Are you brave enough to break free?

Posted on July 11, 2011

Self-reflection sometimes arrives in strange packages. I was flicking through the copy of Australian Geographic (which arrives mysteriously and unsolicited in our mailbox every month or so) when I came across a story about a family who live on a boat off the coast of WA. The parents had set sail with a baby girl around 13 or 14 years ago, to track humpback whales or somesuch, and now lived on board with a younger daughter while that baby was off at boarding school. There was a picture of them, all tall and tanned and lovely (though not, I suspect, from Ipanema).

It got me thinking. Could I do something like that? Not even especially on a boat, but could I pack up my family and dive completely off the mothership and into our own lifestyle? No schools. No 9-5 job of any kind. No routine that I could imagine.

My friend S is off travelling around the top end of Australia with her husband and three kids in a mustard-coloured Kombi. Five of them. They’ve gone for three months or so, with a sheaf of homework papers for the older two kids to complete and a couple of meet-ups planned with friends. Beyond that, nothing. Every once in a while, we get a Facebook update along these lines: ‘We are so in our bikinis, hot, hot, hot… missing my shower.’ Not easy reading when it’s freezing and blowing a gale in Fibrotown.

The Builder and I have a longheld dream to take our boys to the land of his forefathers to live for a year or so – or at least for a long holiday. Being the planners that we are, we spend a lot of time trying to figure out how it will all work. When would be the best time in the boys’ school lives? How will the boys manage? How will we tie up things here at home? How the heck will we finance the whole operation? How will we feel when we come back (I kid you not)? We are very practical people, to the point of overplanning, overscheduling and generally overthinking most things.

When I see that family on their boat off WA, or read about my friends’ adventures in their Kombi, I can’t help but wonder if we will ever get through the red tape that we create for ourselves. Is it in us to simply get in a Kombi and drive off? Or hop on a plane and go? Probably not without ticking all the boxes, dotting all the Is and crossing all the Ts before we go. Which is counterintuitive.

We both travelled widely when we were young. We know how liberating it can be to cut ties, dump possessions and take off. But somewhere between then and now, we obtained anchors and roots. Not to mention two dependents.

Still, it’s good to dream. If we can dream it, we can do it, and other such positive mantras. At least we’re aware of the fact that the biggest obstacle to getting there is probably ourselves.

Have you ever pulled up stumps and taken the family off on an extended adventure? Do you dream of doing it? What’s the biggest obstacle you face?

[image: VW Camper fabric from Classicreflections1/etsy]


  1. tinsenpup

    We’d love to travel when we can afford it. I think you have to get over the notion that there’s ever a right time to do it. There’s always going to be a million little hurdles from pets to sports teams that hold you back. I think you just need to make the decision to do it then make it work.

  2. Seana Smith

    Hi Allison, My sister and her two children and hubby are off on a boat for a year and all blogging about it at: http://www.28feetafloat.com.

    A fabby thing to do… I would prefer to live o/s in one place for a year or two… but we don’t think it’d suit Eldest so will have to wait until he’s an adult, we think.

  3. Megan Blandford

    We dream of this too. Not on a boat. God no. But just taking off for a while. Trying to save up for it, but how the hell to make that happen without having to save for 500 years?!!

  4. Pamela Cook

    We travelled around Europe in a kombi and always wanted to do it with kids. But life got in the way and we now have one just out of school, one in year 10 and one in year 5 and it all seemd too hard. A few years ago we did spend seven weeks on an overseas jaunt and we all still talk about it. An amazing bonding experience for the family and a host of wonderful memories. But we can’t let go of the dream. We have 2 kombis sitting in the driveway, one to scoot around town and the other to go camping. My advice is if you’re thinking of taking off with the family definitely do and do it before they hit 15.

  5. River

    I used to dream of doing something like that, then I spent 15 years moving every cuple of years because my hubby was in the army! Now I just want to stay in one place forever.

