Category Archives for "Bring The Kids"

speak french fluently

Will I (or my child) Speak French Fluently If I Live In France For 1 year?

speak french fluently

If I live in France for 1 year…………..

  • How much French will I learn?
  • Will I be able to communicate easily in French with French people?
  • Will my child be bilingual or fluent after a year in France?
  • Can I speak French fluently by just living in France for a year?

These are some of the many questions I receive from readers who wonder if they will be able to speak French fluently after living in France for one year. If you are wondering the same thing, then stick around. I’m going to share my family’s personal experience and some tips on how you can be more fluent.

Yes you can learn to speak French fluently but……

Allow me to set your expectation; It is possible to be fluent after living in France for a year but highly unlikely unless certain conditions are met. Even then there are no guarantees.

A better question to ask instead of “will I be fluent after a year in France” would be “How fluent can I be after living in France for a year?”

Will I be a Novice? Intermediate? Advance? etc! Your level will depend on the effort and your conditions.

How do I know?

I know not because I am a linguist but because I have first hand experience. I speak several languages myself at different levels and now I am raising bilingual children whose native tongue is English.

Before we get into what conditions need to be met for you to be fluent, let’s first define exactly what fluent is.

But first, what is Fluent?

Fluency is a very subjective term for everybody. To some people, fluency is some magical point of speaking near perfect or even being at a native speaker level (which linguists define as “being bilingual”). To others, myself included, being fluent simply means

  • You can maintain a conversation, communicate with other people in everyday situations, interact and understand replies.
  • You have the ability to express yourself easily and articulately.
  • You have the ability to figure out the context of a new word by listening to a sentence.

So exactly what conditions will help you become more fluent during your year in France?

You already speak some French

The level of French you speak before you arrive in France will greatly affect the level of fluency you achieve after one year. Even just a tiny weeny bit of French knowledge will give you a stronger foundation that you can build upon and ultimately attain fluency faster at the end of that first year.

Take our family for example. Each member of our family spoke at different levels before arriving in France and it greatly effected the outcomes of our fluency.

  • My husband Blake: –>Came to France with almost ZERO French ability and at the end of one year in France still spoke very little. More on that in a bit and why.
  • My eldest son Kieran—> was 15 when he first arrived in France.  He spoke close to Zero French and after a year he was able to carry on simple conversations but with some difficulty. He had a descent vocabulary but lacked the ability to have deep meaningful conversations or to explain complex ideas.
  • Second son Andre—>  He was 13 when we arrived in France and spoke a little more French than his older brother but not much more. After a year in France, we thought he might never progress in French. Not only did he have a very strong accent, he made very simple mistakes that Kieran was not making. It wasn’t until the end of his second year when his French took off like a rocket ship and he surpassed his brothers French abilities.  More on this in a moment.
  • 3rd child Catherine –>She was 4 years old when we arrived. From the day she was born, I spoke French to her while my husband and everyone else spoke English to her so she was already bilingual when we arrived in France. Her French definitely dominates her English but for someone who has never formerly learned English in a school setting, she speaks and reads English very well just through daily exposure at home.
  • ME: –> I was already pretty close to Fluent when I arrived in France: I spoke French on and off as a child with my French Canadian father and family and went to a French high school in Montreal. Being in France that first year really solidified my French and helped build upon my already strong vocabulary. I learned more idomatic expression and felt very comfortable conversing in French at the end of my first year.

Put yourself or your children in an environment where they NEED to speak French.

In general, people learn a language best when they NEED to speak or because it is practical.

How to create need based learning?

A simple way to create need for yourself is to enrol in a French class while in France or volunteer like I do. Really anything where you interact in some way with other French people daily or at least several times a week.

If you want your children to be as Fluent as possible than you need to put them in a situation where they also NEED to speak French. Only then will they truly begin the process of learning French. If they dont find it useful than they wont speak and they won’t progress.

How to create need based learning for your children

If for no other reason than to learn French, please enrol your children in French schools. This is by far the best, most painless, funnest and quickest way to expedite their French fluency.

I enrolled my two sons; who spoke almost no French when we arrived. At the end of that first year, they both could speak passable French but they were no where near fluent. To make matters more confounding, Kieran spoke more fluently than Andre.

Effort and Time

How much time and effort you put into learning French will also have a huge effect. If you practice everyday versus weekly, you’re French will increase exponentially.

Take for example my two sons. That first year in France, Kieran surpassed Andre’s French ability because he put more effort into studying French after school.

We stayed  a second year and Andre surpassed Kieran’s level like a rocket ship. But Andre did not study more so how did he do it?

Easy, Andre made friends and talked to his friends everyday, during and after school non stop. Kieran continued studying but did not practice as much verbally.

In my opinion, learning in a classroom is great but to make a difference you need to talk. And you need to talk a lot.

What will happen if I don’t immerse myself or take French lessons?

If you do not create a need or immerse yourself in French while in France then you will speak very little French after one full year in France. I know this for a fact.

My husband is a good example of this. After one year in France, his French was not passable. Yes, he could understand a lot because he heard Catherine and I speaking at home but he could not respond in complete sentences.

Part of the reason he didn’t progress past novice levels was because he had no need to learn. He had me. If there was a problem at the bank, I took care of it. If we needed to talk to the kids teachers, I would talk.  He also did not take any French classes. It’s been three years now and he is inching his way forward by spending time and learning by talking with our many friends in France but it is clear that not having a good base is really stunting his progress.

Blake if you are reading this, I love you but please sign up for a French class.

You’re young: Preferably under 15

Generally speaking, the current school of thought is that it is easier to learn a language the younger you are.  Studies have even shown that learning at a younger age also improves your pronunciation in the foreign language. Now don’t get too excited; just because you are young does not guarantee a child will speak French magically. Kids still have to feel like they need to learn in order to learn and they need to be able to practice speaking it almost daily if they are ever going to reach fluency within one year.

On the flip side, just because you are 30 or more does not mean you cannot become fluent in one year either. It just means you might have to work a lot  harder to become fluent and you will most likely have a stronger accent than your younger counterpart.

Are you motivated?

Lastly, motivation is a HUGE factor in learning a language. People who learn French because they are genuinely interested in communicating with others for travel, experiencing another culture or for personal reasons are much more willing to put forth the effort to actually learn the language. Whereas, those who learn French for a job or college credit or because their parents are forcing them to typically don’t do as well.

No matter how you look at it, even if you live in France, immersed in French culture and language, you still have to dedicate a lot of time and effort to reach fluency levels

Good luck to you =  Bonne Chance!

live abroad or travel the world for a year carouges or stupid

Selfish, Courageous or Stupid? Use Your Savings And Move To France For A Year With Your Family!

live abroad or travel the world for a year carouges or stupid

Do you want to travel around the world or live abroad in with your kids but you’re afraid of the backlash and negativity from others? Been there! Here are 6 responses to 6 things naysayers might say to you. I hope it empowers you to go with your gut and do what is right for you rather than letting others shame you into conforming to their idea of what is the right and wrong way to live your life and raise your children.

You did what?Strolling on a foot path On st Margerite island

I always get a kick out of people’s reaction when they learn we used our savings to move to France with our three children while we were unemployed. “Are you crazy?”, “what about all your stuff and your life here?”, “You’re so lucky I wish I could do that!” or “You’re selfish parents for uprooting your kids and disrupting their routine.” And finally, people wonder if we are rich.

And the list goes on.

Travelling the world or living abroad for a year might seem like something only the rich or frivolous can do but you don’t have to be rich and it’s done more often than you think. 

I don’t blame those negative naysayers for thinking what they do about us folks who choose to leave our conventional lives behind to travel and see the world. What else are they supposed to think?

Most of us are raised to believe that we are supposed to live our life a certain way and when we stray from that way of life that we are taking risks or being bad parents or whatever it is that naysayers say about folks like us.

nice-cheese

Nowhere in the manual of life does it say take a family gap year to travel or live abroad. It just goes against the social grain. But just because it is not a common occurrence does not mean it’s the wrong thing to do. Great things in this world have happened because someone did something different, extraordinary or outside the bell curve.

But travelling the world for a year or taking a year off from life to live abroad is not really all that unique. Every year, thousands of people do it. I will admit that it is easier to do while you are younger with no attachments, no mortgage and before you get married and have kids.

I did it when I was 18- I lived in Japan and travelled throughout Asia for almost 4 years.

But Families do it too. It’s just harder to do as a family with kids. You have so many more obstacles to overcome. More of a financial burden. More lives to consider. Nevertheless, there are other families out there doing it. Here are a just a few Families who travel long term with their kids in tow. (Long term means that they are travelling the world indefinitely or until it no longer suits them.)

These people aren’t rich. They are people who got creative with how they earn a living so that they could lead a location independent life.

Leaving San Francisco

I’ve gotten my fair share of negativity from certain people I know and from complete strangers via email who say moving to France and using our savings to fund it was stupid, irresponsible or bad parenting. I don’t agree with them of course and they are all allowed their opinion.

In fact I agree with them to a certain degree. It is not right for certain people.It’s not right for them so they think it’s not right for me either I suppose. But my life is not their life. What makes them feel safe and happy does not make me feel that way and I want to raise my children differently.

Not everyone I come across are naysayers. Most are actually very positive.

Below are a few snippets from emails I have received from other readers.

  • I admire your courage to live life to the fullest with your kids.
  • Congratulations on your tenacity to live life unconventionally.
  • We would love to do what you and your family are doing but we need  a little advice….

We were even featured on the 500th episode of House Hunters international called Dreaming of Marseille.

However for every 100 positive emails, I receive a handful of emails from people who basically think we are either selfish fools or bad parents. Here is an example of one of the nastier ones I received.

“Just saw your house hunter program. I have never seen a more self-absorbed person in my life as you. You have given no consideration to parenting skills.

Two unemployed parents spending their savings on chasing a dream. You have not taken into consideration your children, especially your two eldest whose body language in the program showed two boys withdrawing from reality.

Your idea is something that should be pursued once your 3 responsibilities have been properly met and achieved their 18th birthday(s). In closing, I feel sorry for you, you are a very self-centred person, one who I hope fails at every turn of the screw.

signed anonymous”

catherine-school

Needless to say,  I am not so thrilled to get these and sometimes they even **piss me off. Not because someone dares to have a different opinion than me, but because selfishness was the furthest thing from our minds when we decided to leave our life behind to live in France for a year. But how would they know that. Most of people negativity comes from their very narrow point of view and life. I grew up living in different countries in a multicultural house so to travel and give this experience to my kids is a gift I wanted to pass on to them.

6 responses to negative feedback you may receive if you want to travel or live abroad with your kids for a year or more

Here are some things you may here from family and friends or even be thinking yourself.

