Families on the Move – Meet the amazing family behind the blog “ayearinacampervan…”

Families on the Move – Meet the amazing family behind the blog “ayearinacampervan…”
December 9, 2014 Lainie Liberti

Families on the Move

We have been blessed to connect with many amazing families online, all of whom have adapted a travel lifestyle in one form or another.  We wanted to take the opportunity to introduce you to them here and highlight the positive aspects travel has had on their families. Welcome our interview series called Families on the Move. Miro & I are honored to a part of this global community we consider our extended family.  

Meet the amazing family behind “ayearinacampervanwithtwoteenagerssnowwhiteandalab” (which is now the much easier “www.travelteachtalk.com“).

Could you tell us a little about your family.

We are a Scottish family of 5 who live in France.  Mum and Dad, Jen and Neil, and three children, Adam 16, Matt 14, and Katie 10.  We left our dog (sadly) behind along with our hens, Graeme the cockerel, sheep and stick insects to set off on a year’s travels in a campervan.

 Delphi, Greece

Delphi, Greece

Where are you now, where have you been and how long have you been traveling?

We got back to France a few months ago, are taking stock and planning our next adventure.  We’ve no idea what that is yet.
On our year away, we travelled an unplanned route, slowly south, eating and visiting traditional France, walking the Camino in Spain, moving down through Portugal, back into Spain, and down to Morocco because we had no warm jackets and it was winter.
After two months traveling round Morocco, we made our way by road and ferry to Greece, via Spain and Italy.  We drove slowly round the Greek mainland and the Peloponnese, and then back to France, through Macedonia, Serbia, Hungary, Austria and Germany.
Khamlia school, Erg Chebbi, a Morocco

Khamlia school, Erg Chebbi, a Morocco

In between we flew (without the campervan) over to Thailand and the UAE for 7 weeks.  We had planned this to be the dog-free part of our trip and we’d asked my mum and dad to dog and campervan-sit, but as it turned out the people who animal and house-sat for us wanted to keep him for the year.  He’s a home bird with lots of allergies, so it was best for him.

Why do you travel as a family?

Neil and I travelled before we had children.  And then we got caught up in the hamster wheel of life.  We jumped off to move to France.  Time flies and we knew that any more traveling as a five had a very limited life-span.  We wanted to see some of the same places we’d seen, through the eyes of our children, and find some new places together.  We were asked by a newspaper if we were mad wanting to spend nearly a year with 2 teenagers and a 10 year old in a campervan.  Not at all.  Traveling with your children, and seeing them soak up new experiences as they train for a 10k run in Thessaloniki in Greece, or help paint a school on the edge of the Saharan desert is priceless.

What are some of the benefits your family has experienced as a result of your travels?

Work, school and routine can swallow people up.  Traveling allowed us to slow down.  Be less tired (especially applicable to teenage boys who struggle with early mornings).  And therefore appreciate each other more.  It obviously wasn’t all Walton harmony, but when you have to live in a small space you do start to think more about the people around you.
campervan on road, Dades gorges, Morocco

campervan on road, Dades gorges, Morocco

The only scary thing about the journey was that we realized it can cost less to travel for a year than to live at home.  Not because we spend a lot at home, but because there are so many daily expenses that you can jettison, like electricity and heating and school transport and clubs and water bills and…..

What inspired you and your family to incorporate travel into your lifestyle?

We got a slap-in-the-face reminder that you have one life, and one life only, when I was 22 and Neil was 25.  We were in a bad car accident after which I spent nearly three months in hospital.  We had been driving round Australia at the time.  17000km went very well, then we were whacked in the rear by a truck on a dual carriageway.  It’s a pretty powerful way to make you think “sod it, what are we waiting for” each time a decision in life crops up.   And most of those decisions seem to be travel related.  I really like the quote “it’s either a priority or it’s not” because that’s what it all boils down to.

Making friends in Morocco.

Making friends in Morocco.

How do you address education while you are traveling?

