The French Visa Process

The French Visa Process

Bonjour friends! The French visa process is here! Many of you have reached out to me asking me how we were able to obtain a visa. Today I plan on sharing all the details from choosing which visa to apply for to landing in Paris many months later. Are you ready? And we even have the vlog version for those of you who are not up for reading this Friday morning.

And watch the video until the end, you don’t want to miss the really good stuff.

Now you all know we are not beginners when it comes to this visa thing. In Costa Rica we had it easy since we were able to hop over the border to a neighboring country and our visa would reset for another 90 days. In Ecuador we got those first 90 days seamlessly and then we had to apply for an extension. Do you remember what a pain that was? As a result we were prepared for the French visa process to be a nightmare as well. And guess what? It was pretty uneventful! Woo hoo! However, don’t confuse that with quick.

It was a lot of work to gather everything they wanted, not hard, but time-consuming. I will take time-consuming over disorganized and complicated any day. I guess my experience in Ecuador has scarred me a bit. Do you remember how many times we had to go back to the immigration office? Well, I do, 16! I had visions of this happening with the French Embassy in Boston and I knew we did not have the luxury of being able to return 16 times since we had a flight on the 28th of August to Paris.

I am happy to report that we arrived on August 2nd for our 9:00am appointment with the French Consulate and we had everything they needed (and some extras). They asked for nothing additional. Can you believe it?

Unfortunately we did make one big mistake before we even left Ecuador. We (well, actually I) neglected to check the accuracy of something I read on FB. A mistake that cost me (us) $1,000. Ugh. I was under the impression one could apply for their visa for France in any US state and that is not the case. You need to apply for your visa at the consulate in the state you are a resident of. We had hoped to apply for ours while in Miami to ensure we would have enough time to get it approved before we were scheduled to leave the states. When we found out we could not do that we then had to change all of our flights around in order to give us more time in Boston for processing. In the end it all worked out, but it was an expensive mistake.

WHICH VISA DID WE CHOOSE AND WHY:

We had to choose the long-stay visa for visitors option because we were planning on staying more than 90 days. Of the options (listed below) the long stay visa for visitors was the only option for us. I thought maybe we could work with the “to get married to a French citizen” but Will did not seem to be onboard for another man in the family.

Visa options:

  • Long stay visa to work in France
  • Long stay visa for visitors
  • Long stay visa for students applying through Campus France
  • Long stay visa for studies: minors – under 18 years old
  • Long stay visa for “au pair”
  • Long stay visa for internship
  • Long stay visa for scientists, researchers or university teachers
  • Long stay visa for “lecteurs” and “assistants”
  • Long stay visa to get married to a French citizen and reside in France
  • Temporary long stay visa and long stay visa for Monaco
  • Long stay visas for diplomatic or official passport holders
  • The “competences and talents” card

As most of you know we both work online, as a result we would not be seeking employment in France which is one of the stipulations with this long stay visa for visitors. As far as they are concerned we are “guests” for a year on a 365 day vacation. If only that were true, but one can dream. Basically we can dump money into the economy, but we cannot take from it as employees which is ok with us since we derive our income from the US.

VISA REQUIREMENTS FOR THE LONG STAY VISA FOR VISITORS (according to the French consulate in Boston):

First and most importantly… I cannot stress enough to do your homework. Information and regulations can change so don’t base anything solely on what I am saying here. I am not an expert. I don’t work for the consulate, nor have I done this before. Each state is different regarding their requirements so make sure you get as much information as possible from the individuals who do this for a living.

  • One application form filled out completely and signed by the applicant.
    Each applicant has to fill out their own application in its entirety. This was not complicated, just time-consuming.
  • Two ID pictures (white background, full face, no glasses, no hat, closed mouth). 
    Again, not complicated, just a pain. We printed out this list and took it with us to get the photos. The directions are definitely specific and we did not want to be held up because of some photos.
  • Original passport or travel document (+ ONE COPY of the identity pages). Your passport must have been issued less than 10 years ago, be valid for at least three months after your return to the US and have at least 2 blank visas pages left.
    I cannot stress enough how important it is to follow the specific instructions above. I have known numerous people declined at first because they did not have three months left or two blank pages. In fact, we did not learn about the two blank pages situation until we went to have our visa extension in Ecuador put in our passport. Will was down to only a one page and they would not do it. As a result, he had to fly back to the US to get an expedited passport since we were on the cusp of another trip.
  • Status in the US – If you are not a US citizen, copy of your green card or visa. 
  • A criminal record.
    We were told that it would be best to submit criminal records from Massachusetts (our last state of residence) and Maine (the state we now file taxes in). It was not complicated. There were links online for each state. We just filled out an online form and they arrived in the mail a couple of weeks later.
  • Letter promising not to engage in any employment in France (signature certified by a notary public).
    We went to the US Embassy (only place we found to notarize documents in Quito) to have ours notarized. I literally typed one sentence, the date and our name on individual sheets and then we had them notarized. This does not need to be a lengthy letter, just something official, hence the notarization.
  • Letter of employment in the US stating occupation and earnings.
    Ok, so this is where it gets a little gray. There are no specifics regarding how much you need to make in order to be approved. Even when I emailed them they would not give me specifics. We were pretty confident Will’s income would be sufficient so we did not include mine. Since I was self-employed at the time we would have shown our tax return if necessary. We submitted a letter from his biggest client stating his earnings to date and anticipated earnings.
  • Proof of means of income – savings, investment certificates, pension slips, etc
    Another very, very gray area. I can tell you what we submitted and hopefully this can help you. Again, I emailed the consulate and asked for more specifics and they told me to just bring everything we had. We brought 401K, savings and information about our real estate holdings. We did not show the kids 529s. I don’t think it would have been acceptable, but I really do not know. We don’t have pensions so that was not an option as well. In regards to our real estate I was not sure how to show it as income and that we had equity we could access in an emergency. In the end what I did (and it was a lot of work) was print out a zillow sheet to give an idea of the value. I also included a copy of the lease for each property, our mortgage statement and a final sheet showing our profit each month and equity. It was a pain to do and in the end they only ended up taking one of the packages. I was like, “no please take them all. I worked so hard.” Ha! He told me if he needed the others he would be in touch. We don’t have any debt on credit cards or loans outside of our mortgages so I am not sure how that plays into the whole scenario. I am guessing they do not check your credit so maybe it never comes into play.
  • Proof of medical insurance. Your insurance letter must include : “Medical evacuation” et “Repatriation”.
    We already had insurance for our travel life so this was not complicated for us. We renew our policy ever January and we pay in full at that time. Since our visa in France would run out half way through our policy they required us to pay in advance. Unfortunately our insurance would not let us renew until November. They provided a letter to the consulate stating their policy and the consulate was fine with it.
  • Marriage certificate or family book + Birth certificates for children.
    Pretty straight forward. They did not require that they be apostatized. I know in Ecuador this was a requirement. As as result, we needed to overnight mail our marriage license to the US for apostalization. When we went to our appointment at the consulate they took copies of these documents and handed the originals back to us within minutes.
  • Proof of accommodation in France (title deeds, lease or rental agreement).
    Ok, this can be a tough one. I honestly don’t know if there is any flexibility here. Since we have been switching countries every year for several years now it was not an issue for us to negotiate and sign a lease sight unseen. If you want to read about our process and how we find homes before we move you can read here. Unfortunately it is not in our budget to fly ahead of time to each location and secure an apartment. Luckily our friend Julie (thank you lady) lives in Hyères and she kindly volunteered to go take a look at it. In addition, we had many lengthy conversations with the owners, Will met with them in person in Hong Kong and we viewed handfuls of pictures. Overall we don’t get too worked up over the accommodations and in the end it all ends up working out. We did hand in a signed lease with our application.
  • Processing fee.
    It cost us $110 per person. There is no discount for kids.
  • One residence form duly filled out (upper part only).
    There is a form that you must fill out and mail in once you arrive in France. Each person has to have their own form.
  • If you cannot pick up your visa by yourself, you can send to the French Consulate, a self-addressed prepaid EXPRESS MAIL envelope from all Postal Services.
    We picked ours up in person since we did not want to mess around with anything getting lost in the mail.
  • I also included the following even though they were not on the list: A copy of our flights that we had already purchased. I did this to let them know we were serious, but more importantly under a deadline. Also, a copy of the kid’s school registration. He did not want to see them or include them in the application package. This is great news for those of you who are home/world/unschoolers and are worried it might be an issue.

