It has been almost exactly 12 months since Simon and I decided it was time this family had an adventure. Suburban life and long work hours had taken their toll, we yearned to dust off the backpacks we travelled with years ago, and hit the open road. In June 2013 we started putting the wheels in motion toward carving out a new road to follow. One that would give us more time with our children, and less of the stress, debt and financial commitments. This week, after 2 months of toing and froing with the buyer, and 7 months on the market, our house finally sold! So what’s happened over the past 12 months? How did we get this far, and what does it feel like now that we are 4 weeks away from our new lives? The first really big step on the road to our journey began with the sale of my business. I am a school teacher, who learnt cake decorating as a hobby, then eventually opened a beautiful little Cupcake and Custom Cake shop. I was really proud of what we had achieved. My little shop had loyal customers, we produced great cakes, and my staff were amazing. But 2 years later Simon, the kids, and I were all feeling burnt out. In the first year of business I barely saw my family, working 7 days a week, with up to 12 hour days. My Mum helped out an enormous amount with the children, (Oscar had only just started school that year) and Simon took on the lion share of keeping our household running, (whilst working full time an hour from home to keep a regular income coming in). By the 2nd year, I decided to close the shop on Sundays just to give myself one day off, (customers complained!). The business grew enough to start breaking even, which I was really proud of, given how tough our community was doing it at the tail end of the GFC. But I was still working really long hours to achieve that. To be fair, friends had warned me how hard it would be owing my own small business in Australia, but the point that I missed the most, was how much my long hours and would effect my family. Simon and I realised that to increase the takings from the business we would need to grow even more, which would of course require even more hard work and more financial outlay. It just felt like we were chasing our tails, and the tank was running empty in the hard work department.
3 months after putting my business on the market, we sold it to two sisters who planned on running the venture together. They purchased it for less than my start up costs, which hurt, but I figured that combined, they would have more time and energy to commit to growing my baby into the success I knew it could be. Whilst the buyers were not cake decorators, the staff would stay on, giving them time to learn the skills required, and their enthusiasm was plentiful. Emotionally it was a very tough time for me, but I kept my eye fixed on the bigger picture, more time with my family and much, much less stress. Sadly, the new purchasers endured a record heat wave over summer, (not a lot of people out and about enjoying a cake and coffee) and 4 or 5 months after purchase they decided to call it a day. They re-sold the business again. Their selling the business again so quickly stirred up a whole lot of emotion again in me. I realised that no one was ever going to be prepared to work as hard as I did, for as little as I did, because they didn’t have the same emotional investment that comes from starting the business at grass roots. It was time for me to let it go. I literally couldn’t have my cake and eat it. After that, I longed to leave our town so that I didn’t need to drive past the shop any more, especially after hurtful rumors surfaced that Simon had been propping up the business with his wage, rather than it standing on it’s own two feet. These were not only untrue, but insulting, as I knew that the way I’d kept the wolves at bay was by working ridiculously long hours without paying myself a proper wage.
As the weeks turned in to months with our house on the market I threw myself into my new project for distraction, homeschooling the children. Poor Simon, on the other hand, was still commuting an hour each way to his job, and still had the single handed responsibility for our mortgage and living expenses. Simon’s job is not a horrible one, believe me, (he works in Recruitment and Labour Hire, not glove-less hand picking of spikey cacti or something) but his frustration was definitely growing as ones does when a decision has been made to be somewhere, anywhere, else. Which is how I think we’ve all become to feel about being in Adelaide right now. Please don’t misunderstand me, we love this beautiful city, in our beautiful country. But after making a decision to be somewhere else, each day it got a little bit harder to appreciate the place we felt trapped in. 7 long months we’ve waited to sell our house for a price that we are happy with, to a lovely buyer who has even agreed to keep our cat! With every open house on weekends our hopes were lifted by lookers that seemed interested, but were then dashed again the next week when they told our agent that they didn’t even have their own house on the market yet, or finance organised. They were literally just looking, not serious about buying. There were weekends through the summer heatwave where we’d spend all day making our home and garden perfect only for no-one at all to turn up. Gosh it has been tough. But, just after Easter things got even tougher. Simon’s Father passed away, maybe things all turned out the way that they were supposed to. Perhaps greater forces than we understand were keeping us in Adelaide long enough for Simon to write and deliver a eulogy he was proud to send his Dad off with.
