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25 reasons why everyone should travel more or live abroad at least once in their lives

25 Reasons You Should Live Abroad At Least Once In Your Life (Or Travel More)

25 Excellent reasons why everyone should live abroad atleast once in their lives

If you want to travel more, live abroad or do a gap year overseas but you’re not sure  it’s the right move for you, here are 25 fabulous reasons why you should just do it.

25 ways which travelling and living abroad will affect you

I think everyone should try to live abroad at least once in their lives. If living abroad is not in the cards for you than travelling for an extended period of time beyond the two-week vacation is a really close second. Heard of slow travelling?

Our lives are defined by experiences. The greater the number of experiences, the better our lives become. Travel is one of many ways you can get the most variety in your life experiences and suck the marrow out of life.

I was fortunate enough to have been born into a multicultural family who also did a lot of travelling. I also left home at 18 to live in Japan for over 3 years where I taught English and did various jobs including modeling and hostesssing. Now as a wife and mother of 3, I’m living in France with my family.

Needless to say, I love travelling and recommend it for what ails you. I could probably think of hundreds of reasons why everyone should make travel a priority and try to live abroad at least once in their lives. But let’s first start with these 25 reasons which I think might resonate with you the most.

1- Slow travel and living abroad is less stressful than a vacation

Slow travel and living abroad is less stressful than a vacationI used to get so stressed out during our families 2 week annual vacation because it felt like a race to jam everything there was to do into those 2 weeks no matter what the cost. The kids were cranky, I was cranky and we fed on each others crankiness.

Living abroad or slow travelling can remove or reduce that stressful element of travel by allowing you take your time- if you have children than this will reduce a considerable amount of stress.

2-Living abroad is not as expensive as you think

Living abroad is not as expensive as you thinkLiving abroad is cheaper than you think and costs a whole hell of a lot less than your average annual vacation. When you travel for extended periods of time or live abroad, you get to rent a house ( cheaper than a hotel room), cook at home because you have a kitchen, do things during off-peak travel and do the lesser known non touristy things that are way cooler in my book and cost less.

See also: How much does it cost to live in France for one year

3-Travelling and living abroad encourages you to live your life to the fullest

Travelling and living abroad encourages you to live your life to the fullestYou know how you go on vacation and try to cram in as much as you can because you only have 7 days to do it all and you don’t know if you’ll ever be back? Living abroad is kind of like that but less manic and rushed.

Suddenly, because of time restraints and the newness of the place you are in, your eyes are open to all that life has to offer. You’re more inclined to take advantage of it all. Too bad most of us don’t feel so inclined when we return home.

Living abroad also means you can’t live on autopilot anymore simply because everything is so different, foreign and new. As a result, you need to make more conscious and deliberate choices about your life and your daily routine. It can be a bit stressfull to step out of your routine and comfort zone but shaking things up has it’s rewards. It gives you new experiences and can help you grow as a person. You might even learn something about yourself.

4- You’ll get to view your culture from another countries perspective

traveling has taught me that McDonalds is ruining the world and the American image

Living abroad gives you another cultures perspective about your home country. For instance, if you’re American, you may be surprised to learn that many people in France would love to live in America. You may also be surprised to learn how your home country is negatively viewed abroad. Did you know that most of the world thinks all Americans love McDonald’s and are obese?

See also: Do the French eat McDonalds: Fastfood in France.

5- You’ll get a different, broader view of the world

When you live abroad You'll get a different, broader view of the world

You already knew that other countries have different cultures but until you actually experience that other culture first hand, you will never truly understand what that means. Once you do, you may see the world in a whole new light.

6- Travelling is not the cure to your life’s problems. You can’t escape them

Travelling is not the cure to your life's problems. You can't escape them

If you want to move abroad or travel just to escape your problems, you’ll be extremely disappointed because unless you get to the root of your problems and try to solve them, they will follow you to the ends of the earth or be waiting for you once you return home.

7-Travelling makes you appreciate home

traveling makes you appreciate the comforts of home

It’s natural to take things for granted. When we’re at home, we dream of escaping off to some adventure however we often forget to notice the comforts and beauties of home all around us. It’s often not until we are actually away, seeing home from the other side that we begin to appreciate it. Travel can give you that distance you need. You may even begin to appreciate the routine of your life that you thought you wanted to get away from.

8-You may realise you don’t need as much crap as you think you need to be happy

traveling has taught me that You Don’t Need As Much As You Think You Need To Be Happy

Travel inherently opposes materialism and consumerism. Afterall, you can only put so much in your luggage or backpacks.  It can be hard at first to be away from all the stuff you bought and own and you’ll definitely miss certain things from home but after a while you’ll get used to living with less until finally you realize, you don’t need as much crap as you thought you did to be happy. It is actually quite liberating.

9-You learn what is truly important in life and what really makes you happy

You learn what is truly important in life and what really makes you happyJust as living without things makes you realize you don’t need the things you thought you once needed, being away from your life can help you discover what is truly important to you. Maybe climbing that corporate career ladder is not what you wanted after all. Maybe being away from your friends and family makes you realize how important they are to you. Or maybe the time you spend abroad makes you learn something new about yourself that surprises you.

10- You learn to make do with what you have

Traveling and Living Abroad as a a family has taught me: to make Do With What I Have.

You can only pack so much and buy so much when you travel. Same is true if you spend a year abroad someplace.  Who wants to lug around extra stuff or pay expensive fees for shipping things back home. You end up learning to make do with what you have and buying only what your really, truly need.

11)- You’re kids will get to go to school in another country

You're kids will get to go to school in another countryMain streaming your kids in school while living in another country is probably one of the fastest ways for them to adjust to local life. It’s also a wonderful experience for them not to mention a great way for them to make new international friends.

See Also: Preschool in France- what’s it like?

12-You have the chance to learn a language really well or become bilingual

If you live abroad You have the chance to learn a language really well or become bilingual

See also: Will I be bilingual if I live abroad?

13- Travelling as a couple can make or break you- It can test you too

Travelling as a couple can make or break youTravelling long-term as a couple means spending almost everyday all day together.  You need to align your goals, your focus and connect on a daily basis with the other person. All this constant togetherness can lead to some head butting.  You want to see all the museums and the other person wants to lay at the beach all day. You may want to get up early to see the sights while the other person wants to party all night. You want to live abroad while the other person just wants to go back to their small hometown.

14- You’ll learn that you can accomplish more than you think

Living abroad will help you discover that you can accomplish more than you think

 Bodies in motion stay in motion. It’s just the nature of travel-to do and try new things you wouldn’t normally do at home. You might try escargo, train for a marathon or go spelunking in a cave for the first time. All these new experiences stretch and test your limits pushing you further beyond what you thought you could ever accomplish. It’s a snowball effect and you’ll never want to stop because it’s so satisfying.

See also: Spotted Dick: 10 traditional british foods you will either love or hate

15- Getting lost can get you places you didn’t think you would find

You'll get lost when you travel and land in the most wonderful placesWhen you’re in a new place and new surroundings, it’s only natural that you might get lost once in a while. Getting lost is not necessarily a bad thing. Sometimes it can land you somewhere unexpected and wonderful. Just make sure you have GPS to get back **wink wink**

16- Travel or living abroad can recharge your batteries and give you a new lease on life

Travel or living abroad can recharge your batteries and give you a new lease on life

Between your busy work schedule and hectic life, your daily routine can become all-consuming and automatic-a series of unconscious acts that just happen without even thinking. Each new day begins to look like the previous day. That’s a rut isn’t it? A year abroad can give you perspective. It can give you the time you need to recharge your batteries.

17- You learn to appreciate your family more (hopefully)

travelling has taught me more about my family
Two things can happen when you travel with your family. You’ll either learn to appreciate them or they’ll start to annoy you. One of the things I have noticed about living abroad is we tend to spend more time together which is great in many respects but at the same time, spending too much time together can be stressfull too. The important thing is to seek balance between together time and alone time.

18- You may learn it’s ok to question the culture you were brought up in

travelling teaches you that it's ok to question the culture you were brought up in

19- What you thought was an authentic recipe is not really authentic

What you thought was an authentic recipe is not really authenticThat local Chinese joint is probably not serving you up authentic Chinese food. That expensive French restaurant you like to eat at is not really how French people eat in France. Guess what, you’re getting localized versions of food from around the world which is fine. But if you want to try authentic anything, you almost need to go to that country or know someone from that country who can cook it for you.

20- Time is precious: Make the most of your time

Don't wast time. use every moment to do something funWhen travelling or living abroad, every minute counts. You have a sense that your time is limited so naturally you try to make the most of it. Even when you are at a bus stop waiting for the next bus, you can do something together. Break out that hacky sack.

