Oh I remember so clearly sitting in Kuala Lumper and writing our 3 month travel anniversary blog. Although we had well and truly found our travel mojo by then, the whole family travel gig was still so new and fresh, and it really felt as if we still had a lifetime of fun travel to go on our 12 month journey.
Fast forward 13 months to being here now with an unimaginable amount of experiences, adventures and memories under our belts and I guess after being home for just over 4 months it’s time to answer the tough question, that 1 question that’s on everyone’s lips and we still get asked at least once a day… How are you copying with being home???…
It’s a loaded question with a million different answers. Ask me when we’ve just enjoyed spontaneous afternoon drinks and dinner with friends or family and I’ll tell you it’s awesome being home, BUT ask me as I’m looking at my couch which is buckling under the weight of a weeks washing that needs folding and I’ll tell you that its horrible being home!!!
The emotions and reality of our homecoming was never given much thought while we were travelling, it was just a case of come home, start work, start school, resume normal programming….. or so we thought. Even the simple task of moving back into our house with everyone having their own space and own bed has not really gone to plan. After spending 12 months sharing everything from beds to underwear, it’s not surprising that the kids wouldn’t have a bar of sleeping on their own. Mattresses on the floor of one room was the norm for a while and 4 months on we still deal with revolving beds most evenings. Our littlest guy still sleeps in our bed or on the floor in our room while the older boys still prefer to swap beds and rooms on a nightly basis depending on where they want to sleep and who they want to sleep with. Of course, being the only girl, our oldest has had no problem what so ever settling back into her own room which is often “out of bounds” to all boys, although she often makes room for little boys who request sister snuggles and sleepovers. So free range rooms and free range beds is how we roll at the moment but I think it can only be a positive thing that they all feel so secure and safe and rely on each other and us for comfort when they need it most. Family bonds at their strongest maybe?!
The rest of the moving back into our house process has been a bit of a mishmash of organised chaos. There is framed pictures stacked up against the wall which I haven’t put up yet, the contents of the Tupperware cupboard greet me on the kitchen floor every time I open the cupboard door and there is Hulk smash and Captain America stickers on the lounge wall that the kids put up which I haven’t peeled off yet. I tell myself these jobs haven’t been done yet because I always run out of time and just haven’t got around to it. But honestly I just don’t know…maybe these jobs haven’t been done yet because I just don’t care. Our neighborhood, our street, our house…. such luxuries compared to some of what we have seen. The effort required to decorate our house to a certain standard still lays right at the bottom of our “to do” list, so the superhero stickers that are currently adorning our lounge wall might one day be replaced by the framed baby photos of the kids but for now it’s just fine the way that it is. Let’s just say that House and Garden magazine will not be knocking on the door anytime soon!!!
One of the absolute positives about coming back home was that Carl and I could both step back into secure jobs which we both love. Working with some of our best friends and having that financial security gave us massive piece of mind while we were travelling. As soon as the kids were back at school after the summer break we both started back at work. I was working part time before we left but have increased to almost full time hours. Like any family with 2 full time working parents, juggling work, kids, a house, sport and a million other commitments has been challenging to say the least. The physical aspect has been crazy busy but seems to work well. I start work between 5 and 6am so Carl takes care of the morning routine of lunchboxes, teeth brushing, school and kindy drop off before he starts work and then I am there for school pick ups, sports practices, swim training etc, in the afternoons. It’s the emotion of ‘working mother guilt’ that really kicks you in the arse!!! Being there every second of everyday for over a year and then BOOM… sorry I can’t come to swimming sports day, sorry I can’t come to school assembly, sorry I know you want to stay home and make cookies but you have to go to kindy because Mummy has to go to work, WHOA… that’s the insanely hard stuff. Walking away and leaving our baby at kindy while he was crying and screaming out our names in those first few weeks very nearly made us book the next flight out of NZ so we could continue our travel life. We knew deep down that it would get better and thankfully within a few weeks he settled down and the pain of leaving him stung a little less.
