Intentional Life Design: Creating Long-Term Family Travel and Deeper Meaning in our Lives – A Guest Post
Living intentionally is a big part of what I am striving for in my own life, and that includes sharing that experience with others through the blog. One of the things I love about mindfulness and intentional living is that it looks different for everyone! That is why I was so excited when Emma from the blog ‘Small Footprints, Big Adventures‘ contacted me with an interest in sharing her and her family’s story about what living intentionally means for them. Their story is beyond inspiring, and I can’t wait for you to read it. Emma also included 13 steps for you to take to help you move towards living your own life filled with intention, whatever that means to you. I hope you enjoy her story as much as I did. Be sure to check out her blog and follow her on her social media accounts, which are linked at the end of the post.
The following is a guest post by Emma Wamsley of Small Footprints, Big Adventures. All photos used with permission.
I am fortunate to have a life partner who is on the same wavelength as me. We are both very open to ideas and passionate about living our lives the way we want to. We have just returned home from a wonderful four months in South East Asia with our two kids, who are 3 and 7, and we’re only back for a short recharge before heading off again to Central America. We’ll be gone for another 4-6 months, and after that, we have no set plans. We don’t have jobs to return to, and we know that we don’t want to move back into our old house and continue with the same lifestyle.
We didn’t get to this point quickly or especially easily though! It has taken a lot of planning, discussions and living a fairly standard life for most of it. Just because we are both open and willing to try unusual things, doesn’t mean we were both ready at the same time to go for it. It has taken compromise and negotiation, waiting and saving, wishing and faith too.
For writing this post I have been thinking a lot about how we got the confidence to take these steps, and our journey to get to this point. I hope that by sharing our story I can inspire you to look differently at any parts of your life that you’re not satisfied with, and encourage you to take the plunge into living the way you truly want to.
Searching for deeper meaning
Anthony and I have always searched for meaning in our lives. We love to have deep conversations together and with others, and read and learn from wise teachers continually.
In our traditional jobs, we have felt like we needed more to really be happy. Ant loves to help others and he has used that within his roles that are otherwise routine. By providing outstanding service to clients he was able to feel like he was making a difference with his work, and have authentic connections with people too.
I also love to help and empower others, and studied psychology and anthropology with a view to a career in meaningful work with people. But I let go of the need to have a career and the recognition that it brings, and chose to focus on my family instead. I realized that I can help people in a meaningful and simple way by dealing with my own issues, being open and genuine, and just being available to people; my own kids especially. Being the best mother I can be, by continually learning and growing and being fully present for our children, is the greatest work I can do. I am trying to raise them with as little negative impact from my own past as possible while creating a life that allows them to grow at their own pace and bloom as globally-minded, self-aware people.
Trying unusual pathways
When our eldest was a baby, we researched alternative schooling and home education, and decided to try home ed. I liked the way we could follow what he was interested in and learn when he was ready, and I agreed with research suggesting that young children are more grounded when they get to stay home longer. I figured that if we weren’t happy or Dante wasn’t thriving, school would always be there instead.
Anthony wasn’t convinced about home education initially, but agreed to try it as we had nothing to lose. Missing out on the first part of school was not going to disadvantage him, especially as some other countries begin school much later than Australia anyway! Now Ant is a great supporter of home ed; seeing that Dante is happy and has grown and learned naturally, that he has friendships and is not hindered socially. Our daughter Allegra is also set to be educated outside of the school system and we’ll continue it as long as we’re all enjoying it together.
At the same time as I was reading a lot about home education, I discovered families who were doing it all over the world! Worldschooling has become more and more popular, with families electing to travel for extended periods or even indefinitely as part of their kid’s upbringing. I loved the idea immediately. How incredible that we could live our life by exploring the world together! How amazing would it be to learn about Roman history by actually being in Rome, or discover more about cheetahs from seeing them in the wild and talking to experts?
Travel is already known as one of the best experiences for broadening our minds and opening our hearts, but it is often seen as a luxury for adults and maybe older kids. I think that is a great shame as the lessons apply just as much to young children. Reading from worldschooling families made me realize that travel would be the best teacher possible for our kids, as well as incredible experiences for us as a family. I don’t think there is a better way to learn about other cultures, world history, current global issues, different landscapes, and our own capabilities.