1) You are selfish to impose your dream to travel (to live in France) on your children

swimming-st-tropez

A handful of emails said that we were selfish to impose our dream to live in France with our children. My response is this. Yes my husband and I love to travel and yes it was OUR dream to live in France, but our decision to actually DO IT was not merely based on a selfish desire but a strong belief that spending a year or more abroad would also BENEFIT our children.

That’s right, WE BELIEVE that our children will benefit from living in another country: exposed to another culture, speaking another language and so much more. We could have sent our elder sons to France on a year abroad program, instead we decided to spend a year abroad TOGETHER AS A FAMILY. You don’t have to agree or want to enrich your children’s lives as we have chosen to do. You just have to respect that we have our beliefs on how best to do it and you have yours.

Besides, we didn’t just wake up one day and say ‘oh let’s move to France’. On no mon ami. We carefully weighed our options, listed out the pros and cons, poured over our finances, conducted countless hours of research and went back and forth on our decision for months until we finally decided to JUST DO IT.

2) You are selfish to use your savings to live abroad when you have children.

It is selfish to use your savings to for a gap year in france when you have children?

We are not buying a Porsche or some other luxury item that we can’t afford. We worked hard for years at the expense of valuable family time and now we are choosing to use some of that money for a couple of years of family bonding; experiences and memories abroad.

FYI: We use a combination rental income, freelance work and savings to pay for our family year abroad.

If we really thought we were putting our future at risk, we would never have taken the leap to live abroad and take a family gap year in France. Only you can decide if it is financially viable for you to spend a year or more abroad with your family.

Not Familiar with our story?  Desperate Times Call For Desperate Measures

We lived a pretty conventional middle class family life in the San Francisco bay area right up until the point where we were laid off from our high-tech jobs, the economy took a dive and jobs became scarce. Rather than sit around and wait for the economy to improve, we decided leave the bay area and take the road less travelled. We packed our suitcases, rounded up our three kids, ages 4, 13, 14 at the time of our move and moved to France temporarily (for what was supposed to be one year but has since been extended).

3) You are selfish to move the kids to another country far away from relatives and or friends!

la-garde-mira

First, this is your life and you have to do what makes you happy and what you think is best for your kids.  You are not responsible for anyone else’s happiness.

Second, yes your kids will miss their friends and family but with technology being so readily available, there is no reason why you can’t stay in touch with family and friends back home via video calls like we do. In some ways, we stay more in contact now than we ever did before.

Third, you have to do what is best for your family.

Lastly, It’s only temporary. A year or two abroad is not going to kill anyone.  If your move abroad is longer or more permanent, I want you to think about this. The US and Canada are filled with people who left their homeland and their families behind to start a new life they thought would be better so why can’t you?

4) Your kids are too young. They won’t remember or benefit from your time abroad.

The kids are too young. They won’t remember or benefit from your family gap year abroad

I have heard this argument so many times and frankly it’s R-I-D-I-C-U-L-O-U-S.

If we follow the logic that we should not do something with our kids just because they won’t remember then we also shouldn’t read to our babies or hold them or even speak to them simply because they won’t remember. Sounds silly doesn’t it?

Some developmental specialists even believe that much of a person’s brain development happens within the first few years of life.  In other words, a child’s experiences during the first few years of their life will become the hardwired connections responsible for better cognitive and emotional functioning, including vision, movements and language.

Want to learn some of the ways my kids have benefited from travelling? Read this article I wrote called 10 Reasons Why You should Travel With Your Kids Even If They Won’t Remember.

5) You should wait until your children are 18 to  pursue your family gap year to travel abroad.

Kieran leaving for the summer

Seriously?  Our time with our children is very precious and relatively short. Whey wait to experience the trip of a lifetime until after the kids have left the nest?  It just does not make sense to me. Yes it’s true there are going to be risks and challenges but I think the pros outweigh the cons by a long shot.

  • We get more time with the kids: Our kids get us full-time before and after school where previously they went to school and then straight to daycare because we worked mad crazy hours and commuted almost 2 hours everyday to work.
  • We are working on creating a portable income through writing and freelancing. We have chosen to use the time that the kids are in school to work on our freelance careers and some writing projects.  Maybe when we return to north America we will have grown our freelance careers to the point where we can make our own hours and continue to be home for the kids.
  • The kids have a chance to be bilingual.
  • Family bonding time: All this time together exploring another country creates the perfect environment to spend more time together..

6) Your kids look withdrawn: They must Hate Living abroad in France.

The kids will love / hate their gap year in France

In one of the emails I received, someone wrote that the body language of my two teenage boys on the episode of House Hunters showed two boys withdrawing from reality. First of all, I find it strange that someone would draw this conclusion about the state of mind of my children from less than a few minutes of footage.

Second, clearly the person who wrote these words does NOT understand what it’s like to have teenagers. My teenage boys can be moody as hell. Add in the fact that they had the stomach flu on the day we were filming and that they were embarrassed to be filmed  in public on the streets of France and voila.

Are my boys always happy in France? No they are not but that is true wherever they are not just because they were living in France.

Will your kids hate living abroad?  Maybe, maybe not. It just depends on your kids and the extent they are able to handle change.

As parents, don’t we make a lot of decisions for our kids that benefit them whether they like it or not? If your kids hate eating broccoli, or doing their math homework or practising the piano or some other thing that you MAKE them do for their own benefit would you stop?  Probably not.

Conclusion: Don’t let other people’s judgmental attitude, limiting beliefs or fears stop you from doing what you think is best

Stop judging people based on your limiting beliefs and fears.

Some parents move to a better, more expensive area because the schools are better. Others parent keep their kids constantly busy with violin lessons, sport camps or private tutors. Some parents home school.

I grew up experiencing the world and I thank my parents everyday for giving me that gift and now I want to give it to my children. You may not agree with our choices but that’s ok. I get it, travelling and spending a year abroad with your family may not be your cup of tea. Just don’t judge us lesser parents or bad parents just because we believe in providing  and enriching our children in a different way than you do.

If you are reading this and still shaking your head that’s OK. Go away and live your life and never come back here again. If you are contemplating spending a year abroad, here are my final thoughts.

nice-bay-of-angels

It is your life.

You have your own unique set of circumstances and obstacles.

Ultimately only you can decide if a family gap year in France is right for you.

Just promise me you wont let the fear of what others think or social norms stop you from doing it

train-nice-dignes

10 Reasons Why You should Travel With Your Kids Even If They Won’t Remember

why you should travel with your kids even if they won't remember it

If you are considering a trip and aren’t sure whether you should bring the kids or not then let me help you decide with a little personal insight.

“Why bother travelling with young children? They won’t remember their travels anyways!

“It’s too much work to travel with kids, besides they won’t appreciate it!”

These are just some of the sad things I’ve heard people say about travelling with children.

My response is, you don’t know what you are missing and if you truly believe this than you are missing the whole point of travelling with children.

Consider the following statements.

“Don’t read to your child or hold your baby as much as possible because he or she won’t remember” .

“Don’t spend time with your kids when it’s inconvenient, they won’t appreciate it anyways”.

Ridiculous right?

I think it’s ridiculous when people say that they don’t want to travel with their kids because it’s too hard or because they won’t remember.

Travel with kids for me is not necessarily about giving them a  memory or doing it when it is convenient. It’s about giving them an experience. After all, experiences are the building blocks that make us who we are whether we remember them all or not.

10 reasons I travel with my kids and how I think it has changed our lives.

1- Travel Can Help Broaden The Horizons of Your Children.

1- Travel Can Help Your Kids Understand and Accept that there is no one way to do something.

One of the many reasons I love to travel is because it teaches me about the different ways that people live and do things. For my children this translates to them understanding that there is no one single way or right way to do some things.

Consider the simple act of what to eat for breakfast on a trip to.. um  ….. China?

If your kids are used to eating eggs and toast, imagine how eye opening and different it will be for them to eat something foreign like rice porridge or Chinese donuts for breakfast. My kids love eating this for breakfast by the way. I have been exposing them to different foods through travel since they were born.

Food is just one example of how travel can expose your kids to different ways of doing common everyday things.

Photo via Flickr from Brett

2-Traveling With Kids Expands, alters and stretches their little minds.

Traveling With Kids Expands, alters and stretches their little minds.

Nothing gives me more pleasure than to see my kids step outside of their comfort zone and be more willing to try new things.

Just by the nature of travel, your children can easily learn to stretch themselves and experience things outside of their everyday life and comfort zone. Each time they do this, they will gain the confidence to push themselves further and further even when they are not travelling.

3- Travelling Helps Kids Become Great Little Travellers.

Travelling Helps Kids Become Great Little Travellers.

The younger your kids are when you start travelling with them, the faster they become better travel companions.

All three of my kids are used to travelling. They learned from an early age what to expect, what to do and what not to do.

It doesn’t take years of training either.  Even if you only go on one trip a year, they will learn to become good travellers quickly.

My youngest child was already a great traveller by one year old because we started taking her on road trips at 11 days old. By the time she was 9 months old, she didn’t even cry on her first international trip to France.

4- Travelling helps kids learn to acclimate and adapt to change.

Travelling helps kids learn to acclimate and adapt to change

Sure stability and keeping a schedule is great for your kids but so is change. Travelling with your kids is a natural and easy way to help them learn to deal with change.

5-Travel Can uncover your children’s hidden interests.

Travel Can uncover your children’s hidden interests.

One of my sons has discovered through travel that he loves art and loves to draw. Sure he could have discovered these things on his own but travelling put us in museums and surrounded by ancient works of arts that gave him that initial spark.

6- Kids Can Let Loose and be themselves.

Kids Can Let Loose and be themselves

When your kids travel, they get to explore a side of themselves outside of their everyday life. They get to let down their guard, have fun and be themselves.  

7-You Will Create And Cherish Lifelong Memories

-You Will Create Cherish Lifelong Memories Together

It stands to reason that all the good times we have travelling together are memories i will cherish. You may be surprised to know that some of my fondest memories of travel were actually of times when we were the most stressed.

Like losing one of my sons in Nice France for 3 hours and freaking out only to find him hours later and just being happy is was safe.

Or realizing that our huge American stroller was not going to fit in most restaurants.

Changing diapers on the grass in front of the Eiffel tower after searching for a bathroom that was free for over an hour.

Convincing our kids to eat some new foods and putting up with all their whining.

These are all memories I will keep for the rest of my life and laugh about too.

8- You will see the world in a whole new way.

 You will see the world in a whole new way

Travelling with your children let’s you see even the simplest of things in a whole new way. Sometimes it’s a useful reminder of how wonderfully strange some things are, particularly when you see them again through fresh eyes.

9-It’s Easier To Travel When Your Kids Are Younger: You don’t have to wait until they are older

It's Easier To Travel Wen Your Kids Are Younger: So You don’t have to wait

I have travelled with all three of my kids from birth. **My oldest is now almost 17 ( at the time of this writing 2013).

I have spent countless hours with each of my kids either attached to my back in a sling or sitting in a stroller while we travelled.

