The main steps we took to make this adventure happen – legs 1 and 2 – are outlined here.
We identified our drivers
Shane’s Dad used to say “Make the most of the time you’re children are small, it goes in the blink of an eye.” We know he’s right. We get so caught up making a living we don’t make time to live.
Equally important to us is to instill in our children a belief that anything is possible and to create fertile soil for independence and self-confidence.
Second to that, we needed prolonged time out to reevaluate our lives – Helen’s career, our work/life balance, our children’s education and our belief system – particularly given the current global economic, human and environment crisis.
For us, the step from an idea to reality is made by committing money (eg book flights, pay an entry fee) and reputation (tell as many people as possible about your adventure so you’re too embarrassed to turn back). Oh! The excitement and trepidation of hovering over a SUBMIT button on a web page!
We addressed the contra-indicators
For us, the main blockers were concern over accidents and illness, and whether we were being financially irresponsible.
We sought advice from a travel health centre and GP and prepared a medical kit for all eventualities (see Equipment page). Because we would be in remote locations we knew we wouldn’t always be able to ‘pop out to the pharmacy’ and some medications are simply unavailable in Asia. We learned how to prescribe and administer the drugs we carried. Every time I had a bad dream – like Rosie standing on a stone-fish in remote Aceh province of Sumatra – I would pack the solution (coral shoes!)
And being financially irresponsible? When the money we put aside for the trip has gone, it’s gone. Simple. But we took some steps to control costs, like buying two ultralight camp beds to enable us to stay in double rooms throughout Asia (see Equipment page). We also made sure we (kids included) shared the same attitude to managing budget: travel as cheaply as possible without over-compromising enjoyment; rather an 8 month fun trip than a 12 month miserable trip!
We simplified our finances and got rid of all debt
We sold our house and car (and not enough of our goods and chattels) and cleared all our debts. We decided how much we needed to buy a house in the future, invested that money in a high interest deposit account, and set the remainder aside for this trip.
We minimized bureaucracy
We cancelled all possible accounts (private health insurance, house insurance, car insurance, phone and internet accounts) and paper and on-line subscriptions. We pre-paid any remaining accounts and minimized our online notifications. We prepared our tax details and readied our accountant to prepare and lodge returns in our absence. We engaged someone to manage the financial affairs of a ward.
We gave notice at work, early
Helen organized a year’s leave without pay. Shane was on a contract with a higher education institution, so walked away from that, but optimized his chances of returning (he loves his work). Helen would have liked to resign, purely to allow more freedom of thought and opportunity to come our way through our adventure, but we lacked the courage. We both gave more than the required notice and commenced our trip at a date designed to minimize disruption to our employers. What goes around, comes around. But what leaves doesn’t always come back!
We prepared to home school
We enrolled our children with the NSW/ACT Distance Education Program for a minimal outlay and attended an interview with the Principal of that Program. We spoke to a family who had home-schooled all eight of their children and researched a few online sites. It’s fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants really. We don’t really agree with the approach to education in Australia anyway, it doesn’t make for confident, creative, innovative teenagers which is what the world needs now.
We ignored the nay-sayers
There weren’t many – almost everyone we spoke to applauded our adventure and declared “I wish we could do that” (which of course they could, if they wanted it enough). The few nay-sayers were those who (a) value wealth considerably more than we do and (b) reckoned it couldn’t be done (particularly over-landing northern China and Russia independently and in severe winter conditions). Nay-sayers are good for you – they make you more resolute.
We believed in ourselves
We know that anything is possible; there’s always a solution. We know that time grows and shrinks to accommodate activity. We know adventure is ALWAYS worth the effort. We know that our clearest memories – by far – are from holidays and adventures.