Welcome to the newest installment of the Daring to Dream Family Traveler Series on Exit Normal!
In today’s post, I’d love for you to meet Catherine Forest who, along with her husband JF and their three girls, has been traveling around the U.S. for half the year for each of the past three years. Traveling in style in their 1984 bus, the family roadschools and works as digital nomads along the way, as well as pursues their passions of mountain biking, rock climbing, and hiking. Their photographs are stunning and their story is even more amazing. Here’s a family who decided “normal” life was not for them–and made the life of their dreams a reality!
1) What country are you from? What country do you live in now and what other places have you visited/lived? Please describe your travel schedule. When did you start this lifestyle?
We are Canadians and still spend 6 months per year in Canada. The other six, we spent in the USA for the last 3 years. We started this lifestyle in 2012 when we rented a house in Costa Rica for 5 months. When we came back, we decided we wanted to live on the road, so we sold our house and became full-time nomads.
2) Can you introduce us to your family? Names, ages, brief description?
JF and I are both 39 and we have 3 roadschooled daughters : Mara and Aisha, 12 yo twins, and Mathilde, 11 yo.
Our house is an ’84 Bluebird Wanderlodge bus that pulls an ’87 Westfalia Syncro. You can tour the bus here: http://www.roaditup.com/our-bus-westy/ (slideshow at the bottom).
3) What method of education do you use for your children? Can you talk a little about how traveling has added to their education?
Our girls never went to school, so roadschooling was just the transition of what we were already doing at home. We use a Waldorf curriculum and the girls do about 3 hours of school every morning of the week. You can see what we do on our homeschooling blog: http://catherine-et-les-fees.blogspot.ca/
We live outside most of the time. Our backyard changes constantly, there is always something new to explore, a new trail, new landscapes.
4) What was the inspiration that led you to this kind of life?
We want to give our girls the gift of time. The time to live, to listen to themselves, to find out who they truly are and what makes them feel alive and happy and connected to their essence far from the colossal influence of the majority, of mainstream society. We want to offer them a childhood away from the stress, from the life that goes too fast. We want to offer them parents who are truly present, relaxed and available, but above all, we want to learn and discover the world with them, because this is what makes us the happiest.
5) How do you finance your traveling lifestyle?
JF and I are both translators. JF works full-time and I do contracts. We often boondock to try to keep our camping costs low and stay longer in one place to save on gas.
6) What challenges have you faced in living, schooling, and working on the road?
Mostly space. The bus is narrow and in the morning we would sometimes like more space on the kitchen table/office/school desk. As I said, we were used to living together 24/7, so we are simply doing it in a bus. I miss having an oven and kitchen space for baking.
7) What are the greatest advantages for you in living a travel-based lifestyle? What are the disadvantages?
One of the many advantages is that we are outside and physically active a lot. Our girls have become proficient mountain bikers, rock climbers and hikers and truly enjoy the outdoors. We get to spend a lot of time together and that is the most important thing for us. But I think that my favorite part is having no calendar or to-do list. Our life is so spontaneous!
One of the disadvantages, is that our food costs are higher since we don’t have the space to buy in bulk and we can’t grow our own food (the quality of our food is not as great as when we had a farm/ate from local producers). And well, finding good baguette and croissants is nearly impossible!
8) What do you see as the advantages and disadvantages for your kids?
We hope that this lifestyle allows them to figure out who they are, to learn flexibility, patience and uncertainty, to deal with adversity, to meet people of all ages and background and be comfortable having a conversation with them.
One of the disadvantages is that our girls can’t be part of a school band or swim team, for instance, but they do get to be part of the Yukon Mountain Bike team in the summer!
9) What do your friends and family say about your travel lifestyle?
Most of them envy us.
10) Describe one experience where you absolutely knew you’d made the right decision in choosing to live this way. Have you had any moments when you weren’t so sure this was good for you and your family?
I knew from our experience in Costa Rica that this was the best next step for our family, but I had a few moments of fear in the beginning, mostly because I felt lonely and wondered if we would ever meet other families like us.
11) What do your children like and dislike about living abroad?
They love living on the road, being able to explore new places, to rock climb and mountain bike in world-class places while their friends are in school (or snowed in!).
They dislike being far from family.
12) Describe one of the coolest places you’ve ever lived.
Hiking the Chilkhoot Trail last summer in Alaska and the Yukon (5 days) following the trail miners from the Gold Rush took more than a 100 years ago was one of the most amazing experiences.
13) How do you connect with other traveling families?
Mostly through Facebook.
14) If you could go back in time and do anything differently along this journey, what would it be?
Nothing. Our whole journey brought us where we are. Of course, the money we put on the farm was not the best decision of our life, but we needed to go there, to try this lifestyle to be able to take the next step.
15) What advice would you give to other families considering a family sabbatical?
Traveling with other families is key to long-term travel, especially with older kids, and for us, adults. More and more families choose this lifestyle and many online groups exist to connect with one another.
If the kids were previously in school and/or in many activities, expect that there will be a transition from the old lifestyle to the new. It’s all normal. Give it time!
It is a great life, but it’s not always easy. If you expect it to be all vacation and smooth sailing, you might be disappointed. Traveling is challenging and humbling. And that’s why we love it so much.
16) What’s next for you?
We are heading toward Utah for the spring for mountain biking and rock climbing and then slowly working our way up to the Yukon for the summer. Yukon is home for us, even if we are originally from Quebec. Our three daughters were born there. It is good to spend a few months in the same place with older kids so they reconnect with old friends.
17) Where can people find you?
Official Website: www.roaditup.com