Buvette Masthead

Wanderlust: Kirstin Langton

Emma Macdonald

We meet the women who gave in to their Wanderlust and did something a little crazy, a lot brave and ultimately life-affirming when they packed up their ordinary lives and took the plunge.

At 40, Kirstin and her husband, Joe Dwyer, took their three kids under 10 – Aliyah, Zae and Noah – to live in France for 10 months – the longest break they could claim from their public service careers.


We have lived in Canberra for over 10 years now and our trip was pretty much about the kids improving their French language skills. I always thought I would like to bring up my children to be bilingual and we were lucky enough to get them into Telopea Park School. I wanted to spend time living in France while they were still relatively young and we had access to long service leave.

At first, Joe wasn’t overly keen. He thought he might prefer to spend 10 months at home watching Netflix and doing some things around the house and getting fit. I convinced him that he could watch Netflix in France and he could still go for runs (dodging the dog poo!). The kids were pretty keen to give it a try so we had no problems really convincing them.



It definitely cost us a lot of money as we weren’t working and the Aussie dollar decided to plummet just after we left and bounce back just after we returned. Things were a lot harder because of the language barrier. Joe and I weren’t fluent in French and were still fairly basic when we left. This limited us a lot in our interactions and the way we lived. Our children learnt lots of new swear words.

But the pros were the kids got to immerse themselves in the language and culture and made lots of special friends. They learnt a different way of living and different approach to school and life.
 A big pro was not working and being able to pick up the kids from school and take them to their after-school activities or to play with friends. I really appreciated that, especially now we are back to juggling full-time work, homework, tennis squads, soccer, play dates, babysitter, after school care etc.



Our village was very quaint – Servian in the Languedoc-Roussillon region, population around 4000. People didn’t speak English. The school was small and welcoming. Our house was very old and very huge. Everything was so old in France – the village, the houses, the cars, and the appliances – because people don’t replace things unless they can’t be fixed.

It was annoying when people smoked around children, dog poo was everywhere, people were oblivious to the dangers of skin cancer, things were so seasonal with everything shutting in after summer – not to mention nothing open on a Sunday.

The wine was so good and cheap but we got so sick of baguettes which I didn’t think was possible before we left.


Seeing the children perform with their classmates at the school fete. Travelling around France and Italy. Noah making friends
 and arguing in French with his best friend. Having wine with our winemaker neighbour. Being in London and seeing where I used to live and work. Seeing the Tour de France. Noah’s school principal coming to our house because he left his teddy at school. The kids’ school send off – like nothing I have seen before and ever expect to see again.



I think I’ve realised I can’t or don’t want to change. I admire how laid-back the French are and the slower pace of life but I know that is just not me.

I like how they live more simply but we have gone back to our more complicated lives and I don’t think we will change that for the foreseeable future. Part of me wants a simple life but I don’t think it’s in my nature.

This article originally appeared as part of our Wanderlust article in Magazine: Escape for Summer 2016/17. Find out more about Magazine here.

Magazine Edition 7: Escape


Emma Macdonald

Emma Macdonald has been writing about Canberra and its people for more than 20 years, winning numerous awards for her journalism - including a Walkley or two - along the way. Canberra born and bred, she’s fiercely loyal to the city, tribally inner-north, and relieved the rest of the country is finally recognising Canberra’s cool and creative credentials. More about the Author

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