So we did it
Today is the second day (it took until day 12 to finish writing this post) of our world trip, and what a ride it has been to get to this point. We have always wanted to make this trip and it has taken over the last five years to get there but, now here we are, it is happening!
We are currently spending a few weeks touring around the British countryside before heading off to our first international destination of Dubai (fingers crossed). We are only on day two, and it already feels like we have made the right decision. We are currently camping in our friend's garden overlooking breathtaking views of Dartmoor National Park. It is 5:20am, and I am watching a low mist in the distance moving over the hills as the birds and animals around me wake up. The photo below really doesn't do justice to the beauty.
Last night we had dinner with our friends and before the evening finished our children were learning guitar, cracking out What a Wonderful World and timeless classics such as Old McDonald had a farm. It was truly one of those moments of just wholesomeness and even brought a tear to my eye to what they will experience this year.
Over the last few months as we organised going away parties (eight by the end) people have said repeatedly what you are doing is amazing or the classic of “you are so brave, we always wanted to do this but never have”. So I wanted to use this post to reflect back over the preparations for the trip, highlighting all the gotchas and although somewhat stressful, how you can pause your whole family’s life and go travelling around the world with as little as 45 days notice.
So what do you need to do to leave your current lifestyle and travel the world as a family?
Moving out of your home
Ok so…. This was the most significant pain in the arse and the part I will be ranting about most. The main reason is that we had a checklist of twenty major things we had to do to get the trip ready, and 1 checkbox was "move out of our home and get it ready for people to move in for a year"... it is said that moving home is one of the most stressful things you can do but when it is one of twenty stressful things you realise you may have underprepared. This checkbox in itself should have been twenty boxes!
So the biggest hassles of this process:
Renting out your house, if you haven't done this before it is a hassle. You will most likely, as we did, go through a letting agent who will either just collect the rent or will be what is called fully managed. This means they take care of everything when you are away, including going to view the property 4 times in a year to make sure things are all good. These agents charge for fully managed between 8-12% of the rental amount, but when they are giving your the sales pitch they don't tell you that it is without VAT until you get the paperwork. So if you are at 10%, then it is really 12% inc VAT.
Once you have your agent your house needs to be safe for rental which makes complete sense but you will therefore need some certificates. This includes gas safety, electric installation report and an optional inventory report for when you move out and back in, as the landlord you have to pay for both of these. Why? because some landlords in the past have been dicks to their tenants so everyone now has to suffer. These "extra" joys will cost you around another £500-700 and any work that may need to make the property "safe" for people renting has to be completed within 28 days of the rental.
You will also need to check your house insurance is still valid if you let out the property (ours was not but is now). You will also need content insurance for any items left in the property and optionally landlord insurance for any legal action or loss of rent you hopefully won’t need to use. Finally, don't forget any income you make from the property (rental income) is classed as general income, so it will be taxed accordingly even if you are renting out your primary residence.
The smaller jobs which either suck away time or are costly; house cleaning, tenant viewings and agreeing what goes and what stays. The one saving grace for this process is finding great tenants, ones that fit your future plans and that you feel will look after your home whilst you are away.
Moving out, so moving house is always stressful. However, the stamp duty holiday coming to an end during these times meant minimal availability and costly storage unit fees. I would ring in the morning and units would go by lunchtime. We ended up having to get a unit much larger than we required costing us an extra £1000 over the year. This then became a chain reaction. I feel anyone in the country who moved home in July 2021 UK felt a similar pain. Limited storage units which meant limited movers (we couldn't get any), which meant higher priced van hire that cost 25% more than normal.
We also decided to use this process of moving out to clear the house of stuff we don't really need or is no longer fully fit for purpose. The fact is we are going to be living out of a suitcase for a year so when we return our hope/belief is that we may not need as much stuff as we have now. Nine dump runs later and who knows how many up-cycling items we managed to clear but it took the best part of a week. We also loaned out anything useful to friends in need or wishing to trial a bbq, speakers, turbo trainer, our theory being why pay for extra storage costs if people can benefit from it and therefore by default be storing it for us. Who doesn’t want to inherit and be foster parents to 28 house plants!
