The truth about long-term travelling

Travelling with kids is so relaxing, lol 🙂

Travel makes one modest. You see what a tiny place you occupy in the world. – Gustave Flaubert

I am in beautiful southern Spain with our children, in a house by the sea, quelling arguments, writing and enjoying long walks into the hills that surround us.

I thought it would be interesting to share some of the crazy & exciting things I’ve learnt from the nomadic, travelling life we’ve been living for this past year.

The photos I have used are some of my favourite moments we’ve captured on our phones. Usually Anthony, but sometimes me.

Waiting at the bus station in Morocco – not everyone’s favourite activity

One day last year in London it occurred to me that I didn’t need to live the life I had been living always and forever. Something was bringing me towards: The life you have led doesn’t need to be the only life you have. – Anna Quindlen

So we packed up our house, said our goodbyes and set out into the world.

Today I am going to talk about the hard bits of this journey – because that to me is where the interesting parts of life really happen.

And to be honest I find the sun-filtered travel blogs that cover only the good bits so boring and unrealistic. Life is messy, so is travelling.

It’s easy to have a magical, happy time on a warm beach when everyone is a good mood, has slept and ate well and is getting along, but the idyll of travel doesn’t occur every day.

We have had incredible experiences – but to get to those you sometimes have to move through deep, sticky swamps of fear that you find hard to shake.

When you climb a hill to watch a beautiful sunset on your last night in your favourite town and your kids are totally disinterested

Travel for us has included being chased by super-aggressive dogs when we accidentally walked onto someone’s farm in Morocco, and Anthony performing minor surgery on me when a big splinter got embedded under my nail in a castle in Tuscany. I am not ashamed to say I was both hyper-ventilating and screaming when he removed half of my nail.

Or when we turned up with no cash at Fes airport, only to find no shops took cards and our kids were screaming on the floor begging for breakfast.

Everything about travelling is more intense than the day-to-day life of home. The good bits are incredible and the hard bits, crazy hard!

But this is what I wanted from travelling – I wanted us to grow as a family, and to challenge ourselves. To be out in the world, seeing fantastic places and ready to experience more than what our little bubble of life in West London was showing us.

This is worldschooling! We are teaching on the go, delving into subjects the kids ask us about, as well as using the places we are in to lead the learning. History, language, culture, food – so much! When Tessie asked Anthony to tell her the history of the planet, starting at the beginning, this poster came in handy.

Travel been helping us see what inner resources we have, what we can face and overcome.

And there have been so many challenges.

When you are playing with some local kids, and they cover you in mud – it’s hard

Here are some of things I’ve learned

You can be scared and still have courage

If I listened to the levels of fear I have then I wouldn’t go anywhere. I’ve had so many moments, days sometimes, on this trip where I have feel deeply freaked out. Have I done the wrong thing? Am I ruining the kids lives? Am I ruining our futures?

But then we carry on – and we see our kids (and ourselves) growing in so many beautiful ways, meeting people they would never meet at home and learning about the world ‘first hand’.

I long, as does every human being, to be at home wherever I find myself. – Maya Angelou

Our daughter has become an expert tree climber

I feel, too, that what we are teaching our children, more than anything, is that they can find a place wherever they are. We are essentially all the same, us humans, once you see past the different clothes and customs. For most people life revolves around exactly the same thing – friends and family.

There are times when we’ve all felt vulnerable – being so far away from the people who surround us and support us at home. Friends, grandparents, family. People we can call when the kids are sick and we can get support.

But for all the tough moments – there are been hundreds – thousands – of experiences that have made this journey more than worth it.

A rare moment for just the two of us. Travelling involves a lot of togetherness, so we have started seeking out other families to connect and share experiences with.

Trust that people will help you

One of the fantastic things about travelling has been the amount of people who have come to our ‘rescue’ time and again. It’s a lesson I have loved sharing with my kids – that most people are innately kind and helpful.

