From leaving the UK for Copenhagen in 2009 with her family and two young children to exploring the Bavarian culture and traditions for five years in Munich to moving back to Cambridge in UK, Emma Raphael's life has come a full circle. Her blog 'A Bavarian Sojourn' is not only an account of her family's adventures in these foreign lands; readers are also given glimpses into the family's personal struggles, achievements and joy while trying to adapt to new cultures, traditions and environment. In this interview, we ask Emma to travel back the memory lane and relive some precious moments from her journeys to inspire our readers to consider family travelling as a viable option.
Repatriation - How is it coming along? Which members of the family are relatively doing better settling in than the others?
I have to say repatriating has been the hardest thing I have ever done. You imagine it's going to be really easy, but it's often not. When you have lived abroad for a long period of time, you learn to think in a completely different way, and on top of that things at home have probably moved on without you. Thankfully, I think it's just been me that's struggled. My children have mostly settled well and are looking on the UK as a new location (which it basically is for the two youngest members of the family). They do keep asking where we are going to live next though! Time will tell - after all there is that old saying "once an expat always an expat"!
Tell us about the Oktoberfest of 2014, especially focusing on what happened in the Armbrustschutzen Festhalle. Were you also cheering with the crowd?
So having lived in Munich for five years, and with plenty of bier fests under our belts, you would think we would have remembered the basic Oktoberfest rules? These include never standing on a table, and if you stand on a bench during the day (everyone stands on them at night to dance!) then you are basically announcing that you are about to down your entire litre of bier. We had been swapping places to talk to everyone in our group, my husband reached the end of the table and as there was a wooden panel at the end blocking his way, he made the fatal mistake of standing up on the bench to step over the table... I was busy talking at the time, but when the entire tent of some 2,000 odd people suddenly started cheering and expectantly looking our way I instantly knew what he had done. We had a lot of Bavarians around us who looked doubtful he could manage it, so the cheers were deafening when he downed it in record time. I wasn't cheering at first as I was in shock, but my Australian friends made up for it (the video could burst your eardrums!)! What made me laugh was that his work got to hear about it, and a lot of German colleagues were seriously impressed. It's obviously not as easy as it looks!
Photography or travelling- what is closer to your heart?
That's a tough one. I love both photography and travel equally, but as I learned to take photographs properly through travelling, I would have to say travel I guess.
One thing Cambridge has that Bavaria didn't.
Decent tea, excellent supermarkets with masses of choice, and pubs. As much as I love a good bier hall, you can't beat the atmosphere of a really lovely English pub.
Have your children inherited your love for birds? And did Kes photo get published in the Young Ornithologists club after all?
No. They generally think I am mad anyway! I didn't ever send any photos of Kes to the RSPB (I am guessing they see plenty of Kestrels!), but I did manage to take quite a few whilst we were there. As far as I know he still lives in the eaves of our old house (they can live for 15 odd years!). I miss him, but not his mess!
What has been your family's most favourite holiday?
Another tough question. Probably our big trip to Japan a couple of years back. We travelled between Tokyo, Izu, Fuji and Kyoto and back again via Shinkansen and it was just the most incredible trip. They kids still talk about riding about on Giant Panda Robots and I still often think about getting up to watch the sun rise over Mount Fuji...
How do you think travelling together has brought your family closer?
The things we have seen and experienced together. Not many children can say they have slept in an iglu at the top of Germany's highest mountain, circumnavigated a Japanese volcano, or explored Venice at dawn whilst the rest of the city slept. These are just a few of the things that we will always remember, and hopefully they will be the glue during any tough teenage years ahead!
What are the advantages and disadvantages of travelling with a family?
How you can often see things differently through their eyes is definitely an advantage, a big part of planning a trip for us is letting the kids get involved, so we let them choose a big chunk of what we see and do. We have seen some weird and wonderful things thanks to them believe me! It's hard to think of disadvantages, although other people on planes generally annoy me when you are travelling with a family. It's usual to get tuts and glares when you get on before anyone's even made a noise, but when your kids know exactly how to behave on a plane, and have probably travelled more than some of these people anyway, it gets annoying to say the least...
Since you have decided to explore your own country with a new eye now, what would say about exploring local gems in their native countries to people who keep waiting for an airplane ticket to begin travelling?
Repatriating has made me realise just how much of my own country and surrounds I have never actually seen. I don't know the area where we are currently based at all for example, and it's been fun discovering beautiful medieval towns up the road like Lavenham (where you can also find Harry Potter's House in Deathly Hallows), historic Bury St Edmunds and Mersea, the UK's most easterly island, and I can't wait to see Scotland (I haven't actually been!)... I would really encourage people to get out and explore their own back yards more whilst they are waiting for that plane ticket. You might be pleasantly surprised at what you discover!
This interview with Emma Raphael's is a part of Travel Trolley's ongoing 'Best of the Travel Bloggers' series. We are interviewing popular travel bloggers who encourage and inspire people to travel. Check out all the bloggers we have interviewed and learn about their interesting experiences, adventures, travel stories as well as useful holiday tips.