A French family on a journey around the world recently passed through Cambodia and recounted the highlights of their journey across continents, including what it takes to travel with four small children in a camper-van.
“In Paris, I would leave for work at a construction company early in the morning till late in the evening, so I didn’t have enough time to see my children. I wanted to spend time with my family, so we organised this trip,” said 37-year old Jean-Philippe Guicheney Mahler.
He, his wife Anne-Gaëlle, and their four children – Margaux, 9, Victoire and Capucine, 7, and Marin, 3 – left France last July in a camper-van.
From there, they crossed Switzerland, Germany, Austria, Hungry, Romania, Slovakia, Bulgaria, Turkey, Iran, India, Thailand and Laos, finally arriving in Cambodia last month.
The Guicheneys left Cambodia for Vietnam last week and will continue their travels into Malaysia, Indonesia, Australia and New Zealand, eventually making their way to South America.
The trip will take a total of two years and cost the family over US$200,000.
With three school-age children in tow, the family has had to turn the camper into a part-time school.
“In France, you are allowed to attend school from a distance,” said Guicheney.
“Every morning from 9 to 12, three of our children are studying. They have lessons to learn and work to do. When they’re done, we send their work by internet to their teachers in France. They correct it and send them back.”
The Gucheneys’ trip is determined by the weather.
They won’t cross any country in winter or when the temperatures are too hot.
Along the way, they’ve encountered challenges dealing with people and countries of different religions and political situations.
“We decided to cross Iran, not Afghanistan or Pakistan because of the security. In Iran, we still had a danger of religion. They were always asking us two questions: The first was if we had a television in our camper, and the second was whether we were Muslim or Catholic,” Guicheney said, adding that it had been a frightening moment in the trip.
Luckily for the family, they had no problem crossing after saying they were Catholic.
At the border between Laos and Cambodia, the family had to fight with corrupt border officials who tried to overcharge them for their visas.
“The customs officer charged us for six visas, two for us and four for our children. But we knew that children enter for free. They tried to charge us nearly $200 when we only needed to pay $40. We fought with them, and finally only two of us had to pay,” he said.
In Cambodia, the family visited Siem Reap to donate books, pens and other study materials to a non-profit organisation, L’ecole du Bayon.
One of the biggest adjustments has been adapting to different countries’ driving patterns, said Guicheney.
“India, Iran and Thailand are on the left side. When we arrived at the border of Cambodia, we didn’t know whether it was left or right. We just drove on the middle of the road for about two kilometers. Then we saw a car on the left, so we just knew,” he said.
The Guicheney family’s travels can be followed on their blog.