21- Travel can help you be more present and conscious of life as it happens: If you let it

 Travel can help you be more present and conscious of life as it happens: If you let itFor many of us, our routine and our habit is to be off in our heads somewhere- anywhere but where you actually are now. Seldom are we fully here, living in the moment. We’re struggling with something that happened in the past or fearful and anxious about the future. Travelling can inherently help you be more present, in the moment and enjoy life as it is happening if you let it but you still need to take conscious steps to truly enjoy life as it is happening. Learn to live with less, smile more and forgive past hurts,

See also: 10 steps to living in the moment

22- Sometimes you need to see it rather than read or hear about it

A Day at the Berlin Wall near Warschauer Strasse Station: Travel can be educational for you and your kids

(photo source: Catherine on Blake’s shoulders writing on the Berlin Wall :very concerned about the survivors of the Holocaust.)

Some things are worth experiencing first hand, rather than through photos or books. When we stayed in Berlin Germany, the kids saw the remnants of the Berlin wall, contemplated what it was like to live through the holocaust and stood on the same soil where people were shot.  They showed no previous interest in these things prior but being there touchd them in a way and expanded their minds in a way they could not comprehend.

23- You might adopt new customs that you didn’t know you would love

You might adopt new customs that you didn't know you would loveLiving abroad can introduce new ways of doing things which you might not have otherwise tried.  Some of the customs we as a family have adopted while living in France are: eating more like the French in terms of quantity and time schedule. Going more often to the market to get fresh produce because our refrigerator is smaller than the massive American one we had back home. Your experiences will be different of course depending on where you are, how  long you stay and who you travel with.

See also: Why travel with kids

24- You will love living like a local and not a tourist

You will love living like a local and not a tourist

Travelling as a tourist is great but living somewhere like a local is sooooooo sooo sooo much more satisfying. The longer you stay, the more friends you make. The more culturally authentic things you will try to experience beyond what tourists do. You’ll get a sense of the daily rhythms and more.

25- For the stories and the hell of it

travel so you can tell stories and for the hell of it

There are literally thousands of people out there (right now) who are backpacking around the world, living nomadic-ally, taking a family sabbatical abroad or zig zaging the continent in an RV: with and without kids.

They are ordinary people like you who decided to live a little unconventionally. To make it happen, some have saved for years. Others sold their house and their possessions while still others work while on the road or some other combination. You can read about some of them here.

Here are other lessons learned by the following travellers

Ramble Crunch-  15 lessons I’ve learned traveling the world.

Four Jandles  50 lessons learned from travelling the world.

Raising Miro 12 simple principles for a happy life on (or off) the road

Bohemian Travelers:  Travel Lessons: Can You Embrace the Unknown

Edventure Project – American Thanksgiving: 22 things we are thankful for

The Nomadic Family: I Know Nothing (and 99 Other Things The Road Has Taught Me)

Peace On Earth: 5 Life Lessons Learned from Traveling

Travel with Bender: So it’s been 6 Months – You won’t believe what we have learned!

Life Changing Year: Life Lessons From The Road – A Little Bit Of Planning Goes A Loooong Way!

Living Outside of the Box: 6 Life Lessons From the Road (why 6? I have no idea!)

A King’s Life: Two things I know for sure

Flashpacker Family: Lessons From the Road of Life

Family on Bikes: Complaining won’t change a gosh-darn thing

Family Travel Bucket List: 3 Things We’ve Learned While Living Outside of the USA

Grow in Grace Life: By Any Road..Lessons from the Journey

Our Travel Lifestyle: Travel: Teaching us about ourselves

Bureaucracy in France: Our Frustrating Experience At The Prefecture of Montpellier

french-prefecture

If you are going to live in France for any length of time, you will undoubtedly become extremely familiar with the world-famous French bureaucracy and red tape that everyone including the French have to endure. If you are an expat living in France like us or an immigrant, than you have the added pleasure of dealing with EXTRA RED TAPE for all your immigration needs. Most of which are handled at one of the many préfectures across France.  Here is our latest annoyance.

We moved from La Garde France to Montpellier this week and like all NON-French people who move from one city to another, we had to register our change of address with our new prefecture in Montpellier which in essence sets in motion the transfer of our dossier / file from our old préfecture in Toulon.

A préfecture is the dreaded bureaucratic office where non-French people like us with visa and immigration issues must go. The préfecture also handles some non immigration issues such as renewing drivers permits or handling a change of address for the title of ones car. There are roughly 100 préfectures in France

This process or changing your address at the préfecture is something you do not want to skip, especially if you plan on renewing your visa after your first year in France because the préfecture uses your physical address to send you correspondence and if you are not there to receive it because you failed to notify them of a change of address … well you won’t be able to renew your visa.

We mistakenly thought this change of address would be an easy affair because we had already been through this 4 years earlier when we moved from Marseille to La Garde but like so many things in France that involve paperwork and immigration matters, we were sorely wrong. As the old saying goes, you don’t know what you don’t know.

Here is an account of our frustrating experience at the prefecture of Montpellier.

Tuesday Ideal FAIL: The plan to reduce our wait time

Today we stood in line at the prefecture of Montpellier for 2 hours. Not terribly long considering we have waited for longer periods. Annoying nevertheless because Blake and I actually thought we were so so smart to arrive at 7:40 a.m., 35 minutes before the prefecture actually opened it’s doors.

A little back story. This was to be our third visit to the préfecture since arriving in Montpellier 13 days prior. Each time we arrived to the préfecture we were faced with long lines that snaked from wall to wall so each time we left instantly because we knew instictually from experience that the line would be at least 3 to 4 hour wait.

In addition to physical visits, Blake and I also tried and failed to make an appointment online using the préfecture’s website. Overall, we had already spent several hours trying to get our address sorted out. By the way, you can check out the booking system at the Montpellier prefectures website here. As of July 2016 it is always full up. I hope they change this system because to put it simply, SUCKS!. http://www.herault.gouv.fr/booking/create/15253.

Rather than wait in the existing long line, we decided to try to outsmart everyone and come back early on Thursday (the prefecture is closed on Wednesday) before the prefecture opened. To us, it was better to wait out front in the cool morning breeze for 30 minutes so we could be first in line than to arrive later and be the 100th person waiting in a hot building with irritated people and tired kids. It proved to be a good idea however not good enough.

 Thursday 7:54 a.m.:

Our hearts sank when we arrived at the préfecture on Thursday morning and saw the already long line of people standing around waiting for the préfecture to open at 8:15 am. There had to be about 50 or 60 people already waiting in line ahead of us.

As we stood there queued up waiting for the doors to open, I couldn’t help but feel a little defeated wishing we had come 1 hour earlier instead of just 30 minutes. I looked behind me every so often and saw more people queue up behind us until finally it seemed there were at least another 100 people waiting behind us.

I felt mildly better but not by much.waiting in line at the preficture in Montpellier

 

8:15 the doors open : Security check and mad dash for the building

At 8:15 the doors to the prefecture officially opened and we slowly inched our way to the front gate where a security officer passed a wand over our bodies and briefly looked in every bag before letting us pass through to the building.

8:25 a.m. : Stand in line again inside the préfecture

I passed through security before Blake and walked briskly to the building trying not to let people pass me up. I didn’t want to lose my place in line because there were people who seemed to be sprinting to get inside. I was determined to not let that happen. I picked up the pace.

Once inside, we had no other choice but to stand in line. There was no option to take a ticket or a number and sit down until your number was called like we had experienced in Toulon or Marseille. So there we stood inching our way forward as the 2 people behind the counter handled each persons questions and requests. Some people moved on quickly while others seemed to take longer.

A man behind me pushing a baby in a stroller got in a heated argument with another man who apparently was trying to cut in the line for some strange reason.

9:45 a.m. It’s our turn

Almost an hour and a half later, it was our turn. As I walked towards the counter where the stressed out French woman sat, I politely smiled and said “bonjour” before asking my question (which is common practice and considered rude if you don’t say it) .

Me: Bonjour!  “how can I set up an appointment to make a change of address for our carte de séjour (this is what our resident card is called). ?

French woman behind counter: You must make an appointment using the website she replied.

Me: I have tried for 13 days to make an appointment using the site but each time I try, I get a message that says there are no more available times for appointments and to try my request again later.

(Below is a screenshot of the prefecture website showing this message)

 

preficture-appointment-full

French woman behind counter: Yes, this is normal. Times slots fill up very fast.  Try checking the site at the beginning of the week when new slots open up.

Me: Instead of making an appointment through the website, since we are here, can we make an appointment through you now?

French woman behind counter: NO!

Me: Can we come early, on any day to change our address?

French woman behind counter: With a slightly annoyed voice says NO! you must use the website.

9:47 a.m.: Defeat

Our hopes of getting an appointment to change our address were crushed in less than 3 minutes at that counter. There seemed to be no other way to make an appointment except on the website which as far as I was concerned was always full up with no available appointment times.

Blake and I begrudgingly left the counter and walked home in a confused state of disbelief feeling like we got bitch slapped yet again by a new French bureaucratic hurdle. 

10:00 a.m.: Try again online to make an appointment

One small consolation after our temporary defeat at the préfecture was that we did not have to drive home in traffic for any length of time. We live in the centre of Montpellier off “La Place De La Comédie”, just a few minutes walk from the préfecture. Previously we would have to drive for 15 minutes and try to find parking.