School was another whole ball game. The big kids reintroduction to school couldn’t have gone better. 5 minute celebrities on the first morning back with hugs, high fives and ‘welcome homes’ from teachers, other parents and of course all the kids friends. How lucky are we to be part of such a supportive school community? After our dismal failure at trying to be the kids teachers during out travels, we knew they would definitely be lacking and falling behind in a few of the basics like reading and maths. Not wanting to make this the teachers problem, from the minute we got home we have made reading with the boys an absolute priority. Not plugging in our TV has made it easy to focus all our free time in the evenings churning through the books and we have all worked really hard helping them to improve their reading skills. It seemed like an impossible task 4 months ago when listening to my 9 year old struggle through the most basic of books with no fluency or understanding of what he was reading. But through time, patience and effort he has improved hugely and has just recently started to read on his own as a leisure activity. Kinda a big deal for us!!! But most importantly both the boys are now at levels which corresponds to their ages and their teachers aren’t having to spent extra time getting them back on track. Being so young they have easily picked up their maths skills again although one of them is still struggling a little with writing but I think that may just be a ‘boy thing’ rather than a ‘out of school for a year’ thing. So we are hugely proud with the positive feedback from the school and teachers about their attitude, behavior and ability which has just confirmed what we already knew… missing a year of conventional school to travel with your family and soak in the lessons of the real world only enhances your education and doesn’t damage it in anyway.
So the house is (kind of) sorted, jobs are sorted, school is sorted so we are good to go right??? Well there’s a bit more to it than that I guess. Coming home and expecting to fit straight back in and have everything as it was before we left was never going to happen because we AREN’T the same. We have changed, we are different. We do things differently, we behave differently, we act differently and we think differently. Also our goals, ambitions and future plans have changed. The way we spend our time and spend our money is different and our whole family dynamics is just not the same as it was. Our decision to leave ‘normal’ life behind and travel the world on a tight budget has impacted our whole family in the most positive way. The easiest way to describe this is to simply just say that we just all “care” more. The kids care enough to help out and do chores around the house without being asked or nagged, they care enough to share their chocolate with each other, they care enough to not sit in the shower for hours and use all the hot water and they care enough to say thank you and be grateful for every task we do for them. Our family has a calm vibe where we can all rely on each other to help with the daily slog. We all place an incredible amount of importance on being together and doing things as a family. We are kind of an all or nothing family now. It’s all of us or none of us. Even our nearly 14 year old willingly chooses to hang out and be involved with us more often than not. While a lot of my friends are now loosing their teenagers to devices, social media and their own social group, we are so lucky to have a very considerate, friendly, helpful girl that still wants to be near us and tells us she loves us everyday. Crossing my fingers this never changes!!! Often our weekends are filled with kids sport followed by family adventures albeit on a slightly smaller scale than last years adventures. Local hikes, small road trips to new locations, exercising, staying fit and being outdoors are how we fill our spare time. If its fun and we can do it together…. that’s where you’ll find us!!!
So ask us now how we feel about being home and after 4 months we can now finally and honestly say that we are happy. To the few people on social media that heart warmingly called us stupid idiots for wasting all our money after our story aired on TV, thank you for your concern but please rest assured that we are doing just fine. Having stories to tell rather than things to show has made us happier and richer than you will ever know. Its no longer gut wrenchingly sad to be home and we aren’t constantly wishing we were still travelling. The world is still and always will be tugging at our heartstrings and we can’t wait until the time comes when we are amongst it again but for now we can just be over the bloody moon that we did it. Who on earth throws in the daily grind, ticks up $100K on the mortgage and backpacks around the world with their 4 kids??? Sounds crazy but thats us!!! WE DID THAT and sometimes we still can’t believe it. WE DID THAT and it was incredibly amazing. WE DID THAT and we will always look back with pride. WE DID THAT and we would do it all over again in a heartbeat!!!
WE DID THAT!!!
IMPOSSIBLE IS NOTHING!!!