April 28th 2019 marks our anniversary of leaving life in Cape Town. I’ve asked Becky, Rico and Tiana to write down their thoughts and feelings from being on the road for one year. This blog is a lot longer than usual, but there are a lot of thoughts and emotions to download!
‘365 days’ by André
“it just seems like yesterday” .. a term used so frequently when a large amount of time has passed but feels as though it hasn’t. It is one year since we left Cape Town, but it is the opposite…it feels like a lifetime has passed since we left the safe confines of our suburban existence.
So much has changed. We are different people now with broadened perspectives on how we want to live, in what manner, and how best to achieve things whilst creating some positivity around us.
I could go and list all the super cool things we have experienced and seen over the past year, but most of that has been covered in past blog posts. These amazing experiences form the backdrop of the journey, but for me at the forefront are the interactions and friendships formed with people we have met along the way. The people; from all walks of life, cultures, creeds, and religions have completed the picture. They have provided the depth, the colour, the substance and the essence that made this journey possible. Acts of friendship and kindness that have come from all types of people young and old, all over the world, intertwined with the beauty of places we have visited have made this experience whole.
I am a risk taker by nature, but taking the leap to enable this trip was the riskiest thing I have ever done. Despite my parents being very conservative, I must have inherited my appetite for risk from them. Both undertook preternatural directions in their early 20’s and sacrificed a lot to be where they are today; leaving their native countries to seek out opportunities in another country and suffering hardship to make it work.
There are times in the past year I have felt sick to my stomach and wished to have our old life and routines back, but have ridden the low troughs and not lost sight of the bigger picture. I know deep down that whatever paths we take in the future will have be enriched by our knowledge gained from experiences and interactions with people and places from this trip. For our children, I suspect a lot of these traits will only develop in later life, and I hope they can draw down on the resourcefulness, resilience and willingness to adapt and learn that will have manifested itself in them during this journey.
“The best teacher is experience and not through someone’s distorted point of view.” – Jack Kerouac
Above all, we have broadened the minds of our children, who now know how to approach different situations and people with the experience, confidence, manners, and tact to respectfully do so. They can see that despite physical, political or cultural differences we are all inherently the same.
Social media will have painted a pretty picture of our escapades but beneath the surface we have had a lot of hardships. To be with your family non-stop is hard to describe unless you have lived it -personal space has become a unreachable fantasy. It really can become suffocating, and I’m sure we all feel it. I had grand visions of reading lots of books, researching potential new business ventures, learning languages and a multitude of other things whilst on this trip, little did I realise how time consuming being on the road has been. The constant search for somewhere to eat, a supermarket, laundromat; packing, unpacking, researching and reading about where to go and what to see, keeping a breast with the children’s schoolwork, daily admin, blog writing…it is non stop and there is little actual downtime.
…cold showers, bunkbeds, uncomfortable bus journeys, living out of bags, having only a few changes of clothes. It’s tough at times. The longing for a sofa, a big glass of red wine, a remote control and flicking inanely through the tv channels is real!
Most of all, being away from family and friends has been the most difficult, but it has fine-tuned what and who are important in our lives. I’m sure all the sacrifices and hardships have been worth it. On the flip side the strength of the bond between us all is admirable. Stories, laughs, bizarre situations and hardships will be regaled forever and our tales will be passed down generations.
We are conscious that this journey’s end is nigh, and intend to maximise the opportunities that will arise between now and then.
There are so many cliches I could use regarding what we have done, but there is one I won’t omit: ‘you have one life, live it’. Make the impossible possible. With a positive mindset things can be accomplished.
“Because in the end, you won’t remember the time you spent working in the office or mowing your lawn. Climb that goddamn mountain.” Jack Kerouac
‘One year in’ by Becky
I don’t think I realised how much of a suburban housewife I was until this last year, I knew that I didn’t quite fit in with the Constantia “mom’s that lunch” crew, but not until now, did I realize how insular my life was. There is absolutely nothing wrong with this lifestyle and some people live perfectly happy lives like this. I was one of them!
So how did I end up where we are now?
