A family of four from Lincolnshire, UK, are bidding farewell to a life of regular routine to embark on an epic adventure. Scott (dad, 38), Michelle (mum, 33), Rufus (6) and Riley (1) are selling their house and belongings to travel together across Europe in a motorhome.
In this interview, Michelle explains the motivations behind the adventure, the lifestyle changes it’s bringing, their plans for schooling on the road, and what the family hopes to get out of the experience.
The family are documenting the journey under the moniker of Marmalade Tour. You can follow their adventures on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and Twitter.
What inspired your decision to sell everything and go on a family travel adventure?
I think it’s easy to carry on with the same routine, day-in, day-out. You grow up knowing the ‘life process’ and you fall into that ‘expected’ process as a matter of course. But for us, the routine and the financial ties seemed to be preventing us from doing the things we love most.
We had the trip of a lifetime in 2017 and it has been buzzing away in our minds and conversations since. We created a 12-day road trip through Italy, France, Belgium and Switzerland, and it was literally life-changing. We didn’t always know what we were doing or where we were going, but it felt amazing. We absorbed so much in terms of culture, and this experience provided a new confidence and desire to travel.
We knew we would definitely travel more following the road trip, but then things just fell into place, and some unusual and exciting doors opened.
What are your professional backgrounds?
Prior to embarking on this massive lifestyle change, we had regular 9-5 jobs (sort of). Scott was a maths and music teacher at Lincoln College, and I was a marketing professional at a Lincoln-based Insurance firm.
We both enjoyed our jobs to a good degree, but we were always looking for something more, which our careers could not seem to provide. We were always looking to create our own business together and, in 2018, we did it.
What’s the nature of your business?
As a couple, we’ve worked in marketing for years. We’ve helped companies to develop their brand proposition, create literature, build customer journeys, build and execute campaigns, improve social media and manage ads on a variety of platforms.
It was going well, so in 2018 we ‘bit the bullet’ and decided to give it a go full-time. Following a year off work for maternity leave, it seemed right. Initially just one of us would run the business full-time and the other would continue working to ensure security during the transition. Got to pay the mortgage!
However, circumstances change and restlessness got the better of us. After a lot of consideration and number-crunching, we realised that we could support a very different lifestyle. So, we both put time into the business, and just to be sure, we put it to the test prior to leaving the country.
Now we have some great regular clients and some ad-hoc ones, we’re able to work around home-schooling our children and adventuring in between (and emptying the house and adventure planning).
Like any small business, we’re a bit behind on our own marketing as our clients always come first, but we’re catching up. Our website is currently going through an update and everything will follow that! But so far we’re incredibly happy with how it’s all going.
How have your friends and wider family reacted to your decision to quit your jobs and travel as a family?
Initially, very varied – mostly disbelief! Then concern, then excitement, and LOTS of questions. The nice thing is that everyone is really supportive.
As we draw closer to our departure, I think it’s starting to sink in for everyone. Every two minutes I’m asking if anyone wants something that we no longer need, and we’re starting to make and share our travel plans, so it’s a mixture of excitement and nerves from everyone. We keep getting little bits of advice from everyone that they’ve researched for us when a thought has popped into their heads.
“The first time our house sold, the sale fell through, which brought everything to a grinding halt! We were devastated.”
Almost everyone we speak to, whether we know them or not, uses the same set of words…. amazing, brave, crazy… and the majority of people say the same thing. “I wish I was brave enough to do that” or “I wish I’d done the same when my kids were younger”. It’s never too late for an adventure!
What have been the biggest logistical challenges in getting prepared for the trip?
Time management! We’re spinning a lot of plates right now – homeschooling, adventure planning, a master’s degree, working on a new business, selling the house, emptying the house, deciding what to take, what to keep, what to give away…
Also the logistics of when to do everything. We needed to get rid of our belongings but we also needed some things while in the house, so managing that effectively was key. Not everything went to plan. The first time our house sold, the sale fell through, which brought everything to a grinding halt! We were devastated.
Our plans had to change, we had to stop in our tracks and make the house ‘viewing-ready’ again – it was really difficult as we’d already started selling our furniture, so it didn’t look as good! This put us a good four weeks behind, and when we agreed another sale, we were cautious and didn’t get straight back into the sorting, just in case. Thankfully it’s all still going to plan this time.
Has it been difficult emotionally to let go of your belongings – both for you and the kids?
Once we’d made the decision, it instantly felt amazing to think we’d be letting go of pretty much everything. We hadn’t noticed before, but physical belongings seem to really weigh you down. We place so much importance on getting the right piece of furniture to house all of the other items we have, or the right curtains to finish a room, that we don’t seem to realise, it really doesn’t matter.
We’d always planned to save old pictures and a box or two of memories at our parents’ house (thanks mum). Having said that, when we first started organising our belongings, the hardest thing by far has been books and board games, especially the children’s books. Every book has a memory, and sadly, we can’t take them all.
Now we’re getting close to our leaving date though, it’s easier to be more ruthless. We don’t have the luxury of time to make a decision – so we’re only saving things that we absolutely need and will definitely have room for.
