the thing about … traveling

by Sharon Santoni

Today we launch our new MFCHTravel website and it has brought me to think about how our traveling habits have evolved.

As a little girl I had a fascination with all things ‘foreign’. Growing up in Britain, and in the countryside, we didn’t have a very cosmopolitain lifestyle, but now and again I’d have an opportunity to meet someone visiting from abroad, and I remember being spellbound by their accent. French, German, Italian, American .. to my childish ears any accent sounded exotic and interesting.

In my junior school we started learning French at 8 years old, and I loved it immediately. A few years later and I started learning German, and before I knew it I was studying abroad as a university student.

A year in Germany, and then a year in France which actually turned out to be never ending. I fell in love with France and with a French boy who became my life partner and France became my new home.

So why am I telling you this? Because today I am thinking a lot about traveling and how our appreciation and motives to travel evolve as we move through life.

Travelling as a 20-something year old is a wonderful and exciting adventure. Everything is possible, with doors opening endlessly, and fun to be had at every turn. At 20 you have no responsibilities, few worries, and the world is your playground.

As we move into new life chapters we discover new reasons to love travel, each chapter with its own particular charm. Having brought up four children I have specific memories of baggage-heavy family travel, as we tried to show the children other cultures. These busy years were followed by the moment when as empty nesters, my husband and I enjoyed traveling light and in a more spontaneous manner … ‘this place looks interesting, let’s stop here’.

When I created my tours and started welcoming guests to France from around the world, I realised that a huge part of traveling is the people you get to meet along the way. Whenever we host our group tours here, I love to see the connections that are made between our guests and very often new friendships grow. I also love to see how many women join our tours who are traveling alone. The tours allow for independent travel, but in good company .

In today’s world, where open mindedness and understanding each other is more important than ever, our modes of travelling has changed. Gone are the days when the only option was to book into a hotel, buy a guide book and stumble around visiting the normal tourist spots. Today, when we move we want to gain an understanding of the local culture. We want to see behind doors, and go to the restaurants that only the locals know about.

So from our early days of creating our tours, to writing the travel guides for the magazine and creating our off-the-peg itineraries, I am now happy to say that we have launched a completely new website dedicated to travel. Here you can find information about our , consult our travel guides to regions and cities around France, and browse our itineraries to help you plan your next trip. We’ll also soon be bringing you our hotel recommendations sorted by region.

I’d love to hear about your travel experiences, and how your approach to travel has changed over the years. How far ahead do you plan your trips? Do you enjoy traveling alone, or do you have a regular travel buddy?


Dee March 17, 2024 - 6:43 pm

Great addition

Sharon Santoni March 18, 2024 - 4:21 pm

Thank you Dee!

Eloise March 19, 2024 - 3:59 pm

Hi Sharon, good afternoon. At your new travel website, if you check at the bottom of the page Where to return at your “blog” – if you click on the “blog” it says it doesn’t exist – something like this because there are two “rr” in Sharon which you may need to correct. Thank you.

Sharon Santoni March 19, 2024 - 7:02 pm

Thank you Elise, that is now fixed!

Vicky from Athens March 17, 2024 - 7:24 pm

Sharon, over the years my travel has evolved from hiking and backpacking in the U.S. and Canada to now hiking in Europe. I started doing this when my children were in high school and now this is my preferred method of travel. It feeds my soul. My husband and I take the occasional trips but he isn’t a hiker so I have a group of girlfriends that I plan those trips with. Museums and galleries are nice but nothing beats walking through the countryside from village to village, meeting and staying with locals. Truly the way to immerse oneself in a country and get to know it. One of my favorite trips was hiking the Tour du Mont Blanc – I’ve done it twice and if someone called tomorrow and said lets go back, I’d leap at the chance. I will be headed to Spain in June to hike on the Camino de Santiago. I decide where I want to go next at least a year in advance … I’m always thinking of my next adventure! I plan to be hiking in the Dordogne region in 2025. I’m 79 so I need to “make hay while the sun shines”. I’m really looking forward to your new website!

Sharon Santoni March 18, 2024 - 4:22 pm

Hi Vicky, I love your idea of hiking! You see stuff when you’re on foot that you would never see or experience from a car. I hope you enjoy your Spain trip, it sounds wonderful, Sharon

Jacqueline Farley March 17, 2024 - 7:31 pm

As a Brit living in the US my trips back to the UK have been almost annually for the past 30 years – at first alone then with my first American husband , then with with my son at 6 months old – next with my second American husband and his two daughters and my son over the years – instilling in him a great love of Europe and travel in general

He now, now in his 30 s has become a world traveller and puts Scotland, Ireland and Japan at the top of his list of favorites

I am deeply in love with London, the English countryside and France having first crossed the channel by hovercraft as a little girl on a day trip to Bologne with my grandmother
I’m amazed to meet people in the US who have never travelled and have no knowledge of how others live. For me travel is a vital part of education and the way we can come to appreciate the habits and mores of others

I have spent time in NZ, Australia, China, Nepal, Japan, Mexico, Thailand , Norway, Sweden, Holland, France , Italy, Belgium, Andorra, Germany, Austria, Switzerland , England , Ireland, Scotland and Wales , Guatemala , Cyprus, Greece and the islands, Belize as well as the US ( mostly California)
Now mid 70s I’m looking forward to exploring Africa and South America

