But who is ParentheseNomade?
It was in 2017 that the couple and their children left for adventures. Carine and Nicolas Poirier and their two sons then started their journey to discover North America. They crossed Canada, United-States and Mexico for a year.
NORTH AMERICA BY MOTORHOME WITH PARENTHESENOMADE
Who is actually behind ParentheseNomade?
1. Hello Carine, firstly, could you introduce yourself in a few words?
Hi Audrey, I’m in my early forties and I have been married to Nicolas for nearly 20 years now. We have two sons of 10 and 15 years old. The entire family is behind ParentheseNomade.
Regarding my personal and professional backgrounds, it will be a too long story to tell here. Let say that the road has always been a twisting one. I juste decided to take a break in my History and geography teacher career to spend more time writing and blogging, which is just one more turning point on the path I have been following the past few years.
2. How long have you been traveling by motorhome? With who and what? How did this passion for traveling start?
We have been traveling by motorhome since 2015. However the travel bug caught us a long time ago, almost when Nicolas and I met, in 1995. He already had a bond with traveling in his past since he already had cross Europe in a van as a child with his parents. Him wanting to make me discover the world immediately seduce me.
For a long time we hesitated to buy a motorhome. 20 years more or less assiduous wandering at the motorhome fairs and at the second hand vehicles dealerships, or trying to set plans to accommodate a vehicle by ourself! And then, one day, the opportunity we were no longer craving for, was right here. We had a crush.
All our escapes are made with the entire family. We chose a overcab motorhome with 4 permanent beds, in order to go all together with the maximum comfort. Over time, it became the fifth member of our tribe, mostly with the kids.
We are pleased with this travel mode, adopted 4 years ago, even if our vehicle is sometimes a joker with us.
3. What are you looking for during your motorhome adventures? How many countries have you been to?
Unlike our adventures as a couple where used to cover many kilometers in order to do the maximum of visits and discoveries, the travels with the family in our big ‘snail’ are made at a slower pace. We love to take our time and enjoy the places that we see on our way.
Moreover, the itineraries have to be adapted to the intrinsic characteristics of this kind of vehicle. Because, even if it’s cool to have your house everywhere with you, we also have to deal with the defaults.
- A significant volume which can’t fit everywhere
- A hearty appetite for gas if we take ourself for a Formula 1 racing driver
- And a size out of budget at the tolls
Therefore, we tend to go less often in big cities. We avoid the seaside during summer because we are most of the time not welcome (mostly if we are not going to campsites). We favor the ‘natural’ locations and the big spaces where we can enjoy our freedom in the fresh air. And finaly, we restrict our perimeters in order to not do unnecessary kilometers and we try to combine cultural visits, discoveries of territories and walks at fresh air.
For the moment, we have visited six countries in Europe (France, Spain, Portugal, Italy, Austria and Germany) and we also did some part of Canada, United-States and Mexico with our overcab motorhome.
4. Which is the more beautiful of your travels? Or the most original experience?
It is hard to say which one was the best holiday itinerary. Each escape gave us good moments and its number of wonderful memories. And, traveling being a personal and intimate experience, each member of the family could have a different answer.
Nicolas has a special thought for our first long escape in Portugal. We, back then, were beginners and the trip went all good in this country where people welcome motorhome drivers with kindness and hospitality. It is therefore the only time we had a mishap with the vehicle, one of the mirror brushed from really close another vehicle. Maybe my driver did not have an accurate eye yet with his new vehicle ! Luckily, that night, we end up parked facing the sea not far from a beautiful cornice on a dream bivouac, making us quickly forget our misadventure.
To me, I would probably say Italy, for the gastronomy, the varied landscapes, and the cities full of art and history.
But, it the two cases, it was 3 weeks long itineraries. Our most beautiful experience, which is also the most original, is our one year-long adventure in North America with our motorhome, a ParentheseNomade (a nomad parenthesis) in our sedentary life. And on this point, the entire family agrees.
Now, talk to us about your year of adventures in North America..
5. Why did you chose to go and visit America with your motorhome?
When we decided to go for a one year trip with the family by motorhome, the easy solution would have been to travel through Europe. However, in order to truly live an exceptional experience, we decided to explore another continent. Our choice quickly fell on North America which offers the best disposition for a RV (as they are called in Canada and in the United-States).
