Our Global Adventure is so close we can almost touch it, we’re almost ready to hit the road and start sharing the world with our children. Getting this dream off the ground has been 12 months in the making, but 12 years simmering under the surface. So how did we get here, and what practical steps can you take toward heading off on a Global Adventure of your own with the kids?
1. Decide to do it.
Of course this may sound obvious, but after years of dreaming about travelling to Europe with our children, talking and even joking about it, we realised it was never going to happen until we decided to make it happen. Once that decision had been made we found ourselves in a different headspace. Simon and I started to see our everyday lives in a different light. In the beginning we had no idea how long it would take to realise our dream, but we began to do something everyday to work toward it, we put the wheels in motion so to speak. We stopped wasting money on more ‘stuff’ to fill our house and began on a financial plan that would get us out of debt and on our way.
2. Talk about it with the kids.
We knew our kids were at a great age to travel with at (then) 6 and 11, but we weren’t sure how they would take to the news of travelling long term, far away from their friends, family, school and home. To break the news to them, we tried to be as honest as possible. We wanted to let them know how exciting travel would be, and what a great opportunity it would be to live in other countries, but also that there would be a downside. Sometimes being away from familiarity and home is hard. Our children were quite interested in the idea of travel, and they didn’t mind leaving their home (or school!). We reminded them that they would always be able to communicate with family and friends regularly, but they were sad to have to leave their pets.
3. Make the decision public.
After making the decision to set off on a Global Adventure with the children, and getting their nod of approval, the next step which really made our dream a possibility was telling others. Once we had told our friends and family what we were planning, we began to feel like it was really going to happen. It wasn’t easy telling our family (read about it here) but doing so meant that we could start to do the big things that would get us on the way, like put the house and business on the market for sale.
4. Plan your escape from your job.
For me that meant selling my business, for Simon that means quitting his job when we are ready to go. It also means planning for our future though, (like doing a TEFL course). We’ve had to consider how we will earn money on our travels and how much money we’ll need to have saved. The plan was always for Simon to continue working until we felt we had enough saved. Even if we’d sold the house quickly, we planned to move into a rental property closer to the office to reduce the amount of commuting he’d have to do.
5. Start a spreadsheet to record and forecast your budget.
Lucky for me, Simon is the excel spreadsheet king. Early on he set up a spreadsheet which records every cent that we are able to put toward Our Global Adventure from the sale of our house contents, the business and the house. He also included all the debt that we have so that as we pay it off we can watch the bottom line grow. By including our mortgage in the spreadsheet and a ‘hypothetical’ sale price, we were also able to forecast how much money we’d be left with if our house sold for the lowest anticipated price. This helped us plan for the worst, but hope for the best.
6. Round 1 of de-cluttering the house – The clean-up.
We’re a pretty tidy family anyway, but like most families who have spent 7 years in the same house, we also had the drawers full of junk like pens that didn’t work and rubber bands, pieces of odd Lego and scraps of paper. We had lots of drawers and folders of paper mail or paper that we’d thought were important at the time, but were unlikely to see the light of day again. I’d kept every birthday card that the children had ever received in a drawer, but I’d never done anything with them, they were just chucked in there. I’ve always said to the children when they were tidying up their rooms, that if they keep things like junk, then they must be junk, but apparently I hadn’t taken my own advice. This first round of cleaning up our house was quite ruthless. We took a trailer load of rubbish to the dump, and gave several bags of clothes and linen to charity. We aimed to only leave the items in the house that we wanted to keep, or that we thought we might be able to sell.
7. Round 2 – Start selling or giving away unused items.
We had our first garage sale shortly after our big clean out of rubbish. We also started to sell items on Facebook pages and on Gumtree. We did really well, and watching the house empty out of ‘stuff’ and our debt shrink was motivation to keep going. In the beginning it was a bit hard for the kids to let go of some of their toys, (both of them love their Lego) so we started with the easy stuff in the first garage sale, like the toys that they’d grown out of, and we promised that they could leave really special toys at Grandma and Grandad’s. A year on we’ve found it gets easier and easier for them. They’ve stopped asking for more toys and they’ve realised that they only played with a few special ones anyway. Simon on the other hand has found it more difficult to part with some of his toys I think! He loves to tinker and fix things and it took him several attempts to sort and part with his tools and computer bits and pieces.