When we arrived home, after stopping off to get a bricohe au chocolat (Blake’s favourite), I immediately went to the préfecture’s site only to be met with the same stupid message, “no more open spots for new appointments”. This time however, I noticed something that did not make sense before.

In very small print,  there was a message which stated appointments are scheduled only 3 weeks in advance and If the calendar was full that you needed to try again at the beginning of the week.

This must be what the woman at the prefecture was talking about. I needed to logon on Sunday night just before midnight, essentially the beginning of the week and try to nab a spot before everyone else who was desperate for a spot could nab the limited slots up. (below is the screenshot of the message).

message on prefecture website which said appointments are only scheduled only 3 weeks in advance and If the calendar was full that you needed to try again at the beginning of the week.

10:30 a.m.

Still in disbelief that there was no other way to get an appointment, I did a search on Facebook and found that the préfecture of Montpellier had a Facebook page so I decided to go check it out and see if I could discover some secret to getting an appointment.

Instead I saw more frustrated people posting comments. A FB user left a comment confirming what I now knew but shed even more depressing news. She had also had problems getting an appointment and said that users had only 5 minutes, midnight to 12:05 to try to get an appointment before the slots were all taken up. She asked “what does one do if we cannot get an appointment?

Good question.

Unfortunately, the préfecture never answers any comments on their FB page. (below is a screenshot of her message left on the prefecture FB page.)

preficture-facebook-page

At this point, I have no idea what we are going to do if we are unable to nab an appointment quick enough on Sunday night. Especially since we have to renew our visas very soon but can’t do it until we transfer our dossier to our new préfecture.

It should be noted that not all prefectures operate the same way. Some take walk ins. Some places you can call and make an appointment and others you can walk in to make an appointment. Some have machines to dispense numbers and some don’t.

So far, we have had to deal with 3 préfectures because we have lived in 3 French cities, Marseille prefecture, Toulon prefecture and now Montpellier prefecture. Montpellier is by far the worst so far mainly because of their defunct appointment system that only allows appointments 3 weeks in advance that fill up fast.

To be continued……….

UPDATE 

Well we managed to get an appointment but it was very strange. As the woman at the préfecture instructed us to do, we logged on to their website just before midnight on sunday night. There were three of us trying to make an appointment, me, Blake and one of my sons. Each of us sat in front of the computer pressing the “schedule an appointment” button. Each time we pressed the button, we were greeted with the same message “no more available times”.

Then at one minute past midnight a calendar opened up and we saw about 30 spots on the calendar open up. I quickly selected a time and waited. The little hourglass turned and turned until we got a 503 message. If you are unfamiliar with a 503 error message when viewing a site, it basically means “The server is currently unable to handle the request due to a temporary overloading or maintenance of the server”. The server was getting overloaded by probably hundreds of people trying to get those 30 spots.

“SHIT, I keep getting a 503 server message” yells my husband from his computer.

“Me too!” yells my son Kieran from his room.

I was determined to get an appointment.

I kept hitting the back button to retry my request until finally it I secured a spot for 3 weeks in future. Woo HOOOOOOOO. Now it was Blake and Kierans turn. After a dozen or so error messages in a row, we were each able to finally secure one appointment each.  It was not 12:30.

It felt as if I was playing a video game and the goal of the game was to compete against 100 people to secure 30 spots but you only have 10 minutes to do so. I had adrenaline coursing through my veins from the experience.

But it wasn’t over yet. To finally secure our appointment, we had to wait for an email and click on a link in the email to confirm the appointment.

After about 2 minutes the email arrived in my inbox and I clicked on the link but then the server timed out again. People were still hitting the system hard trying to get an appointment which was causing the website servers to crash. Eventually all 3 of us confirmed our appointment but it was now 12:45 a.m. A  little over 45 minutes of this nonsense simply to get an appointment to change our address for our visa.

I logged back onto the website at 12:45 to try to book a second appointment but all the available slots were now gone.  Guess we will have to wait till next Sunday at midnight to get a second set of appointments which we need to renew our visas.

Oh well. As the French say. It’s just the way things are done. What can I do about it?

Bonne Journée. Good day to you.

5 Must have Road trip beauty products

5 Must Have Road Trip Beauty Products You Didn't Know You Needed

5 Must have Road trip beauty products

Here are 5 beauty products every woman, mother, sister, girlfriend or conscientious guy should consider packing on a road-trip. Because nobody wants to feel or look like crap.

Staying fresh and looking good on a long road trip can get a little tricky since you can’t bring all your beauty products with you and usually don’t have access to running water. The result is you often end up feeling and looking like crap before you even arrive at your final destination. Used together or individually, these 5 products are your saving grace- guaranteed to help you feel fresher and look less haggard from start to finish.

1- Wet wipes: For on-the-go cleaning and instant de-stinkification

Everyone get’s a little funky smelling on a road trip. Unfortunately showers and running water are not always readily available which is why you should ALWAYS pack wet wipes in your bag.

wet wipes just for dudesI’m not talking about regular old baby wipes. They were engineered for babies, make you smell like babies, and usually leave a weird residue on your skin (no thanks).

Instead, pack different types of wipes for different situations. (Yes there is a difference  not only in texture, but smell, strength, ingredients, and packaging.)

I recommend multi-purpose, flushable wet wipes for those general cleanups, face towelettes to clean your makeup and don’t forget to bring some individually wrapped shower wipes for on the go showering which can be a life saver for your private parts.

Multi-purpose wet wipes

Multi-purpose, flushable wet wipes are perfect for anyone travelling in a group or with kids because they can do double duty as toilet paper and a face cleaner to freshening up your pits and private parts. Try Cottonelle flushable travel wipes .

Face wipes

For you ladies who like take care of their face but can’t go through your entire facial routine during your travels, Neutrogena makeup remover cleansing towelettes are the answer to your prayers. Sometimes called facial wipes, makeup wipes or cleansing towelettes, they usually contain special ingredients that clean, remove makeup, moisturize and in some cases can even lightly exfoliate like Olay regenerist-micro exfoliating wet cleansing cloths. For more sensitive skin, try Burts bees facial cleansing towelette which comes in different scents like grapefruit and white tea to name a few.

Individually packaged Shower Wipes

girl-wipes

When you pack shower wipes, you never have to go without a shower and never have to put up with a car full of stinky people again. Shower wipes are slightly larger, stronger, and usually come individually wrapped like condom packages so they never dry out. Just throw one package in your purse, pocket or in everyone’s bag and voila, no more car full of stinky people. Check out Good wipes and Dude wipes.

2- Three facial sprays to hydrate your face on-the-go

evian-sprayYou don’t have to endure that icky, dehydrated, less than fresh face feeling when travelling if you carry a facial spray with you. Simply spray your favourite face spray and apply your favourite face cream on your damp face to lock in moisture. Then spray intermittently throughout the day when you need a boost.  It gives you a dewy fresh face look and feel.  Depending on your needs, you can find different face sprays with different ingredients which have different effects. Here are three of my favourite face sprays from cheapest to most expensive.

evian-facial-spray

Old school face spray

The most basic face spray is Evian mineral spray water which is PH balanced to match your skins PH levels. “Skin with a balanced pH appears healthier, looks plumper, has a healthy glow, and slows signs of aging”.  It comes in an aerosol spray can similar to hairspray but the mist is super fine. You just cannot get that same effect by a DIY spray bottle. I tried. For convenience, pick up two travel sized TSA-approved 1.7 ounce bottle of Evian from Sephora or buy six 1.7 ounce bottles of Evian facial spray for about $37.00 on Amazon.

Multi tasking facial spray with benefits

mario-rose-water

Although I do love my Evian mineral facial spray for certain situations, it’s kind of old school and generic compared to some of the newer multi-tasking facial sprays like Mario Badescu Facial Spray With Aloe Herbs And Rosewater which is infused with rosewater, aloe and different herbs. Carrying this around eliminates the need to carrying multiple products. You can even use it in your hair when it’s feeling dry and frizzy. Plus It’s gentle, non-irritating  for all skin types.

Here are 10 benefits and uses of rosewater

  1. Rosewater helps to maintain your skin’s pH balance. (this is important)
  2. It helps fight acne, dermatitis, eczema.
  3. Use rose-water to soften dry skin.
  4. Use rose-water to prevent or reduce eye puffiness.
  5. It also helps to heal scars, cuts and wounds.
  6. Rose water cools the skin.
  7. It helps to tone the skin. It also has anti-bacterial properties.
  8. Rose water can also work as a natural makeup remover
  9. The nourishing and moisturizing properties of rose-water enhance the quality of hair.
  10. Set your makeup. Just spray sparingly over your makeup to set your makeup and give yourself that dewy finish.

High end facial spray Caudalie Beauty Elixer

For all you ladies who like higher end things, the French brand Caudalié has a facial spray called “Eau de Beauté” here in France. In English speaking countries, it’s called “Beauty elixer”. Supposedly inspired by the elixir of youth used by Queen Isabelle of Hungary, this beauty elixer smoothes your features, tightens pores and gives your complexion a burst of radiance. Use this not only for your road-trips but in your daily routine under and over make up to moisturize then set your makeup. Men can even use it as an aftershave. It contains essential grape oils, mint and rosemary oils and more. Plus this smells amazing and leaves your feeling amazing. Pick some up at Sephora and get FREE 2-Day Shipping on All Your Orders! Or put some in your Amazon shopping basket.