Trusting the unknown
We didn’t know anyone personally who home educated or traveled with young children when we started out. I had the confidence to try it because I had faith in myself and because I could read book and articles and reach out to online networks. Sometimes I think it’s funny as I’m not an overly confident person in many ways, but when it comes to my life and my children, I am willing to try unchartered waters if it feels right. I am also willing to make mistakes and change my path if it doesn’t work out, which I think balances the risks.
Having trust in the unknown feels perfectly normal to me, and Anthony is quite comfortable with it too. I do notice it’s quite difficult for many others to accept though. We have always trusted that things will be ok as we have left jobs without another to go to, and started businesses from scratch. We believe in our capabilities and believe that following our highest calling will always work out, even if not in the way we originally thought it would!
I see that having this trust in life and ourselves is a great gift, and we hope to pass it on to our children by living in this way. Going for the life we want – despite the fears that come up and the unusual pathway it creates – is the only way we can truly answer those “what if?” questions in our minds. It has taken courage and determination, and it continues to require trust and living on the edge sometimes! But we know only too well how short life is, and how little time we really have with our kids. Both of our fathers died well before their time, and we have grieved other family members too soon also. And time is passing ever faster, as we see clearly in our children growing up so quickly.
Knowing our bigger picture
We know that want to really be with our children and experience a great life as a family while they’re young. We want to know them deeply and spend the time together, so that their feelings of security to come from their connections to us, and their confidence stems from the incredible experiences they have taken on with us.
We also want our kids to grow up knowing how amazing the world is for themselves, and knowing that we are allowed to blaze our own trail through it. Our lives don’t have to be dictated by the rhythms of school and 9-5 workdays if we don’t want them to. And they don’t have to be solely focused on making money and competitiveness either. We want to show them how to live a fulfilled life, and the only way to do that is to live it ourselves.
We know that whatever we do to earn money, we want it to be in alignment with our core values and beliefs. The only way we wish to spend our time moving forwards is with work we are really passionate about, that also helps to improve the state of the world.
Making the big change
Moving from planning to travel “sometime in the future” to actually doing it was the biggest step. I was ready for it before Anthony was, and I had to be patient while still holding the idea clearly in mind. We had to save money and we wanted Allegra to be out of nappies before heading off. Also, Ant had started a business that he wanted to ensure he left in a good way for our friend that bought it.
Most importantly, Ant had to be ready to leave our classic father-working/mother-raising-kids set up, which was a big adjustment to make. He has always worked long hours and men in his family are always providers, so even though he is a very open and nurturing person, it was quite a change. But he was dissatisfied with the amount of time he was able to spend with us, and started to have enough of the work that kept him away and exhausted him. He knew when he was ready, and I was waiting for it!
I couldn’t push him to make such big changes before he knew for himself that it was what he wanted. What I did do was just continue the conversations, without pressure or argument. And we read books about the countries we were interested in, and planned for events and activities we could do together. He always wanted to travel as a family, but the actual transition to do it was the hardest step for him. I guess it’s like that for many people; it all sounds wonderful in theory, but making the big changes to get to the dream are more difficult. That’s where having his own motivation was the key. He had to really want to spend the time with us, and be ready to try an unusual life to be able to do it.
Creating a new lifestyle
We decided to use our first travel adventure as a disconnect from our old life, to discover what we want to do next as well as see how much we all like traveling together. We have an idea of where we might like to live next and what kind of business we might create, but are open to it all changing as a result of our travel experiences. Or if we can and we love it, we might just continue traveling like many other worldschooling families!
As much as we value travel in itself, we realized when planning our trip that we’d be contributing to environmental pollution and social injustices if we weren’t careful. Being eco-aware and keen to demonstrate these value to our kids, we decided to concentrate on sustainable traveling and ethical travel experiences. It felt like the right decision and having that focus allowed us to feel comfortable entering the extended traveling lifestyle. It also gave me a great idea for a blog which would show others how we travel with a positive impact, as well as help to fund our trips.
So now I blog part-time, and I’m enjoying the creative outlet, helping the world in a greater sense, and not being solely responsible for caring for the kids each day. Dante and Allegra are enjoying having dad around so much, and have gotten much closer to him since we started traveling. It has been great for their relationships, as we hoped it would be. And Ant is enjoying not being stuck inside an office all day, and having more time with us. He is now more relaxed generally, and more confident in taking the lead of family life while I’m blogging.
