Around the world with two in tow

Determined to give their children a unique start in life, one family took a year out to travel the world. Catherine Toms recalls the highs and lows…Have you ever wondered what it would be like to trade it all in for simpler times and sunnier climes? To jump off the conveyor belt of life and press pause? For years, we dreamed about a grand plan to take time out and go globetrotting with our little ones. So one gin-fuelled evening, we hatched a plan to do the scariest, maddest, greatest thing we’ve ever done. We quit our jobs and took off on an adventure of a lifetime with our kids. Here are some of the memories from our blog curiousplan.com

And we’re off…The big day has arrived….my heads whirling and I’m a jangling ball of nerves and giddy excitement as we head for the airport. We’ve said our goodbyes, bid our teary farewells and now it’s time to say hello to one-way-tickets, unplanned adventures and new beginnings.

Making o2015-03-11_1426059885 (1)h-so-amazing memories…
Some days will stick in your head forever. The special days where you’re absolutely in the moment, the days you just want to bottle and deposit in the memory bank of life. Today was one of those. That moment when the sun peeked over the horizon, when we excitedly spotted dolphins off in the distance, when we swam with graceful giant turtles, and we bounced across the waves back to shore, beaming from ear to ear.

Precious time with the girls
I missed too much of the important stuff with Jessica. Trying to do it all, be it all and have it all. Juggling the 9-5 and looming deadlines, there simply wasn’t enough hours in the day to be the Mum I wanted to be.

If having kids has taught me anything, it’s to grab life with both hands, get out there and do stuff together. Having lost my own, beautiful courageous Mum to cancer heartbreakingly young, who knows what’s round the corner. All too soon the girls will trundle through the school gates and enter a world from which they will never fully return to be totally ours again. We will never stand by their side again so fully as we do now. I’m so lucky to spend our days doing the stuff that makes us happiest and creating brilliant memories together.

Feeling far away from home…
Woke up to devastatingly awful news from home. Without doubt the hardest bit about being away is the missed moments; the milestones you can’t make because your life is elsewhere. The good bits – the weddings, birthdays and babies – are bad enough. But the tough times are far, far worse. I feel so helpless, so far away, so useless as I agonise over every word of the hardest, saddest email I’ve ever had to write. Any other day I can be brave about the choices I’ve made, but today this is too hard.

IMG_4716The stuff we learn…
Today, the little girl who left London scared of having her hair washed, gamely donned her goggles and dunked herself into the ocean in search of Nemo. As she emerged rosy cheeked and bubbling with excitement about her first ever underwater adventure, I could burst with pride. The rewards of travelling with kids are huge; the girls have flourished and grown so much already. I marvel at how enthusiastically they embrace new cultures, foods, sights, smells and sounds. Proper little explorers, they’re adventurous, curious, funny and brave. Beautifully aware of the world, they soak up new languages, and have friends in every far flung corner. They’re beginning to see that there are many different ways of living and that we are just a tiny piece of a much bigger puzzle.Sick…what happens when the worst happens
It all happened so quickly… Millie’s hacking cough has taken an alarming turn for the worse. Her temperature is terrifyingly feverish and she’s struggling to breathe. Within minutes there’s an ambulance at the door. I’m trying my best to keep calm but I fall to pieces as soon as the siren starts.

In that moment I regret everything. I can’t shake the idea that this is our fault; we did this, us and our crazy plans to drag two tiny girls off backpacking. Millie clings to us terrified. The hospital is full of masked strangers poking and prodding her, sticking needles and tubes in places too tiny for these things to go; our beautiful baby has severe pneumonia. All night I can’t stop staring at her. What on earth are we doing here? I don’t know if I can carry on, I’ve lost my nerve and my way. All I can think about is grabbing our bags and jumping on the next plane home….IMG_3493Jessica’s desire for stability
Nine months into our trip, I’ve realised the theory that kids are adaptable isn’t always true. Jessica is a creature of habit and finds the chaos, spontaneity and newness of travelling hard-going at times. At every new hotel or villa she can be found laying out her trusty “cot gang” of beloved teddies beneath desks and chairs, poignantly keeping her owl backpack close-by as though at any instant she expects to have to pack them up. To ease her anxieties we’re slowing down our travels, doing longer stints in less places.This morning we chatted excitedly about our trip back to the UK this summer. Minutes later I discovered her stuffing toys and treasures into her bulging backpack, assuming I’d meant we were leaving today. My heart broke a little.

Travelling and me changing…
For all the small sacrifices this travelling malarky brings, there are also huge wins. I’m happier than I’ve ever been. I’m more relaxed, more resourceful and definitely more open-minded. I worry less and enjoy more. I’ve ditched my addiction to lists and am adjusting to the unpredictability and chaos of life on the road. Most days I laugh more and shout less. I’m living my life on my terms and doing what I love. I’ve also learnt to stop buying stuff I don’t need and that things don’t mean happiness. We live in each other pockets and are learning together that home is not a place but a feeling.

The realities of life on the road
Some days are utterly brilliant while others are frustrating, tiring, challenging and bloomin’ hard work. Days when spending 24/7 with your family, in confined spaces makes you go slightly gaga. The thing is it’s always on us. There’s no nursery, no playdates, no babysitters, no family or friends to call upon. Back at home it was easy enough to escape, to shout “Bye!” at the door and disappear for a few hours. But travelling feels like there is nowhere to run; nowhere to hide. The intense neediness and sheer relentlessness of it sometimes freaks me out and gets me down.

IMG_7477Homeward bound
So here we are a year since we took off for our great, big adventure – was it worth it? Absolutely, resoundingly, 100 per cent yes. The perfect time to travel will never magically appear. There will always be a long list of practical and utterly logical reasons why it may not be a good idea. The secret is not to overthink it. Do what makes you happy, even if sometimes it means taking risks.

 


HOT DESTINATIONS

Seychelles
Not just luxury resorts for the ultra-rich, this idyllic getaway also has a simple side. With a little planning and island know-how you can discover Mahe, La Digue and Praslin without a total budget blow-out.

Phillippines
World-famous for incredible beaches, stunning scenery, world-class snorkelling, and the happiest, friendliest people you could ever meet. Hot spots  – Palawan, Bohol and Boracay all the wow-factor.

Thailand
Head for the beautiful tropical islands in the Andaman Ocean for the softest powdery sands, the bluest water and the most dramatic sunsets. Family favourites: Railay Beach, Koh Lanta and Koh Lipe.

Malaysia
With its white sands and azure blue sea, we fell in love with the Perhentian islands. A tropical paradise located off the North East coast, there’s nothing to do but swim, snorkel, kayak or dive – heaven.

Bali
If it’s glitz, glamour and good times you’re after then head for Seminyak. Brimming with fine-dining, boutiques, luxurious villas and world-class beaches, it’s a fantastic all-rounder with something for everyone.

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