3- No more greasy travel hair: Dry Shampoo

dry shampoo to keep you hair fresh on road trips

Dry shampoo is the perfect tool to help combat greasy, flat hair syndrome while travelling. If you are not familiar with dry shampoo let me explain. A dry shampoo, cleans, freshens and get’s rid of that greasy unwashed hair look without the need for water. Once you spray this magic stuff on your hair and scalp, just rub and let the magic begin. Excess oil is absorbed restoring your hair back to that soft light hair feeling you get when you wash your hair. If you like the Sephora brand, then try  Sephora Express dry shampoo ($9). Want to find an inexpensive drugstore brand than try Got2b Rockin’ It Encore Fresh Dry Shampoo ($9) or Dove Dry Shampoo, Invigorating ($5). The only issue is these bottles are not TSA approved and explode so if you want something to take on a plane then try Got2b Powder’ful Volumizing Styling Powder($9). It’s not a spray.

4- Eliminate that foul, sticky breath on-the-go

breath strips - a road trip essentialYou could eat a mint or chew some gum to try and get rid of the inevitable foul sticky breath syndrome that almost always occurs during road-trips but for those who want to take it to the next level or don’t like chewing gum (like me), try Mint strips. These things are potent. No chewing, no sucking on mints involved. You simply pull a strip out from it’s box and place it on your tongue and let it melt and do it’s magic. Probably similar to how you would take acid? You can literally feel all the bacteria melting away.

5- Multi-purpose makeup

Multi tasking makeup
A multi-purpose makeup product for your eyes, lips and cheeks is a travelling girls best friend. Sometimes I just use lipstick for both my cheeks and lips but find it can be greasy so now I use RMS Beauty Lip2Cheek,  It’s versatile, easy to apply an blends beautifully. Plus, it takes up practically no space in your bag.  A sigle pigment, dabbed on various parts of your face works wonders and adds back that radiant glow that you lose while travelling.

So there you have it, five things every woman should pack on her next road trip. But don’t limit this list of luscious lady products to just road trips. Take them on all your adventures by plane or train and incorporate them into your daily life for those days when your on the go around town.

Road Trip Car Sharing

Speaking of road trip, If you’re interested in saving some money, I just discovered a great site called Turo.com. Turo is a peer to peer car sharing site which allows private car-owners to rent out their vehicles via an online interface. I have not tried it yet but it looks promissing.

Halloween In France- 10 things you should know

10 Things You Didn’t Know About Halloween In France But Should

Halloween in France: 10 things you didn't know but should

Despite the anti-sentiment surrounding an American style Halloween and the fact that the concept of Halloween is relatively new to France, it is still somewhat celebrated in small pockets throughout France.  Here are a few things you should know before hand which might make your French Halloween more enjoyable.

1-Halloween is considered an American celebration (and that’s not a compliment)

Halloween is seen as yet another imposition of American culture on French customs and traditions right after McDonald’s and Ketchup. This alone is enough to make many French people turn their patriotic nose up at the idea of celebrating or embracing Halloween.

Ironically,  Halloween actually originates from Europe and is thought to be of Celtic origins. In fact, wearing a costume mumming and going door-to-door on certain holidays has existed since the Middle Ages, only people used to perform short plays in exchange for food or drink instead of asking for Candy.

Related: “Why the French hate Halloween”.

2-Many French people see Halloween as too commercial

Another belief which only adds to the anti Halloween sentiment is the belief that this is purely a commercial celebration used to boost the sales of stores and line the pockets of retail store owners with cash.

I believe that these people just don’t understand what or how Halloween is celebrated. They don’t see it as a community based ritual or a great family friendly event where kids and parents get to have fun dressing up as anything they want- go to parties, eat and laugh together.Halloween in France: French people think Halloween is too commercial

If they did, than perhaps they would embrace Halloween as much as they do Christmas, Mothers day and Valentines day. Holidays which are as commercial as Halloween if not more. In fact, I actually find Halloween less commercial than Christmas in France. But hey that’s just me.

3-Halloween is seen as a threat to existing French traditions

The French are fiercely proud about their customs almost to a snobbish fault. Anything or in this case, any celebration which disrupts or takes away from those traditions are often seen as a threat not a treat.

Since Halloween is not a traditional French holidays having first been introduced to France in the 90’s,  it has the unfortunate luck to occur  right in the middle of an extremely big national holiday. “La Toussaint”, known in English as “All Saints”.

November 1st is the official holiday for All Saints Day. On this day people in France honour the dead by placing flowers on loved ones graves and go to special church events. Banks, stores and businesses are all closed on this day.

But all saints is not just a one day event. Children have two weeks off from school beginning mid October up until the 1st of November. I think many anti-halloweeners in France believe Halloween robs the attention away from this French tradition.

4- Very few children go door-to-door trick-or-treating in France

Don’t load up on bags of candy because you’ll be lucky to get any trick-or-treater knocking on your door in France on Halloween.

We have never received more than 3 groups of children knocking on our door on Halloween. I am told there are towns in France where Halloween has taken off but these are the exception and not the rule.

5-Costumes are typically scary and NEVER cute

Halloween in France: 10 things you did not know but should

Unlike in North America where anything goes when it come to costumes for Halloween in France what few adults and kids you see dressed up will invariably be dressed up in traditionally scary and ghoulish costumes like vampires, ghosts and skeletons.

Costumes of the less scary genre like kitty’s, princesses and ninja turtles are reserved for the carnival festivals in February.  I really find it strange how so many French people have such a negative view on Halloween but then celebrate carnival by dressing up during Carnival. They have festivals, parades and celebrations around carnival. Most schools even have their own mini parade where everyone gets dressed up. Yes Carnival is not seen as commercial as Halloween.

6-Halloween parties are more typical than trick-or-treaters

Halloween in France: 10 things you did not know but should

If you are in France and absolutely want to celebrate Halloween,  here are my thoughts.

Make friends who actually enjoy Halloween. In the 4 plus years we’ve lived in France, we have been lucky enough to have French friends who actually love and celebrate Halloween.

If you are not invited to a Halloween party, throw your own. If you’re not in a position to throw your own than check out local bars, many of which may have Halloween themes and specials.

7- Don’t say trick-or-treat: Instead say this

When a kid comes to the door asking for candy “les bon bons” in France, they don’t say trick or treat.  Instead they ask  you in French if you would like “Candies or a spell” or “Mischief or sweets”.

  • Des bonbons ou un sort ! = Candies or a spell
  • bêtises ou friandises = Mischief or sweets

8- French people can’t pronounce Halloween

There are a few sounds French people have a hard time pronouncing. Similar to How English speakers struggle to make the R and the U sound like in the word “RUE”  It’s not pronounced “ROO”. In French, most French people struggle with the “TH” sound which when said by a French person, usually sounds like the “D” sound. So the word “this” gets pronounced as “dis”.

The second sound French seem to have a hard time pronouncing is the letter “H”. So “Halloween” usually gets pronounced  as “aaa  lo ween”.

9-You can’t find candy corn in France

Halloween in France: Candy corn does not exist in France except at specialty stores ;

If you hate candy corn like I hate it than you’ll be happy to learn that candy corn does NOT exist in France. If you really must buy some, you’ll have to order it online at the “American Market” in France.

10- Go with the flow and find other people who celebrate Halloween in France

Halloween in France: 10 things you did not know but should

Despite all the anti-sentiment and French naysayers, French people who understand just how fun Halloween can be, do in fact celebrate it. You just need to know where and how to find them.

If you have kids, you could ask other parents if they plan on celebrating.  You could just wing it like we did this year and go door to door with your kids. Unfortunately, most people did not answer their door and others had no candy. But we still had fun. My two teenage boys went to a Halloween house party and got dressed up as well.

If you make friends, you could luck out like we do every year and have friends who invite you to their Halloween party or you could organize your own halloween party and invite people.

And last but not least, some bars have special themes around Halloween .

To learn more about the origins of ancient and modern Halloween check out this great video from the history channel.

10 Reasons We Choose To Travel Europe By Train, Not By Plane!

10 reaons whe chose to travel across Europe by train and not by plane

If you’re considering a visit to Europe and you’re unsure or on the fence about whether you should travel Europe by train or not then you should read this article where I share 10 of the top reasons we chose train travel over the usual plane travel. This article is just one part of a multi-part mini series on the entire process we went through.

10 reasons why travelling across Europe by train is a must at least once in your life.

Sure there are faster, maybe even cheaper or less chaotic ways to travel across Europe, especially as a family of five but lets face it…there is a certain “je ne sais quoi” about train travel.

Putting aside my totally romantic ideas and subjective point of view that train travel is  magical, there were and are other more practical reasons why we chose to spend our 3 week family summer vacation gallivanting across Europe by train v.s. by plane or by car for that matter.

