June 14, 2016
February 29, 2016
One Instagram account I truly enjoy following is Courtney Adamo’s (34), co-Founder of Babyccino Kids, who is currently on a family gap year with her husband Michael (45) and their four children: Easton (10), Quin (8), Ivy (6), Marlow (3).
Leaving London in July 2015, they have so far visited the U.S., Peru, Brazil, Uruguay, Argentina, Chile and New Zealand, Australia and will soon head to Japan, Thailand, Sri Lanka and then back to Europe for the summer.
With four young children, a career and a house, uprooting and embarking on such an adventure takes some serious planning. I got in contact with Courtney to pick her brains on how she organised such a journey.
A fascinating read…enjoy!
ORGANISING AND BUDGETING A FAMILY GAP YEAR
How far in advance did you start planning this amazing trip? Michael and I made the decision to embark on this year of travel back in the autumn of 2014. We put our house in London on the market and it was sold by February.
From this point, we started thinking about our trip and narrowing down the places we wanted to visit. With four kids, we had to do a fair amount of planning of course, but there was no way we could work out everything in advance — plus we wanted to leave some room to improvise.
Our ‘Around the World’ fare tickets are very flexible on date changes so it has allowed us to be flexible too.
When we fell in love with surfing in Uruguay we shifted our time from Argentina to Chile, where the surf is great. We discovered a little surf town called Pichilemu by googling ‘best Chilean beach towns’, booked a house on Airbnb and stayed for three weeks. So while many things were planned in advance, we’ve also done a lot of on-the-go planning as well.
How did you budget everything?
Thankfully Michael (who is a film producer) handles our finances! I would be terrible at this. He is organised and very good at creating budgets and ensuring we stick to them. I don’t think he uses a special app, though he does spend a lot of time looking over our expenses in the online banking site, and again using spreadsheets to keep us on track.
How did you sort out visas for each country?
We all have both UK and US passports and this has proven helpful for all of the countries we have visited. Where some countries require a visa for UK citizens, we then use our US passports to travel there, etc. So far we haven’t needed any visas during our trip.Where are you staying in each country?
We have mostly booked houses or apartments through airbnb or other similar services. We have only stayed in a hotel a couple times, both during quick city layovers en route to different destinations.
In Los Angeles we stayed in a wonderful family home we booked through Kid & Coe, and we will soon be staying in another of their properties when we get to Australia. It’s so much nicer to stay in a house or apartment where you have a kitchen to cook meals and a washing machine to do the laundry, etc. With Kid & Coe you have the added benefit of staying in kid-friendly properties, so there are usually toys for the kids to play with, children’s highchairs and beds, and it makes you feel right at home.
How did you fund this trip?
We sold our newly renovated home in London, which turned out to be a good investment for us. With the earnings from the house sale, we knew we could afford to travel for one year, as long as we did it on a budget. This trip has not been sponsored in any way. Except for the odd discount here and there, we have paid for everything out of our savings.
What did you do with your belongings and furniture?
We sold a lot of things on Ebay or gave things away to charity shops (about a half-dozen minivans full) and kept only what was meaningful to us…the sentimental things that couldn’t be replaced or things we were 95% confident we would use again.
We kept our 1950s piano because I love it and know it will be difficult to replace. We also kept our paintings, art prints, and our pottery and sculptures. I kept the nicer table linens and bedding, but gave away the rest and of course we kept all our family keepsakes, like the children’s artwork, photos and journals.
To make sure all our treasured belongings were kept safe whilst we were on our travels, we rented a storage unit* on the outskirts of London.
*A self-storage company like Shurgard offers units from 10 to 240 square feet. Check out promotions on offer as often, various promotions and discount apply including £1 storage for the first month for first time users.HOMESCHOOLING THE CHILDREN WHILE ON THE ROAD
What teaching materials do you use to teach four different curriculums to your children?
The travel itself has been immensely educational (for all of us) but we are homeschooling* the 6, 8 and 10 year old kids as well. We try to start each weekday with lessons in maths, reading and writing, but we also remain flexible.
