Through no fault of our own, we are going home!

Jack's already buckled in and ready to go! Jack's already buckled in and ready to go!

We’ve made the decision to go home, and I’m not totally happy about it. When we left Australia we were hoping to be gone for at least two years. Instead we are going home pretty much a year to the day after we left. Why? Because our government has decided to withhold our tax return, along with thousands of Australians just like us. Let me explain…

National Rental Affordability Scheme (NRAS)

Without going into too much detail (i.e. boring your brains out), a year or so before leaving Australia we took advantage of a great government scheme called NRAS. The Labor government asked for interested parties to build pre-planned homes in designated areas for suitably qualified people (based on income, occupation, dependents, etc.) and rent them out at 20% below market rate. In return the government would provide a financial incentive that would be included in our tax return every year for 10 years. So, in good faith we took out a home loan, picked a house from a set of plans, and committed to the scheme. It put pressure on us financially because we’re just two regular people on middle of the road wages, but it was an investment in our future and we were only doing what Liberal Governments have been encouraging Australians to do forever. Unfortunately, it seems good faith is a one-way street when it comes to this Liberal Government!

Last April the Department of Social Services (DSS) who are in charge of this scheme, realised their computer system for processing NRAS claims was faulty, so announced they’d need to fix it first before distributing tax offset certificates to include in our tax return. At least this is the reason given to us by the company that looks after our property. Ten months later, we’re still waiting! I’m guessing people may have defaulted on home loans repayments, business expenses, and other commitments these investors would have had based on their expected NRAS incentive payments.

We knew it was going to be difficult servicing a mortgage while travelling, especially when we have the added expense of travelling with a child to consider. But we’d done the math and knew, with an NRAS incentive payment coming in our tax return each year, that we could make ends meet. Unfortunately, with no tax return yet we simply can’t afford to take the risk of continuing our adventure and running out of money on the road.

So we’re coming home.

It’s a bittersweet feeling

AAMI Park in the foreground, and the MCG to the right

AAMI Park in the foreground, and the MCG to the right

Already I’ve experienced fluctuating emotions since we’ve made the decision, and it’s only been a few days. On the one hand I’m incredibly excited to get back to Melbourne, the greatest city on Earth, and see friends and family who we’ve missed terribly. It will be awesome to get back into the swing of things like going to the gym my good friend Shane owns, heading to the MCG and AAMI Park to watch my beloved Hawthorn (AFL) and Melbourne Storm (NRL) teams kick ass, and getting my career back on track so that professionally I have a sense of purpose and satisfaction.

But I’m not ready to come home yet. I wanted to spend a little more time in Europe before heading to North America. While I was excited to experience the world one place at a time differently to the conventional tourist, there was only one place on my bucket list…New York. I thoroughly enjoyed South-East Asia, learned a lot about myself and the world around us in India and the UAE, and have been amazed by the history and beauty of the towns and cities of Europe we’ve visited so far. But there’s something about New York that was sucking me in, and I was so excited to be going to spend an extended period of time there within the next couple of months. Now, despite being so close that I can almost feel it, we’re coming home early, and I can’t help but feel our own government has let us down horribly.

Have we failed?

Finally, Jack gets a photo at the Taj Mahal

Finally, Jack gets a photo at the Taj Mahal

It’s a question Sarah and I have been asking ourselves over the past few days. After all, we’d planned to visit so many more places and stay on the road for at least another six months, possibly much longer. Given we’ve just endured a European winter, we were hoping to spend the next six months in North America before maybe heading home at the start of the Australian summer. Or, if we still had the travel bug, start heading through Central and South America. But for me, it took about three seconds to decide our adventure had been a resounding success, fulfilling so much more than we could have ever hoped for.

  • We’ve visited some of the world’s most amazing countries – Vietnam, Thailand, Austria, Czech Republic, Switzerland and France
  • Learned a lot about the way the world works in countries like India, Cambodia and the UAE
  • We’ve met some amazing people
  • Experienced living in some incredible places like the laidback Thai city of Chiang Mai where we hope to return to in the future, rural Larcan not far from the French Pyrenees, and in a castle 90 minutes south of Paris
  • My mum came to see us in France, her very first overseas trip
  • I completed an online blogging course and have moved a step or two closer to figuring out what I want to be when I grow up
  • We’ve built up a client base to do freelance writing which we will continue when we return to Australia
  • I even resurrected a decade long football retirement to don the boots once again for US Thure-Besse, my new French football club
Mum and I outside the Arc de Triomphe

Mum and I outside the Arc de Triomphe

And we’ve still got plans to visit Belgium and The Netherlands before catching our plane home in mid-April. So when I think back on all we’ve achieved, I don’t regret for one minute our decision to sell everything we owned, give up jobs and say goodbye to family and friends for what we thought would be an indefinite period of time.

