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!

Family Gap Year One – Dad’s Reflection

MMBZL written in sand above flipflops

1 year, 365 days, 8760 hours, 525,600 minutes or if you are Lara a fifth of your life travelling and quite a big chunk for the rest of us. I still can’t believe we did it, made it through a whole year and are still talking to each other after being 24/7 for so long.


Breaking News

It’s decision time, do we head home as planned in August or do we indulge in a second year of travels? More

Flooded in San Pedro de Atacama (the desert!)

We survived our 2 nights in Calama or ’Calamity’ as our friends named it after losing an iPhone. We actually stayed in the same apartment but were super careful not to leave anything. It seems that forgetting an item in a hotel room is like leaving a tip for the cleaners. Only a few days ago Mo left a fleece and socks in Hotel Magia in Uyuni, we went back to ask and were told to return in an hour. Only later we discovered the fleece had several ‘personal’ items in the pockets as it had no doubt been keeping someone else warm! Still, good outcome as we’d had a dispute about the already expensive bill which they’d tried to double! The socks were ’thrown away’, we returned the favour with their ‘pawn’ on a USB drive. (post script – missing socks found in Mo’s dirty washing bag!).

For a booming mining town the Calama centre is pretty strange. More

Back to Chile after 21 years

4th February 2013. Our bus from Uyuni in Bolivia to Calama in Chile leaves at 4am so we are up at 3am to get out of ‘El Salvador’, our less than salubrious hostal. My suggestion of just going for a late dinner and and crashing on a park bench hadn’t been met by much (any) enthusiasm and our 3 bed, £9.50 room with rather basic facilities was a bit of a climb down from the 4* Salt Hotel the day before. I am quietly satisfied that BZL share beds and sleep on the floor with few complaints, better to view a comfy bed as a luxury to be appreciated rather than an entitlement that the loss of ruins your day.

The Bolivian Chilean border

The Bolivian Chilean border

We are out the door at 3.29am to cross the road to the bus office, very glad that another gap year lesson of not unpacking everything each time you stop seems to be hitting home. ’Lazy Lara’ yet again refuses to carry her rucksack, no excuse as it only weighs 2.5kg, kind Dad having swapped her clothes for the kids life jackets. 2 years ago she carried a far heavier one in Cambodia like a trooper. I think the problem is a combination of being the youngest and a touch spoiled plus her force of nature personality that means she generally gets her own way and pushes the boundaries. Maybe I am a bit cynical (moi?) but I think she has worked out that ’Mummy, I’m tired’ is a great way of getting your bag, and often Lara, carried! One to work on.

The 12ish hour journey with Trans Azul has cost us 750 Bolivianos or £14/head (interestingly the ticket says 700BS so the lady in the bus office has made a quick 50BS, about half a day’s salary, I bet she loves this job!).


We are splitting up

Mo and I have split up. After 6 months of travel where we have lived in each others pockets, usually shared a room and been 24/7/180 it has come time to go our separate ways. More

El Ceibo Tree House

Tree house + Kids = Happiness (and peace for parents?). We had been told about one in the small village of El Progresso only 5km from San Cristobal so we decided to go for lunch. A $2 taxi ride later we were there and in the time it took me to pay the driver Ben, Zoe and Lara had disappeared up the suspended wooden bridge to explore the 300 year old tree, the largest on the island.

Tree house, cool!

Having built more than a few such bridges in my time I was interested in the construction which I studied on my way up to make sure our intrepid explorers were safe. I am glad that they are 1) Sure of foot and 2) Weigh a lot less than I do! More

Cute pair of boobies on the beach

I was late for lunch yesterday after a long session in front of the computer. I grabbed a taxi (you have to love the $1 to anywhere in town) and dashed down to the Malecon for lunch to be met by a very excited Zoe who dragged me to the beach,  “Dad, boobies, you have to come and see the boobies! Boobies!”. More

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