Back to the Burbs
Despite our final six-week house / dog sit stint in Cano Negro not panning out as we had expected, some of my most memorable times were had here leaving me with recollections that make me smile when I think of them. One of the biggest things we were given was the gift of time, something most of us spend our lives chasing!
This “nothing time” gave me a chance to reflect on our last 17 months and appreciate just how far we have come. It also made me realise that despite our travels coming to an end, our adventure is not. Heading back Cape Town, integrating back into suburban life trying to find our groove will be equally as challenging. I think this is what people might fear the most – “What happens when the travel is over?” In truth I don’t know and I am scared, but very little seems like a disaster anymore, we have managed to laugh our way through some very stressful situations and ultimately come out the other side just fine. If we can survive a year and a half on the road, we will be fine!!
It was during this time that I saw how close the four of us had become, and when the chips were down, we managed to pull together and make it work. With no WIFI, TV or any other electronic distractions, I watched as we became resourceful and creative, learned how to laugh at ourselves and each other. I can’t begin to tell you how proud I am of all four of us, and will miss these times once we slot back into regular hustle bustle life.
Whilst on this journey many people supported and admired us and although I appreciate that we are all very different, I did find myself having to justify our decision to a few who questioned what we were doing. I really hope that in time they will see the benefits of what we did.
We took an opportunity, took huge risks, took away everything we knew and went off as a family to learn new things……. together!
It was not fancy, not all fun and certainly not a holiday. Instead it was scary, tiring, humbling, and has certainly brought us closer and made all four of us see the value in things we previously took so much for granted.
For me personally, I was gifted the chance to see the world, see countries I had never been too and would probably never get to otherwise – who would not want that?! Yes, it meant giving up everything here but we had a life in London before and I knew that wherever we end up we would just re-create again.
Luckily, I am not scared of change and although I do enjoy nice things, I don’t need much to make me happy. I really wanted our children to be adaptable and open to change too and this would be an ideal introduction.
Ironically, I have since learned that despite my not being afraid of change, I do need some structure and routine in my life.
So, when the time came and we saw the opportunity, we took it. Not without fear but in the belief that this was what we were meant to do. Things fell into place so perfectly that it re-enforced my conviction in this.
Fortunately, we managed to sell our house at the market high and this is what funded our trip, what we would have lost had we held onto it and tried to sell it now, was what we spent on our travels. Win / Win!
We were travelling on a tight budget and chose to prioritize experiences over food and accommodation. Staying in hostels or places where we could cook for ourselves meant that shared kitchens and bathrooms were the norm. This took me a little while to adjust to, but got easier as our travels went on and I actually ended up meeting many people in kitchens all over the world. (thankfully not in the showers).
I learned very early that it was important to always carry some food stocks with us. Having two constantly hungry kids and not knowing where the next shop would be, there was always a couple packets of instant soup, two-minute noodles, savoury crackers, coffee, sugar and spices in my backpack.
When we were in Asia it was cheaper to eat out, supermarkets were hard to find and expensive, there were lots of little stalls selling cooked food wherever we were, and it was cheap. The kids however got tired of eating out and would often beg for a home cooked meal or simply stay in to eat, so my handy backpack supply was put to use.
When we did eat out, we would often walk around for ages looking for somewhere within our budget, I remember this in particular causing a lot of frustration amongst the family. One night in Japan we eventually ended up buying cup noodles, onigiri’s and a couple of beers in the corner shop and eating them on some residential roadside out of sheer desperation (we looked like real tramps).
On the flip side, it is due to this that we ended up eating where locals went and not touristy places, giving us more of a feel for each country and its culture. This was good but I won’t lie, I did miss “going out for dinner” as we used to. Sitting for an extended period enjoying a good meal and a nice bottle of wine.
Things were different in South America, eating out was expensive, so we cooked most evenings. We managed to find some reasonable supermarkets; however, it is difficult to buy things when you don’t have a well-stocked kitchen and knowing that we will be moving on in a few days and don’t have space for anything. I can’t wait to have a kitchen again, one that has a stocked condiment cupboard and all the basic ingredients in one place.
We often ate the same meal for a few days in a row, I am very grateful that Rico and Tiana were ok with this and didn’t complain when I served them green chicken curry for the third night running! Oh, how we laughed…….
I cannot tell you how many hours were spent re-searching for accommodation and am very relieved to close my Booking.com and Airbnb apps for a while. Because we were staying in the lower budget range there is a very fine line between total dump and passable, thus needing to cross check with many many online review mediums and read through everyone’s opinions before booking.
Thankfully we never ended up anywhere that we couldn’t bear to stay and am really surprised that none of us experienced bed bugs!! I still cringe when thinking about some of the pillows and mattresses I saw when stripping the beds before check out, it’s amazing what sheets and pillow cases can hide.
disappointingly our final flight was delayed by a day, but prior to that we did not miss a plane, bus or train throughout. Apart from losing my watch and a water bottle nothing else went amiss. Pretty good going I would say!
As far as schooling went, once we realised that online books worked best and ditched all paper versions our bags got a lot lighter. The daily fight, not so much! The kids were always pretty reluctant to sit down and complete their work, every essay was a struggle and negotiation tactics had to be put in place. I have the utmost respect for home-schooling parents and teachers and can’t wait for school to start in January. I do have a different outlook on education though and will try not let our kids just follow the masses by trying to encourage them to think out of the box.
The last seventeen months have gone so fast and we have come full circle. I am really looking forward to getting back into a routine, having a home base, kitchen and picking up on relationships with family and friends.
