Like lots of people our age, our twenties and thirties followed a pattern: university, backpacking, move to the city for a cool job (usually undertaken with a hangover), find partner, do some slightly more glamorous travelling, move in together, buy a house, get married and have babies. It doesn’t have to be in that order, ours wasn’t, but we ended up ticking all those boxes in a way that felt very spontaneous and exciting. Whoop whoop we said as we toasted our forties, we are winning at life!
Then we hit 41.
Every time Google or Facebook reminds me of where I was 8+ years ago, I feel less enchanted by my set-up.
Life is very different in your forties. Here we are, tick-tocking along in suburbia with kids ensconced in the school system, a mortgage, a car that we need to take the kids to their various after school activities, careers that we’d like to rethink, the occasional night out when the grandparents are available to babysit and a campervan trip every year to France. We laugh with the kids and we try to fill our weekends with activities. It’s a nice life and we know we are very lucky.
The problem is that we’re bored with it. We seem to spend a lot of time doing stuff that I don’t consider to be fun, particularly when the weather goes all cold and grey. I don’t want to go to Thailand and drink buckets of Sangsom and red bull, it’s not about going back to being twenty, but I also don’t want to wile away my days on Amazon choosing plastic tat for birthday presents or comparing household appliances. I don’t want the best part of my day to be a bargain in Aldi or the right combo of wind and sun to ensure a ‘good drying day’. Surely there is more to life?
After our amazing family adventures in Scotland last year. We kept talking about how great it would be to jack it all in and travel with the kids, sending each other articles about families adventuring in the world and following family travel bloggers on Instagram.
Then it hit us….. why couldn’t we? What was actually stopping us from travelling the world?
When we last travelled, in our early thirties we dreamt of staying away – living in different places for 6 months at a time. We couldn’t because we felt the weight of responsibility. My father had been diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimers and was fading away from us, bringing a whole host of logistical challenges and heartbreak to my mum, sister and I. At the same time, my husband’s brother was seriously ill and he needed , and wanted, to be around. Being away from the UK wasn’t really an option.
The passing of both my father and brother-in-law overlapped with the births of our two sons. Now our responsibilities are our children. We need to ensure we make their childhoods the best they can possibly be – full of happiness, learning and experience. We also need to keep them safe and provide a secure home for them.
We are achieving all of those aims with our current set-up. The big difference, we’ve realised, is that we don’t actually need to be based in the UK for that to happen. Children can go to school anywhere and if we want to keep moving, we could in theory home-school them. Given the current challenges with UK education, taking the boys out of school could be a positive rather than a negative.
Travelling the world with kids costs a lot of money – we are not blind to this – but whilst we don’t have endless savings, we do have assets that can be leveraged. This is where the freedom years of our thirties bear fruit; the flats that we kept as rentals, our trusty campervan and our house. If we can make them pay, we can potentially cover our travel costs.
Of course when you leave your life behind, you potentially need to leave your stuff behind. But do we really need all the junk we have accumulated? Sometimes I look at all the kitchen appliances, the vases and plant pots, the nick nacks, pictures on the wall, the gifts we’ve received over the years that are not to our taste, the pinterest-inspired crafty things that I should never have tried to recreate and the bookcases full of other people’s stories and I feel weighed down by it all. How much of this do you actually need to live a good life? Very little I’m guessing. Maybe a forced de-clutter would be a good thing.
Work is obviously an issue. A regular paycheck is a big reason to stay put. We can both freelance though, it just takes a bit of work to build contacts. As long as we have access to WiFi there is no reason why we couldn’t work from anywhere in the world and maybe a break would help us work out exactly what it is we want to do.
This is starting to sound more do-able than not!
Fear of the unknown
Let’s take a reality check. Taking the kids out of school, relying on freelance work, home-schooling selling all of our stuff, renting out our house, using up our savings to travel the world – it’s scary stuff that is not to be taken lightly.
On the other hand, one thing I remember from times sitting in the hospital with my dad was that life is short and you can’t see what is coming. If you want to do something with your life, don’t delay it.
So what are the Travelling Chimps going to do?
We are going to research whether travelling in our forties with kids is actually do-able. We need to know that it is the right decision and not completely irresponsible.
We’re also going to stop buying so much unnecessary stuff, filling our house with things we don’t really need. Who knows – it might be that we need to put it all into storage so that the Travelling Chimps can go on a real adventure.