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August

2017

Inside A Traveler’s Walls Home Exchange: Ndjerareou Family

INSIDE A TRAVELER'S WALLS

It gives me great pleasure to introduce you to the amazing Ndjerareou family, currently in France on a home exchange. This well-traveled family is staying in another families home, while theirs is being used by a different family. Yes folks, this is possible and Sarah is going to share all the details with you today.

As most of you know, we just finished a 10 month stay in a French village. There is so much in this post that we can relate to, it makes me homesick for the south of France. And their commitment to family, community and enjoying the local pleasures makes me want to park this RV right here in the middle of the French Alps and never move. Connecting on a deeper level as we travel not only benefits our family, but the world.

It also allowed us to do more than simply consume the scenery and truly adjust to living the culture.
From growing up in Africa, to living in many locations since then this family has managed to create a bond and a love for others that shines through in their words. Travel does this, it opens our minds and hearts to those who live differently and sends us away loving harder. There are so many great take aways from this post, however, my favorite is the quote below.
As a family we love to host dinners and guests especially when we can give them a different cultural experience.

Grab a cup of coffee, a comfy seat and get ready to be inspired.

slow traveling family

slow traveling family

slow traveling family

Home Exchange

Introduce us to the people you live with?

Our family is Nathanael, my husband who is originally from Chad, Africa, myself a missionary kid from Africa and our two children. Sophia (11) Isaac (4). We’ve had the privilege of traveling with our children to Africa, Europe and Asia but this is the longest stint we’ve done outside the US as a family of four. Honestly, we all feel incredibly blessed to have a family invite you to stay in their home while they either stay in yours or as in our case visit another part of the world. We realize we’ve discovered a very special community that values the gift of travel as much as we do. Sophia is our adventure loving girl, she enjoyed cliff jumping with Dad at the Gardon River in town, she thrives on change and loved learning to live in a new culture. Speaking limited French was probably hardest for her but we loved watching her grow through the unique challenges. She made friends where ever we went even if she relied on Google Translate. Isaac is more of my home body and so this was the best of both worlds for him, almost every night we returned to the same place with swings and toys. He also adored caring for the families two cats and two turtles. We are a family of two extroverts and two introverts, this means you have to find a balance between everyone’s rhythms. One of the gifts of spending the summer in a place is that you don’t have to hurry, we had the gift of time which is huge when you’re traveling with a four-year old. It also allowed us to do more than simply consume the scenery and truly adjust to living the culture. Living in a home is ideal for families, there are so many comforts that make the transition easier for everyone. Our hosts give us detailed instructions on local life, their home and area. Details like bikes, wifi, a yard and everyone having their own room have made it a treat. We were a little nervous about being away from friends but pet sitting helped a bit with the lonely days and we made friends in our village. We even hosted a dinner with Nathanael’s host family from his time in France 25 years ago. Meeting their families was very special. Nathanael and I have grown up very nomadically and for us this was a chance to introduce our family to the world in a similar way we experienced it.

Where are you in the world and what are you living in?

We spent the summer living in a family’s home in an ancient village in the south of France. We lived 10 minutes from the Pont Du Gard an ancient Roman Aqueduct. The river runs through our village which was a short walk from our home on the edge of sunflower fields and vineyards.

Why did you choose to live in your current arrangement?

Nathanael and I both spent time in the south of France as kids and so it was a dream to bring our kids back to experience the people and places we cherished in our memory. Working from home we’ve taken short-term rentals in places like San Francisco and Los Angeles. This spring we discovered Home Exchange and several other sites that help traveling families find away to swap their primary home or their vacation home with a like-minded people. We were very impressed with the process. We were advised to reach out to 100 plus families in our target area in order to find the right situation. Through the networking site we reached out to 118 homes looking for families with children that would be the best fit to swap with our family. We started the process a little late in the year and most of the families we connected with already had plans but were very encouraging. In the end, we had two options of families who had trips planned but needed someone to stay in their home and care for their pets. The family we swapped with has swapped 12 times, we used the resources on the site (car swap agreement) and their advice. It was an incredible adventure. We then offered our home to an international family coming through our city between teaching assignments for the summer. It worked out fabulously. I think we’ve found a tribe of people who adore the fact that you can leverage your home as the key to international travel. It’s a dream come true.

slow traveling family

 

slow traveling family

 

slow traveling family

 

slow traveling family

What do you do to personalize your unique (less traditional) living situation?

