One year ago we landed in Aix-les-Bains France

One year ago December 27th, 2015 we landed in Lyon and with much train drama (for which we have learned a valuable lesson!) we ended up home in Aix-les-Bains France.  Sure this isn't our real home but for the last year we have called this amazing Savoie town "home".  It all started with a chance meeting of a couple of volunteers travelling through Cuba.  We met these lovely people while vacationing in Holguin Cuba and were thrilled to hear their story of volunteerism through the country.  While we always thought of doing something like this, we expected it wouldn't be a glimmer of thought until our daughter was in university.  These people - I wish I could name them - really had an impact on us and since we were on vacation this gave us plenty of time to hash out what this would look like and if we could actually pull it off. In 2015 when we decided to move on with our dreams and set off to move across the globe we really had no expectations of how things would go.  One thing we certainly did not expect is how much travel we've done.  In 2016 we went to Morocco (I did), Italy, Spain, Switzerland, Portugal, Germany and of course all throughout France.  We've been to too many cities to list - have traveled via car, train, bus and most recently by boat.  We've eaten foie gras, duck, frogs legs, pate, every kind of cheese you can imagine and of course have had some magnificent wines along the way.

What we've learned along the way.  Well even though my daughter and I can both speak and write fluently in French we both have improved our French and my husband who only spoke a bit can now comfortably order his meals, speak to the locals and is improving every day.  We've become quite experienced travelers too, even my daughter can navigate through a train station or metro without any help.  Hot tip - Paris metro doors close very quickly so get on with everyone you need, that was a good lesson!  Get on the right train cart when you ride the TGV, even though you may think you are boarding the right train, pay attention to the cart number as each cart has assigned seats and if you board the wrong cart you will have to get off with all off with all of your luggage at the next stop and try to get on the correct cart within the train and the locals will inevitably laugh at you as it happens so often!

One of the most valuable lessons of this journey is that money is not worth anything without time.  I appreciate time now more so then ever in my life.  I have mornings and mid-afternoons free now and can indulge in taking time for myself, volunteering, working out or simply being lazy.  I realize that my daughter is growing so very quickly and to sit with her at a cafe and enjoy the everyday life around me is worth more than anything else I can buy.

Would I recommend this lifestyle - yes in a heart beat but it does take commitment and a detachment to physical stuff.  Remember our post about packing up and selling everything we owned, well now we don't have as much as we did and that can be tough to adjust.  You have to learn to live with fewer luxury items, buying second hand items and improvising.  I am guilty of cursing the grocery store because I cannot find hummus and when I do, it doesn't taste like home.  I learned to do with less and to make what I needed and slowly I have adjusted.  I would recommend for anyone to take kids away with you as they see so much more than you do and will have those memories forever but it's not easy and you have to conform to their needs, visiting church after church is not exciting to a 10 year old! There are many places we'd like to return to without a kiddo and then there are places we had such a blast with our daughter, like Lisbon, that we can't imagine having gone without her.

We live in a smaller space and we are together more often, we walk everywhere and use public transit, these are all non-negotiable items in our daily life and we've had to adjust to but what we get in return is to step out of our small apartment everyday and see life happening before us in France and that my friends is truly the reason why we stay.

Long-term travel can change your life - it can teach you more than anything else has.  About yourself, about life, people - about what you need to be happy.  It also will highlight just how different home is from everywhere else, especially when you start to get a large sample size to compare it to.  For some, this can mean going home with a heightened perspective. For others, it may mean they never want to leave again, for us it means everything.  The difference that France and all of these countries offer us is the reason why we came in the first place.

My favorite moments:

  • Our daughter seeing the Eiffel Tower for the first time
  • Laughing about my fall in Lisbon Portugal in front of 300+ people
  • Discovering that 2euro wine is actually very tasty!
  • Eating at La Nossa Taska in Lisbon
  • Experiencing Europe with my mother-in-law
  • Taking my sister-in-law and her mom to Lyon - best day ever

My worst moments:

  • Losing my daughter/husband on Paris Metro
  • Daughter's absolute meltdown in Sardinia Italy
  • First day train fiasco with our daughter from Lyon to Aix (too long to explain)
  • Thinking I left my Visa at Frankfurt MacDonald's machine when it was in our rental car the whole time
  • Exchange with the filthy excuse for a father on the bus - by far the worst moment here