Necessity – The Motherhood of Adventure
Throughout our travels, we come face-to-face with the often asked burning question of how we can afford to travel the way we do, on what is now close to a six-year odyssey of adventure, learning and discovery, which continues to be filled with the passion necessary to keep it thriving. At the friendliest end of the scale, it is posed by the families we meet in the homeschooling communities we visit throughout the world, many of whom are genuinely keen to explore the possibility of they themselves becoming Worldschoolers. Sadly, at the more negative end of the scale, it tends to come from the almost acrid vitriolic reactions to the interviews that we have been in, or the article I wrote for The Guardian newspaper. These views tend to focus on why it is not possible, with comments such as‘This is all very well and good if your family can afford to do this, but most families can’t. This kid needs a reality check.’
What I do know is that from both ends of the scale there is more than a slight sense of incredulity when we explain that the four of us have lived and traveled for less than $18,000 USD a year for the last five years…an inner perception that you would need to have vast sums of money to live and travel the way we do, but in truth, this perception would be wrong. Amongst all of this, however, there is one unsung hero of our journey. One who makes it all possible, from the very inception of the idea to the planning of the most optimal routes that we will follow, the modes of transport that we take and the places that we stay. It is his tireless research into airlines, flight routes, locations, events, modes of transportation and accommodations that have more than kept us afloat in tight financial situations. His research is filled with imagination and inspired by the adventure of immersing yourself into the excitement of a new and unknown story. The person I speak of, is my twin brother Lalika, the mysterious man behind the veil of our journey.
In all of this, one might be led to believe that it is about the financial aspects of how one gets from A to B, but one would be wrong. It is about the imagination, the creativity and the ability to dream and perceive a solution into reality, against what at times are seemingly insurmountable hurdles. In this, all of us have developed a healthy portion of this X-Men-like ability, but none so more than my brother when it comes to the solving of challenges relating to finding inspiring ways to travel and adding imagination to every situation that makes it an adventure worth living.
The immediate example that comes to mind is how he got us all out of a hot water situation, which turned into one of our more memorable, spontaneous adventures. To tell the story is almost embarrassing, as it reveals us making a rookie travel mistake, even after nearly five years of travelling, but to listen to the story reveals the imagination behind my brother’s genius.
It starts in the Southern Hemisphere’s Summer of 2015-2016, when we had enthusiastically agreed to share a Parisian adventure with a family we had met and hit it off with while returning to visit Australia for the first time in four years. We knew Paris would be expensive in summer, but what we had unwittingly walked into was the very centre-point of the European Football Championships being held in France, which drove the cost of almost everything to ten times its already outrageous seasonal price. We were quite stupefied by the cost of even the most basic of things. A simple outing to a small budget-like Moroccan bakery, in the outskirts of the Parisian districts, almost broke the bank. As we Australians sometimes like to say, we were gobsmacked when we learnt that a small pastry each and a mint tea turned out to be close to 80€.
The one that got us in the end, however, was the transport. While we were able to fly into Paris for the cost of 20£ each from London, we were completely unaware of the challenges of finding a cost-effective way to leave Paris. Solving this almost turned into a title for a B-Grade Sci-Fi Movie from the 80’s…Escape from Paris. You see, together, our two families had planned to drive down from Paris in a minivan to the South of Spain, to our base in Águilas, Murcia. What my brother Lalika would have otherwise solved with a simple car hire for approximately 250€ – 300€ for a week at any other time of the year, was now 2200€ for the most basic car. This was well beyond our budget.
Immediately, he threw himself into the challenge with the imagination of a man seeking to find his way out of a medieval labyrinth and within half a day of plying and twisting every single possible combination of transport options on the European continent, he had the solution. A 25€ flight from Paris – Charles de Gaulle to Ibiza and then a 35€ flight from Ibiza to Alicante with a 27€ hire car home…in total, 267€ for the four of us to get out of Dodge City and a very tight budgetary situation. The only catch, and what turned out to be the fun of it all, was that we had a 38-hour layover in Ibiza.
I must say, I feel this is where we as a family thrive, turning adversity into opportunity and opportunity into adventure. This is the basis of many of our stories, as just seeing something from the perspective of what you will gain from a challenge, where you might push yourself to grow, gifts us all with the most rewarding experiences and stories along our journey. Without being irreverent or flippant, to have things work comfortably every time, I feel would be a disaster of complacent proportions. Something that would not only make us lazy but, like a thief in the night, steal our imaginations and our verve and zest for travelling. Worse, it would take from us our Dreaming, that essence that forms the very inspiration for the name of this blog, Dreamtime Traveler.