OTHER TIDBITS CONCERNING THE FRENCH VISA PROCESS:

  • The Boston consulate actually had a working email so I was able to ask questions about some of the above before we arrived. I found this incredibly helpful. If you can find an email for your consulate start emailing questions as early as possible.
  • Read the fine print. If I had done this I would have seen that I needed to apply in our state of residence.
  • Start early, you may run into unforeseen issues and you don’t want that to hold you up.
  • Never once were we given a dollar amount regarding how much we needed to make, have in savings, have in our 401k, etc. This can be very frustrating. I wish I could offer more advice in this area, but I have nothing.
  • When we submitted the application they told us to check back in two weeks to see if it had been approved. They are a busy office and they do not contact you once it is approved. I emailed the address on the website two weeks (10 business days) after our initial meeting and within a day I received an email saying we had been approved and we could come in to retrieve our visas.
  • You do need to leave your passports with them when you apply for the visa so plan accordingly. However if you need to retrieve it for a day they will allow it, but you will hold up your processing time.
  • You must make an appointment to go in and submit your application. It is very easy to do online.
  • For security reasons, all applicants, except children under the age of 6, have to appear personally at the Consulate General of France in Boston.
  • The Boston consulate states on their website that it can take up to a month. Again, each state is different, be sure to check your local consulate page. We were lucky to have in turned around in two weeks.
  • You can submit your application up to three months in advance. If you are local and can do this then I highly recommend doing it to reduce stress and increase planning time.

I am sure someone is going to ask what happens if we want to stay an additional year. I have no idea and I cannot even begin to think that far ahead right now. I have heard that it is possible to renew. I guess we will cross that bridge when we get close and I will give another update at that time. Right now we have been here only a couple of weeks and my visa mind needs a rest.

If you have experience applying for long-stay visas in Europe please reach out to me and I will include a post from your experience. Here is one from An Epic Education and another from Wagoners Abroad that I think are very helpful for Spain.

So folks, this is how we did it. I walked into that office with an organized grey binder ready to take on whatever they threw at me. I am so happy to report that it was a seamless experience with no drama. However, it took some time to gather all the necessary items in order to present them. Good Luck!

If you have questions I have not answered feel free to post them in the comments or PM me. I want more people out there traveling and I will help you in any way I can.

Have a fabulous weekend.

Bisous,
Jessica

September 23, 2016Permalink 2 Comments

Inside A Traveler’s Walls: Behan Gifford

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Bonjour friends. Hello Wednesday, my favorite day of the week (besides the weekend)! Here we go.

If you are new here I would like to introduce you to our weekly series “Inside a Traveler’s Walls” where we feature families living in less traditional, unique homes. If you think you might be one of those families and are interested in being profiled please contact me for details.

We truly need so little, and are used to passing over things that might have been knee-jerk acquisitions in our old life. ~ Behan

Today I would like to introduce you to the amazing Totem family. Well, I guess they are not really the Totem family, but they are known as such since it is the name of their boat. They are another cruising family, but what separates them from other cruising families (previously on this series) is that they have been on the open waters for eight years. Amazing, right?

….and raise them as citizens of the world. ~Behan

I have thought long and hard about finding the balance between becoming global citizens and at the same time not erasing where we were born and how that molded us, but at the end of the day I truly hope my children think of themselves as citizens of the world. A world that they understand, a world they feel they are part of and a world they want to make a difference in. It is inspiring to see other parents that value this type of education and child rearing. Thank you Behan and Mr. Salty for raising global citizens at a time where it seems to be more crucial than ever.

Living as perma-travelers makes us very accustomed to delayed gratification. If something breaks, and we cannot fix it, we do without. ~ Behan

Well, what can I say without giving it all away? They left “normal” to adventure for a year or two and in the meantime they created a life greater than they could have imagined. A life where family bonds are strong, traditions are plentiful and education equals inspiration and curiosity. Behan even co-authored a book about how they make it all happen. I can’t wait to read it.

The utter freedom. ~Behan

So, enough of my chatter. Grab a cup of coffee, a comfy seat and get ready to be inspired.

Introduce us to the people you live with?
We are the Totems, thanks to our boat name, since it’s how you’re typically identified by fellow cruisers. I’m Behan, mama and primary documenter of our lives afloat. Papa Jamie gets called Mr Salty thanks to his deep maritime skills. Our kids Niall (age 17), Mairen (14) and Siobhan (12) have grown up on board. They were 4, 6, and 9 when we moved on Totem, and have since sailed pretty much around the world.

Where are you in the world and what are you living in?
Our floating home is a 47’ sloop (Sparkman & Stephens designed Stevens 47). We’ve referred to her as the floating campervan. There are three “bedrooms” (staterooms), two “bathrooms” (heads), a “kitchen” (galley) and working/living space (saloon). At the moment we’re in the USA for a few months; it’s our first time back as a family since 2009, and feels a little strange. We began 2016 in South Africa, and sailed about 8,000 miles in the first half of the year.

Why did you choose to live in your current arrangement?
From the time we met, Jamie and I always planned to marry our love of being on the water with wanderlust—for a couple of years at least, if not the long-term. Choosing to make the move when we did, with a young family, was motivated by our desire to live a simpler life, closer to the natural environment, to have more time with our children, and raise them as citizens of the world.

What do you do to personalize your unique (less traditional) living situation?
Lots! The boat is a home, if not a house. There’s artwork up—things we’ve created or purchased or traded for. Covers on throw pillows and settees in the main cabin change periodically. We remodeled the galley a couple of years ago and have new counter and cabinet surfaces. The kids add stickers or pictures and more to their cabins. Mementoes of places we’ve been and people we’ve met stay present on the walls or shelves.

Tell us your favorite and least favorite room in your space and why?
I feel no extremes of most and least favorite spaces on Totem, but the main cabin is the heart of family living and for that reason preferred. I suppose the forward head is least, because, well, it’s just a bathroom. Modified to our needs, but probably the least personalized of all spaces on board.

What is the biggest misconception you had about your current living situation before you started living in it?
I don’t think we had misconceptions about living afloat, thanks to logging thousands of miles as a family on vacations and weekends before we moved aboard. But we did wonder how the transition away from a land base would impact us, specifically the extreme downsizing to relatively few possessions. I wrote this six months after we departed on our nomadic, voyaging life: “One change we don’t notice is the radical reduction in things we own. We’re living with less, but don’t think about it much. If we do, it’s usually to lament that we still have too much on board- things get in the way, there’s more than we need. Most of the kids toys were given away or sold off in that last massive garage sale. I believe that having less has brought out new ingenuity in their imaginary play with each other. They have developed incredible concentration, spending hours on a single activity. There is no need to “entertain” them, directly or through screen proxies. We can spend more time doing things together, from exploring a village or beach, to playing cards or doing puzzles and art projects.”

What is the one household item you carry with you every time you move or the one item you cannot live without?
Well, we carry everything…it just fits on a boat! There’s not household stuff that doesn’t come with us, we simply have a lot less of it than we used to. If I had to run from the boat with one ‘household’ thing to save, it would be music. Although I guess that’s enabled by more than one thing!

What do you miss most about permanent, stationary, traditional living?
Proximity to long-term friends. Not much we can do about that—it’s a price to pay for our lifestyle choice. I’d love to have the funds to fly home and visit now and then, but we make this work by living on a tiny budget, so that’s never been an option. Honestly? I can’t quite imagine permanent, stationary, traditional living. Maybe someday it will make sense again.

What is the one item your children carry with them to make their unique (less traditional) home more comfortable?
This is the only home most of our kids really remember, and it moves when we do, so… it’s not quite a question that applies for us. We road tripped for a few weeks in South Africa, and the one thing they each HAD to have were their e-readers. Bookworms, all of them.

Do you have a pet joining you in this journey? If so, has this been complicated? Any advice?
For most of our eight years so far, we haven’t had pets. It’s complicated or costly (or both) to enter many countries with a dog or cat. But a few years ago we got a dwarf hamster. Kids adored her and clearance officials were unfazed. She was an excellent wee traveler, with minimal needs and sweet returns; her tiny passport accumulated quite a few stamps before she died of hamster-old-age this spring.