Many years ago, Andre floated the idea of travelling with kids, not just vacation, but actually travel. I agreed willingly believing that this was a long way off and would be forgotten. The topic came up again, this time when we actually had kids. We were away on holiday, when we met a family who had taken their children out of school and travelled Asia for a few years. With the idea re-ignited, he re-iterated his wish to travel as a family. Once more, I agreed in the hope that life would get in the way and the idea would be forgotten.
Roll on a few years………. the political situation in South Africa changed and we were debating about selling our house and renting. At the same time, work for Andre was no longer enjoyable or as profitable and he was at a cross roads in his life as to what to do next.
It was around this time that the idea no longer seemed like something to be forgotten but instead became a viable option. It somehow made sense, it was now or never. The timing seemed perfect, both children were at the right ages where they were old enough to remember and young enough to be able to miss a year or two of school.
The year spent preparing was a busy one, I don’t think I ever really grasped what we were doing. I had some fancy idea of travelling, so much so, that I even packed my GHD hair straighteners. Funny thing is, they have only been used once, and that was in attempt to kill headlice that were getting a free ride around the world with us!
I remember very clearly my feelings of excitement and extreme sadness whilst boarding the plane in Cape Town for our one-way flight to Borneo. Saying goodbye to everyone and not knowing if or when we would be seeing them again was quite devastating, but I had to keep it together for the sake of the children who were both very sad to be leaving their perfect life behind.
Our first week was a soft introduction – our accommodation came with a car, giving us the freedom to drive around sightseeing. Meals were provided and we were situated along a river in the jungle. This I could get used to!
We made the decision to not plan our route or book anything in advance with the idea of meeting people along the way who would influence our plans, so other than our first accommodation nothing else was planned.
Reality set in once we moved on.
The hostel thing was new to me, I hadn’t really backpacked in my youth, so was a little apprehensive. Not sure how I felt about cooking in a shared kitchen, showering in shared bathrooms and relaxing in a communal lounge was a little daunting for me at first. We survived and ironically the kids loved it. They enjoy hanging in the common areas and mingling with the other lodgers as if they were their peers. Until then, I didn’t know that you got rooms without windows and hostels almost never have lifts. We are almost always on the third or above and our bags are bloody heavy!
I laugh now, looking back, Andre and I had these ideas that we would have so much time on our hands. We were going to spend time each day teaching the kids, who would be very willing and happy to learn; each of us would learn new skills via online courses and still manage to get out and about to see the world……it didn’t really pan out that way!
Not sure how to tackle the schooling, I chucked in loads of study books all of which I intended to follow with the kids on our home-schooling journey. In reality, we ended up ditching all the books for online versions, having big fights and negotiations trying to get the kids to do some work and the remainder of our time doing research on what to see, where to go, stay and our next move. This in itself has proven to be one of the most tiring things on this trip.
It’s amazing having the freedom to do whatever we want; however, it also means that we spend an enormous amount of time researching. This involves searching top things to do/see, run a few Facebook searches for recommendations, cross reference this with TripAdvisor, read through everyone’s opinions and a day or two later you have a list as long as your arm with an equal amount of pros and cons.
We have since met other families on the road who can confirm that this is a common complaint; along with the constant search for laundromats – oh how I miss my washing machine.
No one tells you about this stuff!!
So here we are, about to celebrate a year on the road, what exactly does this ex-suburbian housewife / wanna be bohemian traveller think?
I love my family dearly and am very grateful for this time, the relationship the four of us have is amazing, the stuff we talk and joke about is very special. The ups and downs we have experienced together have brought us much closer.
On the flipside, being together 24/7 can take its toll. The kids irritate each other, Andre and I irritate each other and at times we all become snappy. From having a big house with individual rooms, to sharing one room with no privacy can be very claustrophobic, but knowing that it is short term makes it bearable.
I really do miss my family and our friends, having a conversation that is not broken English or one where I am explaining who and what we are doing. I crave just talking rubbish with mates, it also breaks my heart seeing the kids missing their own friends and getting increasingly frustrated with each other.