We weighed all the pros and cons, we took into consideration not only what my husband and I wanted to get out of this trip but also the varied tastes and interests of our 3 children who ranged in age from 8 all the way to 19. We also had a budget to contend with.

In the end, we somehow figured it all out. Here are the 10 things that were important enough for us.

1- NO REGRETS: I didn’t want to miss a once in a lifetime opportunity to slow travel across Europe as a family

Train travel: Don't miss an opportunity to take the trip of a lifetime

Given the fact that train travel was something I always wanted to do and the fact that everyone in the family, including our 8 year daughter and our moody 19 year old son were all keen on the idea of train travel,  I knew we had to seize this opportunity. It is after all a rare occasion when the stars and the moon align and all five members of our family agree on an activity to do together.

But it wasn’t just the fact that we all wanted to do a vacation across Europe by train, it was the thought of one day leaving France having never slow travelled across Europe. Why would this leave me full of regret? Well, once we go back to North America, it becomes much more difficult and expensive to fly to Europe and coordinate a family vacation with work and school schedules. I felt, no- I knew if I let this opportunity slip by, there might not be another one like it for a very long time or maybe not ever again.

Lastly, given how easy it is to travel from country to country and city to city by train in Europe, how could I not take advantage of train travel which brings me to the second reason we chose train travel.

2 LOW HANGING FRUIT: It’s easy to visit multiple countries in a single day by train in Europe

europe is relatively small compared to the US. It can fit 2,5 times in side of the USA. Which means travelling across Europe is relatively easy

The proximity of neighbouring countries, the relatively small size of Europe and the fact that trains across Europe are all inter-connected means travelling from country to country is not only easy but also relatively fast.

To give you some perspective,  France is about the same size as Texas and all of Europe can fit into the US about 2,5 times. So travelling from country to country is a bit like travelling from one state to the next state only easier because the trains take you anywhere and everywhere worth while in Europe.

If Cannes in the South of France (which is 1 hour from our residence  ) is your starting point, here are some sample itineraries you could take.

  • Cannes to Zürich Switzerland roughly 800km ( 497 miles) and 10 hours by train.
  • Cannes to Milan, Italy is about 5 hours from our house.
  • Cannes to Barcelona Spain is about 6 hours,
  • And Cannes to Berlin Germany is about 15 hours.

Why wouldn’t you take a multi-city trip via Rail Europe ?

3- Train travel means you get to skip the hellish airport routine

No annoying security checks, no checking bags, no arriving 3 hours early. Just pay for your ticket and go

Think about the process you have to go through when you travel by airplane. Do you look forward to it?  Do you love it?

You not only have to drive to the airport which is most likely an hour or more, you have to also wait in multiple lines, go through customs and check your bags . Not to mention the fact that you normally have to arrive at the airport at least 2 hours before your flight departs.

Train travel eliminates a lot of this wasted time. You can even arrive to the train station minutes before the train is about to pull away from the station.

With train travel, you don’t have to worry about bringing water or liquids on the train. Hell, if you wanted to bring a Swiss army knife on the train, that’s ok too. (Blake my husband likes to travel with his).

4- Trains stop where all the action is and not some far away airport

train stations always put you in the middle of all the action so you can hit the grond running. Pictures is the Amsterdam central station and a passing tram

There is nothing worse than booking your cheap(ish) or maybe expensive airfare online, only to discover once you arrive at your vacation destination that you have an hour’s taxi ride to get into the city. Not only does this put a dent in your holiday funds but it’s a huge time suck.

Which brings me to another things I love about train travel- most train stations in Europe are located smack dab in the middle of a city or town, not 67 miles away like the Munich Airport or 68 miles from Barcelona like Girona airport.

This proximity makes it much easier to hit the ground running once you arrive at your holiday destination.

  • When we arrived at the Central station in Amsterdam, we were on a tram 5 minutes later heading towards our first destination.
  • Same deal in Prague, we arrived at the main train station and jumped on the tram and were at our flat that we rented from (((Airbnb))). 
  • In Bremen Germany, we got off the train and found restaurants to eat at within minutes then jumped on a tram directly to the flat we rented, again from Airbnb

If we really wanted, we could have stopped in a city like Amsterdam to have lunch then catch a train to Antwerp Belgium and arrive before dinner time. We thought about but decided against it because everyone loved Amsterdam.

This stuff just isn’t possible with travel by Air.

5- More bang for your buck

Train travel can give you more bang for your buck

Thanks to the internet and the growing number of companies that are willing to hire remote workers, virtual assistants and freelancers, my husband and I have been able to cobble together a modest living which allows us to work from home. The advantage is more time to work on personal endeavours and to be home for the kids but the downside is less money which is why I like to… no I have to make sure we get the most bang for our buck when we travel.

Our Euro rail pass let us get on and off trains all throughout Europe for a fixed price during a fixed period of time much like a monthly bus pass. This meant that we could visit multiple cities starting in the South of France all the way up north to Holland and beyond if we wanted.

Some of the countries we visited on our train pass were Austria, Germany, Holland, The Czech Republic and a quick Jaunt back over the border of Germany into France to visit Strasburg. All within a 3 week period. The same multi trip itinerary by plane would have cost us a lot more and probably would have taken us much longer if you count all the time needed to get back and forth to the airports.

I like to think we got our money’s worth.

6- Train travel is unique and becomes part of the enjoyment of your trip

Train travel can be unique and maybe even the chance of a lifetime for many people

If you’re like us, the bulk of your travel has most likely been by plane (or by car), so taking another vacation by plane is really nothing new. In fact, after a few trips, the whole process of boarding the plane, finding your seat, checking your bags and waiting in the security line can get rather irritating and uneventful.

With train travel, the journey and what you do on the train is actually what sets train travel apart and makes the voyage so special.

You’re not just sitting in your seat there crammed in your seat with your tray table up waiting to get to your destination. It’s hard to explain but to me it almost felt as if I was sitting in my living room relaxing and socializing only the living room was moving really fast and in a few hours I could leave and be in a new country surrounded by people speaking a different language.

But there’s more to it than that, i’m just not able to put it into words. Perhaps it’s just the idea of train travel but being able to move about the train, look out the window and see the world go by makes all the difference in the world and separates train travel from airplane travel.

To be honest, there really was no one thing that made the experience so enjoyable, it’s the experience as a whole.

7- Train travel (with a Euro Rail pass) gives you more flexibility to make and change plans on the fly

freedom to jump on and off trains with a euro rail pass or interail pass

When we set out to travel across Europe by train, we knew we wanted to visit certain cities like Prague and Amsterdam but we also knew we might like to stop in unexpected cities if we had the choice. luckily there is a train pass which lets you do this and you can buy it from the Euro Rail site.  This pass let us jump on and off trains. (I’ll write about it in another post soon).

In short, thanks to our Interail family pass for EU citizens and non EU citizens who are legal residents like us, we were able to travel by the seat of our pants, take unexpected detours to other cities along the way, extend our stay in certain cities and cut other cities short.  For non Eu Residents, you need to get the Eurail pass. There is no official family pass however if you travel together as a group or a family, each adult and youth get 15% off the ticket price and children up to 11 travel for free.

8- The view on trains is way better than on planes

If we wanted, we could get up and enjoy the views from the big windows, walk around and even get a bite to eat on the food wagon

Travelling by train brings new meaning to the saying “it’s not the destination, it’s the journey”. When your flying 10,000 feet in the air, you get an amazing aerial view of the clouds going by but when you’re travelling by train you see the world, people and how they live go by.

We saw the countryside of Amsterdam, we saw into people’s backyards in Italy and we saw families jumping in a lake in Germany as we crossed over a bridge. You just can’t see any of that on a plane and it really made the trip amazing.

Pictured above, Blake and I are in the food cart staring out the window as we pass somewhere through Germany.

9- No one cares if your seat is back or tray table is up on a train

Trains were sometimes not full so we could sleep anywhere. We also did not have to worry about putting up our trays or our relinced seats like on a plane

One of the things I really hate about car and plane travel is that you’re pretty much restricted to your seat. On a plane you have to put your seat upright for take off and landing. You have to put your tray table up and turn off your electronics too.

On a train, you don’t have to do any of this and you can actually get up and walk around or hang out in the area that connect two train cars together.

The seat configuration on trains are more varied and comfortable. There are seat arrangements that allow you to face each other and others where you share a small cabin. There usually is a dining car where you can grab a bite to eat and drink which is actually really nice.

10- You get to bond as a couple and as a family

We travelled with just back packs which made it easy to just change plans on the fly. No checked bags, no airport security.

Like most people,  I wanted our family to take a vacation together to bond and to getaway from the stresses and rituals of daily routine and to see one another in a different light. One where I’m not stressing out over homework, dishes and life in general. One where the kids didn’t have us parents nagging them to clean their rooms and take care of chores. One where my husband Blake and I could just be ourselves and enjoy each others company and talk about frivolous things like books and life.

According to a survey conducted by Kelton Global, which asked 1,000 parents with kids age 5-17, 97 percent of parents say that their children have gotten to know new things about them while taking family trips. Families tend to be more excited, silly and affectionate while on vacation.