What is your best resource to find items you need for your place?
Living as perma-travelers makes us very accustomed to delayed gratification. If something breaks, and we cannot fix it, we do without. There is typically no convenient option to repair or replace. Boat parts often need to be ordered from afar, and mail service might be unpredictable or unsafe; anyone visiting us invariably brings bits we need (my cousin lugged a very heavy anchor windlass from Massachusetts to Bora Bora one year). For most everyday needs, we’re opportunistic. In South Africa, for example, there was easy access to quality western-style goods at good prices, so it was a good time to ditch the threadbare shirts or outgrown pants and pick up some new ones. When we spent a year and a half in Australia, the relatively high cost of living had us doing most shopping in “op shops” (thrift stores). In the many of the countries we’ve been in, streetside vendors (selling the stuff Americans gave to Good Will, or cheap Chinese imports) are the most common option. But honestly, this question is of Need is thoroughly corrupted by mainstream consumer living and one of the reasons we’ve chosen a different path. We truly need so little, and are used to passing over things that might have been knee-jerk acquisitions in our old life.

If you could only have one of the following in your home which one would it be and why?
space, natural light, dishwasher or above average internet.
Well, we’re already living without a dishwasher or average internet, and our space is at the extreme of size efficiency… but even having knocked out three out of four, I really can’t imagine a living space without natural light!

If you were to compare your unique (less traditional) home decorating style to a kitchen appliance or gadget what would it be and why?
Uh….stumped. Maybe because we don’t have any kitchen appliances, and only a single powered kitchen gadget?

How do you keep traditions alive for your family in your unique living situation?
Family traditions are the rituals we replay year after year, they’re simply migrated aboard. Birthday parties are cake and games on the beach with whatever kids are nearby, instead of a bouncy house and gift bags (who came up with gift bags anyway?!). The kids know they are king/queen for the day and get to choose what we’ll do, pick out all our meals, etc.—it is anticipated and outlined and revised for weeks in advance, all part of the fun. We’ve dressed for Halloween and mocked up a “turkey” Thanksgiving dinner in almost a different country every year.

How do you decorate for the holidays in your unique (less traditional) home or do you skip it all together?
We have a small stash of decorations, and tend to make new ones annually—snowflakes, paper chains, etc. One wee gingerbread cookie cutter can be the template for a paper chain, the cutter of a gazillion cookies or clay ornaments. Thanks to global homogenization, even when we were in an Islamic country we could find tinsel in December. Some decorations are special parts of our family story, like the little paper Nisse (gnomes from Scandanavian folklore) hidden around the boat around winter solstice. Lots of ideas about holiday celebrations on board at http://www.sailingtotem.com/tag/holidays.

What is your favorite part about this lifestyle choice?
The utter freedom.

Many traveling families subscribe to the “house is not a home” theory. What is home to you?
Totem is our home, but “home” is more about our family than the physical structure. I don’t doubt we’d remake another place into “home,” too.

What makes you love the place you live?
Ready for a change of scenery? Tired of the noisy neighbors? Curious about ____? Well then, pick up the anchor and get going! Whether it’s across an ocean or across the bay, I love that we can move our home just about anytime we want. Totem is our magic carpet. She’s also our safety net. Some of the best advice we had before buying Totem was to get a boat that could take more than we can. While we take pains to minimize our exposure to adverse conditions, there are times when I am very grateful for just how much Totem can take.

Can home be a person, or an idea?
Absolutely! For us, it’s more about our little family tribe of five people than about the physical home.

Words of wisdom to anyone considering venturing out into the world of unique, less traditional homes? We had extensive sailing experience before we took off, but it’s not a requirement. We’ve met many people new to boating that simply jumped right in to sailing away. Successful voyaging has a lot to do with attitude: those that make it tend to be the ones who take their time, ask questions, and treat every day as a learning experience. We’ve also met people who approach cruising as more of a parade, and assume that success in other areas of their life coupled with the right sailing books on the shelf will transfer to success as cruisers… but hubris leads to poor decisions that put them into tough situations. Patience, flexibility, and a positive attitude build solid foundations.

Anything else you would like offer?
People who look at our life from the outside and see a sailboat cruising through tropical paradise seem to think that we are on a permanent vacation, as if our daily activities consisted of swinging in a hammock between palm trees on a beach and sipping rum drink. I’ll be honest- we DO have days like that! They are the exception, however, and don’t represent our everyday life. More typically we’re occupied by relatively mundane activities- the basics required to keep our lives rolling along: getting and preparing food to eat, doing maintenance on Totem, getting information about weather or destinations ahead. Other major misconceptions center on our safety. Don’t we worry about pirates? Aren’t we afraid of horrible storms, and big waves? These are naïve questions from people who aren’t familiar with the real risks and how to minimize them. I’m certain that they are at greater risk when they hurtle down the highway on their commute to a box than we are in our lives afloat.

What is next for you? Will you continue to live in your current home or try something different?
I cannot imagine living on land, or in one place! Our mantra has been that as long as everyone is happy with this lifestyle, and we have the physical health and funds to keep going, well…we’ll keep going.

How do you educate your children?
A traveling life has fostered intellectual curiosity and a love of learning that I believe conventional schools squeeze out of many kids. After three years of natural learning on board, our kids spent six months in Australian public schools. They were slotted in at age level and did fine—ahead in some areas, behind in others. They stood out in how they cared about their learning, vs seeing it as a chore. We’re currently helping our seventeen year old evaluate college options. There are myriad ways to successfully prepare kids: Voyaging With Kids includes a chapter on homeschooling that covers three different approaches, stories from multiple family experiences, and an appendix of resources.

How do you make a living?
I know it’s hard to talk about money, and we’re culturally sensitized against it, but it’s a big help for visualizing making the leap- so we’ve gone there. When we started cruising, we lived off our savings. At that time, we thought we might only be nomads for a couple of years, and figured we’d return once they were depleted. But when the money ran out, nobody wanted to go back to our old lives. We stopped in Australia for a year and a half, where I went to work…and learned that I really didn’t ever want to go back to being an office drone! We left when there was enough in the bank to sustain us for a couple of years, and the plan to build income streams from different sources to help sustain us going forward. Currently, those are from:

Selling sails. Jamie was a sailmaker way back when; now he works with cruisers to get the right sails at a good value. He’s able to provide expert guidance to specify and deliver sails to customers all over the world.

Freelance writing and photography. If you have the skills, motivation, and an internet connection—this can be done from anywhere. You really don’t even need a routinely good internet connection, once you’ve gotten started. We’re passionate about the way we live and love to share our story through these vehicles.

Personal Coaching. Jamie and I mentor people who want to go cruising, helping them through the hurdles and questions they have to make the leap. This is the smallest so far, but one we hope to grow. It makes our day to get an email from someone who has found our posts inspiring to help plan their own escape from the wheel of the modern consumer society- I count each of those as a little win for the world.

We bridged between these with rental income from our house, although for years the mortgage cost us more than we could earn. That flipped a few years ago, but it’s not sustainable, so we’re selling the house.

Quote to ponder:
I believe that having less has brought out new ingenuity in their imaginary play with each other. They have developed incredible concentration, spending hours on a single activity. There is no need to “entertain” them, directly or through screen proxies.

Contact:
www.sailingtotem.com

Business coaching!

Ready? Wow, was that a lot to take in at once? Cool, right? I never get tired of reading stories about how others are living differently and making their travel dreams come true. It takes a lot of effort, sweat, tears, commitment and teamwork to pull off an adventure like this. And do it for eight years! Do you think they are superhero’s? Are they different from you and I? Lets take that plunge and find out. What are you doing today to get you closer to your authentic life?

Thanks again Behan and family. Your story is inspiring, humble and full of love. I look forward to our traveling paths crossing one day in the future.

Bisous,
Jessica

September 21, 2016Permalink 3 Comments

10 Tips For Surviving Your 1st Week In a Country

10 tips for surviving your 1st week in a country

Bonjour friends. Today marks the close of our third week here in Hyères, France where we plan to live for one year. Should we share our 10 tips for surviving your 1st week in a country? Wine! Ok, just joking. I am happy to report that outside of some internet bumps (still working these out) we are settled in. Drum roll please… 6 months to settle into Costa Rica, 4 (ish) weeks to settle into Ecuador and 2 weeks in France. We have learned a lot (the hard way) over the last three years. And before you go and say, “how hard can it be,” we all think that until we step food in a foreign land, don’t speak the language and can’t even order our own meal. It’s tough folks, so let me share what has worked for us and maybe it will save you some tears.

