In Part I of this interview, Jeanne talked about their decision to take a family sabbatical vacation and some of the benefits for their daughter. Here she discusses some of the unique challenges and amazing experiences from their travels.
Q: What is the hardest part of being on a lengthy sabbatical with a child?
There are very few downsides, that i can think of. Some people might not like the extended time together, day in and day out, but we thrive on it and it is one of the biggest benefits in our way of thinking since childhood passes so fast. We are especially grateful for the time our daughter has with her father and how much easier life is with a young child, when both parents are around full time.
We adults do not get to linger at museums the way we might if we were just a couple, more helpful hints, we find ways around this often by taking turns. Dealing with English books and her two musical instruments are probably the biggest challenges, but we have managed to find ways around that as well. We were really missing English libraries, but then went to Ireland, UK and Scandinavia this year where we went to many and got our fill again! We also love online libraries which helps so much in non-English speaking countries.
Being away from relatives and friends is a downside, although we have found we are even closer now with our blog and talk almost daily with family via the internet and through free webcam calls using Skype. We also use Skype for her piano lessons even though her teacher is on another continent.
Our child is very outgoing and makes friends almost instantly with people of every age and despite language differences. Still, I do think a consistency and time for building solid friendships is important. That is why we travel for 6 or 7 months and remain in one area for 5 or 6 months. I just made this system up, but it works really well.
Q: What is your favorite memory of your travels?
There are so very many favorite memories that it is very hard to pick one. I guess it would have to be our unnique expereince in the Sahara. Our 6 year old daughter rode into the orange dunes of the Sahara on a camel to play a violin for 60 Berber nomad children who had never seen a violin and live without running water. They were so excited by her visit and were clapping and singing French songs as she arrived.It was like a scene out of a movie and here we are just an ordinary family. They all loved playing together afterwards in the nearby oasis and we bought a nutritious snack for all of them.
The people there were so special and the Sahara is exceedingly beautiful, so that added to our overnight camel trek into the Sahara had to be our most cherished memory. We enjoyed getting to know a Berber family, visiting their house made from the earth and watching how they bake their bread in a community oven. The people live on almost nothing, but are so generous and pure hearted.
Q: What Advice Would You Give Others who would like to go on an extended travel experience such as yours?
Go for it, you will never regret it. Time flies by so fast with children, start saving and planning now for a trip of a lifetime. It is much easier and less expensive than most people realize. We live large on only 25, 000 dollars a year, despite spending most of our time so far in “expensive” Europe. If there is a will, there is a way. We found that travel is not really expensive, maintaining stuff is.
We love traveling by RV and renting places by the month off season, which really saves money.We actually live on much less traveling the world than we did living at home. We have lots of how-to information on our website and I encourage you to read all the information out there on taking sabbaticals and doing extended travel.
Q: What was Your Favorite Destination so far?
Gee, that is such a hard question because we have been to so many places that we have just loved that i do not think I could narrow it down to just one. Can I pick a few favorite destinations? We have become very attached to Spain since we have spent the most time there, speak the language and it is such a beautiful and diverse country with a culture that is nurturing for families. We adore all the festivals too and might even eventually settle down someday in Spain.
We also loved Croatia, Santorini, Capaddocia, much of France and Italy, Sweden, Turkey and Morocco. If I have to pick just one, I would have to say our experience in the Sahara and Fez in Morocco. We love the luxury, comfort and beauty of France, italy and Sweden, but the exotic travel in Morocco and Turkey was so thrilling that we want to do more of that! We had no idea that exotic travel could be so wonderful and educational for families.