I realise how much I now appreciate having warm water showers, flushing toilet paper down the toilet – not a big one and I got quite used to it, but it is quite disgusting having this bin next to the toilet that is filled with everyone’s pooey tissues especially in hot countries in public bathrooms – the smell was not great.
I have a new found love for washing machines and the ability to be able to wash one’s own clothes whenever you wish, without having to give them the “sniff” test.
The South African in me really missed not having instant access to an outdoor area of your own and having a fire and or braai. When we finally had our first braai in Chile I was beyond excited and realised that where ever I end up, we have to be able to braai.
In no particular order below are some of my highlights whilst travelling
Meeting up with family and friends – We happened to be in the same place at the same time on a few occasions and managed to meet up with a few friends, Janine in Bangkok, Kay and Chi Chi in Peru, Paul in Colombia and my cousin and husband in Costa Rica. It was so good to see familiar faces and enjoy their company and catch up for drinks and dinner.
We had pre-planned meet ups with family; first was with two of my sisters in Vietnam and after that Andre’s parents in Thailand. Both sets spoiled us with lots of edible home comforts where we gorged on cheese, chocolate, biltong and wine. These were such special times as we got to do some touristy things with them and spend some great quality time catching up.
Christmas in Japan with the Weston Family – We were treated like kings at the Weston house over Christmas last year, it was so amazing to be in a “home” for this special time of year.
Meeting and travelling with Teisler-Goldsmiths – Meeting this family was a real blessing. Our children were similar ages and got on so well. It’s amazing how you quickly relationships develop when you are on the road. Travelling with them was an absolute pleasure.
Trekking Machu Picchu– We did the four-day Laures Trek which ended up in Machu Picchu, I absolutely loved this. I have realised how much I enjoy hiking and this one was amazing. Our bags were taken care of, our tents were put up and we even had a chef. I ate some of the best food on our travels on this trek and can say that we probably put on weight over the four days. The hike was stunning, and our guide was great – finishing at Machu Picchu was just breath taking and arriving in time for sunrise was so magical.
Amazon River – This was a bucket list dream since I was young, to actually be on the river almost felt like a dream and was every bit of what I had expected. I love nature and this tour ticked every box for me.
Kinabatangan River – Similar experience to the Amazon, spending days going up and down the river looking for wildlife, we were treated to the most amazing sunsets and sunrises and have ever seen. Highlight here was seeing orangutans in the wild along with pygmy elephants.
Camping around Chile – Chile for me goes down as being one of my favourite countries. Self-driving around this stunning country and wild camping was incredible. Our big open fires every night was my highlight and despite not having access to a shower for almost a week, I loved this experience. I would love to go back and do this again in Summer and head further south into Patagonia.
Quilatoa Loop Hike – First multi day hike with the kids, loved it. The mountains were stunning and self-navigating was great fun.
Volunteer stints – Some of our happiest times as a family were when we were volunteering, the kids really enjoyed having some responsibility and it also gave us a purpose each day. We learnt so much of each of our experiences and would definitely look into doing something like this again if we get the chance.
Living in Vietnam for a month in January – probably because we settled in a place of our own for an extended period, but I also loved the freedom of having transport as we all had bikes to get around. During this time we made some really good friends with some other world schooling families and had a busy social time with them too. I really enjoyed seeing how well all the kids got on and how much they enjoyed having friends around and play dates.
Peru Hop through Peru – Despite being quite touristy, I found it great not having to think about how we were going to get from A to B and also doing research about what to see and do in Peru. This company mapped out our whole route and gave great commentaries on the bus between each stop. So much fun.
World Schooling Summit – Meeting so many like-minded people in one place and listening to their stories and other inspiration stories throughout the summit was incredible. I was brought to tears by the emotions I was feeling and was really inspired by some of the people we met here. This way of life is not for everyone but loved seeing how these families have made it work so successfully.
I am so grateful to have had this opportunity and will endeavour to make a conscious effort to slow down, not stress the small stuff, not get caught up in consumerism, spend more quality time with family and friends and most importantly – Make memories!! – these are after all, the things our children will tell their children about!
So………. we are back.
We have been back in Cape Town for 6 weeks now, have rented an amazing house that I am loving!! Still excited about a washing machine and drying line and even still enjoying ironing. At first, I felt very much like a rabbit in the headlights and am still a little overwhelmed about the shops especially with Black Friday and all the Christmas specials on.
I am loving having quiet evenings at home and really enjoying just pottering around the house. We snuck back quietly and have not been too busy socially but I have enjoyed catching up with people slowly and personally. We have done some lovely mountain walks and I am remembering just how beautiful Cape Town is.
It’s been quite surreal that nothing has changed here over the past 17 months, even the same cashier at Checkers. Standing there paying for my shopping thinking that so much has changed inside my head and yet looking around it feels like a dream and everything is exactly as it was. I have listened to some conversations going on around me and giggled at how insignificant they seem and yet I have no doubt that in a few months’ time, I will be having these very same concerns.
Although it has only been a short time, I have really noticed the difference in all of us. The kids are fighting more than ever despite having their own rooms and more space. Their need for electronics has increased and the “bored” word even came up – as you can imagine this did not go down well. Andre is happy to be back out on his bike and exercising up a storm but also very busy on his computer and when he is not, his head is still busy going over things. I am all over the place, trying to make home, keep on top of school work, get into an exercise routine and start looking into work options. In truth, we are a bit “all over the place”.
I think that until the kids get back to school and Christmas period is over it will continue like this but then hopefully some kind of routine and family time can be re-established. It was always going to be a weird time to come back with year end holidays but I really am hoping that everything we found on our 17 month journey doesn’t fall away only to be replaced by our hectic lives again.