Future travel plans

New York City

New York City

One thing about coming home early is that our travel bug hasn’t been completely satiated. If we’d gone to North America for six months before coming home perhaps we would have been content, but it feels like we’ve got unfinished business. We’ve already started talking about where we’ll go next, the lessons we’ve learned that will make Round Two of our round the world adventure easier to handle, and what we hope to achieve from a personal satisfaction point of view. It won’t be any time soon, we want to get back into the Melbourne way of life, Sarah still has a few years left of her degree to go, and we both want to start careers again. But the flame is still smoldering deep inside us, and before Jack hits high school, we will in all probability head off for another year, starting in New York before heading south through the USA, Central America and South America.

But for now we’re excited about the next chapter, whatever that may be. I’m looking forward to spending time with my Dad who has been incredibly ill recently. Jack’s grandparents are very excited with the prospect of seeing more of their grandson. From the conversations I’ve had with a couple of my closest friends, they’re excited we’re heading home and that has helped make our forced return a lot easier to take. So for now, it’s goodbye to long-term travel and hello to normality for at least the next few years.

7 Comments on Through no fault of our own, we are going home!

  1. Hey Chris, well done on making a difficult decision. While our situation was vastly different, we abruptly returned home after living in North American – I was desperately homesick and my husband desperately wanted to stay on. It must be hard having the decision partially taken out of your hands, but as you said – you are returning to the greatest city in the world!

    However, the world isn’t going anywhere, and as a family we are actively planning towards “Family Gap Year 2018” – we’ll be a family of five then (…yep, another baby on the way!), and will sneak a year in, in lieu of our eldest’s first year of high school and our middle child’s first year of primary.

    Choosing to tackle life in an unconventional way has it’s challenges. But the long term benefits this will bring will far outweigh those challenges. The first-world problems many of us worry about will pale in comparison to your experiences in India. Freeing yourself of the shackles of materialism and commercialism will enhance your life in so many ways. You have built foundations and connections with your son in a way very few families can achieve.

    Be under no illusion – you have all undergone a remarkable journey and it will pay dividends for the rest of your lives. Be proud, stand tall and congratulate yourselves on pursuing your dreams and truly living your life.

    • Wow Teesha, congratulations, that’s awesome news!!! We’re looking forward to getting home, we just wished we could have spent another 6-12 months on the road. But that will come in the future, there’s no doubt about that. Any idea where you guys want to go in 2018? Perhaps that’s when we’ll be back on the road. We’ve learnt so many lessons, more so from countries that we may not have enjoyed so much like India and Cambodia. We certainly will never take our western lives for granted again, and we’ve already discussed lifestyle changes we will make on our return, especially when it comes to what we own and how much of it we own. We’ll definitely have to catch up soon after we get back. Bye for now and thanks for the kind words…

      • We’ve narrowed it down to a ski resort in France. Adam speaks fluent French, I have six years of school girl French and an EU passport and we all fancy the idea of a whole season being ski bums!

        Look forward to seeing you back down under soon 🙂

  2. Hi Guys,

    I know it’s a really rough decision to make but it seems like you’ve made the right decision for all of the right reasons.

    Enjoy being home for a while and the next adventure will be even better!

    • Hi Claire, you’re absolutely right. This is just a pause in our adventures, albeit probably a lengthy pause. But our experience will make Travelling Apples Part Two even better, that’s for sure.

  3. Hi Chris.. Just stumbled upon your site and read this recent blog. Sorry to here you have to return sooner than later but it sounds like it is the right decision. You have done more than most with a wife and child – more than I did when I had 3 little ones around. I am sure after you dust fix those pesky mortgage issues, you will all dust off your travel boots again. Take care and I look forward to reading more in the future. Cheers! -JR

    • Thanks for the kind words JR. It’s disappointing we’re going home early, especially considering I was desperate to get to New York. But we’re already making plans for our next trip in 2-3 years when Sarah will have finished her degree and we’ll have saved more money. Next time we’ll start in NY and head south for another 12 months through North, Central and South America. In the mean time we’ll keep Travelling Apples alive by posting articles about our travels closer to home in Australia 🙂

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