Train compartment on one of the many trains we rode across Europe. You can close the door for complete privacy.

Unlike plane travel,  travelling by train is almost made for bonding in my opinion.

On a train, you are not bound or crammed in your seat like a sardine for hours. You can actually move around if you like. Seating is usually pretty comfortable and roomy or configured in such a way that makes socializing and chatting easy.

Thanks to the seating configuration on trains, we  were able to find some semblance of privacy on most of the trains we travelled on.

On several trains we found cars with empty seats. On other trains we found 4 seats that faced each other and still other trains we had small cabins big enough for 6 people with a door that closed like the photo pictured above.

Knowing we had nothing but time and being more comfortable made the voyage rather relaxing which as it turns out is extremely conducive to bonding. It was the push we needed because if given a choice, many of us are just so busy with our daily lives that we never take the time to bond and be present for those closest to us.

We read, talked, argues, played games, slept, got on each others nerves and just worried about the minutia of boarding our next train and what to see next. I can’t tell you how nice it was to just get away from our everyday life and have those moments on the train.

I’m not going to lie and tell you that spending 3 weeks travelling together in close quarters was a dream full of rainbows and unicorns because it wasn’t. There were still times where we got on each others nerves, or the kids annoyed us or vice versa. But I knew- just as women are able to endure a painful child-birth and go on to remember childbirth as an endearing memory- I knew our train travel would leave us with meaningful, beautiful and unforgettable memories spent together across Europe.

And I was right.

Do I recommend train travel and would I do it again?

Milan train station. One of the many beautiful train stations conveniently located smack dab in the middle of all the action

Now that I’ve actually travelled on a train across Europe for three weeks with 3 kids and a husband, I can honestly say “yes I recommend train travel and I would definitely do it again”.  But…and you knew there was a but, not all aspects of train travel were pleasant and I definitely would have done some things differently had I known about certain things.

But that’s why I’m writing this for you. So you can get some insight and advice, know what to expect and make up your own mind about whether to travel by train, plane or automobile.

Interested in buying a rail pass and travelling Europe by train like we did?  Click here for Rail Europe !

After diner drink

The French After Dinner Drink Made of Christmas Trees?

chrismtas tree liqueur

A quick post to share with you what I’ve always known -the French can turn anything into an alcoholic drink. In this post, I share my newest discovery and my thoughts on this latest alcohol concoction.
“Christmas Tree liqueur?”

Voulez-vous un digestif Annie? “Would you like an after dinner drink Annie”?

Here’s a little back story:

My Friend Marie and her husband Xavier invited Blake and I to their house for some home-made paella- which seems to be extremely popular here in the south of France, at least amongst our French friends. It’s popularity here in the south is probably a result of it’s proximity to Spain?

The Paella was excellent by the way.

paella

After dinner but before the coffee, Marie offered us a “digestif” (digestive)- a common practice among our circle of friends here in France.  Only instead of offering me the usual faire of digestives, like port or sherry, she offered me a very special type of liqueur which made me do a double take.

A digestif is an alcoholic beverage served after a meal, which in theory aids digestion. Some common digestive include the following… (wiki source)

  • Brandy (Cognac, Armagnac, alembic-made)
  • Eaux de vie (fruit brandies, Schnapps, Calvados) Pomace brandy (grappa)
  • Fortified wines (sherry (usually cream sherry), vermouth, port, and madeira)
  • Liqueurs bitter or sweet (drambuie, amari (such as fernet), herbal liqueur, chartreuse, Grand Marnier, Irish Mist, Kahlua, limoncello, Herbs de Majorca, Unicum)
  • Distilled liquors (ouzo, tequila, whisky or akvavit)
  • Liquor cocktails (Black Russian, Rusty Nail, etc.)

Le Vert Sapin – The Green Fir

After diner drinkThe label on the bottle handed to me had 4 cute little trees which immediately made me think of Christmas trees.

The label read “Le vert sapin” which means the “green Fir”.  And as you know, some Christmas trees are of the fir variety.

The Christmas tree visual along with the word “sapin” made me giggle.

“I was  about to drink a christmas tree as my after diner drink. “oh boy”. FYI, Christmas tree in French is “Sapin de Noel” which literally means “Christmas Fir tree” which is what you and I would simply call in english a “Christmas Tree” without the Fir part.

What does green Fir liqueur taste like?

In a word, this interesting after dinner drink, which is actually made from young pine needles was very sweet and tasted, in a word, Piney?

I didn’t hate it but I didn’t exactly love it either.  Although I really wanted to love it.

How to drink it

According to the vert sapin site.  This liqueurs is best drank as an after-dinner drink served cold or over ice. Its 40° so you can keep it in the freezer. You can also drink this after dinner liqueur hot with hot water and sugar. Or use it in cocktails, for cooking or use a splash of it to sweeten your Absinthe.

Where to find or buy this after dinner drink?

Fir liquor is nothing new. It was invented over 100 years ago by a Frenchman named Armand Guy who wanted to make a local liqueur. The Alps have lots of pine trees and fir trees so I suppose it made sense to turn them into an alcoholic beverage.

These days pine liqueurs and spirits are quite popular, mainly in the Alps which is where “Le Vert Sapin” distilliary has been located for over 4 generations being passed down from father to son.

Don’t count on finding this Fir liqueur at your local grocery store in North America. It’s more of a novelty drink found in swanky bars and off the beaten path places. But if you do happen to find a place that serves it. Definitely give it a try.

If you can’t wait and absolutely must have some now, you can order some at The master of malt store online. 

downsizing before you move to france

How We Downsized, Sold And Got Rid Of Our Stuff Before We Moved To France For A Year

How to downsize your stuff before you move to france for a year

Unless you have no belongings whatsoever, you’re going to have to decide what to do with all your stuff. Do you sell it all and give the rest away? Do you get rid of  some stuff and keep the rest in storage? Do you keep it all and rent your home fully furnished?  Whatever you decide, you’re in for a painful experience because there is no “one size fits all” answer. You will have to decide based on your circumstances and situation. Sometimes it helps to know what someone else went through and learn from their successes and failures. Here is an inside look at how we downsized our belongings and life. I hope it helps and gives you a little perspective.

You have more stuff than you think

We were your typical silicon valley family of five living in a house with a lifetime worth of possessions that we had accumulated. Every inch of our 1,800 sq ft home AND our two car garage was filled with our things.

A funny thing happens when you move. Things that seemed necessary before now seem silly or unnecessary like those knick-knacks sitting on your bookshelf. That dress you never wore. Those toys you bought for your kids but they never played with.

You will ultimately come to the realization that you have a lot more things than you ever really needed.

Give yourself enough time

QUICK! You have 5 days left to pack when you realize the truck you rented won’t fit all your belongings. What do you do?

Packing started a month before our move date. When our things were spread out throughout the house it didn’t look like much.  Even boxed up it didn’t look like that much. Oh how wrong we were. We quickly began to panic because it became clear that we grossly underestimated how much we had.

  • we did not give ourselves enough time to pack.
  • We didn’t realize until the very end that the truck we rented was too small even though it was the largest one we could legally rent.

After 5 trips to the dump and several trips to Goodwill to get rid of broken bikes, a small dining room table, an old safe, bike racks, tons of toys, books, clothes and more.  Things we had in our house for years but never bothered to get rid of were now just weighing us down. Even after all that, we still had to rent a second 16 footer to put in the last minute stuff.

Let me tell you something: you have more stuff than you think and you don’t need it all.

Really! Do you need that dress that’s been hanging in your closet for 3 years untouched? Do you need those books you read 10 years ago and haven’t touched in years?  What about all those kitchen gadgets that you use once a year or the shoes you never wear anymore?  These things, although very important at one time, seem less important when you are trying to pack them into boxes on a truck and have 5 days left to do it.

The 3,000 mile drive to our storage unit

After we filled up our two trucks, my husband Blake drove one truck and his brother Keith, who thankfully flew down 3 days earlier to help with the packing, drove the other truck. Our eldest son Kieran went along for the ride. They drove 8 to 10 hours a day for five days only stopping to eat, sleep and use the restroom.  They arrived at the storage unit just outside of Boston and discovered the storage unit we had reserved was too small so we had to rent a second one.

UGH…  How did this happen? 

We greatly underestimated the quantity of things we owned and now we were paying with time and the cost of an extra storage unit and extra truck.

We swallowed our pride, and convinced ourselves that it was temporary. We needed all that stuff for our next house, wherever and whenever that would be.

At the time we did not know we were going to live in France for a couple of years. We planned on hanging out in Montreal with my family while we waited for Blake to find a job then rent a house near his work. Well the job never came.

We survived 11 months in Montreal at my aunts house with only our clothes and a few essentials. I was surprised that I did not miss our stuff. How could this be?

what do you get rid of when you downsize? tiara we bought in Scotland. do we keep it or get rid of it?