So trust me when I say this but you don’t have to wait until the kids are older to travel. In many ways, it can actually be easier and better to travel when the kids are younger.

Kids are amazingly flexible and resilient if you only give them a chance. They can sleep almost anywhere.  Everything fascinates them. They will and can eat almost anything and they don’t give you attitude like a grumpy teenager.

All you need is a sling or a stroller and you are set to go. Don’t forget the diapers and a few snacks too. You have the added bonus of raising children who adapt easily to change and creating good travel companions for both far and near travel.

10-Travel is a fun bonding opportunity.

Travel is a fun bonding opportunity

We are all so busy through out the year. Travelling on a vacation is often one of the best if not the only times we actually get to spend quality time with our kids.

Our kids get to see us in a fun and new environment. We get to loosen up on the rules and everyone gets to spend quality time together.

What Do You think?

Our Family in Le Pradet France in 2013

I don’t want you to think that travelling with kids is all rosy rainbows and unicorns.

There are definitely a lot of downsides to travelling with kids. It’s hard, stressful and can be expensive for example.

However; it’s totally worth it. The unexpected joys of travelling with children far outweigh any negatives for me.

Don’t take my word for it. Below are over a dozen articles written by other families who travel with kids who also think that travelling with children is worth it.

**NOTE: When I mention travel in this article, I realize that money may be a limitation. To reap the benefits of travel with kids you could opt for travelling to places closer to home. The next town, state or province. Just as long as it’s somewhere new and different and you all are together. 

Other Articles From Families Who Travel

Mary from Bohemian travelers

Nancy from Family on Bikes

Catherine Forest from Catherine et les fées

Alisa from Living Outside of the Box

Melissa from Break Out of Bushwick

Bethaney from Flashpacker Family

Jenn Miller from the edventure project

Kris Herwig from Simon Says – Traveling With Tots: The World is My Playground

Heather Costaras from Living Differently –

Kalli from Portable Professionals

Kirsty from Barts go Adventuring

Jenni from Witness Humanity (link coming)

Anne from The Journey is the Reward

Laurel from Capturing la Vita (Link coming)

Sharon from Where’s Sharon –

ME:Annie: from Practical Adventurology – Why You Should Travel With Kids Even If They Won’t Remember

Lainie from Raising Miro on the Road of Life (and Aimee from Suitcases and Strollers):

The 3 Year 17,000 Mile Bike Ride: A Family Cycling Trip To The End Of The World (#12)

Vogel 3 year family cycling trip:

When was the last time you did something that scared you? Something that was completely out of your comfort zone? I’m not talking about painting the walls in your bedroom hot pink or eating at that dicey Mexican joint down the street with questionable meat. I’m talking about doing something of epic proportions- life changing!

Meet The Vogels

See also Other ordinary people who are travelling full time or for extended periods of time. Want to get featured? Please fill out this form.

The Vogel Family: They cycled 17,300 miles along the Pan America Highway with 2 ten year old boys

In June of 2008, Nancy and John Vogel, two school teachers from Idaho set out on a journey with their 10 year old twin boys, Daryl and Davy to be the first family to cycle the pan American highway. (The longest road in the world which goes from Alaska to the very tip of south America)

For three years the Vogel’s pedalled 12 to 15 days a month, 4 to 6 hours a day using nothing but their bikes and pure leg and feet power the entire 27,300 mile journey that would take them through a total of 15 different countries.

This is the Pan American Hwy from tip to tip

This is the Pan American Hwy from tip to tip

Along the way they did and saw some amazing things.

The tandem bike for two

  • -They cycled through torrential rains.
  • -They got chased by a big ass bears.
  • -They endured food poising and soiled pants en route.
  • -They broke language and culture barriers.
  • -They had near misses with traffic, countless scrapes and bike repairs.
  • -They slept anywhere and everywhere along the way: in hostels, camped in tents by the side of roads, behind restaurants, in peoples yards, on the beach and even stayed with people they met along the way.

They had a true life family adventure that tested them both physically and emotionally.

They Must Be Crazy!

The Vogel Family is a down to earth normal family

When I first heard of the Vogel’s back in 2011, I thought they were crazy to drag two 10 years old kids on such a long and  physically challenging bike trip.

The more I read about the Vogel’s, the more I realized they weren’t crazy at all. In fact, although I did not know them personally, their life resonated with me very deeply. 

They Led A Pretty Normal Life

They worked hard as school teachers for years saving money for retirement like everyone else .

Everyday before heading off to teach other peoples children, they dropped their own two sons off at day care.

They chauffeured their kids to and from after school sports and activities. They cooked diner, pinched their pennies and pretty much lived like the average family would.

The one defining difference that separates the Vogel’s from most is that they decided to take the road less travelled and acted on their seemingly impossible dream despite their fears, despite the naysayers,  despite going against the grain of what society considered “NORMAL“.

If going against the grain makes them crazy then yeah, I guess they are crazy. I want to be crazy too then. 

How Did They Pay For The Trip? They Must Be Rich.

I know what you are thinking. They quit their jobs to cycle for three years. They must be loaded and rolling in dough.

NOPE!  Nancy and her husband John are long time school teachers. I don’t know a lot of rich school teachers do you?  They aren’t t trust fund babies either.

They Did It The Old Fashioned Way.

Their trip was made possible using a combination of years of savings and rental income. You can read in more detail about how they made it financially happen by reading this article Nancy wrote called “How To Afford Long Term Family Travel.

They also kept their monthly spending relatively low during their 3 year journey. Their average monthly spending was about 1,500 USD per month.

How Much Gear Did They Carry?

family on bikes

The Vogels had a total of 3 bikes between the four of them. Nancy and Davy rode single bikes while John rode a tandem bike with their other son Daryl.

Each bike was equipped with bags that were filled with clothing and other items that they needed for all four seasons including sleeping bags and winter jackets for when the temperatures dropped below zero.

They also carried a small stove and pot for cooking and occasionally had to carry a few days worth of food for the longer hauls when they would be out in areas where there were no other humans.

School For The Boys

To keep the kids on par with their peers, Nancy and John road-schooled their kids. Road schooling is a term used to describe children who are home-schooled while travelling long term.

The boys each did mathematics, wrote journal entries, essays and researched the areas they passed through. If they had time they also did earth sciences.

Where Are They Now?

Vogel Family: Family on bikes reach the end-of-the-world

The Vogel’s completed their 17,300 mile journey on March 21st, 2011 when they arrived in Ushuaia in Argentina, often regarded as the southernmost city in the world (pictured above).

They are now back in Idaho where they are enjoying a different type of adventure that is until they decide to go on another adventure.

What Would You Do If You Were Not Afraid?

Changing-Gears-a-family-family cycling trip

If you are interested in learning more about this families amazing journey from Alaska to Argentina, you can read about it in a book Nancy wrote chronicling her families adventure from start to finish.

It’s called Changing Gears: A Family Odyssey To The End Of The World.

I guarantee by the end of the book you’ll be inspired, humbled and in awe of what they did. So much so that you might actually go out and do something that scares you.

Please do stop by her blog Family On Bikes.  It’s full of tips, tricks and aspiration to help you get off your butt and do something that scares you.

All photos used are property of the Vogel family.

 

See also Other ordinary people who are travelling full time or for extended periods of time. Want to get featured? Please fill out this form.

she met the man of her dreams on a boat on vacation

What Happens When Two People Hook Up On Vacation, Get Married And Have Babies? (series #11)

she met the man of her dreams on a boat on vacation

Believe it or not!

People hook up on vacation and fall in love all the time.

Unfortunately, relationships started on the road, usually don’t last very long.

They either end soon after the trip ends or they fizzle out over time when the starry eyed lovers try to maintain a long distance relationship from opposite sides of the planet.

Don’t let that sad fact stop you from finding love on the road because once in a blue moon, one of those romances started while travelling have a happy ending.

She Met Him On A Boat On The Nile

Meet Alyson, a nice girl from Wales who over a decade ago booked a adventure holiday which entailed a 5 day sailing trip on the Nile of Egypt aboard a felucca boat.

The actual boat they met on

A felucca (Arabic: فلوكة‎) is a traditional wooden sailing boat used in protected waters of the Red Sea and eastern Mediterranean Sea in places like Sudan, Iraq, Malta and along the Nile in Egypt. These types of boats are popular among tourists because they offer a calmer, quieter mood over the noisier fast paced motorboats. 

Around the same time, 14 other people booked that very same adventure holiday, including a 21 year old Australian guy named James who was living in London to further his chef career.

Guess what happened?

She married Him!

Today Alyson and James are married and have two adorable sons who apparently like to eat oysters because James is an executive chef and that’s what chef kids eat.. OYSTERS.

But what happens when two travel addicts meet and fall in love? Do they stop travelling? Do they continue travelling?  Do they retire to suburbia?

Before I tell you what these two world travellers have planned, I thought it would be fun to share the story of where Alyson and James married.

Interview With Alyson

Tell me a little about where you are from!

She was from Wales, He was living in London. over 400 KM away

Over 400 KM distance between their two homes

I am a Welsh girl from the valleys and James is an Aussie.  We met in Egypt, moved to England and ended up emigrating to Port Douglas, Australia in 2007.

We have two children, born in London.

Everybody in our family has British and Australian passports, except me.

I’m all British, although, I could now get an Aussie one if I wanted to. Passports are really expensive to renew when there are 7 of them in the family!

Why did you choose to get married in Sri Lanka?

James carrying Alyson's bags up the stairs during that trip to Egypt

James carrying Alyson’s bags up the stairs during that trip to Egypt

Getting married in Sri Lanka, on the beach at a hotel near Galle was an excuse for another trip!

Because we met through travel, it was massively important to us and we particularly love the Indian Sub Continent.

I’d been to Sri Lanka before and loved it. The Chef (James) had never been, so it seemed perfect.

We weren’t interested in having a big wedding, although my Mum, Dad and God mother did come in the end, I’m glad they did.

They had a brilliant time plus of course, we could slide in a week of diving in Maldives as a honeymoon!

Did you do need special visas or have to do anything special to marry in Sri Lanka?

Alyson and james on an elephant at their wedding in Sri Lanka

Alyson’s white outfit was filthy black by the end of the day.

No, nothing, it was all very easy.

We actually cheated a bit and booked a wedding package through a luxury travel company where everything was taken care of for us.

We just had to sign the certificate.

It was our first time taking a fancy holiday like that, we’re very much budget travellers.

How did you handle the language barrier?

English is widely used in Sri Lanka but we do have two wedding certificates.

One in Sinhala and the other is in English.

What was the best part about getting married in Sri Lanka?

Alyson and james on an elephant at their wedding in Sri Lanka

We had an elephant!

I can’t see that happening in South Wales.

We rode off into the sunset on her, such a gorgeous creature. I really love elephants.

