The countdown is on, there are just a few weeks to go until we board fight JQ7 to Ho Chi Minh City, and the realisation that we’re leaving everything and everyone behind is starting to take hold. The house is getting emptier and emptier as strangers come and buy our belongings, and the day until we leave our jobs is getting closer and closer.
As D-Day edges nearer I’ve been thinking about the reasons why we made the decision to travel in the first place, why we decided to ditch our jobs, sell everything we own and leave our family and friends behind to go explore this big, beautiful planet of ours with a two-year old in tow. So, in no particular order, here are my top four reasons why going on this adventure with no-end-date in sight is so awesome:
The simple pleasure of travelling
Exploring new and fascinating places has been slowly burning inside me since I came back from living in London 10 years ago. During my two years working as a school teacher in and around south-east London, I was able to explore a lot of Europe given the brilliant holidays teachers enjoy and deserve. I stopped in Bangkok on my way to the UK, and spent a few weeks in California on my way home. But every trip I went on was very much a hit and run exercise. It was a matter of seeing as many places as I could in a short period of time; Eiffel Tower, Coliseum, Berlin Wall, Charles Bridge, and all the other wonderful tourist attractions in Europe, getting my happy snap before racing to the next place on the list as quickly as possible. Don’t get me wrong, I loved every minute of it, but this time I want to do things differently. I want us to go slower, find out about the culture of a place and what makes it tick. I want to meet the locals and maybe learn a little of the language. I still want to get those awesome photos at the various attractions each destination has to offer, but this time it’s more about education and discovery than any touristy bucket list.
A journey of self-discovery
Selfishly I’m using the time we’re away as a bit of a journey of self-discovery. Reading back on that sentence I realise how wanky it sounds, but it’s true nonetheless. I’m 40 years of age and to be honest I have no idea what I want to be when I grow up! I’ve been a teacher and didn’t like it. I’ve worked in professional sport and while I didn’t hate it, I’m a little too jaded by my experiences to feel as though I have a long-term future there. I’ve started and run my own business and while that sounds glamorous and amazing, it’s a lot of hard work. You don’t really know how much you’re going to make from week to week, you work all sorts of unsociable hours, there’s no holiday pay, superannuation, sick leave, and all of the other benefits that come with being employed in the traditional way. There truly is something to be said for working 9-5, taking home a constant pay and not having to think about the business outside of work hours. On the flipside not many people get rich working for someone else. On this trip I’m hoping to figure out somehow what I want to do with the rest of my life, have that lightning bolt moment where you just know what you were put on this earth do. I envy those who are passionate about what they do for a living, who jump out of bed every day and run to work because they love it so much. I hope I find my passion along the way.
Is Australia truly ‘the lucky country’
We Australians use this term to describe our home, given our vast natural resources, great weather, democratic freedoms and civil peace. What most Australian’s don’t realise is the term was originally a negative phrase from the 1964 book of the same name. The final chapter of the book opens with the sentence:
“Australia is a lucky country, run by second-rate people who share its luck.”
There’s a certain arrogance that as a nation we’ve decided to ignore the second part of that sentence and just run with the opening five words don’t you think? I must admit I’ve become a little disillusioned with my own country over the past decade. The truth is second-rate people have run our country during that time. Our politicians are a source of national embarrassment on both sides of parliament from the late Howard years, through the next two dysfunctional Labor terms, and now the militant bullying of the Abbot Liberal government. We didn’t have one city in the top 50 most expensive cities in the world a decade ago, now we’ve got two in the top half dozen. I honestly don’t know how young families on an average wage make ends meet, and the cost of living here is only getting worse. Ask any traveller what country was the most expensive they’ve been to and if they’ve been here I guarantee they’ll say Australia. Our education system is a joke, we finished close to last on the latest list of developed countries for basic English, mathematics and science; our current government has absolutely no care for the environment at all despite the overwhelming evidence to suggest we need to become ‘greener’; and our treatment of asylum seekers, indigenous Australians and those most in need such as the elderly and the unemployed is disgusting. So I want to know if we are ‘the lucky country’ in the modern sense of the phrase, or whether the author Donald Horne was right in his original summation.
