• Lara Flanagan

How can you afford to travel?

Updated: Feb 28, 2020


In the last 2 weeks Rissie has asked me three times if we are poor. I don’t believe in lying to the kids. I made up my mind a long time ago, in that murky time when they were diagnosed at 11 months old and I was spending far too much time on the computer reading about worse case scenarios that I would never lie to them. That way they would always trust me if I told them something was going to hurt, but only for a little while. It got us through a lot of hospital visits and a lot of blood tests. It did not take me long to realise that the no lying policy is a really good one and to also make every effort to avoid Dr Google. I did it again though when I was diagnosed with MS and it was only last year after an incident with a particularly depressing doctor who had a great Google story that I promised myself that I would never Doctor Google again. Anyway I digress, so I don’t lie to the kids, (white lies, Santa Claus, Easter Bunny and unicorns do not count as lies, they count as contributing to a rich and active imagination and a very important belief in magic), but in this instance I did not even need to consider a lie as I don’t believe we are poor. I told Rissie that we can’t be poor because we have everything that we need and we are about to embark on a fabulous adventure so how can we be poor? She seemed satisfied with that, but when she asked me for the third time, I asked her why she was asking. Turns out that a few people at school had told her, for some reason or another, that we could not afford to be travelling and I think Rissie made the natural assumption that we were poor. I went to a school gathering on Saturday night celebrating my old school’s centenary and I was surprised by how many people shared the fact that they would love to be going travelling with their kids and how was I managing to do it financially. Then last week a complete stranger approached me and asked me outright “How on earth can you afford to travel?” I would like to bring out my inner Pollyanna and say that that lady was simply being curious when she approached me. I was going to say to her that she was being a little bit presumptuous but then I had to remind myself that my blog is a public forum and I have shared things as intimate as recurring thrush and my love of Canestan cream so perhaps I should forget about people being presumptuous. I have always wanted to write. I have penned a chick-lit style novel and a children’s fantasy book. I suspect both of them were crap. I think it took me 40 odd years to remember Gilbert Blythe’s words to Anne of Green Gables, “Write what you know”. Since coming back from the States some 18 months ago I have been writing about what I know and I love it. Then since going Freelance over a year ago I have written more that I have written in my whole entire life. I always imagined that I would write a novel, but I think non-fiction is what I love and what I am good at. All I know is that the great Australian novel eludes me and my attempts continue to make me cringe. I would like to think that perhaps after travelling the world with Archie and Rissie I might be able to pen a work of non-fiction. Maybe a fabulous title such as “Learning to Fly – how the kids and I spent 12 months travelling the world”. I only hope that it does not end up titled “Fucked in the Head – How I thought I could spend 12 months travelling the world with 2 eight year olds, three backpacks, three daypacks, a laptop and a camera.”  Anyway if I do pen a book about our travels then obviously it will need to include a section on how we survived financially. So how are we affording to travel for 12 months? Firstly, I need to clarify that there is no trust fund. I hope that my parents live long, happy and wonderful lives. I hope that when they crawl into their graves they are covered with their favourite possessions with a head of amazing memories and stomachs filled with food that they have eaten all over the world. I hope their last cents are spent on a fabulous and messy Irish style wake and nothing is left. To be honest, when people talk to me about how much money they will inherit when their parents die, in my mind, they immediately grow a second head. Secondly the trip is not being funded by Child Support. When people talk to me about Child Support I always have this overwhelming craving to put a bucket on my head and repeatedly run into walls in a dark room whilst muttering “Child Support, What Child Support” as that would be more fun that trying to be polite to a smart git who is knowingly smiling about how much Child Support I get. Thirdly the trip is not being funded by the Australian Government. I think our welfare system is wonderful and the fact that we have a means of supporting those in genuine need is something that makes Australia the wonderful country it is. I also get the impression that some people think that because you are a Single Mum it is automatically assumed that you get Single Parent Benefits. Can someone get me that bucket please so I can put it on my head. I work. End of Story. So how am I affording to travel for 12 months with the kids. To put it simply I am working my arse off and I will probably end up doing this by the skin of my teeth but I will end up doing it. At the moment I feel like I never stop working. I will also continue to be working whilst we are travelling. There may well be a day or two if I manage my time when I can have a day or two off but ultimately I will be working for the duration. I have an amazing family. Mum and Phil are currently putting up with 5 extra beings in their house and yard and they still have 5 weeks left. What this means is that we could rent out the house before we left, sell Ruby, get our stuff in storage, have less bills and have a car to use when I needed it. The enormity of what they are doing never escapes me and I will never be able to articulate as to how grateful we are. Tine and Alan have helped us out with new backpacks. John John is taking Kevin and Rosie on board for the entire year and I know that they will be loved and adored. John John and my Dad and his wife have helped with travel insurance. My entire family has never questioned my decision to basically turn my life upside down and go travelling. So their support is never-ending and keeps me going. In terms of my family, I am very lucky. I spent approximately 6 weeks selling about 1/3 of my possessions. That is books, DVD’s furniture, clothing and almost all of my cake business. It is all gone. But they were the decisions I made to make this trip possible. Ever since returning from the States almost two years ago, I have been saving every penny I could. It was not unusual for me to work until midnight some nights when we were back in the cottage. I am very good at budgeting and savings. Every time I get paid I put a certain percentage away for tax, I put more than I should away so when it is time to pay tax, I will also have my rates paid and a bit extra in savings. The kids and I live pretty frugally, it does not mean we are poor, it is just a choice we make so we can do other things. I don’t really buy clothes, or makeup or jewellery. I did buy some new black pants recently though as I have a group of friends who had shamed me sufficiently to make me throw away my 8 pairs of Target leggings.  My well-worn and much loved jeans got a hole in them recently. Instead of throwing them out and buying a new pair I spent $8 to get them repaired. In terms of the trip I spend hours on the computer trying to find out the best deals we can. Through Workaway we will be working in Tuscany for accommodation. One month in Costa Rica we will be volunteering for the month so there will be little gallivanting around. Wherever we are I know that for a few hours every day I have to work and the kids will have some school to do. So our trip will not be filled with Disneyland moments but I know there will be lots of magic regardless. So how are we affording to travel? Apart from working my butt off we are affording to do it like anyone affords to do anything. You make a decision as to what you can and can’t afford to do and act accordingly. I want to go travelling with my kids. I want them to see the world with their own eyes and to give them a taste for the fact that anything is possible. Making the decision was not easy, though it was the only decision I seemed to be able to make. I don’t sleep at night and I find it hard to turn my brain off. It has not been easy and it is certainly not devoid of stress. I am working harder than I have ever done in my life. I have sold my car and a large portion of my possessions. I have wound up my business. We lead a simple frugal life. I think anything, within reason is possible. I say within reason because I will never have the physiology to fly and no matter how much I want to, when I visit Tiffany’s, I will not look like Audrey Hepburn. But most things are possible. If you really, really want to do something and are prepared to work hard enough then dream away I say. What’s the bloody point if we can’t have a dream?

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