Warning: Full Time Family Travel Can Permanently Alter Your Perspective!
When The Motoroamers asked if I’d like to guest blog in their Life on The Road series I was excited and daunted in equal measure. Although working out how I could extract just THREE tips from an epic year on the road with Tabitha my, then, ten year old daughter felt the same as the prospect of condensing a 4 bedroom London house and life into a 6m Campervan.
It’s NEVER too early to start
Prepare yourself, your family and your environment. Dream BIG! The possibilities really are endless and this is the time to go hard or don’t leave home! Choose your new rolling home early, it can sometimes take a while to get a 2nd hand vehicle mechanically sound. There might be modifications you want to make for it to feel like home. Start thinning out possessions as early as you can, mentally if not physically at the very least. Categorise everything you own and be ruthless.
Get the kids motivated by putting their sales cash into their own Trip Fund – Tabitha paid for her own ice-creams for the first 3 months from what she sold! And, talking of kids, getting them onboard, with what is essentially your dream, is imperative. The wheels can literally fall off if the whole gang aren’t up for the adventure. It’s a BIG upheaval for everyone, even the most intrepid explorer is not always going to love the sacrifices being made. Much loved toys, precious teddies and best friends will all have to be left behind.
Do return to the the plan and dream regularly but don’t over egg it so everyone is fed up with hearing about it!
Do ask for their input on where to go, what to take, how to learn – even the smallest of humans can contribute here.
Don’t try to plan and control every tiny detail.
Do plan ways for maintaining friendships.
Don’t rely on technology like video calling for this. Postcards, letters, blogs are great and if the kids are in school, get their class to track your route.
It’s NOT all cocktails on the beach at sunset
Assuming you get lucky, the first couple of weeks up to the first month will be everything you ever dreamed it would be. The motorhome will drive like a dream, every item you couldn’t bear to leave behind will miraculously find a place, your Sat Nav will unfailing find each destination, the kids will love long driving days and emptying the toilet will be splash free and smell of roses!
Or, maybe it’ll be less utopian dream and more dystopian nightmare and you’ll wake up in a cold sweat wondering what the hell you’ve done! Hang in there! It’s going to take some adjustment moving from a house to a metal box on wheels and working out your new normal. Being together 24×7 was NOT the delight we had anticipated. So consider what I call a ‘soft landing’ to ease yourselves into it. Choose campsites if you’re not confident with free camping or using aires. Travel slowly, stop frequently, find things to do and places that interest both you and the kids. I found it took us at least a couple of days to adjust when we crossed a land border. A new language, potentially a new currency, certainly new foods, road signs and rules.
The end of the road
In the blink of an eye, the end of the road is suddenly in sight. Be it one month or twelve once the end is in sight you will be astonished at how quickly the time has passed. You’ve gone from slightly terrified full time family travellers to seasoned old hands. You no longer worry about how the kids will learn without school – you’ve mastered your own family approach. Be it structured and aligned to the national curriculum or unstructured and child led you have discovered the secret: you can’t actually stop a kid, not to mention and adult, from learning. How on earth are you going to fit all that freedom and surround sound vision back into the life you had before? If you’re like us, you actually won’t…
During our time away we realised that we didn’t want to go back to a full time job or state education. I no longer wanted to work the sort of hours necessary to pay a mortgage or rent. I no longer wanted to pack Tabitha off for 8 hours a day. More importantly Tabitha no longer wanted to be constrained by a school timetable.Finding our new normal involved me developing new income streams and us moving out of our faithful campervan and onto a narrowboat.
The ever lasting legacy of our year on the road has been the lived experience and confidence that we can pretty much make anything work. The most precious nugget of learning is that anything is possible – if you go at it slowly, with a bit of forethought and some precision manoeuvring you can make it successfully through the smallest gap. What a Wonderful World.