Year on the road 'surreal'

Last updated 05:00 10/10/2013
Dave Monk

Dave Monk and his family enjoy a meal with their French hosts on an organic farm.

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One year ago this month, we pulled our kids out of pre-school, waved goodbye to friends, flicked the bird to annoying work colleagues, and aimed the nose of our old but reliable motorhome into the great unknown.

Actually, it wasn't quite the great unknown at that stage. It was more of a 'slightly unknown' as we spent the first week of our planned journey camped up less than 30 kilometres from our departure point. But it was a start.

Whilst only a baby step by comparison to where we are today, it heralded the beginning of a journey that had been two years in the planning, during which time, we'd managed to dispose of our house, car and other things and stuff we'd surrounded ourselves with as homeowners.

Gradually, as the distance from our departure point grew, so too did our appetite for adventure and exploration. Until, one month after setting forth from Blenheim, and riding a wave of newfound travel confidence, we sailed overseas...  the North Island beckoned!

However, any self-inflated belief that we were brave, bold explorers - like the good old days of Mallory and Scott - soon evaporated as our ferry entered the Cook Strait in a violent southerly swell.

Within moments, we'd plunged (along with the ship), from the heroic age of 'family travel' into weak and frightened passengers on board a large boat that was beginning to smell like a post-operative vomit bag.

But now, 11 and a half months on, as the first leaves of Mediterranean France surrender to the forces of autumn gravity, there lingers an element of surrealism when we pause to recap the events from a year on the road.

We've lived beyond what historically would have been considered our comfort zone - that is, popping the figurative bubble on our normal everyday life - and in doing so, learning again to become curious, humble and adaptable to the environment and people we've met along the way. Just like what our kids do.

Through travelling, the world has become our university. The teachers plentiful and the experiences many.

During our time in France, we're learning to speak and understand a new language. Lessons take place whilst living and working alongside locals, in places like tomato houses, dining room tables and market squares.

Progressively, with generous support from the NZ Correspondence school, we've adjusted to our role as teachers to our young boys in a variety of locations including beaches, coffee shops, farm paddocks and the Somme battlefields - to name a few.

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Amongst other things, we've discovered the hard but rewarding yakka, involved in farming through the French network of 'Willing Workers on Organic Farms'.

Yet, perhaps most importantly we've learned to stop clock-watching and rushing around, like we used to.

Rural France is a good place to practise this. They have a seemingly unconscious ability to slow the day down - from the progressive cooked meals served up at lunch and dinner to the relaxed and friendly market squares where you can hear the lively chatter of everyday conversation.

It's not just bread, cheese and wine they do well in France. They're also artisan at kicking back a gear in life. And for that, we're happy to be their students.

Follow Dave and his family on their adventure at


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