Like when the stewardess on our flight from Fes realised we didn’t have cash for the breakfast (again no cards were taken), she brought over a platter filled with food for the kids.

When your kids realise there is money to made by selling rocks at the beach with their friends (they were painted rocks :))

Or the endless times in Spain people have watched me butchering Spanish, and come to my rescue by translating for me.

Or on a complicated train journey in Italy we jumped off a train before it left Rome station, quickly bundling many bags and the tired children off. The doors closed and someone jumped up – Anthony had left his camera bag on the train! Phew!

Everywhere we go we’ve found stray cats – which is causing the kids sadness. We are currently looking after a pregnant stray cat. We move on Sunday, but thankfully have found a friend to take her in.

Your perception of the world colours your experiences

If you expect problems, you’ll see problems. If you expect to things to go well – they usually do. Although my mind seems to be in love with that word worry, I have learnt the more I expect things to go smoothly, the more they do. Of course there have been problems, but the less I anticipate them, the less we seem to have.

Thankfully his tendon isn’t torn! Anthony’s trip to Malaga hospital was speedy and efficient, and filled with good news

Travel won’t make you happy

I truly believe that wherever you go, you bring your problems with you. You can probably get a brief break if you really try – but being away won’t remove them. Travel does give you space though, away from habit and routine, to work things out. And I love that.

What lies behind you and what lies in front of you, pales in comparison to what lies inside of you. – Ralph Waldo Emerson

Dinner with our good friend Delphine, who runs the B&B we use for our Arles workshop. We are making friends all over the world.

Travel is not an escape from life

I believe it’s an opportunity to dive deeper into your inner resources than you ever thought possible – if you allow it to. There are people moaning, complaining and staying stuck everywhere you go – even in paradise. If you want to experience more, you have to put yourself out there and really try.

All men’s miseries derive from not being able to sit in a quiet room alone. – Blaise Pascal

Meeting a lovely couple from Hong Kong in the street. My daughter wanted to try the snails they were eating, which they let us do. Great chat, less great snails 🙂

It’s the people who make travelling

The times we’ve had that have been unforgettable have usually involved people. It’s been the dinner we had with an artist in the south of France, sitting outside in the twilight of the garden as she discussed in depth with my son his creative pursuits (which are making animated films.)

The group of world schooling families we spent Christmas with in Italy – having the most uncommercial, unstressful and fun Christmas we’ve ever had.

Spending two months in Spain with some lovely travelling families who have inspired us, made us laugh and taught us so much about worlds beyond ours.

And hundreds more.

Winning the Danish Christmas eve pudding game, and getting an almond pig as the prize!

Making mistakes is part of the journey – and that’s totally fine.

Neither Anthony or I are swashbuckling confident people – but one thing we do is we keep trying even when we have made mistakes.

In the on-off 20 years we’ve worked for ourselves we have missed opportunities as often, if not more, than we’ve taken them. We have messed things up. We have run out of money. We have hired the wrong people. All the usual business/freelance craziness.

But we keep going, not searching for perfection, but getting better at what we do every day.

Peace and serenity in Tuscany

What’s the worst that can happen?

I would like to say I entered into travel with a blissful sense of possibility and confidence – but I did not. Not in the slightest. I felt sick with fear. What pushed me to do it, though, was a feeling – an intuitive feeling – that this is what we all needed.

I will often to say to myself –

A) What’s the worst that could happen?

B) Doesn’t bad stuff happen at home/where I’m at?

C) If I don’t do this will I kick myself later?

Tim Ferriss talks about this ‘negative visualisation’, where you flesh out the worst case scenario in advance, and how this helped him become successful, in his Ted Talk Smash Fear, Learn Anything.

Drop the judgement

It is easy to hate and it is difficult to love. This is how the whole scheme of things works. All good things are difficult to achieve; and bad things are very easy to get. – Confucius

The most important quality I need to travel well is a lack of judgement, and an attitude of openness. I have noticed about myself I can be deeply judgemental.

