I have a family, and I travel.
The two no longer have to be mutually exclusive you know.
It’s like an addiction my husband and I have. Albeit the best one. The one thing that gives us passion and thrills in this world, apart from our children of course, is to travel the world and see amazing and exotic places! We did it all when we were younger before we got sucked into the ruled life of mortgages and bogged down into the strive to be ‘normal’. But we slowly began to feel unfulfilled and ‘stuck’ in suburban lives and we started to think about how to travel with a family.
We started off steadily, we took our 6-month-old son over to Hawaii for a 3-week vacation. He travelled so well! Everybody loves babies when you are in another country. It is great. The baby gives you an opportunity for conversation and interaction with the locals like nothing else! He was like the biggest icebreaker! It was awesome!
As we were still getting used to life as a family of 3, and more so, used to the idea that it was ok to travel again now that we had a baby, I think some of this attention gave us real validation and encouraged us to no end. We, like everybody else in the world really honestly thought that once you had kids, that was basically it for the next 20 years or so. You were now locked into a life that maybe is not going to suit you. Itchy feet and all that. So, rather than being miserable and resentful and only pining for the travel of old, whilst looking forward to our retirements and wishing away the best parts of our young and able lives, we pledged to go overseas once per year from then on.
Our friends and peers all are in better financial situations than us right now. Many of them have paid off their houses, and are looking forward to getting long service leave, or retirement at some stage in the next 10 – 20 years. But what is that famous John Lennon line?
“Life is what happens when you are busy making other plans!”
What about today? What about living in the now and leaving the future for the future?
The future is uncertain.
In my work as a Palliative Care Nurse, I keep coming across the same stories again and again as I look after people who are dying from terminal illness. Invariably they would all say to me from their deathbed and surrounded by their loved ones –
“Life is short.”
“You only live once.”
“Oh if only I had travelled more.”
“I wish I had done more when I had the chance.”
“Cherish your health and your loved ones, for you don’t know how suddenly life can change”.
I have learned valuable lessons from these people: While I am still young and able enough to do it, now is the time.
I don’t think we should be worrying about our futures so much. We would be in a much different financial position had there not been a spiralling property price downturn that turned into an investors slump for many years since. Only now is our local area beginning to climb out of the doldrums of the ‘bust’. But we are tarnished from our experience and just want to live life to the fullest instead of being stressed out over money and bills and working our asses off during these best years of our life when our kids are still little.
We have seen too often the effects financial stresses can have on family causing cracks in relationships that are deepened by husbands having to work away from home, often for weeks on end.
The cracks become ravines that end up splitting all the way. I love my husband and my family unit and when we saw ourselves getting stressed, tired and concerned over money, we knew we had to make a change before the cracks began to show.
We have always been on the same page when it comes to things like this, so there was no convincing the other to take a big trip or anything like that. It was an idea that we floated over a bottle of wine one night, which led us towards a belief that full-time travel was actually achievable with kids!
Once you have the belief in something, you are 80% there!
But a dream, without action, will always remain just an idea until you turn it into a plan, and then take the steps needed to make your plan into a reality.
Huge life changes take time to implement. Step by step.
And then every step within the plan is also a process! You have to accept that things such as changing your entire way of living and thinking are going to take some effort, and be methodical in your actions. Each step’s commencement is also dependent on the success of the step before which means there is no skipping ahead to save time. I am going to share with you our step-by-step plan of all the things that need to be considered and solved prior to taking a long-term trip. We have done it before, and now we are about to do it again.
After our first trip to Hawaii and our vow of taking our kids overseas every year, we quickly visited some amazing places:
- We did a big road trip around the US while I was super pregnant and our eldest baby was only 18 months old.
- We were able to combine this trip with a round the world jaunt visiting the UK, and Singapore too.
- With 2 young kids in tow – the boys aged 2 years, and 7 months, we did our first trip to Bali.