In no particular order, the magic formula…

  • Don’t cook. Yes, I put this in writing. DO NOT COOK. Don’t even attempt to cook. Find the restaurants that deliver, the establishments who offer take out late at night, grab some non essentials to put in the refrigerator and call it a day. Don’t try to set up a kitchen, figure out the oven and make recipes with ingredients you have never seen before. There will be plenty of time for experimenting and learning about the culture.
  • Be thankful. Sometimes it is really hard to see the good and happy while you are knee-deep in internet issues, forms to fill out and time change adjustments. Try to remember that this madness is only temporary and the faster you “do the work” the quicker you can get to a normal schedule. It is important to take time to be thankful. For us this usually means taking a small token of appreciation to anyone who helped us before we arrived. For example, school officials, the landlords and neighbors. Also, we take time at dinner to talk about what we are thankful for. Even in our most trying times we need to still remain thankful.
  • Skip routine. If the kids are staying up late, eating junk, bingeing on movies and skipping hygiene remind yourself that this is only temporary and once you find your groove all will fall back into place. Sometimes I think this is one of the hardest obstacles especially for us mamas who want the transition to be smooth as pie for our kiddos. It is important to remember that struggle and learning to cope outside of our regular routine yields tremendous growth and adaptability for us and our children.
  • Unpack immediately. Yes, get your “stuff” out of those bags, put it in the draws, find your underwear and get your space organized. We are becoming masters at this because I cannot seem to function professionally or personally without certain things, one of those things being deodorant. Ha. I cannot tell you how many moves it took me to learn this one. I am big time OCD when it comes to unpacking. We hit a record with this move, we unpacked nine bags and eight carry-ons in under 48 hours.
  • Get Wifi. The only requirement we have when we sign a lease for a new apartment is good internet, as good as the area can handle. We need it to make money. If you end up at your location (this has happened to us every time) and the internet is not what you were initially told then you need to act on it immediately. Many countries do not have systems in place that are quick and efficient. It could take days and often weeks to get an internet connection that is suitable for work. Lack of internet or a good connection can prove to be very stressful when you are using technology to make money and educate your children.
  • Personal care. Work hard to settle in quickly, but don’t neglect your well-being. Be sure to drink lots of water, get sleep and eat as healthy as possible until you can cook. Breathe, meditate, take a long walk and remember to exercise a bit, even if it seems your time should be spent elsewhere. I am going to be honest here. I fail miserably in this area, every single time. I wish I did not, but I am a work in progress as well. I usually don’t sleep much, opt for caffeine over water and never exercise. As a result, I know the harm in doing this. Once things settle into place I have to do a caffeine detox and a big regroup back into exercise and healthy eating.
  • No guests. If anyone wants to come visit in those first couple of days absolutely advise against it. Actually I prefer to abstain from guests for at least the first six weeks, primarily because I don’t feel it is fair to our guests. We are usually barely settled, we have had to back burner a lot of our paying work (which means we are overloaded with work) and we are tired. As a result, we have had barely any time to explore the area, find the great restaurants, learn the culture, investigate the history and much more.
  • Take a vacation. Did I just say that? Move to a new land and take a vacation? Really? Yes! Now I am not talking about margaritas on the beach and endless sunsets. I am talking about a vacation from work in order to settle in to your new country without the stress of work. I (we) are speaking from personal experience when we say that things go wrong, internet is not always what you were promised and then you have deadlines on top of it all. Give yourself at least a three-day vacation from work to adjust to the time change (if one exists), work out the internet kinks, observe the culture, unpack and be present for your kids. In the end it will reduce your stress level considerably.
  • Ask for help. Don’t be afraid to ask locals you know for help, to hire help or bring the kids in for extra reinforcement. One person should not be expected to get the family moved in. If you have to hire a local to cook some meals, clean your apartment or something else don’t be shy. If you have children old enough to take responsibility then by all means give them tasks to help with. If you know some locals ask them the pertinent questions you would spend hours researching and translating online. Don’t be shy folks. We all need a little help here and there. Then, one day, pay if forward to another person who needs a help.
  • Don’t stress. Stress will only complicate the settling in process, plus it is not good for you. Don’t stress because you have not found a piano teacher on day one. Don’t stress because your daughter needs to find the used book store today. Don’t stress because you missed your online language class due to an insufficient internet. It will all get done, you will be unpacked and settled before you know it. Remember to breathe. Take a moment if you need it. Go for a coffee all alone. Read a little before bed. Maybe even sneak in a date with your partner for 30 minutes on the patio. You are strong and resourceful, you will survive this, but if you stress about it the process will not go as smooth.

Well, I hope the 10 tips for surviving your 1st week in a country helped those of you on the cusp of another move or those of you just starting to dream about a life of travel. Those first couple of weeks in a new country bring up so many emotions in a family. On one hand it is exciting to be in a new place, the sounds, the smells, the yummy foods, the weather, the rich culture, however it can also be exhausting. Try to step outside your head and look at your situation from the outside. I would have to say that these are some of the tougher parts of travel, right behind applying for visas, but luckily it passes very quickly. Plus, the longer you are at this the better your systems work and you learn what to do to make the process go faster.

Tell me, do you have some suggestion for how to make these first couple of weeks run smooth in a new country?

Bisous,
Jessica

p.s. And if all else fails then eat loads of bread and cheese.

September 20, 2016Permalink Leave a comment

White Water Rafting In Costa Rica

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Bonjour friends. Did you have an amazing weekend? Did you adventure? We took a tour of some beaches, had our neighbors over for wine and cheese in an effort to form community and on Sunday we hiked to the top of a mountain in Hyères to visit some ruins. It was a good weekend filled with laughter, new friends, family bonding, wine and of course, cheese. Today I am getting back into the groove quite slowly. We still have some settling in errands to do and frankly things don’t really move fast in our town. While I was organizing my week, looking through my drafts folder and thinking about posts I found this oldie, but goodie tucked away in a folder. I don’t know how I missed posting it way back when. Let’s chat about white water rafting and adventure a bit today.

Yes, I am getting further and further away from France with my posts, but only momentarily. I promise.

During our time in Costa Rica we did a lot of outdoor adventure/adrenaline sports. The kids loved them, we loved them and as long as we felt they were safe then we took the plunge. I would have to say that white water rafting was my favorite. The water was freezing and that was not my favorite, however the adrenaline rush and the pure fun of riding on the water made it amazing.

The question I often get when I post pics and stories like this is if we are ever worried about safety and it being too hard for our kids. First, if I felt unsafe I would never go through with it for myself or my children. We love adventure and adrenaline thrills, but we also love to be alive. Second, my kids know their limits and so do.However, I also know that a bit of letting them do hard things is good for them. To find the balance often becomes the challenge.

So, tell me, have you ever white water rafted? Zip linedRepelled down a waterfall? Gone 4 Wheeling? Tubed? Bungee jumped? Or something else? Was it scary? Would you do it again? Would you freak out if your child wanted to do it? If not, what is holding you back?

Costa Rica was pretty much our outdoor, physical, adrenaline, sporty year. Ecuador was our history year. France, well France is proving to be our year of food and peace. Lots of eating and sitting still is happening these days. As I have mentioned before I have a business in the works that I will launch in the beginning of December and Will is working his butt off on his youtube channel (and being an accountant). Go subscribe and hit the thumbs up on his channel. He will love you forever.

Ok, I am going to keep it short and sweet today because I have a bundle of work and some deliverables the my branding specialist is requesting. Have a great Monday. Over and out…

Bisous,
Jessica

September 19, 2016Permalink Leave a comment

History In Quito + Weekly Round Up

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Bonjour friends! It’s Friday! Woo Hoo! I know I said I was only doing France posts from now on, but I do have one more topic of interest to share with all of you today, history in Quito.

I would like to introduce all of you to Lorraine. I found her through one of my FB groups when I was asking for someone who knew a lot about the history of Quito, Ecuador, Incas and much more. And let me tell you she did not disappoint. I only wish we would have found her earlier in our stay in Quito.

