It’s finally happening. We’ve handed in our notice. We’ve bought boxes. Slowly but surely, this whole moving thing is happening. We’re in the extremely lucky position that we are able to work from wherever we have an internet connection, and it’s taken us a few years to move beyond the realisation that we don’t need to plough all our money into the same four (or more) walls, month after month, paying off someone else’s mortgage to actually doing something about. And so we are moving our stuff into storage, and taking our lives, and our children, on the road.
It’s fun to plan, exciting to dream about, and downright terrifying. It’s not like we’re starting with the biggest budget in the world, and in fact, we still have more debt than is sensible, but part of our reasoning for downsizing our lives and our outgoings is to try to bring that debt under control. We did this a few years ago, actually. We took out a Santander bank loan, consolidated all our debt and spent three years paying it off. It worked well, because at the same time we cancelled two of our credit cards, and in the space of three years, on low income, with a baby on the way/newborn/toddler, we managed to more than halve our debt. Somehow. It’s pretty epic and we’re proud of ourselves.
One of the biggest things I’ve been working through in planning for this new adventure, however, has been emergency preparedness. As a family of foreigners living in England, we’ve managed to create friendships and get to know people, so that if something happened to my husband and I, there would be someone who knows to get in touch with one of our families, and how. As people of no fixed address for a while, that becomes a little more tricky, and being prepared has become a big thing for me.
We need to know that we have access to ’emergency money’, should something go wrong. Whether ‘wrong’ is that we suddenly need to find accommodation off plan, should the car break down, should one of us become sick – none of them are options we want, but they can happen. Being unprepared for them is foolish and probably the quickest way to end our romantic travel dreams.
We’ve worked hard selling off extra and unwanted, no longer required household goods, toys and baby stuff, and we’ve put all that money into making space on the remaining credit card, so that should we need it we have access to funds. Not millions, mind, but just enough to make sure the unexpected isn’t more stressful than it needs to be. Crashing on a friend’s sofa for a week is one thing when you’re a singleton – but a family of four take up substantially more space than most families with kids can comfortably accommodate. Our car isn’t young anymore, and while she’s well serviced (and has already cost us a fortune this year!) sitting on the side of the road in Spain sounds no more fun than sitting on the side of the road in England.
Being prepared for a huge family adventure is certainly about more than sandwiches and drinks bottles. It’s about packing lightly, but with enough of the right stuff. It’s about making sure your GPS is up to date. It’s about doing a LOT of research – there’s nothing quite like running out of fuel somewhere on a back road in Slovenia because you were trying to avoid the toll fees you didn’t know you had to pay to put pressure on a family road trip! (By the way, if you’re religious, that’s also one of the quickest ways to really get you back to focused prayer, praying for a fuel station! I’m totally not throwing eye daggers at the Mr as that memory returns! 😉 )
And it’s about knowing who to contact – or more importantly the children knowing who to contact, and how, in the case of a real emergency, and it’s about having the financial reserves, or at least a back up plan, if or when you need it.
As a couple we were avid travelers, but I realise now, in planning a trip with a family, that the ‘basic needs’ are very different to what they were for two people. What constitutes ‘necessities’ are different. What constitutes an emergency, is different, and plans need to be put in place.
Well… we already have the girls memorising ‘I’m from England, please take me to my embassy‘… words I hope they’ll never, ever need to use… but all part of being prepared, I guess.
I know we’re not the first family to take on this challenge, so let me know… what would you do to plan for all eventualities on a family road trip?