These were amazing experiences but they were only short holidays compared to what was coming up next. After this, we built our first home, followed by a second house not long afterwards. The region was in the grip of what we later knew of as ‘the boom’. (That’s a good thing). The boom has one small problem though. After all this excitement and frivolous spending comes ‘the bust’ (That’s not good) and we were caught in the thick of it. All of a sudden the work dried up and people started to leave town in droves. I was about to go on maternity leave with baby number 3 and we had just bought ourselves a new caravan and car (frivolous boom-time purchases).
We did not realise then just how low the property prices were going to go otherwise we definitely would have sold everything before we left! Because my husband’s contract ended and my maternity leave was about to start, we decided to take the kids, jump in the van and travel around Australia for a year, optimistically assuming that everything would be back to normal once we got back! It wasn’t back to normal. And it wouldn’t ever get back to the prices that we paid for those houses anytime soon.
That amazing year of traveling to far off horizons taught us a lot about our family and really bonded us together.
The kids were 1, 3 and 2 months old when we set off. Daisy spent her whole first year travelling. She learnt to crawl in Perth and walk in Kakadu! And even though they may not remember visiting the Big Banana or swimming in the Zebedee Hot Springs at El Questro there is the feeling of belonging and of togetherness that they remember from that time. It was such an incredible trip. Free from the stresses of normal life. Our biggest problem was which way to face the caravan for the night, or where to find firewood.
Cruising around the stunning wilderness that is our country was a life-changing experience in more ways than one.
It taught us how to budget for long-term travel and how to organise our lives to be able to exist in such a small space for a long time, it taught us patience, it taught us love! I remember that feeling of absolute freedom and I yearn to feel that again. Nothing can compare to the deep sense of contentment that you get when you look at the map of the vast country and realise how far you have come and how much further you still have to go. Australia is such a beautiful and diverse country, I feel so lucky to have been all around it.
That was 5 years ago. The downturn didn’t really end well for us. We had to offload our ‘investment’ property at roughly half what we paid for it after the rents halved and the suburb turned into a refuge for down-and-outers. We were left with a 6-figure debt after that one but somehow that is better than the anchor that was going to drag us down with it. The home that we had been living in is on the market too! Once it sells, we will walk away empty handed. But oh so much happier!!!
We had already reduced our outgoings down as much as possible, I went back to work part-time, we dropped a lot of insurance options, and we sold what we could but we figured that as long as we did nothing fun ever, we could survive. But that’s just existing, that’s not living at all.
Despite all of this money trouble, our priority remained to travel as a family. And travel we did:
- We went to New Zealand and showed the kids their first taste of snow
- We fitted in a quick trip to Bali again with some friends, I was 30 weeks pregnant with baby number 4 here, so I couldn’t do much but lounge around the pool in my villa, but hey, sounds pretty perfect actually!!!
- A 2 week holiday in Japan with 4 children was our first taste of travel with a family of 6! And we loved it!
Everybody keeps asking me how we can afford to travel so much. It’s all about priorities really isn’t it? Read on to discover the processes we follow when planning our big, life-changing adventures…..
How to travel with a family, Long-term
In this instance, step 1 was making the decision to go. It was an easy decision to make and we had to believe we could do it. We started a blog to document our journey and hopefully inspire others who have suffered the same fate, turning our near bankruptcy into something worthwhile and invaluable.
We had to change our way of thinking from the brainwashed sheep locked into suburban life following that dangling carrot of the fabled ‘long-service leave’ or the even juicier ‘retirement’ into free thinkers!
It is all about mindset here. If you are not happy with something, don’t put up with it! Change it! Remember how you only have one life? Well, it is so important to live your best one so that is what we decided to do. Make the change, spend time with our kids while they are still kids and actually want to hang out with us. Spend time with each other. For the last 9 years, Brian has worked away from us, sometimes for weeks at a time! That is no way for a family to be.