The ceremony itself was Buddhist based and we had our fingers tied together, lit oil lamps and did a thing with leaves for good luck.

What didn’t like about getting married abroad in Sri Lanka:

Alyson and james riding into the sunset on an elephant at their wedding in Sri Lanka

Riding off into the sunset on an elephant.

I actually wish we’d organized it ourselves, rather than through the hotel.

Some of the things included were rather cheesy, like the free hair do ( terrible) and the photographer/videographer ( even more terrible).

I was also a little annoyed that the hotel charged us $200 for having the elephant there.  I bet the guy who brought the elephant didn’t see much of that money.

But the whole thing was great, kind of crazy great. We laugh now at the terrible photos and how absolutely filthy my white outfit was after bare back elephanteering.

One of the things we love about India and Sri Lanka is the general crazyness.

I’ve got a great piece of video that my Dad took of James toppling off one side of our elephant as she stood up. A Sri Lankan guy tugging on his leg to keep him on.

I’ll put it on you tube one day!

What’s Next For Alyson, James and Family?

“What happens when two travellers meet on vacation, fall in love, get married and have kids?”

As of this writing, Alyson and family are getting ready to take an extended – open ended trip with THE KIDS starting in Asia.

Here is what Alyson had to say.

 “Having children slowed us down for a while, but now the boys are 6 and 8. We think they are ready to leave on this adventure, round the world, indefinitely, and get a lot out of it, including an incredible education.

Travelling with children will add a whole new dimension to the trip for us, seeing things through their eyes is magical.”

And NO!  They don’t have loads of money, they are doing it on the cheap: budget travel.

How Are They Paying For Their Long Term Trip With The Kids?

Alyson and James have been working hard to meet their savings goals that will allow them to take their extended family trip.

They have about another 6 months to meet that goal. (at the time of this writing in 2013)

How have you prepared your sons for travel?

Alyson and the kids

From the day the boys were born, they’ve been hearing stories of our travels, playing with objects from all corners of the globe and seeing photos and films of amazing things.

“We’re going to the Himalayas” seems normal to them.

We home-school so we’re big on geography and world history.

I think kids need to know something about where they’re going before they get there to get the most out of it so I introduce topics before we get there.

It sounds silly but I made them watch The King and I before we went to Thailand just so they would be as blown away as I was to see real palaces and images of the king in the musical.

I did try training them for trekking but I ended up carrying D up a mountain. We’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.

When your sons are old enough, do you want them to travel as you have been able to do?

Well, yes, I’d like them to, but I think there is a danger in exposing them to the world so young, they may be “over it” by the time they are able to carry a 70L pack. They may think of it as “Mum and Dad’s thing” i.e.. uncool.

It’s something that actually worries me.

I don’t want to spoil it for them but at this stage, the educational and fun benefits far outweigh any future issues.

I’m hoping they’ll be conquering the world through travel blogging while other kids are still in school.

Off The Cuff Question

Do your two sons have British or Aussie accents or something in between?

James with his two sons

They both sound exactly like me, British.

I’ve seen that in a lot of displaced families here. (Australia).

The children have the Mum’s accent because they spend the most time with her.

D went to school for 2 years and started to pick up a slight Aussie twang, but he’s now been home-schooled for 2 years and lost it again.

We are a very mixed community. Hhis best friends have been from New Zealand, Texas and Swiss/British. Thy actually don’t encounter Australian accents that often.

Conclusion

If you love to travel and are worried that travel will end once you have kids don’t because as Alyson stated, yes it may slow you down but it can be done with careful planning. What better way to to share and teach your children about the world beyond the comfort of their backyard.

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You can read more about Alyson’s wedding by reading this Finding Love Through Travel.  You can follow along on their journey before they leave and while they are on their trip by visiting their travel blog at www.worldtravelfamily.com.

Alyson and James are the 11th family to be featured in an ongoing series showcasing ordinary people;  families and couples who are travelling full time or for extended periods of time.

I Hope It Inspires You To Take Actions on all your dreams, not just your travel dreams.

Want to get featured on this site like this family? Please fill out this form and I’ll post the story here..Know someone who should be featured?  Send me an email annie[@]annieandre.com.

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Fwhats preschool in france like?

French Preschool in France: What’s It Like?

what's preschool in France like?

Are you curious about what preschool is like in France? Do you plan on spending some time in France and wonder if French preschool is right for your child? Here is a peak into what school is like for my daughter and my thoughts.

Update 2016- I wrote this post during the first 2 years we were in France. My daughter was 4 and 5 back then and a lot has changed. She is now 9 going on 10 years old and she has been in the French school system for five years. She is also no longer in public school. We moved to Montpellier and decided to give private school a try which I will write about soon.

First, general info about preschool in France

first-day-of-school in La Garde for catherine. She sat down and started colouring
Preschool in France is called école maternelle. Pronounced [ay-kole ma-terre-nel]

Unlike U.S. and Canada, preschool is fully sponsored from the age of 3 to 6 years old. (it’s free). Preschool is not mandatory but most parents do send their kids to preschool from about 3 onward especially if they work.

There are three levels of pre-school.

-pre-school, small sections =  école maternelle, la petite section – (3 to 4 years olds)

-pre-school, middle section= école maternelle, la moyenne section -( 4 to 5 year olds)

-pre-school, big or high sectionécole maternelle, la grande section – (5 to 6 years old)

Our daughter attended moyenne (middle section) in Marseille and la grande section in a town called La Garde. After pIreschool she was promoted to CP which is the first official year of primary school. It’s comparable to Kindergarten in North America.

How Long Is A Preschool Day / Week?

Pre-school students generally start at 8:30 in the morning until 4:20 in the afternoon.

Kids go to school everyday EXCEPT Wednesday. (update: As of 2015, primary school kids now have a half day on Wednesdays. They usually finish up just before lunch at 11:30 is)

On the surface, this may sound long but there are several things to consider here.

1-If you are a working parent in France, you would have to put your kids in before and after school care. Having a longer day at school means that many parents don’t have to send their kids to after school care or they can minimize the amount of after school care needed.

2-Kids used to have Wednesday off but now have a half day of school which gives kids a little break from their regular school hours and routine.

3- Lunch is about one and a half to two hours long and the kids have several breaks throughout the day to play and run around.

Preschool Lunch: The makings of future foodies

Lunch is served a la cantine in France

The French Take Food Seriously

One thing to note is the French take their lunch time very seriously. People in France generally eat slower, they eat smaller portions and take longer breaks for lunch. They also enjoy GOOD FOOD. This slower and eat better food culture can bee seen at the preschool level.

Longer Lunches

Up to two hours for lunch break which is eaten at “La Cantine” (cafateria).

The first 45 minutes to an hour is spent eating and the rest playing with friends in the yard.

Not all kids eat at La Cantine.

Many parents pick their kids up at lunch time and then return them back to school at the end of 2 hours. The longer lunch break makes it possible for parents to drive to pick up the kids with plenty of time to eat together.

Meals cost about 3,50 to 4,25 depending on the preschool and you usually pay a month in advance for your child’s meals. Some parent pay less. It just depends on your income.

What is “La Cantine” Like?

At the 2 schools my daughter attended, the kids sit at a round table with real plates and utensils. No Styrofoam or plastic utensils.

The cantinière (lunch ladies) come around and places napkins around the children’s necks before serving the kids food  like you would at home: family style.

Serve Food Family Style Just Like At Home.

Each lunch lady, has several huge serving platters and bowls from which she serves each child. There are usually 5 different food items that each child gets not including bread. (see menu below).

The food looks surprisingly appetizing, like something made with love at home, probably because much of the food is prepared on site and served family style.

What Type of Food Do Kids Eat?

French preschool lunch menu.

Above is a sample menu from the school my daughter attended her first year in French preschool. Notice the different columns for the five food groups.

NO PROCESSED FOODS OR JUNK FOOD:

Kids taste buds are cultivated from a young age in France. No dumb down kiddie food served. Catherine get’s a big dose of French food that would have many adults drooling  with envy.

She also has eaten some things at school that might send some people running for the hills like the time she had duck pate and another time she had baby octopus salad.

What’s on the menu?

Things like mussels, octopus, beets, grated carrots, fish, blue cheese, chicken paté and more. All things a north American would not expect their kids to eat. Maybe not even in the UK either.

Every preschool meal has 5 items for lunch: 

1- One a starter: such as grated carrots in a vinaigrette

2- One main plate: Such as lamb or Rake (fish) curry

3- One Side: such as green beans or polenta

4- One cheese or dairy product: Usually cheese but sometimes yoghurt

5- Desert: such as fresh fruit  or fruits with sweet syrup.

Plus a Pastry: One bread option

Surprise “NO MILK”

You might be surprised to learn that milk is not served a la Cantine. Instead, children are given water to drink. Not juice, not coke, not milk but water.

CHEESE PLEEZE

The emphasis is put on the cheese column of the menu rather than serving milk. There are over 350 cheese types and it seems like the schools want all the kids to try as many as possible.

I’ve counted over 25 different cheeses that rotate on the kids menus. A few, i’ve tried myself and have put hair on my chest.

Typical Preschool Class work

3 ring binder that comes home every couple of months full of Catherine's work

Every few months, a 3 ringed binder comes home with Catherine filled with all of her work.

I really like this method because rather than sending the kids home everyday with random papers, I get to flip through her work in an organized fashion and see the progression of her work.

I do notice an emphasis on hand writing practice. Something that is sorely missing from many schools in the U.S. This could be why so many

French people have beautiful handwriting.

Lot’s of Snails: Escargot

Lately I’ve noticed a theme. Certain things are very prominent in the French culture and subsequently in Catherine’s school work like owls, hedgehogs, crepes and as of late, lots of snails. –>> ESCARGOT. 

Here area few photos of the 3 ring binder with the snail work she has been doing.

SPELLING: They learn to spell “escargot”

Learning to spell escargot

 

Body parts: They learn the body parts of a snail

Identifying the body parts of a snail

 

Word Recognition: They learn to point out the word escargot in a sea of words

word recognition: finding the word escargot

 

Counting: They learn to count snails

counting snails in french preschool. fun fun fun

There were more, but I think you get the point.

Snails At Home

This affinity towards snails transcends to her life at home now too. Catherine looks for snails in her free time. Here’s a picture of her holding one in her hands.

weather permitting, she plays with escargot in her free time.

Catherine likes to draw snails in her free time too. Here is another random snail drawing. Very elaborate if you ask me.

Even in her free time, she draws escargot, snails

General Questions

What if my child does not speak French?

Kids learn so quickly just by interacting. You are pretty much guaranteed that your child will be speaking french almost fluently by the  end of one school year.

I personally know 4 other families who sent their kids to French preschool without speaking one word of French. At the end of the school year, all of their kids were speaking and communicating in French.

What if I want to home-school my child?

