Practical Adventurology: Encouraging Life-Changing Travel Experiences
If you're fishing around for inspiration to travel, change your life, or follow your dreams, look no further. I've got a real-life example for you - with details! Annie André is a fellow member of the Family Travel Bloggers Association, and is quite active on facebook with family travel - inspiring and encouraging families to take that step and explore the world. Annie André is a seasoned traveller and chief adventurologist at
www.AnnieAndre.com, where she helps people escape the rat rat race to
experience a life changing travel experience. Annie and her family are living their dream - in France - and sharing their experiences with others at AnnieAndre.com - Practical Adventureology. We caught up with Annie to find out more about her journey - take a look...
Please tell us about your website, AnnieAndre.com (Practical Adventurology)...What can readers find there?
AnnieAndre.com aka Practical Adventurology is an independent travel and lifestyle Blog.
My goal is to empower people's travel dreams and show them how to escape the rat race and pursue a life changing travel experience even if they have kids.
When a reader comes to Practical Adventurology, readers will find a variety of information to help them in their travel quest including: resources, tips, photos, product reviews, real stories of people living the travel life and the occasional travel oddity. Plus anything else I can cook up to kick you off your couch to take action on your travel dreams.
Occasionally, I write about our family travels - which at the moment is about our life in France. Lately i've been writing a lot about dog poop.
Soon I'll be starting up a series about what it's like for kids to go to public school in France. Especially for young children. It involves a lot of counting and colouring escargot (snails) and eating cheese. I kid you not.
3 Rules My Content Follows
Being the ADHD person that I am, I try to write in a non boring way that follows one of these three rules.
1- It's entertaining or quirky. ( I have this affinity to travel oddities and oddities in general).
2- It's informative / educational
What was the genesis of your site?
The funny thing is, AnnieAndre.com started out as a place to put my resume.
Back in 2011, when I started doing research on how to take a family sabbatical in France, I realized there was really no website dedicated to helping families move or take a year off to live in France like we wanted to do.
The resources I found seemed to lack any overarching theme or topic to them, i.e., I was looking for a mix of fun stories with practical information and I just couldn't find any that appealed to me.
Then there were other sites written for single people or backpackers or people with no ties to the conventional world.
I guess you could say Practical Adventurology was born out of necessity. I see it as filling a need. I wanted AnnieAndre.com to be the site that I wish was around when i was doing my research.
Originally my site was just about taking a family sabbatical with an emphasis on France but I found this narrow topic limiting. I realized that many people wanted to travel but spending a year abroad wasn't realistic or even on people's to do list.
However, having a life-changing travel experience was.
Since I wanted to help more people achieve their travel dreams no matter what they were, I began to slowly incorporate different types of life-changing travel and what you see today is part of that evolution. I work alone, and so the process is slow, but I have a lot of projects in the works.
For instance, I'm working on a few articles on how to get married in a foreign country. Also some articles on how to volunteer as a family or couchsurf as a family. There are just so many topics to cover, I wish I had two of me to write it all.
Where are you now?
Right now we are in France. We arrived in France on the 5th of October 2011, and originally landed in Marseille where we stayed for 9 months.
Then we spent a month in Germany and now we are back in France in a town called La Garde. La Garde is a smallish town located 5 minutes from Toulon and 1 hour from Cannes by train. We can ride our bikes to the beach, too.
We renewed our visas to stay for one more year and we are considering staying through the year 2014, probably in this same town.
How did you end up in France?
I guess you could say that the recession of 2007 set us on our current path.
My husband and I were both laid off from our high-tech jobs in Silicon Valley, California.
We decided to take a career break and spend a year working on some personal goals.
I started a web-based sleeping mask business and my husband worked on all the things he neglected while he worked crazy hours, like gardening and starting his novel.
It was during that first year off of work that we learned that we had so much more we wanted to do in life than just work to pay for our expensive lifestyle (big house and lots of gadgets and toys).
I enjoyed working for myself so much that I decided never to go back to work corporate again if I could help it. I pushed forward with my sleeping mask business, doing craft shows and selling on places like etsy. I was making 1/4 of what I was making as a web marketing analyst and Banner ad optimizer and my husband was having a hard time finding another six figure job.
We were at a crossroads. We could stick it out and hope Blake could find another six figure job while I continued to grow my business, or we could cut our losses and move somewhere with a lower cost of living.
We set our eyes on the east coast of the U.S.. The plan was that Blake would look for a job somewhere on the east coast, and wherever he found one was where we would live.
We set up a temporary base camp at my aunt's house in Montreal, and I home schooled my boys which gave us freedom to travel.
From Montreal, we travelled out frequently up and down the east coast visiting different places.
