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A reflection on fulltime family travel
As many of you will have seen from some of the posts on our blog and on Instagram, this adventure has been just that – an incredible adventure. Having read about and seen pictures of other peoples trips into Europe and beyond I’d imagined us on beaches, climbing mountains, cooking on clifftops and generally having a party (as best as you can with 2 little ones). It didn’t turn out this way, but do I have any regrets? No.
Both Charlie and I have been through so much on this journey. For me personally, here is my reflection on fulltime family travel these past 12 months:
For me this was mainly the van build and I carried on just like we had done in our previous life. I got up early to start on the build, Charlie would be with the girls and things were good – I was achieving things, learning new skills and building our home. But this only helped me, Charlie’s life and our family relationship (not brilliant) was still the same and much like life before, I just bundled through it. I couldn’t ‘fix’ everything by building the van, I wasn’t supposed to do it on my own as I now know.
Adjusting to life in the Baby Bus
Again I went in to this with my usual briskness and looked forward to the perfect balance of life with my girls: Charlie would have time to work/read/relax and our relationship to grow again. We would be in idyllic locations and I could sit down with a beer while the girls played together and I could contemplate my past, present and future.
A quick read of our blog or Instagram and you will hear it wasn’t like this. Charlie and I did get to talk lots more as we drove around the French countryside and I spent lots of time with the girls. In the end it was exhausting, hot and stressful. We did visit lots of beautiful places but we were moving on a lot and I was overwhelmed with how much effort parenting took. It was an incredibly hot summer in all of Europe and this didn’t help the tolerance levels in this new way of life.
It did get easier in the second half of our time on the road, but by then I felt like I was ready for a break from it. I needed to re-group and start thinking more about the future. By the time we got accepted to the housesit I was ready for the change of pace and space it would give us.
Wintering in France
I hadn’t expected to go through what I did during the months we spent renting a gite and housesiting on a small farm. It was emotionally very hard for me and not something I saw coming at all. I posted about this at the time on Instagram.
Without the distractions of vanlife – packing up, cooking, cleaning, planning, driving etc – life was stripped bare. I guess this is how it is for many people, but without familiar places to go and stuck in avoiding the cold weather it was hard and boring.
As the weeks rolled by I got more frustrated with myself. The girls had more space and Charlie could work when she wanted but I felt I had nothing to add to the family. Having provided for so long and been ‘busy’ it was a hard change of pace.
I talked to Charlie about how I was feeling and it was good to take stock of what was happening. In the end we decided I would look for some freelancing/remote work. I contacted my old workplace to see if there was anything I could do for them. I also researched the main remote freelancing websites. In the end I joined PeoplePerHour. For me, personally, they offered a good range of projects and ones that I could apply too, even though they take a higher percentage compare to the other sites.
If your interested in earning on the road we’ll be writing a blog post on working whilst travelling. Alternatively, do leave a comment below or contact me via our Instagram and I’d be happy to talk about my experiences.
For us it wasn’t about the money (although any extra was great), instead it was about giving me something else to focus on and get the ‘grey cells’ turning again. On the whole the winter was a long and cold one. The farm-sit was great and we got to live out our dream lifestyle and we learnt valuables lessons from that.
A return trip to England
After another housesit we headed back to the UK for a couple of months in Spring 2019. It was nice to catch up with friends and family – more so for the girls than me. I found it hard going from driveway to driveway taking over other peoples houses. I longed to be back in rural France at our own pace.
We met an amazing family in the Lakes and got hear about other families adventures, and how living back in the UK now meets their needs. It showed me what our girls need most, and that we wouldn’t be happy living our French/extremely rural dream at the moment. I’d still like to do it in the future.
Back on the road and disappointment
We had more housesits back in France booked for April and May. This forced us onwards again and gave us the time to reflect on what we wanted to do next. Through my freelancing I got offered a great online job working for a bike shop, looking after their website. It was a dream come true to combine a hobby with work on the road, and have the potential to continue freelancing for a long period of time. Unfortunately I was let down a month or so after I started, and I was left disheartened by it and frustrated again with our living situation.
Since then I’ve had time to look back and move on. I was really angry as the ‘dream job’ unraveled. My anger even made me question if we should even carry on. I had lost focus on what we were trying to do on this journey.
Valuable lessons learnt.
Over the last month we’ve met other families both new and old and it’s been a good distraction. Charlie and I have talked with our oldest daughter more about our plans for the future and where we might go and what we might do.
Like I said at the start – would I change any of this? No, not at all. Even if we had imagined being on a warm Greek beach for Christmas day! For me, the time, the opportunities, and the countless other lessons have been priceless. If we’d stayed where we were in Cheshire, then life would be the same, probably worse, and less fulfilling than it already was.
I now have an amazing relationship with the girls, though this can always be improved, and have seen our littlest one change from a baby into a busy toddler. Charlie and I are a lot closer, talk more and spend time exploring what our future might be. I’m excited about the prospects and opportunities that this journey has given me and us.
I’ve been to dark places and thought more about my life and what I’ve done for the first time in a very long time. I’m looking forward to the future and wherever it takes us.