Now that I’m on a roll, I’ll start with the things I miss:
We have seen so many stunning places over the past year and one of the things I think is, “wouldn’t it be nice to have a braai and a glass of wine here to relax and take it all in”. I love the ceremony of having a braai, the same can be said for going out for dinner, not sure if it’s because we are on a budget or its just circumstantial but whilst travelling eating has become a bit of a chore.
Something I never even thought about until I no longer had one -a handbag!! Yes, sure I have a daypack, but it’s not something I carry around with me all the time, it has taken a little while to get used to going out with nothing on me. Another thing I took for granted were hot showers and the luxury of flushing toilet paper down the toilet. I cannot believe that it took me 44 years to realise that so many countries have issues with toilet tissue in the drains, instead you wipe and put paper in the bin alongside.
The material things I have adapted to, but I have also come to realise some things about myself. I am very fortunate that I was born a happy go lucky, quite content to rough it type of person, I think in my head I thought this trip would be easy, however there have been times this last year where I have been really pushed out of my comfort zone making me realize what bothers me most.
I didn’t realise how much I like to have structure in my life, at times I have felt completely overwhelmed with the lack of routine. That along with the feeling of not being in control has really thrown me. I didn’t expect this. I really thought Andre would be the one to struggle with this more, however he seems to thrive in this environment. Don’t get me wrong, I love what we are doing but often feel a little out of my depth and need to re-focus.
A particularly trying time for me was when we planned to go to Japan. The idea of staying with another family in their house really bothered me. I just hate being beholden to someone else’s’ routine, worried that I couldn’t just help myself to anything or make the kids something if needed. As it turned out, the family were lovely and once we found our own space and routine it all worked out perfect.
After this we stayed with some friends in Tokyo. They were so welcoming and generous but again this tested me, I am trying to learn to accept generosity graciously but at the same time feel ever so guilty for it. Clearly, it’s getting better, we stayed with friends when back in CT and even now as I write are staying at a friend’s girlfriends place in Colombia.
I still get little inside panic attacks and a niggle of self-doubt regarding the kids schooling. I am worried in case they have regressed and aren’t quite performing to the standard they should be. We attended a world schooling summit in October and I found it amazing; even wondering if our children should ever go back into the normal school system. That feels like a long time ago now, and the anxiety has slowly set back in. I have to keep reminding myself that there are other ways of learning other than in a classroom and this life experience will take them far.
Through staying in hostels and doing voluntary work, we have met the most incredible people, some who have really gone out their way for us; others who have nothing, but have been willing to give or share with our family. It has been amazing to experience.
I cannot believe I missed out on backpacking when I was younger!!! We have come across so many young travellers, all of whom seem to be very clever people. Interacting with them has made me wish that I had continued with tertiary education but better still is showing our children how the world is open to you for travel opportunities and even more so when you have certain skills under your belt. I love that our children are exposed to this and hope they see how easy it is to travel.
Not sure if I just forgot everything when I left school, but being on the road has really opened my eyes to the geography, history and culture of each country. It has been amazing to learn this first hand, watching how the kids have embraced, accepted and understood without judgment. We often look at maps and I am blown away with how the kids know their way around.
It is these moments that make me realise that what we did was right! Our time to settle back down will come before we know it, but in the meantime, I intend to embrace this opportunity and make the most of the time we have left.
Hi, this is Tiana.
I can’t believe it has already been a year since we left our home, friends, big house with pool, hot tub, pets, family and a life . A 5 bedroom house to a backpack each.
My favourite country was Japan because it felt so safe, we could walk around on our own , go shopping, I love the language and the people with the amazing different styles.
The country I disliked the most was the Philippines, this is because it was always raining, and has sad memories of when our friend Zack had a nasty accident and cut his foot open while on a motorcycle.
What I miss most is my friends; so meeting up with Holly and Zack really made our journey enjoyably and it felt like they were our family because we travelled with them for a good 2 months and I really miss my second family.
We had a lot of hard times in our travels, most times are when we had a late night and our mom and dad shout at us. On travel days my brother can occasionally be so mean to me, that it makes me miss our home and our friends.
Sometimes I just want my own space, but never get it. One day dad said to me “give Rico his own space” so I say in my head “give Rico space and what about me!” I was so angry because nowadays, nobody gets personal space!! I just wanted to go into my room ( which I don’t have!) and sulk/cry. Sometimes (most times) I take my anger out on Rico.
