How One Family Ran Away

Ever have one of those moments where you just feel like flipping a switch and exiting from your life?  Yup?  Me too.  But how many of us are ever able to actually change where we live and what we do?  For one Brooklyn, NY mom of two girls, educator and writer Launa Schweizer, dreams of a life-change became an stark reality when she embarked with her family on a year-long adventure in rural France without quite knowing exactly what they were getting into.  Read on for more on what Launa, her husband and her children learned through moving abroad.

How One Family Ran Away

Do you ever dream of doing something else?  Of living somewhere else?

Launa and kidsHow We Made Our Home Away

Parenting while holding down a full-time job can take a toll on all but the hardiest, most well adjusted adults. Every time I read about the new names for our professional and personal choices — Opting Out and Leaning In — I think of my own family’s desperate, foolhardy solution: Running Away.

When we hit that wall that so many families hit — overwhelmed with two jobs, two kids, and too much to do — my husband and I quit our jobs, rented out our house and moved to southern France, intending to spend a year.  My husband wanted an adventure, but all I wanted was to slow down to the pace of a rural village. Our daughters, ages 7 and 10, knew they liked croissants, but didn’t know anything else about the land where we were dragging them.

French countryside

“Your children will be so grateful to you,” people would say when we told them about our trip. A lot of people dream of living overseas for a year and imagine that their kids would adjust effortlessly and benefit from a great family adventure.

We believed that too, along with all sorts of other romantic ideas:  we all would become as sophisticated and stylish as Parisians; we would all learn to speak French fluently (even our English-only 7 and 10 year old daughters), and we would be embraced by the charming characters of the tiny town where we moved, sight unseen.

Fueled by these romantic visions, and fleeing the overwhelming demands of our family life in America, we took a giant step outside of what we knew, full of unreasonably high hopes.

Roman arch

Very few of those hopes panned out.  We were no more fashionable in France than we had been back home.  French proved drastically more difficult to learn, and it took us longer than we had hoped to make new friends. We put our kids in the difficult position of being the only kids in their school who did not speak the language.

Still, what we discovered there in France would change our family life forever. We learned, alongside the French, to enjoy long meals together, and to enjoy the natural landscape. We learned when to encourage our children’s resilience and when to make big changes to help them out. And, perhaps most importantly, we learned to prioritize our family time, a lesson that has followed us back to America and has seeped into all of our decisions since.

If you’ve ever dreamed of running away — of living in France with your kids or merely of imagining a new adventure from the safety of your own life — you’ll enjoy the book Launa wrote about her family’s adventures in France:  Home Away:  A year of Misapprehensions, Transformations, and Rosé at Lunch.  Follow Launa on Twitter @Launawrites.

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