My travel style is to avoid hotels – always opting for getting to know the culture
The advent of Air B and B has been great! I have met some unique characters by using that service
Jacqueline Farley

Sharon Santoni March 18, 2024 - 4:24 pm

HI Jacqueline, you are a very well traveled lady! I agree that travel is a big part of education, and understanding other cultures could help a lot in this troubled world,
I remember the hovercraft! such a strange machine 🙂

Rhonda Reeves March 17, 2024 - 10:05 pm

As a young single Mom I couldn’t afford to travel abroad but I took my children wherever I could afford in the US-even considering from our small town into the “city” an adventure for them and a way to explore a different way of life. Now those days are behind me and, though the US has many wonderful places to see, it is the travel to other countries and other cultures that I cherish for the opportunities to fully understand and experience them. I’ve been to many European countries, France more than others, and have loved every minute. Now that I’m in my 70’s and blessed with good health and energy I’ll continue those explorations and encourage the younger generations in my family to do so as well-

Sharon Santoni March 18, 2024 - 4:25 pm

Having been lucky enough to travel with you Rhonda, I know how curious you are to understand and experience new places. Hoping we’ll get another opportunity to meet up again soon


Anna March 17, 2024 - 10:36 pm

Such a great post! Travel has really changed now that my husband and I are empty nesters for trips abroad we plan 8 months in advance. Initially thought it was excessive but after a trip to England and Ireland I’m so glad we took the time to get into the details. Currently my husband is my perfect travel companion- we are both each other’s speed and if one of us wakes up not feeling well we are quick to adapt and easily can change the day’s itinerary – so flexibility is very important to us.

Sharon Santoni March 18, 2024 - 4:27 pm

Thank you Anna, when your husband or partner is your ideal travel buddy, then life is good!

Karen in Tennessee March 18, 2024 - 3:11 am

Love traveling in Europe, especially France. My husband and I make our plans, usually staying a week in each AirBNB or Bed & Breakfast. We explore the particular region then move on for the next week, and so on…. Our 2020 plans for Ireland were cancelled of course. That year we bought farm property and have now acquired chickens and seem to be more tied to home. We’re enjoying the new lifestyle but are getting the itch to travel again. We love hanging out in the villages, meeting people, and participating in activities that give us insight into local cultures. As 70-something’s, we need to not let many more years go by without travel. The adventure of it is exciting, challenging, and very satisfying. We’re so thankful for all the experiences and look forward to more.

Sharon Santoni March 18, 2024 - 4:26 pm

Hi Karen, I love that you are tied down by your chickens! Your travel experiences sound wonderful!

Paula March 19, 2024 - 8:47 pm

Dear Sharon,
Thank you so much for the opportunity to “speak” with you and others. Although I have traveled to many wonderful places throughout my life, I am 75 now, I have always planned to visit Southern France. I read your magazine as soon as I see a new one at the bookstore and love the photos of architecture, gardens, interiors, and the overall ambiance of the magazine. One day, I will travel there.

Cheryl March 20, 2024 - 5:56 am

Hi Sharon… I live in Australia and it takes many hours of flying and transit stops to get to the Northern Hemisphere whether it be Europe or USA. Because of this, we Aussies tend to make our trips long ones! We have been travelling since 1998, our first ‘organised trip’. But, since 2006 and a trip to Eastern Europe on our own we have become our own tour guides. We love to stay away from hotels and indulge ourselves in the local culture.

We love France, having had many long term stays in country France from Normandy, Brittany , Loire Valley, Dordogne to Alsace and Lorraine. Not to mention our fabulous stays in a few different Arrondissements of Paris.

We are currently planning a seven week trip to Portugal and Spain in September and October., finishing off with two weeks in the UK with friends. We have decided to ‘train’ it this time as are in our 70’s and don’t need the hassle of driving on the opposite side of the road. We love sourcing our own accomodation and becoming part of the community we will be living in… it’s the most wonderful experience anyone can wish to be able to have. People everywhere are wonderful even despite the language barriers we face!

I am so grateful to be able to have the privilege of travelling the world with my wonderful husband.

franki parde March 24, 2024 - 7:01 pm

Well…we are “off to Ireland” for the first time. My 80th birthday treat to take our two children and THIS TIME…I wanted to…”just enjoy it.” No planning, no driving hassle, no checking over & over…so a “Travel Company Tour it is…our backpacks, etc. arrived from them yesterday…”we shall see…” franki

Jenny Garcia March 31, 2024 - 4:49 am

We’ve been traveling to many places in Europe for 15 years now, being France as our favorite country to travel into. As an avid fan of yours and a subscriber of your magazine , the first page that I turn to is the city or village that’s being featured. In fact I used them as reference when we traveled to Lyon and The Loire Valley. We’ve also traveled to Provence . Paris is one city we keep coming back to, twice with our children and 2y/o grandson. My husband is my travel buddy. We’re in our mid 60’s and we travel with our own style , whether joining a tour company or planning our own, immersing ourselves to each country’s culture for local experience.

Thank you for creating this travel website. It’s a great addition and a great resource for our travels to France.
In about 4 weeks we’re off to Croatia and Slovenia. In the Fall , we travel to Paris and Bordeaux!!!

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