Two Days And Counting…
This is all pretty weird
Today is my first day of proper unemployment, ever. And I’m sitting at the kitchen table with my two young sons, trying to motivate them to describe how they’re feeling at the thought of leaving their home in the UK for a year. Rather than just give them a hard time about doing it quickly, I thought that I’d write down some of my own thoughts. Brace yourselves, there’s an unedited stream of what’s going on in my mind about to appear…
In two day’s time, I’m getting on a one way flight from London to Kathmandu with my wife and two kids. We have a backpack each and vague plan of which countries we want to see. We’ll be back in about a year, or when the money runs out.
I’m much more relaxed about the whole thing than I was expecting to be at this stage. We’ve spent the morning ticking off jobs on the never-ending list of stuff we have to sort out. I don’t think full impact of what we’re about to do hasn’t really occurred to me yet.
Last time Floss and I went travelling, thirteen years ago, I don’t think that either of us properly thought about it until we were in the car, heading to Heathrow. We were both in tears before we’d got out of the city, and the abject terror of getting on the flight to Kolkata will never leave me – we were both trying to be brave as we sat down, but neither of us were very successful.
This time, it’s going to be a whole lot different. We’re older, but not much wiser. We’re fitter, but are bringing more stuff. We’ve seen a lot of places already, but not through parents’ eyes.
I haven’t really had very much time to give the detail of travelling with the kids a whole lot of thought. I’ve lost a lot of sleep worrying about it all, but that’s not the same as actually thinking about it. Guilt isn’t a very good replacement for planning. And I do have a lot of guilt. Everyone has said that the trip is going to be amazing, and that the kids are going to learn so much more than they would in school. A lot of people see this as a no-brainer. If you’ve got the energy and the cash, then there’s no reason not to do it. But having had that conversation at least a hundred times over the last two weeks, I haven’t spoken to anyone else who has been inspired enough to quit their job, take their kids out of school and get on the plane with us. And that’s because what we’re doing isn’t normal. It’s very abnormal. It feels selfish. We know that the kids are going to be the main focus of this, but we’re doing it because it’s our idea, not the kids’.
When I’ve not been lying awake, feeling guilty or unsure or scared (because that’s happened a lot too), I’ve been losing sleep about the practicalities of going away for a year. Clearing the house. Saving enough money. Selling the car. Changing the mortgage. Insurance. Rabies jabs.
I think Floss is much better prepared for all of this stuff. She’s actually done research about where we’re going. Making sure that that we’re missing the worst of the monsoon season. Looking up malaria areas. Checking out visa requirements. Being typically practical and actually useful.
I don’t know why Floss is better at this stuff than I am. I seem to have spent all my time bothered about the small stuff, and not given myself a minute to focus on the bigger picture. To work out what I want to see. What I want to get out of the trip. To understand my motivations. I’ve deliberately not spent much time reading the travel books as last time we were away, I remember trying to memorise them so that I’d be properly prepared for the next place that we arrived in. This inevitably leads to failure and frustration. They’re guides, not itineraries. And they’re opinions, not facts. I think that took me many months to learn last time.
This time, I’m much more relaxed about it being our trip, nobody else’s. We’re free to go where we want, and see what we want. If we don’t like somewhere, we’ll move on. If we find somewhere perfect, we’re going to stay. We’ve got a one-way ticket, and once we get off the plane, we have nobody to answer to but ourselves. And that’s the really exciting bit, the thing I’m most looking forward to. The freedom. With work and school lives being so manic, I spend such a small amount of time actually talking to the kids, spending time with them, getting to know them.
I’m hoping that I can relax into being a parent. And having the time to do it properly, I might get better at it. If we see some cool stuff along the way, then that’s going to make it so much better. But despite whatever hard time I’ve given myself on the reasons for doing this, it is all about the kids. And I want to get to know all about the kids.