6 months away

We have been traveling now for six months and have had loads of highs and lows but personally I feel like we have gotten into the swing of things. I am really enjoying spending all this time with my family (even if we massively over-share) and seeing the world is a never failing adventure.
So far we have been to nine countries; three continents; twelve flights (I think I have nearly overcome my fear of flying); five over night busses – two were over twenty hours; seen six wonders of the world; been on thirteen different public transport systems and swam in five different seas. I have over come fears and have tried new skills, paragliding, surfing and I enjoy walking. I am fitter and braver than ever and, who thought I’d say this, I am really enjoying it. I am going to ask the family some questions and hope you get a feel of all our opinions.

1. What has been the best moment in 6 months?

Mum: Nope. Not doing it. Can’t pick just one! Too many different moments with different meanings….I don’t want to drown the others out by listing just one. I’m worried they will fade over the years and I’ll just be left this one.

Dad: Like Mum says, it’s impossible to pick just one. I would have to say that wherever we are, whatever we are doing, the thing I most enjoy is the sense of freedom we have. If we want to spend time in a city we can, if we want to chill on the beach we can. We pretty much control our days and we get to spend lots of time together as a family.

Alex: When I jumped of a cliff and went paragliding over the Atacama Desert. I really overcame a fear of flying that has ever since calmed down. It was such an incredible experience and I will never forget the endless ocean spreading out before me and it was an incredible start to 2018.

Georgia: I have enjoyed all of the last 6 months and will find it hard to pick just one but here are some of my highlights:
When we were in New York the whole time we were there I was filled with excitement from when we walked the sky line and visited a classic New York diner and ate too much food to the top of the statue of liberty. As a whole New York was great. I have also enjoyed all the cities we’ve visited like LA, Cusco, Iquique, Santiago, Buenos Aires, Rio de Janeiro and all other cities we’ve visited. I have also enjoyed the great outdoors. I think all the sun sets, sun rises, mountain top views and desert landscapes. Although they will never be forgotten they do have to be put in here some were and they are definitely some of my most enjoyed parts.

Dylan: I have really enjoyed all the outdoor sports. Zipwiring for Alex’s birthday, climbing Machu Picchu, paragliding and now I love surfing in Sri Lanka.

2. What has been the best accommodation?

Mum: I’ve got to admit I am now a massive lover of vanlife. For me, I think the favourite accommodations have been both the camper vans we hired. They were both totally different in design and make up but I loved the locations we could camp in; waking up to incredible views and quiet, deserted but beautiful places. Also knowing all we needed in life was this little van, holding the people I loved and our meagre possessions . It was such an exhilarating and liberating feeling. Less is so much more!

Dad: I really enjoyed staying at the hostel in Buenos Aires. It was great because the kids felt really comfortable there, the staff was friendly and helpful, the kitchen was great and they even had a BBQ. The hostel was in a great location and I really loved Buenos Aires which made it even better! We also managed to stay up after the kids went to bed and managed to chat with a few other adults. Hacienda Vanecia in Colombia was also great. Staying on a coffee plantation was really interesting and the food was delicious.

Alex: For Christmas we stayed in a city in Chile called Iquique. The apartment was so lush it had its own pool was super modern. We could drink from the tap and it had two fifty inch TV’s. We practically watched a film a night! The city had a massive mall on every main street and some incredible beaches. They had hilarious traditions where they would throw sweets out the windows and shout HoHoHo.

Georgia: I have enjoyed lots of different accommodation but my favourite has to be Iquique . It was a lush modern apartment with a pool and gym. It even had a tap you could drink from!!!!!!!!!! Which for us at that time was epic. It was right near a small beach and only a 15 minute bus ride away from the main beach and the centre of town.

Dylan: My favourite place we have stayed is the Premier Inn at Heathrow. It was warm and we had a luxury room. I had a boiling hot bath and an amazing breakfast of sausages, bacon and beans.

3. Proudest moment?

Mum: Again, I’m not sure I can answer. I have proud family moments, couple moments and also individual ones. I think as a couple my proudest moment was getting on the first flight. We did it, gave up good jobs, pulled our kids out of school, rented our house out and decided to take a MASSIVE leap into the unknown as a family, trusting each other that we could do it, make it work. I am so proud of us believing in each other and our family and for me that belief and trust in each other will hold me through many, many more years together. I love you Matt. Thank you for believing in us.

As a family I have so many, the kids make me proud every day with the things they have tackled and taken on in good spirits. Perhaps the one that stands out at the moment was the trip through the jungle and the village we stopped in called Pantoja. Me and matt were well out of our depth. We didn’t speak any Spanish, no one spoke English, and we were in a tiny jungle village and the only gringos. People were openly staring at us in what felt a fairly uninviting manner! Don’t forget this was the village where everyone carried machetes. Luckily there were loads and loads of kids about and they were much less reserved than the adults and keen to know these strange white folks. Our kids took it all on the chin, playing and making friends with all these jungle children. No one could communicate with language but all three of our kids played for hours with these children, self-consciously making friends with children of all ages. It was a massive proud moment for us and these kids taught us so much about trusting and getting involved.