You’d think that in 12 months we’d have completely emptied out this house by now, but unfortunately there is still much to sell, sort, donate and bin. If I had a dollar for every time we’ve stated, “We are never going to accumulate this much stuff ever again!” we’d probably be flying first class not economy to Europe. Now, with about 4 weeks to D-Day the pressure is really on, an we’re being more ruthless than ever. 12 months ago when I asked the children to help me sort through the toys in their bedrooms, they found the task really difficult. This week they happily did it again themselves, tossing out unwanted bits and pieces and refining their possessions to only the most treasured. We’ve still got some furniture to sell as well, and my car, so the job’s not done yet, but there is light at the end of the tunnel. Yes. We will NEVER accumulate this much stuff ever again!
What about our friends and family? 12 months ago we announced that we were selling everything that we owned, quitting our jobs, and travelling with the children for an uncertain period of time. I’m sure more than one of them shook their heads in disbelief, thinking we’d lost our marbles. Many have offered advice to try and talk us into making less drastic changes, but now that the initial shock and hurt is wearing off, everyone seems to have accepted that there is no stopping us. We’ve just gotta do what we’ve gotta do. Life’s too short for ‘should haves’, and our friends and family have had 12 months to prepare for us leaving. For some that fell in to the ‘acquaintances category’, it’s meant that ties have slowly already begun to dissolve. It’s OK and it’s no-ones fault, that’s just the natural way of things (all though it has hurt to be snubbed in the supermarket by people who would have stopped for a chat 12 months ago!). For our closest friends, it’s meant that we are closer than ever. The time we’ve spent together in the past 12 months has been precious. With the house on the market, we always felt as though we were just 6 short weeks away from goodbyes. Our families have both dealt with the news of our leaving in different ways, truthfully it has been a roller coaster of emotions from tears to denial, and slowly to somewhere near acceptance. The next 4 weeks will be tough for us and them, and I hope that everyone will see and believe the benefits that travel has for us and the kids when we can show them rather than tell them how great it’s going to be.
And what about the kids? How have they coped in the past year? Like absolute little troopers actually. We’re so proud of them. They’ve been secret keepers when we still had to keep things under wraps, and they’ve waited patiently for their adventure to begin. They coped admirably to being taken out of school, and away from their friends, and learning in an entirely new fashion. Sure, they are normal kids, there have been some tears, and there have been moments when they’ve tested us as parents. But we’ve already learnt so much more about them, what their needs are, and what interests them most. Lucy has matured so much, she’s rarely argumentative and is so helpful around the home, that there have been days when I wondered what I’d do without her! She’s blossoming into a beautiful young lady, and it’s a privilege to spend these years so close to her at an age when many mother / daughter relationships deteriorate. Oscar on the other hand, I’m proud to say, has actually retained so much of the imaginative and fantastical outlook on life that I feared was slipping away at school. He happily spends hours every day engaged in role play with his own creations crafted from paper, card and sticky-tape. The lines between reality and fantasy are still blurred for Oscar. Having taught many 7 year olds in mainstream classrooms in the past, it is comforting to know that he’s not being rushed into ‘growing up’ in the playground like so many little children.
We are all incredibly excited about our imminent Global Adventure. The weight of our old lives is already beginning to lift from our shoulders, and the light at the end of the tunnel is beautiful and bright. For our first Adventure we look forward to heading to a beautiful pocket of New South Wales for 3 and a half months of house sitting next month. It will be the perfect place to relax, gather our thoughts, plan, improve our health, bond and enjoy our new found freedom!