Many people questioned how Rufus would feel about having less toys, and this worried us momentarily, but it was never an issue. Rufus is attached to very little in terms of possessions. He’s been just as happy to sell things and save for his adventure as we are.
Rufus receives all of the money from the sales of his toys and he has been placing it in his money box. We have a silly little ceremony in the house – whenever we sell something we dance around and place cash in our money boxes. We’re trying to ‘fatten up’ our money boxes in preparation for the exciting moment when we get to smash them and count out some of our spending money! I wonder how much will be in there?
How long do you intend to travel for, and where are you planning to go?
Initially a year to 18 months, but who knows what will happen beyond that? The beauty of having no fixed base is that we can decide as we go!
We plan to explore as much of Europe as possible in that time. We want to spend up to a month in some countries, others might just be a quick stopover, and while we know roughly the route we’d like to take, we have no set agenda. If we’re really enjoying a place, we have the fluidity to stay there longer.
“Our children really are the reason we’re doing this, so we’ll follow their direction.”
We’ve got an extensive list of countries we want to visit – Germany, France, Poland, Italy, Spain, Austria, Croatia, Greece, and everywhere in between. We’re really excited that we can take the time to enjoy the beauty, culture, history and – most importantly – the food! And hopefully we can make it up to the Nordic countries too.
Our children really are the reason we’re doing this, so we’ll follow their direction. If we’re all happy travelling, we’ll continue, but if they’ve had enough, we’ll stop.
Something amazing happened – you’ve been given a motorhome to use for the trip. How did that come about?
The power of social media! It was completely by chance actually. We accidentally opened up a conversation with the right people and they contacted us back with this proposition! It’s unbelievable, but it’s finally started to sink in now.
The motorhome is being loaned to us for the first year of our trip. They know we’re blogging about our adventure and life travelling with a young family in a motorhome. They had a look at our content, read our story and selected us – they knew all about us before we spoke!
They will use some of our content from time to time, but ultimately, we’re being loaned the perfect, affordable family motorhome for an entire year. It’s being built for us in October 2019 and we’re collecting it in November. It’ll be interesting to see the transition from a family home, and various holiday homes, to our lovely new motorhome – and even more interesting to see how something that’s made for sporadic use copes under full-time living!
Have a look at our visit to the motorhome factory here.
How do you plan to educate your children while you are on the road?
We’ve been flexi-schooling our six-year-old for the last year. We made an arrangement with the school that meant Rufus would attend school for four days (Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday), and on the Wednesday, we would be responsible for his education. So, we got a really good head start.
Rufus gets pretty bored with routine, as I’m sure we all do, so this arrangement worked really well for us. We were able to concentrate on some of the things we felt were important for our family, such as learning language, learning from experience and spending more time together.
“Aside from the educational properties, we’d love our kids to remember their childhood fondly.”
We’ve started full-time home education this term and so far, so good. We didn’t know exactly how this would work for us until we started, but we plan well and we’ve got a great routine going. We spend time developing core skills – maths, English and science – and we use a variety of resources to make it really fun for us all.
While we’re travelling, we’ll keep this routine going and we’ll have a couple of Skype tutors to give Rufus a little more variety. Our Lincoln-based French tutor, Helen, will continue with Skype lessons, she’s brilliant. Also, a good friend of ours, and English teacher, Josh, will be working with Rufus on different projects to develop his English skills.
So, while we’ll loosely follow the curriculum for these subjects, we’re letting Rufus take the lead in what else he’d like to learn about. He’s incredibly bright and enjoys planning schedules with us, and so far, he’s really enjoying it!
What do you hope the children will get out of the experience?
When we became parents, like most, we wanted our children to experience as much as possible. It wasn’t until we had children that we really embraced our love for travel, having not been abroad too many times prior to this. We quickly realised that going away as a family is something special, and nothing can prepare you for the wonder of watching your children embrace, learn, and love the experiences of new, different places, cultures, climates and activities.
Our son Rufus has always been quite adventurous. This became more evident on our 2017 road trip to Italy, which we all still discuss as some of our favourite memories ever. He loves to visit new places, meet new people and learn! And luckily, Riley seems to have inherited the same sense of adventure – she’s not happy for long indoors or in one place.
Aside from the educational properties, we’d love our kids to remember their childhood fondly, be proud that they’d had such a great adventure, not be afraid to try new things, and remember that you only get one life, it’s important to live it with the people you love, doing the things that make you happy.
Do you have any thoughts on what you will do when you return from the adventure?
A lot of people are a little concerned that we’re selling almost everything we have and won’t have anything when we decide to come back. We absolutely understand it, but for us, this is all about letting go, realising what’s important and living a simpler life. Our hope is that when we do return, we’ll NEED less, and perhaps opt for quite a different lifestyle.
The positive thing about now being self-employed is that we’re still earning while we travel, so our earnings will be funding a lot of the trip. Everything day-to-day will be covered. We’ll of course put aside a bit of a buffer from our house sale to cover any hairy moments that come along, and to help us out when we come back down to earth.
As for the future… we don’t know where we’re going, so it’s hard to guess where we’ll end up!
Inspired to start planning your own family travel adventure on a career break? Also check out our interview with the family who took time out for a 20-month lap of Australia.