On an individual basis I think making it to the Sun gate at Machu Picchu. I had dithered for weeks whether I would go or not. Matt wasn’t keen but in the end I stuck my neck out and decided to go on my own with Alex and Dylan. Luckily it was so worth it and on the day the place was fabulous. Seeing Alex and Dylan totally mesmerised at the sun gate with Machu Picchu in the cloud forest behind us  was such a special moment and one I am really proud of.

Each of the kids has a multitude of things they can and should be incredibly proud of. They have all embraced new challenges, places and things which have made them uncomfortable. They have tried and even loved food they never would have before and in general become more resilient and brave. Dylan has come out of his shell and now confidently talks to strangers, sharing his ideas etc. Georgia, the girl who likes luxury and also the fussy eater can now get her head down anywhere and gobbles up fresh tuna and vegetables like never before! And Alex our nervous, rule-abiding child has opened up, realising risky opportunities can sometimes be worth taking and is much more prepared to give things a go.

Dad: Getting our campervan safely home from it being parked in central Hollywood to our RV Park in Malibu. The streets were narrow, the highway was mega busy and it was dark. It was 30 miles of driving I will never forget! Learning to surf is pretty sick too…….

Alex: When I actually got on the plane to take us away and I looked at it as an adventure and it was a proud moment as I thought I can do it without thinking of the worst. Also when I made friends in a little Jungle village and I feel like I really had fun and made my family proud as we stayed there for three days and we all got on with the rest of the village.

Georgia: I am proud of myself for lots of things,  because before we came away I would never have expected myself to do these things ,many of which are personal although lots are to do with the whole family and our achievements. I think that my proudest moment was probably when we walked the rim of the Grand Canyon, I never thought I would be ably to do it although I did. We took the bus out to the end of the rim and then walked around 11km on dirt tracks and no safety bars or restrictions until we reached the Grand Canyon village were we stuffed ourselves with pizza and refill drinks because it was mums birthday. The next morning I woke up with so many aces and pains but felt so proud of my self and the whole family.

Dylan: I am most proud that I can now surf. Today I was doing really big waves and I loved it! I am proud though because it’s really hard.

4. Lowest point?

Mum: I think in Iquitos, the amazon jungle city was where I had my most moments of doubt and therefore may have been my lowest point. It wasn’t Iquitos at all but more a combination of things. The home schooling was a struggle, we were worrying are we doing enough? Will the kids ever accept us as teachers or be able to be self directed? They were constantly moaning and resisting any suggestions to tackle a tiny bit of school work! Matt was really resenting the effect he felt it was having on his relationship with the kids. He was also trying to complete his TEFL online modules, with crap Wi-Fi and was extremely frustrated by the situation. The kids were still in the “I miss this and I miss that and it was all total crap stuff, like a weird UK biscuit or some crappy American TV programme and we were like WTF!!! We are in the AMAZON! Seriously what is the point of this trip. Will they ever get anything or are we just on a selfish wander, dragging them with us and life would be so much easier at home. Luckily this feeling passed very quickly, helped by moving out of extreme humidity and massive mosquito bites and we haven’t looked back from there. I actually love educating with the kids now, we have been learning so much about the world, wars, politics, history and I feel truly lucky to have been able to share these experiences together! Thank god eh?! Hopefully it will have been enough.

Dad: I got VERY sick whilst in Copacabana, Bolivia. I was so ill I was getting concerned that I might actually be dying, and then I got worse and was worried that I wasn’t going to die! The rest of the family were really terrific, we had to stay there longer than expected because I was so ill and they really made the best of it. Luckily the hostel we were in was really nice and friendly so that helped.

Alex: I think my lowest point was in Bogotá after we had come from the lush Malibu beach with our huge camper van. We had basically slept for 10 hours and woke up ravenous. Dad and I had to go out and get the family some food. As we went down the stairs the desk officer said we must be careful as we could get mugged. Of course we had read lots of stories of the Colombian drug cartels and we were petrified! But all we found was nice people who helped us get some cheep food and were nice and kind.

Georgia: I think mine was at this jungle town, it was our last night on our boat trip and I was looking forward to a city and a nice clean bed and shower. When we arrived they took us to a “hotel” although I would barely call it a hostel, but any way they showed us to our room .They only had 2 rooms with one single bed in each so we decided that Alex and dad would share and me mum and d would share . We were so happy that we got the room with a fan but then we found out that it turned of when we turned the light off. Even though it was 30 degrees I made mum wrap me up so no bit of my skin had to touch the bed that was covered in something like blood but I didn’t even know what it was. Uhg!!!!!!!!

Dylan: My worst moment was when my great grandma Joan died. I felt my most sad and I wanted to see my Nanna and Granddad

5. Strangest transport?

Mum: The border crossing on the tiny canoe with Gandalf and the piranha infested water. Absolutely brilliant way to travel and it felt soooooo exciting and exotic and the epitome of what we were wanting on this trip!

