EuroAustralis 2015

This is a recap of our 2015 family journey.  To return to our 2018 adventure click here.

OUR FAMILY ODYSSEY FROM FRANCE TO AUSTRALIA

Our family of five is embarking on a voyage of personal discovery, travelling between our home countries of France and Australia, by an overland route from Europe through Asia and south to Australia.

EuroAustralis is our attempt to capture and share the experience with our family and friends.

In these pages, you will find images, anecdotes, observations and reflections from the road. We hope that, in addition to being a focal point for our experiences, the photo galleries and travel journals herein will become a lasting souvenir of this unique period for us.

Family selfie above Kotor, Montenegro

Family selfie above Kotor, Montenegro



GEOGRAPHY 101

Without delving into the details of our little lives, let’s just say that as far as family stories go, ours is a little mixed up, geographically speaking.

Alan grew up in Australia, Cécile in France. After entwining paths in Nepal, we have since travelled, worked and lived in several countries, and been blessed with three daughters born in UK, Japan and Hong Kong.

So when the rare chance came up this year to take some time out as a family – a temporary release from the constraints of work and school – we seized the chance to undertake this journey. But rather than just a long vacation, we wanted this travel to be a learning opportunity. We wanted a theme for this travel – a voyage of understanding – to help our children to understand their origins, our identity, and find context in a diverse world yet populated by a common people pursing similar hopes and aspirations.

A lightbulb moment: to undertake a journey beginning in one home country, ending our other home country, and covering the many kilometers, countries and cultures between the two. Just like that the idea was seeded and within a few short months, over several coffees, many glasses of wine and countless hours of Google time, the plan had taken on a discernible shape.

We had identified our general route; researched destinations, visa requirements, tour operators, modes of transport; and contacted friends and family to meet up along the way. We decided that some destinations require more advanced planning, while other destinations (particularly later in our timeline) could be left open and would be easy to improvise.

Importantly, as a family project, we had to engage our three daughters (aged 9, 5 and 3 at the beginning of the journey) in the planning, and also incorporate their needs. Our initial approach is to manage the journey in a “start-stop” fashion. This means we envisage being on the go for 5~10 days, sightseeing en route or chewing up the kilometers, then stopping in one destination for 5~10 days to rest, regroup, and explore the local area in more detail. Should that not work, we have some contingency time in the schedule that will allow us to reorganize – or just pause the journey for a period of time. We hope that the travel experiences will provide ample educational experiences in and of themselves, but in addition we’ve packed some exercise books and will encourage our children to write, draw and express their observations during the voyage by keeping journals or contributing to this blog.

The more difficult work was unplugging ourselves from the routine of our day-to-day lives and trying to preload some of the administration, tax filing and organisation so that we are able to be on the road for half a year without everything coming apart at the seams!

 

AU BOUT DU MONDE - TO THE ENDS OF THE EARTHPhare de Saint Mathieu

All that remained to complete the plan was a defined start and finish. For Alan, the notion of starting and finishing at geographic points of interest, the extreme points of the continental land mass, held some appeal. As the British can identify with the route from Land’s End to John O’Groats, so too we sought our own significant marker posts.

In France, Cécile traces her family history to Brittany, so a natural point of interest was the extreme westernmost point of France, and the town of Le Conquet in the department of Finistère (which could be translated as “Land’s End”). This is the place where the wild winds and waters of the North Atlantic encounter the European continental mass, and is home to the iconic lighthouses that have been guiding sailors in these waters for centuries.   And at Le Conquet there stands a famous orange and white lighthouse built on the site of a medieval abbey.   The headland is known as the Point de Saint-Mathieu, an important navigation point since medieval times and the starting point for Christian pilgrims walking the 1958km to Santiago de Compostela in northern Spain. Thus, the starting point for our own personal pilgrimage was defined: le Phare de Saint-Mathieu.

In Australia, then, we sought a similar point of interest to mark the end of the journey. While our general destination was Alan’s hometown of Perth, upon visiting Pointe de Saint-Mathieu in Brittany we were reminded of Cape Leeuwin, near the town of Augusta, in the south west corner of the Australian continent (about 4 hours south of Perth). Alan had spent many childhood holidays in the Margaret River-Augusta region - a beautiful, green, fertile pocket in the corner of the desert continent - and this had included obligatory visits to the lighthouse at Cape Leeuwin. Again, an important maritime navigation point since the days of the tall ships, Cape Leeuwin is one of the famous “three capes” of the southern hemisphere (along with Cape Horn at the southern tip of South America and Cape of Good Hope at southern tip of Africa) and marks the meeting point of the Southern Ocean, the Indian Ocean and the Australian continent. We agreed that this navigational beacon, the Cape Leeuwin Lighthouse, would be a fitting and meaningful target.

And in a final touch to give this voyage added significance, the timing of our planned journey also fell neatly into place. By the winds of fate rather than any pre-meditation, it became clear that our journey between the ends of our world would commence in France on the national day - Bastille Day, 14 July 2015 – and end in Australia on its national day – Australia Day, 26 January 2016.

All that remains now is to actually undertake the journey, to cover some 30,000+ kilometres by planes, trains, automobiles and the occasional boat, and to savour this special opportunity to grow as individuals and as a family.

View from above Dubrovnik, Croatia

View from above Dubrovnik, Croatia



THE QUEST

We’ve always loved to travel – for the life experiences, for the understanding of other countries and cultures, for the inspiration, for the unexpected and for the people we meet along the way. We hope that the route, spanning hemispheres and civilisations, will combine diversity in all its forms: in geography, from mountain to ocean, from city to outback; in nature, the variations in flora and fauna and climate; in society, from poverty to privilege, and variations in language, food, art, culture, religion, politics.

We hope that, in addition to appreciating the differences along the way, themes of similarity will emerge: that children will play regardless of language and cultural divides; that communal gathering around a meal is the simplest of pleasures enjoyed anywhere and everywhere; that goodwill, kindness and the shared human condition unite us, despite what it says in the news.

Welcome to EuroAustralis. At the outset of this journey, we look forward to all that lies ahead.

Alan, Cécile, Angélie, Améline, Louisa

July 2015

 




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Home page photo: Iran, Lotfallah Mosque. Source Wikipedia

Home page photo: Australia, Uluru. Source Imagescart (via this site)