We can’t go on a gap year because…

“We’d love to but the cat ate my passport etc. ” is something we hear quite often. 

OK, travel is not for everyone. It is easy to come up with excuses to stay at home or go back to the same villa you went to last year. But if you are seriously considering some long term family travel here is my opinionated view:

My health. You are going to die somewhere, at least pop your clogs living the dream. Insurance might be trickier but health care abroad can be excellent and much cheaper. 

My job/career. You could be redundant tomorrow, then what? Everyone I know with a proper career has walked back into work. Employers might be jealous but it won’t stop you getting a job. 

House (and the junk it is full of). Rent it, you might even make a profit. Have a garage sale and cleanse your clutter karma.

Money. It is lovely to have the freedom of a full bank account but it doesn’t mean you will have a better time traveling. Too much money means you can exist in tourist mode and miss out on the local experiences. With the right countries and slower travel you can really stretch the pennies a long way. Looking back I’d happily have borrowed the money given the experience.

The kids will miss school (and never catch up). Sorry you prophets of doom, a year or two out is easily caught up. 

We are too old. That is really lame, if my Mum can take a rucksack round the world aged 74 then you can. You will have to do better. 

I don’t like foreign food. Sadly you can get chips, pasta, pizza, bread etc. pretty much anywhere. 

I don’t know any foreign languages. Chances are reading this blog you have a spattering of English or its close cousins American, Australian etc. Congratulations, everyone wants to learn your language or take your money which means knowing much more of your lingo than you do of theirs. If all fails point and talk loudly. 

I’ll miss my favourite TV programme. Stream it using a VPN to pretend you are at home, you didn’t really want to see the Taj Mahal anyway. 

Isn’t it dangerous? Yes it can be but you also put your makeup on and send text messages while driving. Don’t forget it is statistically  more dangerous bingeing on Netflix sitting in front of the TV, eating pizza with a big Coke and tub of cookie icecream every night. 

I’ll get sick drinking the water. Drink beer instead, it’s often cheaper than bottled water, has more nutrients and gives you an escape from that 24/7. 

My friends will forget who I am. Life will be exactly the same when you get back just like those movies with time travel, you might as well have popped to the shops. Chances are no one will notice you had a long holiday. 

I love work or need to work. Being a digital nomad is all the rage. Personally I think it is hard, try and avoid and burn some savings but if you have to you can.

My other half doesn’t want to. Why did you get married? If it was for a hefty divorce settlement then you have a good use for the money. 

Family will miss us. If they loved you they would fly out to visit and bring Marmite. If not there is always Skype. 

Can’t I just watch nature programmes on telly? Yes and you will see loads more of the elusive lesser spotted giant pink whale shark but you won’t have the same bragging rights. Or spend hours vomiting over the side of a motorboat on that must do tour. 

Won’t I be mugged for my Rolex and Louis Vuitton handbag. I hope so, then use a cheap Casio and plastic bag from the supermarket like us travel hobos who don’t care to be mugger magnets. 

24/7 with my significant other, that’s not what I signed up for! I know, you ran out of things to talk about years ago, but FaceBook is a great substitute for conversation. 

24/7 with my kids. Little bundles of joy or sulking tweens, you know they just can’t wait to share cheap hotel rooms with their achingly cool parents for the next year. Neither can you, this is what your dreams are made of. 

The kids don’t want to go. On this one occasion parents know best, just don’t overuse this get out. 

Everyone we know thinks we are crazy. Resist the temptation to remind them that their death bed regrets will likely include spending more time with loved ones, less time working and some travel… 

I can’t read a map, drive with a stick etc. You don’t have to, just enjoy the stares as you stall in the middle of the most dangerous favela in Rio, if you survive it will be a great story.

Good luck!

Back a year already?!?

I thought our 2 years of travels went quick but nothing like the last year. Life at home is endlessly busy, kids leave for school at 7.49 (another story) and are back at 6, weekends have other activities and holidays are week after week of something organised. I don’t know how Mo sorts it all, I hope my taxi driving services and cooking help?

We are both back working so food is on the table and no harm done there. Anyway to important matters. Did we ruin our kid’s futures with 2 years out of school (as feared by some friends), are they feral illiterate monsters unable to function in polite society or worse, travel bores?

Amusingly it is like they never left. Welcomed back at the same lovely school with many of the same friends may have helped but they settled quickly, perhaps even welcomed the routine, if not the homework. We primed them to expect a quick ’what was your favourite place question?’ before everyone goes back to their world, which is of course what happens (we know we can talk travel with other travellers and each other but we wouldn’t want to be that travel bore).