I understand that some parents prefer to home school their kids. I considered it myself.

However, If one of your goals is for your child to become bilingual and to pick up the little nuances of local culture and you have limited time in France, than preschool is an easy, fast and fun way to expose them.

They learn organically from playing with other children.

Catherine often comes home from school and teaches us something new about French culture that we had no idea existed.

She is very proud of those moments.

Lastly, you can always supplement preschool with your own home schooling curriculum or you can take your child out of preschool all together if things don’t work out.

Conclusion: Is preschool right for your child?

catherine teachers from 2011 in Marseille

I can’t answer whether or not sending your child to French preschool in France is right for you and your child.

I can tell you that my daughter loves school.

Any and all hesitations, doubts and concerns I had about sending her to preschool in France are long gone now.

I truly feel I made the right choice.

Catherine has made many friends and so have my husband and I through the parents of Catherine’s friends.

If  for one moment I did not think she was benefiting, thriving or enjoying herself, I would take her out in a flash.

Coming Soon

What’s it like to go to High School and Middle School In France.

Pictured below, all three of our kids sitting on the bench outside of Catherine’s first day of preschool.first-day-of-school in La Garde for catherine. we all went to pick her up after school.

 

How the Barnes family plan to travel indefinitely with their kids

How To Travel Indefinitely: The Barnes Family Quest To Travel With 3 Kids (Series #10)

How do you travel indefinitely if you aren’t rich and have kids? Katie and Jeff are two Californians with itchy travel feet. If they had their way they would travel indefinitely or at least until that itch to travel goes away. Find out how they currently travel and how they plan to make the dream of Full-time travel last as long as they can with three kids under the age of 6.

How To Travel Indefinitely

Hint, it’s not just about making the perfect plan. 

How To Travel Indefinitely: Barnes Family

Meet the Barnes family.

The Barnes family are an American family of five from Southern California who have been travelling with their 3 children since 2011.

The Barnes family are what we call Long Term Travellers who Slow travel.

Meaning, they travel for extended periods of time ( more than a few months) and rather than moving quickly from city to city every few days or weeks, they travel slowly. They choose a home-base, hunker down at that home-base for 6 months to a year before moving on to their next home-base destination.

Snap Shot Of The Barnes Family

  • Number Of Kids: 3 kids under 6 years old  (1, 3 and 5 – as of 2013)
  • Educating Kids: Combination Homeschool / Traditional Classroom Learning
  • Type Of Travel: Long term travel / Slow Travel with Home-Base / Location Independent travel
  • Length Of Travel: 1+ year
  • Where Travelled: —> Pre-kids: sailed for 3.5 years from Florida to New Zealand, —>Post-Kids: Costa Rica, France, Belgium, England, Germany with a home base in Prague. Italy
  • Challenges: Keeping a regular routine for the kids. Creating sustainable incomes while on the road.
  • Finances:  Combinations of savings, sale of home, investments and day trading
  • Budget: $117 / day.  $23person per day. $3,500 per month Total

Why They Travel The Way They Do!

Staying for six months in each place allows them to fulfil their dream of travel while also meeting their other goals without all the stress of travelling at break neck speeds.

Some of their goals include..

  • Spend more quality time together.
  • Raise globally minded, creative and independent thinkers.
  • Allow the children to pick up languages along the way.
  • Soak in the local culture and food

Now, before I get into how the Barnes are making their dream of Full-time travel a reality, let me tell you a little bit about Katie and Jeff’s story.

Theirs is a story straight out of a romantic adventure novel.

The Great Sailing Trip Before The Kids

sail-florida-new-zealand: How To Travel Indefinitely:

Pre-Kids

Jeff and Katie are no strangers to travel.

In fact, their desire to travel with their kids stems way back to a time before they were married and before they had kids.

These two love-birds met and eventually fell in love while working at the same mergers and acquisition firm in California where Jeff was working as a manager and Katie worked as the market researcher.

Eventually, they quit their jobs, sold everything, moved onto a sail boat and sailed from Florida to New Zealand over a period of 3 1/2 years.

How to travel indefinitely: sailing

Jeff giving Katie a sailing lesson. She had no sailing experience

As romantic, adventurous and dreamy as it sounds, it was not all a bed of roses.

Because of the nature of living in close quarters, that romantic sailing adventure proved to be the ultimate test of their relationship. In the end, their relationship survived, probably stronger than it was before.

While on their sailing adventure, Katie and Jeff met many families with kids who were travelling long term and that’s when they both knew that they wanted to do the same thing with their future children one day.

After Their Sailing Adventure

How to travel indefinitely: sailing panama canal

Katie and Jeff Passing through the panama Canal

When their amazing sailing adventure ended, they returned to California, married and had kids with the intention of someday returning to a life of travel with the kids.

Unlike some people who dream and do nothing about their dreams, Katie and Jeff started making plans right away.

The first thing they needed to figure out was how they were going to pay for their future travel. 

The Long Term Family Travel Plan: The Money

How To Travel Indefinitely: Build a log cabin and sell it to finance your trip

The money plan was simple. Build a few houses, pocket the profit and take off with the kids.

Plans don’t always work out the way we want them to.

Their plan didn’t exactly work out the way they planned. For one, they only built one house not four. A gorgeous log home on the side of a mountain in Big Bear Lake, California.

Two,  it took much longer than expected to build just that one house, almost 4 years.

Finally, they didn’t profit quite as much as they had hoped to leaving them short of their financial goals.

Katie and Jeff were at a fork in the road.

Jeff’s job was not going to last much longer which meant they would be free to travel but….they hadn’t quite met their financial goals.

They could wait and build more houses like they planned or take the money they had so far and figure out how to make more cash while travelling.

The urge to travel was too great and they decided to start their family travel adventure sooner rather than later.

Where To Go First?

The Barnes family had a lot of things to consider for their travel adventure. Namely where would their first adventure begin?

The kids were just 4 and 2 and the youngest was just a newborn.

At first they thought of heading to Costa Rica where the cost of living was much lower but an earlier trip down their left them feeling like maybe that wasn’t where they wanted to be.

How To Travel Indefinitely: Figure out where you want to go

Then they set their eyes on Europe where the food, architecture and culture were more in line with their current travel desires.

Narrowing Down Where To Go

Katie and Jeff didn’t know where in Europe they wanted to go but they did know that they wanted to stay in a city with all the amenities of a city.

it was a change from their small town living and that was just fine for them since both Katie and Jeff had never lived in a biggish city before.

Hello Prague

They narrowed their options to a few European cities like Munich, Strasbourg, and at the last minute decided on Prague where they ended up staying for a good part of 2012.

From Prague they travelled out on mini trips to Germany, France, Belgium, England and Poland.

After Prague

So far sticking to one place for 6 months or more is working out and at the beginning of 2013, they left Prague and moved onto their next home-base; Italy. From Italy, they plan on travelling out to Greece, Turkey and around Europe as much as they can.

After that, they have no idea but hinted at spending time in France and Spain.

Kids Education

How To Travel Indefinitely: set up a plan to educate the kids on the road

When it comes to education for the kids, the Barnes take an interesting hybrid approach.  It involves a form of home-schooling (which has turned into more of a world school / unschooling philosophy ), combined with more traditional classroom learning.

For instance, while in Prague, the kids took art, drama, music and reading classes while Kate applied world school / unschooling philosophy learning at home.

In Italy, their eldest school age child may attend school with other Italian children to take full advantage of language immersion.

The Technical Stuff

How much stuff do They travel with?

How To Travel Indefinitely: don't bring too much stuff

They flew from California to Prague with a total of 10 bags. It was the maximum they were allowed to take on their flight (2 bags per person) plus one seat for the newborn.

They eventually bought an Audi while on one of their trips out of Prague to Germany and they used the car to make their latest move from Prague to Italy taking only what could fit in the car and on the roof.

How Do They Finance Their Trip

How To Travel Indefinitely: Have a plan b, c and roll with the punches

Since their plan to finance most of their trip with the profits from building homes didn’t quite work out as planned, they finance their trip by pulling from several different resources.

  • First they sold most of their stuff. (The rest they put in a very small storage unit in California.)
  • Then they sold the house they they spent 4 years building . (This was part of their plan all along).
  • They also have savings and investments that they can pull from.

Long term, they needed to create an income while on the road:

To subsidize their funds, Jeff planned on creating a location independent business (one he could run from anywhere in the world). His business idea involved combining his passion for beer and travel into one. He wanted to give beer tours around the world.
He also started learning stock trading/day trading as an additional income stream.

“It feels amazing to get on a plane and know you don’t have a bunch of things to worry about at home.”

As time went by, Jeff found he had less motivation for beer tours and more for stock trading and has been spending long hours learning and practising methods for making steady income through trading.

Jeff says he actually loves day trading and after a year of learning, he feels confident that he will be able to support their travel lifestyle.

What Were their biggest Challenges?

How To Travel Indefinitely: Create a life balance. it's hard spending all your time together

Three of the Barnes’ biggest challenges were…

  • Creating enough routine for their toddlers while on the go.
  • Spending too much time together in a small apartment with Jeff working (a lot) from home with noisy kids in the house.
  • Deciding where to live next because there were just too many great options.

What is their ball park daily budget?

The Barnes Family spends about $3500 USD a month. This is their total cost including travel, car, food, rent etc. That works out to about 116 USD per day.

How Long Do They Plan To Travel This Way

How To Travel Indefinitely: Make sure the kids benefit

There is no end in site for their current way of life.  Once the kids are old enough, Katie and Jeff hope to end up living back on a boat again sailing hither and tither with the kids.

A lot is riding on the fact that Katie and Jeff will be able to create incomes while travelling.

Words Of Advice- For Would Be Long Term Travelers.

I asked Katie to give me her top 3 words of advice for anyone out their who  dreams of travelling full time and here is what she said.

  1. “Don’t over think it. It takes some of the fun out. We keep doing that and it drives me crazy.”
  2. “Don’t bring too much. The less stuff the better, its easier and you will find what you need or some version of it wherever you go.”
  3. “If you are considering it, sell the house rather than rent it. Unless it provides good income…It feels amazing to get on a plane and know you don’t have a bunch of things to worry about at home.”

Conclusion

There are some important lessons to be learned here.

First,  if you want to travel for any length of time, having a plan is great and even necessary but…..It’s not enough.

You need a Plan and you need to be FLEXIBLE and willing to adjust your plans on the fly.

Just look at the Barnes family. They started off with a plan to finance their trip with the profit from building homes but when that plan fell through they didn’t postpone their dream or give up. They rolled with the punches and decided to figure it out as they go.

If you wait until everything is perfect, you may end up waiting a very long time to live your travel dream or worse; you may never do it. 

It’s not clear how long the Barnes family will travel but it is clear that they are working hard to give themselves options.  I’m pretty sure they won’t regret their decision either.

What do you think? Leave your comments below!