We visited Blake's family in Maryland, Virginia, and friends in Annapolis. We even couchsurfed a few times. That was kind of cool, but weird, too.
After about 7 months of living this way, I had this crazy Idea.
For our move to the east cost, we had downsized and put the rest in storage until we found a permanent home. Why not take our move a step further?
Go to France for a year.
I spoke fluent French since my father was French Canadian and I went to high school in Montreal.
My husband Blake was a Francophile.
We could work on our freelance careers and personal projects in France while soaking in the culture and the kids could work on their French while going to school. (This last part was very important for me.)
It made perfect sense because it aligned our personal goals, our professional goals, our family goals, and educational goals - all rolled under one big goal to travel.
All the pieces were already in place, and all we had to do was apply for visas and tie up some loose ends.
6 months later we were on a plane to France.
How is your family adjusting to living in France?
I'm not going to lie. It's been rocky. We did not anticipate a lot of things, but overall it's not been that bad.
The language barrier has been the toughest for my eldest son because he is very shy. My youngest daughter, who was three when we first arrived, had no problems adjusting whatsoever. She was already bilingual before we arrived in France because of her exposure to my family in Montreal and I only speak French to her.
My middle son is doing well, too. Blake, my husband, is befuddled by the bureaucracy of doing simple things that we take for granted in the US and Canada, like banking and setting up a phone, but he is accepting that this is the way things are done in France.
Blake and Catherine signing the Berlin Wall
What do your kids do for school?
All 3 kids attend public French school. Kieran is in lycée (high school or secondary school). Andre is in College (middle school) and Catherine is in Maternelle Grande section (kindergarten equivalent, but in France it's the last year of pre-school).
What do the kids love about living in France?
My two teenagers tell me that they love being able to speak a second language.
My middle son thinks the baguettes are the best here and can't even eat normal bread anymore. My five year old daughter will miss all the stinky cheese, for sure.
Finally, although they didn't say this, I think they secretly love being instantly popular in any school they go to, just because they speak English.
eating le hot dog
How can expats and travelers best dig deeply into a culture/new place?
For everyone this is different, but for us these have been the key to really getting the most out of travelling and being expats.
1-Language, language, language. Language is the key that opens up so many doors. I can go to a market and see a new food item and ask the vendeur what it is and how to cook it. I've learned so many new recipes this way.
Language allows you to hang out with locals and see their country the way they see it. Language lets you do so much more beyond the touristy destination guides. Learn at least 100 words and basic phrases before you go...especially if you will spend any amount of time somewhere.
2-Mix with locals, not expats. Choose one activity to meet local people. My sons hang out with friends they meet through school and it has made their transition so much easier. I meet friends from my children's schools, our neighbours, and exercise gyms, etc. Do something to mingle. They will expose you to new places and new things you would not think to do or discover.
What are your top tips for creating sustainable freelance careers, so people can travel?
This is a really hard one to answer.
I think there are 3 keys to creating sustainable careers.
1-Do something you enjoy doing, whether you get paid or not.
It takes a lot of hard work for little to no pay in the beginning. It's hard to sustain that level of hard work for little reward, so you almost have to rely on your love or passion for that particular thing if you choose a freelance career that you don't enjoy. You might give up or get sick of it before you reap the rewards of your hard work.
2-Pick a freelance career that draws on your natural talents and abilities.
In other words, you might enjoy making logos but if you are horrible at it, maybe it shouldn't be your freelance career. That's not to say that you can't work on your logo designs on the side - just be realistic.
Start dabbling in your intended freelance business as soon as you can. You may find that you hate it. You may find that you would rather do something else.
4- Persistence: Stay strong.
If you don't see an immediate return on your efforts, don't give up. It's ok to shift gears and make adjustments, but don't give up too early. It's like a college degree. For 4 to 6 years, you work hard studying and never getting paid. Then you get your first job and a few years later you finally start making the money and creating the lifestyle you want. Creating a sustainable freelance career takes time, and it's best to grow it organically if you can.
Is there anything else you'd like to share with us?
If you have a dream to travel but don't think you can because of your circumstances, then here is my advice.
I understand that not everyone can live their travel dreams. But there is nothing stopping you from at least trying to create some version of your dream.
If you want to live in France for a year but can't because of money, then maybe just spend a month in France.
If you want to spend a year travelling the world but can't because the kids want to stay in school, then maybe do a summer trip and visit 6 cities, or do a summer road trip. The point is, if you don't at least try to live some version of your dream, you will regret it. You owe it to yourself to at least try.
Thanks so much, Annie! Readers, be sure to pick up a copy of her free packing check-list to assist in your travels!
All photos courtesy and copyright Annie Andre.