I love animals and was so sad to say goodbye to Destiny (the kitten that I couldn’t save at Meow Island). I feel so bad that he died and I couldn’t do more for him.
Now when I am writing this I want to go home but I also know that it has got more dangerous and I worry about my friends in South Africa.
Things that I miss:
- Having a house
- My cousin Farrah
What have I learnt:
- Survival skills
- Organic farming
- New Animals
- Different Religions
My cousin Farrah was a big part of my life and we would do a lot of arts and crafts together, I miss her so much. She has grown up so much, as soon as she saw me when we were back in South Africa, she jumped on me and was talking like she was my age – I loved it.
Flee is my first friend, she is the kindest smartest prettiest ice-Skater I have met and we plan to travel around Europe one day. I miss her a lot because she was a big big part of my life. Thankfully we stay in touch with Skype now.
We have been gone for a year and I have found out the good and the bad about travelling: most are good and when we stop I will miss this life of adventure.
I wish there was a way we could have both travel and my old life.
On April the 28th we left South Africa with a one way ticket to Borneo. It was very hard to say goodbye to my friends and I still remember saying goodbye to my friend Ross -I was at his house having our last chat face to face for a year. We asked each other our three worst fears, but we both struggled to come up with our third fear. An hour later my mom came to pick me up, it was then I realised my last fear – it was ‘goodbyes’.
So far travelling for a year we have made loads of memories and have had experiences all over the world: From super techie toilets in Japan to the call to prayer from the mosques in Malaysia; to the peacefulness in the middle of the jungle in Vietnam to the plastic and pollution in Santa Marta, Colombia.
When mom and dad first mentioned that we were going travelling I was so depressed, but now it’s not as bad as I thought it would be.
The thing about traveling that worried me the most was leaving my friends. All I wanted were my friends. But now we FaceTime each other and sometimes even play video games together, but it’s still not the same. When I met my first friends while travelling (Zack and Holly) it was like getting a present you’ve always wanted but you’re too afraid to ask for. We travelled with them for about a month. Sadly it wasn’t longer because Zack had a bad motorcycle accident which sent them to the hospital and we had to continue our travels.
Now you are probably wondering what happens about our studying. Our parents teach us some English, Dad teaches us maths and sets us ‘problem of the week’ a difficult maths question. The rest of our education comes from things we see and do every day. For example – we learn about converting different currencies, history of countries, world geography and other people’s cultures.
In Colombia we had Spanish lessons with a teacher for about 2 weeks so we know a little bit of Spanish, but dad is much better than us so he does all the talking.
So far from traveling Asia and some of South America we all have our favourite countries. Both my and Tiana’s favourite country is Japan because of all the crazy things like: robot toilets, fashion, technology and the delicious sushi.
Every country we have visited has amazing wildlife. In Malaysia we saw proboscis monkeys, orang-utans and turtles. In Thailand we saw a cobra, Colombia we saw lots of birdlife including hummingbirds and eagles and also a scorpion. My dad saw an armadillo.
Some of the worst parts of the trip:
- When Zack got his foot stuck in motorbike wheel
- Holly getting stung by a jellyfish
- Watching a kitten die in our arms
Some of my best parts of the trip:
- In Thailand, my grandparents visited us from England. We hired 2 mopeds with sidecars where they would sit. We had great fun riding around a mountain village.
- Climbing Mount Kinabalu with my father.
- Visiting Vinpearlland, an amusement park in Vietnam .
- Our visit to South Africa which was the best part of my trip because I got to see my friends for 2 weeks.
How I feel now:
When we first started travelling I felt so depressed in the boiling heat, it especially didn’t help with bickering with my sister. While the months flew by I felt much better but Tiana and my rivalry got even worse. Sometimes I would throw myself on the bed and cry because all I just ever wanted was my friends. Sometimes I feel so worried because I want to go back to South Africa but I know it’s has got more dangerous and I get worried about my friends. Sometimes I just don’t feel like talking to anyone.
We have been travelling for a year and the next few months will go quickly and before I know it I will be back home!!