Part of making this decision was, of course, making sure that our 4 kids are part of the plan as well. We aim to homeschool them, internationally it is called ‘world-schooling’ and we are all so excited for this part! The kids are thrilled that they won’t have to go to school next year, although they will be sad to leave such a great school behind. I doubt we will ever return to live in this area either so we are actually wrenching them away from all that they know, friends, family, home, but luckily for us, they love travelling and they can see the silver linings to their clouds. They all recall our more recent family trips to Japan, New Zealand, and Bali and they honestly couldn’t be more excited for their tomorrows.
I can’t wait to teach them so many valuable lessons about the world which will carry through and make them better, more aware, respectful, polite humans without arrogance or the entitlement which afflicts so many young people today.
Finding a practical solution for your house and belongings.
Most of us have a house, a car, maybe a boat/caravan etc, plus a house full of stuff. Once you stop travelling for a few years and settle down to have kids, my goodness you really accumulate the stuff, don’t you! There’s toys, clothes, TVs, white goods, tools, trampolines, you name it. Then there is your books, photos, and the rest.
Your house you either sell, or rent it out, or if you are a renter, easy – just wait until the end of the lease. The stuff is harder. For some reason, people get so attached to things. People, I can understand getting attached to people but things? It is inexplicable how I was able to throw away a whole cupboard full of dishes and yet had to save that one flowery bowl that I have had ever since I moved into my first sharehouse 20 years ago.
So for those special things that have a special meaning, whatever that may be, we ordered a shipping container on which we will pay a rental for storage and even though we will probably throw most of it away when we get back after a year or more, it has made it easier to deal with the nostalgia.
Our stuff went into 4 categories – container storage, sell it, dump it and bring it to Mum’s house. It becomes a very cathartic and cleansing experience when you purge yourself of all that baggage. You begin to feel lighter as you get rid of piles of junk and get piles of cash for the other.
House – sell (fingers crossed)
Car and Caravan – sell, sell (this will end up providing most of our capital for our first year of travel!)
Stuff – sell, donate, dump, shipping container
Don’t neglect the practical things such as canceling your utilities and redirecting your mail too. We have most of our affairs managed via email these days but I will still get a mail redirection temporarily.
You are going to need some money for a substantial trip. My thought was always that if you are crossing hemispheres, you have to be gone for a few months at least to make it worth your while! Our airfares are a big chunk of our spending with having to buy 6 tickets! But we are going to counteract that by spending the first 6 months somewhere cheap like SE Asia and by not travelling too far.
You need a budget, and you need some capital. Then you can either find a way to earn money while you travel or arrange work once you get to your destination.
There are 101 ways to make money online while we are travelling. But that’s a whole other story! Some of the things we use are Affiliate Marketing, Ads on our blog, Fiverr, Social Media Management and Website Development, as well as paid surveys and audio typing. There are also options to sell courses or freelance other services such as article writing. Please send us a message if you want any further info on any of these money earners. Otherwise, sign up to our mailing list and be the first to be notified of the blog story coming soon!
We are lucky we are able to stay at my mother’s house very cheaply for the next 6 months which should enable us to save plenty of money, then we will sell our car and caravan for another big chunk of cash. We hope to be earning an income online by the time we depart, as well as stop and do some short contracts in England when we get there. One thing we really have going for us is that we both have professions that are fairly in demand to back us up so we know with a fair bit of certainty that if all else fails, we can just go back to our day jobs and be boring and we will be alright. (I am a Registered Nurse which is a great job to travel with, and Brian is a Surveyor and a Remedial Massage Therapist.)
Good things happen to those who book flights………
Social Proof: Tell people what you are planning so you kind of have to go through with it then! Be brave!
Gather Equipment: Start getting together the practical things you need once you have done all the previous steps and done the groundwork.
Go on! Get out of here!! Adios!!!!
Right now, we are stuck at the end of step 2, with one foot in step 3 and wishing for step 4. But it is a process remember and we can’t hurry these things! Stay tuned to find out what happens next. Will someone buy our house?