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On the road with the Mariotti family (how to do Europe with children, books and flair!)

28th May 2014

The connections we at TripFiction have forged via social media to date have been really wonderful and that is how we met up with the Mariotti family from Washington. In this post we share some insights into the inspirational trip that is underway for them, as they travel around Europe (and, of course, their love of books that are evocative of locale).

Over to Mum, Colleen…..

My husband Ron and I have been married 13 years and we have three children between 6-10 years of age. We sold or donated everything we own almost one year ago and have been traveling around Europe with our life in our carry-on bags ever since. We can’t believe we have spent every day together, every moment together, for almost 300 days! It is the ultimate gift.

Sicily2014

Sicily 2014

TF: I am trying to imagine the build-up to your decision to sell up and embark on this journey as a family. How did it come about?

We always talked about living “overseas” as a family but as the kids grew and responsibilities grew, it started to feel less and less possible. One night, my husband and I were texting each other about what we should do about dinner as he was with one of our children at a sports practice and I was running the other two between dance lessons and homework. That night we decided we had to do something differently. We then found out we qualified for to apply for Italian Dual Citizenship through my husbands heritage and we sold everything and left within NS0-153 4 months. It was fast and easy and that is how we knew it was right. We wanted to spend more time together while our kids were still interested in spending time with us. We wanted to align our actions with our values. We valued family time and we had very little. We knew it was going to have to be a big move to jolt us out of our old ways. We made a big decision for little reasons. We wanted the moments back.

TF: You have chosen a lovely title for your blog (Long Live Slow Travel). What are your must-see places on this voyage?

There really is very little we don’t want to see. We started in Europe because of the citizenship process but our intention was to use the world as our classroom. We also want to make sure we keep the “why” we are doing this at the forefront and we don’t let the “what” we are seeing take over. We could find ourselves running just as quickly from site to site or city to city as were from activity to “to dos’” as home. If a destination fits with our “why” we go but we never sacrifice our “why” for a destination and when we do, it never works out. Paris was a huge challenge. We had 53 things on our list after we met as a family. We narrowed it down to three in an effort to go deep versus broad. It is a daily negotiation with each other and with old habits.

TF: So many of us are ‘anchored’ into our everyday life, that unhooking ourselves feels like quite a challenge. On a practical level how easy was it to sort money for such a long trip, and healthcare and so forth?

Well, as I mentioned, we sold/donated everything. Many of us have so much more “stuff” than we know of and we spend a lot of time and money taking care of it. Everything we have now fits into five carry-on bags. We did this because we wanted our moments back and taking care of our stuff was distracting us from taking care of ourselves and each other. We also have time to try new things we are passionate about like travel writing and photography and that is a new income stream we never planned on. We moved our existing businesses to referral/consulting based models and they continue to bring in income. Our life on the road costs less than half of what it did at home. That is something people never believe but it is true. It costs less and we have every day together as a family!

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The children at the Normandy Cliffs, France

TF: The children must be gaining so many varied and stimulating experiences. How would they describe your meander around Europe?

They each connect with different places and spaces in their own way. The quote from this week that stuck with me was when my 6 year old said, “Walking up the Eiffel Tower, the wind whipped. Walking up the Notre Dame Tower, the wind whistles.” A few days later, standing on the Alabaster Cliffs of Normandy, my 9 year old said, “We sure do a lot of living in a day.” My other favorite description was when my 10 year old exclaimed from the terrace of our apartment in Barcelona, “Come feel this day.”

 

TF: And more formal education for the children, how do you all manage that?

We were both teachers but that is not necessary for a journey like ours. We registered the kids as “homeschooled” in our local district. The world is taking care of the rest. They are engaged every day in currency conversion, learning new words and new customs in different countries and opening themselves up to learning from every angle. They have spent afternoons in knife makers workshops in Italy, or scavenger hunts through the Louvre. Today we saw the 70th Anniversary of D-Day Film and we walked out of the theater we were on Gold’s Beach. It doesn’t get any better than that! It is a bit like cheating as a teacher. We are walking through so much history every day and bringing it to life comes naturally.

TF: What has been your most challenging experience?

Our most challenging experience has been pace. It is hard because we didn’t set a time frame for our journey. We knew many people that mentioned they had taken a “gap year” but we wanted to fully engage where we were and we were afraid we would be focused on re-entry the whole time we were gone. We have been moving every week for two months now and we are tired. We are starting to see a pattern. We move rapidly and then we stop for a month or two or three and catch up. The other thing that has been challenging is moving to a completely nomadic version of home. I loved “nesting” and making cakes and growing food in my garden. It has been challenging to replace those feelings of home but I have to say I love spending every day together more. I truly believe now that home is where my family is – it is no longer a cliche but a reality.

TF: How will you know when it is time to return ‘home” and where will home be?

We have no idea! We check in with everyone every 3/4 months to see if everyone is happy traveling. So far it has been an emphatic yes. We talk and dream every day about what our dream location would be for our next stationary “home.” This week, we have been cold in Normandy so the conversations have been tropical! The great thing is the kids see the world as their community and they talk about moving freely about which is what we wanted. We have gained so much confidence in Europe and look forward to pushing ourselves in even more “foreign” lands in the future.

TF: Which cuisine has been the family’s most enjoyable (and the most bizarre?)?

Well, we LOVE pizza in southern Italy. There is truly no comparison. The food in Provence was my favorite. I loved shopping at the weekly market in Aix-en-Provence and just spreading the table with fresh fruit and cheese and olives. I still dream about those olives! The most bizarre was the spleen sandwich my kids tried on our street food tour in Sicily. They were so brave and they liked it, but they have not asked for it again.

TF: What do you miss by being on the road for so long?

Being away from our extended family has been the hardest part of this journey. We are hoping to connect this summer and may have some visitors but the nature of our journey means we are hard to catch, as we don’t have a home base or really know where we are off to next. Technology is incredible but it is no substitute for actual hugs from grandparents.

 

Thank you so much to Colleen and her family for sharing insights into their travelling life together. We felt truly humbled that they had so much determination to make their dream come true! We caught up with the family when they were in North-West Spain at Santiago de Compostela, with the inspired words of author Pascal Mercier in his book Night Train to Lisbon ringing in their ears, as he describes the majesty and grandeur of cathedrals:

IMG_2033“I would not like to live in a world without cathedrals. I need their beauty and grandeur. I need them against the vulgarity of the world. I want to look up at the illuminated church windows and let myself be blinded by the unearthly colors. . . I want to let myself be wrapped in the austere coolness of the churches. I need their imperious silence . . .I want to hear the rustling of the organ, this deluge of ethereal tones. I love praying people. I need the sight of them. A world without these things would be a world I would not like to live in.” You can find out more about the Mariotti family’s experience in Santiago de Compostela here and read some of the touching responses to their heartfelt experience in this beautiful part of the world.

Do follow them on their travels via their blog, you will be truly inspired!

Tina for the TripFiction Team

And as ever you can connect with TripFiction via Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest – and on Instagram too.

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