Today is the one year anniversary of our return from our big overseas family adventure. It’s hard to believe it’s been a year – time has absolutely flown by and a lot has happened since then, so we thought it was time for a bit of an update. Or if you’re a travelling family out there still on the road maybe this will give you some warts and all insights into what re-entry can be like.
The biggest change in the past year has been where we live. While we were away we had a really good think about the type of lifestyle we wanted to lead going forward and we decided that living in our big old house wasn’t right for us going forward.
We’d spent eight months living in a confined space together while we were away and amazingly realised that we really quite liked it! We saw how so many people around the world live and decided that we didn’t need all that space at this point in our lives.
Probably the main driver though was that our 100+ year old house was going to need a lot of investment to make it structurally sound and modernise it, and we just didn’t want to spend the money doing that. Travel is our number one priority and that’s just not compatible with ongoing repairs and big mortgages to fund those repairs.
So we sold up – what we thought would be a three week process turned into a nerve-racking and emotionally draining months on end – but we got there in the end. We’ve now bought a low maintenance house that’s much closer to the city centre and we love our new area. We walk a lot more than we used to due to close proximity of everything, and we don’t miss having a backyard because we’re surrounded by great parks.
Our new house is much smaller, which means we’ve culled and decluttered even more (still very much a work in progress with lots of boxes in our garage full of stuff to sell or donate to charity) because living out of a backpack for months on end taught us we don’t need lots of stuff.
It was a scary prospect giving up our long-standing jobs to embark on our adventure, and at around the 6-weeks-til-we-come-back mark and running low on funds it did begin to dominate our thoughts. We both had a few middle of the night Skype interviews which was actually quite tricky with dodgy internet connections in hotel lobbies in your one good shirt with shorts on the bottom / half melted lipstick and trying to be professional.
In hindsight we needn’t have worried though because within a month Mike had a great new job, and I secured some part-time contracting work a couple of months later once the house was unpacked and kids all settled back at school. So I kind of wish we’d left worrying about work until we got back and could interview in person. And our message would be don’t be scared to walk away from that important career where you’re indispensable – trust us you aren’t, and walking away from it all makes you so much more open to new challenges and experiences.
I’m also really thrilled that I’ve continued my travel writing and have now had quite a few articles published and had pitches accepted by some of my travel blogging idols! I’m writing content that’s being seen by sites that have hundreds of thousands of views per month and getting really good feedback on it. Next month I’m due to be published on the number one family travel website which I’m stoked about. We’ve also had a couple of sponsored experiences and stays in return for reviews which has been awesome, so hopefully we’ll be able to continue this in the future.
I’ve learned so much this year about how the whole blogging thing works (it’s tough out there!) and I won a scholarship to a university here where I’m training to be an SEO ninja lol which will hopefully help my writing and make Google happy.
The next step is to take this website to the next level – you’ll see more of that in the coming months I hope as we have some exciting plans for it! If you’re keen to know more then pretty please sign up to our mailing list and you’ll be the first to know what we’re up to 🙂
Coming back was a tale of two halves for our kids. Jack slid seamlessly back into kindergarten and had a pretty smooth transition to school.
Sophie on the other hand really struggled unfortunately. It was certainly reverse culture shock for her getting back into a classroom after all the experiences she’d had as well as catching up on some of the school work. She also missed our little family unit and being together 24/7 for the most part. It was a tough time and there were a few tears all round.
Thankfully though this only lasted a couple of months and she got her confidence back, caught back up to her peers and now she’s absolutely thriving and loves school. She’s had some great moments where the class has been discussing art, science, cultures and geography and she’s been able to contribute her real life experiences of things.
Another in hindsight lesson was that we started her back for the last term of school where she went into a class of kids who’d been together for two years. If we had our time again we’d probably start her at the beginning of the school year so she was going into a new class rather than trying to fit back into long-established classroom routines and cliques.
Work / life balance
This is the one area that in all honesty isn’t optimal. Despite our best efforts to fight it, we’re back on that treadmill and the daily grind is again part of our lives much to our disappointment. Like most people we know we’re all working hard, there aren’t enough hours in the day to fit everything in and we miss having the quality time together that we did while we were away.