So this is how we found ourselves in Ibiza, the party capital of Europe. My brother let us know that as of 2016, all international airports in Spain now provide unlimited free Wifi. We had that problem solved. With an ample set of fast-food restaurants at the arrival gates, we had both tables and power outlets to work, so that when we arrived in the early afternoon we were able to sit down and catch up on all our work until about 1 am when the restaurants closed. Don’t get me wrong, we almost never eat in fast food establishments, as being a combination of Vegetarians and Vegans, we will most often find healthy eating options that we will purchase before we travel for the journey, also another way to save on unnecessary expenses. In this case, Lalika insisted that we order a couple of servings of Patatas Fritas (Chips/Fries) at around 11 pm and none of us objected. We then found a long bench and a couple of window sills to sleep on in the airport arrivals lounge, very comfortable indeed and settled in for the evening. In the morning, we woke to a grey and rainy dawn, the sun desperately trying to break through the myriad of clouds. Exiting the terminal, we walked with our backpacks out of the airport a short distance to a set of lockers and for 12€ we had our luggage secured for all day. We then used Google Maps to direct us on the 5 km walk to a local Mercadona Supermarket, which had our favourite hummus, and other healthy food items we loved and thus, breakfast and lunch were solved.
From here, we walked out to the Mediterranean Sea, picked a seaside park bench and enjoyed a sumptuous brunch. We rested and enjoyed the view as the sun finally burnt through the clouds and then we sauntered along the coastline from its quiet family style hotel accommodations, all the way to the duff-duff end of the island, filled with its endless row of partiers, expending their energies in one last bacchanalian worship to the gods of dance music. We especially enjoyed observing on our track the trademark green and azure Ibiza Geckos that darted their way in and out of the rocky seaside outcrops.
Finally, we walked back to the airport, the zenith of the late afternoon heat of mid-summer Southern Spain now beating down on us, completing an adventurous 15 km roundtrip walk.
The icy cold water we had purchased from the Gas Station just a kilometre from the airport and the air-conditioning of the airport terminal was much welcomed now, and we found the quietest spot in the corner of an unusually quiet arrivals terminal, the perfect place to open up the laptops again to continue to our work. From here, the next eight hours seemed to fly by. I entertained myself by my usual pass-time of people watching. It was here that I noticed the stark contrasts to the people who visited this airport and found that unique energy signature that defines a commonality of the story of Ibiza. Those arriving and de-boarding their flights seemed to be filled with an excitement and anticipation that left electricity in the air, while those standing in line for their departing planes, were more sorry-for-ware than I had ever seen in my life before. Eyes were sunken deep into skulls, strongly defined contours of dark lines underneath them. Burns, bordering on the third degree, were blaring so loud and red on milky white English skin, that it seemed as if the music and sun had diabolically conspired to attract these people and send them into a trance-like state, the way a venus flytrap does, just before it digests its prey alive. The energy levels of these people seemed so low, it was as if a mysterious vortex the size of a galactic Black Hole had drained them dry. Perhaps it wasn’t entirely self-inflicted, perhaps the forces of the Universe had conspired. Whatever the case, looking at them, it was hard not to empathise with their situation.
Finally, it was time for us to board and I must confess, I was starting to feel tired. We flew towards home, our flight delayed by half an hour, arriving at our car-hire just after 1:30 am and were home in our beds by 3:30 am, a near sixty-five-hour caper, that will live on in our adventure treasure trove, and all because we failed to plan ahead.
The lesson here is, unless you are specifically travelling to a location for the express purpose of attending a major global event that is going on in that city or country, you should avoid it, unless of course, you are happy to pay from ten to twenty times the going premium rate for literally everything on offer.
But the kind of genius my brother Lalika has, truly realises its potential when it is applied with imagination and passion and my brother has a passion for aviation. Not learning to fly, more so satiating his curiosity about every aspect of what gets that plane and its people along their journey and the stories behind them. He loves traveling on the most exciting, newest, interesting and captivating airlines of the world, seeing exactly what they have to offer. In recent times, he has used Plane Finder to learn everything about the story of the planes we travel on. Not just their models and serial numbers, but rather exploring the very essence of their production and flight history, right down to the routes they have taken and the stories that they tell. In fact, it was this kind of passion that led to the story of how Lalika chose for us a luxury airliner, just months old, that not only solved our need to get from Europe to the USA, but also took us on an adventure from London’s Gatwick, across to Denmark’s Copenhagen and all the way to New York’s JFK airport all for just $220 USD per person.