For around six or seven weeks Avalon and I met with Lorraine in Old Town Quito for talking and seeing, history walkabouts. We had so much fun with her, as well as learned a ton. If you are going to be in Quito and you want to get a deep look into the history of the land then I recommend contacting Lorraine and setting up a couple of times to meet. She can customize your time together to focus on what you want to learn. And she even knows yummy spots to grab local flair. I cannot recommend her enough. She was always on time (we were not), she had a great attitude, a love for the work, tons of knowledge and a good sense of humor. We miss you Lorraine.

 

ROUND UP time!

YOUTUBE CHANNEL: Will has a youtube channel where he shares all of his amazing videos from our family travel. Come visit us on youtube. Subscribe, watch the advertisement (this is how we make a penny) and hit thumbs up if you like it.

NEW BUSINESS ADVENTURE: I am in the developmental stages of a new business that will launch December 1st. It is a lot of work, but so fulfilling I just want to do a dance. Ok, I am going to stop typing for a minute and go do a little dance. That was fun. I can’t wait to share it with all of you. It will marry my love of family, travel and real estate. Stay tuned!

INTERNET: Here we go again. The one downside I see with renting airbnb properties long-term is the internet. The upside is that we have rented from honest people who honor their promise to deliver fast internet. Every place we have stayed has said they have fast/reliable internet and every place has not. In the owners defense it is probably sufficient internet for someone coming on vacation for a week, but for a year and for digital nomads it is not. That is why we always make sure the owners know our situation before we agree to move it. High speed internet (or the highest offered in the area) is always part of the deal because we need to WORK! If we can’t work, we can’t pay our rent. Luckily both CR and Ecuador were on it fast and immediately upgraded and switched companies, but even then we struggled through bad internet, dropped Skype calls, cancelled video conferences, working at McDonald’s and much more for 2-3 weeks. Well, here we go again. Yep, internet issues. The manager is working actively to remedy the situation, but we have been told that we will need to go without service for over two weeks in order to switch companies. Now this is a first, in CR and Ecuador when changes were made they were done immediately and we never lost the quality of the service we had at the time, even if it was snails pace. France is not a developing country and this actually shocks me that it will take this long. Also, the cafes here do not have as strong internet as in CR and Ecuador so working from them is not really an option during the lag time. I am guessing it is because the French don’t go to cafes to work, they go to socialize so why have a strong connection.

 

SHARING TIME!
A TEEN WITH HER HEART IN THE RIGHT SPOT: People are always complaining about teens and I just don’t get it. Yes, I still have a tween, but I can already see the transition and it is looking good. They have innovative minds, a magical fearlessness and a heart to make it all happen. Check this out!

DO YOU INTERACT WITH HOMELESS? It just might be time. One woman’s compassion let to this man finding family and sharing his poetry. The world needs more people like this.

 

NEW VLOGS
FIRST DAY IN FRANCE

FIRST DAY OF SCHOOL

FIRST TRIP TO THE FARMERS MARKET

 

HYÈRES OBSERVATIONS!
My plan is to share discoveries, observations and pretty much randomness from our week in France. Of course there will be more lengthy posts on the information that deserves more air time, but so much is happening that it cannot all be a post.

LINENS: Our current accommodations come with some items we have never had before (yeah!) and some items that are a bit surprising to us. I will share more about this when I do my “Inside A Traveler’s Walls” for Hyères. However, today I just want to say that the French know how to do linens. Our place has more linens than I have ever seen in any rental we have lived in. Plus, they are great quality. When I crawl in our comfy bed each night I can’t help but think that the French may not pick up their dog poop (and I am already tired of stepping in it), but they sure do know how to do linens. And don’t even get me started on the wide array of cloth napkins. Can I tell you a secret? We actually travel with cloth napkins to save on paper towels and protect the environment. Unfortunately we never travel with enough so I was delighted to see the wide variety the apartment came with.

DISCOVERING THE FOREST: In gym class the other day they took Avalon’s class to the forest, gave them maps and told them to go explore. I like this beginner “survival skills” class. I know it is a very watered down version, but I still like it. She loved it.

INTRODUCTION TO LARGOS CLASS: For the first time in three years Largo actually made it to the first day of class. Woo hoo! Yeah, this is a big accomplishment for us. Circumstances beyond our control have prevented us in previous years. In Costa Rica it was not an issue, but in Ecuador it was like we did not exist because we came late. I am happy to report that we attended the parent meeting with Largos teacher here in Hyères and I think we understood everything. Ok, just joking. We took the kids and they translated for us. I have had three lengthy encounters with Largos teacher: chaperoned the pool trip, went in to listen to Largo read out loud and information night. He hit the jackpot with this man. I will do a whole post about the academics (well, more than one post probably), but for now lets just say his teacher is a natural. He has 28 kids, that is a lot. I have not heard him raise his voice once, but he seems to have complete control and respect of the class. Avalon had a teacher like this in 1st grade (Hi Madame Brown) and I was always amazed by her. I don’t think I could do it. All the kids in Largo’s classroom seemed inspired and motivated to learn (I know it is still the beginning of the year), but it is off to a good start. Largo is growing leaps and bounds in only two short weeks and his motivation is off the charts. Plus, the other families were very welcoming at the information night. Win-win.

THE FRENCH ARE QUIET: And we are Americans. As much as I try to speak quietly it is an uphill battle. Again, a study in culture. I think it is so funny to be sitting on our patio or walking down the street and only hear the clanking of silverware. I guess occasionally I hear a mumble also, but I can never make out full on conversations. I am sure everyone in our building knows our entire life story at this point, but again, we are trying.

MEALS DELIVERED: Yes, I did it. Will and I have some lofty goals for this year. We are working pretty much around the clock and we need help. I have enlisted the help of QuiToque. Starting in two weeks I will receive four dinners a week. Well, I will try it out for one week and if I like it we will probably end up committing to two weeks a month. It’s affordable, simple ingredients and in French. Yes, an opportunity for me to work on my French and for the kids (they will be in charge of two of the meals) to learn to cook better. They deliver all the ingredients and a handy-dandy recipe card by noon on Wednesdays. Have you used a service like this before? How did it work out?

OBG: I had my first visit. There are always differences in the practices and procedures between countries, nothing major. However, I did notice one practice here that I have not seen anyplace else. When she asked me to get undressed for my exam (from the waste down) she did not give me anything to drape over my lower half, like a sheet or paper. Is that typical here? Someone weigh in please. I will post more details on my first medical post because you all know there will be a medical post, there always is.

FRENCH CLASS: I have not forgotten about this, however it seems hard to get a class or tutor for four days a week without paying a fortune. I have only found classes that are more than one day a week in Toulon which is an option. I would just have to be on the bus for 45 minutes which is not ideal. I can work on the bus. I just need to figure out the logistics and that all takes time.

THE SMOKE: The smoke is annoying. I have never been someone bothered by cigarette smoke, but maybe that is because I am not around it much. Ever time we go for coffee or dinner there is always someone smoking next to us, constantly and since the tables are so close together I often feel like I’m actually smoking the cigarette. I guess there is just no way around this one. Take the good with the bad and I sure do love the cheese.

Well, I am beat, it’s been a long week. Over and out. Have a great weekend and go adventure.

Bisous,
Jessica

September 16, 2016Permalink Leave a comment

French Public School (the enrollment process)

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Bonjour friends. I know I promised the visa post this week. I have it written, honestly, but I am waiting on Will for the vlog version. I hope to have it live tomorrow, fingers crossed. Since many of you have reached out to me asking about the process of enrolling our kids in a French public school lets tackle that today.

WHY FRENCH PUBLIC SCHOOL?
We chose public for several different reasons, however there were not a lot of options to begin with in our small town. One option was the Catholic school, but we did not feel it aligned with our education and cultural goals. We are in an area that has a Muslim presence, as a result we wanted to give the kids the opportunity to interact with students who live a life very different than ours. And the final big plus, public is free! It has been a long time since we have been in a fee free school.

And why French? Well, for obvious reasons, we are in France. Our town does not have an international American school, but even if it did we would choose otherwise. We feel there is great learning opportunities for our children by immersing them into the local culture, plus they speak French so why not use it in the real world.