8. Plan to purchase items you need.
Whilst we have kept our purchases to a bare minimum there were some items that ate into our savings a little bit. For example we both needed new laptops to replace the desktop computers that were to be sold. We also sold our huge, hard, cumbersome suitcases and replaced them with soft sided travel bags. We bought the luggage a little earlier than planned but when the cases we wanted came up on a 70% off sale after Christmas we grabbed them. There was another positive side note to purchasing the bags that we would travel with, we now had a visual to remind us just how little we’d be able to take with us, and it helps in the lose or keep decision process. Other travel related items we’ve purchased include lightweight, quick dry travel towels (also on sale) and packing cubes to help organise the packing process a little.
9. Decide to rent or sell the house.
For us there was never any doubt about selling our house. We’d wanted a change from living in the suburbs where we lived anyway, and we didn’t want to keep such a huge portion of our debt that we knew we didn’t want to return to. No matter how long we travel for, and if or when we decide to live here in Australia again, it feels like a certainty that we’d do it different next time – smaller space, less stuff, less commitment, more freedom. There are plenty of traveling families who have kept their house and rent it out whilst they are away, and I can see why that kind of safety net is appealing, but for Simon and I, we knew that the best way for us to create real change in our lives was to create a vacuum. By not having the house or it’s contents, we feel we are losing a burden that has been holding us back. This is a purely personal thing for us and each family will have their own reasons for choosing to sell or rent out their home.
10. Pay off the debt.
From the very beginning this was a pivotal part of our plan. We will not leave Australia until we are 100% debt free. Mortgage, credit cards, car loans, all of it will be gone. This is our chance to start again, and do things differently without same old spending habits or financial ties. We weren’t sure how long it would take us to pay off all of our debt when we first started planning Our Global Adventure, but we were prepared to work and do whatever needed to be done, for as long as necessary, before we hopped on an aeroplane.
11. Education – Decide what to do about about schooling.
There were a couple different options for us here. We could have kept the children at school until we left, then enrolled them in a new school once we settled in our new country, or we could homeschool them. We decided to homeschool them. In Australia we are lucky that there are options on this path also. For families that travel a lot, or live in the outback far from schools there is Distance Education. With this method we could have registered the children with this style of schooling and be sent regular packages of school work from a teacher. Families that choose to homeschool but do not want to follow that method can also choose to educate their children independently using a curriculum or method of their choice providing that they let the local authorities know of their plans to do so. We’ve chosen to go it alone, as we questioned the relevance of the National Australian Curriculum whilst our children are traveling the world.
12. Research and plan the destination, visas and passports.
Our initial plan was to head to the UK first since the children and I have British Citizenship and Simon and I have lived there before. Unfortunately we’ve encountered some Visa restrictions for Simon settling in the UK and so we’ve broadened the plan to other areas of the EU where it will be much easier, (ironically if we live in another EU country first for a while, Simon will not have the same restrictions). At the moment we are leaning toward The Republic of Ireland as it is a country that we never got to last time, but we are also strongly considering Italy, as we both loved it there and have always wanted to live there. We’ll keep you posted on what we decide! The one thing that we have learnt through this whole process is that Visa laws change over time and it is important to keep up with whatever the current restrictions are. Another thing that we have learnt is that certain European countries forbid homeschooling, so that would definitely effect our decision to settle in such places long term.
13. Round 3 Sort, sell, store or chuck last items in the house.
We are moving into round 3 now. We’ve had a second garage sale, and are still selling off bits and pieces on Gumtree and Facebook. We are starting on the furniture now, as most of it is empty anyway. Whatever is left on D-day will be donated to charity.
14. Digitise documents, finalise mail and accounts.
We’ve definitely left the ugliest job for last. There’s still a whole filing cabinet filled with 12 years worth of tax returns, accounts and our life on paper. It will need to be sorted, some shredded, and some packed neatly to be stored at mum and dad’s. On top of that photo albums will go to mum and dad’s as well as some photos being scanned. Simon has organised ‘digital storage’ in the cloud so that we’re not carrying around lots of hard drives. We will have to cancel accounts, and have mail forwarded to my parents place until we figure out who we’ve forgotten to cancel or opt to have digital mail, rather than paper mail from.
15. Set the date, purchase the tickets.
We’re so close, it’s like a carrot dangling in front of us, but until the sale of our house is completely finalised we’re just not ready to circle a date on the calendar yet. We’ve got a ‘maybe’ date in mind, but that’s top secret until the pieces all fall into place… watch this space 😉