Many lessons are inspired by our travel and their curiosities. Things like coconut and papaya production, Rheas (flightless birds of the pampas), desert rock formations or ocean currents. On days when we take a field trip to an interesting place or museum we let that experience be the lesson for the day.
Each of the children are keeping journals which are now full of interesting things they’ve seen, learned and experienced. We encourage them to write in them clearly, neatly and with good grammar. Math is taught using age-specific workbooks Michael brought along and then he creates ‘worksheets’ for them to practice the day’s lesson.
We are not following the national curriculum closely, but we do have a series of books called, ‘What your Year X child should know’, that we use as a guide for maths and literature, in particular. We’ve also discovered the Khan Academy, which has been a great resource for maths help, especially when you’re trying to teach something you learned thirty-odd years ago. Finally, we make sure that each of the three older kids have a novel or young readers book they are reading daily.
*Other interesting books to read about homeschooling include: The Unschooling handbook: How to use the world as your child’s classroom and How Children Learn and Don’t waste your time homeschooling: 72 things I wish I’d known
Do you find homeschooling challenging?
Homeschooling has certainly proven more challenging than either Michael or I anticipated. Our eldest, Easton, has responded really well to being taught by his dad, but Quin and Ivy, both great students in the classroom, have been difficult to focus and teach at home.
It’s also challenging to teach three students at the same time when their levels are so different and they each have different areas of need. We’re slowly getting the hang of it though and it has been extremely rewarding to watch them learn and progress. I would even dare to say that their progress has been more noticeable than any other year in traditional school!
Have you got a routine?
We have never been super strict on routines in our family. I am a happier, more relaxed mum if I go with the flow rather than stress about timings and routines. Saying this, I think we are even more relaxed than usual this year.
We usually wake at the lazy hour of 8am, make breakfast together, eat and get dressed for the day. We’ll usually spend the next few hours doing work and homeschool. Afternoons are typically spent on the beach or on a field trip to a local museum, hike, etc. The kids have been learning to surf and it’s definitely been a joy to watch their passion evolve over the past few months. Even I have caught the surfing bug!
On rainy days we’ll spend more time doing lessons at home. We try to incorporate our weekly activities and discoveries into our lessons. It’s been so nice to have the flexibility to teach them when they are interested and engaged in a subject that we are experiencing first-hand. They had no trouble learning South American geography, for example, as they were so interested in all of the places they were visiting.
In the evenings, we make dinner and play games together. We’ve become quite relaxed about bed times and evening routines, which is nice as it means our evenings are generally stress-free..
What do the children miss the most apart from their friends?
I didn’t know the answer to this, so I asked them!
Ivy says she misses her dolls and her dress-up tutus. Marlow misses those too. She also misses her Monkey Music class which she took in Primrose Hill. I think the boys occasionally miss having their own space away from their parents where they can play and read and not have their parents within earshot all the time.
We all miss our bookshelves too. We keep being reminded of books we had in London (currently in storage). There are so many great children’s books I used to read to the boys that I wish I could read to the girls, especially to Marlow who really enjoys being read to right now.FAMILY LIFE ON THE ROAD
How are you staying in touch with your family?
Getting access to wifi has been a daily struggle, especially now that we are in a camper van in New Zealand and are constantly on the move. Some campsites have good wifi and others don’t have anything at all.
I bought a SIM card through T-Mobile when I was in the US this summer, and it has been quite good throughout our travels – with low rates and unlimited 3G wifi. Instagram has been a good way to stay in touch with my family. I try to update daily so they can keep track of us, and I can also see photos of all of them. When we have a good 3G mobile phone connection we can also do FaceTime calls which are fun.
What do you mostly cook on the road?
We mostly eat vegetarian in our family, so meals are generally quite light and easy to make. Once a week we’ll make veggie burritos with guacamole and pico de gallo. For breakfast, I usually make porridge or we’ll have yoghurt with cereal and for lunch we’ll make simple sandwiches.
I also like to cut up vegetables and apples every morning to have ready for snacks, since the kids will inevitably say they’re hungry the minute we start driving the car!
