Quitting The 9 to 5 to Show Our Kids the World

I’m not going to lie, I really hesitated before opening this list from Jo AKA @littlewanderworld because i knew I’d be envious of their experience. Nothing beats the thrill of discovering new places and doing that for more than a couple of weeks a year is something I often fantasize about.


  • The decision was the tough bit. The fear of the things that could go wrong, the judgements people would make, the sheer amount of organisation involved. But once we’d bought the ticket, told the family, quit the nursery and broadcast it on Facebook, there was no backing out. We had to do it. So off we went.
  • I took off with my husband Lori, four year old daughter Olivia and six month old son River from Heathrow on September 10th, 2017. We landed in full-blown culture shock in Kathmandu: there were amputee beggars in the gutter, strangers grabbing our kids’ faces, and a lot of dust. It was a baptism of fire, but we got there in the end. And seeing our daughter skipping between the rickshaws on the way to her favourite momo place made us think it was all going to be ok.
  • After a month in Nepal, we went to Delhi, Sri Lanka, Bangkok, Koh Phangan and Chiang Mai, where we’re currently pretending to live. Next up is Vietnam, then Cambodia, Singapore, Sydney, Chile, Mexico and Cuba before heading back to London.
  • Everyone seemed to think we were crazy for taking a baby to ‘these countries’. But our theory has always been that there are babies everywhere. There might not be sit-down toilets or Marmite, but one thing you can be sure of finding is a lot of babies.
  • Seeing kids in other cultures has made us think a lot about parenting back in the UK. Kids here are freer, wilder, more independent. Partly, of course, because they have to be, but also because they’re allowed to be. We’ve met them climbing trees, riding on motorbikes between their parents and zipping through back alleys of chaotic Delhi markets with their friends. And shock horror, they don’t implode if they stay up after 8pm.unnamed-5
  • Looking after our kids all day is a lot more difficult than we thought. That sounds terrible, I know. But God, they can be annoying. Sometimes I miss that peaceful commute into work, those nine hours of being a reasonable adult talking to other reasonable adults and getting stuff done. No whingeing, no crying, no trying to eat things that are dangerous and definitely aren’t food.
  • One of the biggest things we wanted to teach our kids was that life doesn’t have to be about stuff. Our house full of plastic toys is beaten hands down by these new experiences. For now, it’s all about picking rice from a paddy field, running through a new city, finding out what bugs taste like and the best way to bath a baby elephant.
  • Having said that, we’ve learned to make a hotel room a home. We brought a few familiar objects from London. Favourite books, an Elmer the elephant plate, Mr Monkey the cuddly. And we unpack, always. Living out of a bag isn’t fun for any of us.
  • We’ve also learned the importance of doing nothing. Sometimes, however much exciting stuff is going on outside, you really need a day of pyjamas, popcorn in front of a movie and being thrashed by your five year old at Monopoly.
  • But travelling with kids opens doors. People gravitate towards you. They want to be friends, they want to talk and they want to help.While people back home saw us as these brave (or stupid) anomalies, it turns out that there are hundreds of families travelling the world. We’ve been to festivals with a Portland chef and his clan. We spent a morning running around a Thai park with a great north London family. And when we were desperately seeking a flat to spend Christmas in, a lady with teenage kids lent us her Christmas tree and family nativity. Ironically, there’s a huge sense of community when you travel.
  • Leaving family was one of the things I was dreading most as I’m super close to my parents. But we’re meeting them and Lori’s mum on a Cambodian island in a month. And I’ve actually had far more contact with family and friends than ever. People see what we’re doing and they want to talk about it. They offer support, they read our stories, they give us tips, they ask for advice. Cousins and aunts and friends I haven’t spoken to in years have turned out to be a massive support.
  • A lot of it is same shit, different place. There are naps to be had, food to be found, nappies to be sorted. But maternity leave can be isolating, and let’s face it, boring. As incredible as that brand- new little baby is, there’s a lot of rocking and burping and pacing and winding the bloody bobbin up. And, in our heads at least, there’s nothing to say that shouldn’t happen somewhere more exciting.
  • There have been dark moments, of course. River, face bloodied after a classic bed fall, looking tiny on the hospital bed on our first morning in Kathmandu, wasn’t great. He was fine. But I could have jumped back on a plane right there and then. There have been fights and tantrums and stress and panic. There was the moment that Lori’s ligament snapped, and our plans derailed and countries disappeared. But we’re stubborn as hell and refused to let the dream die. So he spent three hours in a Thai operating theatre having his knee rebuilt, followed by two months of painful recovery. The reality is that bad things can happen anywhere, and the positives outweigh the negatives any day.
  • Education is a big deal. We may be skipping reception, but we try to do a phonics lesson with Olivia every day and she’s been drawing her experiences in a visual diary. She has done things that she would never have done in a classroom. She’s spent three days in a Nepalese homestay, learning to make yoghurt and grind grains and sort tea leaves. She’s learned about currents while sitting in the sea with her dad. She’s seen the Himalayas at sunrise. We genuinely believe that travel is the best education a kid can have.
  • Her confidence has soared and she’s eaten new foods, from crickets to actual green things. Gone are the days of ketchup on everything.
  • And it’s not just her. River has hit milestones around the world. He’s cut teeth everywhere we’ve been. He stood on his own two feet for the first time in Chiang Mai. And when I see him giggling with Bangkok ladyboys or giving himself a round of applause for trying Thai roast chicken, it makes me want to cry with pride.
  • We never wanted this trip to be one big holiday. We always wanted to come back with something solid, and so at night we work. The kids are asleep, which means we’re hardly likely to go clubbing anyway. So we’ve been researching personal projects (which would live in a drawer forever otherwise) and writing a blog which focuses on travel, food and kids. We might find a new way to get kids to eat, an interesting parallel between cultures or a new way to parent. We’re still figuring it out but we’re trying to build something for ourselves.
  • We are tired, more tired than ever before. But we’re happy.
  • Because we actually did it.
  • Because our kids are heroes.
  • Because they’re only little once.
  • Because they grow so fast and we’re incredibly lucky to see it properly.
  • And because this time with them as a full-time family, is an absolute privilege.

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2 thoughts on “Quitting The 9 to 5 to Show Our Kids the World

  1. You guys are absolute legends! I thoroughly enjoyed reading about your adventure so far. My wife and I did a similar trip around the world pre-baby and you are right about lots of other families ditching the 9-5/nursery routine in favour of real education for their kids. It seems that being able to work online in the evenings whilst travelling with kids can make this lifestyle choice possible. Thank you for posting this blog and best wishes to your fam for the rest of your trip!

    Like

  2. This is my dream life! Nothing can top those experiences your children are getting. If I could work online I would do so in a heart-beat and be somewhere that I can actually get to know my children, rather than sending them to care early in the morning, working in a just ‘ok’ job and seeing the kids for an hour before bed in the evening.
    Enjoy every moment of what you have 🙂

    Like

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