France seemed the ideal place for Brits Zoe and Andy Bridgeman and their three young children to rediscover their sense of adventure and have fun on a year-long tour…
Zoe and Andy Bridgeman were happy in their lovely village called Stony Stratford in Milton Keynes, England. However, after a few years that saw Zoe working all the hours under the sun as a cake baker and Andy training for a career change as a teacher, they gave everything up to take their children Macey 11, Alfie 4 and Sonny 3 on a year-long family road trip through France … Janine Marsh catches up with them in Escales, Languedoc-Roussillon.
What made you choose France for your family adventure?
It has always been a dream of mine to experience living in France. I fell in love with France when I was a teenager, on my first visit to Paris, and since then, have gone on holiday to France whenever, and wherever possible. We spent our holidays visiting new regions, each one offering something different, and every time I came home a little bit more in love.
After a particularly shocking year of 18-hour days, and a lot of wondering what the hell it was all about, the dream became a reality. In July 2015 we made our decision to leave, and travel around France, and a little of Europe, for a year – if our small amount of savings would keep us going that long. On August 20th, we started our journey. The stress we placed on ourselves to get this all organised, sorted and planned in just over 7 weeks, was unexplainable…so I won’t even try!
What inspired you to take this route and travel with the kids?
To be honest it was mainly about the children. I spent a year working non-stop, feeling like I had put their little lives on hold. I had no time for play dates. No time to go to the local town fetes and festivals. No time, it felt, for any fun. When my husband and I were around we were not really ‘there’. We were so tired, that it was all we could do to stay awake. I knew I was wasting precious time I would never get back. I also knew things would get better once my husband started his paid employment. But, I was suddenly aware of this ticking clock. I wanted to share my children’s childhood with them and I yearned to spend time with my husband again. It was time for some fun! It was mad, drastic, and it’s not for everyone but it felt right for us.
Where have you been on your 5 go mad travels in France?!
We initially decided to travel for whole the year in a folding caravan we call Betty and with whom we have a love hate relationship, but we decided to move into a house for the winter. We thought it might be too cold in our 8ft x 6ft palace! We started in Bruges, Belgium then went to Barr and Strasbourg (which I absolutely loved) in Alsace. On to Yvoire in the French Alps, then down to the lakes in Italy. Then on to St Tropez in south of France, then after that point we were free to pick a destination before we moved into the house. We decided on a month in St Remy de Provence, where I left a little piece of my heart, it was fantastic. For the winter we chose Escales, in the Languedoc-Roussillon region.
How do you find home schooling for travelling kids?
There are no real guidelines to follow, you can teach what you want and leave what you don’t. You can set lessons, or let them learn by doing. It’s open to a lot of interpretation. We have opted for the ‘doing our best’ approach. Sometimes we teach set lesson, follow books, set projects. Especially on rainy days, the children enjoy this and think it’s funny to play school. Other times we try sneaky teaching; where they learn without realising. But most of the time we go for school of life. Take them out to see, and touch, answer their questions and encourage them to find more answers to the things they’re interested in. I think we’re doing ok so far. We definitely notice a big change in the youngest. His speech has come on leaps and bounds, and he is even attempting a little French. All three of them are having a wonderful time, and I have no doubt in my mind how good this has been for them all so far.
Zoe’s Top Tips for extended family travel
Don’t expect it to be a holiday; it can’t be, not for that length of time.
Don’t expect every day to be a fun filled adventure; sometimes you just need to be, sometimes the adventure is in taking a step back, taking it slow, and enjoying the ride. It’s an experience, an unbelievable, unforgettable experience. One of my favourite things to do is the food shop here on a Saturday morning. This seems to be when all the locals are out doing their weekly shop. They greet each other, kiss, stop and chat animatedly, and it is just the most wonderful atmosphere to soak up.