Shape Jack’s character
While Jack won’t remember much of our adventure, there’s no doubt it will shape him as a developing person. Unlike most two year olds whose lives revolve around a home base, we actually won’t have a permanent home as such. We’ll be stopping for extended periods of time at certain places on our journey, but not for long enough to call it home. He’ll meet new and interesting people from different cultures, with different belief systems, different customs and different values. He’ll become tolerant of the wide array of people from many countries around the world. He’ll become resilient to all manner of obstacles put in front of him. He’ll have to deal with a wide spectrum of living conditions from abject poverty in Cambodia to opulent wealth in Monaco. He’ll be sleeping on overnight trains, travelling on rickety old buses and boarding planes at all hours of the day and night. He’s in for a wild ride our Jack, but there’s no doubt in our minds that he will come out of the experience far more mature and balanced than the average little boy. We’re under no illusions how tough it’s going to be at times travelling with a toddler, but we also believe we’ll look back on these days as some of the most rewarding of our lives.
What a list! Just writing it got me excited about what lay ahead for us. It’s a different way to experience the world. We’re not going to be tourists this time, we’ll be travellers, and there’s a big difference. But because we’ve decided to live this lifestyle, I’ve got to admit it’s not all fairy floss and rainbows. There’s a few grey clouds in the back of my mind, a little voice saying ‘if you do this, there are a few issues you’ll need to deal with eventually’. It’s definitely not a voice of doubt, I truly believe in what we’re doing and why we’re doing it, but here are my four concerns welling in the far recesses of my conscience:
Taking Jack away from family
We’re taking Jack away from our families during his formative years. Our families have been very supportive of our decision to go from the moment we dropped the bombshell on them that we’d be heading overseas for a few years at least. They understand why we’re doing it and have encouraged us at every turn. But that doesn’t mean they’re not upset at the same time, particularly our mums. Both our mothers have been a bit teary at times, and it will get quite emotional when the day finally arrives. Is it selfish of us to take Jack away from his grandparents at this time of his life? Maybe a little, but the rewards for our little family will be huge in the end. And although it’s not the same, there’s no doubt Skype will get a fair workout on our travels!
No friends for Jack
When we get back from our adventure Jack will be five or six years of age, and he will have no friends. He’ll be going to primary school for the first time and won’t know a single person. He won’t have formed bonds with the other kids in day care or the local kids in the neighbourhood. I know this won’t last long, and kids tend to find like-minded friends pretty quickly in the classroom and playground, but I remember when I moved schools as a kid and walking into a new classroom without any familiar faces was quite scary. But he’s a great kid with plenty of character already and we’re confident this won’t be a problem for too long.
No careers for us
When we get back I’ll be in my mid-forties, Sarah will be in her mid-thirties and neither of us will have a career to speak of. That’s quite a daunting prospect. We both have a few contacts around town, and with a bit of luck they’ll be able to help us out, but we can’t count on it and life will move on for everyone while we’re away. Clearly we’ll develop many skills on the road, from developing this website and growing our following, to teaching English as a foreign language and any other jobs we may pick up on the way. But that doesn’t mean we’ll be able to jump straight into a job when we get home. But as I mentioned in my reasons for going on this adventure, I’m hoping to discover a passion that I can transfer into a career on our return. But it is a worry all the same.
No possessions either
We won’t have a single possession on our return. Part of the journey is to realise how meaningless the accumulation of possessions is, but at the same time we’re not the kind of people who are going to live like Tibetan monks whose only possessions are the robes on their backs. We’ll have to start from scratch, and if we don’t have a job, this may be difficult.
Clearly the reasons for going far, far outweigh the grey clouds forming in the back of my mind which is why I’m bursting at the seams with excitement to board that plane.
What are your reasons for travelling? Do you have any doubts about the decision to leave everything behind to pursue your travel dreams? Leave a comment below…