Some things are harder to let go of than other things

Rethinking what is essential and normal

When you are away from your possessions for any amount of time, they tend to become less and less important.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a minimalist in any way, but I really took a hard look at my life.  Blake and I re-examined our goals and we started coming up with alternative ideas to the 9 to 5 rat race we were once a part of.  We couldn’t live at my aunts house forever.  Our choices were to move somewhere and hope we get a job there?  Or stick it out by living with family until something happens.

That’s when we thought about taking a sabbatical for a few months, maybe even a year in France.  We were already living pretty lean, why not do it someplace that we want to be and enjoy ourselves instead of stressing out over not having full time jobs. It meant giving up some things and putting off our job search.  It meant thinking more mobile, cutting costs, and only keeping the essentials.   The choice was easy.  We decided to go for it.

Round 2 of Downsizing for France.

If we were going to live in France for a year we had to pare down our belongings even more and fit everything into one storage unit.

We drove about 5 hours  (from Montreal to Boston)  to our storage unit and stayed at a comfort in for 2 days. Re-packed some boxes that were inefficiently packed, took all our clothes out of storage and got rid of at least 200 hundred pounds of books.  We were left with  2 dressers and 3 beds. Some Persian rugs, kitchen stuff like dishes, pots and pans, and some coffee tables and furniture from Blake’s Mom that we kept for sentimental reasons.  We sold our couch, one of my industrial sewing machines and went through our shoes and clothes to get rid of anything we wouldn’t wear anymore.

We did it. We fit everything into one storage unit saving a couple hundred dollars per month.

The whole family got involved with the move

The whole family got involved with the move

Fear is in your head

I am not going to lie. I was scared at the thought of downsizing and yes it was very painful but the pain stops once you’re done.It’s actually been really nice to have the freedom to come and go as we please.

Once your downsized, you can move on to the fun stuff like planning your long trip to France or wherever it is you want to go.  Your belongings are no longer anchoring you down anymore.

we wore mittens too and sang the blues

we wore mittens and sang the blues

Catherine was excited

Catherine was excited

Update: 2014

I wrote this article 1 year after our move. Now after almost four years without our belongings I can still look back and honestly say I don’t miss MOST of our stuff but.

Yes there is a but there. One year without your belongings is not the same thing as four years without your belongings.

I am now starting to miss certain creature comforts. Silly things like my dishware and my teak furniture. We could buy those things while we are here in France but we don’t because we want to avoid that whole downsizing process when we return to North America. Instead we rent fully furnished homes which has worked out pretty well so far except like I said, I am starting to miss certain things.

I’ll get over it. Life isn’t perfect but it’s pretty damn good!

We ate and drank while we filled our storage unit

We ate and drank while we filled our storage unit

French Version Of Jingle Bells ( Vive Le Vent)

You would think that certain songs translated into other languages would be translated word for word but this isn’t always the case. For example the French version of Jingle Bells, one of the most famous and commonly sung American Christmas songs, uses the same exact tune but completely different words.

Instead of saying “Jingle bells”, French children (and adults) sing “vive le vent” which means “live the wind” which isn’t even close to the original.

Anyways, if you havn’t already, watch the short video clip my daughter and school mate listening to the French version of Jingle bells on the radio while helping me make Christmas cookies on Christmas Eve.

 Lyrics to the French version of Jingle Bells

Vive Le Vent

Sur le long chemin
Tout blanc de neige blanche
Un vieux monsieur s´avance
Avec sa canne dans la main
Et tout là-haut le vent
Qui siffle dans les branches
Lui souffle la romance
Qu´il chantait petit enfant :

{Refrain:}
Vive le vent, vive le vent
Vive le vent d´hiver
Qui s´en va sifflant, soufflant
Dans les grands sapins verts…
Oh! Vive le temps, vive le temps
Vive le temps d´hiver
Boule de neige et jour de l´an
Et bonne année grand-mère…
Joyeux, joyeux Noël
Aux mille bougies
Quand chantent vers le ciel
Les cloches de la nuit,
Oh! Vive le vent, vive le vent
Vive le vent d´hiver
Qui rapporte aux vieux enfants
Leurs souvenirs d´hier…

Et le vieux monsieur
Descend vers le village,
C´est l´heure où tout est sage
Et l´ombre danse au coin du feu
Mais dans chaque maison
Il flotte un air de fête
Partout la table est prête
Et l´on entend la même chanson :
{au Refrain}

Boule de neige et jour de l´an
Et bonne année grand-mère!
Vive le vent d´hiver!

————————————

Translated to English

live the wind

on the long way
everything is white as snow
an old mister moved forward
with his stick in his hand
and there’s nothing but the wind
which whistles between the branches
inspires him with romance
that he sings little child :

(chorus)
live the wind , live the wind
live the winter wind
that goes whistling , breathing
between the big fir trees
oh! live the time , live the time
live the time of the winter
a snow ball and a day of the year
and happy year grand-ma!
Merry Merry Christmas
for a thousand candles
when it sings towards the sky
the night’s bells
oh live the wind , live the wind
live the wind of the winter
that brings to the old children
their memories of yesterday

and the old mister
coming down towards the village
that’s the hour where everything is wise
and the shadow dances on the corner of the fire
but inside every house
floats the air of the party
everywhere the table is ready
and we listen to the same song
(chorus)

snow ball and day of the year
and happy year grand-ma !
live the wind of the winter Christmas

20 things you might miss if you live in France

20 Things I Hate About Living In France

20 things you might hate or miss if you live in France

Living in France has been great but-and I know this may be hard for some of you to believe, there are certain things you are going to hate. Here are 20 things which I hate about living in France (or miss about North American culture)- depending on how you look at it.

1- I hate cold popcorn served in French movie theatres or- (I miss hot salty buttered popcorn)

photo of my daughter holding up cold popcorn in a French movie theatre. YUCK

I’m not a big popcorn fan but when I do eat it, I like it HOT, BUTTERY AND SALTY.

Unfortunately, popcorn at the movie theatres in France is served up cold YUCK.  Cold popcorn as you know can be chewy. When I told some of my friends that popcorn tastes better hot, and that this was the way it was served in north America, they seemed oblivious. I guess ignorance is bliss because I am sure if they tasted hot popcorn in a movie theatre they would never go back to cold popcorn.
You also have a choice of salty or sweet Popcorn.

2- I hate the disgusted looks you get if you tell a French person your kids like to eat peanut butter and jelly sandwhiches: aka PB&J

I hate the dirty looks you get if you tell a French person you eat peanut butter on bread with jelly: akd PB&J

If your kids invite their friends over to the house in France, be prepared for the scrunched up disgusted looks they give you because mixing peanut butter and jelly together is just weird.

Peanut butter is rarely eaten and I don’t know one person who actually eats it although you can always find a bottle of Skippy peanut butter hidden away next to hundreds of bottles of Nutella and confiture. SO look hard because that’s all you’ll get.

3- I miss going out on the weekends to eat pancakes, bacon and eggs.

I miss going out on the weekends to eat pancakes, bacon and eggs.If you live in France and want to go out for breakfast to eat a classic breakfast food like a cheese omelette, bacon and eggs, pancakes or fresh waffles you can forget about it. If you want these things for breakfast on a saturday morning or any day of the week for that matter, you’ll just have to pull out your frying pan and make it yourself.

The French typically have  more of a continental breakfast, a baguette with butter which they sometimes dip in their coffee. Some pain au lait, a croissant, yogurt or cereal but never eggs, never bacon and never waffles. The idea of eating something “salty” vs sweet in the morning is kind of foreign to them. They have no idea what they are missing.

4- I miss North American coffee culture: iced coffee, big coffee cups and to-go coffee cups

YOU'll never see anyone in France carrying a cup of coffee in to-go cups like this
Yeah it’s so cool that the French all congregate at café’s to drink coffee but damn it, sometimes I want a big cup of coffee to go. Not a tiny expresso cup.

5- I miss being able to buy aspirin or medicine in grocery stores.

Like the old saying goes, you never know what you had until it’s gone.

I never knew I would actually miss being able to buy headache medicine in a food store until I moved to France.  In France, you’ll need to make a separate trip to the pharmacy to buy aspirin, ibuprofen or any other over the counter pharmaceutical goods.  A small inconvenience since there are pharmacies everywhere but still I do miss the convenience of doing my grocery shopping and buying over the counter drugs too.

6 – I miss giving hugs to friends and waving hello instead of stopping to give all your friends air kisses

I miss giving hugs to friends and waving hello instead of giving an air kiss

I have a love hate relationship with “la bise”- the act of greeting someone by giving them an air kiss on their cheeks. On the one had, I love how warm and welcoming it is to cheek kiss but on the other hand, I sometime resent the fact that I have to do it when I would sometimes rather just say hello and keep walking or simply wave to say hello. If you don’t fait la bis, you’re actually being pretty rude. (read the French kiss explained).

7-I hate that some French people think All Americans eat McDonald’s and are fat

I hate that some French people think All Americans eat McDonalds and are fat

There is a very strong stereotype in France that ALL Americans like to eat McDonald’s and are usually fat.

I am not fat, I don’t eat at McDonald’s and I like to cook Thai food, Chinese food and Japanese food.