Lalika had been eyeing out a particular airline over the course of the summer and using Plane Finder, he knew it would be our ticket to flying on the newest of the Boeing 787-9 Dreamliners. Having flown on and very much loved our trip from Sydney to the Los Angeles four years earlier on the Airbus A-380, Lalika was determined to make the comparison with the 787-9 series. As usual, with a consciousness of our budget and a mindfulness for the environmental effects of flying, Lalika had found what would be the sweet spot of all possible solutions for us.
With the most cost-effective prices for the time we wished to fly, an average fleet age of less than 3.6 years and a commitment to help make aviation carbon neutral by 2050, Norwegian Air Shuttle seemed the primary choice for us. In fact, Lalika was using Plane Finder to try to analyse which plane might be the one that we would actually fly on, correlating that it might even be the one that they had just taken delivery of the previous week. As it turned out, the 787-9 we flew on, happened to be eight months old, but in aviation terms and to us, this was just as good as completely new.
The route that Lalika had chosen, would not only be the most cost effective way to get from London to New York on the 16th of November, but would stretch the boundaries of time and provide us with a 28 hour day that would encompass the experience of the teasing taste of our 34th country and a plane ride without compare.
I will save the story of our adventure in Copenhagen for another blog, but I cannot leave out the beauty and fun in the experience of flying across the Atlantic in such style, all on what is supposed to be a budget airliner.
Entering the belly of this broad and elegantly decorated beast, one would never associate the word budget with what was being presented. On their trans-European flights, Wifi is offered free on Norwegian. Unfortunately for us, this was not working on our trip from London to Copenhagen, but as we were up at 3 am to get our 6 am flight, we decided to sleep on this leg. Now, here at our seats on the 787-9, we were surprised as they looked more like premium economy seats on a full-service carrier, with more than ample leg room and huge overhead cabinet storage. The thing that got all of us, was the entertainment system. For Lalika, immediately it was the 3-D interactive global map, constantly displaying different aspects of our journey, all of which could be interactively accessed and zoomed into through the touchscreen, where each location on the planet had a Wiki-like store of interesting information. For me, however, it was the movies and TV shows and the onboard/inline trivia contest we were already waging with our fellow passengers, as we sat waiting for the plane to push back. Soon, we sunk ourselves into watching the latest films on offer, the sound system offering unparalleled quality and clarity of audio. ‘
The flight itself was a story, telling its tale as we sat cosily in our comfy seats, rapidly traversing the crystal skies, raging against the gulf-stream, high above the frigid waters of the North Atlantic in late autumn. We flew as if in a stasis, not even a bump revealed that we were at 10,000 metres and in what felt like the passing of a mere hour or two, our eight-hour journey was rapidly coming to its conclusion. What captivated me entirely, however, was the light show, as we started our descent into New York. The darkened cabin began to glow in an almost otherworldly array of colours, emanating from the overhead bins, the hues and shades of the spectrum of primary colours entertaining, dazzling and enthralling me all at the same time. It was as if they had stuffed a thousand Christmas tree lights into those overhead lockers and they had somehow melded into a sentient mind of their own to create a symphony of feeling through the emanation of light. Apparently, this was intentionally and scientifically designed to reduce jet lag, but for me, it was as if it was heralding the coming of Christmas.
As we were coming to land, I felt as if I had experienced the near the perfect flight, with everything, including the crew, atmosphere and event coming together in a convergence of contentment. Even though at this point I had been traveling for nearly 30 hours, I felt rested and excited about what lay ahead, the perfect way to start the North American leg of my Book Tour.
All of this had come together from Lalika’s imagination and his willingness to dream into life his vision for our perfect journey and I would argue that this is what it takes to travel the world like we do. While many flights that day were priced for a single ticket what it cost all four of us to get across the Atlantic, our journey and our ability to live and travel as we do, never comes down to just the money. As Lalika has demonstrated for me time and again, it is rather the ability to be passionate and to boldly envision yourself in the dream you wish to see fulfilled. It is when you apply this with both your imagination and story that you will create the template and impetus to see it through. My brother’s vision and passion to write his story continues to be a constant source of inspiration for me.
What might surprise you about our journey of mutual learning and discovery, is that over the last five years, our travel has evolved into our own Labour of Love venture. Here, each of us has a passionate domain of enticement and expertise that in its fruition and success, contributes to the overall achievement of our collective venture’s goals. We have called it our Labour of Love because it aptly describes our journey in life, something that is filled with a passion for living and makes what we do the very source of inspiration for the way we live. In the end, necessity, your necessity to live the life you dream of, will show you the way and I have no doubt, it will be The Motherhood of Adventure.