With eleven months of travel to come, we had a huge amount of time to visit this vast territory, which can’t be done with classical holidays of two weeks. We could then satisfy our craving for great landscapes, so typical of these lands.
Moreover, the chosen itinerary would allow us to discover the three planned countries in ideal climatic conditions, avoiding the Canadian rigorous winter and the rainy season in the tropical zones of Mexico. What is more, it was the choice of our sons, which were dreaming to see from themselves the national parks and the fauna of the new world.
6. Did you plan the entire trip?
From January to august 2017, I can’t even count the hours I spent doing researches on my computer trying to plan our long journey, preparing our indispensable steps. I quickly realized that it would be impossible to plan a precise itinerary day by day for such a long period.
We then decided to have a general calendar to follow during the entire trip to respect the imposed deadlines of each visas, without planning any steps. Nicolas read and read again the blogs of travelers who had been there before us to memorize the maximum amount of information.
For the administrative procedures, the tourdumondiste website is full of information. For the trip, we download offline maps of the three countries on our tablet to be prepared to anything. Then we discover the American ‘CaraMaps’, the mobile app iOverlander which helped us during the entire journey.
7. What would be the 3 things you liked the most and that you would like to share with our readers?
Again, difficult question, as we have so many memories. We already tried to think about it and the four of us helped to write an article on our blog.
I would say Florida, because we almost did not visit it, thinking that the visa’s deadline would not permit it. It would have been a major mess because we enjoyed a heavenly summer, between wonderful fauna, swim in hot and pristine water, and some ease to boondock contrary to what we thought about his touristic state.
The discovery of Mexico also amazed the family. We met welcoming people, loved the food and discovered a great cultural wealth both in the heritage and the traditions. We filled up with flavours and colours which was lacking in the two up north neighbours.
Finally, I shall remember our visit in Yosemite. The park is so wonderful that even after 5 days spent visiting it seemed too short. This firework of phenomenons one more extraordinary than the last, between geysers, hot water sources, enormous canyons, thunderous waterfalls, and that surrounded by a wildlife within arm’s reach and visible everywhere in the park. This cannot leave anyone indifferent. It was the grand finale of our long journey.
8. What did you learn from this long travel experience?
One year after our return, I can today say that this parenthesis will stay in a particular place in our hearts because it made it possible to spend unforgettable moments all together with our family. This time spent together is a wonderful chance at a time when people live fast and don’t enjoy time with their relatives, caught in the intense rhythm of life.
Since then, we discover new places.
No, when traveling by motorhome we tend to have a greater willingness to discover more deeply the place we decided to visit, while we forgo some ‘must-see’ places that we used to go for. We become more and more fan of the slow travel.
‘Take time to enjoy’ is becoming our leitmotiv.
9. To your opinion, what are the advantages to travel on the opposite side of the world with you own vehicle?
Even if living with your family in 6m2 (estimate habitable surface in the vehicle) during 326 days is not easy every day, the cocoon created in this small place is a big advantage to a long trip with children. They have reference points which reassure them. It is the same for parents, every time we close the doors, we feel art home regardless of the environment around us. The vehicle was furnished according to our tastes and needs.
Furthermore, even if the ship transport can be really expensive, the money spent is quickly defray during a long trip, if we compare to the cost of renting a vehicle, the nights and the food in restaurant over a long period.
What are your advice to travel by motorhome in North-America?
10. What administrative procedures did you do before your departure?
Administrative procedures avec numerous. Most of the time, they are what discourage people from long trips. They are not specific to North America but arise from the fact that we are leaving France for several months, on one side and that we need to temporarily import our vehicle on another continent on the other side.
For the vehicle, you have to find a forwarder who accepts to do the maritime shipping and then you have to take out insurances. One for the vehicle during the shipping, and then as mush insurance as country crossed. The procedures have to be done I the language of the country, which is not always simple. Fortunately, the seaport forwarder Seabridge which did our shipping, greatly facilitate the procedures and also the one at the customs.
For the travelers, you have to buy a health insurance (they cover assistance and often a personal liability). The insurance supplied by credit card are limited and effective only for journey of less than three months. Outside Europe, we cannot benefit from social security, you have to be covered by a private insurance.
