Have We Risked It All?
Have we risked it all? This question came up in a conversation recently with Craig and Liz of While We Wander, as we sat sharing our stories and dreams. Our opinions were divided on whether or not we’ve “risked it all” in taking our families on these journeys around Europe in old motorhomes.
It got me thinking about it and asking questions of myself as to what it is we have risked. And have we risked everything?
Firstly, what do people mean when they say we’ve risked it all? What exactly is it we have risked? Lifestyle? Income? Careers? Our relationship? Our children’s future? Happiness? Stability?
If you’re interested in reading a bit about our ‘old life’ I wrote about it here >> Leaving This Life We Built.
Over this journey so far I have had many moments of longing. Longing for moments. I am remembering moments of my old lifestyle that were familiar and cosy, that were part of the fabric of my everyday life. Walks at our local National Trust, hot chocolate at our favourite café, candlelit Christmas day breakfasts around our dining table.
Parts of this journey that hurt the most are when I realise I can never go back to that lifestyle just as it was. We gave up that rented cottage. Perhaps we won’t be able to afford to live in the same area, or won’t want to. Our dreams for the future involve trying to live off less income in return for more time together, and I do ache knowing that means we couldn’t maintain the same kind of lifestyle.
But we can create a new lifestyle, a new way of living. We created our previous lifestyle, we can build a new one. Hopefully one that meets our needs better, and brings us more joy and contentment.
For sake of illustration, we have gone from roughly one and a quarter income to just a quarter. We have more than halved our monthly income since Nick gave up his job. That is a scary thing to do! Yes, we don’t have as many outgoings as we did previously, but to take such a drop in income is unsettling. I am self-employed and as such don’t receive a set monthly income, that fluctuation and unpredictability can cause worry.
As I mentioned above under lifestyle, our dreams for the future involve trying to live off less income in return for more time together – and perhaps when I say this, I mean with others too. We hope that this journey will give us an opportunity to try and work out the lifestyle we’d like, the income needed to sustain it, and how we can earn that but still allow us more time together.
So yes, income is one area where it does feel like we’ve ‘risked it all’ – there is little stability with my income, and there is no guarantee of what income Nick would have in the future. But what would we have risked, if we hadn’t risked the income we had grown accustomed to? We risked living in the same loop of not enough time together, no chance to rethink what we spend the next years of our lives doing. Those are things we dearly want to change.
Some people felt that Nick giving up his job was some kind of ‘career suicide’. Why on earth would he want to give up a job at a company he’d worked at for 10 years? All that time invested into building his career, his previous jobs that were built on to get him to where he was – madness!
But he was ready for a change, perhaps it’s reaching our 30s and having some form of a “mid-life crisis”. Although it wasn’t a crisis, we simply kept asking ourselves, where do we want to be in 10 years time and what do we want to have done for the last 10 years? For Nick, he wanted something different from his ‘career’.
If you want something different from the next 10+ years of your work life (and life in general), you have to make a change. Perhaps you are taking a risk, but only to risk what you previously had, and you felt you no longer wanted. Nick felt that without taking a break from his previous career, he would never get the time and head space to consider what he wanted to do for the next part of his life. So here we are!
Risking our relationship
What kind of nutters want to take a family of four and live in a micro-home on wheels for a long period of time? (There are plenty of us it turns out!) We have received a number of comments from people who said they could never do this with their partner.
Perhaps we were/are risking our relationship by putting ourselves into a potentially very stressful situation. There are plenty of opportunities throughout the day living in a small motorhome to lay into each other – when squeezing past each other on the way to loo and someone stubs their toe or gets elbowed, when it’s 11pm at night and none of the children are asleep and everyone’s screaming and there’s nowhere to escape and you know loads of people outside are listening to your meltdown, and so on.
None of these things are particularly unique to living in a tiny home on wheels, but the micro living space does provide the perfect environment for people to totally lose their shit. I am not here to say we are special or that we have a stronger relationship than others because we can live this way. Every relationship is unique. But we are finding our way through these moments and I believe it will only make us stronger as a partnership.
Risking our children’s future
Often it seems that anyone choosing to take their children of school age on a long term adventure is considered by many to be ‘ruining their future’. We’re denying them an education at school, we’re denying them their much needed ‘socialisation’, and therefore this all seems to equal that we are setting them up for a miserable future.
Yes, we have currently chosen not to send our eldest daughter to school (she has also chosen this). Yes, by not being at school she is not able to ‘socialise’ with 30 other children of her own age on a daily basis. Yes, for many people this might feel like we are creating a miserable life and future for our children. That is their view (perhaps it’s yours), and it is different to ours.
We have just chosen something different, and that is ok.
Our daughters are 5 years old and nearly 18 months at the time of writing. This adventure is a tiny snippet of their childhood, and they get to spend it filled richly with their parent’s time (or at least we try to!), and directing their own learning. If they wish to go to school in the future they can tell us and we will listen and accommodate their needs as best we can.
They might not be ‘socialising’ with large groups of children their own age on a daily basis, but for our eldest daughter this is not a situation that currently suits her and I don’t believe it’s something she needs to learn to ‘enjoy’. She enjoys playing one to one, whether that’s with someone her own age, or younger, or older – even adults. As for our littlest daughter, she is busy smiling and waving at everyone who glances at her. I have no concerns that we are risking our children’s futures, if others choose to worry for us, that is their choice.
Risking happiness and stability
In risking all of the above elements – lifestyle, income, career, relationship, our children’s futures – we are risking our happiness and stability. If these are the elements that create our life, that matter most, then yes, by abandoning some of them and ‘foolishly’ not prioritising others, we are risking the happiness and stability of our family.
But what if there are other things out there that begin to matter more – more than the lifestyle, income and career that we built? What about time, time together as a family, time to think about the life we would like to create. I would argue that perhaps we are risking it all for happiness and for greater stability for our family’s future. We are risking it all so that we can craft a slightly different life that is right for our family.
The real risk
I think we have both risked it all, and risked nothing at all. We have risked not being able to return to a particular lifestyle, to a certain income, to a specific career. The thing I think we we have risked most, is being changed so much that we cannot return to some of those things as we knew them previously. When I get to thinking about that it feels bloody scary! All of that stuff was familiar, safe, a nice cocoon built over 10+ years.
And yet I also feel like we have risked nothing at all. I have faith in mine and Nick’s relationship and that is all that really matters. We can create a new lifestyle. Income and careers can be rebuilt. Our children are happiest when we are present and full of life; we listen to their needs and will change our course if they need us to. Happiness is over-rated, it is contentment that I am looking for, and this journey felt like the only way I was going to find it. Stability isn’t a place, a lifestyle; it’s a strong family unit.
We should be asking ourselves: what do we risk by not taking these ‘risks’? Have we got something greater to lose by not ‘risking it all’? Our journey living fulltime in the Baby Bus is not the only way to ‘risk it all’, nor does everyone need to take a physical journey. The important thing I feel is to listen to our hearts and change our lives when things don’t feel right. So here we are.
These photos were taken on the Maremma Coast in Italy.