2 adults + 2 children + 39,000 miles...
In September 2007 we took our two young daughters (then aged 7 and 4) on a year long round-the-world trip, removing them from the UK education system and leaving our jobs, our home and all the other responsible 'grown up' stuff associated with modern 30-somethings.
We kept a blog whilst away which is now a BOOK! What started out as a 'keepsake' hard copy of the blog has now turned into the complete story of our journey from the first thoughts and plans in 2006 to the day we stepped back on UK soil after 345 days away, including our blog and all the amazing pictures we posted, an additional section of all our references and an update on how we have settled into 'normal' life again, 6 months later - if in fact we actually have. It's now the book I wish I could have read beforehand. Click on the icon here to check it out...
...and have a look below at some of common questions covered, along with our answers:
The Where/How/What/Why? Questions.
Where did you go and how did you decide?
C and I wanted to go to India for a while, and we hadn't seen much of South-East Asia, so we thought that would be a good start. We went through Africa last time, and know that long term travel there would be a real challenge with the kids health-wise. Weather played a big part in the planning, as the colder it gets, the more kit we have to carry! We went to Western Oz to dive with the whale sharks and play with dolphins, and in NZ we had a lot of family and friends to catch up with, and some hot springs to sit in. We bought RTW tickets as we had a definate return date (big family wedding) and a pretty good idea of where we wanted to go. Our ticket stopped in India, Singapore, Australia, New Zealand, The Cook Islands, US and home, and we filled in the gaps using budget airlines and overland travel.
Why did you go then?
Well, because 2007 was the right time for us. The girls were out of nappies, buggies, cots and mashed food, but not yet into make-up, boys and important SATs. We're still young(ish) and healthy, and had finally caught up on enough sleep to contemplate it. S should have started school in September 2007 and we didn't want to her to start only to take her out in a year or two. Both of them are now articulate, intelligent good company and we (selfishly) wanted to spend more time with them, not less. They're growing up fast and we don't want them 'managed' through childhood. We took the view that we'd rather have some time off with them while they'd appreciate it, and all spend their inheritance together.
How did the children feel about going?
They were really keen right from the start. They had a lot of imput re: things they'd like to see (top of the list = S - Steve Irwin's Australia Zoo, F - bubbling mud in NZ!) Both were very excited about going, although sometimes I thought F was most excited about no school for a year. They had very little sense of how long a year is and so couldn't really imagine being away that long. S was small and egocentric enough not to worry too much about leaving friends behind, F was cool with it and knew that it's OK to miss your friends and family, but at the same time enjoy doing new things.
How much was the budget? You must have won big!
No we didn't win the lottery! We travel cheap. We also travelled through some of the cheapest countries in the world, with little girls who often slept, travelled and ate for free/not much. We aimed for an 'on the road' year total of about £25,000 plus a 'homesick/poorly slush fund' for posher hotels, or flights instead of chicken buses when it got a bit much. Flights, vaccs and visas are extra.
What happened with your jobs?
We left them. Some of the children I looked after were off to school in September, so arrangements were up for review anyway, and C was offered voluntary redundancy.
What did you do with the house?
We were going to rent it out, then luckily we were able to re-jig the mortgage and get family to move in for us, saving us some storage fees, and meaning we could come home if it turned out we hated the travel.
What about the kids' school?
They were overseas for a full academic year, so legally we had no obligations. F missed Year 3 and so we took some workbooks, games, english books and a laptop to help keep up. S just missed Reception and also had books to help with her letters and numbers ready for Year 1 in 2008.
How much kit did you take?
Adults had a large backpack (60/65l) each. The kids took a little backpack each that held all their games, toys, Nintendo's, books, stickers, pens, paper, cuddlies and comforters. We were limited to 3 'outfits' each, plus fleeces, macs, swimsuits, suntops, flip-flops, shoes, underwear, pjamas, first aid, towels and toiletries etc. We planned to follow the sun until New Zealand and then make a dash for the shops for jumpers and jeans when we got there. Grown-ups also had a 'day bag' each in the form of a cross body bag, one with electronics in it, the other wipes, snacks, sunblock, tissues etc.
What did you do all day?
Apart from the minutae of long term travel, we had planned a few things to keep us distracted - lots of friends to meet up with, charity visits in India, and C wanted to do his PADI diving Instructor's rating in Thailand which kept him busy for about 3 months.
What happened next?
We came home! But only briefly. Chris did a bit of scuba teaching and we settled for just 15 months in the UK before we moved to where we live now - the beautiful Costa Blanca in Spain. There is absolutley NO DOUBT that our family rtw trip gave us a huge confidence boost when it came to emigrating, but that's a whole other story.
Giving something back.
Most of our year was spent in developing countries where the standard of living we have here in the UK is unimaginable. We decided it was essential to show the girls how some people struggle just to stay healthy and well-fed. The UK has it's faults, but thankfully malaria and typhoid aren't amoung them.
Along the way we stopped to do a project visit at a charity in India - at Children Walking Tall, and we did some low key fundraising before we went so that we could take some money to give to them. With no state welfare system in India, Rob and his team offer a few lucky slum kids in Goa the chance of a proper childhood and the prospect of a better future. They will be our chosen overseas charity for a long time to come, click on the card below to go have a look:
Closer to Home.
Whilst planning this trip we were constantly reminded how lucky we are to be physically, emotionally and financially stable enough to take a year out. In the UK there are many families who rarely get time away together.The Family Holiday Association (www.fhaonline.org.uk) help fund hoildays for disadvantaged families and believe that time spent together is a necessity for a united family, which we agree with whole-heartedly.The FHA estimate that 1.5 million UK families cannot even afford an annual day out at the seaside - a very miserable thought indeed.
Drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org if you've got a query...or have a look in the book.
All love CRFS xxxx