Prior to stepping off the edge of the familiar yet cavernous precipice of conformity and falling into this nomadic existence I had considered the notion of full time family travel a little crazy and more than a little irresponsible.
Yet navigating a plethora of choices, obstacles and challenges presented by each new destination we call ‘home’ has become so familiar that we now consider it to be our way of life.
Before embarking on this adventure we were consumed but fears and ‘what ifs’. Surely people would think poorly of us for leaving the UK? If we didn’t keep up with the Jones’s would the Jones’s forget who we were? Or worse, would people consider us gloating, conceited insufferables who discuss their obnoxiously long holiday at every opportunity.
Could we be setting ourselves out on a path that would ultimately lead us to be ostracised by the very community we had been trying so hard to fit into?
We are neither incredibly rich nor have we ever demonstrated a penchant for slumming it. This meant that the choices of location and accommodation would need a significant amount of consideration. This is full time family travel, not an extended holiday, as some may, and still, believe it to be. Our work running our businesses would need to continue. Would we be able to manage, indeed grow the business we’d worked so hard on for more and a decade from thousands of miles away? How would we navigate the entirely unfamiliar world of home schooling? Would the children be irrevocably damaged by the uncertainty that changing locations creates?
The Fear Of Disapproval
It’s taken nearly a year of full time family travel to understand how our fears prior to leaving were manifested and to be able to label them in a way that empowered us to discuss them.
I’m a little embarrassed to admit that I needed the consensus of an estranged and often disengaged, in many cases apathetic, community.
How they perceived our decision with regard to our children and financial security was a critical factor in how we felt about it ourselves.
Approval and the level of need of it is an insidious disfunction that is rarely talked about. It clouds your judgement and destroys self belief stifling decisive action. This represented a large part of our discomfort as we drew closer to our committed date. Once in motion, momentum takes over. Deposits paid and belongings sold or stored, fear gave way to excitement.
As we boarded our first flight an almost tangible weight lifted from our shoulders. As if the flight was not only taking us away from the UK, but away from the burden of concern for others opinions and a satisfaction that the long days had resulted in the beginning of our adventure.
All that now mattered was a singular focus on arriving at our first destination safely.
It was incredibly liberating, however, this full time family travel thing isn’t a utopian lifestyle.
Failing In New Ways
Introducing home schooling whilst on the shaky foundation of a fluid location alongside an ever evolving business has required a level of discipline and reflection that we were entirely unprepared for.
I had considered myself a fully formed human being prior to taking this leap, but I’ve come to realise I am but a chimp when sophisticated communication alongside diplomatic, thought out responses are required almost daily to navigate a family drama.
Back in the UK, our children were raised, in part, by the school system. Now it is fully our responsibility.
The burden of our childs learning falls unequally between Kate and I. She shoulders a larger part of the planning and implementation as she is demonstrating a far superior ability than I to research, organise and enthuse our children to learn.
We play a cliched version of good cop/ bad cop as we coax our often reluctant son and daughter to begin their lessons in Maths or English.
Highs and lows are magnified in this new existence. Each associated to an appreciation of location and time that previously would have been swallowed up by routine and familiarity. It’s meant that reactions to events can be overblown or over analysed.
We’re learning that reflection, forgiveness and gratitude are tools that we frequently remind each other of. We’re by no means always calm and measured, but we all understand that’s the goal.
You may consider that finances would be an issue. Or health and security a risk, but these, thus far, have created the least concern. The financial management is a blog post in of itself, so I’ll leave that for another time.
Health has been a pleasant surprise. The medical support we have received so far with pharmacy, doctors and hospitals has been equal to or better than that of the UK.
In terms of our safety, people have been far friendlier, welcoming and helpful than anything you may have considered through the limited window of media outlets back home.
With all this said and now approaching the close of our first year of full time family travel, do I regret taking the leap?
No, not for a moment. Prior to taking this decision I had believed myself to be someone who had formed cohesive, independent and thought out views of the world. I felt that I and my family were independent thinkers unrestrained from any specific ideology or bias. We were fair minded in our view, kind and understanding of those around us.
This, in hindsight, was an illusion. We were only these things within the specific confines of the society and culture we lived in. We had no equal to test it against so we felt our understanding was accurate. Like any assumptions, if we live within the parameters of them how can we know their limitations?
On many occasions I have responded in a way to an event during these travels directly in accordance to my cultural bias, not in my previously deluded capacity of a freely thinking, independently minded individual. As this realisation struck and events confirmed this bias we became less attached to it creating a strange disconnect from our past replaced by an almost free wheeling state of observation
This jars your senses when you first realise the change. You immediately become more interested and engaged in people of all races and backgrounds. It’s almost a child like state of happily and enthusiastically meeting new people with a passion to find out as much about them as possible whilst simultaneously hoping for another enriching friendship.
Alongside the adventures and experiences my lasting memory and most changeable aspect of this travel has been the people. During our travels we have met some of the kindest, genuine and interesting people I’ve ever had the privilege to meet. All from different countries and cultures and each with fascinating stories and perspectives.
Full time family travel is as much, if not more, about the people as it is the destinations. Had we not taken this leap and spent our years on our previous course I’ve no doubt that my scepticism and pessimism of people would have eventually overcome me. The absence of the spoon feeding provided by the negative media back home leaves a grateful vacuum for more positive relationships to flourish.
Is this a similar experience for our children? I would argue that they were too young to adopt too many assumptions about people before we left, however they are growing in confidence that I believe has far outstretched anything they would have achieved had we remained in the UK. Many comment, upon meeting them, how engaging, polite and warm hearted they both are.
Previously they were assumed to communicate and play with children of their own age. In this ever changing environment they are forced to develop communication, emotional and language skills (both foreign and english) to participate in activities with both children and adults.
They also have a connection and experience between them that only they can reference in the future. Their relationship between each other has grown stronger through our travels and they genuinely enjoy each other’s company.
This past year of full time family travel has felt like a life well lived. When I look back across our photos and videos and the mind boggling number of adventures, the people and the growth I’m filled with a sense of gratitude.
This way of life is a continuous journey of outward and inward exploration that far outstrips anything I’d experienced before.
Long may it continue.