In a previous post, I explained my wanderlust dilemma. I love to travel, but my circumstances mean I cannot do this as much as I would like. I am a home educator and as such I am ‘economically unviable’. My partner has a job he loves at our local hospital and his income pays for our way of life.
I am thoroughly attracted to the idea of worldschooling and I believe it provides the best education for any age group. There is always more to learn, and what better way, than out there in the world, gaining incredible experiences and making amazing memories as a family.
I am also in love with roadschooling, and follow numerous families on social media who are making the leap, selling up, and packing their lives into vans to take off on adventures in Europe and beyond.
I constantly bug my partner with these visions of how our life could be. In the manner of ‘guess where so-and-so is now?’, ‘look at the beautiful scenery these people have woken up to’ or ‘apparently this is the best stealth van to live in’.
But vans come at a price, and that price would fly the three of us around the world, possibly a few times. I don’t see the sense in making that huge outlay if we only have six weeks (the paid time Tom gets off work). While a van is a huge cost saver for long-term overland travel, it is a restrictive expenditure for week-long trips.
During one of our recent discussions, Tom made the point that he would only be happy to leave his job if we were earning an equivalent sum or more through some other means. I am well aware that life in many of the places I would love to travel to is far cheaper than living in the UK. But I agree that even if we spent a number of years in these places, we would, at some point, want to return and we would then need a reasonable income to make our lives viable. Particularly if we had ‘spent up’.
The internet has a lot to answer for. Back in 1997, Richard Rosenberg, in ‘The Social Impact of Computers’, posed the question: ‘Does the information society create desires rather than fulfil needs?’ I have recently started to feel that the world wide web is very bad at making us feel appreciative.
I am not a competitive person and I don’t like to make comparisons and value judgements about other people’s lives and my own. But generally what you see on social media and on blogs is a highly edited, glossed-over version of the poster’s reality. If we search for long-term travelling families, we will not find information about people who had a bad experience, but only an idealised image of this lifestyle.
Social media, in particularly, is not very good at representing the ‘every day’. Those things that regularly crop up, that we all have to deal with and those things which will always be there, no matter what country we live in or how we choose to lead our lives.
There will always be the challenge of making our income cover our outgoings, the need to find nutritious food to eat, social relationships to maintain and negotiate, times when we feel low or downright miserable, illness, a requirement for us to move our bodies to gain stamina, release tension and improve our mood. We will always need clean drinking water and, ideally, clean air to breathe. There will always be clothes and bodies that need washing.
Long-term travel makes all of these things hard work. There are no certainties and, every day, decisions have to be made about where and how our needs are fulfilled. It makes for a rich experience, but it is tiring and often stressful.
Even the long-term, travel-hardened nomads need down time and space to stop and take stock.
Short-term vs long-term travel
So there are benefits to making shorter trips.
- The opportunity to plan upcoming travel to gain the best experience and ensure it meets everyone’s needs.
- Post-trip down time in a familiar location allows for greater appreciation of the overall experience (time to check back on photos, review journals, discuss the highlights and the struggles)
- It also creates a greater appreciation of the familiar surroundings, in the same way that being unwell makes us appreciate our health when we get better.
- The bigger budget having a static life (read: job and income) gives means splurges on special excursions or food is not completely out of reach.
- Peace of mind. The kind that only a steady (rather than erratic) income can create.
- The greater opportunities for forming meaningful relationships in the ‘home’ location. Many travelling families find it difficult to keep up with friendships or make new ones due to their nomadic lifestyle.
I think these points are worth spelling out, because it is easy to get caught up in the internet-fuelled desire for constant change.
Developing a ‘traveller’s mindset’
If we think like a long-term traveller, there are many opportunities to worldschool ourselves and our children without spending the time and money to actually go anywhere. Often the planning of a trip is as satisfying as the trip itself; sometimes more so.
Recently, we were considering travelling to The Gambia. For one reason and another, we decided not to go this time. However, I wanted to make an informed choice. After spending a few days reading about the history, culture, climate and geography of the country, looking at photos, reading travellers reviews and blogs, finding out about the top attractions, checking out different accommodation and food options, navigating my way around using Google Earth and Streetview and working out currency exchange and pricing, I suddenly found myself with a pretty clear picture of the place. It’s not the same as being there, but I had gained a huge amount of new information.
I’m not sure I would have had the opportunity to do quite so much research had I been ‘on the road’ and passing into The Gambia overland from a neighbouring country. I would be dealing with the day to day needs of my family and myself in an unfamiliar environment and would have less energy to put into research. Plus, there is never any guarantee that there will be decent internet connection to make such extensive learning possible.
Having a traveller’s mindset simply means that we prioritise travel and knowledge about unfamiliar places, both with our time and our finances.
For us, this means that I take an active and regular interest in different travel opportunities, near and far, and every spare weekend and holiday period that Tom gets from work, we plan to go and explore.
Making time for adventure
Travel does not have to be long-haul to be rewarding, enlightening and rejuvenating. I have recently realised (or maybe it’s my age!) that I can get just as much satisfaction from a taxing hike up a wind-blown hill as I can exploring a market in a distant land. And children are far more concerned with minutiae of life than adults. Their focussed attention can just as well be put to learning about the berries on trees ten minutes walk from their house, as the volcanic escarpment on a Pacific island. Both can hold the attention and put in motion new avenues for mental exploration. Adults would do well to take their lead in this regard.
It is all too easy to assume that adventure belongs in some far-off place, rather than from the moment we leave the confines of our house. Instead of dwelling on the FOMO (fear of missing out) we would be better to spend our time planning our next trip, whether big or small.
In the coming year, we will be purposefully trying to spread our travel time more evenly throughout the months. We are incredibly lucky that Tom gets more than six weeks of annual leave, plus additional lieu days for working weekend shifts. That’s at least a week’s trip in every eight. We also feel very fortunate that we live in England and have the beauty of the British Isles on our doorstep, and the cultural diversity of Europe just down the road. From here, we really can make the most of even just a few days of travel.
I hope this has given you some inspiration for your next adventure. Do you have any travel plans for the coming year (whether short or longer term)? Please do share some of your favourite trips in the comments below, or join us on Facebook where I share posts on travel, minimalism, home education and alternative ways of living.