Are We Prepared For A Year Away?

It seems to have taken a long while, but we are now officially just three months from the start of our family gap-year.

I have not been great at sharing the last few months with you, mainly because I have spent most of every night scouring the internet for cheap flights and interesting accommodation.

While not at work or planning our trip, I have also been taking an unusually keen interest in the workings of world currency markets. Not that you’d probably want to hear, but ask me about the recent trading pattern of sterling versus any of the major world currencies and I could keep you enthralled for at least a few minutes.

Progress So Far

Despite my minor obsession with exchange rates and playing with flight options on skyscanner, we have made some tangible signs of progress towards taking a family gap-year:

  • Flights – we have opted for a series of one-way flights, rather than a RTW ticket, and have booked ahead just for the first few weeks to get us out to New Zealand. I may add more onward legs over the next few months, but we are keen to keep the trip as flexible as possible.
  • Places to stayAirbnb has proven to be a great help in finding places to stay for a family of four on a budget. We have booked accommodation for our first few weeks on the road so that we can settle into our nomadic lifestyle without having to immediately find a wi-fi connection to search for rooms.
  • Vaccinations – we have all been jabbed, which was a relatively painless experience, although Kiera did take slightly longer to be convinced of the need for needles than the rest of us.
  • Work #1 – Anja’s boss has known about our travel plans for some time. Some might say this is because Anja’s idea of a secret is to only tell two or three people at once. However, this appears to have worked out well on the basis that Anja has been lucky enough to get approval for a sabbatical.
  • Work #2 – I handed in my notice today. I don’t expect to get a sabbatical. I would be very happy at this point to return to my current job, but I’m also excited about the prospect of taking a year away and not knowing what I’ll be doing when I get back. Our mortgage company may be less excited about this prospect, but I’m hoping they don’t read my blog.

Plenty Still To Do

There is still enough to do to keep us occupied before departure day:

  • House – we have spoken to a letting agent about renting out our house while we’re away, but after Christmas we need to get permission from our mortgage company, get the house on the market and find a good tenant.
  • Storage – the likelihood is that we will need to rent out our house unfurnished, so we need to move out all of the things that we are leaving behind and find somewhere suitable for them to stay.
  • Pets – unfortunately we can’t put our pets into storage, but we are very fortunate to have the support of friends to look after our dog while we’re away, and we’ve even found a potential “volunteer” to be the proud new parent of the kids’ guinea pigs.
  • Packing – we have thought through the theory of packing for a year away…I suspect the reality is going to take a few dry runs, and possibly a few interesting conversations about how we all define what is “essential”.
  • Travel Paperwork – less exciting than researching itineraries, but at some point we need to apply for travel visas and get ourselves some travel insurance.
  • Personal Finances – there is probably more to do here than I’d like to think about at the moment, e.g. research best bank cards for withdrawing money overseas, let our regular bank know what we’re doing, sort landlord insurance cover, etc.

And, of course, I still want to do more research on our travel plans and read about the places we’ll be visiting.

All of a sudden three months doesn’t feel very long.

Are we prepared for a year away? Probably not, but I’m confident we’ll get there!

Village Life

Preparing for our Family Gap Year

In preparation for taking a year away to travel round the world, we have sold our house in Bristol and downsized to a cottage in the country. We sold our house before Christmas and have now finally moved home into our new village.

We had to sell our old house to help fund our year away, but we have been lucky to find a new house to which we can return after our travels. Our new house is a bit smaller on the inside, but this was part of the plan. We didn’t need all the space that we had before, and much of that space was filled with things that we also didn’t really need.

Part of my ambition for taking a year away is to get back to basics. Reducing the volume of our possessions feels like a good step in the right direction. But there was still a moment on moving day when I literally didn’t think that we would fit everything into our new home. After some frantic unpacking of boxes, we finally managed to squeeze everything in, but this involved using every square inch of available space and leaving various items in the shed.

The kids have adapted extremely well to the house move. We have moved to a rural location, so there is more outside space than we had before. From the kids’ perspective this means they have actually gained some more freedome to roam about outdoors.

A change of location also means a change of school. We decided to wait until after the impending summer holidays to make this switch, so the kids will start at the local village school from September.