Dad: I have really loved the Tuctuc we have hired for a few weeks here in Sri Lanka. I still get some funny looks when I’m driving it. I guess there aren’t too many 6 foot white Tuctuc drivers in Sri Lanka!!

Alex: one of the strangest was the cable cars in La Paz. As it was so hilly and high up (3,636m) the only way to get around was by cable car and it was so weird flying over people’s houses and gardens and it felt like we were invading their privacy even though it was epic.

Georgia: I struggle for an answer to this one because strange is a pretty normal word for us because obviously we are pretty strange; Mum and Dad don’t seem to think that; but Me, Alex, Dylan and most other people would. However I have managed to pick one. It was on the shores of Lake Titicaca. We hired some rusty old bikes,  on mine, mums, and Alex’s the brakes didn’t work, on dads there was a flat tyre and Dylan’s tricycle barely worked  at all! Dad was happy though because it only cost £1 for all of them!!!!!!!

Dylan: When we were in Quito we went up a massive cable car to a mountain. They even had oxygen at the top. It was really strange but fun.

6. What we miss the most?

Mum: Of course family and friends. Matt and I have loved sharing experiences with each other and the kids but it would be nice sometimes to share these things with other people. 6 months is a long time and I am conscious now people’s lives at home are moving on and I’m not involved or able to be there as maybe I would be. This can be hard. People keep asking us, do we need a night on our own etc. and we both feel no, we don’t need a night on our own, it’s always just us! We would much rather a night with our mates! Luckily, in terms of material possessions we have nothing really worth missing. A nice pillow or even a bed with 2 pillows would be great every now and again but we have learned to improvise with clothes and scarfs etc. and really it works fine! Good coffee or our home coffee machine would be good, we now have our own travel mugs so we can at least make a big coffee but sadly despite us visiting some of the best coffee regions in the world, most people drink Nescafe! Got to put football in there too, we have signed up so we can hear all the Albion matches online over the radio but there have been some pretty epic match’s this year and we would have all loved to have been there.

Dad: I miss my bike. That sounds really sad but its true… I also miss the fact that Brighton and Hove Albion are in the Premier league for the first time and doing really well. Wish I could have been home to see them beat Arsenal 2-1 at the Amex.

Alex: Two words. Friends and family. My Nana, Granddad, cousins, Aunties and Uncles are all so kind and will always be there for us but I do miss them. Our close friends, The Chalkys, Miller-Jonses and Rymans are all so kind and I really miss them as I would love someone to talk to that hasn’t spent 24 hours with me and I can have a laugh with a friend my own age.

Georgia: As everyone else has said friends and family. They are the one thing I actually miss , they are so important to me and all of us and it would be nice to be around some one other than my family although we know close friends and family will always be there fore us I cant help but think that we are slipping further and further away from each other.

Dylan: I miss my family. I really miss Nana, her cuddles and kisses and her really fun house in Wales and also her and granddad’s really nice porridge. I also miss our sofa. It’s so big and comfy and I love watching TV lying on it.

7. What have we learnt about ourselves?

Mum: I now seem to love the great outdoors. Who would have thought? Since a teenager I have always been a staunch city dweller. Always stating ill do urban trekking in any city but give me a field and you can bog off! However I have seen such incredible views and natural wonders I am hooked and love a great big beautiful expanse and genuinely enjoy walking and exploring on foot, getting a huge sense of satisfaction from this.

Me and Matt can also survive just us. If anything we have argued or disagreed way less than in real life. All our life is on show here; with the kids always around and there is no place for holding grudges. Say what you think and move on, life’s to short and we’ve got somewhere to be!

I can cope not having everything organised. I usually love to plan holidays and trips, for me its part of the excited feeling of going away but Matt has encouraged me to adopt a more laid back approach and sometimes we have arrive in towns etc. without knowing how long we will stay or even where. This has usually worked out ok and while I will still usually research places a lot as I love it, I don’t always need to do that and some of the best experiences have been when we haven’t  known what to expected and have just enjoyed what there is!

Dad: I have learnt that I can spend time with my family and actually enjoy it! Don’t get me wrong, sometimes it feels like we are just on the worlds longest car journey, but when we are doing something fun or interesting we all really enjoy each others company. We can also just sit around and play cards, chess or just read our books together and just enjoy. I’ve also learned that I can go on a zip wire, not something I would have done at home.

Alex: I have learnt that I can get over my fears even if it takes a few tries. I know now that I don’t have to give up straight away and be scared, I can do it and become brave.

Georgia: I’ve learnt that I can do things I’ve never dreamed of doing before and that I shouldn’t fear that I can’t do things because you never know till you try.

Dylan: To trust ourselves and don’t really touch stuff that you don’t really know about, like things in the amazon might be poisonous. I have also learnt I am an amazing surfer and I want to surf all around the world when I grow up. There are still lots of places and things I want to do.

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