Nathanael and I are second generation nomads, my mother used to say the pictures were the first things to go up and the last things to come down. Creating a sense of personal space is very important but in a temporary setting this is a little tricky. Honestly, when you’re staying in someone’s home I try to put away anything breakable and make note of any special instructions, water plants, feed cats, then we unpack. Each child has a special teddy bear or blanket that helps them settle and setting up a couple of their toys or books helps them feel at home. The act of unpacking makes me feel like we’re not just tourists, we typically take some kind of art supplies to use while we’re there and so anything we create makes the place ours.

Tell us your favorite and least favorite room in your space and why?

Being invited into someone’s kitchen really makes you feel at home. We loved exploring French food through shopping at the local market and making French food in our kitchen. I did miss a stand up shower but learned to linger in the tub.

What is the biggest misconception you had about your current living situation before you started living in it?

We met up with family the day we moved in and chatted on Skype a few times so I was a little nervous about caring for their space. Would they be reasonable? What if something happens? None of these are bad thoughts because they helped us care for their home as if it were our own (probably even better.) In the end, it was a lovely situation for all involved. Minor wear and tear happened for all of us but it was addressed, fixed or replaced. I’d do it again tomorrow.

What is the one household item you carry with you every time you move or the one item you cannot live without?

Coffee, a french press coffee maker and a wine opener. You know, basic survival gear.

What do you miss most about permanent, stationary, traditional living?

Giving the experience to others, hosting. Our family needed a sabbatical from our busy lives and volunteer work. It was delicious to spend the summer with just us. We really needed to play, read, have long evenings with our kids and all the adventure in between. As a family we love to host dinners and guests especially when we can give them a different cultural experience. Maybe next year we’ll invite some friends? I think it would be ideal for our kids if they could share this experience with another family or two, plus it’s how we come together and serve as a family.

slow traveling family

 

slow traveling family

 

slow traveling family

 

slow traveling family

 

slow traveling family

What is the one item your children carry with them to make their unique (less traditional) home more comfortable?

My son has a monkey and a beloved blanket, my daughter has a favorite bear, both are well-traveled. We also take an anthology of favorite children’s stories given to me by a fellow nomad no matter how old they get they love this routine.

Do you have a pet joining you in this journey? If so, has this been complicated? Any advice?

No, we don’t have a pet but we’re open to pet sitting. The kids loved caring for two outdoor cats and turtles. The cats would bring the kids lizards and crickets. They loved the responsibility and new friends.

What is your best resource to find items you need for your place?

Carrefour (French Wal-Mart) had much of what we needed. We replaced soap, paper products, food stuffs. We even bought legos for rainy days. We loved visiting our villages local stores for everything from ketchup to a toy fishing net for river exploring. Saturday markets became my favorite place for shopping.

If you could only have one of the following in your home which one would it be and why?

Space, natural light, dishwasher or above average internet.
Above average internet. Nathanael works in financial risk and I’m a writer so location isn’t as important to our daily life as connectivity. We took two weeks to explore unplugged before we arrived in our village and the in home office and internet were fantastic. We’ve had the privilege of working around the world but internet becomes a must and the catalyst to every adventure.

If you were to compare your unique (less traditional) home decorating style to a kitchen appliance or gadget what would it be and why?

A BBQ grill. Open flame cooking is practiced by many cultures and is typically a gathering place. Our family is the mix of two cultures but we share the value of hospitality and love gathering people around a table of colorful, delicious food that we pick up from all our travels.

How do you keep traditions alive for your family in your unique living situation?

Growing up in Africa, my family began singing a family prayer before Sunday dinner to ground us in our family traditions. In France, my husband taught us a French prayer to be sung before our evening meal. It’s one of the many ways our faith and shared values align despite coming from different cultures.

slow traveling family

 

slow traveling family

How do you decorate for the holidays in your unique (less traditional) home or do you skip it all together?

Growing up around the world much of what we care about over the holidays are things we do, singing, cooking, storytelling. The rest takes a little planning and we carry it with us. Santa visited our daughter in Chad one Christmas morning but brought a simple toy and candy. It’s still one of her favorite memories.

