Packing up home, leaving your city/country, saying goodbye to family and friends to head off for an indefinite period of travel….. is this really the best or the worst decision you could make for your family?? Will it be something that your kids will love, hate, hold against you forever, or never want to return home from??
Will they grow up to be scared of change, or embrace new situations and opportunities? Will they never want to leave home again (e.g. not even when they’re 40!) or will they be on a new world adventure before they hit puberty?? Will it make them smarter, brighter, the next Nobel peace prize winner, or will it completely confuse them… And most importantly, will there be more or less tantrums…!!!!
What about the impact on your family as a whole? Will it turn into a nightmare holiday or the cherished experiences of a lifetime? Will you want to kill each other or grow closer as a family? Will you leave only to return in a week, a month or never?? Will your kids adjust, enjoy, find playmates, rekindle old family ties and friendships when you return or will these special relationships be lost forever?? Will it be the best of the worst time of your life?? And most importantly will your relationship survive??
All these questions and more have entered my mind at some point. My biggest concern was losing those familial connections… I grew up without cousins, aunty’s uncles etc. because my parents migrated from Italy to Australia and a big expanse of ocean filled that gap. Having said that, I have spent lots of time visiting family in Italy and I know that these relationships can still exist – living in the same street or even country doesn’t necessarily equate to great family relationships.
I don’t know the answers to any of these questions and that’s okay because it may be that we will experience some of all of the above…
What I do know, is that whatever experiences my children have, whether positive or negative, these will all be life experiences that we are undergoing together as a family… I also know that we can contribute positively to those experiences by the way we as parents deal with any of the challenges and learnings we face….I also know from travelling overseas previously that relationships especially important ones can last the distance, and we have a lifetime to nurture these.
Don’t fool yourself, the primary reason your travelling is for you. This is yours and hopefully your partners desire – it doesn’t mean it may not become your children’s though.. Ask your kids initially – before leaving home, and they’ll probably say that they are quite happy thank you very much, hanging out at their local park/playground/home with friends and playing with their toys etc….
So why do it?? Exactly, my son’s question “Why?”
When faced with this question, I paused for a moment… how to explain that this is our choice…. not one forced upon us through circumstance, hardship (as my parents had done), a new job or re-location. We are actively choosing this even though we have no idea what’s in store…crazy when I stop and think about it sometimes!
As simply as we could we spoke to him about wanting to spend time together as a family, sharing something we both enjoy with our boys, seeing and experiencing the things that we often only read about in a book and giving examples from our past travels such as meeting people that are our good friends today. Travelling gives us family time, helps us to teach our son about the world by experiencing it first hand, and who better to do that then us his parents.. So, be prepared for THE question…. WHY?? What possible playground, park, friend, toys etc. could be overseas that aren’t at home (and please don’t use Disneyland!).
We thought we had considered both the emotional and practical needs of this big life transition for our kids. While we had not booked tickets until a month before departure (all dependent on the sale of my husband’s sole trader business), we did begin to prepare about 6-8 months earlier. We organised a big house clean up, a garage sale, charity donations, ebay sales etc….. Although we spoke lots about it part of me was probably still unsure whether this would actually ever eventuate….
My son had coped well with this process so far, better than we thought – he chose what toys to take, what toys to sell, what toys we could pass onto family and friends, what to pack. He was better at letting go of our “stuff” than I was… He went with his dad to take his special packed boxes to storage to see where our things would live while we were away. Even when the house was mostly empty except for some kitchen wares, our bed, and a few last boxes, my son still seemed okay.
What we didn’t quite anticipate was his reaction when the last bit of furniture left the house and we were leaving to live at our granddad’s house….. Suddenly seeing the house empty and having to leave, was very emotional and overwhelming for him….. We could’ve kicked ourselves for not giving more thought to this “finality” as for the two of us it was just the last of the practicalities.
We returned a few more times to the empty house and our son soon lost interest in coming back to the house. It meant that when we were overseas the return to home or his room, (which was now occupied with other people), didn’t quite have the same appeal.
The best thing we did was not go straight from leaving our house to the airport and on a plane!! That would’ve been utterly disastrous…. We spent a week at our granddad’s house so that we were still in a familiar space even after saying goodbye to our home. A week later, after our last goodbye’s to family and friends, we boarded our flight with our two young boys, headed for Santiago Chile. Tired, excited, nervous and barely believing that we had made it this far….