REMEMBER WHEN WE COULD TRAVEL?

THOUGHT-PROVOKING, TRAVEL

Charlotte originally wrote a version of this lift pre-covid and back then the idea of travelling with the world with kids felt like a dream. In light of the last year Charlotte tweaked her submission to reflect where we are at now; where even venturing beyond the postcode seems exciting. Imagine different cultures, food, sights and smells!! Gahhh I can not wait. It will happen again, just not sure when….

  • This is the second time I’ve written this list.

  • The first time, I outlined the joys of travelling the world on a budget with my husband and two kids.  

  • I submitted it from an apartment in Kuala Lumpur in February 2020.

  • Unfortunately, just a few weeks later life looked very different.

  • My story starts in the Summer of 2018.

  • I was teacher.

  • It was the end of the summer holidays.

  • Cue frantic planning for my escape from teaching.

  • I did this at the end of every holiday.

  • The end of the summer holidays made me most creative.

  • We had one year until our eldest, Emily, would be starting school.

  • I wasn’t ready for that.  

  • They were growing up too fast and I was working too much.

  • We both were.

  • 18 months ago, my nan had passed away.  Six months before Alice arrived in the world.

  • Thanks to her, and the generosity of my parents and aunt, we had some money in the bank.  It had been a while.

  • Life had been one big expense after the other.  First house.  Wedding.  First kid.  Second kid.

  • The money had given us some breathing space.

  • A chance to dream.

  • Most of the money went towards our mortgage.

  • A small dent in big hole.

  • We held some back.  For a holiday and some home improvements.

  • But it was the end of the summer holidays and I was planning my escape.

  • “Let’s go live in Sweden”, I declared.

  • “OK!” said Dan.  (Devoted husband and fellow big dreamer.)

  • We didn’t have enough money for a year in Sweden though.  But we had some money, a dream and a whole load of determination.

  • We had one year.  Save and plan!

  • I turned to the budget.  Highlighted everything that was non-essential.  Found a way to get rid of it.

  • I meal planned to the extreme.  All food was accounted for.  Budgeted.  I found new ways to create our favourite foods and snacks for less.

  • I shopped at Aldi.  Bye Tesco.

  • Phone bills got slashed.  No new phones for us that year.  SIM only contracts saved us a fortune.

  • I used comparison sites to reduce our electricity, gas and internet bills.  There was no Sky TV for us.  Now TV could stay.  For a while.  It’s gone now.

  • At this point, I had our expenditure down to £1,000 a month.  Mortgage, bills, food.  A family of four with a house and a car.  

  • We weren’t suffering.  Our lives were still rich with activities, but we chose the cheap ones rather than the expensive ones.

  • Dan and I were both working part time.  This way we didn’t need childcare.  

  • Between us we had a little over £2,000 coming in each month.  We saved half.

  • On top of that, I hustled.  I had my blog.  I did some matched betting.  You name it, I did it.

  • The house was decluttered.  I sold so many things.  Toys, furniture, clothes.

  • Some months I was able to double our income.  It all went in the savings pot.

  • Alongside this, we planned.

  • Sweden became the USA and Europe.  Then Canada was included.  And discarded.  

  • It became a trip around the world!

  • We booked our first flights.  New York.  On a budget airline of course.

  • Our house got some redecorating and we put it up for rent.

  • It didn’t take long to find a family who loved it as much as us.  We said “yes.”

  • We packed our old lives into boxes.  What was left of it, anyway.  Lots had been sold.

  • Our house was rented out.  It would generate us a couple of hundred pounds in income each month.  I was grateful for the low rate we had on our mortgage.

  • A few weeks were spent with my parents.  My sister was getting married at the end of August, so we were in the UK for that.

  • More planning happened.

  • North America.  South America.  Southeast Asia.  Europe.

  • It sounded expensive.  But we would make it work.

  • Vaccination costs were huge.  We would need them all.  Some of them required three injections.  

  • The kids hated them and so did my bank account.

  • Nearly £2,000 later and we were protected against everything that Boots could offer.  We also spent a fair bit bribing the kids to go back for the next lot.

  • The savings pot had already plateaued.  Even dropped.

  • We fought to keep it up despite the travel expenses.  Generally, we won.

  • Monday 9th September.  We flew to New York.

  • We travelled from New York to Washington D.C. to Orlando, Florida.

  • Disney World was a thing.

