Meet the Nomads – Again! – Catching up with the Atkins Family as they Circle the Globe

We last interviewed the Atkins family in May of 2007 as they were in the preparation stages of an around the world trip by bus while homeschooling their 4 children. At that time, the Atkins were overhauling their vehicle to accomodate their trip. Now they have been on the road for 6 months so we thought we’d get in touch and see how they’re doing.

Manny, when we last interviewed you and your family, you were in the process of building out your bus and planning your trip. Now you have been on the road for several months. What countries have you visited so far?

We traveled through France, into Spain back into France, across to Northern Italy. Joe then had work in Monte Carlo, so we stayed in Antibes, and went in to work with him pretty much every day, which was wonderful! Back in to Italy, to Rome and beyond. We took a ferry to Greece, drove up through Bulgaria, into Romania to play a couple of concerts for the charity Growing Care. Back through Bulgaria and into Turkey, we spent Christmas in Istanbul, and New Year in Athens. Crossed back into Italy and came back up to France where we are taking a pause after traveling 15,000Km and being on the road for six months.

If you were advising a NuNomad as to what locations in Europe are most Nomad friendly (ie, low cost of living, widely available internet, quality of life) what would be your top picks?

Sometimes we’ve found the best internet access in the most surprisingly remote places (virtually the whole of Bulgaria seemed to have free wifi! just no shops!) and our favourite Italian campsite, in the forested mountains just outside Deiva Marina, had free and excellent wifi. And yet we struggled to find wifi in some capital cities – which surprised me! We have stayed mainly in campsites; which often offered wifi and always had useful info on public transport into the city etc. The free hot water, ability to plug in to electricity, and use of washing machines made sense for us as a big family. We often stayed overnight in truckstops on the autoroutes, when travelling from place to place, but then we’d seek the security and facilities of a campsite to base ourselves. The city sites tended to cost double the rural sites. Spain was cheaper than Italy and France, and the Spanish really know how to run a city! Greece was cheaper still, but we were there very much out of season. Turkey would probably be my top location – not too expensive, good internet, and the warmest and most generous strangers we ever came across. Istanbul was vibrant, and exciting. You cross from Europe to Asia and back, all within one city! Here’s a link to the blogs while we were in Turkey:http://web.mac.com/harryatkins/WTTW_Blogs/The_Family_Blog/Entries/2007/12/22_-_Turkey.html

Was this your original itinerary or have you changed? If you have changed itinerary what factors caused you to do so?

It was always our intention to have a fluid itinerary and while we were in Spain, we decided we weren?t ready to go into Africa. We thought maybe we’d head for North America, but in our (long) search for crossings for us and the bus, we discovered Grimaldi Freighter Cruises. Their office in Naples have been really helpful, and we were thrilled to find we could cross to Argentina. We were booked to travel in April. In fact this crossing has been cancelled, and we are now booked onto the November crossing.
This delay has coincided with a bit of a financial crisis for us: some money we were relying on has fallen through, and so we need to re-fuel our funds. We’ll sit tight for a few months here in France, live as cheaply as we can; earn as much as we can, and learn French! And hopefully be ready to get on the boat in November.

What caused the decision not to go to Africa?

We found it almost impossible to find a realistic crossing from Egypt to Kenya, which was our original plan; also the political situation in Africa seemed to be more and more unsettled. We decided we weren?t comfortable taking the children into a situation where we would be so vulnerable. It was a big disappointment, but Joe and I felt strongly that it was too early in our trip to be facing those kinds of challenges. Life on the road was going so well, and to be honest was exciting, interesting and challenging enough. I have to say though, that now we?re six months in, and have crossed borders in the dark and snow, I\’m really excited about changing continents!

How has it been to be in the bus on the road with a large family? How have you all adapted to the close quarters?

The joy of a big family is that no-one ever gets left out; there’s a constant variety of different combinations. We run a very harmonious team to keep everything ticking over, and the children take as much responsibility for the tidiness and running of the bus as Joe and I. It works really well, and it all runs very smoothly. Being so close has become a way of life now, even sharing our huge top bunk with Arthur, our seven year old, feels completely natural. Going to bed is reminiscent of the end of ?The Waltons?!

Looks like you’ve been playing music as a family band along the way. How do you set up your concerts and get an audience?

The music has been a great family focus. it tends to come in bursts. We played some summer concerts, at campsites and for friends; and a big Birthday Party last September. Then we played the two concerts in Romania. They were a real adventure. One was for the children the charity helps; they have so little, and live a hard hard life. It was a real pleasure to bring a live gig to them, we felt so appreciated, and it was very humbling! The other was in a big theatre as more of an awareness-raiser with local dignitaries etc. Here’s the blog link to the Romanian concerts – http://web.mac.com/harryatkins/WTTW_Blogs/The_Family_Blog/Entries/2007/12/7_Politics%2C_Philosophy%2C_Harmonics_-_Romania_2.html
We?re playing a gig in a couple of weeks here in France, a musical evening already organised, so audience gathering is not down to us! but we hope it will lead to a few more. So we?re practising hard at the moment. We’ve made no more than a free supper so far, and it would be great to earn a bit; but playing for pleasure carries less pressure!

What are you learning along the way that you didn’t expect?

Just how rewarding home-schooling is
I don\’t miss England at all!
I never crave time to myself, away from the family.
The Turkish generosity is boundless.
There are more good people in the world than the media would have you believe! (Actually, I did expect that to be the case!)

How is the bus holding up?

She’s in fine form. She’s running better now than she was when we left the UK. We’ve ironed out oil-leaks and air system problems; fixed the radiator and had the heating re-instated. She’s happiest doing the kind of long, steady, regular drives we do, so really she’s in her element! There is a harmony and trust when we?re driving that’s hard to describe. The bumpy roads of Romania took their toll, and we had some quite big structural repairs to take care of in Turkey. But all in all she’s looked after us, and we’ve looked after her and the respect is mutual!

What has been the greatest highlight/positive experience of the trip so far?

There?ve been a few!
Parking on the waters edge at Camping Fusina, and watching the sun go down over Venice took some beating!
Driving through Greece in the crisp winter sun; snow capped mountains to our left, and crystal blue sea on our right…music playing, family singing… deep inner peace!
Christmas day in Istanbul! waking up to stockings in the morning, and a boat trip across the Bosphorus sea in the evening, the city illuminated magnificently in the moonlight.
I can’t even begin to put into words the way this trip and the preparations for it, have bonded us as a family. It has enriched our marriage and deepened all our relationships.

Welcome to the World.

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