It’s been almost a year since Simon and I decided “Enough! We need a change!”. We were both working long hours, him commuting an hour each way to work, me running a small business and the kids attending the local private school. Nearly a year later, we’re Unschooling the kids at home, the business has sold, we’ve sold over $10,000 worth of junk from the house, and the sale of the house is frustratingly close, (but not quite done). A year on, we feel like we’re a lot closer to seeing out our dream of Our Global Adventure with the children, but it is still difficult to include them in the planning.
This is no ordinary family holiday that we are embarking on, Our Global Adventure is a complete lifestyle change, for all of us. So wouldn’t it only be fair to ask the kid’s what they think of all this? Well, actually, not really… but hear me out. Lucy and Oscar are not babies, at 11 and 7 they are quite capable of expressing their opinions, (and regularly do!). But as our travel plans have evolved over the past year we’ve shared them with the kids in a “We’re thinking of doing this…” way, rather than a “Would you like to do this?” way. Don’t misunderstand, they are looking forward to our move overseas and travelling the globe slowly, but I can’t remember if we ever asked them if they wanted to go.
The reason that we didn’t ask the children a year ago if they wanted to leave school, sell their home and most of their belongings to travel was that they can not possibly give an informed opinion, strongly for or against doing so. Other than short holidays here in Australia, they are yet to leave Australian soil, so they don’t yet know the wonders of the wider world. Oscar has only ever lived in our current home, and Lucy moved here when she was very little, so they have no experience of living anywhere else. Both of our children were quite happy at their local school, but they are too young to know that there are other forms of education available to them. Lastly, given that they have lived the first years of their lives completely indulged by a consumerist lifestyle, it would seem unlikely that they could begin to understand the benefits of experiences over possessions.
Luckily for us, neither of the children was strongly opposed to the idea of a lifestyle change. The only tears on the day that we spoke to them about making changes, came when they realised that we would not be able to take our two cats with us. We have eased them into clearing out their bedrooms by doing the sorting and selling in waves, starting with the toys that they have outgrown. We’ve exposed them to pictures, articles and stories about different places around the globe, and discussed with them where they think they might want to visit. We’ve talked excitedly about the travel that we did before they were born, and shared our desire to have similar adventures with them. We’ve set up Skype and email accounts with their friends and grandparents so that they can see how it will be possible to keep in touch and share our travels. Our homeschooling has been relaxed and fun, driven by their interests so as to keep it relevant to them. We’ve also been very open about the fact that sometimes traveling can be tricky; there are new languages, currencies, cultures and foods to try, but that we hope these trials will be offset by the joy of freedom, and the wonders of exploration.
Sometimes as parents we’ve got to make the tough decisions for our kids. It’s our role to take our family in a direction that we believe will be beneficial to them in the long run, but also to make transitions as smooth as possible. We should be discussing things in an honest and open matter with them so that they feel a part of the process, but it would be unfair to ask them if they want to participate in change, without them having had experiences to compare with. And of course in 12 months, if we should find ourselves with two miserable children, who desperately want to return home to the life that they had before, then I guess we’ll just have to cross that bridge when we get to it. At this point though, we shouldn’t be afraid of failing, we should be afraid of never trying 🙂
What are your thoughts? How much can and should children be included in the initial stages of travel planning?