  • Then South America.

  • In 6 weeks, we travelled through Colombia, Peru, Argentina and Chile.

  • Seeing the sights by day.  Working by night.

  • I had a small business.  A blog.  Plus, some freelance writing.

  • It paid for the treats.

  • The budget was tight, but accommodation, food and 7-hour trips across the Andes were cheap.  We were doing ok.

  • 16 hours across the Pacific Ocean.

  • One expensive week in Sydney.

  • Six glorious and budget-friendly weeks with family on the Gold Coast.

  • Then Singapore.

  • Singapore is not budget-friendly.

  • But Malaysia was.

  • We kept travelling and working.

  • But now it was January 2020.

  • Hello coronavirus.

  • People in Southeast Asia were all wearing masks.

  • We wore masks too.

  • There was hand sanitiser on every pillar and countertop.

  • We decided to “escape” to Europe.

  • We still haven’t decided if that was a good decision or not.

  • Europe was less budget-friendly.

  • But we stuck to Eastern Europe so got more than we expected.

  • Home felt close.

  • But COVID felt closer.

  • Istanbul.  Sofia. Bucharest. Budapest.

  • All by train to keep things cheap.

  • By mid-March, we were done.

  • Borders were closing around us.

  • We flew home.

  • But we were homeless.

  • There were still tenants in our house.  There until May.

  • We could stay with my parents for a while, but two months together would be a long time.

  • Money was suddenly a concern.

  • Thankfully my Grandad bailed us out.

  • He moved in with his girlfriend and we had his bungalow.  On the North Kent Coast.  Two minutes from the beach.

  • The first two months of lockdown were a blur of grieving for our ended trip, surviving Tesco shopping runs, and fretting about money.

  • We had money left from our trip, but it wouldn’t last forever.

  • We found comfort in routine.  Grateful for a beautiful and cheap solution to our accommodation problem.

  • But more importantly, we hustled.

  • No. I hustled.

  • I took my business from earning a few hundred quid to thousands overnight.

  • We fell into our old money saving tricks.

  • Meal planning.  Budgeting.  DIY haircuts.

  • We could do this.  We had done it before.

  • Last time it was to save for the trip of a lifetime.

  • Now it was to pay the bills.

  • It worked.  

  • The money came in.  The bills got paid.

  • Stressful levels went down.  A bit.

  • Life felt different.  So different.

  • We had gone from sitting on warm beaches with all our belongings in a backpack.  Deciding just days in advance where we would go next.

  • To an hour of exercise a day.

  • We couldn’t hug our family.  Our friends.  People we hadn’t seen in months.

  • We hardly talked about our trip at all.  It wasn’t important now.

  • We spent afternoons watching back videos of travels.  Grateful we had the memories and dreaming of better times.

  • It was truly grief.

  • I still grieve.  The kids do too.

  • But life has handed us some blessings in the form of a global pandemic.

  • Back in our home, we used the money we had saved in the first two months to revamp our home.

  • New bedroom.  New kitchen.  Even a cute little under stairs book nook.

  • We did it all ourselves.  Keeping the costs down and us busy.

  • The summer of 2020 was spent in the garden.

  • There were a lot of BBQs.

  • My business continued to grow.

  • I shared my money tips with others.  On Instagram.  Facebook.  My website.  YouTube.  And TikTok.

  • TikTok.

  • Two TikToks went viral.  25,000 followers overnight.

  • The business grew again.

  • It provided us with the freedom to stay safe in our homes.

  • To enjoy a simple family life.

  • It allowed us to dream again.

  • Of time when the borders are open.  When the world is vaccinated.  

  • When we will be able to visit family and friends both down the road and on the other side of the world.

  • When we will be able to shake the hands of strangers and watch our children play with kids they just met in the park.

  • When we can dust off our backpacks and book plane tickets with confidence.

  • It won’t happen this week.  This month.  Or even this year.

  • But it will happen again.

  • And for now, we will do everything we can to make the most of it when it does.

  • We hustle.

  • Meal plan. Budget.  Cutback. Live frugally.  

  • We watch our savings grow.

  • And with it our hopes that life might feel less scary one day.

  • Perhaps a little exciting too.

**’Questions About The Big Wide World’ is one of the sections in my debut book ‘BUT WHY? How to answer tricky questions from kids by having an honest conversation with kids.  BUT WHY? which is available to preorder now. **

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