In addition , to reduce the cost of the trip, the had to change bank in order to limit the payment and withdrawal costs outside the euro zone. We adapted our phone plans but stay at the same mobile operator.
All the procedures are explained in articles on our blog in the ‘Amérique du Nord – Pratique‘ section. It seemed important to us that share our experience for future travelers, as we did the same researches on blogs before our departure.
11. What challenges did ParentheseNomade encounter, before, during, and after your trip?
We had challenges. But nothing insurmountable. And not more than in everyday life. They were different, of course so it can be disruptive. We had to adapt.
Each crossed country involves a period of acclimatisation. Thus, the faster your travel, the more countries your crosse, the more you have to change you habits just after adopting them.
So, as soon as we could, we tried to take it easy. In reality, keeping in mind the season and the duration of our residence permits (3 months only everytime in the USA), we could only take our time once arrived in Mexico, meaning after 4 months of adventures. It is one of the reasons why we removed the ‘small’ countries of Central America which where on the initial itinerary.
Crossing the borders was a little bit stressful. Because, we used to travel insure the European Union, so we forgot amour these long queue and questionings. That said, everything went Fien and we could continue the adventures as planned.
Parking as relatively easy. The iOverlander app helped us a lot in Mexico. It would have been harder without it. Without any surprise, the American west was the most accessible region, designed for big vehicles and very welcoming for motorhomes.
Like the journey, being back in our everyday life after one year on the road, required adaptation. Yet, we were happy to come back home and to see our loved one, our references points. We needed six month for the travel to stop being in our head everyday, even if, still today, we think about it and keep asking ourselves: when are we going back on adventures?
12. According to you and the ParentheseNomade team, what are the similitudes and differences between a motorhome trip in Europe and on in the United-States?
For a motorhome trip in the United-States, with a shorter duration that what we did (we stayed 6 months in this country during our journey), you can organise it the same way that you would do for Europe. We move easily and that are may locations welcoming motorhomes. The west side of the country offers more ‘natural’ steps and boundocking points than the east but both are easily accessible. When you decide to stop on a campsite, you will be spoiled for choice. There is less free services (water, RV dump), in particular on the Atlantic coast. The privates campsites are expensive but offer all the services (water, RV dump, electricity) on each site, they are called ‘full hook-up’. Sites in National parks are cursory, bur offer wonderful views.
The life style is really close from ours. For a short journey, some north-american specificities are not disturbing. For a longer trip, I have to confess that at the end we could not eat industrial food anymore ! Even if you can find more fresh products in super-market that 20 years ago, it is the same from north to sud, and from east to west. Not much local specialities which doesn’t help us vary the food, which is a huge difference with Europe. You don’t visit the United-states for its gastronomy.
Finally, the budget. Everything depends on the kind of travelers you are. If you do many activities or not, if you spend many time in the cities and that you do chargeable visits, if you go in amusement parks, if you often eat at restaurants , or go to campsites.. National parks are the west wonder and you don’t spend many money with the America the Beautiful card. Gas is really cheeper than in Europe and there is less tolls. Food shopping in the United-States is approximately the same price as in France. On a year in North America, we kept our bidget on 56€ per day for 4 people. But I watched out. Finance a one-year trip is more difficult than a one moth trip. You cannot spend too much money if you want to be able to go back home.
13. And to finish this ParenthesNomade interview, what would be your advice for future travelers with motorhome in the United-States?
We dont really have advice. Each journey is a private experience that everyone lives differently, so, advice doesn’t really make sense.
Everyone said it ‘enjoy’ ‘enjoy everything’! And we could tell you the same thing, to you readers who read the ParentheseNomade story entirely. Yes, we enjoyed, we try to make each day unforgettable, to be in the moment, in pure consciousness.
Some days, the ParentheseNomade adventure seemed long, we missed our everyday life. However, the day we went to Peggys cove to admire the last sunset of our journey, the day before coming back, we had this terrible feeling that everything went to fast, that it only started the day before and that we were not able to catch what this journey had been offering to us. So, we can say it, enjoy! But I’m not sure that anyone really knows what this means before doing this kind of adventure himself.
Listen to your heart, and trace your way. That is what we believe in. It’s not an advice, only a life philosophy in which you could find your inspiration.
On these last words from ParentheseNomade, don’t forget to live your travel with CaraMaps!