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‘This is the life,’ says Harrison as we sit down to an al fresco dinner at the end of a day spent exploring the various beaches along the coast directly in front of our campsite. His sentiment is shared by all of us.
We had dreamt of days like this over the past several months, at a time when our life was a myriad of packing boxes and jobs needing to be done to ensure that we set-off on time. And now here we are, a few weeks into our new life on the road, the Big European Odyssey no longer a dream but a reality. Gone are the packing boxes and to-do lists and in their place a world full of new horizons and never-ending opportunities for adventure, discovery and learning.
In truth the opening few weeks of our time away have felt like a glorified holiday, only without that nagging feeling you get when you’re away for two or three weeks, the one that feels like you’re on borrowed time, the end of the trip looming on the horizon, waiting to take you back to reality. The stress of pulling together the final pieces of the jigsaw that would enable us to live life on the road ensure that the first few days on French soil are spent doing little more than walking to the local boulangerie, and basking in the glorious sunshine that greeted us upon leaving the Euro Tunnel.
As tempting as it is to continue to do very little we finally break the inertia in order to embark on a living history lesson, heading for Flanders in Belgium and stepping back in time to the start of the First World War. In deciding to take our children, Harrison aged six and Dorothy aged three, out of school we willingly assumed the responsibility of continuing their education ourselves, a task we are already enjoying given the opportunities it presents for us to learn together as a family. When you combine their natural curiosity and hunger to learn with the world, and it’s history, around us it’s not difficult to weave an element of learning into the trip that is fun for all of us.
From Flanders it was on to Normandy and the Second World War with visits to both Omaha Beach and the beautiful and poignant American War Cemetery in Colleville-sur-Mer. We have been incredibly impressed with the manner in which the museums and memorials we’ve visited have ensured everything is relevant and relatable for children, which given the nature of the topic isn’t always easy. However, Harrison and Dorothy have both been enthralled by our journey back in time, eager to understand the reasons behind what happened and how it relates to the world today.
They are not the only ones learning on the go, with both Kim and myself discovering so much simply by helping the children to expand their minds and knowledge, not to mention learning how to balance the various demands and differing aspects of our new life. Living in such close quarters requires a high level of honesty and openness about how each of us is feeling, and being able to acknowledge the need to have time apart in order to maintain a healthy relationship. It’s not that we don’t love being in each other’s company, only that before being parents and husband and wife, we are individuals, and so need time to ourselves, much like we would at home.
For me it’s as simple as heading off on various bike rides, which not only afford me time alone but they allow me to explore the areas we are visiting in more detail, venturing down tracks and trails inaccessible in the motorhome. In doing so there have been some wonderful unexpected adventures, none more so than along the banks of the River Seine from La Foret Jumieges site and a delightful adventure to explore L’Ile Noirmoutier from the Huttopia Noirmoutier site. The latter of these ranks as one of my favourite rides so far on the trip, the chance to get a feel for the pace of life on this quaint little island off the west coast of France.
Slowly but surely we are settling into a new rhythm, learning to slow down, take each day as it comes and see the world through a different perspective. And so to Harrison’s comment at dinner, it’s not that this is the life, but rather that this is our life, and we wouldn’t want it any other way.
You can follow our adventures on Instagram through @marcusleachglobal and @our.roaming.odyssey, as well as on Twitter @marcusgleach.