An Open Letter to Parents Wanting An Adventure.
A letter inspired by messages from parents I get most days, asking how we made the leap and often saying they don’t think they could do it.
You’re thinking of adventure. You have been adult-ing pretty well, even if most of it is an act; wasn’t it a shock to get to 18 and realise everyone is winging it? You have taken on and completed responsibilities expected of you and you are doing it, mostly, with grace.
You set the alarms
You wake the kids
You find the socks
You brush the hair
You find the shoes
You check the homework
You pack the lunches
You find a different colour hairband
You make breakfast
You encourage breakfast
You plead, breakfast, because if not you’ll be hungry…
You try not to shout
You find the shoes, again
You hustle into the car
You sit in traffic
You kiss goodbye
You get to work
you do your shift
or, you go home, tidy, clean, cook, bank, doctor, buy and wrap birthday presents, etc.
You sit in traffic
You pick up the kids up
You dole out the snacks
You help with homework
You sort dinner
You wash and iron the uniforms
You sign letters
You do bath time, and story time, and bed
You tidy the house
And the next day, you get up and do it again.
Some people thrive on this routine, and that is fantastic. Many others feel trapped by it, like a bird in a tiny cage, or a hamster on a wheel going
and seemingly getting nowhere and nothing except tired.
There are other options.
Despite what we have been told and sold, life is not supposed to be a long miserable slog. Miserable things often happen, and it’s hard and complicated and all that stuff.
But there is no rule that says a life of standard routine is mandatory; there’s no schedule that we have to work to if we don’t want to.
We can get GCSEs at 12, or 16, or 54, or 70, or never.
We can work in an office, or in a beach bar, or in a circus, or online, or from home, or in a coworking space (or, as we do, in hotel rooms and cafes).
We can have kids at 21, or 45, or 16, or never.
We can get married, or not.
We can stay in one job path or career our whole lives that we love, or stay in one that we hate, or take countless different jobs that facilitate us doing the things we love when we are not working.
We can retrain at 55, or 65, or 21, or drop out during Uni, in order to do the things we are passionate about.
We can live in one place our whole lives, or move from apartment to apartment and hotel room to hotel room as we traverse continents.
We don’t have to be optimally happy in the routine that we fell into, and we are allowed to change it.
We can buy a house, or rent a house, or house sit, or live in a boat, a bus, a van, a tiny home, a caravan.
Your kids can go to school, or they can not. They can do homework or they can never do a piece in their lives. There is a choice.
It is terrifying, thinking of undoing your life piece by piece, cleaning out each cupboard, sorting through and getting rid of all the things you owned and needed.
Saying goodbye to the building you lived in is scary because even if it wasn’t great or fun, familiarity feels safe and that is what our brains point us towards.
Going to a new country, or starting a new job, or quitting a job, is stomach-churningly scary, because
What if it doesn’t work out?
What if we don’t like it?
What if it’s not what we expected?
What if it’s hard?
Well then, lovely,
At least you will know that you tried.
You can change it.
It will be what you expected and not what you expected, and more, and less.
It will be hard, and the thing is: everything that is worth doing, is.
Have you built a business from scratch?
Have you birthed a child?
Have you raised a child?
Have you spoken up for things that are right while being fought against?
It’s all hard, and it’s all good, and it’s all worth it.
Do you know what is way, way harder to live with than mistakes?
Mistakes we can learn from, and grow from, and use to change our situation.
Regrets are holes in our lives that will did not fill with the things that we could have.
Do you know what’s harder to live with than losing money?
Losing time. We can make more money and learn to live with less; once time is gone, it’s gone.
Something that we have found along our journey is that when you are aiming for something, life will provide you with countless excuses to not take the leap.
These will come in the form of doubts about safety, or doubts about adaptability, or offers of more money or more prestigious jobs or an exam timetable or a promotion.
If you really want an adventure, you have to set yourself with laser-like focus on the thing that you want to do. It might be a certain job, it might be travel, it might be moving abroad, it might be taking the kids out of school and home educating.
Then you have to block your ears and close your eyes, because you will be bombarded with the naysayers and the “but what-ifs”.
I’m not saying don’t take advice; what I am saying is take a certain amount of time to accumulate all of the information and advice that you need and once you have that, it’s time to pull up the drawbridge, bunker down and sort it out.
Have you ever seen a spectacular gymnastics performance where the gymnast sat on the floor, carefully, did a small roly-poly with plenty of cushioning either side, and took a bow?
No. They fling themselves into positions we would never dream of, having trained themselves through experience to take risks. And that is what makes it spectacular.
I know people from the UK who took their tiny children to live in a hut in rural Africa because they wanted to help the people there; they are now renowned translator of texts into tribal dialects.
I know a family who moved from London to Brasil to use their skills to drastically improve the education system; they changed it immensely and went on to set up schools in Lebanon for Syrian refugee children.
I know a family who used the Mum’s maternity leave to travel the world and spend quality time with each other; another who saved up for a year and left for a year’s travel and are still going six years later, and a family who moved into a campervan with their baby, road-tripped around Australia and are now travelling Asia.
I know two separates families with 9 children each, several of whom have extra needs and several of whom are adopted, and they both live in RVs and homeschool their kids. Seriously another-level stuff.
Everyone has different opportunities, different skill sets, different pasts. It is much easier for some people to make changes than others, but changes can always be made- even if they are attitude adjustments.
My nan grew up in an abandoned train carriage on the side of a Welsh mountain; my Mum grew up on a council estate and I grew up in a ‘police house’ (like a council house for people in the police). I didn’t finish Uni, we don’t both have great careers to fall back on and we didn’t have a large savings (we certainly don’t now, ha). We took a risk, a bigger one than many people have taken, and it’s been an adventure. It has given us stories to tell and incredible memories to treasure and time together that we wouldn’t otherwise have had.
What I think I’m trying to say, in a long winded way, is stop trying to crack the algorithm of a guaranteed pain-free life, because there isn’t one (thank you, The Shack). Adventure is painful sometimes, but overwhelmingly it pours oxygen into your soul and frees you from things that you thought about life and yourself, and lets you really live.
And if you don’t do it, you’ll never know.
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