What is your favorite part about this lifestyle choice?

The long evenings. If we had a free day to adventure or needed to stick close to work the days just felt extra long. I love to walk in the mornings and/or get some work done. When it get’s hot we take a rest or book time and then to the beach or the river. We’d head home around 6 to shower and either cook or head to a local restaurant. They typically don’t start serving till 7:30, this took a little getting used to at first but once we figured out the rhythm we loved it. The sun would finally set around 10:30. We’d spend the evenings lingering on our porch after dinner or in our village getting to know the locals.

Many traveling families subscribe to the “house is not a home” theory. What is home to you?

Home is where ever we’re together as a family. My husband and I learned this growing up but wanted to deepen this connection with our children who’ve had the security of one fixed address for several years. Spending the summer in another country strengthened those bonds in magical ways. We all learned how to care for one another more deeply, give more grace and engage in areas we’d overlook back home. We’re hooked.

What makes you love the place you live?

Great question, First a place that sparks joy and life in my family so that we can explore our little corner of the world. But when I can open the doors and share it with others this is truly a special moment. I’ve been so grateful for the homes I’ve gotten to live in and invite others to share a night or a meal, a studio in Bangkok or Chad, a tiny apartment in San Fransisco and now a home in a village in the South of France. The minute we can say welcome in whatever language we’re learning, I give my heart to that place on a whole different level.

Can home be a person, or an idea?

Absolutely, if there’s anything travel teaches you is that stuff is nice but it’s not permanent and it may in fact weigh you down in the end. We value things for the memory they bring, they way they help us serve and care for those around us and for the tasks we need to accomplish. A home or place is very similar. We’re grateful for the use of the place, for the memories we made in it but part of the gift is letting go. We’ve lived in Dallas/Fort Worth for several years now and have seen many kinds of changes and said many goodbyes. Just as many in fact as when we lived on the road. It’s made me appreciate that life is full of change, even when you are not on the move, life doesn’t stand still. If home is the space our family exists in then we can be more flexible to embrace the change and the adventure. In every painful goodbye there is the seed of a new hello.

Words of wisdom to anyone considering venturing out into the world of unique, less traditional homes?

Memories can never be taken from you, income can change, assets can be lost but experiencing a new corner of the world is yours forever. It’s those moments that can make you richest. To expose yourself and your children to what it’s like to live amongst strangers in a foreign context might reveal some ugly in us in the short-term, but in the long run those lessons turn into deep veins of grace, empathy and understanding towards others.

Anything else you would like offer?

Thank you for including us in your profiles. We love that WorldTowning is a safe place to explore different ways of doing life and are thrilled to share our experience. Out of respect for the family home we lived in we will give you a limited taste of our space and plenty of our village life. If you’re hungry for more check out HomeExchange.com (we don’t get anything out of this) or follow us at sarahkayndjerareou.com for our next adventure.

What is next for you? Will you continue to live in your current home or try something different?

We’re hooked! We’re already planning next summer and maybe this Christmas. We’re even considering a year-long exchange.

If you have children what are your plans for education?

Currently, our family is involved in a UME Prep Academy. It is full-time, public charter school that gives us a shortened school day and school year to maximize family time and travel. We adore this option and the global families that gravitate towards it.

How do you make a living?

Nathanael works for a multinational media and information firm where he specializes in global and financial risk with teams across the globe. I’m self-employed writing articles, devotionals and books through multiple publishers and magazines. We’ve worked from home for the last 10 years. It has wonderful perks but it requires being your own tech support and self-determination. A good support network helps.

Quote to Ponder

A BBQ grill. Open flame cooking is practiced by many cultures and is typically a gathering place. Our family is the mix of two cultures but we share the value of hospitality and love gathering people around a table of colorful, delicious food that we pick up from all our travels.
AND
The minute we can say welcome in whatever language we’re learning, I give my heart to that place on a whole different level.

Connect:

Interested in living like the Ndjerareou family? WorldTowning’s services can help make this home exchange family story ‘your reality’ and we can do it all stress free. We will be there with you every step of the way.

Learn More

Go adventure,
Jessica

Inside A Traveler’s Walls is where we feature families living in less traditional and unique homes (tents, boats, camper vans, yurts, flats, etc). If you think you might be one of those families and are interested in being profiled, please contact us for details.

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