Academically they are fine, Mo can be proud of her ’World School’ efforts, teaching Lara to read and enforcing maths app time. Only Ben has had much catch up with essay writing, exam practice and the like. The younger they are the less it matters taking time out, as they get older it may impact on their options and getting back on track. Getting Ben back for Year 7 (age 11) was the right move. Anymore and we would have had to spend so much time schooling we wouldn’t have been able to enjoy the travelling properly. 

Travel has done their social skills and confidence no harm. They noticeably make friends quickly and easily outside their year group, stemming from so much time with each other and the limited options on the road of kids exactly the same age. Friendships at home are back on track.

Perhaps we are making the break of sending them alone on the bus slightly earlier than we might have but otherwise they are no different to their friends. 
With so many memories we do get the occasional ‘do you remember when …?’ often brought on by meeting other long term travelling families again. It will be so interesting to see how their experiences shape their future, will they become travel junkies or have ticked the box and bought the t shirt?

Me, I long for the simple life on the road. It took me 7 months to unpack, I needed my bag to go skiing otherwise it would be sitting there ready for the next adventure. Not that I’m not enjoying work at the moment, I definitely needed a proper break to recharge the batteries it’s just that future adventures will have to be shorter. 

We are so, so lucky to have spent this much time with Ben, Zoe and Lara. The travel, food tour and many new friends around the world are the icing on the cake. I really can’t think of a better way to spend 2 years of your life, if you can you should do it… 

When you know it is time to go home…

– No more space in your passport
– Your clothes fall apart despite all the repairs
– Your bank cards stop working as the magnetic strip is in pieces and even Sellotape can’t help
– Everything in your first aid kit is going out of date
– The computer’s hard disk has no space for more photos.
– Some pesky mortgage agreement says you can only rent for 2 years
– You wonder what ‘real life’ is like back at home?
– The kids can’t remember much about ‘real life’ at home
– You can’t face another restaurant meal and drool at the thought of home cooked food and roast dinners
– You can drink tap water at home, or I hope you still can?
– You don’t have to remember to carry loo roll in your pocket at home
– You wonder what it’s like not to be viewed as a two leg ATM?
– You stop bothering to learn more than a few words of a new country’s language
– Hand washing clothes has lost its practical and virtuous appeal
– You have serious suspicions that the kids are going feral
– In England I won’t be tempted to try another Ayurvedic massage on the basis it can’t be as bad as the last one
– You can go wild swimming at home without worrying about piranha, dead bodies or alligators (only the cold will kill you)
– At home wine comes in more varieties than white or red
– Much that you feel blessed that over 2 years of minimal seat belts, beer swilling Peruvian bus drivers, Sri Lankan suicide driving etc. to have only two minor accidents that your luck can’t hold forever.
– After 24/7/365 for two years with the kidz some quiet alone time is tempting
– The kids will kill you if you say ‘we are only doing one more year’
– Imagine wearing jeans and other ‘heavy’ clothes
– Mouldy blue cheese at home is a good thing
– Your son keeps getting mistaken for a girl as he is not cutting his hair until he gets home
– Imagine a country without rabies, malaria, dengue or obscure tropical diseases it takes 5 doctors to diagnose? That’s home.
– You feel you should at least give the kids an opportunity of a ‘proper’ education, even if you secretly and selfishly hope they twist your arm into a few more years on the road once they experience a classroom again
– You sit in hotel rooms, watch mindless TV and order room service rather than explore the latest city
– You look forward to having guests rather than being a guest (that’s an invitation by the way to all our travelling friends, perhaps we can live vicariously through you?)
– You want to find out if ‘travel’ has truly changed you or if you are still middle aged with creaking joints and greying hair?
– You like a challenge and doing something different…

Just 44 hours to go until we land at LHR!

One week to home

753 days into our trip.  One week to go before we land back at London Heathrow!

Can’t quite get it all clear in my head!

I lay awake on our last overnight train again reflecting on it all, was it all real?

Ending our Napo River adventure - September 2012

Ending our Napo River adventure – September 2012

How far we’ve come, the highs the lows, how it will feel after we’re home? More

Hello India!