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The Barnes family one of many families feature. See other families and couples who are travelling full time or for extended periods of time.

I Hope It Inspires You To Take Actions on all your dreams not just your travel dreams.

Want to get featured on this site like this family? Please fill out this form and I’ll post the story here..Know someone who should be featured?

Anne & Eric Isom Family of 6 living in Nanjing China

Would You Move To China For Your Children? The Isom Family Did!(Series #9)

Most parents would do almost anything for their children. I know I would.  But to what extent would you go? Anne and Eric Isom, decided they wanted to say goodbye to their American life and move to China for the sake of their children. There’s just one thing. Anne and Eric are not Chinese. Find out why and how they made the move to China a reality.
nanjing china Isom Family

Isoms Lived in Mongolia for 6 months + Now Live in Nanjing China

Isom Family Snap Shot

  • Number Of Kids: 4 beautiful girls (16, 12, 9 and 7)
  • Educating Kids: Homeschool ( +Language Studies)
  • Type Of Travel: Living Abroad, Long Term,  International
  • Length Of Travel: Since 2011, 1 + Years
  • Where Travelled: :—> Mongolia, Nanjing China ( Anne + Eric Both grew up globe trotting)
  • Challenges: Money: unexpected expenses.
  • Finances: Money from selling stuff + House +saving for several years.
  • Budget: $66  day or $12 per person per day or $2,000 / month
  • Where To Find Them Online: Main Website www.islandschoolhouse.com, facebook: www.facebook.com/islandschoolhouseblog, Twitter: @islandschhouse; buy some of Anne’s photos at www.society6.com/IslandSchoolHouse

WHO ARE THEY?

islandschoolhouse.com-Isom2

Eric and Anne Isom have 4 beautiful girls who range in age from 7 to 16 ( as of 2012).

Eric (dad) has short blond hair and looks like the kind of dad you see on T.V.  Anne (mom) has dirty blond hair, fair skin and the most trusting smile I have ever seen. Their eldest daughter is 16 and is the perfect blend of mom and dad.

Then there are the three younger girls who have their moms contagious smile but share no other physical traits of their parents. Unlike their older sister, all three younger girls have straight jet black hair, olive skin and dark eyes.

If you haven’t guessed yet, Eric and Anne’s 3 younger daughters are adopted and were all born in China.

WHY DID THEY MOVE TO CHINA FOR THEIR CHILDREN?

islandschoolhouse.com-IsomGirls

The main reason Eric and Anne went to China is because they believe it is important to teach their adopted girls about their Chinese heritage.  They also believe it’s important that all members of their family learn about China and the Chinese culture.

But how does one go about teaching your adopted children from China about their Chinese culture when you have little to no first hand experience in that culture?

METHODS: How To Teach Kids About Their Chinese Heritage

Conventional Method

Eric and Anne could have joined one of the many organized subcultures that have developed around the growing number of Chinese children adopted by American families since 1991.

Do a quick internet search and you’ll find play groups, Chinese dance lessons, private Chinese lessons, tours of China and online support groups dedicated to supporting Chinese children adopted by American families.

Anne and Erics Method

But Eric and Anne didn’t just want their girls to learn about China through pictures , text books, Chinese dance classes and their limited knowledge of China. They wanted their girls to feel at home in their birth country.  They wanted all their girls, even their biological daughter to live and breath Chinese culture and they wanted to do it together as a family.

[alert style=”1″]According to the NYtimes, there are over 55,000 Chinese children ( mostly girls) who have been adopted by American families since 1991. (That’s when China loosened its adoption laws to address the growing number of children abandoned because of the one-child policy.) Most of the children are younger than 10.[/alert]

How Their Adventure Began..

For years Eric and Anne hoped Eric could get a job in China.  Unfortunately, even though Eric was highly skilled in his field and a manager at a global 500 company, he was never able to find a job in China due to his inability to speak Chinese.

THE MONGOLIAN JOB: Not What They Expected

Then in 2011, Eric’s company sent him and his family to Mongolia for a six month contract.  It wasn’t China but it was something.

After a few months, it became apparent that Mongolia was not what they wanted. Although living in Mongolia gave the Isom’s the international experience they were looking for, it wasn’t fulfilling their main goal which was to live and breath Chinese culture and to connect their adopted daughters to their Chinese heritage.

China Or Bust

At the end of Erics six month contract, the Isom family decided that in order to make their dream of living in China a reality, they needed to move to China NOW, on their own without corporate sponsorship.

Another driving force to move to China sooner rather than later was the fact that their eldest daughter was already 15. Soon she would be out in the world on her own and the Isoms wanted to make sure she didn’t miss this fantastic opportunity to learn about Chinese culture.

Logistically it made sense too. They had no mortgage, everything they owned was in their suitcases and China was the next country over. So Why not move? 

Their Apartment In Nanjing China

Anne Isom Family Flat in Nainjing China

The Isoms Sparsely furnished Flat before a few trips to Ikea

On the 5th of January, 2012, after some preparation, visa research and house hunting, they moved to Nanjing China where they now live in a 3 bedroom flat on the 17th floor of a high rise. The high rise is on a quiet street, where the kids can ride bikes, visit parks and even roller skate.

Language and Educational Goals

Eric is attending a 2 year intensive Chinese language program at Nanjing University so he can break the language barrier, become fluent in Chinese and find similar work to what he did before. (i.e. Consulting, Project Management, etc.)

Nanjing University Campus China

Nanjing University Campus in China

What’s really great is that the Isoms eldest and biological daughter is also attending the same intensive language program as her father and apparently is quite the linguist. She started attending when she was just 15 years old.

The Isom’s three adopted girls have a private Chinese tutor who comes to their home 4 days a week for three whole hours each day.

THE GIRLS EDUCATION: 

In addition to their language courses, Anne is homeschooling all the girls.  Anne used to home-school back in the US so it was a no brainer to continue homeschooling them while in China.

How Do They Pay For It All?

With the exception of some books and art pieces which are in a storage unit back in the US, the Isom’s sold everything they own including their home to fund their two year trip to China.  They also saved like crazy several years in advance.

Plus, it costs much less to live in China especially since they don’t have a mortgage, car payments and all the trappings of their old life.

Money Money Money

So how much does it actually cost for a family of 6 to live in China. 

The Isom’s spend less than 24K a year for everything including the university tuition for two people. That means, rent, utilities, transportation, travel insurance, visas, food, clothing, tutors, entertainment…. Everything.

That breaks down to  $66 per day or $13 bucks per person.

[alert style=”3″]For anyone planning a long term travel agenda, Anne suggests making a well planned budget and then add 20%. There are always unexpected expenses that you just can’t plan for.[/alert]

Camelback back pack ruck sack

LUGGAGE

Luggage wise, the Isoms brought two 50 lbs. suitcases each plus they each have a carry on bag and a camelback backpack each( the one with a water bladder inside of them). This is more than a lot of our other families who have to limit their possessions to a backpack because they are moving more often.

When Will The Isom Family Return To The US?

The Isoms intend to stay in China indefinitely. They are banking on the fact that Eric will be able to land a job once he masters the Chinese language.

Anne is proud of the fact that they are not living in the “expat bubble” as she liked to call it and says for the moment, they are enjoying their life in China but at some point, they plan on returning to their globe trotting ways and introduce their children to other countries and cultures several times a year.

Final Thoughts

The Isom’s story is a good reminder for all you wanderlusts spirits that just because you have children doesn’t mean that you must raise them a certain way.

You have to choose the path that best suits your values and goals.

[alert style=”3″]“We are actively creating our own future, not waiting any longer for employers or “chance” to provide us with the opportunities we desire “                                                              Annie Isom[/alert]

Would You Like To Live Abroad Someplace Like China Too?

If you are or would like to plan your own family adventure abroad, Anne has her top three bits of advice for you.

[alert style=”3″]

Anne and Eric Isom Advice

  1.  Get out of debt. 100% out of debt! You don’t want debt nagging at you in the back of your mind!
  2. If you are going “for the experience,” really experience it. Live, shop, eat, and study where the locals live, eat, shop and study.  Choose places to stay where you are not surrounded by expats and avoid having the “local expats” help you get settled. They will steer you to locations close to them, encourage you to shop at the import stores and will influence you to make choices you otherwise would not.
  3. Start teaching your children now that they must try every food at least once, and set an example for them!
  4. BONUS: Anne says that one of their biggest challenge has been unexpected expenses.  So before you trip, make a detailed budget and add 20% to it.
[/alert]

 So what do you think?

Leave your comments below…


The Isom family are are the 9th family to be featured in an ongoing series showcasing and featuring families and couples who are travelling full time or for extended periods of time.

Some people travel for just a year while others have been travelling for more than 5. These are not lottery winners or rich people. They are just ordinary people like you and me who made travel their goal and decided to work at that goal to make it happen. I hope it inspires you to do the same no matter what your goals are.

Want to get featured on this site like this family? Do you know of someone whom I should feature?  Please fill out this form and I’ll post the story here..

Getting permission from your ex to travel and live abroad

How To Travel or Live Abroad With Kids When Your Ex Says NO!

Getting Permission to travel or live abroad long term with kids: Me with my three kids at some random airport waiting for our next flight (2012).

So you want to travel or live abroad with your kids and expose them to other cultures but your ex is saying “NO WAY”.  What do you do? Here is my personal story of how I was able to get permission to travel and then to live abroad with my kids despite my ex-husband (the father of my 2 sons) FIGHTING ME TOOTH AND NAIL. It wasn’t easy but it can be done.

“Yes Officer, I DO have permission to travel with my children”.

Travelling When One Parent Is Not Present

If you have kids and want to travel internationally without the other parent, you are supposed to have written permission from the other parent.  Without written permission, you run the risk of getting denied entry into that other country.

But what happens when the other parent refuses to write you a letter giving you permission? Even between the US and Canada.

Our Routine Flight To Montreal

In 2010, I flew into Montreal like I’ve done so many times before with two minor differences.

I only had 2 of my 3 children with me and my husband Blake was not with me. Blake and my eldest son were driving a moving truck across the country towards some tiny storage unit in Massachusetts.

I exited the plane with my son and daughter and promptly walked to the immigration and customs area to wait in line to get our passports stamped.  When it was our turn, I handed the customs agent our passports.

He immediately took them and furrowed his eyebrows as if he were straining to read our names.

He looked up at us, then back at our passports and back at us and did this a few more times

No Big deal, I expected this scrutiny since I was ONE ADULT flying with kids and no father in sight.

Travelling is more complicated for us

To make matters worse, in addition to me flying alone with my children, it’s not immediately apparent that I am the children’s mother because we have three different last names.  If you haven’t guessed yet, I have a blended family and we have 3 different last names.

FIRST NAME: My name is Annie Andre. Andre is my maiden name that I’ve kept on all my documents.