Covid aside, if you're travelling the world, you may or may not want to get travel vaccines. We did. They are expensive when there are four of you. If you have children going travelling with you will want to space these out over six weeks. Many of the vaccines you can get for free from the NHS via your doctor; however, because of the current situation, our doctors weren't doing travel vaccines, so we had to pay for them all at a dedicated travel clinic. Travelhealthpro.org.uk is the best source we found and what our travel clinic used to determine the vaccines we would require for our chosen route. Also we had the Covid vaccine as if eligible it appears it will become more of a requirement to be able travel or at least make travel easier.
Luggage / Packing
So we have opted for holiday luggage over a backpacking style and are trying to get ten days worth of clothes in our bags. We are currently at seven, still we have a month in the UK to figure out what we really need. It wasn't our plan to spend four weeks in the UK at the start our trip, we had hoped to travel across Europe inter-railing. Though, in hindsight, this has been a surprise travel hack as it has given us time to test stuff out to understand what we really need whilst knowing the culture, language and not yet being restricted by baggage allowance.
Some lessons we have already learnt from trying to fit your lives in a few cases, compression cubes are essential, they keep your items together and organised which means you are not opening a spilling over suitcase everyday. They don’t however (from the ones we tried) save you the amount of room that every other travel instagram advert claims they do. Luckily, my wife bought me a ruit backpack in preparation for the trip, it’s key selling point is that it has no zips accessible on the outside of the bag (they are in the back of the bag, which when wearing it are against your back). Now having the bag I’ve learnt that it is also just a really well designed bag (the small details have been thought about - the apple of bags, you could say). It expands nicely to cabin size if needed and most importantly, when packed to 10-15kg type weight, it balances that weight well so is does not feel heavy to carry. Very impressed. They are due to release a smaller version but not until November, which we were hoping to get as a day bag but instead bought a nice under armour day back from tkmax for £15, and it works well so far.
Being a British citizen has its advantages when there isn't a pandemic going on and you want to travel the world, as your British passport can get you into most countries without a pre-arranged visa. Because of how the world is now, we haven't arranged any visas for the couple of countries that we may need them for because they aren't open for tourists yet. Still, we can tackle that issue when we get to it. We have also created physical and digital copies of all important documents (passports, driving licence, insurance docs, marriage certificate etc).
In the UK, you can get an international driving licence from the post office. There are few versions depending on the countries you may want to drive in, so check as you may need multiple. The process is easy, you just need a passport-sized photos and £6.
Taking your children out of school in the UK is far too easy a process. We had a discussion with our school, they told us they can’t hold our children's spaces if we leave and we would need to reapply but unlikely we would get back in. We are in an area where school places are sort after and the school is oversubscribed every year, other areas smaller school may well hold a place. The school then tell the local council that you are removing your child, the council do get in touch but because we are leaving the country and aren’t on any social services list or have a school attendance order in place, then that is it. We were asked to fill in a one page document of how we plan to educate our children but I get the sense that the fact we completed the document and sent it back within a few days was more than most people, do so all was good.
We stressed out a lot during the getting ready stage of how we would educate our children during the year and that we really needed a plan but we have started the trip now and don’t yet have a set plan. It has been ideal to start the trip at the beginning of the summer holidays so schooling can be held off for a few weeks anyway. We plan to follow an English school year and give the children breaks from learning when their friends at home will also be off school. We found our current schools curriculum online, which will give us an outline to what their peers will be doing in school during the next year. Our school also publishes on the website each year groups homework for the week so if we get stuck with an idea we can just use that. We are also very fortunate to have several friends and family members who are teachers that have offered to help where we need it, assessing where the children are at will be a key help.
So firstly, we had this idyllic view our world travel, how we would plan a route and book all our major destinations, research these with the children and everything would be organised and to a schedule. Now, we are doing this in 2021, so it wasn't that much of a surprise that when we booked our first flight for the end of August, it could get cancelled which it did. We then tried to book some other countries, but most places were/are still closed to tourists. This although challenging has worked out well as it has forced us to wing it, and actually, that feels ok. We have the first 2 months worked out (kind of with fingers and toes crossed) but after that it is a who knows, we are grabbing this as a large part of the adventure.
Let that adventure begin…
No products were harmed in this post, nor do the companies who I have mention know or have paid me to do so. Still, I will take their money or free stuff if they want to give it to me. Of course, I will accept any water park tickets, or if you know anyone who works at SpaceX we would love a tour next year when we visit the USA.
The next post will be in a couple of weeks once we leave the UK with how the month touring the UK countryside has gone. Until then, you can follow along more frequently if you wish via my Twitter or newly created Instagram account for daily travel randomness.