I am finally posting this from North India, in July, on our second adventure in India. If you want to see more recent news, you’ll have to check on Instagram. But now, we’re re-winding to February 2014 and our first stop in India when I actually started writing this post…Kerala, South West India

Sunset and the Chinese fishing nets in Kochi Fort, Kerala

Sunset and the Chinese fishing nets in Kochi Fort, Kerala

The kids slump into their aircraft seats, take a nonchalant look at the in-flight magazine to check out the eating and drinking options, then turn to Duty Free to see if there is anything new they want to try and cajole me into buying (I never do but they don’t give up).

Lara reads the safety card diligently and as usual, takes care to watch the safety briefing…and talk me through what will happen if we land in the sea and ask how she’d get that door open if everyone else was dead! The others have usually got their iPods out by now and are maximising the last minutes of Minecraft or an episode of Black Adder before they are requested to switch them off.

On this flight however we have one distraught boy who has just gone through the trauma of losing his iPod during the check-in and trolley-running ritual in Male Airport in The Maldives. It’s the 3rd family iPod/iPhone loss in the past 18 months of our gap year (or two) of world travel. We can but hope it’s the last.


Celebrating our Two Year Travel Birthday

11th July 2014. We’ve been two years on the road – 104 weeks, or 730 days – where has it gone?!!

Celebrating two years on the road this week with a 'cake' in the BArbie Cafe and a supper at Flavours restaurant, Taipei

Celebrating two years on the road with a ‘cake’ in the Barbie Cafe and a supper at Flavours restaurant, Taipei

And now we’re embarking on Year 3 …. But only for a month, then we’ll be home, which we all have mixed feelings about! Can’t wait to see all our friends and family, enjoy some home comforts and we’re pretty happy about enjoying (hopefully) a pleasant British summertime. More

The Real Maldives on a gap year budget!

February 2014. We arrive in the Maldives, our 22nd country, from Sri Lanka on our 45th flight, and celebrate our 18 month travelling milestone.

Maafushi, Maldives.

Maafushi, Maldives.

So we’re not going to be able to brag about our light carbon footprint – it’s a long old way around this globe and with low cost airlines luring us to take more trips to explore more new places never on our original itinerary, More

Tea, temples and so much more in Sri Lanka

We hadn’t thought to include Sri Lanka in our plans, but when we realised it was a good place to apply for Indian visas and we could take a cheap flight from Kuala Lumpur and head on to Southern India, whilst hopefully meeting with our friends from Penang who had put us up for 10 days in December. We booked our flight and then discovered our Bali friends were on the same flight too!


Sri Lanka!

Sri Lanka!

The early morning wake up, the sad but quick goodbyes with Oma, and our departure from KL is thankfully appeased by the excitement of seeing the Pearces at the airport and trading seats to be with friends on the plane.


A Borneo Adventure and a KL Pit-Stop!

First to Borneo…

After a second month-long stay in Bali we are all too soon saying goodbye to friends again, and flying off, this time, to Sabah, the more easterly state of Malaysian Borneo for 6 days. This was a fairly last minute plan, partly because the flights were ridiculously cheap and partly to see if Borneo lives up to the exotic jungle destination it’s cracked up to be!

Adventures on the Kinabantangan river, Sabah

Adventures on the Kinabantangan river, Sabah

Having seen orang-utans in Sumatra, now we would see them in Borneo, the only other place in the world where orang-utans survive in the wild. Hopefully we will see other wildlife too!  The epilogue in the book we’re reading together ‘Running Wild’, written in 2005, about orang-utans being hunted and losing their jungle to palm plantations, suggests that they could be almost extinct by 2014 given their reducingimage numbers. Thankfully recent research shows that number were not quite so low as estimated at that time but nonetheless, they remain critically endangered and their numbers continue to be reduced.


Back to Bali – and more friends and festivities …

We fly back to Bali from Singapore because we loved it so much a month ago and decided it was worth looping back for Christmas and New Year and seeing more of the friends we enjoyed our time with on the last trip! We have a relaxed 3 weeks in the most glorious villa we’ve rented near Ubud. 

The beautiful villa and beautiful Balinese friends - Angel explains to Erika the offerings shes going to place  around our home, Lara helps Kadek clean the pond and Kadek helps Ben figure out how to design and build a kite:)

The beautiful villa and beautiful Balinese friends who look after it, and us.  Here is Angel explaining to Erika the offerings she’s placing around our home, Lara helps Kadek clean the pond with Angel’s little boy and Kadek helps Ben figure out how to design and build a kite:)

Tucked away down a small ‘gang’ or alley in the midst of rice paddies, in the village of Penestanan, with three wonderful staff looking after us – Angel, our housekeeper, Kadek our gardener and Wayan our security guy who is around the premises all night every night.


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