The travelling and experiences were amazing, but the over-riding favourite thing that we all talk about was how we loved spending all that time together. And to think in a way it was the one thing I was scared of before we left – how would we cope being around each other all the time!
I don’t know what the answer is, although we have got some ideas about what we might do about this and some more life choices to make in the coming future. Without getting too deep and meaningful on it, it really does seem that ‘Western’ society has got our priorities all wrong and with each passing year that treadmill seems to get harder and faster 🙁
On a brighter note, we’ve still managed to travel even though we’re back at home! Japan was the one place that we really wanted to get to on our trip last year, but didn’t have the budget for, so we were all super excited to head off there back in April when the coffers had been topped up.
Mike has been travelling a lot for work, so I managed to dovetail onto the end of one of his business trips for a lovely week in Malaysia in June (sans kids and man were they peeved about it!)
We’ve also done some backyard exploring and finally took the kids down to the South Island for a fun weekend in the snow at Tekapo and Aoraki Mt Cook National Park.
Sophie and I are shortly off to Wellington for the World of Wearable Arts, and I’m also visiting Southern India in November to do a food tour which I’m so excited about.
There are so many good travel deals around that we’re already thinking about where to go next year. The kids are fully involved in the planning and excited about what we’ll do, at the moment the destinations change daily…too much to see and too little time.
It’s not an exaggeration to say we talk about our trip every single day, it’s had that much of an impact on our lives. “The trip” has become our family code word not only for travelling and seeing wonderful things, but of that magical time where we spent quality time together, were present, took time to smell the roses, played together, and of course had the occasional fight, mishap, travel sickness, hangry tantrum etc.
I was really interested to see how much of the detail about it the kids have retained, so I did a short little interview with them – here it is verbatim and unprompted.
What was your favourite country on our trip?
S – I can’t choose! England because the landmarks were cool and interesting history, Cambodia going to Secret Paradise Resort in Koh Rong Samloem and eating the food (the dog was soo cute), Germany because of the sausages and mustard mmmmm, Vietnam because of the markets, hats and bahn mi, France because I like the landscape and the food and I liked going to school there and the markets.
J – Vietnam because it was my birthday and King Kong Skull Island was made there.
What was your favourite food?
S – Eating the food from all different countries, like French pastries, wagshi, sushi, curry, pasta, pizza, gelato, tagine and fresh orange juice in Morocco, noodles, ramen, teriyaki chicken, all the tropical fruit (watermelon, pineapple, lychee) macarons in Paris
J – Spiders in Cambodia, pasta in Italy, noodles, chicken
What was your favourite way of getting around?
S – Plane because you get food and movies and you can sleep, and the train
J – Boat because you can play games. I also liked driving the tuk tuk
What were some of the favourite things you saw?
S – The safari and seeing the animals in Sri Lanka, seeing the pretty fashion shops in Paris, the mosques and temples in Asia, the view from our hotel in Japan, going to Universal Studios, seeing Big Ben in London and everything in London, horse riding in Bali for my birthday, help save turtles in Bali releasing them in the ocean (I called mine Tiddles, he was so wriggly in his container!), snorkelling, cooking class in Vietnam with my Mum and going on the boat ride, the battle in France with the fireworks were beautiful and the people were good actors with swords, Natural History Museum in London.
What are the names of the friends you made?
Emma from England (in France), Aleysha from the Czech Republic, Ruby from England (in Croatia), Myra (Netherlands), Florence and Scarlett from France (school), Nishan in Sri Lanka, Marco in Croatia.
If they don’t speak our language then we just play with them anyway!
What languages did you learn?
French, Italian, Japanese, German, a little bit of Cambodian and Croatian
Where do you want to go next?
S – Greece (Athens and Santorini), Mexico and America (New York and Los Angeles), Italy, France
J – Vietnam again, Japan again, Italy, France, Dubai again.
What would you say to someone who’s thinking of doing a trip like ours?
S – You should definitely do it, it’s an amazing experience because you get to go to fun places, eat food, learn new languages, hang out with your family and eat more food. And more food!
J – It’s fun!
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