Our first trip took us through Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, and Cambodia. It was a great mixture of experiences, and it was everything we had hoped for. We volunteered at a sea turtle conservation project together, walked with elephants in the mountains of Thailand (and made paper from elephant poo!), kayaked through mangrove forests, visited Angkor Wat and a royal palace, marveled at the amazing sights of Singapore, slept in a treehouse and a floating chalet; all the while supporting social enterprises and sustainable tour operators. We also tried lots of great food, made many friends along the way, and learned much about environmental and social issues. And we grew closer to each other, and discovered how best to travel with kids by getting it wrong! It was tiring and stressful sometimes, but overall it really was wonderful.
The present and moving forwards
After 4 months in Asia Dante and Allegra we were quite homesick, so instead of continuing on to Mexico, we decided to come home for a while. It was the right decision, and I’m really glad we listened to them. Here we are recharging, connecting with family and friends, and concentrating on our health too. Our energy reserves got depleted in our old life and then further while traveling, so it is nice to have time to get on track and feel great before continuing on.
While we’re home we are learning Spanish together in preparation for Central America, and spending lots of time bike-riding and swimming to get our confidence up. It seems much easier doing these sorts of things from a familiar base with young kids. We’re also planning our next trip more thoroughly than last time. Having learned our own lessons while traveling, it’s awesome to know so much better before heading off again!
Anthony doesn’t want to stop working altogether, and I don’t want to blog full-time and be away from my family that much either. I think it’s great to be able to share the load equally, so when/if we come back for good, we will create a work situation that is balanced between us both. A model that allows us to travel for several months each year is sounding really nice at this stage!
For now, we are happy creating another amazing trip and seeing where it takes us. We love learning so much experientially, adapting to new situations and making new friends all over the world alongside our kids. We also love just being together and supporting each other to follow our passions. It is a blessing to live a life that is truly our own design, and though it’s not the easiest path sometimes, I absolutely believe that everyone can do it. Isn’t that our birthright as human beings?
13 steps to take towards designing your unique and meaningful path through life:
• If you’re dissatisfied with how your time is spent or how much depth is in your life, start to create more meaning in small ways.
• Notice your strengths and the ways you love to be of service.
• Clarify your own higher purpose for your life.
• Be honest with yourself about why you do the things you do. If it is for other reasons than your own satisfaction, it may not be in alignment with your highest calling.
• Really think about the decisions you are making in your life. Start asking more questions and researching for yourself.
• Don’t give away your power by doing what is expected of you automatically. Look at the structures around you and ask yourself: is their way of doing things what I really want?
• Surround yourself with people and ideas that open up your thinking, not close it down. Talk to free thinkers (in person and online) about things you are deliberating, and keep reading and get reminded constantly of your own power in your life. I still love calendars that inspire me daily!
• Until your confidence increases, be careful discussing your new thoughts with people who may react very negatively. It’s hard to know sometimes, so chat with trusted people while you’re unsure of yourself. People pick up on how sure you are of your decisions, and many will want to turn you back towards their “safe” way of being. Be compassionate about where they’re at but also take care of yourself.
• Disconnect from the mainstream news: it’s very difficult to think differently if you’re being bombarded with the mass opinion.
• Trust yourself and your own inner wisdom. Bet on yourself and follow your instincts; the more you do it, the easier it gets! Deciding to home educate our kids wasn’t the first alternative pathway we have followed, but past decisions we have made helped us have the confidence to try it.
• Be mindful of how you talk about your changes, and your finances and other life situations too. If you’re concentrating on the negative aspects it may seem overwhelming, but if you’re trusting in your capabilities and your dreams, you know you can create anything.
• Be patient with people in your life who aren’t at the same stage as you yet, but keep your ideas fresh and clear in your mind. Have the courage to ‘go first’ and know you are helping to empower others by stepping out of your comfort zone.
• Work on a long-term plan. Making big life changes requires lots of steps and they can take some time. Celebrate every small step closer! And use the time to research and plan and organize yourself, so you’re ready when the time is right.
From Emma Walmsley
Small footprints, big adventures
I am a female person and am not especially gifted or talented. I do have big heart and a mind that is more and more unplugged, so it likes to think for itself. I also have an awesome family who I love to be with, and several dreams: to see the whole world together, to make a difference for many people, to raise happy and healthy kids, and to live a life I can be totally satisfied with when I’m 150!