I was in the Canaries with my friend, chilling out with a much needed week off when I received a phone call from Himself. "Now, don't freak out but I've decided we are not renewing the lease on the house in October, we're going travelling for a year". Ummmm, ok?? Naturally, I did freak out ..... just a little bit. My mind was all over the place, what about all our stuff? How are we going to do this? Where to do we even start? Where are we going to go? What about the kids education? Where will we end up? For once, he had actually picked a good time to chuck in a 'Sargie Surprise'. I had time to digest it, talk it over with my friend and start believing that this was indeed going to happen and it will be awesome. Plus, we had loads of time to prepare right? It was February and the lease on our house didn't come to an end until the middle of October. Plenty to think about, shed loads to do and a lifetime of stuff to go through and get rid of. All in 8 months, easssyyyyy ..... 😝
It just felt the right moment in our lives to do this. We were both tired of the endless rat race, adhering to 'society's rules', ticking the normal box when we actually love being the eccentric ones. Also, the children were growing up. We wanted to spend as much time with them as we could, making memories and actually getting to know them, preparing them for the big wide, perplexing and sometimes downright nasty world we live in.
So, where do we begin? At first, we thought we would take our two cars, load them up with camping essentials and just drive, planning each day as we go. We could go anywhere. How exciting. We toyed with travelling to Asia first, or maybe Australia, how about South America? As we researched weather patterns, it became apparent that we were starting at the wrong time of year to do certain countries. So back to the drawing board.
As it happened, an economist that Himself follows was holding a conference in Orlando, Florida in October. Surely it was a sign 🤔. Why not kick off our amazing adventure with a trip to Orlando. The kids will love it. We had been a few times and knew that this would be a great start to our travels. Then we thought, how about adding a trip onto a trip and another onto that. Plans were afoot. We would stay in Orlando for two weeks with a 14 day pass to Universal Studios and Busch Gardens (thankfully we are all speed freaks 🎢). Then we would collect an American RV and make our way up the East Coast of America visiting different states and exploring, all whilst travelling in our accommodation, genius! This would take another three weeks ending our RV excursion in New York where we would stay in an apartment (the children were so excited to see a dishwasher 😜) for 6 nights before flying out to Antigua to spend a further 15 nights on a Catamaran sailing the islands. It was so exciting, most certainly a dream come true 🌈
So that's exactly what we did. After extensive research on which vehicle to rent, we finally decided on the Thor Windsport 34 foot RV, renting from El Monte in Orlando. It was huge and the bonus was that in America, there are no restrictions on your license. Anyone can drive it. Here she is. Colossal. AND the entire side slides out to make the interior bigger once you have stopped and have stabilised the vehicle with the hydraulic jacks for the night. For a family of 5, this was perfect.
Purging our house was so satisfying. You come to realise just how much you accumulate when you literally have a container to fit your most prized possessions in to and my shoes 👠😊. We sold most of our furniture and the children held a couple of car boot sales, saving only what they really wanted to keep. On the 26th of October 2017, we took off from London Gatwick to Orlando and our amazing journey began.
Now, I know what you're thinking 🤔..... what about the children's education? That is the question everyone asks us. It's simple really, Fidget Boy was just 7 years old when we started and was going to year 3. I bought all his books from Amazon and joined Twinkl online which has resources for all home schooling. I would sit in the evenings and work out a schedule of how we are going to fit in his schooling and what was really important for him to learn for the year. I printed off sheets from the internet with fun word searches, maths worksheets and had a list of the compulsory words he had to learn for the year regarding spelling. Then took it from there. We would work in the mornings as we are both up early, so while the others were asleep we would get our handwriting done and work through the books I had bought. You Tube also provided us with lots of great, fun videos that weren't boring nor too long for his attention to wane. The places we were visiting also were incredibly educational. He was learning about the Egyptians, so whilst in New York, I took him to the Met Museum where they had a wonderful exhibition all about the Egyptians. Whilst sailing in the Caribbean we visited the island of Montserrat, where in 1995, the previously dormant Soufriere Hills volcano became active and erupted. He was doing volcanos in geography at the time. It was both fascinating and humbling to see.
Petulant Preteen (11 at the time) had just finished primary school, so it was perfect timing for her to start her high school education online. Being dyslexic, she did struggle academically and she was also a delicate, sensitive free spirit, so being in an environment where her peers would start their scathing friendship selection process, we thought she would be much better off without the next few years of her life spent in floods of tears and worrying about if and how she fitted in. When we told her she wouldn't be starting school and she would instead be learning from home, she was overjoyed.
Obstinate Adolescent (14 at the time) was just about to start year 10, so the first year of her GCSE's. She is incredibly academic and absolutely loves school (this still baffles me 😜). Being in the top set for each subject, she found school relatively easy and loved hanging out with her friends. So as you can imagine when we told her she wasn't going to be attending a regular school and we would be leaving the area we were living in to go travelling for a year (or two?), she went absolutely ballistic. First there was the defiance. "I'm not going", then there was the anger "I can't believe you're making me do this". She went all out to make our journey as difficult and unpleasant as possible. Many tears have been shed (mine too) over this, however over the last few weeks (we left 45 weeks ago) she seems to be enjoying herself more and getting to grips with it all. Persistence is key it seems.
Anyway, I digress, back to their education. I researched a ton of options. Perhaps we could take a tutor with us? That would be difficult though finding someone with all the credentials to fit into our wonderfully colourful family. Then I found Oxford Home Schooling. They provide online courses with a tutor for each subject you choose to take. The coursework is sent by either PDF or folders by post and you work through each subject with Tutor Marked Assignments along the way to make sure you are getting through and understanding the curriculum. You can communicate with your tutor via email, Skype or telephone. Also as Obstinate Adolescent was so determined to do well academically, I thought this would be the best option for her too as the GCSE's were IGCSE's which are widely recognized by higher education institutions and employers around the world. So I enrolled both girls and informed the local authority that we would be taking our children out of the education system and home schooling them. It really was that easy (once I had found the perfect solution of course).
That's how it all started. I will admit there were times when I was sceptical and did doubt our decision. This was driven mostly by fear of the unknown. I will say though, that the day I sat down in my seat on our flight to Orlando, I felt this huge wave of freedom. I sat back, looked out of the window and smiled. This is right. This is what dreams are made of. This is just the beginning.