GETTING STARTED

  1. Identify the city you want to live in. Pretty self explanatory, decide where you want to live in France.
  2. Identify the school you want within that city. If there is more than one public school for the grade you are seeking then you will have to decide on the specific area in your city that you want to live. They place students in the school closest to their home. We chose to skip researching which elementary was the best due to our limited language skills and timeframe. It was all we could do to register them using our kids French and Google translate. Researching which school was “the best” was just too much to undertake. We chose our home and then went to the school for that area.
  3. Secure housing. The school needed an address verification before they would enroll us and presenting a copy of our lease was sufficient. The type of visa we applied for required us to have a signed one year lease to get approved.
  4. Email the school. This is much easier said than done, at least in our case. Our first emails (in French) to Avalon’s school were not returned. However, with Largo we got an immediate response and we were lucky enough that the director spoke English. I suggest introducing yourself, why you will be moving to France and your desire to become part of their community.
  5. Send a reply email asking what the school needs to enroll your child. This was pretty straight forward. I will list the items we needed to enroll below. This is a good time to ask if they have FSL services if you have a child that does not speak the language.
  6. Submit all required information. The school will give you a list of important documents they need. Make sure you get these materials to them in a timely fashion so they don’t forget about you.
  7. Follow up with an email confirming start date. Also ask if they need any further material from you. Thank them and go relax. Job well done.

WHAT DOCUMENTS DID WE NEED TO EMAIL TO THE FRENCH PUBLIC SCHOOL

  • Copy of the kids passport. Just the first page is sufficient.
  • Vaccination sheet. I am not sure if they are flexible with this or not. We are missing a vaccine here and there, but overall our kids have most of the standard ones.
  • Transcript. For Avalon (homeschooled) I created one based on her previous year with my homeschool tracker software. For Largo I just sent his report cards for the present year.
  • Lease. I don’t think there is any way around this one. They want to make sure you live in the area of the school you are requesting.
  • Birth Certificate. I sent copies of these, originals were not necessary.
  • Any registration forms they send to you must be sent back completed.

OTHER THOUGHTS ON ENROLLING OUR KIDS IN A FRENCH PUBLIC SCHOOL

  • I suspect you can enroll the children upon arrival if need be and if you are in a small community. However, I have heard other stories where the schools did not have space. I suggest doing it before if it is possible to ease any stress upon arrival.
  • Keep your conversations via email with the school brief. They are busy and you don’t want to bog them down with questions about lunch and after school activities. All of these questions can be asked upon arrival.
  • The websites for each school were not particularly helpful in our situation. Avalon read her school website from end to end and she still could not get answers to most questions. However, don’t worry, it all works out in the end.
  • Give yourself ample time. If you plan to start the year in September then I suggest starting the communication with the school by March. Remember they will be on holiday as of the end of June and you don’t want to be dealing with them during their busiest time of the year.
  • We did not need to show our visa upon arrival. The apartment lease was clearly more important.
  • We have been at the schools for almost two weeks now and they have not asked for additional information.
  • Make sure you return to the school and give them your local phone number once you have one in case an emergency occurs.
  • Finally, thank them for all of their help. I even took a little box of chocolates to both directors. They were incredibly helpful and I could not have done it without them.
  • No interview was required to be admitted to the school. It’s public, I don’t think they do interviews.
  • This is our personal story. I cannot say it will be the same in all public schools across France. The best way to learn is just reach out to the school.
  • My kids were already fluent in French so the transition has been pretty seamless. However, Avalon (7th grade) has a tween in her class who came from Italy and does not speak any French. They are offering him FSL for seven hours a week. I would not let the language barrier hold any of you back. Kids are amazing, they will pick the language up in no time.

Ok, who is ready to send their kids to a French public school? It’s not that hard, right? It took some time to gather all the information and their was the language barrier which equated to a load of Google Translate moments and “hey kids, can you help me again”, but we managed. We are now living in our village in France and it all worked out.

If you have questions that I have not answered feel free to comment or PM me. Also, if you have been through this and have something to add please let me know.

Bisous,
Jessica

 

September 15, 2016Permalink 6 Comments

Socialization Again, Can We Move Past This?

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Bonjour friends. Socialization again! We cannot escape this topic no matter how we educate our children.

“It must be nice for Avalon to have friends again.”

Ahhhh, if I hear this comment again I may lose it on someone. Actually I have only heard it about four times in the last six months so I guess that is not bad, but it still annoys me to no end. If you have NEVER been homeschooled or been a parent of a homeschooled child (and slow-traveled at the same time) then I am not interested in your thoughts on socialization. Frankly, there is nothing more ridiculous than when someone thinks they are an expert in this lifestyle choice, but they have never actually lived it. That would be comparable to me vocally giving my thoughts on socialization in religious/same gender schools. I don’t know, so I keep my mouth zipped. I can speculate, but at the end of the day I am not a parent of child in this situation, nor am I a student there. Yes, I am a little fired up today, you know how this social aspect of homeschooling gets me going. You can read about it here and here. Folks, the social aspect of our lifestyle choice is a BENEFIT, not a negative. It is so much of a benefit that it makes it on the top five list for this lifestyle.

My standard response to this question is usually “do you read our blog?” If you’re a regular blog reader you know we socialize, a lot. We do this with our kids, with adults, with other kids, as a family with other families, cross culturally, in the US, on adventures and more. We have friends, all of us have friends, but we don’t have cliques. And the two should never be confused.

Do not assume that because Avalon does not have forced socialization in an institution that she does not have friends. That is a gross misunderstanding. And if she heard you say this she would take great offense to it. She has a lot of friends from all over the globe, but what she does not have is a clique. Just because someone does not have a clique of other girls that they hang with does not mean they don’t have friends. This is a very archaic paradigm regarding socialization and I am determined to debunk it.

Avalon (as well as Largo) have friends from many different ages, cultures, religions and so on. I have written about it in great detail over the years so I won’t rehash it here, however I plan to continue to educate people on the fact that just because someone is not in a traditional school does not mean that they don’t have friends. Again, dated paradigm for sure.

It’s funny because we don’t tend to hold adults to the same standards. I don’t think anyone has ever said to me, “are you glad to be back in the US for six weeks so you can have friends? Are you getting socialization again?” So why is it that kids cannot possibly have global friends like us adults? Friends that they may only see in person once a year (but connect with on social media the rest of the year), friends that live in different countries, friends of different ages and gender? I know my definition of a good friend has nothing to do with how much time I physically spend with them. Would you agree? Why are kids held to a different set of standards? Luckily there is a (growing) number of us out there that fully support this innovative way of socialization and maintaining global friendships.

I know it is not always easy to understand the traveling life and how we make it all work, but I am here to tell you that forming community, making friends and creating life long friendship is one of the biggest benefits we get from this lifestyle. Socialization. Yes, AvaLar is growing up different from the majority of US kids and yes they have a different model for making friends, but they still make friends. To assume that they are suffering an awful life without friends just because it is not how kids have typically made friends for generations is inaccurate. The world is changing, the office environment is changing and because of all the technology the way we do life is changing. This homeschooling route is not something that is so foreign anymore and I can tell you that the social aspect of it is why many parents choose this path. I know for us it was important for our kids to learn about other cultures in the world, socialize outside their race, gender and religion, plus become compassionate, peace giving individuals. We get all of this from world schooling.

Let’s move on to other topics like world peace because frankly spending so much time on the social aspect of homeschooled and traveling kids is not a good use of time considering the current state of affairs in the world. I see these homeschooled/traveling kids and their global friends making a difference in the future of the world so lets all open our hearts and minds to new ways of socialization.

Bisous,
Jessica

* The picture above is from when we met up with Keep Your Daydream in Maine this past summer. Avalon was sick so she was unable to join us.

September 14, 2016Permalink Leave a comment

Why Is Avalon In A French Public School?

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Bonjour friends. It’s Tuesday and I know I promised some of you the post about how we did the long-stay visa here in France. It is coming this week. Here’s the thing, Will has this youtube channel (please subscribe and hit thumbs up) and he wants to post a vlog with the blog outlining what we did. We are still slightly in “settle in” mode here and we have not had time to shoot it. Sorry, but I do have a hot topic for you today, French public school.

The million dollar question. The question that keeps getting asked over and over again. Why is Avalon in a French public school and not being world schooled in the same fashion we chose the last two years? The answer is really quite simple… she wanted to try middle school. Of course there is always more to the story. I will share her “why” here today and then maybe in a month or so (once she settles into school) she can explain her “why” in her own words.