  6. A-M

    I am always yearning to ‘go somewhere’. Doesn’t help being all packed up and pretty much free to do so…. oh except for my boys and their schooling… minor detail. A-M xx

  7. Jodi @ The Scribble Den

    Both my husband & I would love to do something like that, but our circumstances don’t allow it. One of the cons of living a step family life I guess. There is no way that we could take his girls with us for an extended period and no way we could be without them either. I guess we wait until they are older. But absolutely will!

  8. Donna

    I am far too much of an over planner these days to see something like this eventuate. All these examples seem so carefree and impulsive (neither of which I seem to be anymore!). That being said, one day if the stars align, I’d love to take leave from our everyday lives for a few months and reacquaint ourselves with the big wide world…

  9. Posie Patchwork

    I think if you’re going to do it, try to go before high school. Even if your children end up repeating, pretty sure if would be the best memory of their lives!! We are doing the opposite, chosing a farm lifestyle as our getaway, for the rest of our lives & when my soldier leaves the Army, JUST in time for us to have 4 in high school (a good time to take a year off, yes with 4 x private school fees, but how enriching) what a way to remind the children who he is after being away half their lives. I’d just do it, love Posie

  10. Erin

    We’ve long dreamed of it, just haven’t done it, ..yet.
    You may enjoy reading these posts of a family of 7 who have travelled all over the world!!

  11. Maria Tedeschi (Mrs M)

    Yep, if I want to show my kids that spontaneity can be a good thing, then I gotta walk that walk.

    Love & stuff
    Mrs M

  12. Super Sarah

    My husband and I talk about taking our girls to Africa when they are a little older. I am from South Africa originally and have family in all sorts of lovely tourist jobs in various spots. I think it would be an incredible experience, we just need to wait for my husband to get long service leave!

  13. Photographer Mum

    My husband and I want to take our 3 kids around Australia when they are a bit older (currently 4, nearly 3 & 18months). We are going to follow the children’s book “Are we there yet?” by Alison Lester. I think the experiences the kids will have will be really valuable and help shape them as they grow older. (we’ve been planning this for at least a year now, can’t wait till it happens!!!).

  14. allison tait

    @MultipleMum PMSL. Mystery solved. But did you come up with the, er, creative spellings of our addresses on purpose?

  15. Cate

    Well I’ve run-away with the kids for 3 days in a cabin in Sale. Does that count… no not really, but I would so love to run-away sometimes 🙂
    PS: just as an aside you 3 crack me up – it is like my brothers and sister would sound if we all had blogs – can always rely on guys for a good chucle. ta!!

  16. Cate Bolt

    Yes, absolutely. I’m pretty sure we would be doing it now if we had the money to buy enough transport for the whole family. Last year we took off for 3 weeks with no real itinery except ‘Queensland’. We’re doing it again in September for 3-4 weeks – probably Brisbane to Darwin via South Australia. If I suddenly came into large money I would buy a touring bus instead of a house and we would be gone. Gone, I tells ya.

  17. Allison Rushby

    Well, as you know, we sort of are (husband still has a job etc. though — we’re not that insane). I won’t beat around the bush. It has been BLOODY hard work. You have never seen so much paperwork before. It just doesn’t stop. And just when you think you’re done, you get to make an all day trip to Wimbledon of all places to get new drivers’ licences (sigh… don’t ask). But if you keep coming back to it, you’ve got to do it, however hard it is. It’s like bungee jumping, I think. The hardest bit is making the decision to step off the safe sideline!

  18. todd carr

    I couldn’t imagine living off the grid. I need order and a steady pay check. if I left society I would probably end of one of those desert people who collect animal bones and make music hitting the sides of Cactus. I’d be a mess.

  19. Olusola

    in my team dreams, I was an air hostess, pilot or worked on a cruise ship. Anything that would have me travelling a lot. Yep, not sure I can pack up the family for any such adventure but still could be fun to try

  20. MultipleMum

    PS: Friend stealer!

  21. MultipleMum

    I am laughing right now. Not at your post which is very interesting (we often have the same discussions at our place) but at your comment on the Australian Geo mag (and Bron’s and M&D’s at the weekend). Geege and I organised them at a function we went to last year. Must have forgotten to tell you all! I hope you are enjoying them 🙂

  22. EB

    OMG, I have a friend who does exactly this kind of thing- He’ll move to Switzerland to write song lyrics for a pop star, he’ll be homeless in London for a summer “to see what it’s like,” marrying his wife at the base of a pyramid in Egypt during an eclipse (I kid you not).