SECOND NAME: I’ve remarried and my daughter and my husband have the same last name.

THIRD NAME: My two sons are from a previous marriage over a decade ago and they have my ex-husbands last name. It doesn’t help that one of my son’s first name is my last name or that my other son has my last name as his middle name. ( “ANDRE”). I digress!

 Papers Please!

I’m used to carrying documents showing that I have permission to travel with my sons.

95% of the time, I am never asked for proof that I have permission to take my boys out of the country but today was one of those rare occasions. However the passport agent only asked  me to show my “permission slip” to travel with my daughter and NOT my son.  Okaaaaay?

I smiled and pulled out my proof:

  1. Handwritten note from my husband Blake which gave me permission to travel with Catherine. (It’s recommended you get this notarized but mine is not)
  2. My daughters birth certificate which showed Blake and I were her parents.
  3. A photocopy of Blake’s Passport for good measure. 

Hypothetically speaking, had the passport agent asked me for proof that I had permission to travel with my son,  I would have handed him a COURT ORDER  which allows me to travel freely with my two boys.

You’ll notice, I did not have a written letter of consent from my ex husband.  I had a court order. I’ll explain why and how I got this court order in a moment.

“Welcome Back to Canada” said the smiling customs agent.

Then the border police stamped our passport and off we went to my family’s house in Montreal.

How I Got Permission To Travel Abroad: Travel NOT LIVE

A few years ago, Blake and I decided to elope to Europe and take our daughter and my two sons with. It was just a month-long trip.

I really thought my EX would agree to let me to take the boys with us to Europe. After all, it was only a month and it was for my wedding.  I really wanted it to be a family thing with us and the kids.

No amount of pleading, begging or bribing could persuade my ex into writing a letter to give me permission to travel with the boys.

I really wanted the boys to be part of the ceremony, so rather than just rolling over and leaving the boys behind, I took my ex to court and big surprise “I won”.

It was rather silly.I suppose the judge could see that my ex was trying to be difficult because he ordered him to sign all the documents so that I could apply for passports to travel abroad with the kids until the boys turned 18.

The judge also gave me permission to travel anywhere in the US and Canada and internationally without written permission from my ex  as long as I tell him our itinerary.

It was this COURT ORDER I used on the day I went to Montreal with my kids and it’s what I carry with me when I travel anywhere for short visits like vacations.

But what if I want to spend more time abroad? What if I want to live abroad or spend up to a year abroad travelling with my kids? 

Eloped: Intermission

In case you were wondering, we spent 3 1/2 weeks in Paris and then flew to Edinburgh Scotland to have a small civil ceremony on July 14th which happens to be Bastille day (French independence day).

You can read about why we decided to elope to to Scotland as a family rather than get married locally.

You can also get the inside scoop on we to  we eloped to Scotland too. 

CHEEEEEEEEEEEZE. I’m so glad we took the boys with us. It just would not have been the same without them.

2008_07_15-190

This is us moments before the deed is done

Blake and I minutes after we were married in Scotland
Blake and I after the civil ceremony in Edinburgh. One of my sons is the photographer.

The kids hanging out at the Edinburgh castle after Blake and I got married

The kids hanging out at Edinburgh Castle.

The boys horsing around in Scotland
The boys re-enacting the battle of Langside where Mary Queen of Scotts was defeated.

Permission to TRAVEL LONG TERM and LIVE ABROAD

I had permission to travel and visit other countries with the boys but not permission to LIVE abroad.  

Right now, as I write these words, I am living in France with my husband Blake and 3 children.

The COURT ORDER that I obtained for travelling with my boys ( which I mentioned above) was not valid for “LIVING” in another country.  I could stay in Europe as a tourist with my family for 90 days but I wanted to live there for a year legally and immerse the kids in French culture which meant sending them to School.

For that I needed a special visa called the “LONG STAY VISA” which gave us the right to send our kids to school and stay legally in the country for one year not 90 days. 

Travel and Live are two different concepts and the French Embassy required that I either get written permission from my ex that clearly stated I could “LIVE” in France with my two sons or a court order showing that I can “LIVE” in France.

I called up my ex and explained to him what I wanted to do.

Parents send their kids abroad for a year of study all the time. I wanted my children to experience a year abroad but I wanted to be there with them. I hoped that my ex would be okay with the kids spending a year abroad. He was but not with the idea of me being there with them.

Okaaaay!

Again, no amount of pleading, begging, no agreement I came up with was good enough for him and he would not write me a letter giving me and the boys permission to live abroad.

So again I petitioned the court to intervene and decide.

SIDEBARNow before you jump on my back about taking the boys away from their birth father let me first say that  my situation may be very different from yours.

Obviously since I am writing this while living in France, the judge granted me permission to LIVE in France with my boys.

You Are Not Guaranteed Court Approval

Just because you take your ex to court does not guarantee you will win. In my case my ex did not have a very good track record as a parent.

There were a lot of variables that worked in our favour. The bad economy and the fact that my husband and I could not find jobs in our field. The educational opportunity for the boys and the fact that we would and could be home for the kids after school.

But there was one big variable which may shock many of my friends who knew me and my ex because I have not told anyone but family and close friends about because of fear of retaliation from my EX.

In my opinion, my ex’s LACK of involvement and lack of assistance weighed heavily on the judge’s ruling to allow us to travel.

  • Rarely Saw the boys: My ex rarely saw the boys. On two separate occasions I had to pay him and his sister to baby-sit for me. ( I finally found a sitter so I could have a break once a month).
  • Endangerment: On one occasion my ex was supposed to take one of my sons for 30 days in the summer but I was called by his then girlfriend  after 15 days to come and pick my son up because my ex was too drunk to take care of him.
  • Lack of Support:My ex went 8 years without paying me a dime of child support while receiving wages from working under the table before the courts finally took action and required proof that he was looking for a job. A real job. Now his pay-checks are automatically deducted and I get child support but he will be in his sixties before he ever catches up on all of his back child support that is owed to me and the boys. The boys will be close to 30 at that time.

I could go on, but you get the picture right? 

I am sharing all of this with you because I actually don’t think it is always a good idea to move out of the country with your children if the other parent does not want them to. For instance, had my ex been involved in my boys lives then I would not have attempted to take them out of the country. But since he was barely there for them there was really no loss in my eyes. And the judge thought so too.

The Court Process:

I’ll briefly explain the court process that I went through.

At the time, I was living in Montreal and my ex was in California. I called up the lawyer I used before and asked her to file a new petition to allow me to take the kids abroad.

I did not even have to fly to California. I was on the phone for the entire court proceeding. I could hear my ex presenting his case. My lawyer was present in California on my behalf. It lasted 20 minutes at most and then the judge made his ruling and I was allowed to LIVE in France for not one but TWO years with the boys.

So How Do You Get YOUR Court Order?

Before you go and try to get a court order to travel with your kids, I strongly advise you to speak with your ex first and try to draw up an agreement. It’s not only the best way to do it, it will also cost you less money leaving you with more money for your family.

But if your ex does not want to give you permission and you have your heart set on travelling or spending a year abroad like us then you’ll have to go to court.

DO IT YOURSELF OR HIRE A LAWYER?

I hired a family law lawyer. Each time I used my lawyer it cost between 1,500 and 2,000 dollars.

The lawyer I used was in the Santa Clara County of California since that is where I lived with my kids and that is where our custody agreement is. I did nothing else but search on the Internet for a family law lawyer who handled child custody and modification agreements. Then i just called them and found the one I liked. ( I called 3).

You don’t need to hire a lawyer. You could file your own documents:

I talked with several parents who did NOT hire a lawyer. They filled out and filed their own documents and you can do this too.

Go to your local family court-house and ask if they have free legal advice service or people on hand who can help you choose the correct documents and help you fill out the paperwork.

Once your documents are filled out, you file them and wait for your court date. In addition to filing my court docs,  I wrote a very wordy document about why I wanted to take the boys and why it benefited them. I wrote a bit about how much or little my ex was involved in my boy’s life. There is no format for this.  I just winged it and wrote from the heart.

That’s It. 

WHAT DOCUMENTS DO YOU NEED TO TRAVEL OR LIVE ABROAD WITH KIDS?

Just to summarize here are the documents you should travel with.

I spoke with several parents who travel internationally or live abroad with kids (alone). Some people I spoke with don’t even get permission from their ex. They just chance it. Others didn’t even know that they were supposed to have written permission.  So technically you could always chance it and go without written permission.

Personally, I wouldn’t chance it..

You never know when you will be asked to produce documentation. So here is what I recommend you travel with..

  • Always travel with a letter from the other parent. It should give you permission to travel with the kids and it should be dated and signed. Many government sites say that the letter should be notarized but so far I have only used NON notarized documents.
  • I  Also bring a copy of my child’s birth certificate which shows who the parents are. I have a friend (Talon, a single dad )who adopted his son and on the birth certificate it only shows him as the father the mother area is left blank so he doesn’t need to show any other documentation. Although he did say that he travels with the adoption papers just in case but that no one has even asked him to show any proof of the mothers permission.
  • A copy of your spouse or the other parents ID. Preferably a passport if you can manage. I have a copy of my husbands but not my ex.

Here is a link to the Canadian site with a link to a blank letter for you to fill out. Here is the link to the U.S. site stating the requirements.

If you can’t get a letter of approval than you will have to get a court order like i did. Be very careful of the wording you use in the court order.

Will you travel with the kids on vacations? Will you live abroad for a year? What countries? Will you travel nomadically during a period of time? For how long? What about the kids education? Health Insurance? How will they communicate with the other parent while abroad?

These are all things I had to consider and answer and you may need to do the same for your court order.

Reading Books In Berlin: Prenzlauer_Berg

The Kids Do A Lot Of Reading and Learning On The Road

ps: I wanted to add one thing. 

Not many people know this story including my friends. I think a lot of them will be very shocked to find out about this private matter.

I was going to keep it private but I think and I hope in the least that my transparency and my struggles will inspire and empower other single parents and blended families not to fear un-cooperative ex spouses.  I always advocate amicable relationships with ex’s but that’s just not always possible is it? You have to do what is best for the kids and that is what I did.

FINAL THOUGHTS: You Don’t Have To Agree With Me

I realize there may be some of you who disagree with the idea of travelling and living abroad with kids. You are entitled to that opinion.

I lived abroad and travelled a lot as a child and I am so grateful my parents gave me that opportunity. So much so that I want to give my kids the same gift that I received.

My kids are experiencing other cultures and seeing the way other people live first hand not to mention the fact that they are fluent in French now.

These are all things they would normally do and see in a classroom or some textbook but are getting to experience first hand. Plus they are learning to be more  creative which makes for better problem solvers who can adapt better to change in this world.

It took a lot of sacrifice on my part and my husband’s part to take the kids abroad but it’s totally worth it.

I would love to know your thoughts? Leave your comments below.

