.
We really enjoyed our time with this family and came away even more set that someday we will travel in a van as well (though a smaller one). To check out their blog, click here!