Adapting to a rural, village location, has been an interesting experience for us all. Even though we are still only 30 minutes from Bristol, the change of outlook (and broadband speed) has been noticeable:

  • It is very quiet at night…and dark
  • We wake to the sound of the nearby farm cockerel, rather than the background hum of traffic
  • Electricity supply can not be taken for granted, with the occasional mini-blackout a “feature” of the new house that we hadn’t anticipated
  • We have wildlife all around us, with a whole variety of garden birds, farmyard animals, insects and pond life on our doorstep
  • Buying a pint of milk takes more planning than before, needing to fit in with the opening times of our community-owned village store
  • The only real source of traffic jams is being stuck behind a tractor
  • Modern technology has been overtaken by the radio as our most reliable source of regular entertainment
  • Gardening is higher up on my list of weekend activities

This transition to a new life is only a temporary interlude while we wait to be able to rent out our new house. But at some point we will need to return from our gap-year and get back to normal life, so it’s nice to know that we have a family home to which we can return.

family travel blog

I am now turning my attention back to our trip. The first order of business is to re-plan our itinerary to take account of a new departure date in March 2017. My aim is to plan a route that combines spending quality time in a few locations, alongside some interesting road trips. I am not intending to plan the route down to a daily schedule, because we want the freedom to be able to changes plans as we go. But I would like to have an outline direction of travel to start booking flights.

All About Our Trip – by Kiera

What are your favourite things to do?

My favourite things to do are swimming, running and playing outside with my sister Lexi. I also like playing in the park with my friends after school. I like to sing, dance and do drawing, models and being Creative!

creative-graphic

 What are your least favourite things to do?

To go in the car for long journeys, and if I have to go on an aeroplane for a long time.

What are you most looking forward to on our trip next year?

Visiting new country’s I`ve never heard of or been to before, looking around and seeing what it is like and how different people live as different cultures.

 

Is there anything you will miss while we are travelling?

All my friends, my house, my dog Hugo, my hamster Oaty, and last but not least my two guinea pigs Rusty and William. I will also miss having a very long garden, my climbing frame and my trampoline.

bff

 

Which countries are you most looking forward to visiting?

Canada because I really want to see a bear – my favourite teddy is a bear. My Mum and Dad have been to Canada. I`m looking forward to Australia because it will be interesting to see different animals.

canada-flag

 Do you want to take a year away to travel round the world?

I don`t really want to go on the trip around the world because I don’t want to have the injections.

injection

 

But I also think that it will be quite good fun because I like going on holiday and looking around different countries.

 

House Swap

Selling our house, so that we can take a year away to travel round the world, was just one item on the pre-departure checklist, alongside more mundane activities such as organising vaccinations and buying some suitable rucksacks. The house selling process, however, is still ongoing and the reality is dawning that we will not achieve our hoped for departure window of July 2016.

We have now got some buyers lined up, and all being well we should have sold our family home by some time during May. This should help us to get back to planning our year away, which will need to start with a re-working of our itinerary  based on a new departure target of Spring 2017.

It will be a relief to sell our house so that we can start making some firm travel plans, but there is also some sadness in leaving our home behind. We have to sell our current home to fund our trip, which in our minds is a good trade-off to enable us to follow our dreams.

We do still need somewhere for the kids to sleep when we get back, so we are buying a smaller house nearby that we can hopefully rent out when we go, but which does at least give us a base for when we return.

Choosing somewhere to live for the next 6-9 months, that we can then also rent out, was trickier than I expected. We started with a very logical plan to buy a more modern property than our current 1900’s house, on the basis that we wanted something low maintenance and hassle free. What we found was a lovely stone cottage, which was modern once, around about the time of the Crimean war. On the plus side the house has managed to remain standing for the last 150 odd years, so with a bit of luck it should be ok for one year while we’re away.

All we need now is for everything to run smoothly with the final stages of the home moving process so that the real fun can commence!

 

 

 

Habla Espanol?

Serious travel planning for our round the world family trip is currently on hold, while we finalise the sale of our house.

Therefore, in a minor attempt to plug some of the gaping holes in my global adventurer toolkit, I am instead trying to learn a little Spanish. I opted for Spanish on the basis that I believe it to be one of the most widely spoken languages outside of English. Also, I like Spain, so perhaps a few words will come in handy on future summer holidays when I’d really like to know what I’m ordering for dinner.

Thankfully, as for nearly everything else, there are now plentiful free apps that promise the road to fluency in practically any language you fancy. After several concentrated seconds of research, I opted for an app called “Duolingo”, which I would definitely recommend for beginners.

After around ten hours of lessons, which are helpfully broken up into easily manageable 5-10 minute stages, I am now apparently 10% fluent! I find this hard to believe, but I suspect the next 90% gets harder. At least I may now be able order some drinks at a bar without having to rely purely on pointing, providing the kids are happy with either milk (leche) or orange juice (hugo de naranja) and nobody starts asking me any awkward questions.

Buenos noches.

Dan

 

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