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Have We Thrown it All Away?

Last Updated 22/09/2020

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Our old life in Australia. Have we thrown it all away?

One of the reactions we received on announcing our decision to sell everything, quit work and travel indefinitely was:

“You’re throwing it all away.”

Were we? Were we really throwing away a great job, an enviable lifestyle and a dream home in a location that is considered paradise in Australia?

Some people just couldn’t understand why we wanted to leave. Our life looked pretty near to perfect to people looking in.

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In Australia there are plenty of people who don’t travel.

Why would they when Australia has so much to offer?

Why would we want to leave? Some people just couldn’t work us out.

The Whole World Offered Us More!

We needed to be out in the wider world experiencing everything it could offer us, good and bad.

We want to learn, experience, taste, touch and smell, in as many locations as possible. We need to have new experiences, not repeat the same ones over and over. We want to search for our paradise, this wasn’t it. We wanted more time as a family, a few snatched hours with Dad before or after work wasn’t enough.

We wanted Dad home for Christmas, dammit!

I think there is another reason, too. We like to be different.

We’re very, very happy that we made the choice we did.

What We Threw Away, Gladly

The Job Thing

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My husband was head chef at a fancy resort hotel , he was at the top of his tree. It was a great job with OK money and a lot of perks in the shape of free stays and dining to keep the family sweet. The hours were terrible.

He had things running as he wanted them, business was good, food costs were down, but he’d had enough. He’d done everything he could and needed a new challenge. Port Douglas is a small town. The chances of picking up another head chef job at a good hotel were slim. We’d need to relocate.

The House Thing

That house never felt like home. It was huge, too huge, I had to clean it!

It wasn’t cozy like the British houses I’m used to. Instead it had vast expanses of white walls and tiles. It felt characterless and boxy.

I did love my garden and my pool. The garden was just coming together, I’d started it from scratch when we moved in. I was harvesting tropical fruits, herbs and vegetables and enjoying the tiny sun birds visiting my hibiscus and frangipani. But the garden wasn’t enough to hold me there.

Christmas Port Douglas 2012
The Christmas before we left.

The Lifestyle Thing

We had the big four-wheel drive and the camping gear. We had the kayaks and the fishing equipment. We had the big gas barbecue out on the covered patio. But it just didn’t do it for us. I never felt part of the Aussie dream, I always felt like a spectator, an alien from outer space. This wasn’t me, it wasn’t how my life was supposed to be.

If you are like me you’ll know exactly how that feels.

The Money Thing

We had a steady income. Enough to buy fancy toys and fill our house full of things we didn’t need. Spending the money was starting to feel empty and pointless.

Leaving honestly didn’t feel like throwing anything away at all.

I think what people were really worried about was:

What Were We Going to Do in the Future?

Everybody asked the same questions. Where will we settle down? Will we go back to Australia? What will we do for money? Will Chef be able to get another job?

I don’t think anyone had any concept of a travel lifestyle being a permanent lifestyle and a good one.

This was years before I’d even heard the term  “digital nomad ” and honesly, at that point, we had no idea or plan on how to make our dream financially sustainable in coming years. But we did have backup.

Luckily, We Were in a Good Position – Backups

Do you have any of the fallback options below? They make choices so much easier.

Both of us has a solid trade or profession, plenty of experience and a British passport. We could work in the UK or Europe if we had to and finding employment wouldn’t be too hard.

It’s common for chefs to work all over the world. If Chef were to see a head chef job advertised in one of our favourite global locations, he would have gone for it.

If push came to shove I could have gone back to laboratory work as a temp. I did it for years in London and the money was great. Again, I have a trade or profession, nobody can take that away from me.

Chef did end up doing some temping in London while I worked like crazy to grow the website. It gave us breathing space to be able to do that.

We still own our house and it brought in a small rental income. We always had the option of going back there if we need to. If we were to need more could have sold it, but that was a worst case scenario option.  Finally, 6 years later, we returned, gladly, not to settle but simply to repair, refurbish and renew before setting off on still more adventures.

We almost own our home outright. That’s not down to luck or being loaded, it’s down to really hard work when we were first married. We spent years renovating properties in London. We endured a lot of hardships that some people would consider unbearable and made a good profit. And you know what? It was fun! That early effort made us our financial cushion.

I think if your mortgage is too huge to cover easily by renting you would be better off selling, but everyone’s situation is different.

What about pensions? Do you have one?

James and I paid into pension schemes for our whole working lives. He paid into an Australian superannuation fund, I paid into the UK’s NHS pension scheme for 20 years. My pound sterling pension isn’t going to be worth as much as we hoped, but it’s there, another financial reassurance.

Being older parents was helpful in that respect.

things to do port douglas snorkel reef
This used to be fun! But the reef was a very rare treat.

My Advice to Aspiring World Nomads

If you’re young, just do it. You have time on your side, money isn’t everything and the world is your oyster. Try to get yourself a trade, profession or marketable skills at some point. As an old person I know it comes in useful. Ideally, create your own business or income streams that are location independent.

Stay flexible. Be prepared to take on any job that will keep you affloat. Never think a job is beneath you.

I was well into my 30s when we started building our nest egg. You don’t need to be a wage slave for your whole life to have a conventionally successful financial future and you don’t have to take the normal route.

If you’re older, like us, and have a family to support, be more cautious. Think things through, know yourself and your family. What do they really need? What brings them peace and joy? Can you give that to them when the travel is over?

Many things could bring the travelling to an end. Maybe the enjoyment will evaporate, maybe ill-health or family responsibilities will halt you. Maybe you’ll run out of money. You need to have a back-up plan and money in reserve.

There are plenty of travelling families out there who work full-time as they travel, they have a steady income stream from respectable location independent jobs, they don’t need to worry about money. We’re not them and you’re probably not either, but you can find your way just as we did.

Travelling costs us far less than living in our own home used to, we also think it’s better for the planet.

When you’re travelling on savings your bank balance is constantly going down. We’re not stupid and I doubt you are either. Nobody spends all of their savings chasing around the globe purely for the fun of it. Serious travellers and aspiring nomads have a plan. Backups bring peace and that’s far more important than posessions.

We blew our budget early on in Year 1 because of family sickness. The moment we left Asia we knew our long-term travel plan wasn’t going to stand. By the end of that year we knew we’d need to work. Europe and the United States ate cash so we knuckled down and worked our butts off to keep the lifestyle and the dream alive.  Chef has a saying ” It’s the ones who burn their boats that succeed. ” Ours were long incinerated, we had no choice other than to make it work. There are many people we know who did the same thing. Don’t be affraid to jump and don’t let the doubters get to you. After many years of travel we are fuly location independent, money isn’t an issue and the ride and experiences have been amazing.  The kids are grown into wonderful young men, well educated, earning, happy and worldly. We wouldn’t go back and do it over the ordinary way, not a chance.

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