Vagabonding Case Study: The Candy family

On August 17th, 2015


The Candy family of Get In The Hot Spot thecandy family

Age: I celebrated my 40th while we were away. My husband is 6 years older than me and when we left our kids were 2, 5 and 8 years old

Hometown: I’m from the UK but we lived in New Zealand for 10 years before this trip and all our kids are Kiwis. We’ve since moved to Queensland in Australia.

Quote: “What we did was brave, some might say mad, but it paid off for us in every way.

How did you find out about Vagabonding, and how did you find it useful before and during the trip? Online. I find the Vagabonding concept a brilliant way to feel validated in our choices of dragging our kids away from their home, toys, friends and schooling. Most people don’t understand the urge to do something like that so it’s good to read about other people who do get it.

How long were you on the road? About 18 months.

Where did you go? Central America. We started in Guatemala and travelled round Panama, Nicaragua and Costa Rica with the aim of moving to Panama. But we preferred Costa Rica and lived in the south of Costa Rica for over a year. In the end it wasn’t the right place for us to educate our three children, especially our oldest son, so we moved to Australia. But we’re lucky the whole family got to experience life in the jungle and enjoy total immersion in the Latin American culture and language.

What was your job or source of travel funding for this journey? We sold our house and lived off the interest and income from our savings. Because of the global financial crisis and the recession we actually ended up being better off by bumming round Central America for 18 months than we would have been if we’d stayed in our house and carried on working. What we did was brave, some might say mad, but it paid off for us in every way.

Did you work or volunteer on the road? We did plan to set up our own business in Central America – we work from home designing websites and blogs – but in the end we couldn’t get Internet so that put an end to our idea of working. I tried to help out in our kids’ schools. They went to public schools and I’m a qualified English teacher so I wanted to volunteer but unlike in New Zealand, where parental help is actively encouraged, in Costa Rica it’s not wanted. The Costa Rican teachers found it very strange when I explained how I helped kids with reading in New Zealand and said in Costa Rica they prefer to lock the kids in and the parents out.

Of all the places you visited, which was your favorite? The Southern Zone in Costa Rica close to Dominical where we lived. The beaches are gorgeous and the wildlife spectacular. We had monkey, toucans, iguanas and snakes in the garden and even got scorpions, bats and birds in the house. It’s very close to the Osa Peninsula, one of the most biologically diverse places in the world. Our kids learnt to recognise all the jungle animals including the four different types of monkey that live there and name them in English and Spanish – when our youngest arrived in Australia she’d forgotten what a sheep was!

Was there a place that was your least favorite, or most disappointing, or most challenging? Antigua in Guatemala was our first stop. The architecture’s stunning but we found it very busy and stressful hanging out there with the kids. Northern Guatemala was much more relaxing and less crowded.

Did any of your pre-trip worries or concerns come true? Just before we left, people started telling me that Guatemala was the kidnapping capital of the world and acted like I was the worst mum in the world for taking my kids there. Of course our kids were safe. We went to a restaurant in Guatemala City with a bouncy castle outside and the kids played on that while a guard with a big gun watched on – it sounds strange but we kept safe and I wouldn’t put my kids at risk. The main thing that went wrong was when our 2 year old broke her arm about a week before we left. I got the doctor to put on an old-fashioned plaster cast so I could take if off myself and avoid a trip to a Guatemalan hospital. When you’ve got kids accidents do happen. Max, then aged 6, had to go to hospital twice in Costa Rica for stitches and x-rays. It wasn’t a fun experience but he’s made a full recovery.

My husband and I have travelled all over the world and are quite streetwise. We carried all our valuables around Central America in a Pooh Bear backpack thinking it would be the last target for theft and it worked, we didn’t have any problems with crime and nothing got stolen.

Did you run into any problems or obstacles that you hadn’t anticipated? When we finally decided where we wanted to move to it took us three weeks to find a rental house so we had to stay in cabinas for longer than we wanted. But the owners were lovely and let us use their kitchen and practice our bad spanish on them so we ended up making good friends.

Which travel gear proved most useful? Least useful? A decent knife is great for cutting fruit and eating on the go and I had a good spanish course on my ipod which helped me get up to speed with the language fast. I always seem to carry a big medical kit with me that never gets used! I suppose that’s like travel insurance though – if I didn’t have it I’d have needed it.

What are the rewards of the vagabonding lifestyle? Taking new challenges, improving your confidence, experiencing new cultures and seeing and doing things you’d never have had the chance to do if you’d stayed in your comfort zone. Plus I’ve got some great stories for my memoirs.

What are the challenges and sacrifices of the vagabonding lifestyle? The most challenging part of this trip was travelling with kids. Travelling’s easier when you don’t have kids but if you have a dream you shouldn’t let being old, a parent or a business owner stop you from living that dream. I really want my kids to see the world to help them appreciate how lucky they are and see how many opportunities they have in life. Many times when we were in Central America I wondered why I’d swapped my lovely big house for cramped accommodation where the whole family slept in one room. Often we had no electricity or water and our car was a real jalopy – the roof rack fell off twice when we were driving along. We sacrificed comfort for adventure but to me that’s a great trade.

What lessons did you learn on the road? Be flexible in your habits and outlook. Everyone should learn this lesson and the best way to learn it and keep in practice is by travelling.

How did your personal definition of “vagabonding” develop over the course of the trip? There are always compromises and bad moments but if you can hit the road and travel at all then you’re winning.

If there was one thing you could have told yourself before the trip, what would it be? It was even harder with the kids than I thought but I’m glad I didn’t know that or I might not have gone.

Any advice or tips for someone hoping to embark on a similar adventure? Just do it. You have everything to gain and nothing to lose. I don’t want to have any regrets when I’m old and if you dream of travel there are so many ways to achieve it. I’ve lived and worked in Europe, North America, Central America, South East Asia, Australasia and Africa and travelled extensively around those areas. I’ve made travel a priority all my adult life but too often I hear people saying “I wish I could do it but…” and trotting out some lame excuse. Maybe they don’t really want to do it but if you really do you should. Life’s too short not to do the things we dream about now. Please don’t end up regretting things you didn’t do.

When and where do you think you’ll take your next long-term journey? We want to revisit Africa for a safari with the kids before they get to the stage where they don’t want to go on holiday with us any more. Three to six months in Kenya and Tanzania would be lovely with a trip to see the gorillas in a perfect world. But first we have to save up again and work hard to make it happen. I know it will, it’s just a question of when and how long was can get away for.

Read more about The Candy Family on their blog, Get In The Hot Spot or follow them on Facebook  and Twitter.

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Image: Andi Campbell-Jones (flickr)