My friends in France are always amazed at the fact that my kids don’t eat McDonald’s. The truth of the matter is, I actually know more French people who eat McDonald’s than I do Americans or Canadians. But don’t tell that to a French person because they may be insulted and choke on their McDonald’s hamburgers.

8- I hate having smoke blown in my face while I eat or (I miss smoke free restaurant terraces and breathing Fresh air in public spaces)

It’s true, the French really do smoke a lot. This is especially true after a meal. 

Don’t worry though, smoking is banned in restaurants but the ban does not extend to the prime real estate, outdoor seating and terraces. No, the ban on smoking in restaurants favours smokers by allowing them to smoke on terraces on beautiful sunny days forcing other non-smokers to either eat indoors or endure smoke being blown in their face while they eat with their kids on the terrace. I’m not bitter about this at all.

9- I miss doggy bag culture

One of the things I actually love about the French food culture is you are less likely to over eat at restaurants because portions are generally much smaller in France than they are in America and Canada. Smaller portions means, less likelihood of leftovers. When there are leftovers, the  French typically won’t ask for a doggy bag because they are NOT fans of taking unfinished food home. The general sense I get about this lack of enthusiasm for the doggy bag culture is that there is a certain sense of embarrassment in bringing home unfinished food.

  • Some say the reason for the shame has to do with the fact that the French are taught as children to always finish the food on their plate. Failing to do so is the equivalent of NOT saying thank you. Another reason may be the reference to the term Dog.
  • Some people say they feel shame in taking home a meal meant for the dog only to be consumed later by themselves.

10- I hate seeing guys in tight revealing speedos or (I miss board shorts on guys at the pool and beach)I hate seeing guys in tight revealing speedos or (I miss board shorts on guys at the pool and beach)

No one likes to see the outline of a woman’s labia in their bathing suit, not to be crude but it’s sometimes referred to as a “camel toe”. So why in the hell would I want to see the outline of a guys junk in a pair of Speedos? I think the answer, at least for me is I don’t want to see it.

For all you speedo loving folks, before you start telling me that I am afraid of speedos, or I’m prude. Let me just say that I have been around both the board short tribe and the speedo tribe and aesthetically speaking, I’m just a board short loving person. They look better, they leave more to the imagination and they’re fun. Oh, and if you must know, I prefer boxers over briefs. Proud of it.

NO BOARD SHORTS IN FRENCH PUBLIC POOLSno swimming trunks or board shoarts allowed in public pools

Warning, you must wear speedos in most public pools in France

See also: Other funny and weird French laws.

11- The kids will miss high school dances and proms

The kids will miss high school dances and proms

Some of my son’s friends asked if it’s true that high school dances exist in American schools. Apparently some French teenagers wish that the same were true in French Schools. You’re probably saying, so what if their are no high school sponsored dances and I would agree but take it from me, your teenager might care especially if their friends back home are posting photos and updates to their Facebook page about attending their school dances or prom.

**Something to note is there seems to be a lack of school spirit. There are no fundraisers, music, choir, fundraisers and last but not least no team sports. See below.

12- The kids might miss after school sponsored sports and sports teams

The kids might miss afterschool sponsored sports and sports teams

Let me clear something up about Soccer. Soccer, played with the round ball is actually called football around the world except in the US and Canada. Football played with the brown oblong ball mainly in the US is called American football by the rest of the world.

Ok, so for the most part, school sport teams don’t exist. Yes, it would be convenient if kids could do sports with their classmates after school but it just doesnt exist like school dances don’t exist. That’s not to say that sports programs don’t exist in France, because they do. You just have to sign up with outside organizations.

Most French people know this but if you are newly arrived in France, you might not know where to look or what sports are available. If this is you, I would start by making a trip to your local “Marie or city hall” and ask them about the sports programs.dance school in France

Programs cost between 115 to 200 euros per year. For example, if you child wants to learn piano once a week, there is usually a program that will coast less than 200 euros per year (about 160 USD or CAD). Same goes fro circus school, athletic sports, crafting activities and more. The only exception is sailing. The sailing club in Toulon charges 340 euros for the year and our daughter goes sailing every saturday for 4 hours .

13- Nothing to hate but I do miss being able to pack a lunch for the kids once in a while.

Kids cannot bring lunch to school : 20 Things You Might Hate If You Live in France

Your kids will get a taste of French food if they eat at the cantine

French kids eat pretty well compared to North American standards but if you have a picky eater they might not like brie cheese, baked fish or steamed mussels at school. That’s right, kids in France eat normal meals unlike the rotating menu of hotdogs, pizza, burritos and spaghetti served in the US and Canada lunches.

Even with the higher level of lunch being served in French schools, it would be nice to at least be able to pack a lunch once in a while. But you can’t do that. You can however, pick your kid up for lunch and enjoy two whole hours. Pretty good compared to the 45 minutes to an hour back in north America.

UPDATE: My friend Ameena told me that her daughter can bring lunch to school. Her daughter however goes to a private Montessori school in France so this is really an exception. 

14- I hate crunchy towels and drying my clothes indoors or (I miss using a clothes dryer)

I hate crunchy towels and drying my clothes indoors or (I miss using a clothes dryer)

dry clothes racekOwning a dryer is not as common place in France as it is in North America. Those that do have a dryer usually just hang their cothes on clothes lines. If you don’t have a year to hang up your clothes, then you just hang it on the line outside your window. Most homes have them.

I actually don’t mind hanging our clothes to dry and I like the fact that it is more environmentally friendly but when it’s raining and cold outside, we have to hang our clothes on indoor racks which take up valuable space, takes longer to dry and is unsightly. Plus, hang drying towels makes towels crunchy and not fluffy. I digress.

15-I hate mosquitos that fly in through the open windows and bite me in the night. ( I miss window screens or )

I miss windows screens or (I hate mosquitos that bite me in the night)

Windows in France are everything you imagined. They are charming and quaint looking but they have one major flaw.

They let in all the bugs and mosquitoes. On hot days, the nights cool down so we usually leave our windows open to let the cool air flow through the house. Otherwise, it would be impossible to sleep. unfortunately, the mosquitoes and bug usually come flying in with all that cool air.

So make your choice: open your windows to stay cool and get eaten by bugs close the windows to keep bugs out and boil to death.

Dilemmas dilemmas. Makes me think of death by uga buga.

16- I hate how things are closed when you need them the most or (I miss convenient store hours)

Want to use your lunch hour to get stuff done like get your watch fixed or go to the bank? Unless you live in a very large city like Paris or Marseille, you can forget about being productive at lunch time because most businesses are closed during this crucial times of the day. On certain days of the week like Monday, businesses are either closed or are on special hours.

You do adjust but every once in a while you forget and then kick yourself like the time we drove 40 minutes to get a new cable t.v. box only to find out that the store was closed on Mondays. AAAAAHHHHHHHH!!

  • Grocery stores are closed on Sundays or close by noon on Sundays.
  • Some businesses in smaller towns like ours close on Mondays also.
  • Most restaurants don’t open before 6:30 or 7:00 in the evening.

17 – I hate bad or rude customer service (I miss good customer service)

This is a really tricky thing to talk about because by saying good customer service does not exist, I am applying a blanket statement over all French service.  So let me qualify my statement.

You see, after having lived in the US and Canada and several other countries, French service leaves something to be desired by my standards.

  • It is not uncommon to go to a store and stand in line and have to wait for the workers to finish their conversation before they acknowledge your presence.
  • It is not uncommon to be greeted with a frown rather than a smile and a hello how can I help you today. (workers will always say bonjour when you enter but they are not always very welcoming)
  • It is not uncommon to come across unhelpful tellers at the bank who leave important facts out of conversations because “you didn’t ask the right questions”.

18-I miss air conditioning

I don’t think I need to explain why having air conditioning when temperatures get close to 40C and 100F. For some reason, a lot of French people just don’t have air conditioning. It baffles my mind.

19 – I hate the lack of variety in food or (I miss eating good Mexican and Asian food)

The French have fabulous French food, but after you’ll start to crave something other than coq au vin and steak frite like sushi or a burritos. Admittedly, I have been spoiled having grown up between California and Montreal, where you can get authentic food vs in France where the asian food is horrible. Almost as if they Frenchified it to make it tolerable to French people.

20 – I hate stepping in dog poop or (I miss  Poop free streets and sidewalks)

I hate stepping in dog poop or I miss (Poop free streets and sidewalks)

Last but not least is the plat de résistance. You have heard about all the dog poop in France right? Well, it is all pretty much true. People don’t pick up their dog poop nearly as much as they should. We have even opened up our door to find dog poop on our door step. 

French people of course don’t like it either yet they accept it as a way of life.

Conclusion

These are just some of the difference that sometimes get under my skin. Obviously these things don’t bother me so much that I actually hate living in France. I just wanted to show you that there will be things that you may not like about France just as there are things about your home country that you don’t like.  You either adjust and move on or they become a thorn in your side. We adjusted but it is still fun to poke fun at our lives here in France.

If you’re interested here, are some examples of culture shock which you might find interesting. Culture shock happens to the best of us not just inexperienced travellers.

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.

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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

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