So, the fledglings have flown the nest! It’s so strange after 25 years of: pregnancy; babies; toddlers; tantrums; first days of school; last days of school; hobbies; activities; highs and lows; girlfriends and break ups; first day at Uni; Graduation; gap years; job hunting; interviews; selections; assessments; job offers; celebrations; house hunting; flying the nest, quite literally to the other side of the world!!
All is not lost, it’s not all doom and gloom, although it would be all too easy to wallow in our own emotions, of feeling the raw truth that our baby boys are now all grown up. Well, fear not! Our job is done, we’ll always be there for them but let’s celebrate, hooray!!!……..now it’s time for us…..Let’s get ready for action!!
So here’s my take on what comes next for us. The build up has been evident for a few years now and I suppose every once in a while, we all have that rush of adrenaline that catapults us into a fairytale, make believe land of hopes and dreams, of complete change in our lives.
We certainly did, on a regular basis we thought of a land where our imagination could run away into a different place. A new, magical world full of everything that were wanting to change from our crazy, full on, groundhog day that was our real life.
There’s a difference between those that dream of change, but do nothing and those that, quite by contrast, let nothing stand in their way. The path to a better future, a happier life and a healthier mind, is probably, as little as one or two actions. It’s certainly key that we have a positive outlook, we’ve always had this in bucket loads and loathe the negativity that so many bring upon themselves and others around them.
The success of those who succeed, often, stems from a simple inner belief in themselves, fuelled by this positive outlook and that ultimate, brave and persistent battle to make things happen. Persistence, Persistence, Persistence…..a favourite word of ours and one that got us to where we are today!
The strange thing is, even when we really started to question where we wanted to be in life, it was still so difficult, to actually make that first step into doing something about it. So, in some ways, I can see why, so many people just trundle on through life without grabbing the real opportunities that we often now have.
For us, looking back, our business was doing well, we’d expanded and we were at the stepping stone to grow further. Although, after 30 years of full on work, we were often on the 24/7 treadmill and despite being fortunate enough, to take breaks away in the van, they were never without work being included.
Those phone calls, e-mails, problems that needed sorting, it all went with the territory and always left the work place with us. In truth, the candle that burned at both ends was about to melt into a tiny little puddle of wax, broken and worn out and we were ready to throw it in the trash.
When you start to see that work is no longer an enjoyment, other cracks soon then appear. It seemed as if the world around us had gone mad and we were trapped in the middle, with all those sentiments silently shouting at us to stop the merry go round and get off.
These thoughts rumbled on for a few years and whilst our children were still in education and university, our hands were tied. The moment those constraints were lifted, our eyes and ears were focused on us, in a way that we hadn’t been able to look at before. We had an opportunity, an empty nest was to come but we now had the goose that laid the golden egg…..we had freedom!
We’ve always been close and supportive with our boys, sharing so much fun and laughter as a family. Some of the most memorable times together, have been whilst away on our adventures, in either a caravan or campervan, starting our travels when the boys were just a few months old. So it came as no surprise, when they chose to have their own global ventures, as soon as adult life allowed.
Their returning tales of incredible cultural experiences in far away lands, triggered an extraordinary desire in ourselves, to follow in their footsteps and start seeing even more of the world. After all, if our children could afford months of travels, to the various continents, that appealed to their inquisitive natures, then what on earth was preventing us from doing our own version of the extended gap year travels?
It’s funny looking back now, but our travels with small children in tow, was often, commented on by other parents as being a rather odd thing for us to want to do! Many fellow parents, seemed to look upon holidays and travel with their children in a confined space for a week or two, as being rather too much like hard work!
I lost count of the number of times parents let me know, quite openly that they wouldn’t take their own youngsters away for “a few more years yet”! To me, even if it involved packing up the caravan for a weekend away, the shortest of time, became an education for the boys, well, actually, for all of us!
Those early years taught us how to communicate together, giving the gift of patience too, from spending several hours or even a few days on road trip or long flight or both! We entertained ourselves through games, walks, bike rides and learnt invaluable, educational lessons in history and culture, from visits to the most amazing historical sights and museums to great castles and geographical sights.
Maybe, we were fortunate back in the early to mid 90’s to be raising our boys in the pre-mobile phone era. It’s now hard to believe, that there were no distractions from iPads, laptops and other mobile technology back in the day, yet so much is available today.
We didn’t even have an X-Box for the boys until their teenage years, when that soon got confiscated for the amount of time being spent on it. In many ways, we were the last generation to be raising children in a tech-free environment, a blessing in disguise perhaps.
Looking back, this was a huge gift to us, we still had the full attention of our boys and they also had our full-on dedication to them. When we spoke, we had eye contact, facial expressions and body language between us. These simple human gestures are so often lost now to the attention of the mobile screens we choose to look at. Staring down for hours a day at these clever gadgets that control the modern way of life, often without even glancing up to acknowledge or respond to what’s going on in front of us.
We’re all guilty of succumbing to some form of the latest technology and it’s an incredible advantage in so many ways. I’d now feel lost without it, for those same mobile devices that we didn’t have back in the 90’s are now an invaluable asset to our own family life.
Our little boys are now grown men, ambitious and outgoing, but with an incredible gentle side and compassion. These qualities have helped them start new lives on the other side of the world. We can’t imagine a day without our group FaceTime and messenger or other social media outlets. Our conversation threads complete with photos, emoji”s, GIF’s and links to shared news stories across the world.
So, how the tide turns. From being pleased in the knowledge that we’d missed out on the mobile era as parents of younger children, to being completely grateful to its existence now they are adults. It’s easy to look back at those good old days and think things were so much better, but we have so much now to be thankful for in our modern world. In all honesty, I think our world is better than it ever was, there’s so much progress and so much ahead, where new inventions and discoveries will ensure that we keep moving forward.
There’s the positive outlook coming through again! For now though, it’s time to stop the moaning and just get on with it and be thankful for the opportunities available to us. We’re living in one of the best times historically, where freedom and expansion of travel allows us to explore more than ever. With the gift of that technology bringing a gadget for every purpose and we just love it!
Stepping back to the title of this piece, “Empty Nest” and the reminder of why I’m here today. We’re here, in the process of a frantic house move, just a couple of weeks before Christmas and before we jet off across the other side of the world to see our amazing two boys, who are, of course now men but will always be my boys!
It’s been a stressful yet exciting few months, selling and packing up the family home, downsizing to a tiny place and all to fulfil our own goal of some well deserved “us time” and of course, immersing ourselves fully into travels of the vanlife kind.
So, we have come full circle, from our adventures with our boys being engrained in their upbringing, which in turn has developed into their own love of travel and onwards into their chosen career paths.
It makes me think, of all those negative comments from other parents back in the day. The disapproval of travel with our babies and young children, the dread they spoke of and excuses for not travelling on a flight, or a long car journey. For us, it was a natural part of family life and thank goodness we embraced the challenges of those early parenting years.
Travel, especially overland in a campervan is one of the best experiences, it brings out the most in our human spirit. So, here’s a Christmas toast to all those travels we enjoyed, with prams, toys, puzzles, potties and goodness knows what else in tow, but most of all the love, laughter, excitement, knowledge and education gained, patience and memories, qualities that we all hold dear for a lifetime.