Far more easily than you might imagine.  Suddenly a whole world of unschoolers and traveling families appeared in front of us.  Amazing people and families (including Lainie and Miro) who were further along that road than we were.  We decided to follow the school curriculum because after our year away it was our intention to return, at least initially, to a French school.  You can buy a book in France with the curriculum in it for each school year, so it really just involved a trip to a book shop and a huge leap of faith that we were doing the right thing.
Khamlia school, Erg Chebbi, a Morocco

Khamlia school, Erg Chebbi, a Morocco

We worried a little at the beginning that there was no structure as to how we approached school work.  Or more honestly, that our parental self-created structure had collapsed within a week or so of setting off.  But we watched quietly in the background as the boys took it upon themselves to divide up the work in whatever way they decided and autonomously follow it through.  We helped Katie a little more, and having older brothers meant that they could consolidate what they knew by also teaching her.
Making elephant poo paper in Thailand

Making elephant poo paper in Thailand

They have now completed their first term back at “normal” school.  When I say normal, they are learning all the subjects in their second language, French.  Parents’ night was a couple of weeks ago.  The younger two are at the top of their class, and Adam is managing a penultimate Baccalaureate year well.  I mention this not because they are or I think they are more wonderful than other children, but just to reassure people that time away traveling is never a bad thing.  How could they not learn more?  Educational opportunities are all around.  Most of them just go in by osmosis.

How do you and your family experience being global citizens?

Very early on we realized that traveling is far more about the people you meet rather than the places.  We didn’t feel like we were on holiday (we weren’t – I carried on working and studying, as an English teacher.  My idea about the studying was to be a role model for the kids.  I was awful.  And forever in trouble from them for leaving homework assignments to the last minute).  We volunteered on a farm, in a school, in an elephant sanctuary (although for that you actually pay) and travelled slowly, so that we could get to know people, rather than ticking off countries on a map.  There are lots of people we are still in touch with, who made our year very special.

Can you share one of your family’s most memorable experiences?

It was a pretty unremarkable one on the face of it.  In Bangkok, the boys and I set of on a 50 or so kilometre journey out of town.  It was a loop, by train and songthaew (Thai open mini bus), tuk tuk and boat.  There was no real destination other than to be on a train which passed right through the middle of a busy market.  With 90 seconds notice, the stands and parasols and fruit and other wares move to the side and the train passes though.  There are few like it in the world.  Maybe it’s the only one.
photo2

Essaouira, Morocco

It was a trip where the journey really was far more important than the destination.  We sat on local transport, worked out how to pay for it, asked directions from local people, and chatted to people on the train about what was growing in the fields (when I say chatted we don’t speak Thai, so it was more sign language and gesture).  It took us about 10 hours.  Plenty of time to take it all in.

Can you share one story from your travel experiences when you and your family had an ‘aha moment’

That’s harder.  Everything was an aha moment.  Learning how to season a tagine so that it didn’t crack on the fire, making a brilliant donkey poo fire when there was no wood, finding much-prized wifi from a signal on a moving bus in front of us and following the bus, remembering obscure ‘Q’ and ‘Z’ words trying to win at scrabble (a game we all got remarkably good at), right through to navigating a morning getting dressed and breakfasted in a 4mx2m box in total harmony.  Is that the kind of thing you were meaning?

starting block at Olympia, Greece

starting block at Olympia, Greece

 

Name: Jennifer Taylor
Twitter:   @taylortravels
Facebook: Jennifer Taylor

7 Comments

  1. latkinson63 4 years ago

    Such an amazing family, the Taylor’s. Great story. I think every family should do something like this once. Thx for sharing

    • Jen 4 years ago

      Or twice 😉 or…

  2. Jen 3 years ago

    And remember it’s http://www.travelteachtalk.com now if you want to say hello.

  3. Camilla Downs 2 years ago

    Incredibly inspiring! Thank you for sharing your story and for doing what you were inspired to do! It provides inspiration for the rest of us. xoxo

    • Jen 2 years ago

      Thanks Camilla. We have one son who has flown the nest now and is working in Thailand. Those precious family years together are all too short. Our middle son is now in his penultimate baccalaureate year in a French school. And the youngest, thanks to the inspiring stories of other families like Lainie and Miro and all the rest of you, is now learning at home. Good luck on your adventure too x

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