Our previous version of world schooling was an amazing experience (and will be again). The first year held many transitions, some tears and a couple of fights, but we managed to find our groove very early on. When one makes the decisions to change the way each of you feels about the education process there is a learning curve and some deschooling that needs to take place on both ends. We did all that together. We learned, we laughed, we played and we both grew tremendously. It truly was a magical experience.

When it came to establishing what she wanted to study this year, building her curriculum and discussing how she had grown she also wanted to entertain another idea… middle school in France.

Why?

  • First, she wanted to experience changing class rooms, having a locker (although they don’t even have them here) and the freedom that comes with middle school. When we left the US she was going into 5th grade so she missed that whole experience.
  • She also knew that if she wanted to try middle school then this year (7th grade) would probably be her only opportunity because we plan to RV Europe for her 8th grade year.
  • Finally, she thought it would be fun to meet new friends in France. Unfortunately the homeschool presence in our small town here is pretty much non-existent. I had to be honest with her about that. As always I would do my best to form our community and I am sure it would happen, however we would not have a group of kids to hang with each Friday like in Quito.

Was deciding to attend French public school a tough decision for her?

  • Absolutely and some days it still is. She went back and forth for the longest time. See, she really enjoyed being world schooled on our terms, but there were experiences she wanted to have that she could not have being world schooled the way we did it, like changing classrooms. She did have a variety of teachers in different locations during her two years of being world schooled in Ecuador (and Costa Rica), but that is a little different from changing classes throughout the day. In contrast she was concerned about her loss of freedom to organize her day how she saw fit and she knew she would lose her ability to choose classes that interested her due to bureaucracy.
  • All of her concerns with attending a traditional school have manifested, there have been no surprises. The bureaucracy has shown its evil eye several times already and that has been tremendously annoying for her. She HAS to take English (it’s very beginner) even though she prefers to take Italian. She HAD to do a week of FSL (because she came from a different country) even thought she is fluent in French. She cannot sit in French class until the teacher tells her she can. And, no snacking until lunch time. However, overall she is still happy with her choice, but is already talking about looking forward to world schooling again next year.

How do we feel about her decision to attend French public school?

  • We miss her.
  • We fully support her decision to try something different. In fact we are so incredibly impressed with her desire and fearlessness to enter into a new school, in a new country. Avalon asked to try out homeschooling many years ago. Will and I felt we owed it to her to educate ourselves and bring her wish to fruition. I am so glad she pushed us to step outside our comfort zone. This alternative education path has opened up so many doors now and will open up even more as we continue to world school while traveling.
  • We feel that our previous version of world schooling has been a very positive aspect of her education. In addition, we believe it is the best education path for her. However we also support a child’s right to choose a different education path (even if only temporary at this point). We would not ever dream of forcing her to do it or not do it because of our personal wishes.
  • There are benefits to every education path. The great thing about our travel life is that she can take the benefits, disregard the junk and move forward as we continue to travel. In her current situation she will learn about two vastly different cultures, the French education system and much more. Plus, she will get to improve her second language. Oh wait, and experience some yummy lunches and make new friends.
  • Finally, we still consider her to be world schooled, actually both children for that matter. World schooling takes on many different paths. The kids are still learning about the world and a different culture, they are just doing it in the confines of a traditional institution. Plus, we adventure on the weekends and world school our butts off everyday in town.

What do we think the result will be after her year of attending French public school?

  • She will grow an even greater love for literature since the French program places great importance on this area. And her French will improve.
  • She will make new friends that hopefully she will have for a lifetime.
  • She will learn about the Muslim and French cultures.
  • She will experience some new activities and enlighten her palate.
  • She will look back on this year with great fondness, but will eagerly anticipate another year of our old version of world schooling.

So there you have it, the reason why Avalon is attending French public school. The answer to the big question. No we did not quit world schooling, we just modified it. No it was not a flop. No we are not going back to institutionalized education full-time. However, she wants to try it for a year and we are supporting her decision. We think it is going to be a marvelous year with loads of new experiences, quality education and a big dose of culture learning.

Bisous,
Jessica

September 13, 2016Permalink 3 Comments

RV Sharing On My Mind

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Bonjour friends! How was your weekend? Are you ready for France posts? Starting tomorrow I will be posting about France, all the time! Can I let you in on a secret? Our plan is to stay here for one year (ok, maybe two) and then head out to RV Europe. I am not even remotely in research mode for that yet and probably won’t be until a week before we leave, but several months ago RV Share reached out to me and expressed an interested in collaborating. I could not resist taking a tiny (ok, huge) look into what they do. After researching the company and making sure it was inline with our travel philosophy I eagerly agreed to collaborate. Have you heard of RV Sharing?

The RV Sharing Economy: See the USA on a Budget

Chances are, you’re reading this because you’re either a traveler already or you want to be one. No matter your reason, we encourage you to get out and see the country. One of the best ways to do that is in an RV. But isn’t RVing expensive? The answer is simple, and its affordability might surprise you: RV Sharing.

RV sharing is a relatively new concept. The peer-to-peer marketplace presents RV owners and travel wannabes with new opportunities. Owners can rent out their RVs when not using them, and renters get to test out the lifestyle before they commit. The best part? It saves both parties tons of cash.

How Does RV Sharing Work?

Peer-to-peer RV renting works like Airbnb on wheels. Using a platform like RVshare, owners and renters can find their perfect matches. Owners list their RVs, set prices, sift through reservations, and meet the renters when it’s time to hand over the keys. Renters can search for RVs by location, features, or type.

Most RVs are covered by liability insurance, and owners can use the platform to screen renters. On the other end, renters get to rest easy knowing they have roadside assistance. That’s good news for anyone who wants to see the USA without blowing their savings on a new RV.

Okay, You Sold Me – Now What?

Before you bust out your wallet and secure a rental, you need to figure out a few essentials. Most importantly, what kind of RV should you rent? Each has their pros and cons. Consider your travel plans and the size of your family:

  • Class A’s average between 30 to 40 feet in length. They have plenty of amenities and will easily sleep a big family. The bigger they are, though, the more limited your parking options will be. Some campgrounds don’t allow rigs bigger than 30 feet. Driving a Class A also takes a bit of practice – it’s more like driving a bus than a truck.
  • Class C’s tend to be between 20 to 25 feet long. They sit on a van or truck chassis, with a bed above the cab and a second sleeping area on the main level. They drive like big trucks, so they’re a good choice if you’re nervous to take on a larger RV.
  • Class B’s are the smallest of the bunch. They’re van conversions and average up to 19 feet in length. Many are self-contained and feature a small kitchenette and toilet. They’re the easiest to drive and least expensive to rent. They’re best if it’s just you and a loved one traveling together.

Of course, there are other setups out there. The point is to find the size and amenities that fit your budget and your needs. If you want to do a lot of stealth camping to save money, a giant RV isn’t going to do you any favors. If you’re traveling with kids and pets, a Class C might make you feel like a can of frustrated sardines.

Saving Money on the Road

Now we come to the nitty-gritty of RV sharing: saving money. Renting an RV to tour the states can save you a bunch, but only if you plan ahead. Keep the following in mind:

  1. Plan, plan, plan your route. Every extra mile is going to cost you. Gas should be your first line item in your budget. Whether you want to take the scenic drive or avoid tolls, use an online route planner to calculate how much you’ll be spending. Plug in your info to see the mileage and places to stop along the way.
  2. Don’t forget to mark where you want to camp along your routes. Many rest areas and Walmart’s offer free overnight camping. These are great if you’re able to dry camp. RV parks usually have hookups and extra amenities for those nights you want to splurge. The RVshare blog has some great ideas for campgrounds and destinations across the U.S.
  3. On a similar note, try to dry camp whenever you can. Every night you dry camp is a night you don’t have to pay for hookups (and in some cases, camp fees). The key is conserving water, fuel, and electricity. That means quick showers and paper plates. It also means avoiding AC and television in most cases. But hey, enjoying the outdoors is one of the best parts of traveling.
  4. You might want to plan out a few meals for your trip. Making your food will make a big difference in your budget. Stock the RV with dry and frozen food to keep on rotation. Then, pick up fresh ingredients as you go. There are plenty of websites with easy recipes for the road.
  5. Be strict with how much you travel each day. There are two reasons for this. First, doing too many miles in a day behind the wheel of an RV is exhausting. Second, most RV owners set caps on the number of miles they want you driving per day. You’ll have to pay a fee if you go over. Our advice? Take it slow and enjoy the benefits of the RV lifestyle!
  6. For those of you planning long trips who want to make some spending money, you ought to think about Workamping. Most campgrounds offer hookups, pay, and meal plans in exchange for part-time work. Job duration can be anywhere in from a few weeks to several months or more.

