Montreal

Meet the Parisian family touring Canada in a converted fire truck

An unforeseen event made the members of the Zizi family realize that life is short and the world is big, so they set out to see as much of it as they can.

The Zizi family wants to see as much of the world as they can

Nathan, Sarah, Sofia and Marco Zizi enjoy their last day in Montreal before heading to Ottawa. (CBC)

When Sofia and Marco Zizi started dreaming about travelling the world with their kids, they never thought that in less than a year, they would have visited almost 200 different places while living in a converted fire truck.

"This is a dream that had always been present in us, but we were too busy building our professional careers and our family life that we had never had time to accomplish this project," says Sofia Zizi.

Back in Paris, where they are originally from, Sofia worked as a project manager for a large bank and Marco owned a coffee shop for seven years. The kids, Sarah, 15 and Nathan, 12, were going to school.

But an unforeseen event made them realize that life is short and the future isn't promised, so they decided to make their dream trip a reality.

The members of the Zizi family point out the places they have visited in Canada in the last two months. (CBC)

Their desire is to tour the world in "La gazelle autour du monde," their yellow fire-truck-turned-motor-home with European licence plates affixed to the back and front.

CBC met up with the family at a park in Montreal earlier this week, their last stop in the province before heading to Ontario.

They have travelled 35,000 kilometres across Europe so far, and are now planning to drive across Canada, down the west coast of the United States, to Mexico and then to Central and South America.

"My dream is to go to 'Tierra del Fuego' in South America," says Sofia Zizi.

Getting ready to hit the road

In 2013, a very close family friend passed away and the parents began to rethink their lives.

They realized that if they ever wanted to travel around the world, they had to start planning it.

"Making money is good and necessary, but do not forget to enjoy it," Sofia says.

It took them about three years to make the ultimate decision to buy the fire truck, which had been converted into an RV by the previous owner.

They said they absolutely wanted a solid vehicle that could overcome the majority of difficulties that come with driving on roads all over the world while having the amenities of a motorhome.

After buying the truck they redid the interior, adapted it to their needs and gave it a name: "La gazelle autour du monde," which loosely translates to "the gazelle around the world."

The family stopped ‘La gazelle’ in the middle of route 299 in Parc national de la Gaspésie, Quebec to take a photo of it with the amazing background. They remember being astonished by the landscape. (Submitted by the Zizi Family)

They prepared themselves as well for the trip. The family learned as much as they could about road trips, packed maps and travel guides and took first aid lessons before getting on their way.

"When you have kids, it's very important to plan, to organize the trip, you can't leave your house, your family the next day," said Sofia.

She and Marco sold their belongings in Paris, quit their jobs and informed their friends and family about the plan.

"When you have a well-established life and you decide to sell your house and quit your job, sometimes people don't understand, often because they're afraid of the unknown," Sofia said.

La gazelle autour du monde in Pyrgos Dirou, Greece in June 2018. (Submitted by the Zizi Family)

First destination: Dune du Pilat

In order to test the truck and how well they can coexist, they decided to start the world tour in Europe before crossing the Atlantic.

"The greatest challenge is learning to live in a different way. We went from living in a big house to a 20-square-metre truck and being together for 24 hours a day in this small space, " Sofia said.

On Dec. 2, 2017, the family headed from Paris to Bordeaux to see the Dune du Pilat, the tallest sand dune in Europe. It was the first stop of their nine-month European tour.

Marco Zizi surprised his family with a trip to the Dune du Pilat in Bordeaux in December 2017. It turned out to be the first stop of the world tour. (Submitted by the Zizi Family)

It wasn't easy to adapt to spending more time together, but after their test run across Europe, the Zizis decided they were ready to cross the Atlantic.

Last May, they shipped the truck from Antwerp, Belgium to Halifax, picked it up there and started driving across Eastern Canada. So far, they have made their way through Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Quebec.

Check out the Zizi family's Canadian adventures:

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      A family project

      Sarah and Nathan Zizi are still in school, in a way — they study online through a special program available in France.

      They thank their parents for taking them to explore the real world and to discover other cultures.

      "I think I'm very lucky," says Sarah.

      This nomadic family say they don't have a set up schedule for the trip. They know where they want to go, but decide the length of the stay on the way.

      Sarah and Nathan Zizi in Modica, Italy, May 31, 2018. By that time, the family had been travelling around Europe for almost six months. (Submitted by the Zizi family)

      Through this adventure, Marco and Sofia Zizi want to teach their kids to open up their minds.

      "We want them to approach others without fear about the differences. We want them to learn to hear, look, listen to others and to grab the best out of them," says Sofia.

      The Zizis hope this world tour equips their children better for life by living in a simple way.

      "I want to show my children to enjoy life. Whatever you want to do, just do it, do not wait until whatever happens. It is right now, not in 20 years when you're retired. Happiness is now," says Marco.

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