    His life amazes me. But I’m just not cut out for it.

  23. Amanda

    My parents did this 25 years ago and took my sister and I campervanning around Europe for six months. I’m in total awe of them having organised that in pre-internet days (we phoned home about once a month to a central person who would tell us if someone had died, that was all we had time for, the calls were so expensive).

    I would *love* to do something similar and it should be so easy these days, plus all my in-laws are in Germany so there are endless possibilities, but it does seem enormously, well, tricky. But it’s obviously possible. I will try!

  24. Dolores

    Funny you should be posting this today as I was only stating hours ago to my MG that we want to take our brood O/S for a few months when they are older, to the land of my forefathers! My parents took me for 6mths when I was 10 & 16, it was such an eye opener.

    My brother has taken his kids O/S for three separate 6mth sabbaticals – Bath, Holland & Belgium (lucky for him as he’s a Uni Professor he still got paid and some expenses covered). The kids even went to school over there. I say it was a fantastic experience for all of them.

    Having lived overseas as an adult, the biggest hurdle is getting on the plane.


  25. InkPaperPen

    It’s not the same as heading off on an open journey but we have just decided to leave the country life in Margaret River for the (kind of) bright lights of Perth. I am terrified but excited. I worry how the boys will cope but I feel that they will be fine. We do secretly dream about a year in France…x

  26. Noosa Life&Style

    We did it..when our first child was 18 months old. We headed to Europe with backpacks and a dream..we bought a VW campervan lovingly named Bella and turned her into our dream apartment on wheels. The freedom and adventure and family time was priceless. We went wherever our hearts took us and had the time of our lives. Some people thought we were mad but I think we were smart..we escaped and lived in the moment. The world will wait for you and be the same when you come back. We spent a good part of two years travelling with bursts of hospitality work in between to pay for the next adventure. We lived very well on very little in the most gorgeous places and met so many wonderful people. I am sure this has shaped my son more than any school has here. I would do it again in a heartbeat, especially now my children are older to experience it, although now there are three little people and we would need a larger bus! I guess we took a leap in a different way this year instead and left our Sydney city lifestyle for a countryside hill near Noosa…my new adventure for now. Anyway..my advice is..choose your own adventure and do it..I have always thought discovery and adventure is what life is all about…and as a family..the best adventure…Kylie

  27. House of Prowse

    The house of prowse is doing it – not as isolating as a boat though. And you know what…we are enjoying it. It is a lot easier than you think once the decision is made and you are there. And the kids – they are a lot more resilient and adaptive than you think too.
    It’s all the decision making and packing and unpacking that is the tricky part! The best thing is that we have “choices”.
    If you want to relocate to this Fibro town – let me know and I can give you some advice!

  28. deer baby

    God no I really couldn’t. I wish I could but I couldn’t! I’m quite envious of Rachael (@karamina) who is off to Canada and another one of our little bloggy world Victoria Wallop upped sticks last year and took her whole family on a round the world trip. (http://itsasmallworldafterallfamily.wordpress.com/).

    I’m too entrenched, too caught up in schools and stuff. But I sometimes dream about it.

  29. Mum on the Run

    Hee hee.
    I love that no one pays for ‘Australian Geographic’.
    I did up and go (to Europe) in my twenties and it was just brilliant.
    Now in my thirties + one dependent, it’s not so simple.
    I’ve just come off the airfares site. I need to go. My Mum needs me. Yet, I’m hesitating.

  30. Maxabella

    PS – we also get a random copy of Australian Geographic each month. They even sent us a letter last week to let us know we will now be receiving 6 copies a year instead of 4. So generous. x

  31. Maxabella

    You are in my head right now. x

  32. Diminishing Lucy

    As an individual, I have done it,a dn it was the best thing I have ever done.

    Friends and family have done it, with children. I am in awe.

    Could I? Never. Not ever.

    These days I am too much of a control freak.


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