The RV sharing marketplace is rapidly growing. People now have access to opportunities they may never have had otherwise. Whether it’s a vacation or a first step into full-timing, RV sharing lets you dip your toes into the traveling lifestyle. So what are you waiting for? Pack your bags, rent an RV, and we’ll see you on the road!

Ok, who is with me? Sounds cool, right? Have you ever done something like this before? What I particularly love about it is that it is encouraging sharing, reducing expenses and forming trust and community. The thought of buying an RV sounds daunting to me, but having the ability to test out the lifestyle first is definitely enticing. We do it with homes and cars already so why not with RV’s? Now I just need them to offer this in Europe!

Your thoughts? Would you try it?

Happy Monday! I will meet you back here tomorrow for the start of our France posts! Here we go, hold on tight!

Bisous,
Jessica

September 12, 2016Permalink Leave a comment

Bonjour Hyères + Weekly Round Up

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Bonjour friends! Happy Friday! Bonjour Hyères. Wow, what a week. I am happy to report that we made progress in our meager nine days here. We feel settled in. I still need to sign up for French classes, but the school in town is closed for another three weeks, probably a blessing in disguise.

We have had so many amazing experiences this week, but I think my trip chaperoning Largo’s class to the pool hits the top of the list. I was not able to volunteer the last two years in Spanish-speaking countries because the list was always full and I did not speak the language. It appears that the language barrier is not an issue here and I love that. My job was to supervise the girls at the pool. Got it! Well, these nine-year old girls were adorable. They had a lot of questions about my age, our birth country, our journey, how Largo speaks French and so much more. Luckily one of the girls spoke Spanish and we were able to communicate and translate back to her friends. Kids are amazing, they are curious, fearless and have no barriers up. They accept a situation for what it is with open arms and hearts. I am sure these little girls will never know how much they made the day of this 43-year-old. I look forward to more moments like these as we continue to dip into other cultures.

 

ROUND UP time!
WE ARE IN FRANCE: I am sure most of you have noticed. It has only been nine days, but so far we are in love. The food, the people, the culture, the climate, it’s all great, really, great.

YOUTUBE CHANNEL: Will has a youtube channel where he shares all of his amazing videos from our family travel. Come visit us on youtube. Subscribe, watch the advertisement (this is how we make a penny) and hit thumbs up if you like it.

MARATHONER: Someone in this house will be running the Paris marathon in April. Bah, no not me, never, it’s the hot latino. There is a bunch of us going to support our wild and crazy family members. If you are planning to run it let us know and I will invite you to our “carb night” dinner. We would love to meet up with blog followers in Paris.

HEALTH: Yep, I am going to sound like an old lady. I am better, not 100% still, can you believe it? But I am almost there. Apparently I caught one heck of a virus in South America, according to my blood work. I was sick for close to three months with a variety of symptoms that have mostly run their course. It was brutal folks. I am thankful for my health now more than ever.

AVALAR: They are doing fantastic. Our first night here AvaLar said they hated it and wanted to move (can we say jet lag and exhaustion?). Fast forward one week and we have two kids saying they LOVE it and they never want to leave. Many of you who have kids know that they can change at any moment, but overall they are just in a pure state of bliss here in the south of France. They are both attending a local public school, have aggressively made friends and adore school lunch. I am trying to figure out a way to get myself into one of those lunch rooms. I need to see and experience this first hand. I will continually post updates about the kids and if they are interested they can do some interviews for the youtube channel regarding their experience. We are off to an amazing start.

FRENCH AS A SECOND LANGUAGE: Apparently they offer FSL for tweens who move here and don’t speak the language, well, at least in Avalon’s school. I post this because I know many of you are asking about life in France, you want to move here, but you are concerned about your kids and the language. I will definitely provide an update on this further down the line.

BRACES: There will eventually be an entire post dedicated to this subject because I have many curious readers. My thoughts so far are that it is considerably less expensive to have braces put on outside the US. We paid approximately just under $600 USD in Ecuador to have them put on and €690 here in France to do the adjustments for the next 6-12 months.

 

SHARING TIME!
LOVE THIS FAMILY: Could you sell it all?

DO YOU HAVE A DAUGHTER? What they really need from their mothers.

COUCHSURFING: Do you know what it is? Have you done it before? This article is full of information if you are curious.

DO YOU SPEND YOUR MONEY ON EXPERIENCES OR THINGS? This is a good read about the benefits of experiences over stuff.

 

NEW VLOGS
MY HOMETOWN

OUR LAST DAYS IN THE US

LAUNCH TO FRANCE

 

HYÈRES OBSERVATIONS!
My plan is to share discoveries, observations and pretty much randomness from our week in France. Of course there will be more lengthy posts on the information that deserves more air time, but so much is happening that it cannot all be a post.

TATTOOS: I don’t think I have ever been in an area where so many people have tattoos. I am quite shocked actually and I love it at the same time. In comparison to my tattoos and the ones I am used to seeing the French seem to only have one (maybe two, but no more), they are done with a dark ink and not very colorful, plus most appear to be on the shoulder or ankle. Once I make friends with some locals I will try to get more information on the tattoo situation here and I will report back to you.

DON’T SIT YET: Avalon is not allowed to sit in her seat in French class until the teacher says it is ok. This has been hard for her to remember and digest. Avalon has been world schooled for two years so she is used to a lot of bodily control throughout the day. As much as we don’t subscribe to this type of behavior it has been a great learning experience in cultural differences for Avalon.

LUNCH: Both kids have decided that they want to stay at school for lunch all week (Avalon does come home one day). Will and I eagerly look forward to their daily report on lunch during our dinner. Most days they enjoy it and then there are those days when the description has us in stitches. The lunch is three to four courses on most days and it always includes a dessert. When we went to town hall to sign Largo up for lunch the attendant was fast to tell us that Largo would need to clean his plate each day or there would be problems. In our home we are very adamant that they try something once or twice, but we never force meals on them that they truly don’t like. Plus, we never practice the “clean your plate” method. We think it is important for them to learn portion control and control over what they eat. I was told that the point of the “clean plate” policy here is to enlighten the palate. Sounds beautiful. Largo returned from school on his first day claiming that he ate most of his food, but they did not make him clean his plate.

Avalon was telling us that her friends were complaining about the food and she told them to go eat school lunch in the US and then they would really know bad food. I love the study of cultural comparisons.

WELCOMING: Wow, has this place been welcoming. Quito was very welcoming as well, but the area where I notice the biggest difference is in the administration of the schools. Largo attended a private French school in Ecuador and although the families were super welcoming the registration folks and the Director were not. It makes all the difference when you move to a new land to have the school officials compassionate.

SCHOOL ACTIVITIES: On the list are swimming, sailing, wind surfing, rock climbing and that is just for the fall. Cool!

WEDNESDAY BREAK: Both of the kids are out of school by lunch time on Wednesday. On most days they go to school until 3:30 or 4:30 so I think this half day Wednesday is a nice little relief in the middle of the week. Last Wednesday they had a leisurely lunch, swam in our pool and then went into town to do errands with me.

LIBRARY: Wednesday we found the library and what a glorious day it was. It is stocked full of books, periodicals, videos, music and so much more. The kids were so happy to have found this little (or big) morsel of goodness.

SCHOOL BELL: We can hear it from our patio. Both schools are under a ten minute walk from our house. If we are hearing the bell and we are still at home then the chances are that we are going to be late.

LOVE LETTERS: Largo has already received a love letter and almost a kiss. This little girl came so close to Largo’s face that I think her intent was to kiss him until she saw Will and I standing there. This has happened to Largo in several countries, he is quite the charmer.

FOOD: We love it. There will be a post (well, many posts), but for now I just wanted to share with all of you that we are enjoying the eats. The cheese, olives, fruit, fresh fish, wine, baguette, it’s all good, oh so good.

Have a fabulous weekend and go adventure.

Besos,
Jessica

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