It has been six months since we sold our solid brick, three bedroom terrace house in London, with its sensible lawn and a very practical bathroom. We sold almost everything that we had crowbarred into every nook and cranny too – stuff we had lovingly curated over the years; furniture, toys, our vintage crockery. We had no need for a house and the flotsam that comes with it – we were a family seeking an adventure.
We set off around Europe in a Camper van, my husband Tim, our two year old, Ramona, our 3 month old baby, Juno and an ever-so slightly frazzled me.
Have you seen Revolutionary Road? With Leonardo Dicaprio and Kate Winslet? I spent the first few minutes feeling delighted that there was a sequel to Titanic – death not withstanding – but I was quickly drawn into their story, recognizing that for a middle-class couple like us this could become our story too.
That, unless we make constant, deliberate decisions otherwise, a White-Picket-Fence life – or the London version of a three bedroom, Victorian Terrace life- could trip us up and trap us. And then, just like Leo and Kate, but less fit, we would realise that we had forgotten to follow the song in our hearts and had lost a bit of our wildness. That by conforming to a perfect nuclear family, 9-5 life we had pulled our dreams out of the sky and folded them away in our nice Scandinavian drawers with the extra deep storage.
My husband and I analysed that film for days afterwards. Yep, we’re the annoying pair that is on the bus home after a fun visit to the cinema with friends going “But WHY, WHY DID THAT HAPPEN?! And how can we avoid a similar metaphysical crisis?”
I guess it was some of those conversations that led us to be living in a van far too small for a family of four, with no loo, free- camping from one country to another. We figured that we could manage this on my maternity pay, if we left just after Juno was born. So Tim handed in his resignation and we sold up, packing our lives into one suitcase.
It was annoying banging our heads every 7 minutes on the ceilings and cupboards and it was hard trying to nurse Juno through some heavy, screaming bouts of teething at 3 am without waking the whole family. And having to get the campervan towed away to the mechanics for fixing not once, but TWICE, did throw a bit of a spanner in the works.
But we had a whole coast line as our playground and the walnut and fig and pomegranate trees became our fruit bowl. Our entertainment was provided by the ancient senores and senoritas who so freely shed their threads and dallied in the waves of the NUDISTA beaches.
We swapped cigarette butts and old fried chicken bones for sea shells and salty bits of seaweed as the choking hazards scattered on the floor that Juno was most determined to check out.
And I guess it is all about swapping, essentially. We have traded in a sense of security for the ability to see wondrous parts of the world- and some weeks we feel that loss of security keenly and the magnificent sights only just make that trade- in worth it.
We have traded in a regular income for the awesomeness of being all together as a family for huge chunks of time – and there are moments we find this thrifty life tough.
We have traded in the simple pleasure of hanging out with our best friends, wonderful neighbours and helpful family members for the surprising joy of meeting strangers and finding a spark – a connection of souls. We met one family in Croatia in a matching campervan that we found again in Spain and ended up spending the remainder of our trip with! But it didn’t stop Ramona asking if she could see her best London buddies, Ivy, Iris and Esme, each day.
Ultimately we swapped countries.
Our gadabout Europe paved the way for an epic move to the other side of the world, New Zealand, where my husband is from. A country so far away that it takes MORE THAN A DAY of your life to fly to. We felt we could see our little revolution through here, that spending some years in these wild lands would give wings to our hopes of living, and parenting, with abandon.
With perfect poetic flourish, we arrived here at 11:45 on New Years Eve and we welcomed in 2014 standing in the queue for Immigration. If it was a film, it would have been touching; *narrator* Strangers bought together in a new country moments before a New Year began… but actually it just involved a very hesitant and awkward count down (begun by my husband) and much avoiding of unnecessary eye contact.
And here we are. This island in the middle of nowhere, where much of it remains INTERNETLESS (I KNOW!!) where every over hanging branch has a swing tied to it and most of the children are barefoot.
No home- just a bus (but this time, LUXURY OF LUXURIES, it has a loo!) no jobs – just a few ideas, and no plan – just a sense of adventure and a determination to follow our hearts.
Lucy writes a parenting and lifestyle blog over at Lulastic and the Hippyshake (lulastic.co.uk) and she just recently launched a thrifty blog, Wonderthrift, especially for stylish and eco minded folk who want to save money. Lucy, her husband, and her two daughters have just moved to New Zealand and you can follow their adventures in wilderness each month here on Loved By Parents.