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 Practical Adventurology
We have a blended family.
My name is Annie André and I’m 41. I have two teenage boys from a previous marriage over a decade ago.
My husband’s name is Blake Elder and he’s 51. (no previous kids)
My husband and I have done loads of travelling before we met and before we had kids. We both had successful career working in Silicon Valley California for Hi-Tech firms and we were both burnt out from the work.
Kieran who is 16 is the eldest and he’s your typical moody teenager. He is a naturally gifted kid with lots of interests including girls. He can solve a rubik’s cube in less than 2 minutes and follows politics a little too closely.
Andre is 14 and has a heart of gold. We sometimes call him “Andre the Giant” because he is almost 6 ft tall and towers over most kids. He’s just as happy playing hide-and-go seek as he is hanging with his buddies from school.
My husband Blake and I have a daughter together who is almost 6. Her name is Catherine and she is a girly tomboy and loves to rough house as much as she loves getting and giving manicures. Catherine is perfectly bilingual in French and English and wants to learn to speak Thai.
Where are you now, where have you been and how long have you been traveling?
Our official start date was August 2010.
Right now, we are in France in a small town just a 10 minute bike ride from the Mediterranean Sea and a five minute train ride to Toulon.
Last year we were in Marseille but it was too urban for us so we opted to move to the small beach town where we are living now. It’s called La Garde.
Our first year travelling was spent in North America. We used my Aunts house in Montreal as our home-base travelling up and down the east coast visiting family, friends and new places. We even couch surfed a few times which was a lot of fun but harder to find places with three kids.
Why do you travel as a family?
We travel because of many reasons.
It’s easier to explain our background first. Traveling is a way of life for us. I was 22 years old. I guess because of my heritage you could say that travel is in my blood. I was born in Thailand to a Thai mother and French Canadian Father who travelled a lot too.
I am what you call a “third culture child”. A term used to describe children who spend more time travelling or living abroad than they do in one home country. I’ve lived and travelled to over 20 countries.
My husband also loves travel. He studied abroad in Germany and his parents also lived in Japan and Germany for while. So he’s predisposed to travel also.
Back to why we travel. One of our main goals while travelling is Heritage.
I want to expose the kids to their heritage. Since my family has French roots, albeit French Canadian, it made sense to go to France so that they would all have a chance to be bilingual. After France I hope to go to Thailand and expose them to that part of their Heritage.. My husband is part Scotish so we did spend some time in Scotland and even eloped there with the kids.
The second reason why we travel is because we enjoy seeing and exploring the world. We could have waited until the kids were out of the nest but we wanted to experience and see the world together and we didn’t want them to miss out. So far, I’m so so happy with our decision.
What are some of the benefits your family has experienced as a result your travels?
Travelling gives us a sense of urgency to make the time we have in any one place together really count. In other words, we try to live life to the fullest. That sense of complacency you get that some people call a rut is removed by virtue of moving someplace temporarily that you may never return to again.
Kind of like when you go on vacation and try to fit in as many touristy spots as you can. Only we try to do and see as many culturally relevant things as we cannot just the touristy spots. .
Plus traveling full time means we are home for the kids all the time. We used to only see them after work or briefly on the weekends.
What inspired you and your family to incorporate travel into your lifestyle?
Because both my husband and I love travel, It was always our dream to introduce travel to our children beyond the typical 2 week vacation.
When my husband and I were working in the corporate world, we opted for one big holiday in the summer that lasted a month long vs. taking multiple trips throughout the year.
It turned out that spending a month in Hawaii or a month in Paris was cheaper than spending a week in those same places because we could rent a house and cook and not rush. Over all it was way less stressful travelling slower.
When we got laid off from our hectic jobs, we took it as a sign and a chance to take the plunge and do what we were afraid to do while we were working which was to spend more time traveling and abroad.
I guess you could say that getting laid off was the catalyst that set us on our current course. We didn’t have that fear of losing our jobs and our lifestyle hanging over our heads because the lay off too care of that. We had nothing to lose.
How do you address education while you are traveling?
The first year we travelled, we tried homeschooling. I really thought it would work but it was just too hard with 1 teenager and another tween who preferred going to school and were use to that since kindergarten.
I think part of the problem was that we were spending all day with each other and then homeschooling them. It was just too much too fast and I didn’t do enough research before hand to prepare or have a network to reach out to for help. We ended up clashing a lot and our relationship suffered.
The second year of travel, we chose to go to France and put all three kids in public French school which is working out quite well. It turns out that the boys missed school and preferred it over being homeschooled. I used to feel guilty for failing at homeschool but in the end it’s what works best for the kids.
We do supplement their education with a little homeschooling, if you can call it that. We try to engage or bring out their natural talents and interests as much as possible.
I am helping Andre improve his artistic side by encouraging him to draw. We’re working on creating a website around it called “A Zombie Diary” which we hope to monetize while developing his entrepreneurial skills. So keep your eyes peeled for that coming soon.
My other son Kieran works on his own to develop his interests. For the moment they include guitar and soccer. Kieran likes to work on one or two things intensely and excel in them.
Our daughter is just five and I just started giving her violin lessons and yoga lessons at home. We may even work on a third language Chinese, Thai or Japanese. All three of which I have been exposed to myself.
How do you and your family experience being global citizens?
Living in France gives us access to the rest of Europe which is an intricate and diverse network of nationalities and peoples.
By virtue of living abroad we see and experience things outside the scope of North American life.
This gives us a new perspective. When something is different, new or unknown we don’t cower or judge. We accept and understand and we feel are at home in the world instead of afraid of it.
Can you share one of your family’s most memorable experiences?
This is really hard to answer. We have a lot of memorable experiences. The most memorable one was in Scotland. It was one of the first international trips we took with the kids and that’s when Iknew I wanted to travel with the kids. Those first moments travelling were like a drug that I couldn’t get enough of. The kids eyes were opened to the world beyond the club meds of this world and expensive hotels. I loved seeing the world through their eyes.
Can you share one story from your travel experiences when you and your family had an “aha moment”.
It’s really hard to pinpoint one aha moment but looking back at our lives in the San Francisco Bay area and our lives now, I think we have a better understanding of what happiness is.
I guess the aha moment is that we don’t miss things as much as I thought we would.
We used to accumulate possession after possession and we were teaching our kids that that was happiness through our actions. I wasn’t raised that way but you kind of get caught up in that whole “keeping up with the Jones’s” philosophy when you live to work.
Ultimately now, our happiness comes from doing things and experiencing things together outside of our regular routine. As cheesy as it sounds, those memories will last a lifetime while the novelty of having new stuff wears off almost immediately.
We don’t know what is next to be honest. We are thinking of staying one more year in France since my eldest is so close to finishing high school.
We may go to Montreal and stay put while travelling out during the summer months. I would like the kids to explore their Asian heritage at one point and spend a few months in Thailand. I just have no idea.
I just know that I want to have the option to pick up and go anytime we like so I’ll keep working on my freelance career. My husband is doing the same and just finished writing his first novel.
In the mean time we’re just enjoying our lives and living in the moment while trying to balance our lives and make It sustainable.