Calgary

Nomadic Swiss cycling family home-schools on the go

The Pasches, a Swiss family of four, including two young daughters, travel the world by bike, with no fixed address, taking lessons from the wide world around them.

The Pasches have biked across most of Europe and Asia, with sights now set on Canada

The Pasche family uses the culture of the area surrounding them to teach vivid homeschooling lessons. (Xavier Pasche)

Homeschooling with no classroom, no permanent address and no strict curriculum may seem difficult to many, but for the Pasche family, it's just another part of their unique nomadic way of life.

Celine and Xavier Pasche are a Swiss couple who have been full-time cycling around the world for nearly a decade.

Their two daughters Nayla, who is six, and Fibie, who is two, were both born amidst their travels, in Malaysia during two separate stops there.

Xavier and Celine's ongoing journey began in Switzerland in 2010 with the intent to cycle east, eventually flying to and cycling through New Zealand.

"After one year and a half on the road we were in Mongolia and we had the impression that we were more than just travelling or having a journey, we were just really living in another way," said Celine, on the Calgary Eyeopener.

"After a while we realized that in the celebration of this life that we could have a family. We didn't plan to have one but we thought if it happens, why not?"

Celine learned she was pregnant a few weeks after the revelation, while she was, "facing Mount Everest at 5,500 meters elevation."

Now, after eight years cycling through several international destinations, the family came through Alaska, the Yukon, Prince Rupert, B.C., to Jasper, Alta., south through the Icefields Parkway to Banff before eventually making it to Calgary.

"It was amazing, it's always amazing, we love to cycle everywhere," said Celine.

Nayla, who is six, studies reading, writing and mathematics in a tent when not riding her bicycle alongside her family. (Xavier Pasche)

Kids on two wheels

Having kids tag along on their travels has not hampered their progress, says Xavier, but it requires some planning ahead.

"It was a new adventure, so we needed to find a new balance for the three of us and now we are four, so we always need to find a good balance to be happy together and to keep cycling," said Xavier.

Nayla has her own bicycle, but the couple has a system where she can cycle on her own, hook-up her bike to her parent's in a tandem system or ride in a trailer they tow when the weather is harsh. The youngest, Fibie, rides in a trailer attached to either of her parent's bikes.

The family of four have traversed high mountains and sandy deserts.

Their approach to schooling Nayla has been to teach her a little more everyday about the wide world she sees zooming past.

"Everything is an excuse to learn," said Xavier.

The couple uses the language, history, culture and customs of whatever destination is around them as a starting point for discussion during teaching sessions.

"What is easy is that we are not the teacher, we learn together," said Celine.

"Geography is easy because she's been there, language is easy because we speak with the local peoples, so Nayla is learning French and English, she can also speak a little bit of Chinese and Japanese."

During quieter moments in the tent, Nayla studies reading, writing and mathematics.

"It's really, it's just part of it and I think that's what we really love is we are together all the time," says Celine.

The family cycled from Alaska to Calgary, partly by way of riding the Icefield Pathway from Jasper to Banff. (Xavier Pasche)

'Our home is on our bike'

It's a way of life that is easy to maintain as the couple ends up spending very little money other than on the necessities like food and gear.

They purchase fresh fruits and vegetables before any long stretch.

"We usually choose the cheapest option, and really once we are in the wilderness there's no money to spend, it's easy to keep it simple, " says Celine.

Income for the family comes through Celine's writing and Xavier's photography, as well as through the sales of their book documenting their adventures.

Having only returned to Switzerland once in their years of cycling, they say the plan is not to return anytime soon, but rather to keep cycling as long as it makes them happy.

"Our home is on our bike," says Xavier "Of course it's not always easy to live 24/7 together, but it's part of the journey."

After flying back to the Yukon to wait out the worst of the winter months in Canada, the immediate plan is to take the family on two wheels across Canada, to the east coast.

The entire family will be at the cSPACE King Edward tonight at 6:30 p.m. for a book-signing and storytelling event, info on that can be found here.

With files from the Calgary Eyeopener

Comments

To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.

Become a CBC Member

Join the conversation  Create account

Already have an account?

now