Judgemental of different ways of thinking, of being, of doing.

Finding kindred spirits

Sometimes this difference is exciting, but sometimes it makes me frightened, unsure, like I am standing on unstable ground.

We spend so much of our lives defining ourselves, who we are and how we think and what we believe. But often that seems to just separate us from other people.

Judgement comes from a deep place of fear – fear about one’s place in the world, and so I continue to commit to losing the judgement and allowing people and situations to appear in my life – as they are, not as I expect them to be.

Gorgeous walking

Our comfort zones are all different – what matters is you gently, gently pushing your own

It’s not easy moving out of our comfort zone. And everyone has a totally different one. Anthony is very relaxed about wandering around day or night into the countryside, around cities – wherever we are.

Whereas I am not adventurer at all. I am most happy in cities – they are my comfort zone. The countryside, with all its quiet, unsettles me. Exploring the countryside is me pushing my comfort zone, so I try and do it as much as I can.

Probably the most time our kids have spent in nature, ever

Trust your intuition

When we started out we had a big, fixed plan of which countries we would cover and when. Wow – that was nothing like what ended up happening.

We’ve made decisions of what to do based on our intuition, what feels ‘right’ in our gut. And that has led to some of the very best experiences we’ve had.

Waiting for the bulls in France

The more we are together as a family the more harmonious we become

I cannot overstate enough how absolutely beautiful it has been to see Anthony spending more time with our kids. For us to build a rhythm together that has brought so much more calm and peace to our family life (but don’t get me wrong, we can still be utterly utterly crazy.)

Some beautiful experiences we’ve had that have so impressed me:

Watching my son for the first time in his Spanish lesson fill with passion as he tried to communicate how he and his friends had made 73 euros selling painted rocks at beach. He spoke Spanish I didn’t even realise he knew – I don’t think he did either.

Daily chats with my almost teenage son on the beach. It’s a complete privilege to have this time with him. I’m not sure we’ve ever been so happy as a family

Watching my daughter run up and down the beach for hours and hours, deep in serious play, with her friends, being completely free.

Seeing my son run with the bulls in the south of France.

After a brief period of schooling my daughter had started to say she was doing her colouring ‘wrong’. But now she has gained her confidence back, and she sits for hours deeply engaged in her creations.

Both of them overcoming language barriers to create meaningful friendships.

Friends, walks and learning about the local nature in Spain

What do I hope for our future travels?

I feel there is so much more for us to learn. Of course there is a more to see – an endless amount – but what I am most excited about is having more experiences and meeting more people. Hearing more stories and making more friends.

We have more places we want to take the kids – Cuba, Mexico, Vietnam etc. And slowly we will do that. This journey is going to be longer than I thought.

Working wherever we can find a desk. It’s not easy working and worldschooling and travelling. But we are getting better at juggling it all.

I am thankful every day that we took that leap and decided to travel.

I really hope that was interesting and possibly inspiring to you. I hope you saw in this that even really big challenges, although they come with problems and issues, are totally worth it.

If you have a dream brewing – keep going.

I’d love to know what you think – please let me know in the comment below.

Our first morning at the Creators Castle in Tuscany. We signed up for a two week stay where other travelling families had booked for Christmas (were they going to be crazy and weird? We were nervous) but no, they turned out to be wonderfully interesting. We ended up staying 5 weeks, meeting people who dropped in for stays from all over the world.

It’s been great sharing these stories with you. I hope you’ve enjoyed them. If you have any thoughts, questions or ideas – I’d love to hear them.

Have a fantastic week,

Diana (& Anthony says Hi :))

The man who says he can, and the man who says he can’t are both correct. Confucius

A terrible photo I know – but it was the best selfie of the series. This is us on my 40th birthday, having a delicious lamb tagine on the rooftop of our hotel in Fes. Gorgeous city.