Do you carry a lot of medicines with you in case the children get really sick and did you take up a worldwide health assistance cover?
We have a first-aid kit with us with all the basic medicines (thankfully not needed so far). With regards to insurance, we used a broker: Cobine Carmleson, who help us to demystify anything insurance related. Jason Cobine reviewed the options for ‘Gap Year’ coverage (yes, this exists) and then helped us select the best policy for our circumstances. There turned out to be one from Hiscox costing around £1,600 for our family of six. Having reviewed the fine print we know it’s not perfect, but there were no perfect options available, and it seemed to cover the most likely issues. Thankfully we have not had to call upon it yet. Over the next few months however, we will be in New Zealand and Australia, countries where the UK has reciprocal health care agreements. This will provide basic medical care for us, especially for inpatient or acute problems. It’s not as comprehensive as what the NHS would offer us at home, but it’s reassuring to know it’s there if we need it.
TAKING CARE OF YOURSELF ON THE ROAD
What’s your daily skincare & hair routine on the road?
I’m laughing as I type because I am truly the worst person to ask about skincare right now! Our camping lifestyle has completely diminished any sort of short skincare routine I had before.
I probably shouldn’t admit this especially to a French woman! :), but I’m lucky if I wash my face twice a day! I have been wearing sunscreen every day though, and I really like the new Sun Protective Lotion from Aesop.
I wash my hair every 5 or 6 days, let it dry naturally, and then don’t do anything else again until the next time I wash it. I can’t brush my curly hair because it only makes it frizzy and enormous. So I just let it be and go with the messy, unwashed look.
What do you find the most challenging and the most uplifting?
Being with the children every single second of the day can have its downsides. Apart from trying to squeeze in 20 minutes of yoga in the morning (or on the beach while they’re playing), I hardly have any time to myself.
Michael and I haven’t shared a meal without the kids since this adventure began – we literally do everything together as a family. This means that if one of us is in a grumpy mood, it affects all of us. Or if it’s been raining a lot and we’re all cooped up inside together, it can feel quite cramped. We would all benefit from a few hours of alone time here and there, but it’s just not always possible.
On the flip side, this time together as a family is most definitely one of the biggest joys! Spending all this time with the kids and Michael is so wonderful!
Time was a huge motivating factor in taking this journey. Kids grow so quickly and modern life is so busy that it’s easy to miss vast swaths of their childhoods. Having this time together as a family has allowed us to really understand them individually and to connect to them in a deeper way.
Homeschooling, though challenging some days, is also incredibly rewarding. It has allowed us to get to know our kids as students and to understand how they each learn. This was not something I anticipated but it something that will change the way we support them in formal education in the future and will affect the schools we choose for them.
Lastly, if we have to be brief, it’s the experience of travel. We have learned so much during the past six months, but we have not even begun to sate our appetite for travel. The world is so big and the differences between countries are so great that we just want to experience and learn more. When you travel between countries in South America, for example, and see the differences in the people, in their language, their homes, their traditions and their landscapes, things start to make sense in a bigger picture way. We see people enjoying simpler lifestyles, making more of less, and that has provided inspiration for our lives.
You can read more of Courtney’s adventures on her travel blog Somewhere Slower.
Have you been on any great adventures with your family?
I would love to hear your stories and how you organised your trip and if you have any tips and suggestions, please leave them below in the comment section. below. .
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BEAUTY ON THE ROAD:
September 1, 2015
We had the best of times recently holidaying in Cap-Breton (I really love the vibes in Hossegor & Cap-Breton). We did lots of sports, the girls had a ball skating, we ate healthily, slept well, caught up with friends and in the end, everyone had an amazing holidays and we all trimmed down. Less than 2 hours away from our holidays home, it’s an area we know well. We had planned a trip to San-Sebastian or Biarritz if the weather was bad but it turned out absolutely gorgeous for two weeks so no sightseeing for us but we did a lot of sports and a bit of shopping.
If you are looking at visiting the area in the future, here are 10 of my favourite things to do in Cap-Breton & Hossegor. READ MORE...