Millers travel the world with kids

How The Millers Lost Their Money And Still Travel The World With Kids. (Series #8)

edventureproject Travel The World With Kids
What if you and your spouse spent years saving and planning for THE trip of a lifetime which involved taking the kids to travel through Europe for a year and during that year long trip, THE STOCK MARKET CRASHED and you LOST ALL YOUR  MONEY?

This isn’t hypothetical. This is what happened to the Millers, A Family of 6 from the U.S. and Canada.

I bet the last thing you would do is travel the world with your kids after this catastrophic loss right? Not the Millers. Find out how the Millers used this terrifying experience as a Catalyst to create an extraordinary lifestyle, travelling and experiencing the world together as a family for almost five years straight.

Snap Shot: The Millers of www.EdventureProject.com

  • Number Of Kids: 4 kids  (16- Hannah, 14- Gabriel, 12- Elisha, 10- Ezra) this was back in 2012.
  • Educating Kids: Home-school
  • Type Of Travel: Long Term, Slow Travel, Semi-Nomadic, International
  • Length Of Travel: Since 2008, 4 + Years
  • Where They’ve Travelled:
    Europe:—> UK, Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, Czech Republic, Austria, Italy, France.
    Africa:—>Tunisia,
    N.America: –> Canada, USA (45 States),
    Mexico—> ( All but 4 states),
    Central America:—> Guatemala, Honduras, Belize, Guatemala for 6 months,
    Asia:—> Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos (so far!).
  • Challenges: Finding freelance clients to fund their lives. (who doesn’t though right?)
  • Finances: Online workshops to help would-be travellers, kindle ebooks, Freelance clients: Filemaker database developer designer, freelance writing.
  • Budget: $100 / day or $16.60 per person per day
  • Where To Find Them Online: Twitter: Mom@edventuremama, Dad @edventuredad, Hannah @edventuregirl ,Gabe @edventuredude
  • Kids Blogs:  http://www.edventuregirl.com (Hannah’s blog) ttp://www.havebrotherswilltravel.com

WHERE

Since 2008, the Millers have travelled to over 20 countries and counting: including almost one year of cycling over 9,000 KM through parts of Europe. They have visited almost every state in the US, almost every Province in Canada, and all but four states in Mexico. They visited temples in Asia, rode elephants and camels and they did this with 4 kids in tow who were all under the age of 12 when they started their adventure.

The Millers are what you would call long term travellers because they travel for long periods.  They are also known as slow travellers. Slow travellers can spend up to a few months in one spot before moving on  to their next destination.  To date, they’re longest stint in one place has been 3 months in Tunisia and 6 months in Guatemala.

You might think that the Millers did a lot of pre-planning for this whirlwind 5 year adventure but they didn’t. It was by some pretty horrific and financially traumatic circumstances that they ended up travelling the way they do.

The One Year Cycling Across Europe Plan

In 2006, Tony and Jenn Miller started planning what would be a one year family gap year.

Not just any family gap year. A cycling gap year which involved cycling over 9,000 Kilometers across Europe to places like the UK, Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, Czech Republic …….with their 4 kids who were between the ages of 6 and 12 at the time.

By 2008, after two years of very careful budgeting and planning, they were finally ready to start moving slowly through Europe.

  • They had sold their house.
  • Sold or gave away most of their stuff and put what little precious things they wanted to keep in a little 8 x 10 storage unit somewhere in the U.S.
  • They also did a bunch of other logistical things for their trip.

They really thought they had it all figured out but the Millers didn’t plan for everything.

To be fair, they couldn’t have planned for what was about to happen.

Around the end of 2007 , jobs were slowly disappearing.

The economy was about to take a dive.

People would have a hard time finding jobs and the unemployment rate would reach record highs.

No one, including the Miller’s knew this was happening YET.

As far as the Millers were concerned, all was good and going as planned.

They left for their trip and then one day during their trip, in October of 2008, the stock market crashed and with the exception of a few thousand dollars in various checking accounts and their retirement funds, they lost all the money they had saved up and were supposed to live off of during the trip.

They lost all of their money.

Most people would be devastated by this but a funny thing happens to some people. They either shrivel up defeated or it brings out this internal tiger that wants to beat the odds and make you fight.

Time In Tunisia To Make A New Game Plan

The Millers didn’t run back to the United States to lick their wounds and try to rebuild their old lives. Instead they settled in Tunisia for the winter to regroup. They knew they didn’t want their adventure to end but they needed money to continue so they used their time in Tunisia to figure out how to make some money far for their adventures and beyond their one year gap year that has allowed them to travel the world with kids in tow.

MONEY How Much Do They Spend?

You might be surprised to learn that it costs the Millers less than $36,000 per year to travel the world with kids as they do.

That breaks down to about $100 a day, $3000 a month or $16.60 per day per person. They are almost always under that regardless of continent.  That’s less than most people spend in the U.S. who just stay put in one place. This surprises most people because, they think it’s expensive to travel.

I think the main reason people believe travelling must be expensive is because their only point of reference is from taking expensive vacations. Vacations are only expensive because it involves staying in expensive hotels, eating out every night and paying top dollar for costly tourist and site seeing activities in a short amount of time. But that’s a post for another day.

So how exactly do the Millers support themselves?

You could say that losing all that money in the stock market crash was pivotal for them because it forced them to create a location independent income stream that they didn’t have before.

In fact, Jenn and Tony said that they see that market crash as a blessing in disguise because it pushed them outside of their comfort zone and forced them to really evaluate what they wanted to do with their lives. During their 3 month stay in Tunisia to regroup, Tony and Jenn decided to turn the skills they had acquired from their former professions into a portable income that they could earn from anywhere in the world.

The Solution To Their Money Problems: It’s a team effort

The majority of their income comes from Tony’s work as a Filemaker Database developer and designer. He has contracts with big companies you’ve heard of, and little ones you haven’t. He also creates iOS and Android Apps for small companies.

Jennifer’s work converted nicely to travelling too.  She is a teacher by training but has done educational consulting and curriculum design for the alternative schooling market for over a decade.

Now she writes freelance for the home-school and travel markets, which really is great because it’s something she enjoys doing anyways but gets paid to do it. She also co-created an online class and workshop with another long term traveller; Nancy Vogel of FamilyOBikes.org. The course is called Dream: Reboot and it helps people define their dreams and then helps them turn those dreams into a reality.

BAGGAGE

Hannah-Beach

No surprise, the Millers have to travel light. No bags with wheels for the Miller’s.

They each have their proper travelling backpack and a smaller day-pack for the buses, ferries, trains and planes.

In their packs they each have three outfits, two swimsuits, a jacket and a rain coat. Computers for work and school. Toys for the kids, knitting for Jenn, a hand coffee grinder and press for Tony.

OH, I almost forgot, Hannah, their now 16 year old daughter plays instruments. They carry a guitar, a mandolin and a fiddle for her and she plays for hours each day. It’s amazing I tell you. I want to meet this girl.

What About The Kids?

edventurekids

Right the kids. I know a lot of you are thinking if it’s not the money then it’s the kids that are preventing you from living your travel dreams.

Honestly, I believe this is just a mental block that we are brainwashed into believing. I mean, if you want to travel with the kids but feel like you can’t because it might hurt the kids future think again.   As far as I’m concerned, it’s one of the best educations you can give your kids if you can do it.

The Millers obviously feel the same way because their main goal in travelling was the KIDS EDUCATION and to introduce their kids to the world. They want to make the most of every second they have with their kids because according to Jenn, childhood evaporates at an alarming rate and they don’t want to miss it. They want to walk the world with their kids and create memories together that will change lives.

Still not convinced?  Here is what the Millers had to say about home-schooling on the road.

“I think, if there’s one thing I’d like to say to parents who have the dream of traveling with their kids but are afraid to for some reason (education, socialization, relationship issues, whatever) it’s that they should step back from the fears and walk forward toward their dreams.

I was raised travelling and building log cabins and eating turtle and porcupine and black bear as a tiny child. My parents took me out of school as a little kid and again as a teen to travel extensively and it is the BEST thing they could ever have done for me. Your kids will LOVE you for the experiences the world gives them and THANK YOU for being brave enough to swim against the tide.

My teenagers love their life and already have the perspective to realize what a gift their uncommon childhood is. It’s hard when the whole world is doing “one thing” and your heart is pulling you in a totally different direction, but those dreams are inborn and unique and meant to be chased. Life is meant to be an epic Technicolor adventure, not a greyscale photocopy.
If my life broadcasts one message, I hope that’s it: Don’t be afraid, LIVE your dreams.”

Hannah and the boys each have their own blogs which you can go and visit. I just loved reading Hannah’s blog. She writes wonderful stories . http://www.edventuregirl.com (Hannah’s blog) ttp://www.havebrotherswilltravel.com (the boys’ blog)

Here is an excellent article that Jenn wrote which I think says it all about homeschooling.  http://www.vagabondfamily.org/blog/road-schooling/roadschooling-highschool/

When Will Their EdVenture (educational adventure) End?

According to Jenn, they plan to travel full-time for at least another two years.

After that, they plan on building a house in Canada on some property Jenn’s family has there. They even have their eye on a boat in Canada that the boys would like to spend some of their teen years sailing down into the Caribbean, perhaps.

What Will They Do After Their Travelling Adventure Is Over?

Jenn says that they may never work “real jobs” or live a “normal life nor do they have the desire to live the status-quo.

I really love this attitude myself. I think living the status quo is perfectly fine if that is what you really want. But more often than not, we follow the status quo because that is what we think we MUST follow.

Want To Slow Travel Around The World Like the Millers?

I asked Jenn to give me her top tips for families who wanted to travel like they are and here is what she said.

  1. Stop making excuses for why you can’t do it, and DO IT. Don’t waste time, live your dreams.
  2. Create a location independent career, or income streams. Funding is the biggest on going challenge, once you get that sorted, it’s easy.
  3. Surround yourself with the “right” people. Seek out people who are doing what you want to be doing and bravely introduce yourself and ask for help. You’ll be amazed at how many people will move mountains to help you forward on your dream. (I will. Ask me!)

The Miller’s are also very evangelical about encouraging other people to live their dreams and create a passion driven life for their families.

They spend a lot of time helping people forward on their dreams for free.

If you’re interesting in learning more about the Millers you can visit their blog  www.EdventureProject.com.  It really is a good read full of fascinating stories about their family and the lessons they learn on the road.

Jenner wrote an ebook. Bottles to Backpacks: The Gypsy Mama’s Guide to REAL Travel With Kids… with her friend Keri Wellman, in Germany and they are working on a second one that is in a totally different vein.

What Do You Think?

Personally, I just love the Millers story because they are yet ANOTHER great example of what the human spirit can accomplish when you really put your mind to it.


The Millers are my 8th family to be featured in an ongoing series showcasing and featuring families and couples who are travelling full time or for extended periods of time.

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